If you're looking for Olson family updates, then visit our family blog, I Love You Same.

The rants and recipes found here are solely mine.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Celebrating the Milestones

A lot of people have suggested to me that I give myself goal gifts when I reach a certain weight goal. Sort of like dangling a carrot to help motivate your weight loss, I guess. I haven't been real good about doing this, but I think I'm going to start. Well, I know I'm going to start, because I bought my first goal gift last Saturday!

What was the goal? Well, the goal was to get refocused on my fitness and weight loss goals and to get over the plateau I've been stuck on for a couple of weeks. I think I was caught up in some excuses, that I don't need to go into here, but suffice it to say, I met those goals and then some! My weight the last weigh in was my lowest yet. I feel re-energized and more focused. I'm seeing some great progress and I'm really proud of myself.

About a year ago, I was at an art gallery with a friend. She and I looked at jewelry and watches made from vintage typewriter keys. I just fell in love with the style, but the price at the gallery was so prohibitive. I knew I could probably get an old typewriter at a garage sale for under a buck and make my own jewelry, but did I? NO! It was just one of those things on my to do list that wasn't going to get checked off.
I've been a huge fan or etsy for a long time, I'm sure I've mentioned it before.
Handcrafted items from all over the place. The categories are endless. I've purchased art, purses, and other beautiful pieces on this website over the years. Anyway, I figured that etsy might just have vintage typewriter jewelry and, of course, they did!

I purchased this bracelet from a delightful artist in Iowa, who quick shipped it to me. It arrived yesterday and I'm wearing it for the first time today. Her etsy name is Webbysue. Please check out her shop and support her cottage business!

Below is a picture of a similar watch by Webbysue. Mine doesn't spell out anything, but it's very charming and a fitting goal gift. Perhaps it symbolizes that it's about time that scale started moving, or it symbolizes the time it's taken me to get to where I am, or that every time I look at it I should think it's time to get moving! I will always treasure it and when I wear it, I will think of how much time has changed me and my mindset.

The First Garden Tomatoes

You've Come a Long Way Baby!
It wasn't too long ago that I told you I was waiting anxiously for the tomatoes to get ripe. Well, it is that time and I'm loving it. I think there's something about seeing those red jewels glistening through the bright green foliage that just makes my heart race. And my feet race too--right in through the garden gate to get to pickin'.
The cherry tomatoes are ripening sporadically, but they never make it to the house. The heirloom tomatoes, however, are savored. I served the first ones thickly sliced with a drizzle of healthy olive oil, fresh Hawaiian sea salt, and cracked black pepper. The Weight Watchers oil requirement is always difficult for me to remember, but I guess as long as there are ripe tomatoes in the garden, I won't have a problem.
One of my favorite things to do with tomatoes, is to make Farmgirl's Summer in a Bowl. This is from her In My Kitchen Garden Blog. I've been a huge fan and blog follower for years now. She gives a great glimpse of country bliss. I've reprinted her recipe here. I loosely follow it, depending on what I have, just as I'm sure she does!
Farmgirl's Basis Of Summer In A Bowl
Note: Any ingredient aside from the tomatoes can be omitted.
Vine-Ripened Tomatoes
Onions or Scallions
Fresh basil
Fresh oregano
Olive Oil
Fresh Garlic or Good Garlic Powder
Salt & Pepper to taste
My instructions: Chop and combine herbs and vegetables and let stand as long as you can stand it! I do not enjoy refrigerated tomatoes, they get too mushy, so I only make what we can eat. I've added any number of other fresh, chopped veggies. Peppers and pea pods are especially good. Fresh broccoli or cauliflower, thinly sliced carrots are also delicious. It's almost like a summer soup. Delicious!
I love it straight from the mixing bowl, served as a topping for tacos or burritos, as a salad side, or alone on freshly made pita bread (or freshly defrosted, made a couple of weeks ago pita bread!). If you haven't made pita bread before, Farmgirl has a great recipe with great pictures. It's so easy and so good, you must try it! I always make at least a double batch and freeze the extras.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Letting Your Soul Sigh/Mindful Choices

It's our annual trek North to cooler temperatures and restful bliss just gazing at the largest freshwater lake in the world. We're so lucky to live where we do. I know everyone says that! People come from all over the world to take in Lake Superior's scenic coast and I'm fortunate to live just a few hours drive from there. When we moved back to Minnesota after living out of state, I vowed to never live so far away from the lake that simply takes my breath away or at least to make sure that I made the journey to it at least once a year.
Minnesota is such a cool state, we have river bluffs and rolling hills dotted with red barns and white farmhouses in the South, lakes and pines in the center, the pristine Boundary Waters and the rugged Lake Superior coast up North. It's the Lake that calls to me, though. When summer is at it's most brutal here in the metro area, the coastline of Superior is cool and delightful. The lake averages about 42 degrees and in the summer, the breezes from the lake are like natural air conditioning. There's nothing like that first step out of the car to take in the Lake and feeling that first crisp coolness.
Vacation time means letting a few things slide. D and I are hard, focused workers. I guess he wouldn't be in the position he is at such a young age if it wasn't for this drive, so I'm very proud of him. When I owned my own business, the only time I was able to not work 24/7 was when we were far away from home. Oh, and the three days surrounding my dad's death. When I look back on this, I regret not dropping things more, but there was no one to catch it if I didn't do it. And I guess I will never regret the fact that I did everything I could financially and physically to make it fly. Not everyone can say that. No regrets is a good feeling.
Anyway, we both earn vacations. All those weekends working and all the time scrimping, saving, and sacrificing so that we can travel are so worth it. When we leave home, we leave ready to let go. And, that means, letting go of some of the strict guidelines of Weight Watchers. I do this with, mindful choices, though. When we traveled to Hawaii last Spring, I gained about a pound, but immediately lost that and much more after a week of being home. And I ate everything the Big Island had to offer. In fact, I think if you cut me then, I would have bled Macadamia nuts!
That said, it was with mindful choices that I didn't go completely overboard. We're always very active on most of our vacations, wanting to see everything, so in Hawaii, I knew I could indulge a little bit more than this upcoming vacation might allow. Daily exercise was a must there, hiking to see the lava flowing into the ocean didn't feel like a workout, but it was. Same with the rainy walk deep into the rain forest to see an amazing waterfall. It all added up to daily activity points and so I could indulge a little bit more.
So, this vacation may be more more restful, so I may have to watch what I eat a little more. Or, if I don't, I'm going to have to make the mindful choice to be more active and build some exercise into my day.
That's what this new lifestyle is all about. It's about figuring out what kind of fuel you need and how much of that fuel you need to burn to lose or maintain your weight. I'm not totally convinced that this is what the skinny chicks intrinsically know. I'm more convinced that they're blessed with those skinny genes and so, their superior attitude towards weight is just the luck of good genetics! But, for those of us fat chicks, we just need to learn how to balance our fuel needs. It's pretty much what my doc says, "Too bad for you if you can only have 900 calories a day, there is no secret to weight loss, just eat less." And, since I want to eat more and be good to my bones and heart, I work out.
So, here I am, finishing the last of the mountain of laundry that somehow created itself within the laundry chute and cleaning the house before we leave, taking a break at my keyboard. The picture, above, is from last year's journey to the Lake. And while choosing that picture, I saw a picture of myself that I hadn't looked at in a while. I was many pounds heavier and had a much heavier heart. I had just been through so much and was so unhappy with my body and with what had been done to me. I look so wounded, trying hard to smile for the camera, summoning a forced glint of happiness in my eyes. That trip was the beginning of some healing for me. I remember sitting there, looking at the lake, trying to make sense of what had happened and wondering how I had misjudged someone so close to me.
Today is a new day, this trip is a new journey. I will still take healing from the Lake, it has always provided that for me, but I am much stronger now. I am more at peace with myself, I feel stronger about my daily choices whether it be friendships or food. I feel empowered, peaceful, healing, healthier, and happy. This is a new day and a new life for me. I won't go there again.

I can't for the life of me figure out why Blogger won't let me edit spaces into some entries. I've put them in 5 times and tried to save, but it doesn't work. So frustrating!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Five

Rainier Cherries at Pike Place Market Seattle


Found by by Margaret Peterson Haddix

I'm a big fan of young adult fiction. I read most everything that Young One does. There are some great authors out there and you're missing out if you don't check out these shelves at your library. Don't let the genre fool you, the stories can be very complex and eloquently executed. I'm a Haddix fan. I enjoyed her Shadow Children series. This is a new series. Thirteen years ago a plane suddenly appears on the tarmac of an airport. The plane is empty except for 36 babies. This first book in the series concentrates on the kids, now thirteen years old, how they come together and how they start to unravel where they come from. A great read and one that just begs to be shared with the young ones in your life.

Mermaids in the Basement by Michael Lee West

How have I missed this author? This book tells Renata's story and the story of her parents. You know the story we're talking about. It's the real one of what really happened with her parents and their relationship, not the one that Renata thinks is true, but the truth. It's told from the individual perspectives of all the major characters all filled with their own unique charm. This book gripped me, kept me up late to finish it, and it's depiction of the gulf coast of Alabama is still with me. Brava Michael. I will definitely read more of your work.


Adele 19 and ABBA's Greatest Hits Gold

An interesting combination, I am sure, but that's my usual. I'm just loving track 9 from Adele. Beautiful. And ABBA, just because I want to reminisce a bit. My brother used to play their albums and I'd sing Dancing Queen into my jump rope microphone. Sweet memories.


Pancakes. Hodgson Mill Baking Mix comes to the rescue. It's been a busy weekend getting ready to head out of town, so breakfast for dinner it is! I improvised a bit and left out the sugar and the oil in their pancake recipe on the back of the box and subbed two overripe bananas quick defrosted in the microwave. I usually make my own baking mix, but I haven't had the time lately. This mix was a bargain at $2.00 for the box, so it's almost as thrifty as homemade. It's very Point friendly.

Pancakes with real maple syrup--no substitute at our house. We buy from local producers and it's delicious! A little goes a very long way, I usually only use about a tablespoon for my serving. Drizzled over my pancakes, it's divine without being too high in Points. We served our cakes tonight with fresh Rainier cherries, my favorite summer fruit. I wait for their season every year, but the best ones I've ever had were fresh from Washington and purchased at Pike Place Market in Seattle (see picture above).

If you ever want to impress your guests, bake a simple layered chocolate cake and frost with rich, chocolate frosting. Then, decorate with Rainier cherries. This was D's cousin's wedding cake and I've stolen the idea several times over. Simply beautiful and delicious.

New clothes! I've dropped another size and nothing fits. It was so fun this weekend trying on sizes I haven't worn in years. And because it's the end of the season, I saved a ton of money. What a great feeling!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It's Not Banana Bread Snack Cake

I have never successfully purchased the number of bananas that our family needs. Never. In fact, it's one of those things that I used to try to challenge myself with. Sad, but true. As a former stay at home mom, then mompreneur with my own business, and then back again as a stay at home mom, I had forgotten how sometime as an at-homer, I would try to challenge myself with odd tasks. Yes, sometimes this job is just plain mundane and I've got to entertain myself somehow!

So, back to the bananas. I think this is a law of nature or something. If I buy too many bananas, they sit on the counter until super sweet spotted and end up in the freezer. Buy too few and in a day or two someone will cry, "Who ate the last banana?" Buy the same amount every week for the next year and chart the results (no, I really didn't do this), and you'll get a varied result each week. I guess it all just depends on who is hungry for a banana or if perhaps banana cravings are contagious. I'm sure somewhere in some windowless university lab, a pale researcher is attempting to figure this out.

Anyway, when we have a plethora of overly ripe bananas, they end up in the freezer. My intention is always to throw them into pancake or muffin batter and I do occasionally do that, but sometimes they start to take over every available nook and cranny of my freezer and I have to bake.

Being incredibly busy this summer, I don't have time to think about banana bread, loaf pans, sifting, etc. So, I searched and tweaked this recipe until it came out relatively Point friendly, super easy, and best of all (in the summer), it doesn't require the oven to be on for over an hour like banana bread does.

I will say, though, that when baking it, Young One will follow his nose to the kitchen and then his face will fall and say, "It's Not Banana Bread Cake!" Hence, the name.

It's Not Banana Bread Snack Cake

This incredibly moist snack cake uses bananas in place of the oil, you certainly won't miss the fat, and just a touch of mini chocolate chips will hit that chocolate craving. Makes 24 servings at 3 Points each. Cool and cut into servings before tasting!

1 box yellow cake mix--I'd bet it would be great with spice cake, chocolate cake, and white cake too!

4 over ripe bananas, thaw if frozen (you can zap in the microwave if you haven't planned ahead)

1 egg

3/4 cup water

2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Dump the first four ingredients (do I have to tell you to peel the bananas?) into your mixer bowl and let it beat on low until combined, raise the speed up until it's just short of splattering your kitchen and let it fly for a couple of minutes. Lower speed and toss in the chips, mix just for a second until combined. Bake as directed on the cake mix box. You may wish to make into cupcakes for better portion control. It takes about 30 minutes or until a kid comes in the kitchen and complains about it not being banana bread, but in the same breath, asks when it's going to be done.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pinching Pennies?

I was raised to stretch a buck until it almost, but not quite, breaks. I guess it's because my dad owned his own business. Although I never felt the stress, my parents were good at keeping it from me, I'm sure it was difficult having an uncertain income. Mom and dad taught solely by their example, which if you know anything about kids is the only way they ever learn anything!

As a child, some of my happiest moments were spent learning these skills. I remember hanging out in the kitchen with mom learning how to put food by--that's freezing, canning, and drying for those of you that haven't heard that before. We froze rhubarb and asparagus in the Spring, apples and tomatoes in the Fall. Mom canned jam made from the chokecherries she picked down at the far end of the orchard. She taught me to buy ahead when things were on sale and that homemade was always better (and cheaper) than convenience foods. Dad taught me to pay cash for what we needed and to be prepared for emergencies by saving. He taught me about the importance of maintaining your car and how expensive it could be not to. Dad taught me about stocks and the economy and how to make do, reuse, and self sacrifice for the sake of the family. Mom and Dad taught us to keep the heat low and put on a sweater, take your shoes off at the door to keep the floors nice, and to fix things instead of replacing them. They taught me that it was okay to live with appliances that may not be the "in" color, but that work just fine. We garage saled, thrift shopped, and consignment shopped before it was cool. And we enjoyed the eternally in-style family antiques as functional furniture. They taught me to save for experiences, like trips, and not for stuff. They taught me that simple pleasures are priceless.

I am so thankful that I learned this. This frugality has given me the gift of being able to be at home again creating a home for my family. It has allowed us to pay cash for all of our purchases. It has allowed us to travel. It has allowed us to have nice things for our home and garden. But most of all, it has afforded us a great deal of something that is of the utmost value: peace of mind.

I've been making my own household cleaners for many years now and it's a huge money saver. I take for granted that most people know how simple it is. So, having a discussion today with a friend, I mentioned that while we were on the phone, I was mixing up a few homemade cleaning supplies. The phone got quiet, I thought we had been disconnected. Nope, she was in shock and I think she called me a hippy chick or something. After I got done explaining how to do it, she replied, "that's it?" "Yep, that's it."

So, I wonder, just what do people think they're paying for when they purchase a bottle of 409? Check out those bottles and you'll find water as the main ingredient, usually followed by a bunch of chemicals that you just can't pronounce and perfume. Not only are you paying a lot for water, but you're putting stuff into your home, your life, your lungs, your kid's bodys that, let's face it, we just don't know what it's going to do to a human in a few years, not to mention, our environment.

I'm a huge fan of Mrs. Meyers' products. They're made locally, they smell great, and they're environmentally friendly, but they are one of the most expensive products in the cleaning aisle. I haven't been able to duplicate their stainless steel cleaner, so I still use that, but the rest of it-- I've replaced with my own homemade stuff. Since scent was my primary reason for enjoying their products so much, I've scented some of my own cleaners with natural oils and I love them just as much.

I challenge you to start small. Challenge yourself to do these two things and then add more when you're ready:

  • The next time your all purpose cleaner is out, wash out the spray bottle very well and then make my favorite disinfectant, all purpose cleaner. It's just a 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar. It shines up my counters just beautifully. Disinfects my sink naturally and without harsh abrasives. And it's vinegar scent disappears once it's dry (and leaves behind the great scent of clean--which is odorless!)

  • Okay, and now, my favorite and one that the dishwasher repairman shared with me (thanks Larry!). When your rinse aid runs out in your dishwasher, just replace with white vinegar.

Both of these homemade cleaning supplies cost fractions of their purchased counterparts. They're environmentally and, more importantly, HUMAN friendly.

What have you got to lose? I paid less than a buck for a gallon of vinegar the last time I purchased it. Try just these things and remember that clean doesn't have a smell. These are the cleaning products our ancestors used. They've been proven and I think if you can get over the fact that your house will no longer smell like a pine forest or a lemon grove, you'll be just fine. And if you absolutely have to have a scent, then look into adding essential oils, dried herbs, or lemon juice.

I'll post more cleaner recipes as I have time, but you can feel free to search them out on your own in the meantime. Baking soda alone has a multitude of purposes--I use it to deodorize my carpets, clean my stove top, and unclog drains, just to name a few. We're all feeling the crunch of high gas prices, even higher food prices, and the recession. It's time to save pennies and these cleaners do that and then some.

A Can, A Can, A Can, and A Hand(ful)

I'm not a big pasta person. This is surprising, since I come from a long line of noodle-maniacs. Cut my mom and she bleeds Al Fredo sauce. My grandma is the queen of dumplings. Most of my childhood meals started with a bag of egg noodles. I'm pretty sure I'm not exaggerating when I say my mom had a five gallon glass jar filled with noodles. I wonder what ever happened to that huge jar, it was pretty cool.

They are an economical way to fill your belly, but your typical pasta just isn't Weight Watchers friendly. So, in my quest to find healthy, budget friendly meals, I discovered Ronzoni pastas. High fiber (but nobody notices), so they're extremely point friendly. I tend to stick with the "normal" looking stuff, the whole wheat looks just to brown to get past Young One's lips (this a kid who's rarely had white bread! Go figure.).

Last night, dinner was major crunch time. We had a busy day of cleaning, laundry, and attacking the car with the Shop Vac. I was hot, Young One was hot, and D surprised us and came home early for dinner. In all the craziness of the day, I had neglected to plan dinner and my list of planned meals was short and filled with items that required advanced planning (thawing!). So, I winged it and it was a delightful meal, even without the sugar snap peas that somehow didn't steam quickly enough to make it to our plates at the same time as the pasta.

I think this meal would be delightful cold as well. This was really delicious and so easy, it looks like I fussed much more. I suppose you could toss in just about anything else you have on hand (leftover veggies or roasted red peppers, mushrooms, etc would be great). Top with some crumbled Feta or Parmesan if you wish and if you have enough Points! The leftovers were great the next day after all the flavors had melded overnight.

So, the next time you're on crunch time, give this one a whirl.

A Can, A Can, A Can and A Hand(ful) Pasta

One can artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped

One can ripe olives, drained and coarsely chopped

One can Italian style tomatoes

One Box Ronzoni Pasta--I used spaghetti, any would work fine

A couple of handfuls of frozen shrimp

Start a large pot of water to boil. Do not salt the water! (all the canned stuff is salty enough). Thaw shrimp under running cold water. Drain and set aside. While pasta is cooking, in a large skillet, dump all sauce ingredients and heat over medium heat until bubbling, toss in shrimp and cook until heated through. Drain pasta well. Toss pasta with sauce.

You'll have to figure out the Points value based on what you use.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Box of Springs is Not Going to Run My Life

Yep, it's weigh-in day. I always dread and look forward to this day every week. Living a healthier life (notice I did not say dieting) means lots of moments with mixed feelings for me. Joy at saying no to birthday cake at a party and then immediate regret when I realize I just said no to my all time favorite treat. Cursing the workout queen who's DVD I'm only ten minutes into and then elation at having finished it and feeling fantastic. Cheers when almost all my clothes no longer fit and then depression when I have nothing to wear. None of these conflicting feelings are really overwhelming to me. Well, one is.

I call it my Popeye moment. Remember how in the cartoons, a character's eyes would literally pop right out of his head in a shocking moment? Well, that's usually how I feel on the scale. I'm either Pop-eying because I'm thrilled with the number or Pop-eying because the number isn't what I expected. And yes, Pop-eying is a word. Weigh-in day is both looked forward to and dreaded at the same time.

This morning, I wasn't happily Pop-eying. I'm up .6 and for the first time on this journey, I cried on the scale. I've never done that before and I was so mad at myself. At the beginning of this journey, I had promised myself that I wouldn't let a box of springs run my life. It was not going to break me, but there I was naked, crying, and cursing that damn box. Not a pretty picture, huh? (Come on, I know I'm not the ONLY one that weighs-in naked! And, no, I don't strip at meetings, I'm an online only member, thank you very much.)

****Little pause here, Young One's hamster nipped him while he was cleaning out her cage. Many tears, some shaking, and a Bandaid later, he's back to cleaning his room and I got to finish cleaning the hamster cage. A quick check online to see if Hamsters are official carriers of alarming Hamster-ouch-itis, a very contagious, yet imaginary disease and I'm back! Oh, the joy of being a stay at home mom! I can't remember the last time I had uninterrupted time.****

Back to the scale. Now, I'm mad at myself for crying on it. It is just an impersonal box of springs, even though it does tell me my body fat percentage (which is going down!) and the weight of my skeleton (which is a little odd and a bit encouraging since it hasn't changed, wouldn't want to be losing bones and not fat now would I? Ha, imagine that reality. "Doctor, I'm very frustrated, my bones have disappeared and now I'm just a gelatinous blob. No, I can't come into the office, I have no bone structure." Oh, I've got to stay more focused when I write, where was I?)

There are any number of reasons that it went up this week instead of down. I've been working out like crazy and I'm really sore. Physiologically, I know that sore muscles hold water and so this probably explains my weight "gain". I also was sipping iced coffee and Vitamin Water like crazy and, despite logging it, it may have been more points than I thought. Maybe I wasn't really honest with my reporting this week? I plan to review my Points Tracker with great scrutiny to see if maybe I made some mistakes there. I didn't eat all my Flexies or my Activity Points, maybe I didn't eat enough. Like I said, there could be many reasons, but what is most important is that I take a good look at it, be honest in my reflection, and then move on and keep going.

I have to be reality focused here. I can't let that box, that number, take over my life. I am feeling better than I have in years. I am going down in clothing sizes and seeing definition in muscles that I haven't seen in a long time (or when I could see them, I took them for granted!). I feel great after working out and it's doing good things for my heart and bone health. I'm eating healthier and I feel better about my food choices--where they come from and what I'm eating. Most importantly, I feel more in control and less lost, less depressed about being fat.

It's very hard to be overweight. It's very hard to lose weight. You have to decide which hard you want to have. No, I didn't come up with that clever little phrase, it's an old Weight Watchers saying that gets passed around. Those phrases are a little trite, but sometimes valuable. Although if I hear, "If you're not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you're not hungry" again I'm going to trachea punch the speaker. Yes, this week, the scale got the best of me, just for a moment. I doubt that there will be a next time because, like anything else in this journey, I've logged it, learned from it, and now I'm moving on.

In the meantime, I'm fantasizing about the many ways one could do away with their scale. Launching it out the window is tempting, but just too simple and uninspired. I'd rather see it go in a flaming blaze of glory, perhaps launched from a trebuchet into the great beyond.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Five


The Lottery by Patricia Wood

I wanted to like this book more than I did. I was kind of distracted by a severe headache while reading this, so perhaps it was just that I wasn't in good enough shape to read it well. I don't want you to not read this book because of my review. I have recommended it to my bookclubs and I plan to read it again and wish to discuss it. It's subject matter hits close to home for me and so, perhaps this is why I didn't like it. Maybe it made me think about things that could take place if I wasn't around. Hmmm.

The premise is great. A man with a very low IQ wins the lottery. He's not retarded, as he likes to remind us. This is the story of how his biological family betrays him and how he creates his own true family. And how he's much smarter than most people give him credit for.

Sleep Softly by Gwen Hunter

Another disappointment. I don't think this one was my headache, it just was a stinker. Predictable fluff. The story tries to jump to light speed instantly and so, from the get go, it just didn't work for me. I wanted to like this. I wanted to read a mystery/thriller/suspense novel just to mix it up a bit. I trudged through to the end, which dragged on, just because I felt obligated. Not a good reason to finish a book. I should have put it down when it didn't engage me at the beginning. Oh well. I did learn a little bit about forensic nursing and for about two milliseconds I actually considered looking into training for this job (yes, I'm a RN), but then I realized how truly depressing this career would actually be. I don't recommend, sorry Gwen.


The Wicked Soundtrack and Pink's I'm Not Dead.

Yes, once again I will mention that I am not a music snob, but this is an odd combination isn't it? They just happen to be the albums that caught my sing along attention on my Ipod when I was cleaning my house today. Giving Young One more fodder for adulthood therapy, he got to watch me half dance/ half clean around the house while singing along to the invisible music. I apologize to him from deep within my heart, but whistling while you work/ a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, etc etc. really does work. I sang show tunes and rocked out to Pink AND got several loads of laundry done and all the bathrooms clean. Plus, I dusted and vacuumed. SCORE! Try not to scrub the heck out of something while listening to Pink. Oh, I love her so.


Cheater BBQ Ribs. Young One loves BBQ. Weight Watchers doesn't. I think you can have, like, one rib for a million points--seriously. So, I bought some lean pork loin, cut it into "ribs", seared them on the grill, wrapped them in foil, dumped some cheap BBQ sauce on them, and they are now tantalizingly slow cooking to perfection on my grill. I think they smell great, so they'll probably be fantabulous.


I ate a can of green beans and a Lean Cuisine for lunch. I was so uninspired and had so many things to cross off my to do list, I caved and ate some not so great food. In Points value, this really wasn't a bad meal, but there are things in those frozen meals that give me the heebie jeebies and eating canned green beans when you have 2 pounds of fresh ones in your refrigerator seems a bit ridiculous to me.

While reaching into the black hole which is my pantry to get the beans, I noticed a can of garbanzo beans. I think it's been there since we moved in, perhaps a relic left behind by the former owners. I really do need to clean that thing out. Oh and, for the record, I have nothing against garbanzo beans. You do have to be in a Hummus mood or ready to roast some---otherwise, they just look a little frightening to me. Something about their shape and the fact that they are also known as Chick Peas is unnerving to me.


I finally spent my Mother's Day gift. Initially, I was a bit miffed at being handed a wad of cash for Mother's Day. I mean, come on, how hard is it to buy a gift card for the spa or go paint a plate somewhere? I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, though. And I did, finally find what I wanted to spend it on. I love art. We purchase a piece of art every time we travel and for special occasions. I'm addicted to etsy. I love to purchase directly from the artists and I can browse on that website for hours. It sparks my creative side and I get ideas from there a lot! Anyway, I found this delightful artist, who lives in neighboring Wisconsin, and purchased two paintings and a painted vase from her. I'm too lazy (overdosed on cleaning today) to take pictures and post them, but basically one is a small sunflower painting and the other is a painting of a tree and some flowers. Too simple a description to do them justice, sorry. I love them! And the vase is gorgeous. I put the dried roses from my dad's funeral in them (which, although this sounds morbid, really is quite pretty!). Please check her out, follow the link to etsy and search for marysworkshop.

Cry Baby

Sometimes I hate kids. I mean, you've got to love their honesty and cuteness and all that, but sometimes, I just don't like them. Well, not the collective them. It's actually just one that I don't like. One that just gets my hackles up, whatever hackles are. When a kid does something that gets my fierce mother lioness side all hot and bothered. If you're a mom, you know what I mean. I don't think dads come programmed with this. Thankfully, they come with the "let's build something or blow something up" gene that is somewhat useful at times. But, I digress.

The incidents I'm thinking of didn't happen recently, but are forever burned in my mind and last night I saw the kid responsible for them. Oooh, kid, I still don't like you.

So, you know this kid. Everyone has one of these kids in their class. You know, the one who they now are labeling with "anger management issues". (Insert big eye roll here.) The one, who for reasons you don't know or reasons you really don't want to know, can't control himself. He's the one that has been raised wrong. He's broken and really, there is no hope for this kid. But, somehow he has more rights to an education than the rest of the rule-abiding children that surround him in class. But, once again, I digress. Back to the incidents.

In first grade, Young One was still very trusting. He was a cute kid who got on the bus with the big boy neighbors, wearing a backpack bigger than he was. Until the incident that became his first peek at how not nice human beings just can be to each other.

Anger Management Boy, who I believe at the time was maybe called Oppositional Defiance Disorder Boy or Hyperactive Attention Deficit Boy, just walked up to Young One and put him in a choke hold. It took several teachers to get him off my son. We were called. The Principal (insert Dun, Dun, Duhhhhhhh music here) was involved. A social worker chimed in. It was chaos.

Bottom line: my son had a red bruised neck for a week, his voice got raspy, and he was extremely traumatized (as was I) by the whole experience.

So, what's a mom to do? I called, trying to keep my mother lioness personality at bay the best that I could. I spoke with the teachers, the principal, and the social worker. I hear about Anger Management Boy's "issues", his "family environment". I hear about the "messy divorce." And what I discovered is that my child doesn't have the same right to an education (in a safe environment) that the child now known as Anger Management Boy does.

So, a couple of years go by, and for the most part, encounters with A.M. Boy are limited. I refuse to allow Young One to be in a class with him and so far, my requests have been honored. This year, however, A.M. Boy attacked Young One again. As the teacher put it, "It happened so fast, no one could react. We were all so shocked." Young One came off with a scratch and a swollen nose from a punch to the face. His glasses were bent and the lenses gouged. More traumatic to him was the trip to the Principal's office in which he was made to feel as if HE was also in trouble (not really by the school staff, just his own perception).

This time, I went to school, and took Young One home for a breather. He needed to recharge before going back to his class and Lord knows, his whole school didn't need to see him with a tear streaked face, red nose, and crooked glasses. A.M. Boy's parting words from the office to my son were, "Cry Baby." I've never spanked my child, but man, did I want to lay out this kid.

Once again, I call, I speak to anyone that will listen to me. And once again I ask, why does this child have more rights than mine? At what point, do we intervene and remove this child from the school? What does it take to actually get expelled these days? I'm told, again, that this is a child caught up in a very messy divorce ("The divorce is still taking place three years later?" I asked). He has "issues", he has a "personal behavior plan" in place. His blah blah blah blah blah, politically correct terms, blah blah blah blah, blathery blah blah. So, placate me and keep it quiet, and wait it out and pass this kid off to the middle school principal in a year. GRRRR.

So, Young One lays on my bed, we watch a few cartoons. I wait until some calmness comes over him and until his heart beat isn't thumping hard enough to flutter the front of his shirt. And I tell him that we're not going to let this boy keep him from his friends and HIS school. That we're going to get it together and go back. And that he should hold his head high, not let this boy defeat him. I explain to him as gently as I can that this boy is broken and most likely will never get better and that he needs to stay clear of him. I also told him that it is appropriate to protect himself in any way he needs to and to use his Tae Kwon Do moves if he needs to defend himself. (This was so hard for the pacifist in me, but Mother Lion had taken over somewhat here.)

Fast forward a few months and A.M. Boy is now stealing lunch money from kids on a field trip I was chaperoning. The money gets back to it's rightful owners, but really nothing but a wrist slap happens to him. He laughs on the bus ride back to school. "Next time, I won't get caught," I hear him brag. Oy.

So, last night is Young One's Summer Orchestra Concert and A.M. Boy is part of the orchestra (which is so surprising to me because as a general rule music kids are good to the core--it's probably part of his behavior management plan! HA!). I now just look at the kid and think, "What a little creep," and don't spend much more time thinking about him other than picturing his future in some Boot Camp for Bad Kids (I think this is a franchise!) or in jail.

The concert is lovely. What a great group of kids. With all of them playing, you don't hear the squeaks and ear bleed inducing squeals that can happen when you give a ten year old a string instrument and a bow. And they play a Jewish song that happens to be Young One's favorite song of the concert. And it reminds me of the last time he practiced that song for me. As he finished it, he got this funny look on his face and his eyes filled with tears. "It's just such a sad song, Mom. It just gets to me."

And I'm touched. And so proud of my Cry Baby. He may be the one that has tears again at school and just might hear that name calling again someday. But, he'll also be the one that will cry as he makes his wedding vows and when he sees his child for the first time.

Cry Baby.

That's okay with me.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I Bought Too Much at the Farmer's Market Stir Fry

Long before Barbara Kingsolver's book (which I just read and enjoyed immensely, see my review), I've been trying to shop and eat mostly local, especially in the summertime. My goal is to do this more and more with each week. Our community's Farmer's Market is so fabulous. It's so much fun to run into friends and neighbors and to chat with the growers. Last week, I got a little carried away and purchased a little too much. This stir fry is something I whip up on a moment's notice at least once a month. I make it with whatever I have on hand. It's former name is Oh Crap, I forgot to Plan Dinner Stir Fry, but I didn't think that was too appetizing a title for this post!

I Bought Too Much at the Farmer's Market Stir Fry

My version was 4 WW points. You MUST put your recipe in the recipe builder in order to figure out your recipe's point value!

This may seem like a no-brainer recipe, but I've been very surprised at the number of people who are intimidated by stir frying and who have told me that they just don't do it. I've cheated in this one using prepared teriyaki sauce, but you can make your own Asian inspired sauce. There are tons of recipes out there or if you'd like to try some of The Ginger People's stuff--feel free--they make great products too! The prep takes longer than the cooking, just hang in there!

Thinly sliced onions.

Thinly sliced peppers.

Chopped broccoli, thinly sliced on the diagonal carrots, pea pods, sliced mushrooms, zucchini-- Just chop to your heart's content! Clean out that fridge.

1 pound cubed or thinly sliced raw meat--whatever you have on hand: chicken, pork, beef, lamb. If you use shrimp, leave them whole.

Soy Vay Very Teriyaki I am never without this in the pantry. A little goes a long way.

You must make sure that everything is prepped and ready to go. So, prep like you're doing a cooking show. Heat a very large, nonstick skillet over high heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Add meat and stir fry until done. Remove from pan and cover to hold heat in. Return pan to high heat and toss in veggies. Continually stir frying until vegetables are crisp tender. Return meat to pan and toss to combine. Add 1/2 cup of sauce--more to taste if desired. These sauces go a long way, so be sure to taste before adding more.

Serve with Jasmine or Brown Rice. And add the points value of the rice--I didn't include it in the recipe.

Friday, July 11, 2008

It's 90 Degrees Outside and I'm Turning On the Oven AGAIN

I've got a good excuse for turning on the oven. Yes, it's 90 degrees outside and humid as a laundromat. But, my grill is malfunctioning. So, the quick seared game hens that I had planned (butterfly them, season and grill) have now become Lemon Stuffed Game Hens with Northwoods Seasoning.

I must admit, I'm a little relieved not to have to stand over a 500 degree grill in this weather!

Lemon Stuffed Cornish Game Hens with Northwoods Seasoning

3 WW Points for half of a skinless hen or 6 points for a whole, skinless hen

2 large Cornish Hens--I prefer buying mine locally from Chase Brook Natural Find your own local source if you can!

1 lemon cut in quarters--squeeze over hens and then stuff into cavities

Northwoods seasoning from Penzeys Spices Just generously sprinkle over the hens

Pop into a 350 degree oven and roast for about an hour or until 180 degrees measured with insta-read thermometer in hen's thigh.

Okay, I just had to snap a picture of the before as it went into the oven. Wanted to see how my new counter tops and back splash look in the pictures! Like my new Redwing utensil crock? I got it at the factory a couple of weeks back.

The AFTER picture is so much more appetizing. This was delightful and left me with so many leftover points, we may just head out to the DQ before the storms strike.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Surprised by a Picture

I just reviewed a few pictures from a weekend getaway we took a couple of weeks ago. Now, I've been feeling pretty good about dropping 32 pounds and I've lost a ton of inches, but when I look at these pictures, I just want to cry. Who is that fat person?

Yes, it's inch by inch, day by day melting away and it's hard work sometimes, but I wonder, will I always feel like the fat girl? It took me a long time to realize that that's exactly what I had become. And, for a very long time, I had denied admitting it. You'd think that those feelings would go away when you start losing.

I've mentioned before that I was a skinny kid. I could eat anything. When I got married, I weighed less than 100 pounds (mostly because my future in laws had stressed me out so much over wedding planning.) I obviously dealt with stress a different way then and I was very busy in a very active life and job.

Looking back on how I got fat, it started during those skinny years. I ate anything I wanted. When I got married, I matched my husband plate for plate. And, while living in a slightly boring area of the country due to a military posting, we ate for fun. I had a baby, the baby weight never came off. And, I didn't work out. Heck, I didn't have to when I was skinny, why would I have to now? And God said, HA!

I'm trying to be more forgiving of myself, but sometimes it's so very hard. When I look back on the last few years, owning my own business and dealing with that stress along with the horrible emotional betrayal of a friend in the business' last days, well, I ate to cope and didn't move AT ALL. During the course of my business, I had lost my dad and lost my best friend. Well, I can't say I really lost her, I lost what I THOUGHT was her. Turns out, she wasn't at all what she led me to believe. So, really, I lost nothing--she is the one that lost out big time. I miss what I thought she was. I know that she had to come up with a reason to be mad at me to rationalize what she's done and is doing to me. That's OK. Cope the way you need to. It will come back to you and then some. That's another story for another day. But, suffice it to say, I've done nothing wrong and she knows she has and perhaps can't face me because of it. Maybe one day, it will mend. Who knows?

So, now, I sit here reviewing pictures. I've come a long way. Perhaps I haven't dealt with things very well in the past, but I'm learning. It took a big step to admit that I was the fat girl and an even bigger step to start doing something about it. Now, it's time to heal the wounds and move on. I will never again judge a current picture, unless I have another one from my past to compare it to. And I will never again be out of the picture, just because I don't want to see who I really am.

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

Being on Weight Watchers wasn't easy, at first. But, the minute I adopted it as my new lifestyle, it got to be pretty simple. I could now pretty much figure out the Point value of any food in the known universe. And, as I go through my day, I check off the healthy guidelines in my head. So, I don't even think of myself on Weight Watchers any more, but just that I live a healthier life. Somehow, it feels like admitting defeat when I admit to someone that I'm on Weight Watchers. It sounds so "diety" if that's a word. It's the way I plan to eat for the rest of my life and it's working.

Since I started this new life last October, I've come to love a few things that are extremely WW friendly. They're almost always in my house, so I thought I'd start a list here for those of you who are following along!

  • Aldi frozen fruit bars or Edy's frozen fruit bars. Yum.
  • No sugar added vanilla nonfat frozen yogurt. Not the kind with artificial sweetener. Read your labels.
  • Werther's Original Hard Candy. Great for those craving times. You can have 3 for one point and it seems as if you had something much more decadent.
  • Fresh fruit and veggies. So many of them are zero or very low points. Great for snacks and filling out meals. I serve at least 2 vegetables with dinner and always have fruit for snacks and desserts.
  • Homemade pudding pops. Make fat free pudding and freeze in pops.
  • Litehouse light salad dressings. The Blue Cheese and Ranch are my favorites.
  • Salad spritzers, for those days when you don't even have enough points for salad dressing!
  • Corn flakes. You can have a heck of a big bowl of cornflakes for breakfast or for a snack for very low points. Top them with honey if you've got the points. They also make a great breading for Tilapia or chicken, simply crush, dip, and bake.
  • Crumpets. Oh, thank you to you delightful British inventors of this chewy, English muffin combined with pancake combined with yummy goodness breakfast treat. Top with your favorite no sugar added jam or splurge with some peanut butter. The fat free ones are only a point a piece!
  • Kashi Multi Grain crackers.
  • Laughing Cow Light Cheese. Great on the crackers (above) or tossed with pasta.
  • Homemade pitas or in a pinch, purchased ones.
  • WW bagels.
  • 100 calorie pudding packs.
  • Imitation crab sticks. Sometimes you just need a little protein and these fit the bill.
  • Fat free hot dogs. Top with Monastery Mustard Divinely Original I order from Monastery Greetings at least twice a year. This mustard is fantastic. Spicy and gives fat free hot dogs the zing they need.
  • Village Hearth Light Hamburger and Hot Dog Buns and 12 grain bread!
  • Ronzoni pasta
  • Couscous
  • Brown Rice
  • Wild Rice
  • Vegetarian Baked Beans
  • Canned black beans--toss with seasoned ground turkey for a great taco filling.
  • Pickles: pickled beets, dills, etc.
  • Low fat cottage cheese. Great protein packed snack plus dairy serving.
  • PB2, powdered peanut butter available from Bell Plantation. Mix with water or oil for a VERY WW friendly peanut butter substitute. I've used it to bake with and love the results. While it doesn't quite fill my peanut butter craving when it's on a Code Red level, it is quite good. If you need to get an oil serving in, mix one of your oils with the powder. Seems kind of silly to do this, but it does taste great this way and it keeps you in charge of the oil content.
  • Fat Free Cool Whip: One serving is zero points. Zero. I like to freeze a servings between two graham crackers for a low point "ice cream" sandwich.
  • Salsa Lisa Salsa. Simply the best. Thanks Lisa. I love this company and am so glad I got to see it manufactured.
  • PB Loco. A company housed in the same building as Salsa Lisa. These attorneys know how to make the peanut butter! It's great for a splurge, but small amounts of their gourmet peanut butters do go a long way, so I find it to be a very WW friendly food. Try their savory peanut butters. The curry one is excellent in Thai noodles.
  • Hostess 100 calorie chocolate cupcakes. One point, fills the chocolate craving. I have to have these in my freezer (they are much better frozen!) at all times. I like to stock up on them at bakery thrift stores as they're kind of pricey at regular grocery stores.
  • Thomas' Light English Muffins. I think they say they're multi grain. They're good. Village Hearth has a version too that is even more WW friendly than the Thomas' ones.
  • Baked Tostitos Scoops with Salsa Lisa, of course!
  • Kashi waffles. Yum.
  • Fiber One Bars. Chocolate. Fix. Now.
  • Egg Beaters of Better N Eggs
  • Real Maple Syrup. If you're going to have pancakes or waffles, a little bit of the REAL thing is much better than a lot of sugar free, imitation crap that's out there. Plus, I don't do artificial sweeteners.
  • Steel cut oats. I love Bob's Red Mill brand. Excellent. But, not so great on hot summer mornings.
  • Cap'n Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch. I know, definitely not a highly nutritious food and probably full of all kinds of things that are so not good for me, but sometimes I've got to have some crunch.
  • Animal Crackers.
  • Fruit leather.
  • 100 calorie Home Style Microwave Popcorn

That's just a starter list, I plan to add to it from time to time and as the season changes. I made this list mostly for me, just to give me a record of favorite foods to fall back on when I get bored or uninspired. I make most of what we eat from scratch and have been able to find all kinds of WW friendly recipes either on their Website or on member websites. Experimenting with recipes and substituting more WW friendly ingredients has been highly successful.

Summer is an easy season to be watching what you eat. Our Farmer's Market abounds with fresh, healthy vegetables, fruits, meats, honey, maple syrup, and other great food finds. Winter can be more challenging, but I intend to freeze a lot of fresh produce this summer. As my garden harvests begin, I hope that I can put away food bit by bit.

Simple searches on the Internet come up with countless recipes that claim to be healthy. You must enter the recipe into the recipe builder to get the correct Point count. It doesn't take long and you must do the work to really learn this new lifestyle.

Anticipation or A Watched Tomato Never Ripens

I've been staring down a few tomatoes in the garden for the last couple of weeks. The blossoms were lovely, the little baby tomatoes miraculous. And as they grew, so did my appetite. Those first tomatoes from the garden are the best of the season. Dreamed about all winter, they started with seed catalogues in January, seedlings in March, transplanted to the garden in May, and then the REAL waiting begins.
We're at that stage in my Minnesota garden where it's a waiting game. The potato plants are flowering in a burst of purple and gold. The Swiss Chard and broccoli, having survived the demon bunny attacks are coming back nicely (maybe I'll even get a harvest from them, I hope with fingers crossed--which is really difficult while typing, but I digress.). Zucchini flowers are in full, glorious bloom and I know it won't be long before they explode into producing more than even my neighborhood can eat. I thinned the radishes again and have a few out there that are going to be just lovely in a few days. The rutabagas, well, you might as well just plant them and forget them til fall!
But, it's the tomatoes that call to me. Those first few tomatoes, as I mentioned, are the best. I remember the first year of my garden, I mistakenly planted 12 tomato plants, not realizing that two adults (one who doesn't even like tomatoes) and a toddler would never consume the abundant harvest they produced. I shared with the neighbors, my family, the mail carrier. Pretty much anyone who crossed my yard, got a few tomatoes. I ate them fresh, I canned them, I froze them, I roasted them and sun dried them. I cooked with them all winter. But, nothing can compare to that sweet, juice on your chin enjoyment of the first harvest.
I think I'll go check on them again.

The Five


Duma Key by Stephen King
When you tell someone you're reading a Stephen King novel, you get one of two reactions. It's either, "Oh, I can't read his stuff. Why would you want to read that?" or "Cool. He freaks me out, but I can't stop. I love him!" I'm not a book snob or a music snob. I'll read or listen to just about anything. Which I think is the way to be. Some people stick to what they like and know and won't step out of their zone. Stephen gets me out of my zone. I can only read one or two of his books a year. He gets in my head and sometimes I can't get him out. But, I love it! This book focuses on a former construction company owner who moves from Minnesota to a small key in Florida. Since I love both Minnesota and Florida, I thought this would be a good read. And it was. Stephen didn't disappoint me and, in the five days that it took me to read this book, I didn't sleep very well. A little creepy, a little suspenseful, a real page turner. Thanks Stephen. I'll sit on this one for a while and revisit you again soon.

The Tea House on Mulberry Street by Sharon Owens
I think I read somewhere that this was Sharon's first novel. Well done, I say, in the best Irish accent I can summon. Set in Ireland, this novel reminded me so much of Maeve Binchy's work. Just the right kind of story to get Stephen King out of my head. I read this one almost in one setting. The story focuses on a tea house and it's owners and patrons. I'm not going to tell you much more than that. If you're a fan of Binchy's work and would like a nice little summer read where everything just works out the way it should, then pick this one up at the library.


Thunder. We need the rain and we needed a rainy day to stay home and have some friends over to play. There's something about a rainy day that brings out the imagination in a couple of young boys! (And me too!) This has been an old fashioned summer of playing with friends every day--and less scheduled activity. It's been a blast!


Hummingbird food coming to a boil on the stove. I better go shut that off! When it rains, the feeders get full of water and the food becomes too diluted to attract my little feathered friends. One part sugar to four parts water, bring to a boil, cool and fill your feeders. NO FOOD COLORING, they don't need it, nor are they attracted to it more if it's colored. Just get yourself a brightly colored feeder, I like the blown glass ones--I just picked up another one at a garage sale for a buck!


My afternoon treat of iced Kona coffee. It's a habit, I know I've talked about it before, but that's what I'm sipping on right now!


Tile samples. I think I finally found the tile for my kitchen. (insert Hallelujah Chorus here)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Grandma's Cucumbers

Grandma taught me to cook by feel. It wasn't something that she specifically talked to me about, she wasn't that type. Grandma just quietly showed me, by her example, how to cook. She still does lead me by example and I love her so much for that.

The first summer cucumbers were a treasured treat. We'd wait with anticipation until they were just big enough to pick, only about 2 inches long, and then Grandma would whip up a batch of her, well, I don't know what to call this. They're not really pickles and it's not really a salad. Let's just call them Grandma's Cucumbers. I don't have enough room in my little garden for cucumbers. One year, I planted some that were a bush variety, but I couldn't find them this year. I found these baby cucumbers at the farmer's market yesterday and couldn't wait to make this recipe.

Grandma's Cucumbers

Some cucumbers--could be a few, could be a lot. Clean them real good. Peel them, or at least score the outside with a fork. Or don't peel them. Whatever you have time for. Soak them in salt water. How much salt? I don't know, sprinkle them real good. Then let them soak. How long? Oh, a good long time, maybe most of the morning or at least a couple of hours. Enough time to do a few loads of laundry or weed the garden and the flower bed.

Then, drain the salt water, but don't rinse them. Add some cider vinegar and not that imitation stuff. How much? Oh a couple of glugs. Add some more cold water and some black pepper. Sprinkle with some sugar. How much? Enough to sweeten them just a bit, I don't know, depends on how many cucumbers you've got. If it's not tart enough, add some more vinegar. Add a thinly slice onion. And then stir 'em real good. Then let them sit in the fridge until supper.

And remember, this isn't a recipe!

Thanks Grandma!
When it gets cooler again, I'll share with you her recipe for Roast Pork, Sauerkraut, and Potato Dumplings (with her world famous, shake your fanny it's so good, gravy).

Taking a little time to play with words, to play with food, and just to play!