Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Crock Pot Freezer Meals

Hello Fall!! I'm ready for you!  Here in the Pacific Northwest we have enjoyed a stellar summer.  I think I can count on one hand how many days were under 75 degrees this year.  This is rare in the PNW, often June is rainy, grey and mid-60's at best and we don't see the beginning of summer until July 5th (the day AFTER everyone has their parties and BBQ's for the 4th).  Before we know it, the rain and 60 degree weather turns into rain and 45 degree fall weather and we know fall has officially arrived.

This year we played hard and enjoyed every sunny minute of Summer.  Now that the kids are back in school, football is on TV, leaves are beginning to fall and we are ready for Autumn!

I went grocery shopping the other day and decided I needed to do a little food prep for these busy school nights.  Instead of shooting from the hip with my grocery list (which I usually do), this time I did a little planning instead.  I have a board on Pinterest where I have saved a bunch of crock pot freezer recipes.  I found several that sounded good and had easy ingredients and started writing out my list.  What took about an hour on a Sunday afternoon just saved me SEVERAL hours in 9 upcoming meals!

Click the link above and find some good recipes.  You will be SO HAPPY you did!


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Because I can

I am not a runner.  I really don't like to run.  When I was in high school I had a doctor write me a note with some lame reason why I shouldn't run in P.E.  When I go to the gym, I tend to go to the stationary bike so I can sit and read a magazine while incidentally getting my exercise in.  I really have never liked to run.

About 3 years ago I was invited to do a 4 mile walk for Juvenile Diabetes.  I agreed and did the walk with the group, but found that walking that 4 miles was dreadful.  The next year when asked to participate again, I really had to think about it.  I found that in addition to the 4 mile walk, there were 2 other options; an 8K run or a 1 mile fun run.  The 1 mile fun run sounded MUCH more doable than the 4 mile walk!  I decided to try to hammer out a 1 mile run.  I found a loop in a neighborhood that was a little over a mile long.  I ran to the first corner and then had to stop and walk a little ways.  Once rested I started running again to the next corner and then walked.  I picked it back up and ran to the next corner, stopping and starting until I finished the loop.  The next day I did it again and slowly began piecing my run together.  Before I knew it, I was running the complete loop without stopping to walk.  On the day of the race, my goal was to run the complete mile without stopping.  Mission accomplished!

I discovered that my run was long enough to play 4 songs in my IPod.  That's it!  4 songs!  I created a playlist with a bunch of upbeat running songs and just 4 songs later, my run is done. 

Running is a funny thing.  It does something to your brain.  Every morning I talk myself out of running, but I put my shoes on anyway and get in the car.  Once I am in the neighborhood, there's no going back.  I must "hammer out" my run.  20 minutes and 4 songs later, my run is finished and I can get on with my day.  As I get in the car, I am motivated to do more.  "I should really train for a half marathon..."  Yes, things like that actually creep into my head!  ME!  The non-runner!!

As I am running I think of WHY I'm running.  I run because I CAN.  Frequently I pass Steve, the guy in the wheelchair pushing his way around the same loop.  Steve used to be a runner.  Steve was hit by a car on his run several years ago.  I know Steve would LOVE to be able to run again.  Bless his heart, he still gets out there.  On days when I am dragging and don't feel like running I see Steve pushing his way around the neighborhood.  I run further because I CAN.  There are people who are older, heavier, with bad knees or hips or backs who would love to be able to run, but can't.  I can.  Nothing hurts when I run.  I have no excuses.  What would happen if God forbid my knee went out?  I would miss running.  I would WISH I could run.  Right now, I run because I can.  I don't love to run but I know I need to.  Everyone needs to do something!  So many Americans are heavy and lazy and I was on the path of being one of them.

In 2010 I was given a gentle nudge to get healthy.  I experienced what the doctors told me was a "mild heart attack".  More like a blip on the radar, but definitely something.  I needed to lose weight and start exercising.  Yadda yadda yadda.  Haven't we all heard that before?  Then in 2011 I was diagnosed with kidney cancer.  There was the brick upside the head.  I paid attention this time and made some changes in my diet and exercise.  Per doctor's orders I stopped drinking alcohol, cut the crap out of my diet and did my 1 mile fun run which got me started running. 20 pounds and 2 years later, I am a runner.  I run because I can.

If you CAN run but just don't, start.  Run to the corner.  Piece it together.  Find 4 songs on your IPod.  Just do it.  Run because you can.  Stop making excuses, it's free, it's good for you, you can find the time, go run.  I used to find any excuse I could not to run.  "I hate to sweat, my boobs bounce too much, I cough up a lung whenever I run, my side aches, it's rainy, it's snowy, it's too hot, people will see me, I look weird when I run".  I've said them all but you know what?  I have a better sports bra, I don't cough any more - as a matter of fact I'm not even really that winded when I finish (and I am up to a 2 mile loop now!).  I wear gloves and run when its cold and people who see me running have a new respect for my dedication.

I'm off to go on my run!  I run because I CAN.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wrapped in love

2 years ago this month, we lost a beloved family member.  Sidney was my father-in-law and he passed away at the age of 83.  He was a simple, quiet man who loved the outdoors.  He was known for wearing flannel shirts, suspenders and a ball cap.  After he passed away, a friend of the family took many of his shirts and jeans and made a beautiful quilt.  I just love this.  Sidney used to sit in this chair when he would come to our house, so to hang the quilt over the back of the chair only seemed appropriate.

Sally Blake's Pumpkin Cake

I think of Sally Blake every autumn.  That happy, nicely dressed, pleasant gal who sat at the front desk of the company I worked for.  One day she brought in some pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting which was TO DIE FOR.  She graciously shared her recipe and now, 17 years later, I make her delicious Pumpkin Cake when the weather starts to turn.  I've often thought about Sally and wondered where she is today.  She has no idea I think of her every year.  I shared the recipe with my sister and now she, too, makes Sally Blake's Pumpkin Cake every year.  We love Sally Blake.

This recipe is incredibly easy and is a GROUP FAVORITE! It does not dissapoint!  You will be making Sally Blakes Pumpkin Cake for your friends and family for years to come. 
Thank you Sally Blake, wherever you are!!

Sally Blake's Pumpkin Cake
4 eggs
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1-15oz can pumpkin
Beat above ingredients one at a time until blended.
 2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Add dry ingredients to batter.  Mix until smooth.
Bake at 350ยบ in ungreased 9x13 pan 35-40 min or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
1-8oz cream cheese softened
1/4 cup butter softened
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
Wait until cake has cooled, then frost.

Make your bed.

I read a blog last week that has really struck a chord.  I follow "The Bloggess" by Jenny Lawson.  While she uses much more profanity than I am comfortable with, her humor drives me to tears.  I have her book "Let's Pretend this Never Happened" which had me rolling in laughter on a quiet plane ride.  I find myself breaking into sudden, snorty laughter, out of the blue, just THINKING about things that I read in the book.  While Jenny is terribly funny, she is also very troubled with mental health issues which she is very open and candid about.  In the link above, she talks about how she struggles to feel like she accomplishes anything some days.  It is very easy to feel like you suffer by comparison to others.  I think we ALL feel that way sometimes.  As she mentioned in her blog, looking at other's lives can make us feel inadequate.  Other people get up and run at 6am, they have perfectly cleaned and organized homes, they do all the Pinterest meals and crafts - life looks perfect.  She mentioned that while she knows she has accomplished quite a bit in her life and career, she only feels like she has really DONE anything a few days a month.  Truth is, I think we all feel that way. 

My "To-Do" list gets carried over daily. Between dishes, laundry, work, kids, housecleaning, working out, projects like 'cleaning the garage' and other Pinterest  inspirations, I rarely feel accomplished.  Her blog made me re-think a few things.  I need to quit comparing myself to the perception I have of other's which makes me feel inadequate, and start celebrating the small accomplishments in my day.

Life is a balancing act.  You try to keep MANY plates spinning at once and maintain the appearance of having it all dialed-in but the truth is, we all have plates dropping left and right.  I constantly compare myself to others.  Other women have immaculate homes, perfectly landscaped yards without a weed to be found, their kids make their beds every day, they have frozen crock-pot meals stacked and labeled in their freezers, their closets and pantry's are organized and color coded, even their junk drawers are neatly organized.  My life is chaos.  By the time the last room in my house is finally cleaned the first one is a disaster again.  Every cupboard is booby-trapped with junk ready to spill out if you open it.  The weeds in my flower beds are knee high.  My husband "weeded" with Round-up so everything around our house is brown and dead.  My laundry smells musty because the wash has been sitting wet in the washer for 3 days.  I can NEVER seem to get caught up. 

Instead of feeling behind the 8 ball, I choose to celebrate the small accomplishments.  I made my bed today.  I make my bed every morning.  I make my bed and open the blinds in my windows.  This helps me feel like I have done SOMETHING.  Even if I don't get anything else accomplished today, I made my bed.  Something about just doing that makes me feel like I have my act together. There are days that I may not make my bed until 4 in the afternoon, but I still make it! At least it looks like I have done something today. (Truth be told I am scrambling to make it before my husband gets home as he already thinks my days include soap operas and bon bons).

What do you do to feel accomplished?  Someday I hope to set a bigger goal and really feel like my life had purpose, but for today my sense of accomplishment comes from just making my bed.