Thursday, June 21, 2012

Just living life

Just living life.

Same dinner 3 nights in a row (we have food).
Clutter all over the living room (we live in our home).
Clean laundry in the dryer for 2 days (we can pay the utility bill...and there are plenty of clothes).
Dirty bottles filling the sink (a full & satisfied baby).
Unmade bed (a good night's sleep with my man).
Barking dog (who does a good job protecting us).

Happy baby.
Wonderful husband.
Faithful Jesus.

I am a blessed woman indeed.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Food Plan - weeks 3&4

We've been on our no-processed-foods plan for a month now and it's been so much better than I thought it would be. The food has been good and filling. And I think it's paying off - I feel healthier and items with white sugar seem way too sweet to me now (crazy, huh?).

The one difficult aspect is the cost. Healthy food can be more expensive, especially when we're eating lots of cottage cheese, salads, fruit, meat from Trader Joe's, nuts, honey, maple syrup, etc. It adds up, and fast. I made some tweaks on our budget this week since I figure that the trade-off for a healthier-us is worth it. I need to do a better job of shopping sales/coupons and we might join Costco again to be able to buy veggies & fruit in bulk. I'll keep you posted on my money saving endeavors.

I can't believe how much fun I'm having with menu planning and being creative in the kitchen. This is a perk that I was not expecting. Every recipe in the last two weeks was adjusted in some regard, either just for fun or because I was trying to use what I had on hand.

Here's what we ate:

Thai Curry Stir-fry over rice - I used veggies that we had on hand: lots of green peppers, onion, broccoli, and cauliflower. And I used ground turkey instead of chicken. And water instead of broth. it's not exactly the same recipe at all but it still tasted good. Recipes are only guidelines anyway. :) Curry is my new favorite spice. Can't wait to try some other dishes with it.

Breakfast Bites - We decided not to call them cookies because that's misleading. They're basically baked oatmeal on-the-go. Yummy warmed up with a glass of milk - moist and not too sweet. I made a double batch (with honey instead of Splenda) and froze part of it. Ate a previously-frozen bite this morning and it tasted great.

Pancakes - This recipe is from the original "100 Days" website. I used half whole-wheat and half white flour since we were having guests and I didn't add bananas. Yum! This is definitely a keeper and so quick to throw together.

Spaghetti Sauce - This is more of a chunky tomato pasta sauce, not your usual marinara. I made it with fresh tomatoes and it was SO EASY and so good! Definitely give it a try. I also used fresh basil, oregano and parsley from my "garden." I doubled and froze half, which made enough for about 2.5 meals. Next time I'm going to quadruple so I can freeze more, add tomato paste to make it thicker, Italian sausage (instead of ground turkey), and puree the tomatoes after it's cooked.

Italian Stuffed Red Peppers - Favorite dinner recipe of the last two weeks!! I completely messed with the recipe but I'm sure the original would be yummy, too. :-) I used my homemade spaghetti sauce (so I didn't add the meat or herbs that she did, since those were already included), doubled the amount of spinach, and added a can of white beans for extra protein. It filled 4 large red peppers. We ate it with wild rice, mixing everything together - such a good summer meal.

Friday, June 15, 2012

outside - the after! (early summer)

It's the outside after!
Early summer version. (I'll post again in the late summer to show how everything grew.)

Oh so much better. It's amazing what weeding and mulch and flowers can do to spruce up the yard.
We made the mulch from two trees that fell down last year. (That could be a new saying, instead of "make lemonade out of lemons"....."make mulch out of fallen trees" :).


I planted 9 more ground cover plants across the front: Japanese Spurge.

(left to right): basil, tomato, oregano, and chives

(left to right): pepper, parsley, tomato, pepper

Little tomatoes!

A climbing hydrangea. I hope it starts to make our pergola look pretty.

The first herb harvest. I made homemade spaghetti sauce (recipe to come next week) - yum!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

outside - the before

Spring makes me want to get outside and do some yard work!
How about before pictures from the front yard? I'll post the "afters" tomorrow.
(And yes, those are all weeds. Lots and lots of weeds.)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday AM

Justus' Friday morning nap time.

checked email and blogs
cleaned two bathrooms
swept the floors
vacuumed master bedroom and all rugs
one load of laundry
(worked up a sweat)

destroyed a chew toy

Jana: 5
Parson: 1

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A New Food Perspective - weeks 1&2

No, it is not a diet.
It's just an eating plan.
Better yet, a new food perspective.

I wasn't a food label reader or a calorie counter or a carb watcher. (Who are we kidding? I love to eat. And I love carbs.) I did try to eat and cook moderately healthy for our family, but pregnancy threw me way off. (Hello sweet tooth and goodbye salad.) So when my mom introduced me to this blog, I was intrigued and then convinced that it was just what we needed to get back on track.

100 Days of Real Food
One family that challenged themselves to eat zero processed food for 100 days.

This convinced me I wanted to do it: Real Food Defined (The Rules)

We're not being legalistic about it. (If you have us over for dinner, I will definitely eat a brownie, maybe two.) This is only an "eating plan" for within our home. We're not being super strict. (No, I'm not going to find a local dairy that will deliver milk to my door.) But I did clean out our pantry (goodbye white flower and sugar and Bisquick and hot chocolate mix and pasta). We're not going to eat any cran-apple juice, Honey Bunches of Oats, salad dressing, or Yoplait peach yogurt for the next 100 days. Instead, our fridge is stocked with whole-fat plain yogurt, lots of salad stuff, homemade hummus and refried beans, homemade ice cream (sweetened with honey, of course), and I will learn to cook with whole-wheat flour and wheat germ and honey and pure maple syrup. I'm reading labels in a whole new way and am already much more aware of the ingredients in what I am eating.

I thought I would post about every two weeks or so and let you know what I'm making, since this plan requires a bit of menu creativity (this is all new for me). Also to keep a record of what we like and do not like. So far, we've tried the following:

Refried Beans - super easy and so good for you - dried beans in the crockpot all day. I forgot about them, so they cooked a little too long (oops!). Will need to try again to give a better review and would like to experiment with adding spices. They're still edible: I've been enjoying them mixed with salsa, heated up and eaten with tortilla chips.

Hummus - yum! Bryce is a fan. The first batch was a little bland, especially because I chose not to use any salt. The second round I made it with roasted red peppers (found in the pickle aisle), cayenne pepper and cumin - a fun twist! We eat it with Trisket crackers and veggies.

Fish with a Balsamic Marinade - good and easy! I marinated the fish for about 3 hours and then cooked as directed.  We ended up eating it with bread and lettuce for a fish sandwich. I would definitely try this again over rice and use the marinade as a sauce.

Whole-Chicken in the Crockpot - definitely a keeper! Super yummy and simple. I also made the chicken stock and was able to freeze 8 cups!

Jambalaya - loved this. A great recipe to use up whatever you happen to have on hand. I used the following (instead of what she had listed): plain rice, cajun seasoning, and no oysters. Bryce liked this one, too. The leftovers didn't last very long.

Brazilian Stew - Such a pretty soup (how can a soup be pretty? the colors were just lovely) and definitely a keeper. I love trying "different" soups and this one was unique. It seems like I can't follow a recipe exactly. :-) I used the following (instead of what was listed on the original recipe): some random jalapeno sausage I had on hand, 3/4 cup assorted dry beans, no ham, extra water, and I cooked it in the crock-pot on high for 4 hours and then added the mango. We'll be making this again for sure.

Banana Bread - The first time I followed the recipe exactly. It was a little dry and Bryce didn't really like it. The next time I read through the comments and decided to do a bit of experimenting (surprise, surprise). I substituted applesauce for the oil, used 1/3 cup pure maple syrup for the sweetner, and added 1/2 t each of nutmeg and cinnamon. Much better. This is a keeper. It's so easy to just throw a batch in and use up those old bananas.

And last but not least, for when I need a sweet & cold something:

Yogurt Yumsicles (from Whole Foods for the Whole Family cookbook)
Mix together 1 C. unsweetened orange juice, 1 C. plain yogurt, 1 t. vanilla, and 1 T honey. Spoon into molds or paper cups. Freeze and enjoy!

Monday, June 4, 2012

my Capezio friend

Their lifespan is winding down. Oh my dear friend of 10+ years. Some of the best money I ever spent (actually, that would be my mother who spent the money). Traveled with me all around the world. Now my morning exercise partner.

Yes, I am talking about my beloved Capezio jazz sneakers.

They're slowly dying . . . bits and pieces fall off when I'm working out in the morning.

Oh . . . how many memories are locked up in these shoes.

My mother purchased them for me in early high school for about $90, which seemed like an awful lot of money for a pair of dance shoes. But it was sure worth it. With these shoes, I've traveled around the world and was blessed with some amazing experiences.

(Granted, my shoes are not in all of the following pictures - but they were there!)

"Temple of the Heart" production - Fort Wayne, Indiana

Messianic Jewish conference - North Carolina

Dance workshop, military base chapel performance, air museum performance - England

Various classes and performances at 4 different dance studios - Fort Wayne, Indiana

Dance workshop - Jacksonville, Florida

Classes and student-directed performance - Sydney, Australia

Tribute performance at Fort Monroe - Norfolk, Virginia

Teaching at another dance workshop - Goshen, Indiana

Classes and various performances - Bethel College, Indiana

I'm going to miss these shoes when they finally "dance their last."
It's been fun, my wonderful dance shoes.

Friday, June 1, 2012

the heart of an orphan

I heard Beth Guckenberger speak at an adoption conference three weeks ago. So inspiring and encouraging. I love her description of how to reach the heart of an orphan (or the heart of any child, really). If you ever get the chance to hear her speak, do it!