Sunday, September 10, 2017

No Sugar Update and Other Stuff

Hi All,

I just wanted to touch base and tell you how the "no sugar" lifestyle is going.  I'm not going to say it has been easy or that I am doing things perfectly, but I am monitoring myself more and I feel better already.  It isn't as hard for me to give up bread carbs as it is to go without sugar.  I don't know why that is, but I think they call it addiction for a reason.  It is hard to give up sugar!  Anyway, I find that I am relying on natural sugars from fruits and veggies to tame my cravings.  I did address that in my previous post and I decided to do fruits in moderation, and not cut them out altogether.  Any hoo, Audra and I did a quick stop at Target today to get her snacks for the week.  These are a couple of items she picked up and I think they signify that autumn is in the air!!



On the other hand, I will not be indulging in the deliciousness of fall.  I am going to give you an awesome recipe that I made this evening.  Don't judge it until you try it.  I made this up and my family loves it!  Audra had already eaten a complete dinner when I pulled this out of the oven.  She ate again.  I don't know where the girl puts all the food.

Assemble the ingredients:
Half of a package of Lipton Onion Soup Mix (dry)
1 8oz can of crushed pineapple with juice drained
1 splash soy sauce (told you I made it up)
1 pkg Jennie-O Ground Turkey Breast
1/2 white onion diced
1 Log Fresh Mozzarella (this one had some kind of spices and oil packed in it)
2 slices white bread soaked in a couple tablespoons milk (I used gluten free, but you don't have to)
1 Pkg large mushroom caps (2 per package)
** I only bought one package of mushroom caps because I figured Audra would want hers on a bun or bread.  I was wrong, she ate the mushroom one.  She commented that she doesn't even like mushrooms and it was delicious.  









I mixed all the ingredients in a bowl, leaving the mozzarella out so I could top the meat with it later and melt it.  If you chunked it and put it in the meat, it would be delicious too.



Then form into meatloaf, burgers and/or top mushroom caps.

Bake 350 degrees for 20 minutes, then I topped with a red bell pepper that I wanted to use up and cheese.  Let it melt for another 5-7 minutes.  I couldn't get them to stop eating the meat.  I really wanted to save it for leftovers because we have a busy week coming up.  I think I will name the meal "Hawaiian Turkey Burgers."

I also made roasted sweet potatoes and carrots and steamed some broccoli.  Here are my lunches for the week and Audra's dinner for tomorrow night.  Voila!! Yum!!


Here is a shout out to all of our friends in Florida.  I know they are getting hit with the hurricane as I type this post and am thankful to hear that Irma may be losing some of her punch.  Let's keep praying for Florida and our friends in Mexico who withstood a devastating earthquake this week.

Have a great week.  Let's try to have a complete week without a major weather event!!




Monday, September 4, 2017

Blame It On the Eclipse

Hi All,

    Sadly the devastation of Hurricane Harvey has impacted areas from Galveston to Houston. Dallas is 250 to 300 miles north of the Houston area, so our weather was not impacted by the storm. We got some rain last weekend, but that has been typical this summer. The rainfall in our area is up, but we are not in danger of flooding, thankfully.  Donations to benefit storm victims can be made through reputable organizations such as Red Cross and Walmart.  We received a donation bag in the mail to give used household items for the cause and our school district is collecting items as well. The Dallas area is a safe haven for some of the Houstonians fleeing the devastation.   We will see more people moving into the area soon because Houston is mandatorily evacuating the flood areas and cutting electrical power, making it impossible for homeowners to stay.  Keep Harvey victims in your prayers.

     Did you see the eclipse?  I am blaming all of the crazy weather (and a lot of other weird things) on the eclipse.  I wonder if it is a real phenomenon to have a hurricane, or significant weather event, after a lunar eclipse.  The internet says there should be no noticeable weather impact on earth, but areas that have the total eclipse may notice a slight weather impact.  No examples were sited, but it seems a little more than coincidental that a category 4 hurricane hits the coast immediately following an eclipse.  

Like father, like daughter.  Isn't my dad adorable!!!


I saw this funny quote from Facebook the other day, and it really resonated with me.


     Now you can add the "threat" of a gas shortage to the list too!  It's been impossible to find gas stations with gas, so I have resorted to using the app called "Gas Buddy."  It shows gas stations in your zip code that are stocked.  You just need to pray that they don't run out before you get there.  It took us 45 minutes to actually get to the pump after finding a station with gas.  The media and transportation commissioner assure us that there is not a gas shortage.  There has been a slight panic of a shortage, so everyone is demanding gas at the same time, causing gas to run dry.  It's been crazy around here!!!

     My car, a 2012 Buick Enclave, has been having mechanical problems for a while.  Motor mount problems have plagued the car causing a clunking noise in the front end.  The problem is that two motor mounts, which appear to be the screws holding the motor in place, failed and were replaced. Then I noticed the clunking again and, low and behold, the other mounts gave way!!  Then the air conditioning stopped working.  It was blowing hot air.  Here in Texas, that is a really bad thing. It was quickly fixed, but within a couple of months, it was blowing hot air again.  Well, it turns out to be another problem with the air handler.  Big Tex decided to buy the expensive extended warranty, to the tune of $2,500, to cover the cost of repairs for the next five years. When I picked up the car from the service department this week, the clerk cheerfully said that the cost of the repair was $1,100, but my cost was only the $100 deductible.  I am usually courteous to people, but I embarrassed my daughter and made a comment about the quality of the Buick product.  Maybe we expect a lot from our cars, but I feel like a four year old car should be in good working condition.

    The air conditioning in the house failed downstairs recently, the refrigerator in the garage, and the clothes dryer all broke this week as well.  I was driving John's car over the weekend and the vent was blowing hot air.  I texted him to let him know something was going on.  I told him I would try not to break anything else until he got home.

     We decided not to replace the garage refrigerator right now.  The unfortunate thing about that failure was that we lost a bunch of food I had just bought at Cosco.  Sadly, the milk and all of the overflow items I store out there were lost.  I also need to be conscious not to overbuy at the store now because we have limited space in the inside fridge.

     I bought a Samsung dryer to replace the broken one.  I have never owned a Samsung appliance and have read awesome reviews online about the model I bought.  I really wanted a matching LG dryer to the washer we have, but the reviews weren't great for that model.  The worst was the claim that the machine had something inside that would tear clothes.  This happened in another machine we had, so I steered clear of that whole mess.


     Happy Labor Day!!  Stay tuned for my second installment of the home tour and a post about what I did over the long weekend while the rest of the family was in Chicago.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

No More Sugar


     Funny I would write this post is on the heels of my Puppy Chow post, but I am ridding myself of sugar starting today.  Sugar is counterproductive for digestion and overall health.  I have been a "sugar addict" most of my life and have known for a while that I need to detox.  My motivation is to decrease inflammation, balance digestion and regain energy levels.  I had a great summer, but am paying the price for overindulgence.  Lately I have let bad habits creep into my routine by overindulging in dessert, cookies and candy.  I am eating something sweet after every meal!

     Eliminating sugar and processed foods is considered a low-carb diet.  I envied people who could eliminate one thing, like soda, and transform their whole metabolism.  I always considered myself a healthy eater, so I never thought I had anything to cut out.  Now I realize I do have one thing needing to be eliminated.  Sugar!! It's time to "get real" and face the fact that sugar is not my friend.

     I am a faithful goal setter and have been making a bunch of professional goals for myself and my students.  So, I need to make some health goals too!  I've broken down my goal into some manageable steps that are outlined below.  You can click on the links if you want to get more information about fiber and healthy fats.  An undertaking like this is not just about elimination of sugar, but finding replacement foods to keep me satisfied.  Developing replacement behaviors will ensure habits will be changed with long term success.

  1. Eat more fiber.
  2. Include more protein.
  3. Eat more healthy fats.
  4. Add fermented foods to diet daily.  These foods aid in digestion and have detoxifying properties that can help heal the gut.
  5. Read ingredient labels carefully when grocery shopping.  (Sugar is hard to identify on the ingredient labels because it can have up to 60 alternate names.) 
  6. Meal prep on Sunday for a successful week.  I will post weekly meal plans to share my week ahead.  
  7. Sweat every day.
     I plan on take some help from other bloggers who have already done all the hard work of testing the recipes and planning balanced sugar free menus. I'm not too proud to take help from others.  Most of my recipes will come from Skinny Taste because these recipes are easy and don't have a lot of ingredients.  All of the recipes I selected for week 1 are low carb and can be prepared in 30 minutes or less.  

     I anticipate that breakfast is going to be a hard meal for me to prepare.  I usually don't pre-plan breakfast.  I buy a couple boxes of cereal and grab whatever appeals to me in the moment. Incorporating more protein and healthy fats into my breakfast meal will be a huge challenge and will force me to get creative.  I usually take left over dinner to work for lunch the next day. Provided I make dinners that follows the plan, then lunch should be a cinch. 

     Consuming more fermented foods will be unusual for me because I hate, hate, hate anything sour tasting.  As luck would have it, Costco is carrying a new product called Kombucha Fermented Tea that packs a punch of fermentation in a small shot.   It will be easy to drink a couple of times a day if I can get beyond the weird taste.  It is also naturally sparkling due to the fermentation process that it goes through.  I tried a sample and it reminded me of taking a shot of cider vinegar, which I have heard also has amazing health benefits.  I need to look into the sugar content on this product before I commit.  Other sources of fermentation are tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir and kombucha.  I do take probiotics and digestive enzymes daily and I love these products I have delivered from Plexus.  


     I am defining the kind of sugar I am eliminating because this will keep me accountable.  For the next 30 days, I will eliminate refined sugar, the white stuff, and will avoid processed foods containing the refined stuff (including corn syrup and anything in that category).  I will allow some natural carbs like fruit, honey, stevia and agave in moderation.  A friend sweetens her coffee with honey.  I think I will give that a try.  I want to ultimately develop a pallet that tastes the natural sweetness in things like almonds.  The only way I have accomplished this in the past is to not eat anything super sweet for a little while, even if it is natural.  Bottom line, I don't want to overindulge in anything sweet tasting so I can recalibrate my taste buds. 

     This is my meal plan for the coming week.  I am making extra protein with dinner meals to have left overs for lunch.  I am making a double recipe of the Chipotle Chicken meal, so we can have it one other night over a salad or wrapped in tortillas. These three breakfast meals will be repeated all week for ease and convenience.

Breakfast
Breakfast Quinoa Bowl
Avocado Toast
Hard boiled Eggs with Turkey Breakfast Sausage

Lunch
I will take leftovers from dinner the night before most days.
I also bought a 1/2 pound of deli turkey meat and will make meat and cheese
rollups for snacks and lunch if I get bored with leftovers.


Dinner
Beef and Cabbage Soup
Grilled Salmon with Veggies

Wish me luck! I would love to hear your comments and please post links to your favorite sugar free recipes.



Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Back To School.....For Me

Hello All,

    I teach students with dyslexia to read in an awesome school district here in Texas.  The school, the teachers, and the district have spent a week casting the vision for the coming school year and it promises to be exceptional.  Below you will see the tee shirts that reflect this vision.


This is the district shirt - 100%-All Means All - This is the continuation of our "One Vision" transformation journey that began last year.  All educators are encouraged to stay on the path and continue to transform and improve the district one student at a time.


This one says "1 in 5 Students Depend on Me."  I am passionate about identifying and teaching students with dyslexia and providing remediation that will pave the way for a lifetime of success. Struggling readers need support and often have feelings of uncertainty and low self-esteem.  The alarmingly high incidence of dyslexia surprised me.  I had no idea that 20 percent of our population had some level of Dyslexia.  That's a huge number and answered a lot of nagging questions about why some students were lagging behind in language acquisition and reading.



This hashtag is on the back of our school shirt this year.  It is a reminder for us to make the learning experience accessible to all students.  I especially believe that if they don't learn the way we teach, then we need to teach the way they learn.  I am proud that our MTA curriculum is multi-sensory and inherently engaging.  I still remind myself every day to develop lessons that students will enjoy by taking into consideration their specific interests and learning styles.  The best part of my job is developing the personal relationships with the kiddos and watching them grow!!

     On a different subject, I made some puppy chow with my kids on Friday night and decided to blog about it for a couple of reasons.  The recipes fit into the "Back to School" theme because I love giving treats like this to my teammates or sending baggies to school with my kids in their lunches.  The two flavors we made were Caramel Churro and Lemon White Chocolate Puppy Chow.

Carmel Churro Mix
Ingredients:
  • 4 1/2 cups Rice Chex™ cereal
  • 4 1/2 cups Corn Chex™ cereal
  • 1cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
  • 1/4 up light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Instructions

Assemble Ingredients




Preheat oven to 350.  Place cereal in a large, heat safe bowl.  Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick baking spray.





In a small bowl, combine cinnamon and sugar and set aside.   in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, bring the brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup mixture to a boil.  Let boil for one minute, stirring constantly, then remove from heat and stir in baking soda.  We didn't have any baking soda, and it still turned out amazing.





Pour over cereal and stir until cereal is coated.







Spread cereal on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle evenly with cinnamon/sugar mixture. 




Bake for about 5 minutes, then flip with a spatula and bake for 3 more minutes, until cereal turns golden brown.



Remove from oven and let cool completely, then break up and store in an airtight container.  Or eat it right now because it was yummy warm.  Look at them!




Blueberry Lemon White Chocolate Puppy Chow

Ingredients

  • 1 box Chex™ blueberry flavored cereal
  • 1 1/4 cups white vanilla baking chip
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 4 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (I'm told fresh lemon juice is better than the bottled kind.)
  • 2 cups powered sugar
Assemble Ingredients 





Measure out cereal and put in bowl.  The kids didn't get the right cereal, so ours was white chocolate and lemon without the blueberry.



In small microwavable bowl, microwave baking chips, butter, lemon peel and lemon juice uncovered on "high" 1 minute 30 seconds, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted and smooth. Pour lemon mixture over cereal; stir until evenly coated.




Once coated, pour cereal mixture into 2-gallon resealable food-storage plastic bag. Add powdered sugar. Seal bag; gently shake until well coated. Spread evenly on parchment paper or waxed paper. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Store in airtight container.

Amanda is always happy.

I'm told these snacks are gluten free.  That opens up a whole lot of possibilities for some of you.  Enjoy!!


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Movies I Recommend

     I have had the opportunity to fly this summer and randomly came across a couple of really good movies that I want to share with you.



Hello, My Name is Doris (R)

     Audra told me about the first movie called, "Hello, My Name Is Doris."  I was a little alarmed because it was rated R, so I decided to watched it.  It was a heartwarming, funny movie and I recommend you watch it as a family, especially if you have teenagers.

     Sally Fields plays an adorable, middle aged woman who decides to romantically pursue a much younger co-worker.  The Doris character is so likable, with her eclectic appearance and quirky personality.  I loved her willingness to take a risk, even though most of her life was dedicated to caring for her aging mother, who incidentally had hoarding tendencies that now plague Doris.  It has a great ensemble cast and didn't have any of the trappings of a dark comedy.  I laughed and I cried, but the movie spoke to my heart because it taught that we should all embrace differences in each other and celebrate them.

The Last Word

    A retired businesswoman wants to control everything around her, including her own obituary, so she writes her own to ensure her life story is told her way.  A young writer at the local newspaper takes on the challenge of finding out the truth.  Shirley MacLaine plays Harriette Lauler, the controlling and very lonely former business executive.  Amanda Seyfried plays the newspaper reporter, hired by Lauler, to publish a flattering obituary.  When looking at the elements of a good life, and ultimately a great tribute, many commonalities surface that send Lauler into scary and unchartered directions in her life.  Thus, Lauler and her newspaper protege embark on a journey that is heartwarming, funny and very therapeutic.  A feel good movie that you shouldn't miss.  

Friday, August 11, 2017

Home Tour Part 1

Hi All,

     We are safely back in Plano and it is good to be home.  My sweet mother in law always said that there is a problem if you aren't happy to return home after a trip.  I agree with that statement!!

     I am starting the home tour, but let me first say that I am not a decorator and I decorate my house to appeal to me.  I don't even have a name for my style.  I like traditional pieces that withstand time, but then sometimes I add abstract art with a pop of color.  I move furniture and accessories around a lot to see how it feels.   My decorating philosophy is to buy new pieces when I know they will get a lot of use.  Items such as sofas, chairs and every day pieces like the kitchen table, I usually buy new.  The other stuff is usually thrifted or handed down from family.  I have tons of DIY projects in my head and will discuss these with you as you see part 1 of the tour.

     Tex gets very nervous when things get moved around.  He can't understand why I have a need to change things all of the time.  I get bored I guess.  He's a good sport, but once in a while, he will come unglued about the house stuff.  It usually happens when there is too much clutter, or what he considers clutter.  I call it highly accessorized!

Come on in!!


      The hubby gets an award for the greenest yard.  Just kidding, everyone has a green yard because it has been raining all summer!!

This is the view when entering from the front door.  The dining room is
 on the right and living room is on the left.

Dining Room

Dining Room


Rug Home Goods/Lighting Lamps Plus/ Chairs Haverty's Furniture Online

 


     That mirror above the buffet is from At Home.  You may not have
this store in your city, but the corporation owned Garden Ridge and
re-invented the brand.  At Home is the result and I love shopping
there because the prices are amazing for some really expensive
looking pieces.  Where can you find an enormous mirror like that
for less than $200?  At Home is comparable to Cost Plus, World
Market and Home Goods.  My kind of place!   I know my
mirror is a cheaper version of a very expensive designer one.
I found this one at Wayfair, but it is considerably smaller than
mine and more expensive.  I think the one I bought measures 54"
round because I had trouble fitting it into the Suburban.  The
house has massively high walls that are very hard to decorate.
It is hard to find wall art that is the right scale.  I often create
vingettes to fill up wall space.


China Cabinet from Home Goods


This is the dining room looking toward the living room and through the
entryway.



     In this view, the kitchen is on the other side of the wall and I am standing in the dining room at the front of the house.  To the right, is a guest bedroom and that open door you see leads to a guest bathroom.  Across from the bathroom is a butler' pantry.  I will show the bathroom in the next tour.  

This is the butler's pantry on the other side of the wall outside the dining room.

This is the formal living room.  You see it on the left when you walk in the front door.


Yes, the sofa is gone.  I am in the process of buying a new one.

This is the corner of the living room.  The window faces the front of the house.

Kitchen Nook

      We have a kitchen nook by the window and the table was purchased 14 years ago.  This is the second set of chairs I've purchased to go with this table.  I bought this set of dining chairs from Craig's List.  They were brown and I painted them and recovered the seats.  I broke my own rule about buying second hand chairs, but these are very sturdy.  They came from a formal dining set and the seller graciously sold me just the chairs.  I love how they looked with the existing table.  The original chairs were ladder back and I am moving away from the French Country look.  I made the window treatments with fabric from Calico Corner.  The light fixtures all come from Lamps Plus.  The kitchen wallpaper is old and needs to be updated at some point.

My flower arranging skills could use some help.


      The kitchen island has a curve in it which was a nightmare to design and execute.  I am so happy with how it looks, but Tex bangs into the corners a lot.



Kitchen looking into the family room 


     The granite composite sink is "da bomb!"  I hesitated to get a sink with no separation or division, but it is deep and spacious.  The color is "greige" and I love, love, love it!!  The bar is where my husband sets up his computer on the days when he works from home.  I think he likes this vantage point because he can see the television and see outside too.

 That alcove opening you see to the left of the sofa leads to the master bedroom.  


    This is the family room looking out the windows overlooking the backyard.  We have a rear alley and driveway and you can see our back neighbors through the windows.  I just had those chairs recovered.  I will try to find a picture of them before.  That green chest between the chairs was a good DIY project.  I like the way it turned out.  I made the curtains.  The hooks they hang on are mug/cup hangers that I found at Target years ago.  Pictured below are the pillows I sewed recently with fabric from Hobby Lobby.

Family Room
     
   
     John's favorite seat in the house is at the bar.  I bought those stools at Home Goods.  They are so comfortable and they swivel.  I had a tiny glass coffee table in here that was way too small.  I scored this massive one at Goodwill.  That recliner chair is the one I sit in to watch television.  It is well loved!  My friend told me to buy carpet that is dirt colored and I have used that tip whenever I need flooring.  This rug gets tons of traffic and never looks dirty.  I got it at Home Goods a couple of years ago and love it.  We had a cream color one in here previously and it looked amazing, but I couldn't keep ahead of the dirt.  This is where I sacrifice design for function.  Lighter color rugs look great on the dark wood floors, but just aren't practical.

The television is the focal point of the room.  Such a guy thing.


     This is a Thomas Kinkade print that I bought a long time ago at Tuesday Morning.  I'm ready for a change and want to get something a little more abstract.  You are getting a good look at that the molding that is  darker than the cream wall color.  I purposely did this for maximum contrast.  It took a little convincing to get Tex to agree to that decorating feature.  He's a white molding guy.  I will add a link to the blog called "paint colors" so you can reference the woodwork and wall formulas.  



     We put in hard word floors and re-tiled the fireplace when we remodeled the kitchen.  It was a big job and a big mess for months, mind you, while my mother was living with us!  Sorry Mom.


     This vignette is right outside the kitchen.  This picture shows the open floor plan.  I plan to change the ugly green color on that bust statue.  It was a DIY project gone bad.


Scored the LaBarge mirror on Craig's List for $30.


This is a little nook under the staircase.  




This is a little alcove outside our bedroom.

 I don't want you to think we are neat freaks!





     Now that I have made the bed, you may notice that the picture is off center.  I can't make up
my mind if I want the desk where it is, or if it should go elsewhere.  Thus, I don't
want to keep moving the picture until I decide.

Wall across from bed

     I need to interject more color in the room.  You will see a red lamp on the desk and the picture over the bed.  They may inspire me to add more complimentary colors to the room.  Maybe I will paint the desk chair bright orange.  What do you think??






     I bought this skin at Canton Trade Days in June and love it.  Our elderly dog, Coal,
has developed a lot of anxiety as she gets older.  It could be that she is hard of hearing and her
eyesight is getting bad.  Anyway, since I brought home the skin, she seems to use it to calm down.  It's like her friend.  Very strange.  I also bought her a "Thundershirt" too and she wears it when we have a stormy weather.  I think she needs meds.


Outside the Bedroom
Coal



     That is the end of House Tour 1.  I will finish the downstairs in the next post.  The final post will be upstairs and those areas are full of decorating possibilities.  I'm sorry this post was so long and please leave comments for me.  I love reading what you have to say.  Isn't Coal the best looking dog?? I just love her.