Losing weight is a bitch...

Okay, so it's not the WORST journey I have ever embarked on...quitting smoking was a tough one. After 27 years of smoking and countless failed attempts to quit, I finally did it...it has been 4 or 5 years and I still use an e-cig. I am so hell-bent on NEVER picking up another cigarette I will use these little e-cigs as long as there is a smidge of urge or until someone convinces me they are worse than smoking a real cigarette.

My grandmother chewed nicotine gum for the last 10 years of her life after a life time of smoking 3 packs a day. 

I was also a down-to-bleeding-finger-tips nail bitter through my teens...

My point...quiting smoking, loosing weight or dropping any bad habit is tough...no question. But I approached each with the same mind set I approach a daunting DIY project.

How do you eat an elephant...one bite at a time.

Through my 20s I stayed in the 120s...through my 30s I stayed in the 130s...in my 40s I crept into the 140s and got so frustrated I tossed my scales (like it was their fault!). I hit 50, quit smoking and went through menopause and that was when all hell (and seams) broke loose! I finally realized that at this rate I am going to die a very over weight person.

My daughter Katie is my inspiration (and my hero) After gaining the obligatory 10+ pounds (and more) her first two years in college she finally set out to loose weight last year...65 pounds to date. I am in complete awe of that girl! She looks and feels amazing!

Because of the extra weight I am carrying I look and feel like a complete frump.

Sooooo....last month I decided to take the first bite and loose a few pounds.

So here are a few tips I would like to share that seem to be working for me. 

Get your mind right. Seriously...this can't be an "I want," it has to be an "I need"...and you have to really get your mind right. In other words, be committed to making some serious changes and be willing to make the sacrifices...every day. 

Set REALISTIC goals. The thought of losing 30 pounds was mentally defeating and seemed so daunting. So don't think big, think small baby steps. For the first six weeks my goal was 10 pounds. I have reached that goal and now my goal is to get to a solid 150 (2 more pounds) by the end of the month. My next goal will be another 10 pounds by the end of June. I'm not going to beat myself up if I don't make it, but I will make an honest assessment of what I am doing wrong! If I meet that goal, I will set a new REALISTIC goal.

Maybe pounds isn't your goal...maybe it is a specific clothing size...regardless, set realistic baby steps! 

Buy a good set of scales. I bought the dial kind because I didn't want a digital scale telling me I gained or lost 2/10ths of a pound. Just a personal preference! I weigh every day.

Skip the fad diets. And pills...and shakes...and wraps. I know they are all the rage and you can loose a lot of weight fast, but when you go back to eating carbs or protein or normal homemade meals, you will not only gain all the weight back, you may gain even more. So I decided to NOT "diet." Rather I made a decision to make a "food-choice" change.

Identify foods you can and need to live without...your "danger" foods.

Cutting out ALL sugary drinks is a must. Fortunately I did this years ago...no more sweet tea or cokes. I drink water...but now I make it a priority to drink more every day. I fill my large Yeti cup with ice water in the morning and drink it all day! Coffee is okay and I even allow myself creamer...knowing there ARE calories in creamer!

I love bread but I can live without it...so no breads (or chips or crackers)! Same with white potatoes, pasta, nuts, cheese, ice cream, cookies and brownies. Love them all...and I can do some serious binging on all of them... but I can live without them!

No more sandwiches or hamburgers...no more bowls of Cheez-Its and peanuts...no more big bowls of ice cream/chocolate chip cookies/brownies every single night! No more afternoon binging on crackers and cheese and no more french fries or bake potatoes smothered in butter, sour cream and cheese!

I don't completely deprive myself...I ate some tortilleni alfredo during Sarah's birthday dinner and I had a bite or two of some brownies Sunday night.... but I am VERY cognizant of how much I eat of my "danger" foods!

Count calories. They matter! I love ranch dressing but I thought oil and vinegar dressing would be better...but come to find out olive oil has TWICE the calories as most ranch dressings. WHAT!!!!!???? I know olive oil is probably "healthier" but since my goal is to seriously cut down on calories for the time being, ranch it is.

HOWEVER, I read labels, I know the calories I am taking in and I carefully watch the portion size! I found a chart online that tells me how many calories I can eat a day and while I don't micro-count every single calorie, I have a good, HONEST idea of what I eat every day.

The first week is tough! Just getting out of the "habit" of grazing all day and not snacking on sweets in the evening takes some serious self-discipline! But once you get through the first week or two and you see the results on the scales it gets a little easier. For me, it has made me even more determined!

Increase the calories you burn. After all losing weight is all about calories in, calories out! So do something. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Take a walk around the block. Get out and do some gardening. Do something. No need to buy a gym membership, a new bike, or an expensive piece of exercise equipment just yet. Just increase your movement. Eventually you might want to add some REAL exercise to your regiment, but at first, just get moving!

What does my daily "diet" look like?

I eat two scrambled eggs every morning. 

For lunch I have a veggie salad.

I eat a normal dinner...eliminating potatoes, bread and pasta. So while I may still cook potatoes, I fill my plate with the veggies and skip the "fattening" stuff!

For snacks I stick with dehydrated bananas (crunchy and sweet) and veggies. If I get desperate for something sweet, I keep "diet" candy bars on hand...like Atkins or Weight Watchers...but again, watch the calories in each bar...they can run 200+ and that is a lot of calories if you are trying to keep your daily intake below 1200! I eat ONE...not all 10 in the box like I use to...again, this takes some self-discipline!

My go-to warm veggie salad is super filling and super yummy!

I saute' chopped veggies in bulk and keep them in the refrigerator and warm when I am ready to eat. 

1-2 scallion (or onion if you prefer...)

6 small zucchinis (chopped 1/2" cubes)

2 bunches of asparagus (chopped 1" long)

1-2 cups of frozen corn

I saute' these veggies in 1 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. I also splash in a tad of balsamic vinegar and oil dressing...just for some flavor.

Balsamic vinegar and oil dressing

2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon of agave nectar

1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice (the bottled kind works just fine!)

6 tablespoons of olive oil

Salt and pepper

Every week I chop up leaf lettuce and a bag of spinach for salad. Handful of salad, a cup or two of sauteed veggies and low fat ranch. Sooooo yummy and very filling.

All this being said, if you HONESTLY watch your calories and increase your daily activity and the scales just don't budge, I would suggest having your thyroid and hormone levels checked...those things really can affect your weight...but again, be honest...are you REALLY making a conscience effort?!

One time I went to the doctor and told him I just knew something was wrong with my thyroid...I had gained 10+ pounds in a month. He checked...nothing. After the visit I made my daily run to Starbucks....my son had given me a $150 gift card for Christmas so I had been going to Starbucks and getting a venti mocha every day...for over a month. Yeah, lightbulb moment!

That one little "habit" had added 450 empty calories to my daily intake!

Losing weight is one of the hardest things I have ever done. It took getting brutally honest with myself about what exactly I was doing (and not doing) every single day.

Most important, I had to realize that it took decades for me develop some pretty bad "food choice" habits and gain this weight...so losing it wasn't going to happen in a month...or even two. 

I hesitate to even share this journey...but here it is. If I eat a loaded baked potato or bag of Reese's peanut butter cups tomorrow I know I will feel like crud. But at least I know I can get up the next day and start eating that elephant again. 

Baby steps.....

 

 

 

 

Birthday traditions and a cheesecake extraordinaire!

As evident by my "Cooking 101" page, this is not a food blog. I usually share recipes that are easy or ones I have put my simple "twist" on.

But today I am going to share one that may seem a tad intimating but honestly, super easy. And because it APPEARS to be difficult, it not only tastes great, it will impresses everyone.

One of the great traditions in this home has developed as the kids got too old for traditional birthday parties. For your birthday dinner, you get to pick the meal and the birthday dessert.

I can usually guess the favorite desserts...but occasionally one of the kids will surprise me.

Last month Brandon requested a "Reese's peanut butter chocolate cake." Hum...that was a new one. No biggy...I baked a two layer chocolate fudge box cake, spread peanut butter buttercream icing and chopped peanut butter cups between the layers, topped with chocolate butter cream icingused my little frosting tip to make some little peanut butter frosting edging and them mounded the middle with chopped peanut butter cups. OH. MY. GOSH! Not only did it taste amazing, but it was the star of the dinner! 

My opinion....if you want to impress people with your box cakes (and save some money) ALWAYS make a buttercream icing! 

My oldest daughter's birthday is not until next month, but since she was here this past weekend I decided we would have her birthday dinner. No surprise that her dinner consisted of my famous Alfredo sauce...one I shamelessly "borrowed" from the Olive Garden (plus 2 tablespoons of cream cheese for thickness!) Usually over a pasta with shrimp or chicken. 

This year her dessert request threw me for a loop...her usual is my grandmother's lemon cake...definitely one you need to try! But she requested TURTLE CHEESECAKE!

Seriously? I have no idea where that came from, and honestly, I have never made one! Sam's use to carry frozen turtle cheesecakes that were awesome, but they no longer have them...after 20 years, go figure!

So I did what I always do when I have to make something I am not familiar with...I went to the internet.

For the first few decades of my adult life, I had to do what everyone did when needing a recipe...dig out the cookbooks. Not complaining...the absolute best (and simplest) brownies you will ever eat are from the Betty Crocker cookbook. The most luscious peanut butter cookies you will ever eat came from an old church cookbook my mother received as wedding gift. And there is no better recipe for plain ole' chocolate chip cookies than on the back of the Nestle chocolate chip bag. 

But the internet has changed a lot of things, so I googled "Turtle Cheesecake" and found a recipe that looked like one I could manage. The only change I made was using caramel ice cream topping rather than going through the tedious process of unwrapping a 14 oz bag of little caramels. I'm a lazy baker...lol! 

The cheesecake turned out amazing.

One of the little tips I want  to share is how I "drizzle" criss cross patterns on cakes and other baked goodies without a fancy piping bag. I also use this method for layering ricotta cheese in lasagna and anything else that needs to be layered or drizzled.  

First, take a plain ole' ziplock bag and put it in a cup with the tip of one corner pointing down....

Fill the bag with your "stuff"...in this case, melted chocolate.

Lift the bag out of the cup and gently "squeeze" all the goody into the tip of the bag by twisting the top of the bag. Then nip the corner of the bag with scissors....

There you go...a simple "pipping" bag!

I actually have a REAL pipping bag, but this is much easier...I can toss the bag when I am done...told you I was a lazy baker...lol! 

Baking is a lot like DIYing...we are so intimidated by the THOUGHT of the process, we don't even attempt it! 

Think of all the awesome refurbished furniture and cheesecake we miss out on when we don't even try! 

The most AMAZING steak EVER!

This is the perfect time of the year to cook the most AMAZING steak ever! A little too cold to grill, but after years of doing it "wrong" I have found the RIGHT way to cook the perfect steak...

Head over to my "Cooking 101" page and check out this recipe

Trust me, you will never fire up your grill for steaks again!

MY beef bourguignon....just as good and easier!

Over a year ago, I posted "my spin" on Julia Child's classic beef bourguignon recipe. I didn't post the actual recipe because you can pretty much Google it and find it...I just did a little "tutorial" on how I "tweeked" the original recipe. 

Today I thought I would post my actual recipe, along with my commentary of what I do and why I do it. Julia's version is to die for...and just once in your life, you really should tackle it! But it is not an easy recipe to throw together for busy mom's.

My version is more of a glorified "pot roast" recipe, retaining most of her key elements and in my opinion just as yummy. It has become a family favorite! 

Ingredients:

2 1/2 - 3 lb. pot/chuck roast

6-8 ounces of bacon

2-3 cups of mushrooms

1-2 cups of chopped Carrots

8-10 Pearl onions or regular chopped onion

Garlic

Olive Oil (regular cooking oil will work)

2 cans of beef broth/consomme

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2-3 cups red wine

Flour

Spices: salt, pepper, rosemary, bay leaf...or whatever YOU like!

 

Remember, I am a "pinch of this, toss of that" kinda cook. So follow along and feel free to "pinch and toss" to your own tastes! Or even eliminate anything you don't care for!

Bacon....10 or so slices, sliced into chunks. I use thick cut...just a preference!

Fry the bacon in a large skillet. When it is fairly done, add....

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil (or plain cooking oil) and 2-3 tablespoons of butter

1-2 cups of chopped carrots

2-3 cups of sliced mushrooms

8-10 peeled pearl onions, cut in half...or 1/2 regular onion, chopped.

2-3 gloves of chopped garlic or 3-4 tablespoons of chopped garlic from the jar (my go to!)

Sautee all this until everything seems kind of "tender." 

Remove all the veggies and bacon with a slotted spoon, draining the oil back into the skilled, and put them in your "roast pan."

Leave the "oil" in the skillet. Add a tad if you need to!

Cut the 2 1/2-3 lb chuck roast into 1" cubes (if you are a venison eater....gag...this would be a great use for venison roasts) Pat it with a paper towel to dry it off.

In a bowl, mix about 5-6 tablespoons of flour with about 1 teaspoon of both salt and pepper. Coat all the chunks of roast with the flour. Brown all sides of the roast cubes in the oil.

Place all the browned roast cubes, bacon and veggies in a dutch oven...or cast iron pot...or large casserole dish...whatever you have that you cook pot roast in! 

Now, this is how I get ALL the flavor out of the pan and make it easier to clean it up. I pour 1 can of beef broth/consumme (Campbell's is fine!) (or use 1 cup of water) in the pan drippings, bring it to a rapid boil, scrapping the sides and bottom. After everything is off the bottom and sides, pour this little mixture over the meat and veggies!

In a large bowl, mix the other can of beef broth/consumme and heaping tablespoon of tomato paste (you can freeze left over tomato paste so you don't waste a whole can!) Throw in whatever spices you might like...salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, parsley, bay leaf...whatever YOU like!

I am a salt freak! But I would advise going low on the salt for the time being...there is a lot of salt in the consumme...and soooo much flavor in all the ingredients!

Pour about 1/2 bottle of RED wine into the broth mixture...maybe 2-3 cups. The actual alcohol will "cook out" as this dish cooks so you are NOT serving your family alcohol...just the wine flavor! I buy the cheapest bottle of red wine I can find at the grocery store! 

Pour the broth/wine mixture over the roast and veggies. Top with just enough water to barely cover everything, if needed. Cover and bake for about 4-5 hours in a 325 degree oven. You can "peek" once, just to give it a quick stir and check the liquid...otherwise, leave it be!

I serve this with mash potatoes (YUM!) or noodles or rice...whatever you want! 

If you compare this to Julia's, it is indeed different...but the flavor is just as good in my book! And soooo much easier to prepare! 

Again, this would be a great recipe for venison or any other "game" meat, like elk. I think it would even be good with pork, but have never tried it. 

I would think you could cook this in a crockpot. I haven't but plan to in the future. Let me know if you try it and how it turns out! 

Again, JUST ONCE you should try the Julia recipe...if for no other reason than to say you have done it...but when you are scratching your head wondering what the heck a "lardon" is or where to buy it, don't call me...I still don't have a clue!

 

When the mouse is away...

This has been a week of MAJOR work so I will have lots of goodies to share. I had tons of projects piled up in my garage. I even skipped a potentially awesome auction this weekend because I knew I did not need to haul anything else home until I cleared out some projects.  Even though I know I put a huge dent in it, there is still so much to do.

Saturday and Sunday I painted outside. Brian (affectionately, the mouse) went out of town Monday so I rolled out my handy-dandy "sewing cart" and went to work on a few sewing projects! Seriously, I LOVE this sewing cart!!!!

I know it looks fairly organized in the picture, but truth is I had stuff strung all over the dining and living rooms for three days...compressor, staple gun and staples, fabric, piping, pillow stuffing, etc. When I project, I go all out. That is one reason I waited until Brian was gone for a few days...because the house was a disaster (I NEED A SHOP!) and I stayed pretty focused.

Painting and reupholstering. For me, they are time consuming projects because I firmly believe in doing it right, even if I do plan to sell the piece! Whether I am keeping it or selling it, I treat it the same. Maybe that is why it is so hard for me to step out of my comfort zone and go bold on some upholstery projects.

When I rehabbed this side chair and rocking chair a few weeks ago, I picked a very nice and neutral pallet and meticulously painted and reupholstered them. Only to have the person who bought them ask how much I would charge to REupholster them...go figure!

Completed this week..six throw pillows, four upholstered chairs,  three wood folding chairs, two antique oak school desks, one small table...if I had a partridge in a pear tree I would have painted and stuffed it!

The BIG chore is always the upholstered chairs. My first mental block is the fabric choice. I want something that will appeal to a lot of people, but is unique and interesting as well!

I dropped a little tease about this chair here! 

Again, note the grass...dormant...that tells you how long this chair has been stuck in limbo!

When I pulled the back upholstery off this old chair, I found layers of old fabric...including a really cool piece of hand stitched quilt someone had used as padding at one point. I am always amazed at the history these old chairs reveal!

Several of you were fired up about the prospect of PURPLE! Truth is, I'm a tad too boring and conservative to actually paint the entire chair purple. I bought purple paint, but in the end, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. 

But purple is the "color of the year" (or so the ads at Lowe's say!) so I wanted to use a bit on this chair!

I chalk painted and distressed the frame an "off-white" and then covered the back and seat (yes, I had to make a seat!) with this awesome fabric!

Since the fabric had purple in it, I went with purple trim! Aren't I just a wild and crazy gal!

So many other projects completed and I will share a few "before and afters" over the next few weeks. I made a large note and stuck it on the table to remind myself to take pictures before I hauled anything away!

Unfortunately, I don't have the space right now in my booths...so now the question becomes, WHAT DO I DO WITH ALL THESE STINKING CHAIRS!?

I guess I could throw a party...Lord knows there would be enough seating for everyone!!!

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AWESOME RECIPE PERFECT FOR GARDEN VEGGIES!!!

I haven't shared a recipe in a while but I tried this totally awesome CRISP CUCUMBER SALSA and it is TOO. DIE. FOR! And it is low cal for those who care!

                                                                       Photo and recipe curtesy of tasteofhome.com

Usually I try a recipe verbatim and then mix it up a bit to my own tastes. This recipe has cumin and honestly, I'm not a fan...so I was certain I would change it after the initial try.

Nope. Not changing a thing (except I added a little more tomato.) It is wonderful and perfect for chips or on a salad.

Give it a try...this is a perfect time of the year for fresh cucumbers and tomatoes and there isn't a better way to prepare them! (Okay, sliced with salt is pretty awesome!)

 

Easy recipe book....

I love recipes.  I've collected a lot of recipe books over the years, including one my mother received as a wedding gift in 1961....a church recipe book.  It is awesome!  Best peanut butter cookie recipe EVER!

My uncle inherited my Grandmother's recipes and I brought them home and scanned EVERYTHING....every handwritten recipe, every newspaper and magazine clipping, every box recipe.  Anything she had in her recipe boxes, I scanned.  Someday I plan on making a recipe book with all the scans...someday.  They have been on my computer for over two years...but someday. 

So when I started cruising Pinterest I wanted to keep ALL the recipes that sounded even remotely good.  But I discovered that sometimes when you pinned a link, it was no longer there when you went back later.  So I had to find a way to organize all the recipes. 

I started printing them off, tacking them to the refrigerator and then if we liked them, I would put them in a "recipe book." 

I found the easiest way to do this was to "cut and paste" the recipe into an email, email it to myself and then print it off.  If it passed the family taste test, I would slip it into my recipe book. 

The book is a simple scrapbook with the little clear sleeves with paper inserts...50% off at Hobby Lobby.  I can add additional pages to it when I need to and the sleeves make it easy to slip the recipes in and keep them from getting cruddy when I splatter stuff on them.  

If I am feeling creative I will put holiday scrapbook paper in place of the white paper inserts.  

Pinterest and the internet are loaded with awesome recipes...and I really believe the secret to being a good cook is the willingness to try new recipes, even if you need to change them up a bit! 

Keeping up with all those recipes can be daunting and most of us rarely have the time to write them down on nice little cards and file them in nice little boxes like our mothers and grandmothers did.

Print, trim and slip....easy.  

 

Jewelry shine....

I found this awesome recipe for jewelry cleaner on line...wish I could remember where I saw it but it was one of those things I printed off and keep in my recipe scrapbook (awesome idea for all those "pinterest recipes"...I will share sometime!)  

It is super easy and a great way to shine up your rings!  

Boil 1 cup of hot water in the microwave.

Put a piece of aluminum foil in the bottom of a bowl.

Pour in hot water.  Add 1 tablespoon of salt, baking soda and dish detergent. Put jewelry on of the aluminum foil and let it soak for 5-10 minutes.  Then rinse and dry with a soft cloth.  If mine are really dirty, I take an old toothbrush to them...then rinse and dry!

HINT:  DO NOT TRY TO RETRIEVE THE RINGS FROM THE BOWL OVER YOUR KITCHEN SINK!  Again, I do not tell you these things because I THINK something bad might happen.  After unsuccessfully trying to dig a family heirloom ring out of the garbage disposal, I finally had to take the entire thing apart....and of course the disposal was 13 years old so while I had the entire thing disconnected I might as well put in a new one...and of course all the hoses were old...those needed replacing.....

All because my rings were a tad dingy.  

Live and learn!