Friday, February 26, 2010

Going for the Gold




I don't know about you, but I have really enjoyed watching the Olympics this year.  We have kept them off during the day, so as to avoid being distracted from our priorities, but each evening, members of our family have gathered around the TV to watch the unbelievable feats of this year's amazing Olympic athletes. 


There has been so much drama this year, it seems.  So many "stories behind the stories."  Deaths, Disappointments, Disqualifications.  Crashes, Controversy, and Collisions.  Injuries, Injustices, and Incredible accomplisments!  We have grieved with athletes, rejoiced with them, even wept with them.   We have cheered them on and held our breath while we watched them do what they do best . . . on the snow, on the ice, and even in the air!


We have especially enjoyed following such American stars as Apolo Ohno, Shani Davis, Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancusco, Shaun White, and others.  As much as we want American athletes to do well, we have found ourselves cheering enthusiastically for athletes from other nations as well.


Such was the case last night.  Our hearts were definitely on the ice with Canadian figure skater, Joannie Rochette, and we rejoiced with her when she made it to the podium!  And how could we help but root for South Korean figure skater Kim Yu Na?  Her performance was both beautiful and brilliant, and her poise and grace reminded me of my all-time favorite figure skater -- Michelle Kwan.  While not quite as captivating as Michelle, she is certainly a phenomenal skater, and she must have nerves of steel to be able to compete so flawlessly under the pressure put on her by her country.


If you missed it, you can see her record-breaking short program here, and her record shattering long program here.


As I think of the dedication, sacrifice, and single-mindedness of these athletes, and how they have given up everything in pursuit of the gold, it reminds me of the race we are running and the prize that we hope to attain.  Are we willing to give up everything as we seek the True Gold?


"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.  But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified."    --- 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NKJV

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Discouraged??



It seems that many of the moms I've talked to lately are all experiencing the same thing -- feelings of being discouraged, overwhelmed, burned out, a failure.  I think those feelings are especially common this time of year, when winter has overstayed its welcome and the dreary skies echo the dreariness and weariness that weigh us all down.


We all desire to finish strong in this grueling marathon of motherhood.  Many of us are running the race with the extra weight of home education strapped on our backs.  (While we willingly and joyfully added this weight, it does deplete our resources at a faster pace.)  Throw in a few unexpected hurdles that we didn't think were a part of the race we signed up for, and it is easy to falter and even fall down.


Where do you see yourself in this race? 

Are you running steadily, according to plan, with the finish line in sight? 

Or, are you limping along, unsure if you will make it to the finish line? 

Or, have you fallen down?  Are you lying on the track, in pain, totally unable to resume the race in your own strength? 


If either of the last two scenarios describe you, may I encourage you to read this inspiring story!  Be sure to watch the video too!  Then, dry your eyes, and come back here and share your thoughts.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Where Does a Day Go?



I've been so "snowed under" here lately, what with watching the soaps and eating bon bons all day ;-), that I haven't been able to get a post off!  Not that there haven't been some interesting things to write about, but those posts just don't seem to be writing themselves! 


Since there hasn't been much to read over here lately, I thought I would direct your attention to this  interesting post.   I stumbled across it this morning, when I was in need of some encouragement.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on this post.  Do you find being a homemaker boring?  challenging?  inspiring?   overwhelming??   Do you lack for enough projects to fill your days?   Or is your list of things you must do, need to do, want to do, and dream of doing overflowing, as is mine??

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Shape Ups -- Your Questions Answered


Several of you have asked me questions about  my new Skecher Shape-Ups.  Instead of responding to various emails, I thought I would cover the ground with one blog update!

These shoes are advertised to:


  • promote weight loss

  • strengthen the back

  • firm calf and buttock muscles

  • reduce cellulite and tone thighs

  • increase cardiovascular health

  • improve posture

  • reduce stress on knee and ankle joints
 Do they really do all of those things??  I honestly don't know! 

I will say that they are extremely comfortable for anything that requires standing for a length of time, especially because they are so cushioned!  I enjoy wearing them around the house for cooking and ironing and routine household chores, as I feel like they help me stand up straighter and maintain better posture.  The informational booklet says,"Conventional footwear does not provide proper support or aid in correct posture for long periods of standing.  With Shape-Ups, the simulation of soft ground will ease the stress on your joints, promote correct posture and strengthen your leg, buttock, back and abdominal muscles as you naturally work to keep your center of balance."


Walking in Shape-Ups felt awkward to me at first.  (It reminds me of walking in my orthopedic boot after I broke my ankle.)  According to the booklet that came with my shoes, "Shape-Ups are designed to enhance the benefits of walking by stimulating muscles not utilized with standard walking shoes.  They also reduce the impact on joints by providing a more natural, forgiving walking surface.  Walking on a soft surface may seem awkward at first, but your body will compensate by activating muscles in your legs, buttocks, back and stomach to center your body, resulting in improved coordination and posture, stronger muscles, and increased blood flow." 
Right after I got them, I wore my Shape-Ups for a big errand day that included shopping at Sam's Club and the grocery store, and other than feeling a little off balance at times, they were comfortable and I liked wearing them.  The muscles in my legs felt tired by the time I got home, but it was a good kind of tired, if you know what I mean. 


Then, I wore them on Sunday when Tiffany and I took a walk, and I definitely overdid it!  We walked about 50 minutes, and I pushed myself to keep up with Tiffany, who has long legs like her Daddy!  :)  By the time we got home, my legs, hip joints and lower back were really hurting!  In fact, they hurt enough to hinder my sleep that night!  Now, I must confess that in the literature that comes with the shoes it says (in bold print):  "Due to this unconventional manner of walking, we suggest you moderate your walking routine in Shape-Ups for the first week or two (25 to 45 minutes per day), depending on your level of fitness."  Well, so much for following the directions!   ;)


So, are they worth it?  Probably not, unless you find a good sale, like I did!  I just don't know that any shoe is worth 100 bucks!!  Do they work?  I don't expect them to work miracles, but I do feel them working muscles not normally utilized and believe they are strengthening my core and improving my posture.  So, I believe they will prove to be an effective tool in helping me to "shape up!"   :) 


Let me know if you get a pair of your own!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Valentine's Day Celebration

How do you celebrate Valentine's Day at your house? 

We try to have a special meal together as a family, either at home or in a restaurant, and Alan always gives me and each of the children a box of chocolate candy.

We ended up having two special Valentine Dinners this weekend!  On Saturday, I made a big pot of Spaghetti Sauce with Italian Sausage, chopped onions, mushrooms, green peppers, etc.  So, we ate Spaghetti, Tossed Salad and Garlic Bread for dinner.  Hannah decorated the table for Valentine's, much like we did last year with a sparkly heart garland and red, white and pink M&Ms scattered across the table.   It looked really pretty.










Me -- finally taking off my apron after a long day spent in the kitchen!  :)




After dinner, Alan and I, along with the three oldest boys, all went to the Region Championship Basketball game.  Taylor really got into the spirit, as seen below!!!  He made posters, painted his face, and enthusiastically cheered for his alma mater!   







I don't know if it was Taylor's enthusiasm that made the difference, but Sherwood won by a good ten point spread, making school history as they became Region champs in both football and basketball this year! 






Sunday, I ended up making another special meal -- Rosemary Garlic Pork Loin with roasted potatoes, Seasoned Cheese Grits, Asparagus, and Buttered Carrots.  It was yummy!!




Some little Valentine cards and gifts were left at each person's place and were enjoyed after the meal.




Don't you love fun family celebrations and generous, thoughtful siblings??


Kohl's Cash Redeemed!

As a result of my shopping spree at Kohl's, I ended up with $70 of Kohl's Cash to spend!  How fun is that??  :) 

I redeemed my Kohl's cash yesterday, using half of it for this Rotating Belgian Waffle Maker, which was on sale for $34.99.




My children hurried dowstairs this morning, saying that the house smelled like one of those continental breakfasts that you eat at hotels.  They were extremely excited to see waffles in the making!




Last night, I mixed up this recipe for blender waffles, which was wonderful!  They were so light and fluffy, while also being perfectly nutritious and delicious!!!   When I depleted all of my healthy batter, and the children were still clamoring for more, I made up a batch of not-so-healthy peanut-butter-chocolate-chip waffles, from the recipe booklet that came with the waffle maker.  They were delicious, and such a hit that the children finished them off for lunch!  :)

My children are very pleased with my use of my Kohl's cash!




I'm thinking that waffles will be on the breakfast menu quite frequently in the days ahead!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Kohl's Deals Make Me Happy!

I think I've mentioned before that Kohl's is my favorite department store!  That is because they have quality merchandise and some unbeatable sales and incentives!  Recently, I recieved one of the coveted 30% off coupons in the mail!  It was good February 10th-14th only, and I immediately started to contemplate my "wish list.

To sweeten the deal, Kohl's was offering the tantalizing reward of Kohl's cash -- $10 worth for every $50 spent!  I definitely love to get Kohl's Cash!   :)




After much thought, I decided to seize the opportunity to purchase a pair of Skecher's Shape Ups.  Now, these amazing shoes are regularly $109, which to me is an astronomical price!!!   But, with my 30% off, it brought the price down to $76.  Then, I had $30 on a gift card, which brought my total out-of-pocket down to $46, plus I earned $10 of Kohl's cash!   :)









I was pretty happy with my new Shape Ups deal!  Then my hubby suggested that I take advantage of my 30% coupon to buy a new KitchenAid 6-quart mixer, which I've been watching for awhile!  Regularly, $499, it was on sale for $399, which combined with my coupon worked out to be quite a good deal!  Check this out:

Kitchen Aid 6-quart mixer - normally $499
Sale price -- $399
Discount (30% off) -- $279
Mail-in $40 Rebate -- $239
Received $50 Kohl's cash -- $189!!!

How amazing is that??   :)











Now I get to look forward to spending my Kohl's cash this week!!  Yes, Kohl's deals definitely make me happy!    :)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Snow Day!

It snowed!!!  :)  Can you believe it?? 

What an unexpected treat to get snow here in southwest Georgia! 







We only got about an inch and a half -- not a record snowfall, but enough to delight the hearts of children, and those young at heart!  :)



















Those crazy kids stayed out until the last vestiges of daylight had vanished!  They couldn't bear to go inside, knowing that the snow would likely be gone the next day!  It was a very wet snow, and they came inside WET and COLD and HUNGRY!  Fortunately, I had two pots of soup simmering on the stove, to warm up their cold little bodies!  And then, we snuggled in by the fire to watch the Opening Cermonies of the Olympics.  It was definitely a gold medal day here!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Waiting for Snow


I know that many of you have snow up to your eyebrows (literally, in some cases, depending on where you live and how vertically challenged you are!), but here in Southwest Georgia, snow is a rarity.  In fact, many folks who are from this area have never even seen snow!


So, having snow in the forecast has caused quite a stir here!  Would you believe that just the prediction of snow for today caused a flurry of school closings?!!?  (Those of you who live in snow country, stop holding your sides in laughter!!)


The weather forecast was calling for 2-4 inches of snow here, but I think the temperatures are a little warmer than anticipated.  Currently, it is 38 degrees F, and we have snow showers alternating with rain.  The children are monitoring the mercury, memorizing the weather reports, and conducting a frequent "flake count!"





I don't know if you can see the streaks of white in any of these pictures, but it really is snowing! 







Stay tuned for updates on our winter weather!


Update:  3:00 pm -- The snow is coming down fast and furious and starting to stick on the grass!  :)  It is such a beautiful sight! 

Excitement is mounting . . . .










We are not exactly equipped for wintry weather these days!  :)

The Day the Train Left the Station Without Me!


Alternate Title: What Happens When You Don't Follow Your Morning Routine!




This has been an insanely crazy, busy week at my house! Because I have been exceptionally exhausted, I have slept late most mornings, thus shortchanging my morning routine.

On Tuesday morning, I woke up late, (optimistically) put on my exercise clothes, and left the house at 7:30 am to take Joe to school (something my husband normally does!).  Normally a 40 minute round trip, it was extended by the fact I had to stop and get gas. When I got home, I had to check in on my Mother-in-law and make sure she had taken all of her morning medications, clean the kitchen from breakfast, help the younger children get everything ready for homeschool co-op, and be out the door again by 10:30. (No time to shower and fix my hair and make-up!)


Once I dropped off the children, Bethany and I went to run some errands for my MIL. While at the pharmacy, my husband called (from out of town) and asked me to go buy an alternator at Auto Zone and take it to the Chevrolet dealership on the other side of town, where his Suburban had been towed a few days before. (Doing this saved him $300 on the repair!!) I tackled a couple other unplanned errands, and before I knew it, it was time to pick up Joe from school (at 3:15). I was supposed to pick up the other children from homeschool co-op about the same time, but I had to take Joe home first, then rush back for the other children, because everyone couldn't fit in Mum Mum's little car! (Hubby had taken my big van on his business trip after his Suburban died, and I was driving Mum Mum's car.)


I picked up the other children around 4 pm, rushed home to make supper, and wondered how on earth I would get Matthew to baseball practice at 5:00 pm, Luke to his basketball awards banquet at 6:00 pm, and drive to the other side of town and pick up Alan's Suburban before the service department closed at 6:00 pm! Fortunately, that problem was solved when baseball practice was cancelled and we decided to pick up the repaired vehicle on Wednesday!  whew!


Once at home, I managed to make a decent meal, and then squeezed in my daily Bible reading after supper, but I was too exhausted to exercise, opting to just take my shower and collapse into bed.


Yes, this was a perfect illustration of a day when the train left the station without me, and all I could do was chase after it, make a jump for it, and hang on for the ride . . .

Friday, February 5, 2010

Healthy Habit #6 for 2010: Exercise 30 Minutes a Day

We all know the benefits of fitting exercise into our lives, but I've found that unless I make it an integral part of my daily routine, I just don't seem to find time for it.  After attempting to exercise at different times of the day, I find that the best time for me is in the morning, before the runaway train (A.K.A. an average day) leaves the station.


I've also found that it is helpful to have an alternate plan.  That way, if the train happens to leave the station without me, I have a plan for fitting in a workout as I hop on board!


My goal is to exercise for 30 minutes every morning (except for Sunday), using a T-Tapp workout.  Right now I am focusing on the Total Workout, which is a bit too long to fit in my available time slot, so I am dividing it in half and splitting it between two days.  After focusing on the Total Workout for a month, I plan to alternate between various workouts that are about half an hour in length.


If I wake up late and don't have time for a thirty minute workout, I will reinforce my exercise habit by doing the 15 minute Basic Workout.  This workout packs a big punch for a short time investment and keeps me on track!  According to Charlotte, the effectiveness of this little workout should not be underestimated!!


Speaking of Charlotte, if you have not already done so, please take the time to read her Success Story!  Make sure you click on her video, too!  A busy homeschooling mother of twelve who looks incredible, Charlotte inspires me so much!!  When I am tempted to give up, I think of Charlotte and I am motivated to dig out my Skechers and put in my DVD and push play once again . . .


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Healthy Habit #5 for 2010: Establish a Consistent Early Morning Routine




I have always been a morning person, and was able to rise pretty consistently at 5:00 or 5:30 each morning for years, even when I was pregnant or had a nursing baby.  However, back in those days, I used to have all of the children tucked into bed by 9:00 pm each night, and I was often in bed by that time myself.  Then, if I was tired, I could take a nap with the babies and toddlers each afternoon. 


But, now I find myself in a totally different season of life.  Amazingly, come March, I will have 5 teenagers, and only 3 younger children!  (Not sure how that happened, so don't ask!)  My "baby" is now 5 1/2, and only occasionally takes a nap. With a house full of teens and college students, plus athletes who have night time games, we as a family started staying up later and later at night.  That resulted in me sleeping later and later in the morning.  However, because I'm still a morning person by nature, I never seemed to have energy to tackle things at night. 


So, over the last few months, I have been working to rise earlier in the morning and to recapture those precious early hours, because the old adage is so true:  "An ounce of morning is worth a pound of afternoon."  Still, I find that if I don't have a productive plan for my morning hours, I can squander them, and they will evaporate without me accomplishing the most important things.  Therefore, one of the habits I am working to establish this year is to rise early and follow a consistent morning routine that includes Bible reading and prayer, planning my day, and exercising.


I am still tweaking my morning routine a bit, but as of now, this is my plan:


5:00-5:30 -- Wake up and put in my contacts and get dressed for exercise (This communicates to my body what is coming next!)  (No, I don't need 30 minutes for this -- but I'm giving myself a cushion for getting out of bed some time within that half hour!)

5:30-6:30 -- Read my daily Bible reading and plan/pray over my day

6:30-7:00 -- Exercise -- using a T-Tapp workout

7:00-7:30 -- Prepare breakfast; Unload dishwasher and start reloading; Eat Breakfast; Help those who go to work/school get out the door on time

7:30-8:00 -- Shower; brush; dress for day; take supplements; wake younger children

8:00-9:00 -- Younger children eat breakfast and do their morning "character builders" while I clean kitchen, fix my hair and make-up, tidy my room and bathroom, start a load of laundry, and maybe even sneak a peak at the computer to see if my sister is online!   ;)

9:00-10:00 -- Start school day with Bible and Character studies


So, that is the plan -- but what happens when I wake up late, like today??  (gulp!!)  Yes, unbelievably, on the very day I planned to blog about my morning routine, I got up late!!!  I awoke with a start at 6 am, because I thought I was already up!   Have you ever done that?  You really think you are up; you even dream you are out of bed and getting dressed, and then suddenly you wake up and realize you are still in bed!!


This is what you do when that happens -- you go through your morning routine, just spending less time on each item.  This helps to reinforce the habits you are establishing, and let's face it, fifteen minutes of Bible reading is better than none, and fifteen minutes of exercise can still be pretty effective!



I really think I am on to something with my focus on Cultivating Habits this year.  Check out this post!  What a confirmation that I am on the right track!  If you need help with establishing a morning routine, you might want to read this series and even download this free e-book.   One of the keys to accomplishing our goals this year is learning to Maximize our Mornings!  Let me know how you are making the most out of your mornings!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Slow-Cooked Shredded Beef Tostados

Look what I served my family this past Sunday:




Doesn't that look colorful and Delicious?!!?  Just looking at the picture makes me crave more!!  It was so yummy!  I served it buffet style and this is how all the bowls looked lined up on my kitchen counter:







I found this recipe on the WestonAPrice website.  I made a few minor modifications to the recipe, which I will include here.  To see the original, refer to the link above.


Slow-Cooked Shredded Beef Tostados:

3 pounds beef chuck roast
2 medium onions, sliced
2 cups beef stock
5 Tablespoons chili powder (I used 3)
3 Tablespoons onion powder
1 Tablespoon each:  cumin, garlic powder, paprika, powdered oregano, and Rapadura  (I used regular oregano and Stevia)
1 or 2 small cans of diced green chiles (I didn't use)
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
3 Tablespoons arrowroot powder and enough water to make a paste (I had to use cornstarch)
3 or more Tablespoons olive oil for tortillas
TOPPINGS:  shredded (raw) cheese, lettuce, tomato, avocado, salsa, and sour cream


Place beef and onion in slow cooker. 
Combine stock and seasonings in a small bowl.  Pour over beef and onion. 
Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until tender.  (I cooked overnight on low.)
Remove largest pieces of meat to bowl or cutting board and shred with two forks. 
Add arrowroot paste to the leftover juices at the bottom of the slow cooker.  Once thick, stir in the meat and chiles.
Prepare tortillas by brushing both sides with olive oil and baking in 400 degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes until crisp.
Place a pile of meat on top of each tortilla and add toppings as desired.

Healthy Habit #4 for 2010: Eat More Fruits and Vegetables


We all know we should eat more fruits and vegetables, yet how many of us really accomplish that feat?  I know that I have failed in this area time and time again.

My goal for this year is to establish a habit of eating 2-4 servings of fruit and 4-6 servings of vegetables every day.  In general, a serving of fruit or vegetables is 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw. 

I plan to accomplish this by drinking a green smoothie most every morning that includes lots of healthy greens and a combination of fresh and frozen fruits, and by eating one or two servings of vegetables for lunch, two servings of vegetables for supper, and an apple for a mid-afternoon snack.  This sounds doable, I think. 

Why is this important??  Fruits and vegetables are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants, all of which contribute greatly to our health and vitality.  They are also low in calories and high in fiber, which are important to the health of our digestive tracts and aid in weight control.

Jordan Rubin in Perfect Weight America says that the typical American meal is a lifeless, monochromatic beige.   Think about your average fast food meal -- lots of brown and beige; the only color is likely from the ketchup!  :)  Jordan encourages us to eat from the rainbow.  Consider his list of colorful foods which God created for us to enjoy:   

  • Red:  tomatoes and tomato sauces, raspberries, apples, strawberries, pomegranates, cherries, peppers, radishes, and watermelon
  • Purple-blue:  plums, grapes, prunes, blueberries, blackberries, red cabbage, beets, and eggplant
  • Orange:  oranges, sweet potatoes, canaloupe, carrots, winter squash, apricots, peppers, and mangoes
  • Orange-yellow:  tangerines, oranges, peaches, papaya, pineapple, peppers, nectarines
  • Yellow:  corn, lemons, peppers, and yellow squash
  • Green:  salad greens, kiwi, broccoli, avocados, brussel sprouts, chives, green onions, parsley, cilantro, green beans, spinach, peppers, Swiss chard and kale
  • White-green:  celery, asparagus, honeydew, and pears
  • White:  mushrooms, onions, cauliflower, garlic, leeks, shallots, bananas, artichokes, and bamboo shoots

I want to encourage you to join me for the challenge of creating colorful meals, eating abundantly from the rainbow which God has provided, and discovering the "pot of gold" that lies hidden at the end of the rainbow.
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