Saturday, January 26, 2013

Clawing My Way Back Onto the Menu-planning Bandwagon

Sadly, it's true ... I sometimes (read: more often than not during the last three years) fall off the menu-planning bandwagon. Don't get me wrong. I want to plan ahead. I need to plan ahead. Life is just too insane and too expensive otherwise. But, sometimes insanity wins ...

I've decided that perhaps it's time for baby steps. You do realize that even if I'm only holding onto said bandwagon with the tips of my fingernails, it still counts, right? We will not mention the fact that this means the rest of my body is flailing and jouncing behind the cart, hitting every bump, as we careen wildly down the road of life. Chalk it up to inexpensive entertainment for anyone bothering to watch.

I wish I could tell you that I went out today, picked up whatever was needed to last the next two weeks, and smiled cheerfully at the menu plan that I'd lovingly and carefully crafted. But, that would be lying ...

Instead, I packed one crock pot full of apples, sprinkled them with some sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, dashed them with some lemon juice and a bit of water. When life hands you lemons ... oh, wait ... Wrong fruit. At any rate, I have a lovely batch of homemade applesauce sitting in my fridge. It made a delicious addition to dinner, and it will make some scrumptious applesauce cookies down the road.

I filled another crock pot with a mixture of dried pinto beans and dried black beans. After adding some spices, a ham shank, a splash or two of worcestershire and cholula sauces, and some water, they were ready to cook all day as well.

Now that dinner is over, I have the remainder of a large batch of beans in my fridge. Sometime in the next few days, I'll mash them, add in some spices -- perhaps cumin and chili powder -- and a can of green chiles. Of course, this means I need to make up a batch of tortillas, but then I'll bake some burritos to freeze for busy day meals or nights when the kids are gone to their dad's house.
Since I had some sweet potatoes screaming at me that I'd best use them immediately, I decided that baked sweet potatoes were the order of the day. Hmm ... lunch?

 L loves sweet potatoes mashed with butter and brown sugar. I'm kind of a salt and pepper kind of gal. M has selective "I don't like sweet potatoes"itis. It was visiting today.
Dinner was a pretty simple affair. Beans and applesauce from the crock pot, of course ... but we needed a bread of sorts. Beans are not to be eaten without some form of biscuit or cornbread, you know. A-ha! Sweet potatoes to the rescue ...
I found a recipe for sweet potato biscuits. (You can see it here: Sweet Potato Drop Biscuits) Hers are prettier than mine. But, mine did taste simply delightful. The girls loved them. (In spite of the sweet potato-itis.) The texture was fantastic. Even if they were sort of, well ... squashy in appearance. I think it might have been because I used skim milk instead of whole. Although it might be because my sweet potatoes had been in the fridge and were cold. Then again, it may have been because my sweet potatoes had more excess liquid in them. (That's what happens when you chill them ... ) Might have to play with that one a bit. At any rate, they were still soft, and fluffy, and oh, so yummy! L was thrilled. "MOM! Do you realize that because you added mashed sweet potatoes, we are eating mashed sweet potatoes? WITH OUR HANDS?!?" By the way, should you want to try this delicious recipe, it doesn't state when to add the honey. I just mixed it with the potatoes and milk. Hmm ... maybe that's my problem ...
It may not have been the most amazing meal in the world, but it was warm and filling and full of soul-satisfying comfort foods. The kids went to bed with full bellies and content taste buds. I'm feeling pretty good since it's a step toward being better prepared for the craziness that somehow, even after all this time, surprises me every single day. Hopefully, sooner than later, I'll get there. In the meantime, enjoy the flailing feet!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Surprise Muffins

I love cookbooks. I love old books. I adore old cookbooks. It's an obsession really ... really. Several years ago, my mom found this one for me at a local thrift store.

Nope, this one isn't actually old. It's a 1998 reprint, but the recipes, etc. are the same as the original. It still has a fun vintage feel. This morning, when I was looking for a different muffin recipe than the ones we've already tried, Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book was where I turned.

My L(8) helped me mix up the batter. Then I sent her out of the kitchen, so I could surprise her and her sister by adding a dollop of homemade strawberry freezer jam in the middle of each muffin. (We made "Surprise Muffins." It certainly can't be a surprise if the kids are expecting it! :) I know ... I'm ridiculously literal sometimes.)

(I may have grossly underestimated how much batter to place under the jam or how many muffin tins the batter would actually fill. Apparently, 1950's medium muffins were smaller than my regular muffin tin. Got to remember that next time ... )

Twenty minutes later ...

And they were done. The jam bled onto the pan a bit, but the muffins sure turned out pretty. They were light and fluffy. We used the popular version of the muffins which is less sweet. (A quarter cup of sugar for the recipe rather than a half cup.) The jam sweetened it up some. It was kind of nice to eat muffins that were not so sugary. If you left out the jam, these would be perfect to eat with soup or beans. Definitely a recipe we'll be adding to our family recipe box!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

My Impossible Pajama Pants and Me

Got a little crazy after my run today and held the pants up next to me for kicks ...

And in front of me ...

Friday, January 18, 2013


As a teenager, I loved the song from Rodger's and Hammerstein's Cinderella that sings about impossible things coming true. Over the years though, life has dented my belief in the reality of swinging on a star here and there. Gradually, I've begun to buy into the idea that not all dreams are capable of becoming a reality.

One of the dreams that I let go of years ago was that of being a reasonable weight. When I gave birth to my first child, I went from a size 5 (which is where I was still at about seven months into my pregnancy) to a size 14. While it was disappointing, it was not a huge surprise. Many of the adults in my family (at least the ones I knew growing up) carried quite a bit of extra weight.

Over the years, and after adding another child to our family, I found myself barely fitting in my size 18 jeans. It wasn't for lack of trying. I ate fairly healthy and was walking between 4.5-9 miles five days a week. The weight and my body had bonded.

The bigger I got, the more I stressed about it. The more I stressed about it, the bigger I got. It was a vicious cycle, and I was stuck pretty firmly in the middle of it.

Three and a half years ago, I left my husband. I'd already lost around 10-15 pounds. Just before I left, I bought a new pair of pajamas. Those pajamas represented hope. (The details aren't important, but the pajamas were.) They were cute, and matching, and they felt like a new start. They were also a size 16/18 and were quite snug.

The other day, while I was sorting through some of my old things, I found those pajamas. I held them up in front of me. My cute daughters saw and said, "Wow, Mom! You've lost a whole kid!!!" I don't know about that, but it was eye-opening to see just how many inches I have lost.

I found those pajama pants on the same day that I'd purchased a new pair of jeans because my old ones no longer fit. Those new jeans were a size 8. Just to see, I laid the new jeans on top of the old pants. I wasn't very careful about smoothing the pajamas out. I didn't need an exact picture, but I did need to see the visual affirmation of how far I'd come. This is what I saw ...

In the first six months after my divorce, I lost quite a bit of weight, not because of the stress, but because so much stress was gone. Then, somewhere along the way, I quit worrying about the weight. I learned to be truly happy and content with the body God had given me. I kept the healthy habits I already had in place and began adding in new healthy habits as well.

Last summer, I decided -- entirely for myself -- that I'd always wanted to run, and it was time. I started with interval running and did that pretty consistently until December. I was surprised to realize one day that I'd lost another 25 pounds. I hadn't been trying. I'd actually been pretty happy with my size 12 jeans, even if they were a bit snug. They were still far smaller than my old jeans, and my body has always been pretty proportionally shaped. When my size 10's began to be too loose, and more and more size 8 clothing fit well, I was surprised, but ecstatic.

In December, I realized that my lungs were recovering more quickly from my interval running, that my asthma wasn't making my workouts as difficult as it used to. I realized that I could push myself harder than I'd chosen to before. Before Christmas, I ran my first mile without walking any of it. (I'd never done that before in my entire life. Seriously, it was shocking!) It wasn't too long until I was running 1 3/4 - 2 miles without walking and I was doing it several times a week. Another five pounds came off.

What was most surprising though, was not the weight loss itself, but knowing that I had worked hard and put in the effort that made it possible. I had done my part. That felt pretty great!

I'm still not down to my ideal weight, but I'm healthy. I can run. I can play with my kids. I can breathe. I can fit comfortably and happily in my clothes. It's fun to be smaller than I was, but it's more fun to have learned to value myself -- no matter what size or shape I've been ...

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year's Tidying ...

There's something I adore about the beginning of each new year. For some reason, it's a time when everything feels new -- not just the calendar, but every little aspect of my life. It's a time when I love to organize, sort, clean, and de-junk.

This year's been a bit tougher, since we all got the dreaded gombu that's been going around. Today's the first day that I've felt well enough to tackle some of my favorite, new year projects. It was worth the wait though ...

Some of today's happenings?

Got my run in. Frigid temperatures and icky air made it a bit more difficult, but I did it and still ran a mile and a half out of the two miles that I went.

Packed up all the Christmas stuff and reclaimed my corner ... (Fine, we did keep the poinsettia that was beginning to wilt. The girls decided that they'd like to water it, and it perked right up.) I even patched up a bunch of holes to paint over after my new semester starts. Yeah, it doesn't look super cute right now, but trust me when I say that it actually looks better than it did before patching. One of the perks of living in an old apartment ...

Reorganized and restocked a) the kids' snack basket, b) my snack basket, and c) the breakfast basket ... Life is just so much simpler when these things are in order. And, it's just easier to keep my own eating habits on track if I have healthy, pre-portioned snacks available for grab and go. The girls don't go all crazy with the afternoon munchies either. It's totally worth the twenty or thirty minutes it takes to set them up ...

I managed to help my daughter with her science project and feed the kids actual meals all day. The dishes and the laundry even joined in the fun. There's still a lot to do, but it feels nice to see a bit of a dent in the list of "To Do."