Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Video Update: Got A Fill Today

Getting a Fill Today...

I have an appointment to see my surgeon today.  I am so incredibly frustrated with the weight gain.  I knew it was going to be rapid once I could eat again, but I had no idea it was going to be so much, so fast.  Even with my exercise plan this month, Atkins, and my 3x's a week walk/run and Yoga, I've managed to gain 23 lbs since Thanksgiving.  Very upsetting. BUT--I am not giving up.  I will be back under 200 again.  I am hoping that we are able to find my supposed "sweet spot" so that I can lose. I will report back when I return!  Prayers are appreciated.  Three years into my band and I can't seem to get this thing to work with me, it's always an extreme (like...oh....starving to death <500 calories a day?).   Self-pay sucks when you're fine-tuning all the time.  I just have to stay focused on my mission, which is overall fitness, and my 1 year goal which is running the Disney 10K next January with my sister Robin.

I know I can do it. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

What I Have Learned About My Body, My Thyroid, and My Weight

Oh boy.  Well, in a nutshell--I have to exercise every day.

Every single day.

Some form of aerobic exercise: walking, jogging, swimming.

30 minutes, really.  Not a lot.

But every day?

Yes, if I want to eat actual food.  Not junk food.  Just food.  That I cook.

I had no idea, really.  Not until the light bulb popped up over my head when I weighed in this morning 3 lbs heavier than when I started Atkins last week.

Big time sad face.  I hate my thyroid.

I'm going to have to learn to love exercise more than I love chillin'.

I can't wait until my lap-band fill on the 29th.

That is all.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Homemade Oreo Cookies...Valentine's Day Sweets

I love Valentine's Day!  When I was a kid, my Mother would make a fun deal out of it, with a little treat, trinket, or toy for my sister and myself to see when we got home from school that day.  I couldn't walk home fast enough on those special days. She always had the right touch and unique style to make it a holiday to remember.  When I got older, it was obviously less interesting, as I was hoping for a "real" valentine from some goofy boy (and that never materialized), but it was still a comfort to know that Mom already thought of me.  In fact, she thought of me almost every single Valentine's Day until she passed away, with a card or little something.  That's just how she was.  I miss that.  It is gone forever.

Now, it is my turn to pass on that love to my kids.  One of their favorite cookies in the whole world is a Nabisco Oreo, much to my surprise, as we never had Oreos growing up.  If we had chocolate sandwich cookies of any kind, they were Sunshine Hydrox, or my personal favorite, Famous Amos.  I say "if", because we really didn't have very many packaged cookies, unless they were Windmill cookies or Vienna Fingers for my lunchbox.  Sometimes assorted Mother's cookies--Taffy or Iced Oatmeal. If we had cookies for special times, my Mom made them from scratch.  But occasionally, there would be chocolate sandwich cookies in a package up on the top shelf of the pantry (later I realized it was my Dad that had bought them).   They were a treat for sure.

In my Good Housekeeping "Cookies!" cookbook, there is a recipe for Refrigerator Cookies using cocoa.  I adapted it in only one way, using Dutched Cocoa rather than Natural Cocoa.  These chocolatey cookies turn out to be just the right crunchy texture and size to sandwich a fluffy layer of my vanilla icing into bite-sized goodness.  I made them last night to test out and the girls gobbled their samples right up.  Paige (my 5 year old) said, with a grin, "Oh! They're Mommy Oreos!"  and proceeded to lick the filling from the two cookies like a pro.  She then wanted to dip the cookies in milk.  Phoebe (my 8 year old) was my biggest worry, since they don't exactly look like Oreos (my girl has autism and is quite par-tic-u-lar)...but she devoured hers, and asked for more. I was the happiest Mommy on the planet. <3

For Valentine's Day, you could make the dough a few days ahead of time, wrap it in waxed paper, and cut when you're ready.  You can also make the icing ahead of time and keep it in the fridge with the dough.  When you're ready to assemble, just put a little bit, about a teaspoon or so--on the bottom side of one of the cookies and top it with another...and voilá!  Put  a half-dozen together and place them in a small treat bag or box, wrap with ribbon, and leave for your child to see when they return home.  A sweet treat for your loved ones that they will surely enjoy!

And now, the recipe:

Chocolate Refrigerator Cookies (from Good Housekeeping)

1 2/3 c. flour
1/2 c. white granulated sugar
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. dutch-process cocoa (cocoa with alkali)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. unsalted butter
2 squares of semi-sweet chocolate, melted and somewhat cooled
1 tsp. vanilla
1 large egg

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat butter and both brown & white sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in chocolate and vanilla until well combined.  Beat in egg. Reduce speed to low and beat in flour mixture until well combined.
Divide dough in half. On seperate sheets of waxed paper, shape each half into a 12" x 1 1/2" log.  Wrap each log in waxed paper and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350*F.  Move one rack in the oven to the top and one rack to the bottom. Cut one log into scant 1/4" thick slices.  Bake until firm, 10 to 11 minutes, rotating sheets between upper and lower oven racks halfway through baking.  Cool on cookie sheets for one minute before transferring to wire cooling racks.
Repeat with remaining refrigerated log.

1/2 c. high-ratio shortening
1 to 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla
1-2 T milk
pinch of salt

Beat shortening until light and fluffy; add powdered sugar slowly.  Add milk, vanilla, and salt.  Beat until combined thoroughly. Let icing rest for about an hour before use.

spoon on about 1 tsp of icing, and use another cookie to top it.


I hope you make Valentine's Day special for someone you love, or that someone makes it special for you!


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Quick Ketostix Pic...Induction is ON!

Nothing makes an Atkins dieter happier than seeing this!

HOYEAH!  I feel like Peggy Hill... :-)

Energy Burst Has Arrived!

Wow, I just love Atkins.  Love, love, love.

Yesterday was day 3 of induction, and it was the worst!  I fell asleep sitting up in my chair here for 45 minutes.

Today?  Totally different story--I've already dusted, vacuumed, and loaded/run the dishwasher.

LOOK OUT PEEPS!  I'm liable to go wash the car or something crazy like that.

Off for a walk with Havana.  Will report back, but just had to share!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Wednesday Weigh-In and Creamy Portobello Mushroom Soup Recipe

Wow.  It's Wednesday! I'm pretty tired.  Went to sleep at 10, woke up at 5. Today or tomorrow I should be feeling my big burst of energy I usually get around the 3rd or 4th day on Atkins induction.  I did notice this morning that I was already mapping out my day--a sure sign that the burst is right around the corner.  Usually, in the first few days, I have what is known as "induction flu" where I'm a bit fuzzy/groggy and my body is switching from using carbs for fuel to using my own fat for fuel.  I love when that really kicks in and I can see it on my Ketostix.  Can't wait!

So okay, the weigh-in.  I'm sitting not-so-pretty at 222.  Matt, 242.  I could look at my weight gain (a total of 14 lbs since Thanksgiving) as a really awful thing...or I could look at it as this: hey!  I stopped myself and turned it around before it got completely out of hand.  I *am* in control of my body, after all!  Better to do it now, at just 14 lbs, than 30 or 40.   And yes, I do want to lose more than the 14 lbs--I was not yet to my goal at Thanksgiving--but that's when I sort of threw caution to the wind as many of us do during the holidays...and coupled with my band unfill, I was not going to have good results no matter how you slice it.  Matt, on the other hand, gained 3 lbs during the holidays.  Of course, he didn't really change his eating. Not so much quality with Matt, but quantity.  The boy can put away some serious calories. He can scarf down a double cheeseburger and fries, and help the girls finish theirs up as well.  This week, he's done well, but I think we can still lower his calories further.  He had coffee and half-and-half this morning with 2 fried eggs and 1 piece of ham, 1 slice of bacon. 295 calories if you include the fat used for cooking and half-and-half.

His lunch and snack today:

2 c. Creamy Mushroom Soup (homemade): 190 cals, 3 carbs
1 pickle spear: 5 cals, 0 carbs
3 oz egg salad (made with 1/ 2 mayo and 1/2 light sour cream), 250 cals, 0 carbs
4 small ribs of celery, 25 cals, 0 carbs

Total Calories/Carbs: 470 cals, 3 net carbs

1 oz almonds: 170 cals, 3 carbs
1 piece of light colby-jack cheese: 60 cals, 0 carbs

Total Calories/Carbs: 230 cals, 3 net carbs

He has a faculty invocation tonight, and they're serving dinner.   I have no doubt in my mind he will make the right choices.  He's like me: when we put our minds to something, we just do it.

Speaking of band un-fill, I am actually going to have a RE-fill on the 29th.  I am hoping to have another .5 cc put in to have me just at 4.75 cc total.  I think that will also help things. Right now, I'm hungry all the time.  That's no good!  I hate feeling my stomach growl.  I also know that when you get to that point, your body (stomach) begins to release the hormone ghrellin, and that is really no good for dieters!   It tells your brain, "Hey! Get something in here, STAT!" and your brain responds, "Well, what do you want?" and the ghrellin says, "ANYTHING and EVERYTHING!"

I'M DYING!!  When was the last time you fed me??  AN HOUR AGO?!? 

Of course, your brain is looking to make this easy for you.  It doesn't want you to have to go and slaughter a boar in the woods, so it suggests something like...berries or fruit.  In 21st-century eater terms, that means: cake. cookies. candy.   And as a 21st-century eater, I am looking to change that and go back to more, oh, I dunno, 16th century eating? lol. 

Now, I don't know whether Creamy Mushroom Soup falls under 16th century culinary feats or not, but I sure as heck made it for the 21st century.  And it is darned tasty.  I can't take credit for that, because the recipe is actually only slightly adapted from a restaurant chain in the NW called Redstone Grill.  Apparently, their Wild Mushroom Soup with Brandy Cream is delicious and very (wildly? har har) popular.  Well, I had neither wild mushrooms nor brandy, and yet, the soup I made is so delicious I nearly licked the bowl clean.  If you like portobella portabello portabella portobello 'shrooms, then this just may be your go-to soup.  It's easy, that's the first thing.  And by easy, I mean you don't need to slice up 100 tiny mushrooms.  I did that the first time I made this. Totally not necessary.  I bought baby portobellos, pre-sliced, and it made my life SO much easier. .30 more per package, so I was all over it.  This bowl of deliciousness can be made in less than an hour.  You can halve this recipe as well--if you're feeding two, half is perfect and gives you a little leftover.

Creamy Portobello Mushroom Soup

2 lbs sliced baby portobello mushrooms, rinsed (yeah, yeah, I hear you're not supposed to, but do you know what they grow these things in?!)
2 medium yellow onions
1 stick of unsalted butter
2/3 c. white table wine or sauvignon blanc (or you can use part cooking sherry, part wine)
2 T. cornstarch
2 whole bay leaves
1 tsp ground thyme (I do not recommend using dried leaves)
1/4 T black pepper
1/2 T. kosher salt 
1 large container of Chicken Broth (48 oz)
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1 pint of heavy cream
1 c. beef broth (optional)

In a dutch oven, melt butter over med-low heat.  Add onions and cook 10-15 minutes, or just until they slightly brown.  

Increase temp to medium, and add mushrooms.  

Cook 10 minutes. Stir well and cook an additional 5 minutes, adding wine to deglaze pan.  Add beef broth at this time (optional--just gives it a heartier oomph) Make a cornstarch slurry (2 T cornstarch to 2 T cold water) and add to pan.  Add bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper. Mix and cook for 5 minutes. 

Add chicken broth, slowly and in sections.  Pour a little in, whisk, allow to bring soup to a simmer (not a rolling boil) before adding more.  Continue until all the broth is in.  

Add cream and balsamic vinegar, mix well.  Simmer 10 minutes.

Remove bay leaves.  At this time, you can serve as is, or you can use an immersion blender to puree it a little bit (leaving it mostly chunky).  I like it both ways, it's so good!  You can also add a few thyme leaves for garnish.  Pretty!

Bon AppĂ©tit! 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Yummy Energy-Boosting, Protein-Packed, Low-Carb Smoothie

I am in love with this smoothie I made.  I don't have a pic of it, because I am halfway through the glass already, and it doesn't look really pretty.  I'll have to take one next time I make it--but here's the recipe (this makes 2 smoothies):

1 bottle of Atkins Vanilla low-carb shake (2 grams carbs, 15 grams protein)
1/2 cup frozen Berry Medley Blend from Wal-Mart, No Sugar Added (6 grams carbs)
1/2 cup low-fat plain Greek Yogurt--NOT fat-free! 2% or 4% (4 grams carbs, 3 grams protein)
1 or 2 good handfuls of fresh baby spinach (1 carb, if that, 1 gram protein)

That's it, believe it or not.  I just use a little bullet smoothie maker for this.

You absolutely CANNOT taste the spinach.  I am serious!

This is a serious energy booster.  Drink this sucker and go for a good long walk.  We'll find out how filling it is.  It's definitely a low-calorie, low-carb protein boost for your day. :-)  Even Matt liked it--so you know that says something!

No yoga this morning. I am thinking about going for a walk, though. Mountain Cedar is killing everyone and though I am not really allergic like some folks, I do get affected.  Mostly a light but steady headache, a little bit of a sore throat (like I've been yelling all day).  Two days ago we had the highest Mountain Cedar pollen count in about 10 years--it was just over 26K ppm.  That's pretty insane.
In any case, I've made a commitment to be active in some way each day, so here I go...but first I must tell you about my Low-Carb Meyer Lemon Chicken that I made last night for dinner.  I took photos of the steps was so good, and we were so hungry, that I actually did not take a photo of my plate.  It looked so pretty, too.  I did however take a photo of one of the leftover pieces, and I put some sauce on it so you can see that at least I made an attempt at closure. LOL.  Because you can't go around posting pics of all the steps and then NOT have a final photo!  That's just not right. ;-)

This recipe is adapted from Cooking Light.  We have a Meyer lemon tree that gave us 11 lemons this year (it would have been 16, had it not been for our lawn service knocking several off with a weed whacker).  The two things to remember with Meyer lemon trees, aside from the obvious:

1. Once it fruits, your bounty usually more than doubles each year until tree maturity.  Last year, we had 3-4 viable lemons.

2. Many small, baby lemons from the flower buds will drop off.  This is normal.  It's sort of self-thinning in that regard.  This year, we had probably 20 tiny green baby lemons, no bigger than the size of my pinky fingernail, drop off.  This actually puts the remaining energy from the plant into the stronger lemons and allows them to grow to larger sizes.  So don't panic if you see all your little tiny lemons falling off!  As long as you see that some are maturing, you're all good.

The only real change to this recipe I make is that I do not dredge the chicken in flour.  I do, however, make a small cornstarch slurry at the end to help thicken the sauce. I also DOUBLE this recipe, so we can have leftovers!

Meyer Lemon Chicken Piccata 

4 thin-cut chicken breasts (I get them at WalMart, see photo for brand)
1/3 c. juice from Meyer lemons (about 3 large lemons)
1/3 c. chicken broth
2 T. butter, divided
1 T. coconut, safflower, or grapeseed oil (for high-heat cooking)
1/2 c. white wine (not dry--try a table white, Sauvignon Blanc, etc) 
kosher salt
fresh-ground pepper
flat-leaf parsley for garnish, rough chop
Slurry (1 T. cornstarch, 1 T. cold water, stirred)

look at that beautiful Meyer lemon juice! 

This is the brand of chicken that I buy at Walmart.

Place the chicken breasts between two sheets of waxed paper or saran wrap.  Use a tenderizer or rubber mallet to whack the chicken down to about 1/4" thickness.  This is why I buy the thin cut breasts--it makes this SO much easier to do!  Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken.  

In a large skillet, put 1 T. of butter and 1 T. oil.  Bring to a medium-high heat.  Place chicken (do not overcrowd, you will have to do this in stages) in pan.  Cook 2 minutes on one side, 1 minute on the other side.  

Take out of skillet and set on dish, cover with foil loosely.  Now cook the rest of the chicken the same way.

When chicken is finished, put in wine.  It will sizzle and steam intensely.  Deglaze pan by scraping all those luscious bits off the bottom of pan with a wooden spoon. When it has reduced to just about zero, add chicken broth.  Let come to a boil and lower heat to medium, reducing to about half.  Add lemon juice.  Add slurry.  

Bring back to a simmer, then serve chicken with sauce on top.  Garnish with chopped flat leaf parsley.

Yeah, it's kind of a sad pic.  Better late than never?

We served ours with a lovely salad of baby greens, parmesan, tomatoes, and balsamic vinaigrette.  We also had steamed broccoli.  It was so tasty.  There's really nothing in the world like eating something that you grew yourself.  It's very satisfying! 

Okay, off for my walk now. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Back on the Wagon!

Hoooooooowee!  We are back on the low-carb Atkins wagon after a month and 13 days off.  That was rough.  I gained 15 lbs between Thanksgiving and now.  It's not been pretty.  I didn't eat any more than your average bear, but it was a TON in comparison to what I was eating prior to Thanksgiving. I also was not really exercising at all, so that didn't make things any better.

This morning, however, I awoke at 5.  Well, that's not true.  I actually woke up at 4:29.  I had to go to the bathroom.  Then I came back to bed, but I realized...I only have a half-hour before I have to get up so I was tossing and turning until my alarm went off. I was kind of excited--because this morning was my first day back to yoga in about 12 years.  I bought Rodney Yee's Beginning Yoga DVD and could not wait to get started.  It was lovely!  Yoga is such a great way to start the day.  I'm super proud of Matt, too, as he got up and did his kettlebell workout.  I know that was hard for him, so he gets extra points.

This morning, getting back to my usual, pre-holiday routine, I popped a small handful (about 5-7) almonds--roasted, salted--in my mouth immediately after my yoga, which was roughly 20 minutes after I awakened.  I like to do that within ten minutes upon wakeup but was a little late this morning with it as I was too excited about the yoga.  I will either make myself a fried egg with some ham (150 cals, 0 net carbs) or I will have an Atkins shake (160 cals, 2 net carbs) here in about an hour.  Eating a small bit of almonds or cheese right after you wake up is a great kick-start for your metabolism.  A lot of people I know can't stand to eat breakfast right away, or even at all.  I'm like that, too, much to my body's detriment.  Unfortunately, when you do that, you set off a chain reaction in your body that results in a desperate need, according to your brain (having released the hormone ghrelin), for carbs/sugar, and by 10AM or thereabouts, you will be starving for something you probably don't really want to eat.  If you wait until lunch, you really might be in trouble and order way too many calories and carbohydrates. You can read more about ghrelin here:
So, tomorrow morning, go in and get your coffee poured up and grab a few almonds or a half a stick of string cheese and scarf it down right away.  Try it for a week and see if you notice any changes.

I am also trying a new experiment, based on the success of drugs like Alli: I'm eating a small bit of low-fat dairy with my meals.  Normally, I am not a proponent of low-fat anything--however, there are studies to back up the idea that eating low-fat dairy along with a meal helps whisk some of the fat from the other foods in that meal out of our bodies without absorption.  That means, when less fat is absorbed, so are less calories.  Dr. Michael Mosley, of whom I've not kept a secret I adore, is the person that brought this to my attention through his show 10 Things You Need to Know About Losing Weight.  It's an interesting documentary highlighting some of the more common mistakes that are made while dieting.  Another very interesting point made in the documentary is the idea that soup is much more filling, and for a longer time, than a meal of equal calories with a drink.  The thought is, eat food with no drink and you'll be fuller longer, or just have a nice bowl of soup.  I have a few low-carb favorites as far as soup goes; Creamy Wild Mushroom and Cream of Spinach are two delicious ones that I have plans to make this week.   Tonight, however, I am using the Meyer lemons from my yard and making a low-carb, light version of Chicken Piccata.  It is so good!  The only thing I eliminate is the flour.  We'll also have some baby greens, and some broccoli.

We're hoping to continue our momentum through spring, for the next 12 weeks before we re-evaluate, make changes, etc. to our "program".  Matt's goal is to be down 20 pounds by that point.  Mine is to just be...down! LOL!  I've learned not to have too many expectations.  I will also continue to post our progress as we move on down the road.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Walking: A Way to Reconnect

Exercise has never been fun for me; I've always seen it as a chore.  The thought of waking up and doing the same video or planned workout that was done yesterday (and the day before...and the day before that...) in the middle of my living room bores and frustrates me.  Yet, in contrast, I've been athletically-minded my entire life.  Not in the "team play/sports" sense, but in the "playing" sense.  I like to be outside, I like to kick a ball around or ride a bike.  I love to tool around with plants.  I used to love roller skating (and really need to get back into it).  I adore swimming.  But one of my favorite things to do is walk.  I just love to go on walks!  I especially like to walk and birdwatch (I'm secretly retired, in my head...).  I like to be able to take it all in and marvel at God's works.  Here in San Antonio, we are never far from some of the most beautiful terrain and foliage in Texas.  Even as close as a mile down the road, we have some lovely greenways that the city has put in, weaving through wooded areas behind suburbs and commercial buildings as if they were never even there.  You feel very remote, especially when you can't hear the cars from the road anymore.  Suddenly, you find yourself in a beautiful forest, or a canyon, or even a dry riverbed full of smooth white limestone rocks.

One of my favorite walks--Lost Maples State Park, a little over an hour from us. 

As I meander along the trails, I find myself deep in thought, working out the day's events, trying to figure out what I need to do in the days to come.  In my mind, I thank God for the day and for my life.  I tell Him of the mistakes and poor choices I've made (and I am so embarrassed when I put them all out there!).  I ask Him to help guide me in my week and my month, to overcome obstacles in my path; to help me remove my negativity, my anxiety, my stress.  I ask Him for protection of my marriage and my children. I ask Him for help to make me a better person, the person I know He wants me to be.  I think of what I need to work on with the girls, what I'd like to cook for Matt, and mostly, that I'd love them all there walking with me (even though I love my alone time!). Invariably, after all of that, I begin to feel calm and a sense of peace.  I take photos, I stop and pick up leaves, I stand stock-still and quietly watch deer cross my path just yards ahead as if I were not even there.  I feel very close to the Lord and can almost sense a tiny inkling of His vision for the world.  It amazes me every single time.  I never get bored; I never dread; I'm never frustrated.  And that is how it should be in our relationship with God.  It should not be a chore.  It should not be frustrating.  It should be a renewal, each day, a chance for us to marvel at His works in our lives and thank Him for it.  Every day!  So, on freezing cold days, or burning-hot, humid summer days...what does one do?  That is a real challenge for me.  This week has been especially hard, because it has been so cold (and wet) that I've barely left my chair, let alone my house!  I've realized that I've been further away from God as a result of this.  Yesterday I was given a very clear message: get back to it, slacker!  This morning has been a time of quiet reflection and I am grateful for having the ability to sit in my toasty house, sip coffee, and enjoy it all.  Tomorrow, it looks like things will dry up and the sun should come out.  Havana and I will head for the park.  Enjoy your day!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Facebook Misses Me

Wow--just 5 days into my self-imposed exile from Facebook, I began receiving emails in my inbox that is associated with my Facebook account.  I've gotten one for the last three days, and they're worded very carefully: "Here's notifications you've missed" and "a lot has happened since you last logged on". Little bit creepy. *eyeroll* Anyway...

It's just now getting to the above-freezing mark here in San Antonio at 10:30AM.  Seriously.  I am not cut out for colder climes, that is for sure!  The normal high for January 7 is 62*F.  The high today is supposed to be 40*F.  FORTY!!  What is that?  That is not a daytime temp!  That is a anomaly...a possibility...of a NIGHTTIME temp!  As in, oooh, it's going to be 40?  I best bust out my fuzzy jammies and turn on the heater! Let's have cocoa for dinner! ...But during the day...?  This is madness.  Oh hey, I know there are places much colder.  My Aunt Cindy and all my cousins are in Chicago, wondering where they left their fingertips in their -15 (let's face it, you start getting in the negatives, the concept of how cold that is really goes out the window) temps.

meanwhile, in Canada...

Anyhooooo...I've been parked in my recliner for the better part of....oh ALL MORNING, because I can't seem to budge from under this blanket.  I really should have bought a Snuggie.  I am now beginning to see the value in one.  However, this fab afghan that my grandma knitted in 1983 is so doggone warm and toasty, I just don't want to go anywhere.  Unfortunately, my fireplace is not roaring, as there hasn't been a shred of decent firewood in this town for about two weeks.  People have gobbled it up.  Yet another thing I guess I need to learn about living in SA.  Houston is so different in that regard--you can find firewood anywhere.  There is literally never a shortage. Here, people run out and it's like, they don't understand the whole supply-demand economic law thingie. 

All this to say: I'm currently mapping out my big plans for spring.  Shyeah, I am!  Hello, it's just like, a month away!  Okay, two, but really, it's gonna go by pretty quickly, and February is when we'll get the big tease, a few 70*F days...and that's when I'll really go nuts.  But I have a little Kindergartener who has a 6th (gasp...sniffle) birthday coming up in March and we have a couple of options.  We can have a small party here with a Lego Friends theme.  Paige is in LOVE with Lego Friends.  Lego Friends is geared toward girls.  For those of you that don't know, the Women's Lib Brigade is all up in arms about them--they're quite the controversial toy.  They don't like that they're pink & purple, girly, and involve Lego cupcakes and puppies and horses.  Because, you know, girls hate that crap, right? *sigh*  Let little girls like what they like!  Don't force it.  If they like baseball (which my girls do, as well) then great!  But for heaven's sake, if they like cupcakes and pink, let them do so lest you be the same criticizing mom you were hoping to avoid becoming. No harm in it, and you can still teach them how to be anything in the world they want to be, no matter what they choose to play with. :-)  I digress...I have a Pinterest board FULL of fun ideas for a Lego Friends party.  She may even want one next year, who knows?  There's other options, as well.  One of them is heading to Dallas to LegoLand, another is just hanging out here and doing something special in San Antonio.  I'm not sure just yet.

Welp, I gotta get moving.  The coffee is hitting me and I've got to get this house un-decorated for Christmas. :-(  I'm having a hard time letting go of it!  The girls loved it so much, really grasped the concept and magic of it all this year.  Even with a stomach bug, it was wonderful. 

Have a great day today! 


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year! Sabbaticals, Resolutions, and All That Jazz...

Happy New Year! What a gorgeous day here in San Antonio.  Cold at 48*F, but sunny, sunny, sunny!  I've missed the sun terribly.  We haven't seen it for over a week. I woke up and the sun was pouring in the windows...I felt like this:

So it's January 2, here I sit with a piece of leftover gingerbread, toasted, with butter...and a nice cuppa joe.  I am ready for SPRING!  Bring on the bluebonnets!  Ah, well, we have to get through January and February first...always so difficult for me.  One of the big differences between Houston and San Antonio is the azaleas that would always sort of usher in the hope of spring.  Every year, in February, Houstonians perk up at the sight of fuschias, pinks, whites, and purples in yards all over.  People call Houston "The Magnolia City", and while it's true there are tons of magnolias, the real showstopper, and more appropriate flora for the city, would be the azalea. They don't last long--maybe 3 weeks--but they are absolutely gorgeous, and I do miss them. Here in SA, mid-February, we get some impressive weed growth--I mean, impressive...but when you start seeing little blue flowers popping up in March, it's as if your life has started anew.  Bluebonnets!  Everywhere.  Sides of highways and roadsides turn blue. The state won't allow workers to mow along medians or on easements where bluebonnets typically grow.  There is even a myth that has circulated for years that you cannot pick bluebonnets as they are the state flower (the picking part is untrue).
All this to say that Matt's face has already taken on the perpetually amused look, as it does each year when Christmas and New Year's are all over, and I'm itching to bust out my flip-flops again and begin digging and planting and pretending I'm a gardener or something.  The thing is, every year a plant in my yard doesn't die, it's a year of success and spurs me to try something new and different.  Which leads me to my second topic...

Improvements/Resolutions/Personal Growth...and So Forth.

One of the sore spots in my life for the past year has been a tiny little thing on the Internet called Facebook.  Know it? ;-)  I bet you do.  Further, I bet you know at least one person that refuses to get on it.  A spouse, a parent, a friend...someone who sees how it can affect people, or perhaps it has affected them personally.  You might think it affects you personally, and maybe not in a good way.  Facebook is  a double-edged sword; first and foremost, you get out what you put in.  That's where I fall short.  I've put in too much, in the way of information.  Facebook knows too much about me; and because I "put in" that information, they craftily formed ads and posts from groups and pages that I've "liked" and "joined" so innocently over the past three years.  They also know me because of what I haven't liked or joined, and that's kind of a scary thought, when you really run it through your cranium.  Over the course of two years, the folks at FB know a lot about ol' Polly here.  They target ads and pages just for me...just for you...and everyone else.  It's gotten progressively more invasive, the more information I've put out there.  If you put your tinfoil hat on with me, you'll find that it was meant to be that way all along, and if we let it, that can be infinitely more dangerous to our privacy and family than any stranger on the street.  Having said all that (tinfoil hats off, please)--the second side--the other edge of this sword--is that along with all of this new information and barrage of ads and images and stories (my favorite is "Your Friend so-and-so Likes" <insert facebook page of random company or political candidate here>) I am developing quite a bad attitude.  That bad attitude is carrying over into my real life, festering into actual hatred for people and things.  It is also turning me into quite the hermit, and that is affecting my relationships with people.  I've always been a rather optimistic, positive, social soul, so this has really been getting to me.  I had to sit down and ask myself what would happen if suddenly facebook went away.  If it just disappeared.  I thought about what I would miss--seeing friends, family, sharing our day-to-day lives and photos with others, and enjoying the ones shared with us.  If I miss friends and family so much, why am I not making more of an effort to get in touch with them on a more personal level?  Even via e-mail?  What I realized is, facebook is passive.  It is not active.  It reflects what we've done, not what we're doing.  I knew I'd rather spend the time with some of the people I know on FB, rather than just letting them know what I've been doing without them. 

Facebook can be a very good thing.  It can!  It can be fun, and a great way to communicate with those far away.  I love being in touch with friends, cousins, uncles and siblings that do not live near me.  I love being able to share photos of my kids.  I love that people enjoy these things, too.  So, in order to prioritize and regroup, I've taken the month off of Facebook, and will begin anew February 1.  I'm drastically shortening my friends list, knowing full well I may be possibly "offending" people...I'm keeping people on my friends list who I value and love and in return are a positive, uplifting value to me. --Not necessarily people that post all the time; not even people that necessarily post to me.  I'm also going in my "likes" and removing most of them.  Sweepstakes?  Contests?  Games?  Not if you want to post on my "behalf".  No way.  I am taking back control over my Facebook account.  But for the entire month of January, I am staying focus more on God, to enjoy my life again, to get outside, gain some perspective, and love my life!   Terry Broadwater is a pastor at Grace Community Church in Centennial, CO. He has a blog and discusses overcoming obsessions there, and about how God gives us the weapons to overcome strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3-5) and then goes on to define a stronghold as a "prisoner locked up by deception", a "place of strength where evil is entrenched", and "well-protected and difficult to attack".  Facebook, on its own, is not these things, but if we allow it to rule our lives and dictate our emotions each day, it becomes such.  I have chosen instead to use my weapons at my disposal and get rid of the strongholds.  I am grateful to God for putting people in my life to show me how to do just that.

Building on this, my word for 2014 is "unplug". Unplug from computers.  Get out in the sun, in the sand, in the dirt, in the rock.  Unplug from TV.  Unplug from talk radio and music.  Play with my kids. Cook new recipes.  Exercise.  Do things that don't involve self-absorption and instead find things that involve others.  Feel free to use it for your own and expound on it.  Take a stand in your life and get rid of all the things that tie you down to yourself.

Enjoy your day!