Saturday, July 31, 2010

Boys Should Come With a Warning Label

Seriously. One big, fat, ha-uge warning label. This label is really needed when the only experience you've previously had was a mild-mannered little girl who was content to sit quietly, and play with toys for hours on end.
Imagine my surprise every time my darling son gets himself into a "predicament." We've learned a lot in the past 19 months, but he continues to surprise us. Most recently was last week when he got his arm stuck, STUCK!!!, in between the slats on my dining room chair. Not sure what happened when he tried to climb it, but there the arm was. For the record, said chair was pushed in so he could not climb it. Joke's on me I guess. I could not get his arm to slide past his chubby little elbow. He was screaming, I was panicking, and Todd was sleeping after a night working the graveyard shift. Crap!! Double crap!!! What do I do?!?! Soap! I need something slippery! Todd! He needs to wake up and help me! Do I call the fire department? Are we going to have to saw the chair? But what about his arm? What if they accidentally saw his arm! SHIT! SHIT! SHIT! Oh it gets better, his arm was stuck in such an angle that I could not put him down, I had to hold him so he wouldn't break it. Here I was, holding a screaming baby, we were both in the throes of utter panic as I tried to carry him and the solid oak chair through the living room, over the baby gate, to my bedroom. Halfway there I put Luke and chair down to get a better grip. Somehow that put him at the perfect angle where his arm could slide right out. SIGH! He was fine, I was shaking and in need of a drink just to calm my frayed nerves. Unfortunately it was only 10AM.

Here are some other glimpses into the toddler boy mind that nobody warns you about:
*Outlets are fun and can be mastered by the time you are 10 months old.
*If you want to watch your mom break a sweat climb onto the computer chair and bang away on the keyboard. When she puts you on the floor to fix the computer take off running out the screen door into the backyard. Make sure to squeal gleefully the entire time!
*Chairs and sofas are for climbing and jumping, not sitting.
*Anything that can support your weight provides great leverage for reaching the TV. Just put your makeshift stool in front of the TV, step up and the buttons are there for the taking. Very entertaining to watch Mom and Dad freak out if you happen to own a flat screen. Gosh, they act like I'm going to ruin the screen or something!
*When Mommy or Daddy serve you a food you don't like, or when you are done eating throw it on the floor or the wall. The dogs loooove it!
*If you can sneak into the kitchen pull out all the cookie cutters and watch Mommy hop around on one foot after she steps on one. While she is hopping around proceed to pull out as many sandwich bags as you can. Then as she stuffs them back into the box pull out some tupperware and go splash in the dog's water.
*If after all these shenanigans your Mommy still has some semblance of her sanity left poop in the tub, works like a charm every time! Please note, it is best to wait until after she has dumped in all of your bath toys.

The Dreaded "D" Word, Part 2

When I began wracking my brain about how I wanted to go about changing my eating and exercise habits my goal was to find something I could and would live with. How many of us begin these things with the best of intentions only to fall off the wagon a week later? That scenario is my M.O. I knew whatever I did, it would have to be something I could live with and not get discouraged with. Here is my list of what I wanted from this change:
*I want to eat healthy and NOT be deprived, therefore I need a cheat day once a week
*I want to have more energy, mid-day is the worst for me
*I want to do a smaller workout 4-5 days a week
*I don't want to spend and hour and a half at the gym, it's hard for me to be motivated to go when I know it's going to take that long. There are other things I want to do with my day!
*I want to firm up, well, everything!
*I want to be a good (read: healthy) example for my kids, especially my daughter
*No fad diets or exercises. I want something that is real and works!
My goal was get down to 115 pounds (which meant losing about 17 pounds.) Now this is my goal. If I feel great, look toned and all my old size twos fit at a different weight then I will be happy with whatever number that is. To me it is not about the number on scale, but about how I feel and how my clothes fit.
Here is how I have had success so far...
*I now try to eat complex carbs. I ate whole grains before, but now I eat gluten free bread with sprouted wheat. My pasta is gluten free as well.
*I upped my fruit and veggie intake in a BIG way. I try to eat fruits or veggies with lunch and dinner, as well as snacking on them when I get hungry. This is waaaaay more than I used to eat. I used to just have a salad with dinner, maybe one piece of fruit and that was it. Now I have a fruit shake for lunch, a gi-nor-mous salad with dinner, and a piece of fruit or cucumber and hummus for a snack. I try to buy organic as much as I can. I doubt it helps with weight loss, but it is so much better for you and the environment.
*I began to drink a lot more water. I still have my two cups of java in the morning because let's face it, with two kids I could not function without my beloved cuppa joe! I try to suck down at least three 16 ounce glasses throughout the day. Aside from coffee and maybe one Diet Coke, I try not to consume anything but water. Throughout the week I will have a few glasses of wine. I love me some wine and can't get rid of it. But due to its calories I don't like to drink too much alcohol. I would rather eat them than drink them.
*Meat: Todd and I are not big red meat eaters. We mostly cook chicken and ground turkey rather than ground beef. It is good to make the switch if you are trying to eat healthier. A lot less fat and calories. I still have a burger about once a month. Can't give them up! But as much as I like the occasional burger or fillet I hate how sluggish it makes me feel after eating it.
*Eat less sodium. The bottom line is it is not good for you and makes you bloat. This means no more salami (my fav!) and using reduced sodium turkey for sandwiches. If a recipe calls for salt I either leave it out or reduce the amount. The exception is with baking. I use what the recipe calls for.
*Exercise: For me it was and continues to be hard to find the motivation to exercise. Quite frankly there are other things I would rather be doing. I absolutely LOVE the way I feel afterwards, it's as if I could conquer the world after a workout. So I try to use that feeling to encourage myself. Sometimes it works, other times I just have to drag myself kicking and screaming. The other hard part was finding the time. I just did not have time to do 45 minutes of cardio and another 30 minutes on weights. Just not feasible for me. I try to workout four to five days a week, but I have reduced the time to 45-50 minutes. This helps, what's one hour a day? I alternate between my Tracy Anderson Method DVD (Volume 1 of the Perfect Design Series) and walking on the treadmill. For my treadmill "hikes" I walk at 2.4 mph at a level of 11 or 12 for 40-45 minutes with a 5 minute cooldown. A good friend of mine used to do fitness competitions and recommended this type of cardio. It gets your heartrate at the ideal fat burning zone, firms up the butt, and strengthens your core. To get the optimum workout do not hold onto the treadmill. The idea is to stand up straight and suck in your core to support the lower back. A sore lower back while walking will tell you if you are not holding in your core. The DVD kicks my butt, and I am definitely sore the next day. But sore in all of those hard-to-reach places (ie. the flub that hangs over my bra between my arms and chest, the crease under my booty as well as the sides of it, and that dreaded muffin top that hangs over the back sides of my waistband.) Here is a comical review of one of the Tracy Anderson DVDs. I will be honest, if you have no training in dance (which I don't), do this DVD in the privacy of your own home with the curtains shut. During the dance sequence I swear I look as if I am having a seizure, my white girl moves are in full effect. Just not attractive. Let me tell you, both of these workouts kick. my. ass. But I do see a visible change in the firmness of my body.
The reason for these posts are not to brag about my success, or to act like an expert because I'm not one. I am just a typical woman talking about one of the issues and pressures most of us face day to day. I face weight struggles, motivation battles, fight the urge to snack on goodies when I'm bored like everyone else, and feel the bombardment of physical perfection every day. And let me tell you, it SUCKS! It's time we stopped dieting and exercising purely for weight loss and started focusing on our health. When feeling good about ourselves is the motivating factor it seems much more achievable rather than the size 0 Hollywood standard.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Dreaded "D" Word

Diet that is.

We're going to Maui in two months. One month ago my excitement began to mix with pressure and dread. The pressure to not only live in a bathing suit for a week, but to look awesome while doing it. To be honest, I don't know any woman that is super-excited to publicly live in a bathing suit for a week.

For the past three years I have not been happy with my body. I got married (which also coincided with my foray into cooking) and started a new job where treats were in constant abundance. The result of these two major milestones was a whopping 20 pounds in six months. This was also the year I turned 30 and my metabolism decided it was time to slooooow waaaay dooooown. I hit a number on the scale I hadn't seen since I was pregnant with Maddie. Then I got pregnant with Luke and gained another 40. UGH! I lost the pregnancy weight and some of the marital-bliss weight, but the scale seemed hell bent on not budging past 132. Given the size of my frame and a closetfull of clothes I was unable to fit in, this was not a weight a I was happy with. A 9 pound baby and second c-section did absolutely nothing to help matters. Everything seemed to jiggle and hang where it didn't used to, and if it did jiggle and hang before, it was now considerably worse.

Combine this with all the pressure we women feel every day of our lives to look perfect. Hollywood and society have presented us with these unattainable standards. The bevvy of stick-thin starlets who claim to be skinny by "fast metabolism" alone is enough to make me gag. I mean, really? Your size 0 is not the result of constant dieting and exercising (read: starvation)? I. Don't. Buy. It.

So here I was: miserable with the current state of my figure, tired, kind of depressed about the whole damn thing, and I felt as if I had lost my glow, my spark. And I had been dealing with this for three years! Oh yeah, and bathing suit central (Maui) was heading my way at warp speed. I began to think, "Eff this. Enough is enough. Isn't three years long enough? Time to make a change!" No crash diets, they just don't work in the long haul. The ankle had healed enough that I could now return to the gym, so that excuse was out. Finally I made the choice for a lifestyle change. I wanted to do something I could live with. Something that would make me happy, not feel as if I was deprived every second of every day. I didn't want to feel as if I was a slave to the gym. At this point in my life I just don't have the 90 minutes to 2 hours to spend there on a daily basis.

Well it is now one month after my life change. I am excited to say I have lost 5 pounds, five inches, and have a heck of a lot more energy than I used to. In general, I just feel better. And I am more confident. It feels good to have my confidence back.

So what did I do? No miracles, just lots of hard work and dedication. Although I ate fairly healthy, there were still lots of tweaks to be made to my diet. I cut out a lot of the excess carbs and watched my portions. I greatly increased my fruit and veggie intake. I try to drink a lot more water. Todd and I have a cheat day once a week. We plan for it. We live for it! As you can tell from my posted recipes, I don't believe in deprivation. I love my food. I don't put as much pressure on the gym either. I now exercise 45-55 minutes four to five days a week. No more 90 minute gym sessions.

Tomorrow I will post part two of "The Dreaded D Word": what worked for me and things I learned along the way.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thrift Store Treasure

I found this a couple of weeks ago at a thrift store for $2.50 and instantly knew it would look great in the kids' room. All it needed was a fresh coat of paint and candles. I have been into spray paint in a pretty big way lately after checking out Three Men and a Lady. Love that blog!!! She has a lot of great ideas. Amazing what a couple coats of spray paint can do!

When I first brought this home Todd just looked at it and asked, "Why would you waste your money on that?" Fast forward to today... "Wow! That looks great! I like it!" How I love it when hubby is humbled :)!

The print is a vintage rodeo ad I found on Ebay (Luke has the cowboy version) in a barnwood frame. It was on sale at Michael's for 40% off (woo hoo!). I went to Tap Plastics and had them cut plexi-glass to fit in the frame (it hangs over the bed and we live in earthquake country.) The vintage rodeo ribbon I found several years when shopping in San Anselmo with my mom.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Panna Cotta with Fruit Sauce

I can't remember where this recipe came from, maybe an old issue of Oprah. I have a habit of tearing out recipes that sound and not using them until many months (or years!) later. So unless I jot down the source I forget. I have a three-inch binder that holds a gathered collection of recipes from over the years. I am now trying to use them and slowly whittle this binder down. Some of them have been in there for years and have never even been attempted! This panna cotta recipe was one of those. It was super-easy and tasted divine! Despite all of the half-and-half it was not too rich. Although that could be a bad thing because it makes me want to eat more! So without further ado here it is:

Panna Cotta with Fruit Sauce

1 envelope unflavored gelatin (about 1 tbs.)
3 c half-and-half
1 c sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 c frozen berries

*Sprinkle gelatin over 2 tbs. cold water in a small saucepan; let stand a minute to soften. Heat on low, stirring until gelatin dissolves, 1 minute. Remove from heat.

*In a large saucepan, bring half-and-half and 1/3 cup sugar just to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring. Remove from heat; stir in gelatin (it may need to be scraped off pan with a spatula) and vanilla. Ladle into 8 (1/2 cup) ramekins (*I used small glass bowls from Anchor Hocking that I use for feeding Luke. They work just the same.) Cover and chill at least four hours or overnight (I was in a pinch and did four hours. Trust me, the molds will hold up better if you do it overnight!)

*Make fruit sauce by cooking berries and 2/3 cup sugar over med.-low heat, stirring occasionally, until berries release their liquid and begin to break down, about 20 min. Blend with an immersion blender (or puree in a blender), strain, and chill for 1 hour.

*Serve panna cotta in ramekins or on plates. To loosen, dip each ramekin in a bowl of hot water for 3-4 seconds, run a knife around the edges, then invert onto a plate. Spoon fruit sauce on top and garnish with berries if you like.

Makes 8 servings


Saturday, July 17, 2010

SAHM-dom, What I Know Now!

O.K., I meant to do this post several months ago on the one year anniversary when I quit my job and officially became a stay-at-home-mom. But that was about the time I injured my ankle and school was in full-swing. Time got the best of me and I am doing it now several months after the fact. Before I start my list of revelations I have to acknowledge that I used to think SAHMs had a pretty sweet deal. They hung out at home, played with kids, got some housework done, went to the gym, hung out at the mall and Starbucks. Seemed pretty relaxing, non-stressful. All the time in the world to get things accomplished. The house would always be perfect and clean, because hey! they don't "work". Uh, yeah.... I was totally, completely, utterly This past year and a half has been what Oprah would call an "a-ha" moment. I have a whole new profound respect for SAHMs that I never had before. Things are a little different in our home though. When my husband works, I am basically a single mom. He works twelve hour graveyard shifts. Unlike a lot of other SAHMs I don't get a reprieve in the evening, that is when he is leaving to begin his "day". I pretty much fly solo all day long. That kind of changes things a little. But we have managed to work around his schedule after a lot of trial, error, and some bickering. You learn to adapt, overcome and roll with the punches. So here we go:

SAHM-dom: What I Know Now

*It's not glamorous. I actually used to think it was. Now I know it is down-in-the-trenches dirty. I used to see the mommies at my daughter's school drop their kids off and then head to gym as I drove to work, thought they lounged over coffee at Starbucks with their girlfriends afterwards. Little did I know that the gym time was probably their only time to themselves all day long. And "lounge" at Starbucks? Forget it! Gotta head home, get to work, and hopefully squeeze in a shower.

*The house is not perfectly clean and organized all of the time. It is a challenge to clean the house while entertaining a wee one. And even if you are cleaning, that sweet little darling is right behind you making new messes. Erma Bombeck summed it all up in one quote, "Trying to clean the house while the kids live there is like trying to shovel the walkway in a snowstorm." Amen sister! I mistakenly thought my bathrooms and kitchen would constantly be sparkling, no crummies on the counter, the floor vacumed, house dusted, beds made, laundry neatly folded and put away. Yes those things happen in my house, but not on a daily basis. If the kitchen and bathrooms are gleaming that means the laundry is piled up. Of the laundry is put done and put away the floor is most likely in need of a good vacuming.
*Being on one-income sucks. So much more financial freedom when we had two incomes. My money always went to the fun stuff like clothes for the kids, extra-curricular activities, clothes for me, scrapbooking goodies, outings, household goods, etc. I could buy what I wanted when I wanted. Sigh, no longer the case. I will admit, I miss that extra money so much that I often question my decision to stay at home.

*It is a thankless job. Society never really says "thank you for quitting your job and raising decent human beings." No one ever says "thank you for doing the laundry, scrubbing the toilets, etc."

*Nothing compares to seeing your baby achieve milestones for the first time or your child's face light up when you are there to pick them up after school. These are precious moments I would have missed if I worked. The "MAMA!!!" I hear when Maddie sees me as the classroom door opens warms my heart. Everyday without fail it is the same joy and excitement. Luke's first creeps and steps, his first word, and all those cute little quirks. I am proud to say I was there for them all. I remember witnessing that first wobbly, rocking step. Priceless memories!

*It is far more exhausting than any of my past jobs. At the end of the day I am beat.

*I miss dressing up. Pulling out the clothes and getting the outfits together for work got old after awhile. But now I that I don't do it on a daily basis I do miss it. All those fabulous high heels in my closet don't get nearly as much use as they used to. Although I love not having to dress up every day, it would be nice to do it a few days a week.
*I look forward to bedtime. The kid's bedtime that is. After they are snuggled in their beds it's Mommy-Time. My time to relax with a glass of wine, catch up on one or two of the shows I have recorded on the DVR, mess around on the computer, read, scrapbook. It's like dessert to me, I covet that time.
*All that crafting I thought I would get done? Not a chance! Most of those projects are still tucked away in my craft closet because I just don't have the time. Sigh, someday...

*I need a SAHM of my own! How nice would that be?!

*It is humbling. Some things are no longer as important as they used to be. Most of those being material things. Dashing to the grocery store without make up is no longer unheard of. When you become a SAHM priorities shift. Some of it is just a natural progression/evolution and others are just out of necessity. But I have to admit, I like the humbling process of being a SAHM.

Yummy Potato Salad

I got this recipe from our local newspaper. It puts a different spin on the generic ol' potato salad. Seems like a Greek version to me. Tasty and light!

Potato Salad with Feta Cheese and Olives
2lbs. red potatoes
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup imported black olives (I used regular black olives from a can)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbs. white wine vinegar
2 tbs. fresh dill (I used 1tsp. dried)
2 tbs. chopped fresh mint
fresh ground pepper for taste (I used white pepper for a milder taste)
1.) Cook potatoes until tender (about 15-20 minutes), drain. Cut into bite-sized pieces. Place in bowl.
2.) Add onion, feta, and olives. Toss.
3.) Pour in olive oil and vinegar. Add dill and mint. Toss. Season with pepper. Let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Serves 6

Hubby liked it so much he took it to work the next day!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Summer is Here!

Finally! After months and months of rain summer is finally, really here! In the midst of El Nino we would get these teaser days of glorious weather only to be pushed aside by week-long monsoons. Living in Cali. I realize I have no room to gripe. It's not like it gets that cold, we have no driveways of snow to shovel, but still.... the sunshine and its warm embrace is a nice respite!
I seem to have fallen off of the blogging bandwagon. I got sidetracked by a severely sprained ankle that does not want to fully heal, in addition to the hubby, kids, dogs, and oh yeah! school. Four classes about killed me. I guess I was overly ambitious. Learned my lesson the hard way. But I am happy to report I got three A's and one B. Woo-Hoo!!!! And that damn ankle? Aside from being laid up for a while (which is the ultimate test in patience for me), it took me four times as long to do any and all simple tasks. Plus I am such a do-er that asking anyone to do anything for me was foreign. I can't tell you how many lectures I received from Todd about asking for help is a necessity not a sign of laziness. Almost three months later and I am finally able to return the gym (albeit a few pounds heavier, UGH.) Unfortunately I am not really able to run or jog, but walking at a steep incline is do-able. It feels so good to be active again. Now if only I can get my butt to stop migrating south... We began our summer vacation with a roadtrip to Yellowstone. Two looooong days of driving each way. We purchased a new tent trailer this year with this trip specifically in mind. The thought of sleeping on the ground for six nights did not appeal to Todd. So thankful for the trailer and its heater once we got there. Nights were a frigid 20-30 degrees. Fortunately most of the days were decent to warm. The trip was equal parts fun and work. Camping with a very active 18-month old definitely has its challenges. Sharing this experience with Maddie was a lot of fun. So exciting to see all of the wildlife and natural wonders. I had been there twice before and could not wait to experience it with my family. Maddie's Yellowstone favorites were the different types of wildlife and our hike on Uncle Tom's Trail (a trail of 328 stairs that takes you down the Upper Falls at Yellowstone Grand Canyon.) She surprised us with how much she liked the hike. The return trip is quite grueling, especially at 8,000 feet. Quite a hike for a seven year old! Her least favorite part of the trip was the drive. I find this perplexing since she watched DVDs most of the time. I could not believe the "When I was your age" comment came out of my mouth. I felt soooo old! But out it came, "When I was your age I had to play with toys and read books in the car." Lord have mercy, not books and toys! I can't wait until next summer's road trip!
Here are some of the highlights from our trip
"Geyser Country":
This is where most of the geysers, including Old Faithful, are. Some of the geysers we missed or did not get good photos of due to the steam. It was cold outside both days we went, which left us lots and lots of steam to look at rather than geysers. Can't see much through it. But we did see Old Faithful. We had lunch at the historic Old Faithful Lodge. A gift from my in-laws :). We walked the Upper Geyser Basin loop. The entire trail is 3 miles, but Maddie pooped out around two. We headed back before catching a glimpse of the Morning Glory Pool. That is another must-see for our next trip.

"Roosevelt Country"
The highlights here are the Lamar Valley and Mt. Washburn. Lamar Valley is known as the "American Serengeti" with its wide expanses of prairie land. There is a lot of wildlife that strolls through here. Unfortunately all we saw were more buffalo. Really hoping to see a bear or wolves. But breathtaking in its beauty. Mt. Washburn was awesome. It is 10,234 feet. We would have loved to have hiked it, but too challenging with the kiddos. It will have to wait until next year. But we did treat ourselves to some delicious ice cream at Tower Falls. Sooo good. We had planned to treat ourselves after hiking the falls, but we ran out of time (for hiking that is!)

"Mammoth Country":
We stopped at Beaver Lake for a picnic and saw our first black bear. Fortunately he kept his distance! Sheepeater Cliffs were awesome! Fascinating to look at and they made for great rock climbing for Todd and Maddie. Other sights were Roaring Mountain, Obsidian Cliff, the hoo doos, the Golden Gate, and Mammoth Terraces. We drove around the terraces rather than hike. Didn't have the time and they have lost most of their water. Not quite as spectacular as they once were, but still pretty nonetheless.

"Canyon Country"
The Yellowstone Grand Canyon is 4,000 feet wide and 1,000 feet deep. It has two waterfalls: Upper Falls and Lower Falls. Lower Falls is twice the height of Niagra Falls. Needless to say, it was pretty spectacular!

The dreaded 328 stairs on Uncle Tom's Trail. They are bolted to the side of the mountain. If you don't like heights stay away from these bad boys!

This was what we woke up to the day we left. Fortunately it turned out to be a beautiful day and most of the snow had melted by the time we left!
Grand Tetons National Park:
Loved the lodge at Jackson Lake. The windows are 60 feet high. Talk about an amazing view while eating lunch! Unfortunately this was the day the storm began and the lodge was all we really got to see :(
The Yosemite wildlife we saw: bison (baby and adult), elk, moose, black bear, grizzly cub, big horn sheep, coyote, pronghorn, and a bald eagle.
For the rest of the summer I plan to craft, hit some garage sales, thrift stores and antique stores/fairs for some fun DIY projects, work on the house, finish landscaping the backyard, book some photo gigs, and catch up on my genealogy project and blogging. Hmmm.... maybe some R n' R will be squeezed into that agenda ;). Stay tuned for summer updates and projects!