Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloweener!

I think by now it's safe to say that I get nostalgic around the holidays (any holiday, really, except possibly Columbus Day.).  I like to look back and see how big my baby has gotten and Halloween is no different.  Plus, Finn has finally fallen asleep from his sugar high and Uriah and I are going to sit down to a quiet- adults only - dinner, so my photo editing minutes are numbered.  

Enjoy Finn's Halloweeners:

2010 - 3 months old
2011 - 15 months old
2012 - 2 years old

More kiddie costumes tomorrow...or the next day.  And I have a granola recipe that I want to share and, of course, another soup (weight loss has been shaky, but I'm back on the wagon!  None Not a lot of that blasted candy for me!).  Finn and I have been filling our days with stuff and at the end of it I'm not really sure what we've accomplished but I am sure that I'm tired.

Happy Halloweener!

Monday, October 29, 2012

20 minutes.

Yesterday Uriah had to run into work to place an order.  He typically does this on Sunday mornings, and although it's technically his day off and our "family day," it doesn't take that long and I've gotten used to the hour or so that he's at work before he comes home and we make a great big brunch and spend the rest of the day together. Yesterday he offered to take Finn with him on an adventure.  I hastily scribbled a grocery list and sent them off to do their man-chores.

I was staring down the face of at least an hour to myself.  We've had a full-on week of entertaining.  Daniel and Ady had spent the previous weekend with us doing fall things like pumpkin carving and walking to the lake and counting deer in our yard.  That was followed closely by the arrival of my in-laws.  Uriah was off for (almost) 3 whole days in a row, a rarity for this family, as his parents had made the trip up from Kansas City, so we got to play tourist in our own new city, which is kind of fun, actually.  But Uriah's day off was spent playing tour-guide and not doing our regularly scheduled programming (chores) and that sort of takes it's toll on a house of 4 after a few days.  Usually, I try to take advantage of Finn's nap time as my time, but inevitably I find myself emptying the dishwasher or folding a load of laundry or sweeping something up and by the time I do sit down, he's ready to be up and playing.

Yesterday morning was no different.  The moment the door closed behind the boys, I looked around and decided to just water some plants real quick.  That turned into sweeping up the dead leaves that had fallen, taking out the trash and tackling a load of dishes that had mysteriously piled up.  Before I knew it, I was upstairs in Finn's room sorting toys and switching out what he had upstairs with what was downstairs.  I paused long enough to make a list of some preschool ideas I want to work on this week with Finn and was quickly back to making the bed, watering more plants, and doing a bit of dusting (read: I wiped away the dust only where I could see it.).

Why do I do this?  All of these tasks I can do easily during the day with Finn underfoot, but there is a little nagging feeling of guilt in taking a few minutes for myself when I can see stuff around me that needs to be done.  I'm learning, however, that what needs to be done is relevant to the situation.  Does the dryer need to be emptied?  Yes, obviously.  My family likes to wear clean, semi-wrinkle-free clothes (I draw the line at ironing.).  But it can also be done eventually, and spinning a load for an extra 20 minutes to get the wrinkles out while I enjoy a cup of coffee and a chapter in my book is okay, too.

Sometimes, what needs to be done is taking care of myself.  This week I am going to try to give myself a little gift during nap time each day where I unplug, enjoy a chapter in my book, or an uninterrupted cheese and apple snack that I am not required to share.  For 20 minutes, I will not be answering my phone, logging into Facebook,  Pinterest, or my email.  I will not sweep or wipe or fold anything.  20 minutes of quiet just for me.

And then I can go back to being Wonder Woman and getting it all done for everyone else.
What are your plans for this week?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

This day is a gift.

I am printing this and putting it by my bed so that it is the first thing I look at in the morning.  
This day is a gift.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What we've been up to...

Finn was the lucky recipient of some Elmo bedding from Cousin Dane.
I finally got my sofa up here Missouri.  It is good for naps and for watching the news.
5 months without a sofa is a long, long time.

 Leaves are falling and raking takes more time because someone wants to jump in every pile.
I also caught him "fishing" in a pile with a stick.  He told me he wasn't catching anything.
Sort of like his Dad...

 The rain has finally started to come and Finn wants to use the umbrella all of the time.
We also looked at some rain boots at Target.  There were firetruck rain boots and Hello, Kitty rain boots.
Finn wants the Kitty rain boots.

 This is the only photo I have from our 3rd anniversary.
Trust me, we dressed up - I wore make-up! Uriah wore a tie! 
We went to a fancy-pants restaurant and discussed wedded bliss and kids and life.
No photo from that, but bedtime stories pretty much sum up our happiness.

We were able to spend an afternoon having lunch lunch and hiking with some old-for-me, new-for-Finn friends.  I love catching up with girlfriends as if it hasn't been years since we were able to sit down and talk about our lives.  Conversation fell into place easily.  I like friendships like that.

And then Finn snoozed all the way home. 
I love that, too.

Pumpkins have been carved - a fun project with Uncle Dan and Ady.
Finn tried to eat the pumpkin guts again this year.  We let him.
Abby changed her mind about her design again this year.  We waited patiently.
Abby's has seed teeth and Finn's has angry eyes and a sad mouth, but he loved the eyebrows on Ady's the most.
They look so cute glowing.

 Uriah's parents are in town for the week and they have brought Finn Uriah's old firetruck to play with.
Finn wants to ride it constantly.  And ring the bell.  Luckily it's a quiet bell.

I like bath time the best these days.  
We've been so busy that it seems the only time I have to lay back and rest is when Finn is splish-splashing.
With a baby and the holidays fast approaching, I think it'll be awhile before we sink back into our quiet days.

Monday, October 8, 2012

On my mind today...

  • I made cider doughnuts for my small humans last weekend - small circles and hearts of appley goodness on a chilly Friday morning.  
  • They were tasty and a bit reminiscent of fall in Kansas City - a place where temperatures still get downright warm in the afternoons and the sun shines more than it doesn't.
  • Will-power became my middle name, but I managed.  One tasty doughnut dipped in hot coffee got me through the morning.  Finn, on the other hand, was a sticky-cinnamon-sugary mess, and he kept trying to sneak more little doughnut holes when I wasn't looking.
  • You can go here to make them if you'd like, but I forewarn, the dough is really sticky and not that easy to work with.  I added extra flour to mine.  Regardless, I'll probably still make them again.
  • We walked by the lake this morning and Finn yelled: "Want to RUN!"  Apparently he likes a quicker jaunt on these chilly mornings.  I obliged.
  • The waves were high and loud on the break wall, so I kept him in his stroller and we passed the time counting the dogs we saw on the trail.
  • Our bathtub faucet is leaking.  Downside: I think we need to call a plumber.  Silver lining: I've been using the extra water to give my houseplants a drink.
  • I've decided to suck it up and drive into the Big City once a week for an actual WW meeting - and I'm going to stay for the whole thing, not just weigh in.
  • Finn will need lots of books and coloring crayons to get through.
  • Maybe I can bribe him with hot chocolate if he's a good boy...or a trip to Target.
  • Abby's almost done with volleyball, I think she has one more home game.  My goal is to bring the camera and get some pictures.  I haven't yet this year.  Slacking, I know.
  • I planted my tulips and hyacinth bulbs last week.  I check daily to make sure the squirrels haven't dug them up and eaten them. 
  • This week, Finn and I are doing this turkey art project.  I just need to get some new paints...last week we painted fall trees with leaves that are hot pink, purple and blue.  I think they're hippy trees, but that was all I had for paints.  Luckily we have to go into the Big City anyway, so I guess a stop at Michael's Craft is in order!
  • And then it will be time to work on raking our leaves.  But today it's supposed to rain, so I think I'll curl up with my book instead.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fall in love with fall.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Soup-er! (Yes, I did go there.)

Soups to try:
  • Lighter Italian Wedding Soup
  • Asian Chicken & Watercress Soup 
  • Veggie Split Pea Soup 
  • Sweet Potato and Chipolte Soup
  • Mushroom & Barley Soup
  • Onion Soup with Cheese Toasts
  • Chicken Posole
  • Butternut Bisque
  • Broccoli Rabe & White Bean Soup

I've started making a big pot of soup on either Sunday or Monday to get me through the week for lunch.  It’s quick, easy to heat up and Finn eats it, too, so it’s a good extra serving of vegetables for him.

The key to really good soup, I think, is homemade stock.  I obviously don’t sit around and make stock all day, because, really, who has that kind of time?  Actually, who am I kidding, some days I do have that kind of time because I stay at home.  But it is hands down the easiest, best thing in the world, albeit a little bit time-consuming.  Everyone makes stock different; I make mine the way my mom taught me – vegetables, slow simmering, and a whole chicken carcass.  I usually make chicken stock when we've had a whole, roasted chicken for dinner – and it can even be one of those rotisserie chickens from the grocery store.  I clean most of the remaining meat off, which I set aside to use for chicken salad sandwiches or, if I’m making chicken soup, I’ll add that later, after the broth is done.  Then I put the bones in a big ole soup pot, add chopped celery, onion, carrots and a couple of cloves of garlic and fill the stock pot with water.  Add some herbs – I use oregano, thyme, basil and a bay leaf and bring it all to a boil.  Then I turn the heat back, put a cover on it and let it simmer on low until the broth has reduced by about half.

Usually at this point I’ll turn the stock off and let it cool down to room temperature then stick it in the refrigerator over night.  The point is to let the fat from the chicken congeal on the top so that the next morning I can skim it off…you want a little bit of that fat as you’re simmering the broth because fat adds flavor, but you don’t need all of it and it can make for kind of a greasy broth if there is too much.  And we all know that at this point, the less fat, the better (my bum will thank me come beach season!).  Then I put that big pot back on the stove and bring it up to a low simmer for maybe about 20 minutes to a half an hour and then strain all of the chicken bones and vegetables out, leaving a really nice, intense broth.  And then I freeze it in 2 cup portions for use later.

The same theory applies if you get a soup bone from the grocery store for beef broth or a ham bone for ham broth.  I've never made fish stock, so I’m not entirely sure how that process would work (I’m sure Uriah can give me a tutorial on that some day when I'm less busy doing stay-at-home mom things.).  You can also use whatever veggies you happen to have in the house.  I've added red onion, leek, and green or red peppers to my broth before because they were in the fridge and needed to be used.  Don’t worry about saving the vegetables from your broth to use later in your soup; you've already leached all of their good flavor out and into the broth – which is also why you want to remove most of the chicken from the bones and add it in later.  Even if you’re making  vegetable soup or chicken noodle soup, you want to discard the simmered veggies and use fresh in your soup.

Sometimes, however, I don’t have the patience for all of that simmering and straining and cooling and skimming, so I just make my broth, strain out the veggies and bones and then use the broth to make my soup the same day.  It’s just as good and if I have leftover broth, I freeze it.

Today was technically my first day of Soup for Lunch, although last week for my lunches I ate the Ham & Pot Liquor Soup I made when my parents visited.  The ham soup is a little bit spicy, so Finn wasn't sold on it; today we had a fall vegetable soup that I made yesterday with some chicken broth I found in the freezer and some veggies I had in the refrigerator.  I deliberately left out any sort of barley or noodle filler in my soup this week – I wanted just a broth with vegetables soup to kick my healthy eating into gear.  I paired my big bowl of soup with some low-fat cottage cheese and a banana, over-all a relatively healthy, filling lunch.  I think tomorrow I’ll have a salad with it and maybe on Thursday I’ll add an open-faced ham sandwich with low-fat cheese and spicy mustard.  I realize that for some people, eating the same thing for lunch 5 days in a row can get a little bit boring (and I’m one of them) so the sides I put with my soup need to be different each day and a healthy supplement.

LoveSo that’s soup week one… I've added the Ham & Pot Liquor soup recipe below – it’s really good if you don’t mind a little heat; you can always cut back on the hot sauce for a less spicy soup.  The vegetable soup recipe is really easy and made my whole house smell amazing yesterday.  I’m planning to work my way through the list of soups between now and Thanksgiving and then add some more for the weeks after Thanksgiving.

Today I felt much better about my choices than I have in a while…and more in control of what I’m doing.  I logged everything I've eaten and pre-pointed out my dinner, so I know that I can afford a small snack this evening if I need it and if it’s before 8 pm.  I didn't work out hard, but I did walk a bunch this morning taking pictures of Sarah and Michael, so I feel pretty good about getting some movement into my day today.

One day at a time...

  • 2 pounds kale*
  • 1 (2 lb) ham steak
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 6 red potatoes, diced
  • 3 (14-oz) cans chicken broth
  • 2 (16-oz) cans black eyed peas**
  • 2 cups water, use reserved kale cooking water from second boil***
  • ½ cup vermouth
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Remove and discard stems and discolored spots from  kale; rinse with cold water.  Drain and tear into 1-inch pieces.  Cover kale with cold water and bring to a boil in a large Dutch oven.  Remove from heat; drain.  Cover again with water and bring to a boil.  Drain, reserving liquid.

Toss ham with hot sauce.  Cook in oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until browned.  Add onion and garlic and saute until tender.  Stir in kale, potatoes, and remaining ingredients; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally  45 minutes.

*Original recipe called for collard greens - couldn't find them, so I substituted kale.  I've never had kale before, but it was really, really good.
**I used dried black-eyed peas because Uriah couldn't find them in the canned aisle (probably looking with his man eyes.).  Soaked the peas overnight and then added 2 cups to the broth to simmer and cook through.
***The original recipe doesn't say to use the cooking water from the collards/kale, but I think it gives a little bit of extra flavor to the soup; if you don't have 2 cups, add water to make the full amount.  You could just use 2 cups of water if you forget to reserve your cooking water, though!  Sometimes I like to get a little over-zealous...

8 servings
Adapted from Southern Living Christmas Cookbook, 2005

Fall Vegetable Soup

  • 1 leek, white and most of the green part sliced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ½ acorn squash, seeded, peeled and cubed
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 3 parsnips, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh broccoli heads and stem pieces, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon each, oregano and thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in soup pot over medium heat, add leeks and saute until tender.  Add squash, carrot, parsnips and broccoli; stir to combine with leeks and saute 3 minutes.  Add broth, water and herbs.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender.  Salt and pepper to taste.

4 servings

Monday, October 1, 2012

And so today, I start again.

Who wants to talk about weight again?!
You?  You?  Not you?

Okay, look at the beautiful fall pictures from northern Minnesota and my sweet little hiking partner, who hiked nearly all of Gooseberry Falls last week (just over a mile through the woods - and I only had to carry him a couple of times!) and then move on to something else because after these pretty fall pictures is some more talk about weight.  

I've always been really good at working toward something...a project deadline or a goal I've set for myself (the attainable ones, not the hundreds of out-of-reach goals that I set idealistically and often.).  For the longest time I was working towards the idea that, maybe, if I got my weight to a manageable point, we'd have another baby.  I wanted to be healthy the next time around.  I wanted to enjoy and savor another pregnancy and be not so ridiculously tired while I figured out another tiny human.  I had a plan as to timing and how I would get back to my pre-pregnancy weight (the weight I needed to be before I could have another baby) and I was certain that to do all of that that - to reach that ultimate 2nd baby goal - all I had to loose weight.

So I walked.  And I started Weight Watchers.  I biked and I attempted to run.  I hiked.  I pushed Finn in the stroller, pulled him in the wagon and dragged him behind the bike.  I sweated and cursed and pushed a little bit harder.  Somewhere along the way, however, the drive to reach that magic weight goal (which I set for myself as December of this year) waned.  It became more and more apparent that another small human to add to my menagerie was probably not in my future.  Without that ultimate goal, I stopped working hard.  I will not meet my goal weight by December and that makes me almost as sad as not having another baby because the goal was attainable - I should have been able to reach it.  I think about my weight every day - I remind myself that today I need to get out my pen and mark my points; today I most certainly do not need to eat a doughnut with my coffee; today I need to walk far and fast.  But sadness does funny things to ambition.

I learned something from almost a year at Weight Watchers, and so I haven't gained a lot of weight back, only about 5 pounds since the beginning of the summer.  But they're 5 sad pounds because I don't want them.  It's 5 steps back instead of 5 steps forward.  The weather is turning serious shades of grey and gloomy, and the air is brisk almost all day now.  In an effort to jump-start my efforts (and to seriously stop my hibernation mode), I had Uriah set up the Wii for me (which we hadn't done since we moved.).  I started a list of healthy things to eat and I've been to 3 weigh-ins in the past month.

This morning I pep-talked myself in the shower (it's my go-to pep-talk place because the only place that I'm relatively alone - except for Finn playing with his trucks on the floor.).  At the beginning of the year (when I was optimistic and loosing weight weekly and on track to meet my December deadline) my New Year's Resolution was to be kind to myself.  To that I am adding: one day at a time.  That's all I'm requiring of myself.  One day at a time.  Life sucks sometimes and we have to find a new path to hike down.  Suffice it to say that I'm finding a new path.

My first goal is 8 pounds by Thanksgiving.  That's a measly 1 pound a week, but I'm going to have to work hard to do it.  Breakfast (more than just coffee) every day and soups for lunch.  No snacking and nothing after 8 pm.  And I'm once again joining the 100 miles in 3 months challenge to help keep me on track.

But mostly: just one day at a time.

Tomorrow: soups for lunch - my list and the first two recipes.  And probably more talk about weight.  And maybe a cute picture of Finn thrown in to keep things less gloomy.