Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Gift Of Season's Greetings

You know the scene where Charlie Brown keeps peeking into his mailbox to see if he's received any Christmas cards yet?  That's me! 

I love Christmas cards!  I love to send them and I love to get them.  They are an essential part of my Holiday decor.  Every year I hang them up so that they frame the window in our dining room.  We've had 4 houses now and we always have had this arrangement!

After Christmas is over, I carefully collect each one.  All of the ones with photos goes into a this box:

When the Holiday rolls around again, we take out all of the decorations and this box is in among them.  I set it out on my coffee table.  We all have such a good time perusing through them and seeing how everyone has changed and grown. 

I just got back from printing out our cards.  I've armed myself with a mug of hot water, fine tip pens, address book, and am now ready to address envelopes.  I love this part too!  Oh!  I forgot to buy stamps!  I hope they have pretty ones this year...

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Winning Thanksgiving Week

As luck would have it, a demon of some sorts took root in my belly last night. I woke up multiple times to kneel before the porcelain throne. This has continued through out the day in all sorts of variations of "fun." I can't tell you how many of my friends have confessed their envy of me.  It's a perfect way to end a holiday devoted to eating.  I'm pretty sure I will have met my goal with my nutritionist next week.  Yea.

This Thanksgiving, as in last, my husband wanted to take on the preparation and roasting of a Turducken.  If you are unfamiliar with this Thanksgiving mutation I can break it down for you. It is basically a monstrosity made of turkey that is stuffed with a duck that is stuffed with a chicken.  The unfortunate part of Thanksgiving for me is that turkey is the main course.  I am not a fan of poultry.  My mother was in the Weight Watchers program while we were growing up and it seems the only meat allowed was chicken. We had chicken served to us like Forest Gump would serve up shrimp.  Oven fried chicken, Parmesan chicken, chicken pot pie, chicken-a-la-king....you get the picture.  I like turkey only a little better then chicken.  I like duck not at all.

My husband is very proud of his Turducken.  It's quite the feat for any chef.  Each bird has to be de-boned.  (According to Julia Child the correct term is "boned" but I giggled like a 13 year old boy every time we talked about boning a turkey.)  Aaron first made two different types of stuffing.  I was not allowed to even help with that part due to last years fiasco with the stuffing.  He then de-boned each bird.  The chicken was stuffed with one kind of stuffing then placed in the duck and so forth.  Everything is then stitched shut. 

Our friends, Tiffany and Bryon, were in town this year and so Bryon helped Aaron with some of the work on the Turducken.  He also prepared a fried turkey for our feast. 

But wait!  There's more!

We were all invited to Kevin and Caren's this year.  Kevin smoked a turkey and so Iron Chef: Turkey was born.

The day before Thanksgiving, Tiffany got to sample what a Baking Day at Caren's is like.  The two of us spent the whole morning at Caren's preparing everything for our meal.  Caren and Tiffany made two different stuffing's, two different cranberry relishes, mashed potatoes with various toppings (we had a potato bar), sweet potatoes, and green beans. 

I made a pumpkin cheese cake.

When the big day arrived the men presented their turkey's.  They were quite the sight! 

Each was carved and served.  The adults all had ballots with criteria to grade the turkeys by.  It was a close race but in the end, my beloved's Turducken won.  I personally liked the fried turkey best.  It was the ugliest thing I'd ever seen but it was juicy and the crisp skin tasted like bacon.  Can't go wrong with bacon!  Note: the kids liked the smoked the best.

The other part of our Thanksgiving week was to prepare for another annual competition: The Gingerbread House Smack Down.  Last year's competition had an at-party-assembly rule.  This year had to be modified due to lack of space.  There was now the option of assembling your house at home or at the party.  Participants would only be competing with in their category.  I went the at-home route and enlisted the help of my friend, Tiffany. 

We had a great time together and found that we worked well with each other, feeding off of one another's ideas.  I would have an idea and then Tiff would either complete it or improve upon it and vice versa.  The end result was fabulous!

This year's theme was Santa's workshop:

The other at-home-assembly competitors:

The day before the party I found this super cute candy cane hat.  I thought it would be so fun to wear at the competition and so put together this little party outfit:

At the party the kids have a-go at it as well.  Caren and I bought a bunch of gingerbread haunted houses on sale after Thanksgiving.  We provided these for the kids teams as well as candy and frosting for them to work with.  The results were....interesting.  Bless their hearts, they did what they could in the 30 minutes they were given to work in.

After the kids were done the adults stepped up to the table.  The adults had one hour to work on their creations.  (Party Trade Secret: we covered the table with multiple layers of plastic table cloth.  After each round was done we simply wadded up the dirtied top cloth and the next round of players was set to go on a new clean plastic cloth!  A little Caren Genius...)  The competitors this year were more prepared then the last.  Many came with their own candies that had inspired them. 

My favorite conversation overheard that night:

Dave likes to work with fruit and antique tools..
"The icing is overflowing!"

"Well, get it!"

"I can't!  I don't have anything!"

"Just use your hands..."

"I can't!"

"Yes you can.  It's icing!  Not battery acid!"

The winning house went to Occupy North Pole:

Our other tradition for the Gingerbread House Smack Down is that the winner of the previous year is to add to the trophy so it will grow like the Stanley Cup.  I won last year's competition.  Here I am with the new improved trophy:

I also won this year's first ever at-home-assembly category and so I now have a new trophy to add on to!  Yea!

So that is how my Thanksgiving week went.  Lots of  fun with lots of friends and lots of food.  Now I am sitting here by the fire, wrapped in a Big Ugly sweater, sipping hot water and nibbling on saltines.  Just one more stomach flu away from my goal weight...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What A Difference A Year Makes...Or Not

Baking Day
November 16, 2011
Rating: Productive with a dash of the usual mishaps

We have a Newbie in our group. Another Texas transplant named Stacey. Like I once was, she was feeling sheepishly intimidated by all of the experienced bakers in the kitchen.

"Don't be," I assured her. "I screw it up all the time but things always manage to work out."

It was about this time last year that I was attempting to make a cornbread stuffing for Thanksgiving.  It seemed simple enough.  I was doubling a recipe.  Unfortunately I increased the Baking Powder (or Soda...one of those) too much.  Laurel tasted it and tried to make me think it was OK.  Caren tasted it and suggested that we scrap the whole batch and start over.

"Toss it over the deck.  The birds and squirrels will eat it."

I took the huge pan of cornbread stuffing out to the deck and cried as I sent crumbled chunks of it over the railing.

The next day that I was at Caren's I expected that the crumbs would have all been eaten by some sort of mountain critter. 

But no.

And not the next day either.

Or the next.

For nearly a week, the Cornbread Crud littered Caren's side yard and remained untouched.

"Not even the critters will eat it!"  I would wail.

Now that I have over a years worth of experience under my apron strings, one would think that I could handle myself quite well in the kitchen.  One would think...

Today I attempted to make pumpkin carrot bars from a recipe I got here.  I was doing two doubled recipes.  Everything was going great with the first batch.  There was a lot of tasting as I went and all who dipped a finger agreed that this was going to be a tasty treat!  I poured the batter onto a jelly roll pan, popped it into the oven, and began batch #2.

As I began re-reading the recipe I realized that I had not included the dry ingredients into the first batch which was already baking in the oven.  Four ingredients!  Critical.

There was a lot of good natured chuckling at what has become an expectancy.  I can't seem to make it through a Baking Day without some little dink.

"Oh Michal!  You make me feel so much better about myself!" ribbed Stacey.

So the jelly roll pan was removed from the oven and dumped back into the bowl.  I added the flour, pumpkin spice, baking powder and baking soda (basically everything that makes a cake a cake) that I had previously missed.  The jelly roll pan was cleaned, re-greased and floured, and the new batter was poured back in.

Whew!  That was a near disaster.

Back to my second batch.  This time I paid close attention to all that was called for in the recipe.

Batch 1 was finished and Batch 2 went in. 

"Something's burning," announced one of the ladies.

We peeked in the oven to see Batch 2 overflowing onto the floor of the oven.  Someone grabbed a cookie sheet and shoved it under the pumpkin bars to catch the spill over.

"Par for the course."  I remind them.

"You are handling this so well," Stacey whispered.  "I would be in tears at this point."

"Oh, I have and do!  After awhile though..."

Laurel's gorgeous buttermilk bread
I helped the ladies with their baking projects, i.e. I tasted things.  There were two varieties of cookies, frozen biscuit dough, buttermilk bread, and banana muffins.  Batch 1 had turned out pretty good.  Everyone agreed that it was a keeper!  Batch 2 finally finished.  The oven was a bit of a disaster but the pumpkin bars still looked like they would be tasty.

After cleaning the oven I sat back for a salad, fritatta and coffee with home made Bailey's.  I enjoyed my lunch and the company of my baking ladies.  Someone was discussing their own recipe and the ingredients that went into it.  Something was said about butter.


It suddenly hit me that I did not include butter in Batch #2.

"Oh no!"  I cried.


"I forgot the butter!"

There was another round of laughter at my expense.

"You are so entertaining!"  Stacey quipped.  That is not the first time that has been said of me at a Baking Day.  I'm always glad to do so and love to help boost anothers self-esteem.  (It turns out that Batch 2 was just as good as Batch 1, so if you want your pumpkin bars to be reduced fat, simply eliminate the butter.)

When Caren's daughter was dropped off from school, she and her friend dove into the baked goods that were spread about the kitchen table.  With in minutes of her friend leaving I received a text, "SO DELICIOUS!  Can I pretty please get the pumpkin cheese cake bread recipe?"


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Living On A Prayer

I had a mild panic attack this morning. 

At first I could not figure out what it was, I just felt like I was hopped up on caffeine.  My mind was racing and trying to prioritize everything that I needed to get done for the day and that some how leaped into what I needed to get done for Christmas.

I managed to get the kids out the door with little incident.  We were waiting at the bus stop when Kevin pulled up with his daughter in the car.  The kids got on the bus and Kevin offered me a ride back up the hill.

"Thanks," I said as I got in the car.  "Kevin, I am seriously trying not to lose it."

"Why?  What's going on?"

"I just feel like I have so much to do but I can't even tell where I should start.  I need to get things ready for guests this weekend, there are after school activities every night this week, art projects need to get done...."

"And then we die," Kevin said.

"Huh.  Yeah.  You're right.  I will run around and do all of this stuff and then I'll be dead."

Once at home I went to my desk with paper and pencil.

Lord, this is not OK.  Give me peace and perspective.

I took a few deep breaths and just sat quiet for a moment.  A few more deep breaths...and then I wrote TODAY at the top of the paper.  Under that I wrote everything that I truly needed to accomplish today.  Next I wrote WEEK and wrote what needed to be done by the end of the week and this was followed by MONTH.  Looking at the list caused a little bit on anxiety to creep up again but then I remembered that I only needed to look at TODAY.

Some friends were meeting me for my walk and I had some time to kill before they came.  I focused that time on some of my chores and then cleaned the chalkboard wall.

"Thanksgiving To Do List: clean house, Be Thankful, groceries, Twilight, Be Thankful, finish art projects, laundry, after school activities, cook, Be Thankful."

(Yes, I included Twilight on my To Do list.  I gotta see that movie!)  I felt better after each golden "Be Thankful" leaf that I added. 

And that's what it's all about Charlie Brown.

Peace restored, armed with a To Do list and endorphins pumping through me from my walk, I am now ready to take on my day.  And it's 11 a.m.  Good grief!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank You Veterans!

"Happy Veteran's Day!" the boys greeted me this morning.

"We have to call Aunt Cathy!"

"You're right we do," I said grabbing my phone.

"And Uncle Isaac, and Uncle Matt..."

"Yes, we will call them all right now and say Thank You," I assured them.

And then we did.

Uncle Matt in his uniform for Gabriel's Marine themed birthday party.

My sister-in-law and my niece saying their Goodbyes.
My brother, Isaac, served in the Navy; as did/does his wife, Cathy.  She is a Lieutenant and recently served 9 months, away from her husband and litttle girl, in Iraq.  My brother-in-law, Matthew, is an inactive Marine.  I can't even tell you how many times he's gone to Iraq and Afghanistan.  Lots and lots.  Then we have our parents, uncles, and grandparents who have served.  The boys come from a long line of heroes.  It's no wonder they are so enamored by anything a soldier/warrior does.

Their school puts on an amazing Veteran's Day program every year.  Many of the students also have Veterans in their family.  They all come and are honored and thanked by the students and staff.  It's awesome and there is never a dry eye in the house!

As the boys got ready this morning, Drew marched about the house while singing "It's a Grand Ol' Flag" at the top of his lungs.  Gabriel carefully donned his Boy Scout unifrom since he and his fellow scouts would be part of the flag ceremony in the program.

We are so blessed to be Americans.  With all her flaws our country is still a place where freedom reigns.  We are all so fortunate.  Fortunate to be born here.  Fortunate, that if you weren't born here, that you are here now.  Fortunate to be sharing freedom with one another. 

Thank you so much to all who have served.  Thank you to those who have stayed home while their loved one was far away taking care of us all.  Thank you to those who answer the call and I pray for the ones who make The Call that they do so sparingly, fearfully and wisely.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas And Other Fun Gift Ideas

This year for Christmas, I have decided to buy all of my gifts from small business owners.  Several thoughts/ideas have brought me to this conclusion:

1.  Caren has been on a rampage (for at least as long as I've known her) over how many products are made in China.  Since we often shop together, it has been brought to my attention numerous times.  What's most frustrating about it is that there will be American created products, i.e. the product was thought of here, invented here; but then it is produced in China.  It's cheaper for these American companies to have the Chinese make it for them but at what cost to our own economy and to our own citizens?  Caren's goal, at this point, is not even necessarily to Buy American but to just not buy Chinese.  Even Ugg boots are made in China now.  Come on World!

2.  This whole Occupy Wall Street thing has gotten me to thinking too.  Let me make it clear that I believe in Capitalism.  It is good and it works.  Money is power and power corrupts but I am all about a free economy.  There are kinks and Jerks that get into every system especially when money is involved.  If one really wants to give it to Wall Street they need to make their voices heard.  Money talks much louder then any number of people sitting outside of the Trade Center.  If you want to stick it to big corporations then don't buy from them.  Seek out local artisans and craftsman so you know that your money is going directly into the pocket of your fellow American.  These small business owners went into business because they know that capitalism works. 

So stay out of WalMart, Target and the mall!  (I can hardly stand the mall at Christmas anymore.  Greedy, selfish hoards in stores proclaiming their Season's Greetings in flat political correctness.  Blah!

Instead consider some of these things:

A gift certificate for a salon appointment.  My sister, Dawn The Hair Extraordinaire, does amazing things with a pair of shears!  She lives in Austin, TX and works at a local barber shop there.  She does great hair for men, women and children and she can even go to your home.  Maybe you know someone who could use a whole new look or you can treat them to hair and make up before a big event, like New Year's Eve.  A girls night of make-overs would be a fun thing as well!  You can contact Dawn at dawndawn@gmail.com.

Another great gift (and Austin contact) is that of professional photography with April Thomason.  She has an amazing eye and whimsically romantic style!  A fun idea may be to hire Dawn to do your hair and make up before your photo shoot with April...  I might also add that Dawn and April both have connections in Houston and it's surrounding areas and so can often be convinced to do work out there.

I love my masseuse!  No one has better hands then Jolene!!  So for my local friends, here in CO, I would highly recommend gift certificates from Willow Creek Wellness.  An hour massage is a great gift for a teacher, friend, or spouse.  A REALLY great gift would be a massage, once a week for a month... OH yeah....I can smell the aroma therapy oils now...  Jolene can be contacted at wcreekwellness@gmail.com.

There are fun things to be found at The Perfect Stitch as well.  Stacey embellishes shirts, bags, onsies, etc with beautiful embroidery and bling-bling work.  You can see more of her crafts here

Do you live in the Dallas/Plano area and need treats for your party?  Sugar Queen Cupcakes will take care of you!  A fun gift idea may be a gift card to Sugar Queen for an after school date with your kiddos!  They have more than cupcakes there.  You can find fun t-shirts and gifts.  Plus they are the home of the Official Cupcake of Texas! ;)

Check out this little shop!  Don't they have the greatest things!  Southern Joy is based in Tennessee.  They are an eco-friendly gift shop that boasts beautiful hand crafted jewelry, spa gifts and more!  I am in love with their jewelry. 

This reminds me...shop Etsy, people!  http://www.etsy.com/ This is a huge resource of handmade gifts.  Here is a fun etsy shop with cheeky little accesories:  Leilani's Heavenly Flowers

I plan to hit local boutiques and specialty stores like Rustic Point in Evergreen.  Conifer and Morrison have all sorts of fun shops to explore.  Back home in Texas, I used to love to shop around in Downtown Tomball and Old Town Spring. 

A great source for stocking stuffers is Hammonds Candies.  Hammonds is a candy factory in Denver, CO.  They are a small factory that makes all of their beautiful and delicious candies by hand!  You don't have to go to Denver to find Hammond's Candies.  They have been featured in O! magazine, Martha Stewart and other similar periodicals.  They are the largest company featured here but I think they qualify because everything his American made and they are a small company compared to say...Macy's, though you may find some Hammond's Candies at Macy's....

Another wonderful shopping idea is at places that take what you give them and give a part of the proceeds to a charity.  Sevenly sells cool t-shirts that sponsor a different cause a week.  Freedom Fashionista's website reads, "Every girl wants amazing style. Explore our sustainable fashions and let your new style sense provide empowerment and employment for women rescued from or at-risk for slavery."  Check out their cute PJs here.  In fact this link is devoted to listing the various sites where one can by gifts that help fund anti-human trafficking programs.  These gifts go way beyond the boughs of your Chritmas tree and branches out service to the world.

Gift cards to Mom and Pop restaurants are another great idea.  The gift of landscaping, personal trainers, the ideas are endless!  If you have a small business that you'd like to plug, please feel free to do so in the comments.  I'm looking for good ideas....  Heck, I suppose I could plug myself:  Decorator/Party Planner/Custom Art ;)

I love Christmas!  No matter how it got started or what it evolved from, I love that the world takes time out of the year to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  No birthday party is complete with out gifts and buying your gifts from small businesses gives two fold: to your loved one and to your neighboring entrepenuer.

A few more ideas:

paino lessons s.eby699@gmail.com
contract work for your home kippandsons@hotmail.com
dog training cboothwest@gmail.com

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Just Do It!

Yesterday I had an appointment with my nutritionist.  While getting ready to go I realized that I had not been missing my scale anymore.  I went from weighing myself 3 times a day to once a day to once a week and now to once every two-three weeks!  I don't have a scale in my home and I am happy/fine with out it.  I have lost a total of 10 lbs. and am 3 lbs. away from my personal goal weight of 135.  (I have not stepped foot in a gym!)  The doctor would like me to loose 5-8 lbs. more but we have discussed that I have been at 135 in the past and watched my diet and exercised 5 times a week and can never budge past 135.  He's agreed with me that 135 and healthy is better then 130 and not.  We will not be going through any extreme measures to get me to a certain number.

At the weigh in yesterday I found that I had not lost any weight the past two weeks.  However, I also did not gain any!  I feel fabulous and beautiful!  Still...to deter diabetes I need to lose this last little bit. 

"You don't seem surprised that there was no weight loss," my nutritionist prodded.

"Well let's see...I had fast food twice and ate out once in the past two weeks.  There was a Halloween party and I had Starbucks coffee about 3 times this week.  I only walked about 4 times in two weeks.  So I ate less healthy and had less exercise then I have been doing in the past."

"Well, that happens.  We start to feel good and comfortable, plus life is busy and so short cuts are made.  I know with the snow and cold walking your 3 mile loop may not seem as appealing right now.  What are some other ways you can up the ante on your exercise routine?"

"I just started taking tap dance classes."

"Oh that's great!  How often will that be?"

"Only one hour a week.  Of course I could tap at home too..."

"Don't you have a gym membership?"

"I do...it's one of those 24 hour type places.  I'm not a fan."

"Three times a week of exercise is great for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  Studies show that in order to see a change in weight loss you need to exercise 4 times a week.  Also resistance training helps burn more calories."

"I love weight training.  I used to do that all the time."

"See if you can't find a way to work that into your weekly routine."

I'm going to lay it out for you guys in case you want to join me in this.  Remember that none of it works until you conquer your own mind.  Once you get your head in the game it all falls into place.  (Rather, it all falls off!)

First I kept a food log for my nutritionist which revealed to me how often and what exactly I eat.  Passing a plate of cookies and having just one is fine but when you pass the plate 4-5 times a day...it adds up.  So awareness of your diet is key.  I became aware that sweets were actually not my weakness, as I thought.  I don't keep sweet snacks in my house because I thought that was my go-to and I did not want to be tempted.  What was really getting me was the salty things!  So another round of pantry purging had to be done.  Also, I need to add more vegetables.  Still.

Next was continuing the food log but using a calorie counter.  I used www.sparkpeople.com.  I could enter my food and it counted each calorie.  Note: you don't just enter: Turkey Sandwich.  Enter the type of bread you used.  Whole or half sandwich, type of turkey, cheese and condiments.  Try to keep your calories within 1500-1700 a day.  You'd be surprised by how much you can eat.  Don't forget to include beverages.  They have calories too.  (Also, the amount of calories allotted to me was chosen by my nutritionist based on my weight loss goal and current size.  This may not be the same for you but if you are about 5 feet tall and way 148 lbs. this would work.  I don't know, because I am not a nutritionist, but I think 1500-1700 would be healthy for most people.)  Nothing was restricted from my diet.  I ate/eat whatever I want so long as it stays within my caloric intake.

Exercise!  Grrr....nobody likes this and if you are overweight, chances are you really don't enjoy it nor do you see time for it in your daily routine.  Here is where the battle with your mind begins.  You have to decide that you want it enough.  Boy did I want it!  I cried every appointment with my nutritionist.  I cried every time I got dressed, showered, saw my reflection.  I was disgusted with myself and yet I could still not change my habits.  Ridiculous!  At some point you have to grow up, take responsibility and JUST DO IT!  Thanks Nike.  Burning calories is more effective then cutting them, though both are key.  However, if you need to start somewhere let it be in the BURN.

My nutritionist said that the most effective way to lose weight is to move your biggest muscles, i.e. your legs.  Most all of us can walk.  So make time to walk.  I have a beautiful and hilly 3 mile hike in my neighborhood that I can walk.  Three miles is a lot if you are just starting.  One mile is excellent!  I was not in bad shape though and knew I could walk that loop and climb the hills and I knew I would get awesome results by doing so.  I had hoped to do it 5 times a week.  In reality I walked 2-3 times a week.  Sometimes I would do other hikes.  I would invite friends along or take my dog. 

I was also fortunate enough to be dancing in Evita and that helped, I'm sure!  One of my cast mates had a pedometer and she counted that we walked a mile every performance.  We performed 3 times a week so that was an extra 3 miles I was getting in.  A pedometer is a great way to help you keep track of moving even if you can't walk a trail or on a treadmill.  You can set a goal and try to beat it every day.  A good goal is to not go to bed with less then 10,000 steps taken.  (3,000 is a mile....if I remember correctly.) 

Moving is key.  Find ways to move.  I do squats in my shower.  30 squats.  Whenever I think about my weight/health/body I would drop and do 30 push ups.  Another time I would do 30 crunches.  Just move!  It does not have to be a one hour set of working out.  You can find a minute here and there to do a little something extra.  Take the stairs.  Walk to the mailbox instead of drive up to it.  Park farther away from the store.  These things really add up.

Sometimes life is crazy...OK, most times life is crazy...and we don't have time for a nice wholesome meal.  One night I had to take both boys to scouts at two different times and then drive to the airport to pick up my sister.  Quick meal solution this night was Wendy's drive through.  Not a gold star on my nutritionists chart BUT you can not beat yourself up and feel bad about it and you can STILL make smarter choices. 

"Could you get a salad from a fast food place?" my nutritionist would ask me.

"No.  The salads are usually made with gross sad lettuce and if I'm going to buy a salad it needs to be delicious!  I'm getting a burger and fries."

Some places, like Wendy's, give you a small, med, large option.  I don't know how big med and large are because I always ask for small and it seems like quite a bit of food and drink to me.  The small cup is the old large!  Anyways, get smaller orders when you can.  Maybe even go for the kids meal so you get less fries.  In another bind I ordered a Chick-fil-a meal to SPLIT with my sister.  It's plenty.  So avoid the drive through but when you can't be smart about it. 

Same with restaurants.  You can ask for the to-go box at the beginning of your meal.  Put half of your meal away and out of sight.  Eat smaller portions of everything.  At home, use a salad plate to serve your meal on.  Portion out the same amount you would give to your child (a young child).  Eat slow and savor every bite.  Enjoy your food!  Assess your body's needs mid way through the meal.  Are you satisfied/full?  Then stop.  Plan ahead.  Is there dessert?  Eat less of the main meal so you have room for it.  That's right!  Don't deny yourself dessert.  Are you crazy?!

Another important habit to get into is to change your vocabulary.  Food is not "bad" or "naughty" or "wrong" (unless you are talking about McDonald's.)  There is a good, better, best thing going on for sure but don't call your temptations naughty.  Somehow, that makes them even more tempting!  Also, be careful how you talk about yourself.  You are not trying to get skinny or look prettier, you are getting healthy.  Believe me, I would not be stopping at 135/130 if I was wanting to get skinny.  but that is a healthy weight for me and I will keep diabetes at bay. 

"I feel fat," I often say.

"Fat is not a feeling," Caren will tell me.  "You can feel happy or sad but not fat."

Watch your vocabulary!!!  It's a huge part in conquering your mind and getting yourself in a place where you can start to lose weight and get healthy.  Also, let go of the numbers.  You are not a number.  How do you feel (health wise)?  My clothes are baggier, I feel happier and stronger.  Healthy living makes a happy person.

The goal is to lose one pound a week.  This is a reasonable and healthy goal.  I know there are ways to lose 3-6 lbs. a week.  I've done them.  They don't last.  Lasting weight loss goes away slowly.  Also, the most frustrating thing about the Battle Of The Bulge is that it takes a whole week to lose one pound but it only takes one meal to gain it back.

This has/is helping me and I hope it helps you.  My nutritionist has done little but hold me accountable and reiterate what we all already know about health and nutrition.  If you need accountability I'd be happy to help you with it but find someone to check in with on your state of mind, food log, and weight loss.

I'm in a MUCH better place physically and mentally.  I still have a ways to go and I know this last 3-5 is going to be the hardest (and the holidays are approaching...) but I feel  much  more confident and I know it can be done.  You can do it too!!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Brat Attack

I think it was sometime Friday afternoon that I realized we had nothing going on this weekend.  I was out having lunch with the ladies when it hit me that the boys were done with soccer and football.  We had no sporting events to attend to.  No Holiday.  No party.  No show.  It sounded really nice!  We could just relax, hang out with the neighbors, maybe take a hike.  Just family stuff.

The vision of Family Fun Time fizzled when I got home.  My house has been a wreck all week.  I've slowly chiseled away at the various Clutter Catchers through out the week but between Halloween, school activities, and my own procrastination, very little actually got accomplished.  Though I had repeatedly pleaded with my sons to put their Halloween candy away, it was still spread out on the pub table in the basement.  This same table was nesting in a pile of snow pants, coats, Halloween costume accessories, and candy wrappers. 

The laundry room had several baskets of dirty clothes needing attention which baffles me since I did at least one load a day.  Clean laundry was folded in neat piles on the laundry room counter waiting for someone to carry them up stairs and deposit them in their appropriate drawers.

The bathroom had another full hamper of towels and clothes waiting for me, (How?) and since the upstairs bathroom is under construction; my cosmetics, hair brush and Aaron's electric razor sat out on the counter.  Not to mention: toothpaste splatter on the mirror, in the sink and on the tissue box holder. 

"Boooooys!" I growled under my breath. 

This was just the downstairs.  Upstairs was another carousel of disarray as every place I turned and every room I walked into I found more mess to clean up.  The scene for my relaxing weekend with my family was certainly not set, and they were due home in a matter of minutes.

Actually, Aaron is usually home by now...  Aaron is often home early on Friday afternoons.  Typically he beats the boys home but sometimes he meets them at the bus stop. 

I worked on cleaning up the kitchen in the time that I had and had a thought that I had made no plans for dinner that night.  I checked the fridge and found there were plenty of leftovers but hoped that Aaron would want to take the family out instead.  Thinking of Aaron, I checked the clock.

The boys' bus will be here soon...where is Aaron?

I headed down to meet the boys. 

"Mom!  Why didn't you bring the car?!"  Drew greeted me in his usual way.

"Because the walk is good for us."

"Maybe Dad will pull up..."  Drew hoped.

But Dad did not pull up.

We went home and talked about the days events.  Then we talked about the condition of the house.

"Fellas, nothing is happening this weekend until that Halloween candy is put away."

"We are sorting it into categories!"  Gabriel explained.

"You can sort them into Ziplocs and then bring them to me.  Also, every wrapper on the floor needs to go in the trash.  All snow gear needs to go in the mud room.  That's what that room is for!  After that I want your room cleaned.  I am tired of not being able to walk through with out stubbing a toe or stepping on a toy."

"Why do we have to do everything?"  Drew groused.

"Boy, that is not the thing to say to me today..."  I warned.

I got the boys gallon sized Ziplocs and they set to work on cleaning up the candy.  I finished up on the kitchen and then got the dining and living room back in order. 

At least things will be clean up stairs.  I can start another load of laundry and then close that door, clean the bathroom....sweeping, vacuuming, dusting can be done tomorrow.

I got all of this done and then realized that it was very near dinner time.  Aaron was still not home.

He must've gone out with his co-workers.

I made the boys some leftovers and went to practice my piano.  Time was going by and still no husband.  I sent him a text, poured myself a glass of wine and sat back down at the piano.  I kept looking at my phone, waiting for a response from him.  I examined my phone again, this time expecting a call from the hospital. 

He must've been in a car wreck.  What will I do?  How should I tell the kids?  We would bury him in Texas...  Get a grip.  He's at a noisy restaurant and can't hear his phone.  It should be on vibrate!  Call him.  No.  Don't.  If he's with co-workers you don't want him to look like he's whipped.  Screw that.  If he didn't want that to happen then he should've called ME and given me a heads up on his plans.  I'm calling him.

And so I did.

"I just got in the car and am headed your way," he said.

When Aaron got home he greeted me with a kiss on the cheek.  Greetings and niceties were exchanged.

"So, you went out with co-workers after work?"

"Yeah, I took some of the younger guys out.  I needed to do some damage control for management.  These kids have no idea what it's like at other companies."

"Well, that's good."


"I don't mind you going out after work, but you need to let me know.  Otherwise I start to worry.  Knowing is half the battle."

"Thanks GI Joe."

"I'm serious," I laughed.

"I know.  Sorry."

We put the kids to bed.  Aaron went down to watch something on TV and I played solitaire on the computer.

The next morning I was ready for our weekend of Family Fun to start.

"Drew has been wanting to go to the Aquarium or to Red Rocks.  I thought that would be fun for us to do this weekend,"  I told Aaron over breakfast.

He sucked in his breath and and looked at his food. 

Not what he had in mind...

"What sort of plans did you have for the weekend?"  I asked him.

"I really need to get my ski pass, gear and I still need to go and look at a 4 wheel drive for you.  The snow is already coming and you need to be able to get around."

I knew these were things that he's been trying to get off his To Do List for awhile.  These things would take up the whole weekend.  They would be most quickly accomplished if Aaron went by himself which meant I would be home with the kids.  Or we could all go together and I would try to engage and entertain the kids the whole time we tagged along with Aaron.  Basically, this sounded like a seriously crappy weekend to me.

"OK.  I know you've been needing to get these things done."

"First I'm going to work out."


Aaron left and I started to get back to work on the house.  My heart was hardly in it.  I don't want to clean house on the weekend!  As I was berating myself for not planning better the phone rang.  It was one of Caren's daughters inviting the boys and I over for a tea party.

"We are on our way!" I chimed as I tossed the broom back into the pantry.

While at the tea party Caren invited me to go to her eldest daughter's volleyball game.

"I probably can't.  I really need to get my house in order and Aaron has plans to go ski and car shopping."

"Again?  How many times has he said he was getting a car?"

"I know but he's found one he wants to go pick up."

"Get the car tomorrow and he can do the ski shopping today."

"That's a good idea..."  I had already put the house work on the back burner and was scheming to see if I could get out of shopping.

Aaron was fine with the new plan and I ran off with my playmate.

Caren and I sat in the bleachers watching the girls warm up when she got a text from her husband asking her out on a date that night.  This totally bummed me out because I was hoping our families would hang out together that evening and also because I was not being asked out on a date.

"Call your sitter and then ask Aaron out," Caren suggested.

Easy for you to say.  YOU have a date.  I'm not arranging my own date.

I went home, put out with Aaron because Caren's husband asked her out on a date.  I totally knew how unfair and unreasonable this was but that changed nothing.  I had made no plans for dinner once again because in my imagination we would be going out.

That's not fair.  You can't be mad at him because you want to go on a date.  He has no idea and he can't read minds.  Don't be one of THOSE women.  But he should be missing time alone with me and WANT to take me on a date.  Of course it could be that you have not had a date in a long time because you've been singing and dancing in Evita for weeks.  He's laying on the couch, tired because you sent him to the store with the kids.  He took them out for lunch so he will definitely not want to go out now.

Emotions and Logic argued as I did the dishes.  Aaron came up stairs for a snack and bevvy. 

"You OK?"


"What's wrong...?" he asked un-fooled.



"Lot's of things but it's not reasonable and it's not all you," he pulled me from the dishes and wrapped me in a hug.  "Kevin asked Caren out on a date," I pouted.

"Ah ha..."

"It's been a long time since we've gone out."

"No it hasn't..."  We both started trying to figure out when we last went out.  "I took you to NY!"  Aaron exclaimed.

"You did.  That was our last date.  That was 3 months ago."

"Seriously?  Man!  You're right.  I need to do something about that."

"Yes you do."

"You're still out of sorts."

"I'm mad at myself because I'm mad at you and it's not all your fault.  My weekends were booked for a month with Evita and then again with the Beer and Cheese Pairing party and Halloween and stuff."

"That's right!"  Aaron smiled with vindication.

"And the house is a disaster."

"You need to elicit the help of the kids more.  They don't do anything except clean their room."

"Yeah!  I used to fold clothes, clean the bathroom, do the dishes...Wonder how old I was when I started all of that?"

I went back to cleaning the kitchen and then had an idea.  I found Aaron in his office.

"Here's how things are going down tonight:"  I told him, making it clear so he would not have to read my mind.  "Let's put the kids down ASAP.  Light a fire downstairs.  We will get in warm PJ's and watch the Netflix movie I've got."

"Sounds like a plan."

This morning I was still wanting to have a special day with my family.  I took a plum cake, that we made at Baking Day, out from the freezer and started it baking while I made a huge pan of scrambled eggs and a pot of coffee for Aaron.  The oven beeped announcing that the plum cake was through.  I took the foil off the top and drove a knife into the middle.  It was still a little moist in the center.  I put the cake back in the oven, uncovered.  We ate our eggs while the cake cooked a little longer.  I removed the cake again when I could smell a little bit of a burning smell...

"Dang it," I spit as I set the foil pan on the stove.  "I should not have left it uncovered."

"Looks good,"  Aaron said, looking over my shoulder.  Because the top was uncovered the edges had slightly burned. 

"Burnt edges...No wonder I can't get a date.  Messy house, unplanned dinners, burnt food....you are sooo lucky."

I stuck the knife through to check the center again but stuck it too far and went through the bottom of the pan!

"Arrrgh!"  I growled again as I quickly grabbed a cookie sheet and slid it under the oozing cake. "So lucky!"

"I am," he laughed.  "I think that every morning that I wake up next to you."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Fury Of A Feline Scorned

Every Halloween there is a trailer that picks up all of the kids and takes them house to house.  We parents follow behind on foot, four wheeler or truck.  This year the trailer stopped at a house that nests in a valley.  There was an avalanche of princesses, warriors, ghouls, and fairies; down the driveway toward the warmly lit house.

"Lord, let me never forget this moment!"  I prayed aloud.  My heart captured the moment and stored it away with other Life Treasures.

The above has nothing to do with today's blog but has been twirling about my mind all week and so I thought I'd share it.  Halloween was super fun!  The boys had a grand time and we parents enjoyed one another's fellowship as we paraded behind them.  What I really wanted to write about is a follow up on my cat Sinclaire.

As my readers know she left us.  We thought her dead but 2 months later found her weaving through the tall brown grass of our neighbors yard.  I beckoned to her but she played dumb.  The cat obviously knows how to get home but has chosen a new abode.

Her new home is that of a recently widowed woman whom the neighborhood calls "Mom."  (Did I use "whom" right?  "Who" sounded weird...)  Mom is the owner of the horses Stormy and Trigger; nemesis' of our dog Drake.  I find it to be no coincidence that Sinclaire has chosen them as allies since Drake is her reason for leaving.

Whenever we drive by Mom's yard the kids beg me to drive slowly in hopes of catching a glimpse of our cat playing in the yard.  I decided that I really should have words with Mom so that she is not worried about the creepers who keep stalking by her house. 

One day as I picked the boys up from the bus stop, a truck pulled into her driveway.  I followed it in.  Surprised and wondering faces emerged from the truck.

"Hi!" I cheerily called, "I'm your neighbor from up the hill!"

"Michelle?"  Mom guessed.

"No, but very good!  It's Michal.  I met you and your husband once before when we first moved in.  I was sorry to hear of his passing."

"Thank you."

"I actually have stopped by to tell you sort of a funny story.  You see, we had a cat that left us about 2 months ago..."

"Oh!" Mom gasped and her eyes darted to who I later learned was her daughter.  (Her son-in-law had already parted us and gone to the barn to tend to the horses.)

"We have seen her playing in your yard..."

"I suppose you want her back,"  she said as tears sprung to her eyes.

"Actually, no.  Though we love her, it seems she has chosen to not return home.  It would not be difficult for her to do so!"  I went on to tell Mom about our new dog and the riff it's caused.  "We are relieved to learn that she is not actually dead as we had thought but alive and well with you!"

"I love her dearly.  She has been such great company!"

"Yeah, she's a talker!"

"Oh she is!  Would you like to see her?"  At that, she opened the front door.  "Sissy!  Come here Sissy!"

Out skipped "Sissy" who greeted Mom with chatter while weaving between her legs.

"Well hello Sinclaire!"  I said to my cat.  I swear to you she stopped mid-weave and looked at me in horror.

No!  They've come for me!  was written all over her face.  She hid behind Mom's legs like a shy toddler.

"Don't freak out you ungrateful thing!  I'm not bringing you back.  It's clear you've made your choice and it's a good match."

"Are you sure the boys are OK by it?"  Mom asked with a nod toward my sons.

"Yes," Drew said, "It's good to see Sinclaire smile again."

"She's a good fit here," added Gabriel.  "We'd be happy for you to keep her."

"You can come and see her whenever you'd like," offered Mom.

"Yes, I did not come to take her back or to tell you so you'd feel bad but mostly I did not want you to be scared because we keep driving slowly by your house to get a look at her.  I find it fascinating, really." 

"Well thank you so much!"

"Come here kitty...."  I got down and beckoned to her so I could pet her.  She stayed close to Mom and then finally approached me.  I pet her a bit and then picked her up for a snuggle. 

It's a lie!  She really is going to take me!

Sinclaire wiggled and wriggled until I put her down and she ran off.

"There she goes to the barn," Mom commentated.  "She loves to sit with the horses."

"I'm sure she does..."  I could just picture the three of them commiserating and plotting against Drake.

We went on swapping stories about our cat.  It seems that everything I would not allow Sinclaire to do in our home (jump on counters, drink from faucets and cups, etc) Sissy has full permission to do at Mom's.  In short she is in Hog Heaven!

"Thank you so much for letting mom keep her," her daughter whispered to me as she walked us to the end of the drive.  "Sissy has been a real blessing and comfort to Mom since Dad died this Spring."

"When we saw that she'd been living here we thought the same thing!  We figured she was being loved and keeping her company.  This is so much better then wondering if she'd been eaten by something!"

I'm so glad to know she is safe.  Happy that she is bringing joy to someones life and home.  Bitter that she left us.  How dare!