Sunday, September 13, 2015

Weight loss: eternal vigilance!

So, as I wrote in my last entry, I've been following a weight loss program that is super healthy and on which I've had mild success.  I've lost a total of about 8 lbs and a few inches.  I'm pleased, but realizing that this is going to take a lot longer to accomplish my goal than I would like.

I need to lose about 35 more lbs to get to the upper range of my BMI.  I was down another pound, but the past two weeks I gained a pound each week and then lost some of it, (don't worry about the math--I had a set back!).  Anyway,  it's clear that I have to really stay on top of things to keep this success going.

One thing I have started doing that is making this seem more "doable" is prepping food to take to work on the weekends.  I found a blog about prepping food for "grab and go" lunches and it included "salads in a jar".  I am in love with these!  You can check out the weekly prep here:  and check her recipe link for the salad recipes.  Basically, the salad in a jar allows you to package complete salads in a jar and have it ready to go--including dressing!--but not result in a soggy salad.  These salads can be so healthy and delicious and most importantly--satisfying!

This past week I noticed that I was having horrible candy cravings--and gave in a couple of times.  I started thinking about how for several weeks I was doing fine and could not for the life of me figure out why the cravings were suddenly so strong.  Then one day instead of a piece of candy I grabbed one of my bags of cut up veggies--which I had been avoiding--and voila.  The craving was GONE. 

I also realized I wasn't drinking as many of the protein shakes as I was before.  I love those because it satisfies my sweet tooth but also gives me a huge boost of protein.  Tried it and again, craving GONE. 

The lesson I learned from this was that when I have been successful and am suddenly struggling a lot, I need to think about what I am doing differently that might be contributing to the struggle.  Those old habits are so sneaky and can slip back in without my realizing it.  I think it's good for me to review the eating plan from time to time to make sure I'm following it correctly!

Until next time!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Losing weight

Hey there, it's been a while so I thought I would post today.

I've struggled with my weight for several years now.  In the past when I thought I was fat I wasn't really fat.  I just wanted to be perfect.  I would lose weight and then stop following the plan and gain it all back plus some extra.  In my early 40s I ran a lot to keep my weight under control.  I was healthy and my BMI was in the normal range but I wasn't "skinny".  At some point I had to stop running because my knees started hurting to the point that I dreaded climbing the stairs after I ran.

Well, when I quit running the weight piled on.  Before I knew it I was in the "overweight" range of the BMI scale.  For those who don't know, BMI refers to Body Mass Index which is a rough calculation of your fat to lean ratio.  Anything above 25 is considered over weight.  In recent years my weight has gotten high enough that my doctor wanted to sign me up for a special program.

I honestly did not want to add a medical weight loss program to my life.  I was a little afraid that they would start talking about bariatric surgery and I did not want to "go there".  For those who have had bariatric surgery, please don't take that as a criticism.  I just don't like to have surgery if at all avoidable.  Period.

I really did not know what to do because I had given a lot of things a try and not had good success.  I prayed about it, asking God to show me some way to get my weight down that would be healthy.  I'm generally a healthy person but being overweight is a risk factor for a lot of things, so I wanted to get my BMI back to normal range.

A couple of months later a friend contacted me to ask if I wanted to participate in a 21 day weight loss challenge.  It would involve a 7 day "cleanse" phase to rid the body of lots of toxins, etc., and then 14 days of one of the quicker weight loss phases.  Both phases looked super healthy (LOTS of fruits and vegetable and protein) and do-able for 21 days.  After praying and thinking about it I decided "OK I'll try it."

Well, the first 5 days were hard (I started the cleanse late so I only did it for 5 days instead of 7) but I made it and then started phase II.  By the time I was finished I had lost about 6 pounds--the best I had done in a long time!  I decided to switch to the plan's "slow and steady" menu, which allows one high quality grain serving per day.  Since then I have lost another 4 pounds.  I'm officially down 10 pounds from my top weight.  To say I'm encouraged is an understatement.

So, that's my initial story about this weight loss thing.  I'm going to start telling about what I'm doing and my success/unsuccess to just share my strategies and keep myself accountable.

Till next time!


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Holiday gifting when you're under the weather

Merry Christmas everyone! 

Christmas is the season during which we celebrate the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  It is a beautiful time of year with lots of caroling, beautiful church services, and time with family and friends.  For some, gifts are incidental to the meaning of Christmas.

Nevertheless, for most of us, Christmas also includes gifting, even if it's a small gift.  If you are organized about your gifting, you probably had Christmas gifts all bought and wrapped last July.  But if you're like the rest of us, well, you didn't.

Okay, so now you're going to need gifts for family and friends, but you've been down with the crud for over a week and time is drawing short.  In addition, some of the gifts have to be mailed across the country.  What about the baking and the decorating??What is a mother to do? 

I'm in this exact situation this year--I'm slowly getting better, but Christmas is 8 days away and I still need to get a few gifts.  Here's my plan:

1.  Lower the bar  There is no law that says that Christmas has to be this all out theatrical production every year (or any year!)  Give yourself to permission to do less or even nothing if you're too sick.  I usually bake sugar cookies with the kids (my "kids" are 17 years and older!) but maybe this year we won't.  Or maybe we'll do slice and bake cookies.  Or maybe they will bake them and I'll "supervise".

2.  Have the kids decorate  Give up a little control and let the kids do it--they will get more joy out of it (unless they're sick, too) and you can practice your "letting go" skills.  You may be pleasantly surprised at the results.

3.  Log on  The internet makes it darn easy to do nearly all of your shopping from home.  Log on to just about any store and you can choose your gift, have it wrapped and delivered in no time.  Include gift receipts so that picky family members (you know who you are...) can return them after Christmas.

4.  Gift cards  Honestly, gift cards are so easy to do these days.  You can buy them anywhere and many times you even get discounts off the purchase price if you buy a minimum amount. 

5.  Postpone Christmas  It might sound "Scrooge-y" but it does work if you get everyone to go along.  You can postpone your gift exchange for a week or so after Christmas.  We've postponed Christmas by a few days before when the kids were little and we had relatives who had to work on Christmas.  It worked out great.  PLUS you get the clearance prices on gifts if you haven't finished all your shopping.

6.  Focus on the reason  Use this time as an opportunity to focus on God's gift of his only son, sent to redeem us from sin.  Reflect on what that means to you and your family.  Read the story of the birth of Christ in Luke's gospel.  Count all the blessings you've had in the past year.

If you have other ideas for enjoying the Christmas Season when you're not feeling well, I'd love to hear about them!

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Friday, October 4, 2013

Extreme couponing

I remember watching my mom clip coupons from the Wednesday paper to use at the grocery store later in the week.  I don't think she did it a lot and she definitely wasn't "extreme" about it.  But she did clip them once in while.  Back then coupons had values like $.07 (7 cents!) or $.15  Maybe a $.25 coupon once in a while.  But of course, grocery prices were lower then, too (so were incomes).

I started using coupons while I was in graduate school.  Anyone who has put themselves through college knows just how poor a college student can be!  Some of my friends teased me about clipping coupons, but I figured a few cents here and there added up and at least covered the cost of my gas to get to the store.

Throughout my married life, I have clipped coupons.  I tend to do it in spurts, sometimes being very faithful about clipping and organizing and other times not.  It does get to be  a hassle if you clip them and keep them in a folder in your purse.  Constantly missing coupons before they expire or standing in the aisle looking for a coupon to match the on sale item you just found. 

Recently, though, I watched a bunch of youtube videos on couponing.  One of my favorites to watch is "love2coupon2save".  This adoreable young wife and mother from New York goes over her latest couponing successes in detail so you can see how she came up with the deals she did.  I just love her videos.  Anyway, I decided to give it a try.  I looked at the recommended websites ( and followed their suggestions.  It can be a little overwhelming at first, so follow their advice to start small and don't try to do some mega shopping spree the first time (or first dozen times!) you go. 

Here's some of the tips they suggest:

  • Save the entire insert from your Sunday papers and date them.  Don't clip anything until you decide what you want to buy with them.
  • Get more than one set of inserts if you can.  Either buy a few Sunday papers or see if you have friends who will give you their inserts.
  • Read the coupon blogs for leads on good deals with coupons.  For example, yesterday I went to Rite Aid and bought 2 bottles of Colgate mouthwash for $2.99 each.  I had 2 $2.00 off coupons which made each bottle only $.99 each.  PLUS Rite Aid gave me two "Up Rewards" of $2.00 for each bottle, which I can spend later on anything I want.  This makes the two bottles of mouthwash not only free, but actually I made $1.00 on each bottle!   Next week I will use those Up Rewards to pay for the out of pocket costs on another deal and probably get more rewards.  It kind of keeps snowballing so you can keep the rewards coming and stock your cabinets with things you use every day for free or nearly free.
Am I now going to become a hoarder and have storage units filled with stuff I don't need?  Absolutely not.  However, I will keep an eye out for things that are a super good deal and stock up when I can.  If I have more than I need, I'll donate the items to the foodbank or to the shelters which can always use donations.  I don't have babies anymore but one of my ideas is to keep an eye out for really good prices on diapers and donate them to the shelters.  They are always needing diapers for families that use their services.

Anyway, that's my idea for the day--happy couponing!

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"Unplugging" by seeing a movie

Tonight my daughter and I went to see the movie "Runner Runner" starring Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck.  I won the tickets to the movie through a contest on a local radio station.  The movie was pretty good, and I probably wouldn't have bothered to go if it hadn't been free.  Ben Affleck looked stunning in the movie and it was a good story.  I won't spoil the ending for you, but if you're looking for something to see this weekend, I recommend it.

Anyway, after we got back home, I realized how nice it was to take a break from the world by going to the movies.  I hadn't really thought of it that way  before, but it really is.  You get to sit in a dark theater and you are not allowed to use your phone (!).  It's too dark for me to crochet or anything like that while I watch, so there is absolutely no multi-tasking going on.  I think because you can't talk during the movie and it's dark, you have two choices:  watch the movie or sleep.  Before I know it, I'm engrossed in the movie and not thinking about anything else, really.  The the movie's over, the lights come on, and  I'm back in "reality".

It really is a nice way to create some "space" in our day to day thoughts once in a while.  The cost of movie tickets is kind of high, but if you can resist the over priced concessions, it's not a bad way to pamper yourself a little.

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fried chicken!

I love good fried chicken.  Who doesn't?  A couple of years ago, my son came home with a recipe for fried chicken from his high school teacher.  She had made it for the kids as part of a class project and they raved about it.  My fried chicken has always been kind of mediocre, so I asked for the recipe.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon (yes tablespoon!) salt
any other seasonings you like 
2 large eggs
a little milk
Large frying pan (I prefer cast iron)
About 1" deep vegetable oil in pan

Turn the heat under the pan to medium high to get the oil good and hot.

In one bowl, combine the flour, salt and whatever seasonings you like.  In a second bowl, beat the eggs and add a little milk to make it liquid-y.  Take a piece of raw chicken and dip it into the flour mixture.  Then dip the floured piece into the egg mixture.  Then dip into the floured mixture again. Then put the chicken piece into the hot oil.  Repeat for remaining pieces but don't crowd the pan too much (4 to 5 pieces per average size frying pan).  Once the chicken is all in the oil, turn the heat down to medium.  (Safety note:  throw away or compost any remaining egg and flour mixture.)

Let the chicken fry in the oil for a few minutes and then use tongs to turn the pieces over.  Keep turning the chicken every few minutes as it cooks to get an even browning on each piece.  If chicken starts to get too dark before its done, turn the heat down more.

Let chicken continue to cook for about 20 to 25 minutes.  Check a piece to make sure it is cooked all the way through before taking all of the pieces out.  I do this by taking a piece out and actually cutting it with a knife to check.  Some say to just pierce the chicken and if the juices run clear, it's done, but I have not found this to be a reliable way to check, so I just make a cut into the largest piece to see if it looks done. 

When the pieces are done, use tongs to remove from the hot oil and plate on a plate with paper towels to absorb any excess oil.  Serve with rice or potatoes, salad, and of course, sweetened iced tea and call everyone to dinner!  My husband, who is not a big fan of chicken, absolutely loves this meal!

In addition to being a family favorite, this is a very budget friendly meal, especially if you get the chicken on sale.  I personally like the convenience of the pre-packaged drumsticks and thigh cutlets for making fried chicken, but you could get a whole chicken and cut it up if you're so inclined.

Bon appetit!

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Friday, September 6, 2013

Menu making for stress relief

"Just for today, I will have a program. I may not follow it exactly, but I will have it. I will save myself from two pests: hurry and indecision. "

I'm a menu maker.  I have been one for quite a few years.  It helps me to plan my grocery shopping trip and reduces my stress during the week about what to fix for dinner.  Home economists have recommended making menus for decades because it tends to prevent the "let's just eat out" tendencies and helps to keep food budgets under control.

When my husband and I  married I had two teens and he did, too.  Suddenly my life was much busier with day to day things and believe me, having four teenagers at once will keep you busy!  Add into that a full time work schedule and a husband who likes to eat out for any possible reason, and believe me you will need a plan!

At first I continued my habit of making a weekly menu.  But it seemed like the weeks went by so fast I was making menus all the time.  Fortunately I had saved several of my menus in a drawer and decided to make a menu for TWO MONTHS at a time.  That's right.  Two months.  

Here's how I did it.  I took those weekly menus that I had been saving for a few months and put them into a calendar format, choosing menus from the ones I already had.  I tried to keep them interesting (not always successful) and sometimes they were pretty redundant, but at least I had a plan.  I created the menus on my computer and saved them in a folder on my desk top.  When the two months were about up, I created another two months worth of menus, because tastes tend to change with the seasons.  I've been doing this for a couple of years now and have a collection of menus that span over two years.  Here's my most recent one:

As you can see, this is not gourmet fare.  It is also not set in stone.  Sometimes I switch things around because suddenly it's not going to be possible to make chicken and dumplings and it's going to be a grilled cheese and tomato soup night.  The point is to have some kind of plan.  You also will notice that every Tuesday at our house is "skip" and Fridays are "leftovers".  This has kind of evolved over the years.  My husband and I started having date night on Tuesdays and the kids can cook for themselves whatever they like (they were all in their late teens when we started this).  Fridays have evolved into leftover nights because usually it's just hubby and me for dinner since everyone else in the house has plans.  We often eat whatever is leftover or go out for a quick bite.  Yes, we still eat out too much (at least I think so) but we do it a lot less then we would if there was no menu.

I definitely encourage giving a menu plan a try, even if you start out with just a one week at a time menu.  Don't worry about getting it "perfect" and don't worry about whether you'll stick to it exactly.  You won't.  If you don't know where to begin, start by asking everyone in the house (including yourself) what their favorite meal is.  Look at the ads in the paper to see if there's something in there that catches your eye.  The point is to just START.  Once you get going, it's really not hard at all!

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