Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Get A Jump On Your Spring Cleaning

I've been thinking about spring lately.  Maybe it's because I live in Ohio and the weather changes constantly.  Maybe it's because we've had a very mild winter so far and we've experienced many spring-like days even though it's January.  Maybe it's because my daffodils have poked their heads up out of the ground last month.  With spring comes spring cleaning.  Let me rephrase that... it's one of those things I'd LIKE to accomplish, but rarely do. 

This year is going to be different.  I'm going to tackle one task each week (hopefully) in order to break down the dreaded task of spring cleaning into bite-sized pieces.  My hopes are that when spring finally does arrive, I'll be able to be outside and ENJOY the warmer temps and the beautiful flowering bulbs instead of being inside cleaning.  Make sense?  Good. 

And I'm inviting you to join me on this journey so you can get your spring cleaning done too!  Don't you feel lucky?  (This is where you smile and nod your head yes.) 

So here is this week's task.  Drum roll please......

Wash down your cabinets.  Wherever you have them.  I have them in my kitchen and bathroom.  And no, you don't have to dust them with a feather duster and look all cute like the lady in the picture above.  By all means you can if you want, but I never look like that when I'm cleaning. 
I look more like this:

Anyways,  I have been wanting to wash down my cabinets for a long time now, but never took the time to do it.  Until now.  And I noticed once I was down that it really didn't take that long.  And the feeling of accomplish I got made me want to do it again.  Ok, not really, but you get the idea.  My bathroom cabinets were the worst.  My kids could probably win an award for NOT getting their toothpaste into the sink, because I noticed blue (why do they make toothpaste blue anyways?) goo on my cabinets.  So now it is gone forever.  (wishful thinking, I know) 

So grab your bucket of warm soapy water (I used a couple squirts of dishwashing soap) and your rag and have at those cupboards!  And while you're at it, wipe off the underside of the countertop too. (The part that hangs over the cabinets.  When I was on my knees cleaning my bottom cabinets, I was surprised  appalled at the amount of gunk was lurking there!  

And once you're done, step back and enjoy the fruits of your hard work!  And brag to your hubby about your accomplishment too!  When I did, my husband acted shocked and complimented how nice they looked!   

Happy Cleaning!

My Absolute Favorite Breakfast

Last night as I was doing some dinner prep, I decided to throw together a quick and easy breakfast casserole for this morning.  It's called French Toast Casserole and my family loves it!  Last night my son (who's 11) saw that I was making it and immediately got excited and rushed to give me a hug and thank me! Yeah...that's how much we love this dish! 

The cool thing about this casserole is that several can be made ahead of time and popped into the freezer.  I got this recipe from a freezer cookbook called 30 Day Gourmet after borrowing it from a friend who enlightened me about freezer cooking.  The book itself is great if you've never heard of freezer cooking or want gobs of recipes that are freezer proof.  The book will explain how to freeze food because there are different methods...did you know that?  If not, you should totally check out that book!  The book centers around having a cooking day or two each month with a group of friends and putting a months worth of meals into the freezer.  For me, that's a bit unrealistic (not to mention a TON of work), however some friends and I are planning to get together to do a smaller version and just put a few meals (probably 6 or so) away in the freezer.  (Mental Note:  I need to call those friends and set up a day and time to make it happen!) 

Anyways freezer meals are awesome to have around!  They are very handy on those days when you know you are going to be gone all day and not have time to prepare dinner.  Or when your church's Meals Ministry calls to ask you to take a meal to someone who is ill or just had a baby.  And sometimes they come in handy when you are in a cooking rut and just cannot think of anything to make for dinner.  Or when you're just plain lazy. 

I will get off of my soapbox now and get back to the recipe...sorry!

French Toast Casserole

1 lb Italian French Bread, cut into cubes
8 oz cream cheese

1/2 c sugar, divided

1/2 t vanilla or almond extract

1/2 c pecans (or walnuts, but nuts are optional)

4 eggs

2 C. milk

1 t. cinnamon

2 T butter

This is the bread I use from Walmart.  Any of there long french-bread type loaves will work.

FYI:  I never pay full price for the loaves.  They often go on "clearance", and that's when I buy them.  I buy a few and stick them in the freezer.  They also come in handy when making garlic bread...but that's a whole other post!

Place half of the bread cubes in a greased 9x13 pan.

Place the cream cheese in a microwaveable bowl or measuring cup. Cover the container with plastic wrap and cook until completely "melted". Sitr half of the sugar and all of the extract into the cream cheese.

Spoon the cream cheese mixture over the bread cubes (it will not completely cover them). Sprinkle the nuts over the cream cheese layer.

Top with remaining bread cubes. In a bowl, beat the remaining sugar, eggs, milk, cinnamon, and melted butter together. *I don't put quite all the milk in because hubby complained of it being mushy. lol

If you want to freeze this for later, slide the pan into a 2 gallon breezer bag, seal and freeze.

To serve: (If frozen, thaw completely.) Bake at 350 for 35 mins or until browned. Allow to sit at room temp for 5 mins before cutting. Serve with warm syrup (or fruit syrup...see below)

Home Made Fruit Syrup

Fruit, canned, frozen, or fresh - 1 2/3c or 14.5 oz (drained of liquid)

1 c. sugar

1 c corn syrup or honey

1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract.

Chop fruit into pieces no more than 1/2 inch square. Combine fuit, sugar, and corn syrup or honey in saucepan. Bring to boil sitrring occasionally. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 10-15 mins. Reove the sauce form heat and stir in extract. Serve warm. *I made red raspberry syrup for the frech toast casserole before and it was really yummy!

I made ours with raspberry syrup.  I was so excited to indulge in this yummy breakfast this morning...but after the first bite I realized I couldn't taste anything thanks to my stuffy nose.  Talk about depressing.  I was going to go for seconds, however I'd rather wait until tomorrow when I can (hopefully!) taste it.  That is, if there is any left by tomorrow morning!

Monday, January 30, 2012

I'm Sick and Tired...Literally

My son came home from school with the beginnings of a cold last week.  And now I have been lucky enough to catch the "sick baton" in this illness relay we've been running.  I am thankful it is just a cold and not the flu like before, but having a cold really cramps my style.  I was miserable yesterday with pounding sinus pain and the start of a semi-stuffy nose.  By the time I went to bed, I was completely stuffed up and breathing like Darth Vadar.  With the help of my good friend, Nyquil, I was able to catch a couple hours of sleep when I went to bed at 8pm (yeah, that's how crappy I felt).  I woke up at 11:30pm, 2am, 3am, 4:30am, 5:30am, and 6:30am.  And I'm not saying that I was sleeping in between either...that just happened to be when I looked at the clock.

I woke up feeling completely drained and fighting an inner battle of whether to go to the gym this morning for my regular spin class.  At first I decided I would just stay home, but then I remembered I had some errands to run while in town, so I bit the bullet and went.  I actually enjoyed myself...probably because I breath through my mouth through the whole class anyways and didn't notice my nose as much.  I even stayed and did a 1 mile on the treadmill afterwards.  (I know, I'm an overachiever!)  Afterwards I ran my errands and came home.

When I am stressed, or feeling down, or tired, or sick, or if it's a day ending in the letter y, my temporary remedy is to take a bubble bath.  So that's what I did.  I think the steam helped my congestion, because as I type this, it's back...and utterly frustrating. 

I guess my point to this post is I feel worthless today.  I haven't done much cooking, cleaning, or laundry and I've spent most of my time at home soaking away my worries.  Nothing exciting has happened today, so there's nothing to report.  Sorry to disappoint you! 

One thing that is swirling around in this brain of mine is the idea of possibly doing a Daniel Fast.  I good friend of mine did it (and survived!), and since then I've been contemplating doing one myself.  Mainly because I know I am addicted to certain foods, and this would more than likely break those addictions.  But I'm a bit afraid that I can't do it for the full 21 days.  I need to pray that God shows me His timing concerning this fast and how long I should do it for.  Other than that, things have been a bit boring around the Snyder Ranch!  Hopefully there will be more excitement in the days to come so I have something to write about other than my nose.  :)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I Am Second: Real Stories. Changing Lives by Doug Bender & Dave Sterrett

I Am Second:  Real Stories. Changing Lives. is an collection of awesome stories from various people.  Each story is an auto-biography of a different person.  Some of the stories are about people who are well-known, such as Bethany Hamilton, and others are ordinary people like you and me. 

We all have had moments of selfishness.  Moments where we've put ourselves on a pedestal and claimed that we were #1.  This book recounts numerous stories of how people who considered themselves #1 hit rock-bottom.  Once this happened, they were forced to cry out to God.  And each of them met God face-to-face in the midst of their despair.  Some were even Christians before they entered their valley, but came out on the other side with a true sense of what having a relationship with Jesus Christ is all about.  They found that it's not about being being first in their life.  It's about being Second and allowing God to take first place. 

This book is full of uplifting stories of God's mercy and grace.  From a divorced couple who were remarried several years later after God revealed His plan for them to reconcile to a guitarist in a popular band who gives up his career to be a stay at home dad and follow Christ, there is at least a few stories that you can relate your own life to. 

The book contains pictures of the different people whose stories are in the book, which was really nice.  And, at the end of each chapter, there are pictures of people with similar stories and the websites address to view videos of them telling their stories online. 

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this honest review.   

You Must Have Proof!

I tried to make another batch of bread today.  And after melting the coconut oil and honey, and adding the water and yeast...the yeast never proofed.  Don't know what that means?  Yeah, I didn't either until about 2 weeks ago when I started making my new most-awesome Honey Oat Bread.  If you aren't familiar with my bread recipe, read this post.  And really I still didn't know what the big deal was.  So I threw some yeast in a pan of oil, water, and honey and it started to bubble up, so what?  Well, that is a vital step to bread making I'm finding out!  The first two times I made the bread, the yeast bubbled up (aka proofed).  Then I tried two times to make the bread and the yeast did not bubble up.  Not really understanding the importance of proofing, I just prepared the bread as the recipe said...and the bread did not raise.  So today I tried again, and the yeast did not proof.  I decided it was time for an intervention.  I left the yeast mixture on the stove (No worries...I turned off the burner) and ran (drove) to the local Amish store.  (They don't sell Amish there.  But the store is run by Amish people and they sell various grocery items.  Some are bent and dent and some are bulk foods...including YEAST!)  I bought new yeast and came home to see if it would proof or if my bread-making skills were in fact gone.  I heated the mixture back up to around 125 degrees (should have only been 110...shame on me) and the yeast started to bubble!!  YAY!!  I'm back in the bread-making business once again!  I had every intention of taking a picture of what proofing looked like, but in the midst of my sheer excitement I forgot.  Sorry.  

So when I did some research on how to proof yeast this morning.  I found an interesting fact.  I guess it's called proofing because back in the olden days (is olden even a word?), people would test their yeast to make sure it was good before baking with it.  If the yeast bubbled in the water (with a pinch of sugar added for the yeast to nibble on), they would have PROOF that the yeast was good.  Neat, huh?      

With all that said, I guess my previous yeast kicked the bucket sometime over the past week or so.  RIP yeast.   (Feel free to have a moment of silence.)  :)

Raise, Dough, Raise!

Ever since trying out my new bread dough recipe and having it turn out beautifully, I realized that all good things much come to an end.  The last two batches I've made have not raised.  So I was stuck with a heavy lump of dough.  TWO heavy lumps of dough to be exact.  Thanks to my frugal nature, I could not simply throw it away.  Instead, I found a couple of uses for it and wanted to share them with you! (And by the way, I was NOT smiling like the gal in the picture...I was hungry for BREAD!!!) 

1.  Make sandwich buns.  With the first batch I decided that I would try to make sandwich buns.  I took small portions of the dough and made a patty (like you would if you were making a hamburger patty), placed them on my baking stone and baked until they were brown on top...approx 20 or so mins.  They actually turned out pretty well.  They are heavier in weight and texture than store-bought buns, but have a really good flavor!  Making these buns inspired me to make hamburgers on the grill (yes, I know it's January) so I put a little butter on the cut halves of the buns and laid them on the warming grate of my grill.  I'm convinced that made the hamburgers extra yummy! 

2.  Use the sandwich buns as bagels.  Because of the heavier texture of the buns, they remind me of bagels.  Who says bagels HAVE to have the hole in the middle anyways?  Just toast them and put spread cream cheese on it...you'll never know the difference!

3.  Make pizza!  Use the dough as a pizza crust.  We regularly make our own pizza on Friday nights, so I can't wait to try this out to see how it works!  I think it will make some tasty crust!  Since I haven't made it yet, I can't really tell you how long to bake it.  Because the dough is heavier, you may want to partially bake the crust first then add the toppings and finish baking. 

4.  Freeze it!  When the second batch didn't raise, I was out of ideas.  I already had a bag of buns (aka bagels) to use up and I didn't really need anymore.  That is when the pizza-dough idea hit me, however I wasn't making dough for a few more days.  So I divided the dough in half and stuffed each half into a freezer bag, then both of those bags into a gallon size freezer bag.  Tomorrow morning I will take one or both of them out to thaw and then proceed with the pizza crust instructions. 

I'm going to attempt to make BREAD (not more flat dough!) today.  If it doesn't turn out, I may have more ideas for you on how to use the non-raised dough! 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

No Spend January Update - Week 3

Well, it's been 2 weeks since giving you my last No Spend January update and I'm excited to announce that, although I did spend a little, it was less than what I normally would spend.  And spending less was the goal of this challenge, right?

Here is what we've spent:

*Date night with hubby - $8  (we went to the dollar theater for $2 and then to Applebee's and used a gift card and only had to pay $6 when it was all said and done.)
*Meal at Wendy's with Kailyn - $4.86

I think that's it!  I mean, besides the wretched $2203 bill for the well pump.  (not counting that because that wasn't something we WANTED...we NEEDED it!)

So those spenditures in addition to the $14 I told you about previously, my total is:  $26.89.  Not too shabby so far!  It's been nice to have more money at the end of the month instead of the other way around! 

Counting Calories

Well, it's been 25 days since starting my FINAL journey to lose this weight once and for all in 2012.  Up until two days ago, I had lost 0.  ZE-RO.  Zip.  Zilch.  That, I might add, is also the reason I have not posted about my weekly weigh-ins.  There was nothing to report...literally.  And boy, was I frustrated and embarrassed.  But I assure you I have not been sitting on my hiney watching soap operas and eating bon-bons.  I was at the gym working out...HARD...at least 3 days a week!    I have been thinking for awhile that my eating was what was getting me into trouble.  And apparantly I was right.  (I love it when I'm right, by the way.) 

So I'm back to counting calories...again.  I am just down-right awful at counting calories.  I had some friends tell me about a website that is great for counting.  It is called My Fitness pal.  I was reluctant to try it out because I was perfectly happy with Live Strong, but I gave it a whirl.  I really like it!  It is a lot like facebook.  You can follow your friends' progress and encourage them along the way..and they can do the same for you.  It's great for accountability too.  If you weigh-in and you've gained weight, it will post it to your wall.  Or if you go over your calorie intake for the day, it will post that too.  But on the other hand it will post if you lost weight or were under your calorie intake for the day.  My absolute favorite aspect of the program is that, after you've posted an entire day's worth of meals (which your friends cannot see by the way), it will tell you what your weight would be in 5 weeks if every day was like the current day.  So yesterday it told me that I would weight 167.4 in 5 weeks!  That's motivated to eat the exact same thing for the next 5 weeks for sure!  

I just wanted to share with you this great tool if you are on a weight loss journey of your own.  It makes counting calories a little more fun and entertaining!  You can find out more about My Fitness Pal by clicking here. 

Oh yeah...I totally forgot to tell you the best part!  Since starting to count calories, I have lost 1.6 lbs!  I selected the Sedentary activity level even though I'm a would probably be light-moderately active actually, but this way, my calorie count is low and if I happen to go over, I should still be under my daily intake for what my body needs.  So far it's working!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sticky Faith by Dr. Kara Powell & Dr. Chap Clark

I have another great book to share with you!  I just finished reading Sticky Faith by Dr. Kara Powell & Dr. Chap Clark.  I have gotten to review some really good books lately!  I originally picked this book title to review because: 1.  I'm a parent.  And 2. I feel incredibly unprepared and unqualified to teach my kids about spiritual things.  I thought this book was about teaching your kids about having a spiritual relationship with Christ.  At first I was disappointed because it didn't do that.  I think I was looking for a step-by-step, which this book is not.  But I kept reading.  And I'm so glad I did!

Every Christian parent dreams of their children growing up knowing the Lord as we pass the baton of faith on to them.  But it's not that easy.  Many kids abandon their faith once they reach high school, but especially when to reach college-age.  The authors of this book have conducted tons of research as to why kids walk about from their faith in hopes of equipping parents and youth leaders with the knowledge they need to help their kids' faith become sticky.  Sticky enough that they don't turn from it when entering adulthood.  This book shares what their research has found, as well as way that we can correct those situations/atmospheres that have allowed our kids to abandon their faith. 

I think the most enlightening part of this book for me personally was their adult to child ratio.  In so many youth groups,  leaders strive for a ratio of 1 adult leader to every 5 teen.  They suggest that that ratio is completely the opposite of what it needs to be.  We should have 5 adult leaders to every teen!  As adults, we need to adopt a mentoring lifestyle towards the youth in our church.  Every teen should have a group of adults to which they can go for prayer, wisdom, and accountability on a regular basis. 

Something also mentioned in the book was the fact that most church segregate teens.  Churches need to realize that our youth are the upcoming generation of adults.  Our churches should be a place where youth should be accepted and integrated into our weekly services, instead of being made to sit in the "kid service".  When we segregate our youth from the adult worship service, it communicates to the teens that they aren't good enough or that they have nothing to offer adults, which is not true! 

All in all, this is a great book for all pastors, youth leaders, and parents to read!  There are many great ideas on how to slow down the likelihood of our teens to walk away from their faith.  I passed on my copy to the youth pastor at our church, so he can implement some changes in our own church community!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this honest review.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Whole Wheat Waffles

In the morning, I'm makin' waffles! 

Hmm...where have I heard that line before?

Anyways, that's what I did this morning.  Made waffles.  LOTS of them.  As in I-should-make-a-triple-batch-of-them-so-they-will-last-more-than-2-days waffle-making.  My family loves pancakes and waffles, but with a family of 5, 2 of which are hungry men (or 1 man and 1 11-yr-old), a single batch of either just doesn't last very long.  I made a batch of pancakes yesterday morning, and they were finished up this morning by myself and the two older kids before they left for school.  That left hubby and Allie with nothing to eat besides Cheerios.  So I decided to make waffles.  And I thought I would share this recipe with you since it's one of our faves!  

I am not sure how many one batch makes but I counted towards the end of my waffle-making extravaganza and I had made 16 waffles...after 2 or 3 had been eaten.  I would say that one batch in a belgian waffle maker (which is what I used) makes approxmately 6-7 waffles.  If you are using a regular waffle iron, it will probably make double that amount since they would be thinner.  

Enough of the boring stuff...here's the recipe!  

Whole Wheat Waffles

2 eggs
2 c. hard red winter wheat flour (or all-purpose flour will work, but they won't be whole wheat!)
1 3/4 c. milk
1/2 c. coconut oil (or any kind of oil)
1 T. evaporated cane juice (or sugar)
4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat waffle iron.  Beat eggs in large bowl with mixer until fluffy.  Beat in the rest of ingredients.  Cook in waffle iron until desired doneness.   

The Money Saving Mom's Budget by Crystal Paine

I am so excited to share this book with you!  I just finished reading Crystal Paine's new book called The Money Saving Mom's Budget.  This is a GREAT book!  It is so easy to read and it is full of helpful information for mom's who want to take control of their finances, learn more about budgeting, and just plain save money! 

The book starts out by teaching us the importance of having a plan and setting goals.  This was a hard one for me, and honestly, I never did actually set my short-term, medium-term and long-term goals.  Mainly because I wanted to discuss it with my husband and for us to set goals together.  The importance of having goals is to help you stay focused on your future.  Not just wandering through life aimlessly, but living life on purpose. 

Once your goals are written down, the next topic of discussion is clutter.  This was an eye-opening chapter for me personally.  I have been dealing with this issue for awhile and reading this chapter was the kick in the pants I needed to being proactive about reducing clutter and becoming more organized...especially in the area of papers in my house.  I have piles.  Not TONS of piles, but a couple that are ALWAYS there.  And ever-increasing.  And they never get put away.  Mainly Crystal enlightened me on the fact that this paper clutter was costing me money.  If I couldn't find a bill to pay (which has, ahem, happened to me more than once in the past), then I will most likely be charged a late fee for the late payment.  All those added fees add up.  Crystal describes in detail how to rid your life of clutter in order to save money.  The day after reading that chapter I removed the piles from my life, filed everything, and found some things that had been missing for awhile. 

Then the author goes on to talk about the importance of having a budget and how to do set one up for your family's finances.  This one key item is the most important part of handling your finances, yet so few people do it!  She even writes about the common excuses why people don't have a budget, then proves them all to be untrue!

Next up is couponing.  Where to get them, how to use them, where to use them.  You name it, it's in her book!  She also advises first-time coupon users on how to get started without going to the extreme and finding yourself on that TLC show because you have stolen your kid's bedroom and converted it into a mini-warehouse to store all of your loot!

I really enjoyed chapter 7, which is called "25 Ways to Lower Your Grocery Bill Without Clipping Coupons".  I was at a cross-road of deciding whether or not to continue clipping coupons since we are eliminating processed foods from our diet and the fact that it's time-consuming.  When I lean more towards not using coupons or when I go on a month-long hiatus from clipping, I tend to feel guilty about losing the potential savings through clipping coupons.  This chapter gave me ideas (25 of them!) of how to still save without coupons...so no more guilt for me!  Yay!

At the end of the book, Crystal teaches us how to save money when eating out and gives lots of ideas on how to have date night (or family night) on a small budget.  Budgeting isn't about never eating out...but being thrifty when you do! 

I love this book.  I think you should read it too!  This is definitely a book I will be keeping on hand to refer back to often.  She lists tons of websites pertaining to the subjects in this book and I can't wait to check some of them out!  Throughout the entire book, the author shares her story of living on a small income and how she and her husband survived (which was, ultimately, how her blog, Money Saving Mom, was birthed!).  All in all, I love this book.  I know I said it already, but I really mean it!  So go buy yourself a copy!  You can find it on Amazon.com by clicking here!   

* A HUGE thanks to the author for giving me a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review!!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

YUMMY No-Bake Energy Bites

Thanks to my friend, Emilie, I have a new favorite snack recipe to share with you!  Actually, she snagged it from another blog, but I'm totally stealing it...and giving her the credit of course! 

I made them last night and the only thing I didn't do (which I should have), was grind the flax seed.  I just threw in the whole seeds...not thinking about how crunchy they are.  They are still good despite the crunch-factor though!  They make me think of no-bake cookies...only healthier!!  My kids even like them, so these are a hit!

The recipe can be found a blog called Smashed Peas And Carrots (how cute is that name?).  Click here to go to the recipe and start making your own no-baked goodness!!

** UPDATE:  I had a friend comment that she couldn't load the page, and I was having problems with it myself.  I found the recipe on an alternative site, so forget at the link above, and click HERE.

Enjoy! :)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Day 1 With a New Outlook

Ok, ok, I know it's not Day 1, but to me it is.  At least mentally it is.  I had to start over and therefore, it's Day 1.  Sorry...I had to get that off my chest.  lol

Today is going well!  I am feeling a bit sleepy due to having 2 sick family members waking me up for the past two nights so I could tend to their needs.  They are now on the mend and I'm hoping tonight I can get a FULL night's rest...fingers crossed!  But as any mom knows...germs spread like wildfire, so if one or two people get, it's usually a matter of time before the others get it.  Ok, enough of that negative talk...back to my outlook.

I have a new outlook!  Not really sure why or how, but I feel different.  I'm ready to put in the hard work to make this goal happen.  This morning I woke up, put together a meal to take to someone from my church who was just diagnosed with leukemia, and headed out to the gym.  I worked out hard for 1 1/2 hrs, then went to deliver the meal.  Afterwards I went to Stuff Mart to pick up a few things to get us through the week, including some spinach so I could make salads.  

Salad.  Honestly right now, the thought of eating a salad makes me want to gag.  I'm not kidding.  My class instructor, Dana, at the gym gives us weekly eating challenges for the week.  This week's was a doozy.  For 5 days out of 7, we are to: 

1.  Eat a salad for lunch with low-cal/low-fat dressing.
2.  Not eat sweets. 
3.  Not eat anything after dinner.  

So my new dedication and motivation totally got me pumped to eat a salad today for lunch.  Well, it didn't go so hot.  I have come to the conclusion that I don't like healthy salads.  I like UN healthy ones.  You know, with the bacon bits, and cheese, and ranch AND french dressing.  Oh yeah...and those little cubes of ham. (aren't they cute?)  I made a salad.  And tried to eat it.  I really did.  But it just wasn't going down very easily.  So after fighting it, I finally gave up and decided that I'd rather have nothing at all than that salad.  I was still hungry of course, so I had a half of a granola bar, and a piece of toast with natural peanut butter (can you say CARBS?)  

Other than the lunch fiasco, I feel good.  I am happy with my progress today and I'm excited to keep giving this my all until I reach my goal!  I'm just not looking forward to tomorrow's salad.    

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A New Leaf

Time to start over.  Renew my mind.  Get focused.  And turn over a new leaf.  (What does that mean anyways?)   I am failing miserably at this weight loss thing.  So much so that I am not even going to weigh in tomorrow morning.  Yeah, it's that bad.  I am battling conflicting emotions right now.  A part of me feels so discouraged and is telling myself, "You'll never reach that goal weight...or even lose a pound for that matter."  The other part of me is inspired.  Inspired to do better.  To strive for my goal.  To do this and put it past me.  I know I have it in me to do it, so why am I failing?  Eating everything in site? Choosing NOT to workout when I know it's necessary to lose the weight? 

When I made the decision to lose this weight in Nov 2010, I started with a vengeance.  No one was going to stop me.  I worked out.  I watched what I ate.  And I lost 15 lbs.  So that is what needs to happen again.  Period.  No more excuses.  It's time to tell myself NO when it wants to have a second helping, or an extra cookie.  NO when I want to skip a workout.  NO when I want to slack off.  Because reaching my goal is going to feel way better then having the satisfaction of a cookie.  A fit, healthy body is way more worth it then a second helping at dinner.  Why can't I get it? 

So, tomorrow I'm starting over.  Yes, again.  But this time I'm not backing down. 
It's time to get serious.  

Everything Romance By David Borton and Tom Winters

Everything Romance, by Davide Borton and Tom Winters, is just what the title says EVERYTHING Romance!  The book is chock full of romance in several forms.  There are short love stories.  There are quotes on love.  There are romantic love poems.  There are romance-inspired recipes such as  "Love Apple" And Basil Soup, "You Bet I Love You" Chocolate-Covered Strawberries, and Cuddle-On-The-Couch Cinnamon-Sugar Popcorn that are sure to give you and your love warm fuzzy feelings.  The book also contains some gift ideas from the heart for the one you love.  Scattered throughout the book there are also helpful tips called Love Boosters and Love Busters. Love Boosters are things you can do or say that would be beneficial to your marriage. The Love Busters are the opposite of the Boosters and  would not be beneficial to your marriage (although we've probably all said or done those things and had to learn the hard way!)  There are also many sections of this book that tell the reader facts about marriage, traditions, and historical account of love.  I particularly enjoyed the story of the evolution of the mistletoe...I've always wondered about how that tradition was started!  My favorite sections of the book were the Date Night Idea sections.  The book lists different ideas for themed date nights for those of us who are creatively-challenged!

This book is not one that you would sit down and read from cover to cover, but rather a book in which you pick it up from time to time to inspire you in how to be more romantic.  This would make a great gift book for a bridal shower or wedding, or even as a Valentine's Day gift to your loved one, or even to yourself so you can, in turn, give the gift of more romance to your spouse!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this honest review.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Quite Possibly the Best Bread EVER

So since I am consuming unlimited quantities of carbs until tomorrow, I made bread today.  I've been wanting to try this particular recipe for awhile now, but somehow I write down a recipe and, well, it vanishes.  Or I write it down, try it, and it turns out horribly.  And somehow THAT recipe never gets lost. 

Well, I can honestly say I can throw out all of my other bread recipes (except maybe my Grandma's recipe for awesome white bread...even though we don't eat white bread anymore).  I have found THE ONE.  And the rest of the family unanimously voted this as the best.  And it's pretty too.  That's always a plus! 

I have made LOTS of whole wheat bread in search of a no-fail recipe.  But I haven't had much luck.  Bread-making is an art!  Some people have the skills and some don't.  Can you guess which group I belong to?  But today, I conquered!    Me Woman, Me Make Bread!!!  (Can you tell it's getting late?)  Of course it turned out this time, so I will need to make this bread again (probably tomorrow) to make sure it truly is a no-fail recipe!  The recipe makes 2 loaves at a time, so I'm hoping to make 2 batches a week and freeze the extra loaves until we need them.  No more buying bread from the store! 

Shut up and give me the recipe, you say?  Ok, I got this recipe from a blog called Stacy Makes Cents.  (I LOVE her blog by the way!)  You can follow the tutorial here.  And while you're there check out some of her posts!  She and her family are on a journey to eating healthy whole foods, and they recently became debt-free.  Her hubby also is a financial-something-or-other and gives lots of financial tips and info on the blog too.  And Stacy's posts actually make me giggle...her sense of humor really shines through her writing! 

So, go check out the tutorial, and make some bread!  You'll be glad you did! 

BTW - Stacy's recipe says to use Hard White Wheat...but I used Prairie Gold wheat.  But they may actually be the same type of wheat...not sure. 

Carbs, Anyone?

I must admit something to you.  I am addicted to carbs.  I mean, I LOOOOVE me some carbs.  I could eat them in a box.  I could eat them with a fox.  I could eat them here or there.  I could eat them everywhere!  (Sorry, couldn't resist quoting some Dr. Seuss!)  With each weigh-in where my weight has either gone up or stayed the same, I am forced to reflect on what happened the previous week to cause it.  And this week I've especially been thinking about it.  Mainly because I've been stuffing my face with carbs left and right, up and down.  And quite frankly I'm sabotaging my own weight loss goal.  I'm at the same weight I was when I started this weight loss goal of mine to "lose this weight once and for all."  Yeah, well, if I keep eating carbs like this, it ain't gonna happen.  Unless of course I choose to workout nonstop for the next 21 weeks. 

When I look at what I eat on a daily basis, fruits and veggies barely make the count.  It's mostly bread, cereal, cookies, or granola bars that top the list.  I am not one of those people who just naturally gravitate towards fruits and veggies.  To me, they are an after-thought...something to add to the plate to make make me feel like guilty about eating a not-so-healthy meal,  But it has to stop.  You might be wondering if I'm going to give them altogether, and the answer is No!  I still want to enjoy eating at least a little bit!  I am going to limit myself to 3 servings a day.  When those 3 servings have been eaten, no more carbs for me until the next day.  And I'm also going to ramp up my fruit and veggie servings. 

I think this will help me for several reasons... 

1.  It will help me keep track of just how much I'm eating carb-wise...and how many times I WOULD HAVE grabbed a carby snack, etc.  I think it will be an eye-opener.

2.  It will help me to be more conscious about my decisions.  For example, I LOVE fresh baked bread and could easily eat close to a whole loaf (make mine with butter and jam, thank you!).  So if I know I'm going to make bread, then I can skip the toast at breakfast and the granola bar for snack and "save" my carb servings for the bread instead. 

3.  This will have to cut down my calorie intake for the day.  (BTW - I'm doing HORRIBLY with calorie counting.  Just an FYI)  Since I'm not tracking them, I really have no clue how many I'm taking in.  For breakfast this morning I had a fried egg on toast with strawberry jam.  Don't knock it til you try it...it's one of my family's faves.  Anyhoo, my breakfast this morning was roughly 250 calories.  I could easily have had 2 eggs with no toast or jam and it would have been 140 calories...and probably would have kept me feeling full longer because of the protein in the eggs and the fat in the oil..and I would have saved 90 calories!  Hind sight is 20/20. 

4.  I wonder if I start eating less carbs, if my body will crave them less.  Literally, they are all I want to eat anymore.  And it seems as if I can never have just one piece of bread or 1 cookie.  I always want more.  Being addicted to anything is not good so it's time have some self-control. 

I want to lose this weight more than anything (ok, well not ANYTHING, but you get the point).  I'm just tired of it dragging me down, both physically and emotionally.  I know it seems silly, but it's true.  It's a very real issue that I have and that I think about on a daily basis.  And honestly when I go to reach for a cookie, I tell myself I shouldn't because of the goal I've set for myself.  But then I also tell myself that I have 21 weeks left in order to reach that goal.  Well sista, it's time for some intervention.  I WILL reach that goal...even if I have to give up bread, and pasta, and cookies, and granola bars entirely.  (Gulp.)  Enough is enough. 

So I plan to start this new way of eating tomorrow.  Mainly because I've royally screwed up today (can you say White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies?) AND I'm in the process of trying out a new recipe and you've already heard how much I love bread.  I realize that sounds like a total cop out, but it's not.  I really am going to start tomorrow. 

Just when you start saving...

Well, it's week 2 of No-Spend January and Murphy happened.  For those of you who are familiar with Dave Ramsey (and if you aren't go here to learn more), you know what I'm talking about.  Murphy is in reference to Murphy's Law which states "anything that can go wrong, will go wrong".  Dave says to have an emergency fund for when "Murphy" does show up....because he WILL show up.  If you have money saved back for it, then it's not as much of an emergency when Murphy does come a knockin'.  You just pay the bill and get on with your life stress-free (not really, but you get the point).

So, remember No-Spend January?  Well, Murphy showed up at my house today actually.  I had been anticipating his arrival since Saturday when my bubble bath took way longer than normal to fill up.  (Have I ever told you I LOVE bubble baths?)  Anyways, I noticed a decrease in water pressure.  Hubby did some its-over-my-head-so-I'll-spare-you-the-details mechanical guy stuff to come to the conclusion that the gauge on our pressure tank was bad.  So there went $5.99 plus tax for the gauge. (And no, I'm not freaking out about a $6 gauge..keep reading....)  He installed the gauge and concluded that we didn't have as much as pressure as normal.  (Which I already knew from my bubble bath...but now it was "official")  So we waited another couple of days trying to delay the obvious, I think.  We called a drilling company that some relatives recommended, left two messages, and received no reply (and still haven't).  So that ate up 2 more days of waiting.  Yesterday we finally called a different drilling company and got an actual person (that sold us on them immediately!) and he suggested that our well pump head was cracked and the whole pump needed replaced.  The estimate he gave us is $1300-1700.  They are currently here doing their thing and we are not-so-eagerly awaiting The Bill. 

Luckily we have the money set aside.  If we hadn't, we would have either had to pay for it with our home equity account, which would take a while to pay off with the interest, or we could have had to put it on the credit card.  Neither of those options would have been good....especially since we are consumer-debt free at the moment.  But this whole experience has really made me realize just how important it is to have that fully funded emergency fund.  (Which, btw, Dave recommends 3-6 months living expenses.)  Yeah, I kind of freak every time I hear that too.  But it's something I really want to strive for.  My husband is the only earner in our family and if he would happen to get hurt (which could easily happen in his line of work...auto mechanics), it could throw our finances into a tailspin and it would get real ugly, real fast. 

So hopefully in a few hours, we'll be $1700 poorer, but we'll have more water pressure than we've had for a week.  And I'm sure I'm gonna need a nice hot bubbly bath.  And a glass of wine. 
And a cookie.  Or two.

Good ole' Murph.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Make Your Own Yogurt!

I LOVE yogurt.  But I especially love homemade yogurt.  I found a recipe online somewhere (unfortunately I don't remember where...and the page I printed out doesn't have a web address on it.  Anyhoo...here is how I make my own scrumptious yogurt:

Homemade Yogurt

Milk (I sometimes use whole milk, but this particular time I used 2% milk because I was in crisis mode and that's all I had)  Crisis = making taco soup for dinner and running out of sour cream.  Enough said.

1/4 c Yogurt Culture (for your first batch, just buy a small container of plain yogurt at the store.  After you've made your first batch, you can reserve 1/4 c of the yogurt to be used as your starter for the next batch.)

That's all!  2 ingredients!  Let's get our yogurt-making groove on...

1.  First pour the milk into a stock pot and stick the candy thermometer on the side of the pot.  Turn the heat onto medium.  Heat your oven to 200 degrees.

2.  Heat the milk to 180 degrees.  Or if you are like me, you forget to check it and by the time you do, your thermometer reads 200 degrees instead.  No worries if you've done the same thing...it still turns out like normal.

3.  Once the thermometer reads 180, turn the heat off and let the milk cool back down to 110 degrees.  This usually takes 1/2 hr.  Turn your oven off.

4.  Measure out your starter and whisk into the pan of heated milk.  Some recipes say to put some of the heated milk into a bowl, then whisk the yogurt into the that milk, then to add the milk/starter mixture back to the pan of heated milk.  I didn't do this with this batch and it still turned out fine, so if you're short on time and don't want to wash an extra bowl, just add the starter directly to the heated milk.

5.  Pour your milk/started mixture into a crock pot dish (minus the part you plug in) and place the lid on top.  

6.  Wrap the entire crock and lid with a bath towel and place into the oven.  I know...it's really weird sticking your towel into the oven, but it doesn't ruin your towel...trust me.  

7.  Turn your oven light on. 

8.  Leave the yogurt in your oven overnight.  In the morning, your yogurt should be set and look like this:

9.   Remove from oven and place some of the yogurt into a sieve that has been lined with cheese cloth...and placed over another bowl to catch the whey.  (remember Little Miss Muffet?)  Your yogurt should look like this:

10.  Continue draining off the whey until your yogurt reaches the desired consistency.  I like to drain off as much whey as I can, which makes a Greek Yogurt.  We use greek yogurt in place of sour cream, but also eat it as normal yogurt, adding a bit of strawberry jam and topping with granola.  YUMMO!

You will be left with whey that look like this:

Whey can be used for many things.  For a list of 16 ideas for using your whey click here.

You can also make your own Greek yogurt by buying a container of plain yogurt at the store and simply draining off the whey.  You can read the tutorial here.

Happy Yogurt Making!! 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Princess Stories by Carolyn Larsen

It seems as if every girl has once dreamed about being a princess...although we didn't realize that we really were one:  God's Princess! 

I just love this book...and my daughters do too!  They couldn't wait for this book to come in the mail, and when it arrived, they immediately opened it and started reading it.  The book takes 29 women from the Bible and gives her a title.  For example, Eve is The First Princess.  Then for each princess, there is a "Mirror, Mirror on the wall," poem for that particular princess.  I think those poems are great for helping your child remember each woman's story in the Bible.  Then the book goes on to tell that woman's, ie Princess's, story.  The stories are told in a way that children can understand them. Each story is long  enough to tell the complete story, but short enough as to not lose their attention.  And the illustrations are just beautiful!  At the end of each story, there is a Bible Verse pertaining to the message being told in the story.  There are also 3 questions, called Princess Ponderings, that you can use to spark discussion with your little princess after reading the story.  

The last chapter of the book is entitled, "You, The Special Princess."  The story tells about how you don't have to dream about being a princess, or being as special as the women in the Bible.  You are a daughter of the King and that makes you a a princess too!  God has chosen you and has great things for you to do! 
This book is every little girl's dream book!

I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for this honest review.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Miracles Are For Real by James L. Garlow and Keith Wall

Do you belive in Miracles?  Before reading Miracles Are For Real by James L. Garlow and Keith Wall, I admid I was skeptical.  This topic of miracles has always baffled me.  I have read the miracles that were performed in the Bible many times, yet it seems as if miracles in this day and age aren't as prevalent.  Why?  Is it because we believe less or are just part of a society that leans towards skepticism?  I think it's both.  I personally have taken part in praying for miracles for loved ones who were ill and needed a miracle.  And I never saw my prayers answered. 

This book has ignited a spark in me to believe again.  The book is full of real-life stories of miracles that are awe-inspiring.  The stories tell of miracles in many shapes and forms from physical healings to angelic appearances in times of need.  It discusses many aspects of miracles including how to define a miracle, the difference between resuscitation and resurrection, and the question of whether it's possible for people to be "miracle magnets".   The book is also full of instances of miracles in the Bible, as well, evidence of miracles in history. 

All in all, I think this is a great book.  It has a very balanced approach to each of the different types of miracles as well as insight as to why some prayers are answered miraculously and some aren't, although the authors admit to not having all the answers concerning miracles.  Jim Garlow himself (at the time of writing this book) is praying for a miracle for his wife who is battling cancer.  This book is a great reminder that God is still working miracles today.  One of the quotes in this book is from Albert Einstein who said, "There are only two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as though everything is a miracle."  This book will most definately change how you define and view miracles...and will leave you anticipating them!

I recieved a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this honest review.

Friday, January 6, 2012

No Spend January Update - Week 1

We are almost a week into our No-Spend January Challenge.  So far it's going ok.  I say ok because it seems as if great deals are popping out nonstop and I just want to buy them but I can't!  Each time I tell myself No, it does feel great though...in a weird scroogy type of way.  I must admit that I have bought a couple of things...

*3 rolls of ribbon to make sweat bands.  I have had numerous people at the gym ask me about the ones I've made for myself and if I would be interested in selling some.  So I spent $7.91 plus tax on ribbons...BUT I can make quite a few from those supplies and will sell them for $5 each....so if I sell 2 of them, I will make my money back. 

*2 bales of hay for the pygmy goats - $6.00

I also bought a Jillian Michaels DVD and a nail polish BUT I used a store credit from Walmart that I recieved after returning some duplicate Christmas gifts.  So I personally don't think that counts!


Can't Believe It's Friday Already!

Where on earth did this week go?  My kids didn't go back to school until Tuesday, which sort got the week off to a weird start.  But it's Friday?  Holy cow.  What a blur. 

Here was my week in a nutshell:

Monday - went to the gym, then spent the day with the kiddos before they headed back to school.  Made some laundry detergant.  I thought I was completely out of it...but midday through making the new batch I realized I had about 5 gallons yet!  So I now have about a  6 month supply! 

Tuesday - took the day off from working out to let my body rest.  Kids went back to school.  Worked out in the garage and worked on housework.

Wednesday - went to the gym, picked up a neat locker-type piece of furniture (for $15!!!) for the foyer...which then led me to rearrange the entire foyer.  This still is not 100% complete, but I hope to finish it up today.  Tumbling was cancelled, so we enjoyed a night at home.

Thursday - spent the entire day at home, but didn't accomplish as much as I'd like to.  Ground some flour and made some bread (with a new recipe...didn't like it).  Picked up some hay for the goats at a neighbor's house.  Made a yummy dinner and watched Rio with the kids in the evening (great movie btw!)

Today - went to the gym despite feeling icky when I woke up (I think I'm getting a cold), ran to the store to get milk and a few essentials to get us through the weekend until official grocery shopping.  Going to grab a shower, pop lunch in the oven, eat lunch, and head to the garage for an hour or so to do some paperwork for our accountant that I have put off for too long this week.  After that, I'm finishing up in the foyer and putting some shelves out on the porch to store pet food, potting soil, etc.  I hope it works ok!

So that is my week!  Not too productive, but good enough for being a not-normal week! 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

No Guilt

Today I didn't work out.  At all.  The most exercise I got today was carrying my crockpot full of chili to the van.  And I don't care.  I just couldn't bear the thought of working out today.  Not that I'm giving up on working out...just thought maybe my body (and mind) needed a break.  So I took today to send the kids off to school and get back into a semi-normal routine.  I did some housework and some laundry and some bookkeeping in the garage.  And it felt good to accomplish some things and not break a sweat! 

And you know what?  I don't feel guilty one bit.  Tomorrow is a new day...and it also happens to be gym day, so I'll be back to kicking my own tail and burning some serious butter tomorrow morning! 

Monday, January 2, 2012

My Dirty Rotten Stinkin' Terrible No-Good Weigh In

So you can probably guess from the post title that I didn't have a good weigh-in this morning.  And you're guessing right. 

Let me back up and give you a recap of my week....

I worked out EVERY DAY last week!  And I worked out extra super hard 4 of those days.  The other three days I ran a total of 12 miles. 

Yesterday morning when I weighed in (just out of curiosity), the scale said 175!  I was so excited!  So thatweigh in is what spurred on my 6 mile run yesterday...to ENSURE that I would keep that loss until this orning's official weigh-in.  So I'm not sure what happened.   Today the scale said 177!  That is up 2 pounds from yesterday morning AND 1 pound from last Monday's weigh-in! 

So today I'm TICKED.  Ticked because I worked my tail off to do what...GAIN?  GRRRRR.  I keep telling myself that MAYBE it's muscle.  But I don't really believe it...not sure why.  Maybe because that feels like the an excuse.  I could also say that maybe I was putting undo stress onto my body and it was in shock from all the hard exercise I was making it do.  Again, another excuse. 

I guess I will just wait until next week and see if I've lost weight over the long-term.  So change that weight loss goal of mine to 27 pounds instead of 26.  How humbling. 

No Spend January?

I don't think I've blogged much about this, but after a lengthy hiatus between me and the budget, I've finally got our finances back on track.  Not that we are in financial ruin or anything like that...but I just slacked off on keeping track of our spending and saving.  Well, the saving part was pretty easy because we didn't...hence the reason for getting back on track.  You have to be intentional with saving money or it just doesn't happen.  End of story. 

So I'm pleased to announce that our budget is DONE!  At least for the next couple of months.  Instead of doing a budget for the entire year, I am going to take our budget month by month.  Mainly because it's nearly impossible to account for everything that comes up.  For example, I just set up our Jan and Feb budgets, and then my kids come home from school with yearbook order forms that are $15 each...so that could potentially put us $30 over budget.  We do a zero-based budget each month, which means we tell every dollar where it's going.  After listing our bills for the month, I decide where our surplus (anything left over) will go...savings, entertainment, etc.  By doing our budget monthl-by-month, it will helps us take into account those unexpected expenses.  It also helps me to not feel overwhelmed or like we're getting behind with each unexpected expense.  

Ok, where was I?  Oh yeah, No Spend January.  I just came across a blog post about this.  (You can find it here:  http://halfdozendaily.blog.com/no-spend-2012/.  She actually calls it No Spend 2012, but I think the challenge is only for January, so to me, it's No Spend January.  Anyhoo, I'm contemplating doing this challenge for a couple of reasons.  

1.  I've heard about people going on spending freezes and thought it would be interesting to try one.

2.  Due to my lack of budgeting in 2011. it has made for a tight-spending month anyways thanks to a couple of larger bills that will need paid.  (Our 6-month car insurance policy to name one)

3.  This may be a great way to get creative with entertainment. 

4.  This would help to teach our kids that you control your money...it doesn't control you and I could even see this becoming sort of a family challenge where the kids help us in finding ways NOT to spend!

5.  Since we won't be bringing anything into our house (besides groceries), it would be a great time to focus on decluttering and purging what is already here.

Alright, I'm gonna do it.  There, I said it. 

So at the end of this month, I will hopefully look like this:

Ok, not really. But I hope I will be smiling like she is (minus the braces...been there, done that!) at the amount of money still in my wallet (or trendy change purse) at the end of the month!

Anyone on board with me?  I would love to have a shoulder to cry on when the going gets tough and I really want to buy something! 

Happy Saving!  :)