Friday, July 15, 2011
As many of you know, I've been learning about the hazards of vegetable oils, soy, and sugar, and have been trying to eliminate them (or at least reduce my intake - in the case of sugar!) from my diet. This has meant a further move away from processed food, since it is very hard to get anything processed that doesn't include one of those ingredients. I had already stopped buying processed foods that had chemicals and additives. This is the next step.
So, I've been experimenting with making my own foods from whole, organic ingredients, and I'm really enjoying the journey, and the feeling that I KNOW exactly what is going into my food. This move has also had the added benefit of lowering our food costs and reducing plastic waste. (My eye-opening revelation about plastic, and my resolutions about avoiding it whenever possible, is the topic of another blog - coming soon!)
Speaking of knowing what's in our food, I just discovered that the fairly innocent-sounding "cellulose", which is a common filler in processed food, is wood pulp! I am not a termite! Not so sure I want to be eating wood...
Many of you have asked for my recipes, and so, I will be including them here, so they are all in one place - well, all that I've tried so far, anyway!
Here's the bread recipe we use. I'm really happy with it. It's the softest 100% whole wheat bread I've made so far. www.food.com/recipe/amish-soft-honey
Here's the hamburger and hot dog bun recipe. I don't use the all-purpose flour. I use 100% whole wheat, and they turn out great! These are the best 100% whole wheat buns I've ever had. What a difference from store-bought! www.food.com/recipe/whole-wheat-hamb
A couple weekends ago, I made homemade pita bread. Have you ever wondered how they get the pocket in the pita? Well, it just puffs up when you bake it! I was amazed to see that mine had a pocket - though not all of them did. I think there's an art to how long you bake them and how thick they are that I'm still working on perfecting. These have a way better texture and are far more flavorful than any store-bought pitas I've had, and if there isn't a pocket, we're just using them for wraps! Here's the recipe: mideastfood.about.com/od/breadsrice/
Look! See? A pocket!
And, I made homemade flour tortillas last weekend. I was hoping to use the tortilla press for the flour tortillas, but it didn't make them thin enough, so I did have to roll them. It wasn't so bad, though, because the dough isn't hard to work with. They are DELICIOUS! Again, way more flavor than store-bought. I think I need to add a bit more oil next time to make them a tiny bit more flexible. The recipe is a bit off in the frying of them. You leave them on the first side until they bubble (it can take up to a minute), THEN flip them. I also used 100% whole wheat flour for these, and substituted coconut oil for the shortening. allrecipes.com/Recipe/mexican-whole-
Here's a pic of my pile of tortillas:
For all of the bread recipes, I used freshly ground, 100% whole wheat flour, even if the recipe said different. And I used coconut oil instead of whatever oil the recipe said.
I make big batches of the bread products and freeze them. It works great!
I have also made homemade kefir, which was SUPER-easy. I took whole raw milk. added a packet of Kefir starter that I got at our local coop, and left it on the counter in a covered container (a big mason jar in my case) for over 24 hours. (I kept tasting mine and put it in the fridge when it was the tartness I wanted. I LOVE that my homemade kefir is the tartness that I like.) When it was done, I put it in the blender with fresh strawberries to flavor and sweeten it a bit. It's delicious, sugar-free, and way less expensive than store-bought! If you save 1/2 cup of it, you can use that as a starter next time, and you can keep doing that for at least 6 batches.
I made homemade mayonnaise, too. I found a recipe that uses whey as a means of preserving the mayonnaise, so you can keep it in the fridge like store-bought. The recipe is here: www.eatfatlosefat.com/recipes.php Scroll down to the "Additional Recipes" section to find the recipe. I think this recipe needs a bit of tweaking still. It's a bit too tart for me, and I'm not so sure I'm sold on coconutty mayonnaise. However, I think it's a good start, and I'm thrilled that I've found a mayonnaise recipe that doesn't go bad in two days.
I think that's about it, for the recipes I've tried so far.
On the list:
Homemade pasta, bagels, and greek yogurt! I'm looking forward to further adventures!
Saturday, June 18, 2011
My son's Navy Boot Camp graduation was in North Chicago. He was supposed to have liberty for the whole weekend, but they changed that and he had to leave the day after his graduation. I was already scheduled to stay the weekend, so I had time to explore Chicago on my own.
I went to school in Peoria, IL, so I had been to Chicago with friends about 20 years ago. They were from the Chicago suburbs, though. So, we didn't ever explore the city much from a tourist's perspective. We did eat famous Chicago Deep Dish pizza at Gino's East, though and we went to the top of the Sear's Tower (which was the tallest building in the world at that time).
So, for the one day that my son and I had together in the city, I knew I had to take him to Gino's East. The place is still covered in graffiti, and the pizza is still EXCELLENT. Here's a picture of him at the table. He was so concerned about getting sauce on his uniform. Such a change!! And, guess what? Even though I was intending that the pizza would be my treat, he paid! Wow!
The weather was very chilly and foggy in Chicago on that day. We went to the Sear's Tower, but they now charge $17 dollars to go up (it was free when I went 20 years ago), and there was 0 visibility, so we didn't end up going up.
We went to the Navy Pier, and walked around there, had Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. (Vacations are one time that I eat whatever I want. You gotta live some time!) My son was thanked a few times for his service. That was sure neat to see! And my son always responded with a "thank you, sir (or ma'am)". That was neat to see, too!
We spent so much time battling traffic, cab drivers, and trying to find places to park, unfortunately our day went really quickly, and we didn't have time to do anything else in Chicago. We had to head back to base, so my son wouldn't be late back to the barracks. Our time together was way too short, and I hated to say good-bye to him again. He's hoping he can come home for Christmas. That would be great!!
I was on my own for the next two days in Chicago. On the first day, I went to the Chicago Art Institute. I was VERY impressed with their Impressionism Collection. I LOVE Impressionism. They had lots of Monet and several Renoir - two of my favorite artists. The armor collection was pretty cool, too. I spent the whole day just in the Impressionism and Renaissance Art sections of the museum. Next time I'll have to check the rest out!
Here are a couple of my fav pieces:
Renoir (I think...)
Look at that detail!
I loved the flowers on this vase:
And here's the whole thing:
I COULD NOT figure out how this guy managed to see...
...then someone pointed out the little door.
When I left the museum, I saw a couple of kids who were all made up to look dead. I just thought it was the latest goth trend, but then I saw an older guy who also was made up to look dead and his kid was, too! Ok, this was weird! I kept seeing more and more people covered in blood and gore. Finally, I stopped a girl in a bloody wedding dress and asked her what was going on. Turns out Chicago has an annual zombie parade! Cool! Here's a pic of some of the zombies!
It was still foggy in Chicago. I thought this was a pretty cool pic of the Hancock Building:
There were quite a few cyclists in Chicago - a fact that surprised me, as the cab drivers in the city are freaking CRAZY. I mentioned this to a couple of cyclists on the street corner, and they told me to stick around because a naked bicycle ride would be going past in a few minutes. Fun! Those guys were crazy - it was about 50 degrees out! They were shouting, "less gas, more a$$"...lol! They were wearing all sorts of fun accessories - head-dresses, pasties, etc...lol! The naked bike ride was HUGE - there had to be at least 100 people! Finally, the cab drivers had something to honk about...lol! My phone doesn't capture motion well, which is probably a good thing in this case.
I LOVED this fountain. The colors changed and the faces changed. AWESOME!
This is the fountain from the other side - it had nature scenes instead of faces:
I have always wanted to go to the Chicago Blues Festival, and by coincidence (is there any such thing?), the Blues Festival happened to be going on that weekend. So, the next day, I did the Blues Festival! Shamekia Copeland was crowned the new "Queen of the Blues", by Koko Taylor's (the former "Queen of the Blues") daughter. I HIGHLY recommend checking out Shamekia Copeland. She is AWESOME! Here is a pic of her being crowned "Queen of the Blues".
And here are some more shots of the Blues Festival:
One of the best things about Chicago was how friendly the people were. It has got the be the friendliest big city I have ever experienced! Even the salesperson in the Rolex store was nice! I was just curious as to how much the Rolex of my Dreams would be. She knew I couldn't buy anything, but she gladly showed me the watch (which was $16,000 - gasp!) and even gave me a pep talk about my ability to someday own a watch like that...lol!
I had a great time, and because of the friendly people, the city gets an A+ from me!
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
When I found out that my oldest son would be graduating from Navy Boot Camp the morning after my youngest sons graduated from high school, I wondered if I would be able to make it to my son's Navy Boot Camp graduation. It was at 9:00 a.m., in Chicago. I'm in Washington State, which is a 4 hour flight away, and then, the two possible airports were an hour away from base. My youngest sons' graduation was at 7:00 p.m. at night. The latest flight left Seattle at midnight, arrived in Milwaukee (I chose Milwaukee, instead of Chicago, thinking traffic would be better - they were both an hour away.) at 6:00 a.m., I had to pick up a rental car, drive the hour to the base, and then go through security, which I was told would take up to an hour. If there were flight delays or traffic delays, I wasn't going to make it. It was going to be tight, but I was determined to try. My husband wasn't going to be able to go with me, and I was a little scared about going it alone, but as a mom, I KNEW that was the right thing to do. I had to make the effort, because, even if I didn't make it, my son would appreciate that I tried.
On the night of my younger sons' graduation, it seemed as if things were going wrong. After graduation, there was a MASSIVE crowd, we couldn't locate the two boys and we lost my Aunt. Time was ticking away, we had to get to the airport, online check in wasn't working that day for some reason, so I was going to have to check in at the airport, and we couldn't even find my sons for pictures. I was stressing a bit, but there was a part of me that knew that everything was going to be okay. I was doing the right thing, and it would work out. We did eventually find them, got our pictures, and headed to the airport at 9:30. We arrived at the airport at 10:30, I checked in, got through security, and had time to spare before my flight. Phew!
My flight was delayed. Sigh. But still, I didn't fret. Somehow, I knew it was going to work out.
I discovered that there were no blankets or pillows on the plane, which made sleeping difficult. But I bundled up my jacket, used my sweater and raincoat to make a blanket, and managed to doze off a couple times.
When I arrived in Milwaukee, a half hour later than planned, it took me a while to find the rental car counter and then there was a line. Again, I didn't fret, I just knew it was going to work out.
Then my navigation lady on my phone couldn't find the base. The rental car guy was nice enough to find and print directions for me. When I decided to go to my son's graduation alone, this is the part that scared me most. I haven't driven a lot in strange places, and I have never driven a rental car. My husband always took that responsibility. I was, frankly, scared of the unknown of driving an unfamiliar car in an unfamiliar place. I felt really good about conquering that fear!
It was 7:00 and I was on my way to base. I got there at 8:00, made it through security, and was seated by 8:45. I found an excellent seat. From the floor, it looked like I was going to have to go up to the second level, but I figured I should just check out the first level a little more closely, and I discovered that, since I was only one person, there was a space in between people about 5 rows up, right in front of where my son's division would be. Yay! I made it!!!
The graduations themselves were awesome! My sons' high school graduation was excellent. Their principal made it fun with plenty of humor, and he designed a program that recognized the individual accomplishments of students, whether that be academic, athletic, artistic, community service, etc. My middle son's name was mentioned several times. His girlfriend was the class speaker. I was so proud! Since we didn't have a lot of time for pictures, we didn't get a decent one of just me and the boys, but here's one of me, my youngest (my stepson) on my left, my middle son on my right, my cousin (on the left) and my sister-in-law (on the right). My medals and cords my middle son is wearing are: a gold honor cord for a GPA above 3.75, a debate red and silver debate cord for participating in debate for 4 years, a medal for being the state academic champions in debate (their team had the highest combined GPA in the state), and a medal for being a Tumwater Scholar (for maintaining a high GPA and having high involvement in school activities).
My oldest's Navy graduation was quite the spectacle! I was amazed that he stood still for SO long. He stood there, without moving, for about two hours!!! I was SOOO happy to see him. He came out of Navy Boot Camp a man. He was a good kid, but now he is so considerate, respectful, and PATIENT. (He never was very patient, but he is now.) Here are a couple pictures of his graduation and him and me. He got a "Sharpshooter pin", for excellence in the weapons portion of his training. He was just a few points below "Expert", which is the highest level.
I was right, my oldest was VERY grateful that I made the effort to get there. He was supposed to have the whole weekend on liberty, but at the last minute, they told him he would be leaving the morning after his graduation. I was scheduled to stay there for the entire weekend. But, I have NO regrets. Even to see him for only one day, it was 100% worth it. I knew in my heart that it was the right thing to do, I faced my fears and did it, and everything worked out. I feel great about having made the right choice.
I ended up having a great time in on my own in Chicago, which I'll write about in another blog.
Saturday, June 04, 2011
This June marks three years that I have been commuting to work on my bike. As I look back to three years ago, I realize what a huge impact the decision to bike to work has had on my life.
June 2008 was the time that gas prices first went over $3/gallon here. At that time, I was struggling with over-40 weight creep, and wasn't very happy about it. The gas prices were the final impetus. Always looking for ways to save our family money, and needing to do SOMETHING about my weight, I decided to see if riding part way to work and taking the bus part way would be feasible. I had a bike. A Target special mountain bike, that I had for years, which spent most of that time sitting in the garage. I think I ventured out on it maybe 5 times, and that was at the coercion of my husband.
I was scared of riding on the roads...and where we live there is no way to get anywhere without riding on roads. Whenever I DID go out bike riding with my husband, I was always lagging behind, struggling to keep up.
I've never been an athletic type. No, I'm a true klutz. I'm the one, in PE, who got injured by a football hitting me in the head and a baseball hitting me in the breast (yeah, that last one was a little humiliating). I'm the one that managed to break my arm EVERY time I went roller skating, 4 times in a row. My mom finally banned me from skating. (I did finally get it in my teens and have many fond memories of Friday nights at the roller rink.) I had basically accepted that I sucked at anything physical. I had no self-confidence at all in that area.
So, I didn't just jump right in with the riding to work. My original plan was just to ride the two miles from my house to the closest bus stop, then put my bike on bike rack on the bus, and ride the bus to work. Being so unsure of myself, I didn't want to go it alone, so I asked my husband to go on a trial ride with me. We did that, and, by the time we got to the bus stop, I realized that I had no clue how to put my bike on the rack. I didn't want to hold the bus up at the stop, while I fumbled with it. So, riding all the way downtown (where my office is), and figuring out how to work the bus bike racks while the buses were parked at the transit station, seemed like the least humiliating option. So, my husband and I rode the full 7 miles and took the bus back. I survived that trip, so I decided that, yep, I could definitely cycle to the bus stop.
The first day, I got to the bus stop and realized that, if the bike rack on the bus was full, I'd have to either ride the whole way or be late to work. So, I decided the safest bet was to just keep riding the whole way to work.
The way home is mostly uphill, with one pretty long, BIG hill. (I think the hill goes for 1.5 miles...) So, I started out the first several months by riding the bus up the hill to the closest bus stop to home, then riding the 2 miles home. (I was pretty wimpy, and my bike wasn't exactly light, so I had lots of embarrassing moments while I struggled to lift my bike on and off of the bike rack.)
By the time summer was coming to a close, I realized that cycling to work was really improving my energy level. I arrived to work on an endorphin high, and I was already seeing improvement in my ability (though I wasn't losing any weight - turns out I was eating more as a "reward" for my hard work...that extra bagel every morning wasn't doing me any favors...lol!). I didn't want to stop riding in winter. So, I bought a light-weight rain jacket, waterproof pants, and we went to a bike shop to buy fenders, panniers, and a light for my bike. Turns out, my Target special had shocks in all the wrong places, and the rack for panniers and fenders were not going to work.
I ended up having to get a new bike and I bought a hybrid road/trekking bike. It isn't light, but it's tough in all the right ways, with disc brakes for good stopping power in the rain. My husband told me later that he had his doubts that I would actually ride through the winter, but guess what, I DID! I cycled to work in the dark, in the rain, in 8 degree weather, through slush. If there's one thing I DO have, it's determination, and I was determined to not let the weather stop me. I had FINALLY found a way to get exercise that I could do consistently, AND, I was feeling REALLY good about finally being able to do something physical.
I still wasn't losing weight, though, and in February 2009, I found Spark People. This web site helped me realize that I needed to log my food. I discovered that I was overcompensating for my exercise with too many treats. I realized that I needed to start strength training. My husband and kids had been climbing for years, but there was NO WAY IN HELL, they were going to get me up there. I'm scared of heights!!! HECK NO!!!! Go on an be your crazy selves...I'll stay here on the ground, thank you very much. Well, my cycling had really started to make me feel stronger, fitter, and more confident. PLUS, I HATED strength training. So, I finally broke down one day and decided I would join my husband and sons when they went climbing at the gym. I thought it might be a way to incorporate some upper body strength training in a way that wasn't so onerous.
I LOVED the way climbing made me feel about conquering my fears, challenging myself, and it sure was making me stronger. I was hooked! Before I started cycling to work, there would have been no way. I just didn't have the confidence in my abilities.
By the end of my first year cycling to work, I had stopped riding the bus up the hill. I was now riding the whole way home. I had climbed several times outside. I had met my original goal weight and was working towards losing more. And the next time I went bike riding with my husband, he was struggling to keep up!
Now, my husband still struggles to keep up when we're cycling. I'm running, which I always wanted to do, but could never manage more than a couple minutes. I am climbing nearly as well as my husband and sons. I'm strong, fit, thinner than I have ever been, and have more confidence than I ever thought I would have. One decision - to ride my bike to work - changed my life!
Friday, June 03, 2011
My sons are graduating next week (two from high school and one from Navy boot camp - yeah, it's going to be an eventful week).
It's hard to believe that this moment is here. That my boys are growing up! It went so fast!!!
Last night was senior recognition night at the high school. Their high school principal is awesome! How many high schoolers do you know that LOVE their principal? Well, it's something I hear often from my kids and their friends. He knows exactly the right balance of recognition, humor, and relationship to really have an impact on the kids in the school. The atmosphere in the school is one of respect for others and community. I can't say enough good things about him. My kids have been very fortunate to be in his school. ANYWAY...I digress...
So, the principal being the awesome guy that he is, made sure that EVERY senior attending Senior Recognition Night had a chance to stand on the stage and have their accomplishments announced. The kids filled out forms with the accomplishments they wanted listed, so nothing was left out, unless they wanted it left out. (This guy knows teenagers so well!) So, every senior had their moment in the spotlight, and then, some of them were brought up to the stage for other achievements.
I am SO PROUD of my middle son. (I'm proud of all of them, but my middle one has really excelled in the academic arena.) When he started high school, I gave him my words of wisdom, based on my regrets about high school. I told him to GET INVOLVED and challenge himself. I really regret that I didn't participate more fully in the high school experience. And I regret that I passed up the invitation to go into AP classes, because I wanted to maintain my high GPA, but not work for it. Silly me.
My son took my advice. It's so great to see your kids not make the same mistakes you made!
He was called up for a couple special awards: Journalism Award of Excellence - he was one of three and he got a nice plaque, Math and Science award - for taking challenging math and science classes throughout high school - he was one of ten.
When it came to be his turn on the stage to have his achievements listed, he stood there proudly beaming while his accomplishments were named. I was astounded by how long the list was: President's Award for Educational Excellence, Washington State Honors Award, Top 10%, Gold Honor Cord, Senior Class Vice President, Debate State Champion, Debate National Qualifier, Debate State Qualifier - 2 years, Cross Country, Soccer, Soccer Captain, CISPUS Counselor, Link Crew, Peer Mentor... He had a great high school experience!!!
Even better, his friends were the ones called up frequently for special honors with long lists of achievements themselves. It's great to see your kids make positive choices!!
He was rewarded for his efforts not only because he will have great high school memories, but he also got into an excellent college - Vassar College in New York. It is the #12 liberal arts college in the country, with a 24% acceptance rate AND they are giving him $44,000 a year to go there. Not bad!!
I feel bad leaving my other sons out of this brag because I am so very proud of them, too, for different reasons. Academic achievements are often honored and lauded, but they aren't the only measure of "success".
My youngest son has a heart of gold. He is a kind a compassionate soul. Kindness isn't so often spotlighted, but it should be! We need more kids like him in the world, and I'm sure that his kindness will bring him much happiness in his life. He's a VERY intelligent guy, but high school just wasn't his thing. He discovered a love of architecture in this last year of high school, and he will be starting at our local community college to pursue a degree in Architecture.
My oldest son was accepted into the Nuclear Program in the Navy. It's not easy to get into that program, but he scored in the 98th percentile on their test, so they were eager to get him to enlist. He will be going directly to school in South Carolina for two years after boot camp. He'll get an engineering degree while in the Navy. They are giving him large enlistment and re-enlistment bonuses, and my son plans on retiring from the Navy at age 40. He's got a good head on his shoulders, and he chose a very practical route - so very like him. I am so very proud that he will be serving our country.
So many mom brags...Can you tell I'm a proud mom?
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