The menu according to Mom and Pinterest

It’s sad in Texas lately, and by sad, I mean cloudy. Seriously. How do people live¬†without the sun? Granted, we have over 300 sunny days per year, but still. Usually if it’s cloudy it’ll be sunny in a few hours. Lately, it’s just been cloudy. All. Day. Long. A little melodramatic? Maybe.

And to top it off, I just don’t feel like running. Sitting on my couch, sipping coffee and looking at pretty pictures of food is sufficient for me. However, we have a half marathon to run in just a month, so yeah. Better get my bootylicious self out the door.

As I wait for my breakfast to digest so I can go run it off (I’m thinking 7-9 miles?? Maybe?) I’m making my grocery list for the next couple weeks.

Prepare. To. DROOL:

In the crockpot:

Jambalaya. Smoked turkey sausage, chicken, rice, spices… yum. I might do shrimp instead of chicken… this pic is from the almighty Pinterest. Aaron will love me forever times two with this meal.

Corn chowder.

I don’t have a picture of this. But I use parts of my mom’s recipe. To cook it in the crockpot, I use evaporated milk. FYI: fat free just doesn’t do it. It’s too soupy. You want a chowder. I cook hot Italian sausage on the stove, drain and rinse it, and put it in the crockpot with a couple cans of evaporated milk, an onion, some potatoes, canned or frozen corn (creamed works too).

Pulled pork.

Okay, so no picture of this either. I get a shoulder pork roast, put it in the crockpot with some BBQ sauce, onion, and spices and let it cook all day on low. Then, I pull it off the bone, shred it, and put it back in the crockpot with more BBQ sauce. I love it served on whole wheat sandwich thins with cheese. Deeeelicious.

Honey chicken. This sounds delicious and easy. I love honey, and I love chicken. So there ya go. Again, Pinterest to the rescue. I get the big box of 1-minute brown rice and use it for all kinds of things. (Even the peas in this picture look good!)

Pinned Image

 

In the oven:

Enchiladas. Darn it, no picture yet again. My Hispanic friends here laugh when I tell them how I make my enchiladas… but they’re still so good. I cook up some ground beef, simmer it with black beans, tomatoes, peppers, onion, and taco seasoning and sauce. I heat up some corn tortillas and roll the mixture into about eight tortillas and put them seam side down in a glass pan. I put the rest of the mixture over the top with some cheese and bake them covered with foil. The last few minutes I take the foil off so the cheese can melt all the way. This is how my mom’s always made them (well, mostly… we Little women kind of do our own thing). I have Ortega taco sauce (the BEST, in my opinion) and sour cream on hand.

For Christmas Day:

This is our first Christmas, just the two of us, so I actually have to prepare an entire dinner. Oh darn. ūüėČ So far I know I want to make ham… what else do you cook for your traditional (or not so traditional) Christmas dinner? Christmas Eve growing up we always had chili and then my grandma brought a shrimp ring. Sounds funny, right? Totally normal for us. Hahaha.

Anyway. I’m going a little traditional with some sticky caramel rolls and wassail (a traditional English holiday drink made with apple juice or cider, oranges, cinnamon sticks and spices). Picture from Betty Crocker.

Overnight Pecan Rolls

I might also make this breakfast braid. It has jalape√Īos, so hubby will be happy! Image from myrecipes.com.

Jalape√Īo, Sausage, Jack, and Egg Breakfast Braid Recipe

When meal planning, I’m all about making things that are easy to throw into the crockpot, do well as leftovers, and have almost every food group in the dish. I rarely make side dishes, just because of time’s sake. We’ll have a piece of fruit or bread & butter.

I also will be making some chocolate crinkles, some more peanut butter kiss cookies, and sugar cookies. I usually buy whole wheat or white whole wheat flour, but I think this time around I’ll just get white flour. I think it has a better consistency for Christmas cookies. I’m going to bake these next week when I have more time during the day.

I usually spend about $100 every two weeks, and we rarely have to run to the store to pick things up during the two weeks until we shop again.

Happy baking and cooking for the holidays!

I love days off.

It’s warmer here today, which definitely earns El Paso some cool points. I was freezing my poor butt off! My house is no longer -1783 degrees. Eh, I still love running in the cold… I love how my gloves and headband are frosty by the time I’m done, and I love the slight discomfort of the cold air in my lungs.

I didn’t have to work, which is always nice. Having days off during the week allows me some much needed “me” time and I’m able to get errands done. I went to the gym first thing after Aaron left for work. I biked 5.5 miles and then did a 2-mile interval workout. It. Felt. AMAZING. I ran anywhere from 1/10 – 1/4 of a mile, with a pace of at least 8:30/mile. My fastest was 7:30! Wow. I secretly, or maybe not so secretly, compete with the other gym goers, especially the soldiers. Love it when I’m running faster than they are!

After kicking some butt at the gym, I went for coffee with my friend Jess. I definitely enjoy peppermint mochas and good conversation. Thankful to have found friends here so quickly!

I came home and ran some errands. Yesterday I went to the doctor, finally, for these crazy headaches I’ve been having. Turns out they are migraines, and I was prescribed some medication (brand name Imitrex) for it that I take only when I need it. After reviewing my family and personal medical history, the doctor wanted to do an EKG. That was fine.

He referred me to a cardiologist/electrophysiologist here in El Paso. I’m still having palpitations every now and then, and have had dizziness even when sitting down. One day I noticed shortness of breath just while standing, and got my HR monitor. My HR was 120! Ridiculous just for standing. When resting it’s in the 50’s, only so low because of my running.

Anyway, the doctor recommended in his referral to get a Holter monitor, which will monitor my heart’s activities for a week or so. There are 24-hr ones, but there’s no guarantee it’d catch anything in that period of time.¬†Even if there’s nothing seriously wrong, it doesn’t hurt to get this taken care of.

The doctor did say to cut back on my training until I see the cardiologist… which is a huge bummer. I do wear my HR monitor on my long runs. I have never felt better than when I run. And I think it makes sense, if I get this monitor, to go ahead and do a long run. My arrhythmia usually happens when I’m at rest. This weekend it happened when I was relaxing on the couch! What gives?? While I don’t want to go to the ER or anything for an arrhythmia that won’t resolve itself, I kind of hope it happens so they can catch it. Shrug. I’m actually thankful that I have the migraines; I may not have gone to the doctor otherwise.

After running errands and making phone calls, I spent the afternoon making spritz cookies for my students to put in their Christmas bag of goodies.

Snowflakes and Christmas trees!

Tonight I’m making this spinach/chicken/penne/cheese goodness in a casserole dish. Sounds yummy! I found it, like all good things, on Pinterest. This may sound¬†sacrilegious, but I’d modify the verse James 1:17 to say “Every good and perfect gift comes from Pinterest”. Glad I’m home to make dinner tonight. I’m sure The Husband will appreciate it! [enter slacking meal-planner wife].

The rest of the weekend should be pretty restful… tomorrow I work only a few hours. Sunday we teach the junior high kids (they keep us on our toes!) and do our long run on Transmountain. Wish us luck! ūüėČ

Gettin’ busy in the kitchen

I am in love with the prices at the commissary! When we first got here, I was really skeptical about whether the prices and service would be better. We try to plan to go every other week, on the non payday weekends since it’s less busy. It was pretty busy today, but there’s a four-day weekend for a lot of soldiers.

We got all of our food and household items (including toilet paper, paper towel, etc) for $125. That’s not bad considering we got a ton of produce and a few packages of meat. We get the 18-roll toilet paper and it lasts us like six weeks or something crazy.

So, we went to the store and then went and saw “Dream House”. It was pretty good! We bought the 2011 bucket of popcorn last time, which was like $15, but you get refills each time you go back to the movies for only $2.50. We got a large drink to share, so all in all, concessions were $8. Movie tickets are $5/person for military, so we spent $18 at the movie theater. We had been planning to go to the “Bodies Human” exhibit, but tickets were $15/person AND honestly, the preserved bodies creep me out. I know I’m a grown woman, but still.

After we got home from the movie, we found that someone had stolen our pumpkins from in front of our house! We picked them last weekend at the corn maze and were going to paint or carve them. ūüė¶ That made me sad and upset. Who the frig steals pumpkins?!

I let out my frustrations in the kitchen.. I got a LOT of food prep done for the week, and even tried my hand at crockpot freezer meals. Well, one.

Pinterest has been my go-to place for recipes and ideas…

cantaloupe, strawberry & kiwi salad
ready-to-eat veggies for lunches or snacks
freezer to crockpot

I got the freezer-to-crockpot idea here. On the left are veggies, spices and¬†bouillon prepared to go in the crockpot with a roast. On the right are some of the leftovers of veggies and bouillon to start a homemade veggie broth. I can use it for vegetable beef barley soup or chicken noodle soup. Really, the possibilities are endless. And it’s a great way to use up that celery that’s kind of too flexible. I also hate throwing out the celery leaves.. great for flavor!

I also cut up potatoes, onion and garlic and they’re ready for cooking and mashing.

cheese, egg & bacon "muffins"

I got this idea for an easy breakfast here. I mixed up 12 eggs, cooked and crumbled bacon, cheese, milk, salt and pepper and cooked in muffin cups for 25-ish minutes at 350. Ready to freeze and heat up one-by-one, or two-by-two.

I got this idea for homemade chai from this site. I guessed on measurements, and tried it without the cardamom. It was pretty expensive, so I went without. It still turned out great! I would love to can this stuff and give as gifts. I’ve also found a dry instant mix version that I want to try sometimes. Mix the liquid concentrate with milk and/or half&half and done! I think next time I’ll try using less water so it’ll be stronger. I also need a very fine strainer. I rednecked it this time and used my flour sifter.

homemade chai tea concentrate

 

I guess I should also add to this post that I’ve accepted a full-time position at the tutoring place I’m at now. I interviewed last week for a teaching job at a charter school, but I doubt I got the job as they haven’t called me but said I’d know in the next couple days. It’s okay. We’ve been praying for a full-time job for me since the extra money is nice for saving and paying off debt. My prayers were answered, just not the exact way I wanted it. Oh well, as my dad would say, You can’t have everything!

In conclusion, I’m looking forward to two more days off with Aaron, and enjoying our time relaxing in this beautiful “autumn” weather… 75-ish for the high, 55-ish for the low. Perfect!

Baked spaghetti… Paula D, Betty C and me.

I’ll be honest.. I hate following recipes to the T. I follow my mom’s and grandma’s examples and barely measure anything.. I just put in what looks or smells good. I do¬†follow exact measurements for baking, though. I’ve had some messed up cookies before!

I found this recipe from Paula Deen, but considering it’s a Friday night and didn’t want to spend almost 2 hours cooking after working out, I decided to check out what Betty Crocker had to say. This recipe is a mix of both of those, plus a few added touches (like spinach). I’m not used to writing my recipes down (just like my mother!) so bear with me.

What you’ll need:

About 2/3 lb. ground beef (I separated my 1.6 lbs into three parts for separate meals)

One can diced tomatoes, any kind

One can tomato sauce (or you could use Ragu, whatever you have in your pantry)

Half a medium onion

Half a green pepper

A generous handful of spinach

1-2 cloves garlic, chopped

Seasonings of your choice (I used onion salt, Mrs. Dash, crushed red pepper, black pepper and a couple bay leaves)

Two eggs

About 4 oz. uncooked spaghetti (I use whole wheat, and you really could use a different kind of noodle.. whatever you have on hand)

One 8 oz. package mozzarella cheese (I also had a little feta left.. I incorporated that too)

1/4 c. milk

Okay. So. As you can see, I just use whatever sounds good, and whatever I have on hand. I did shop for this meal, but sometimes you have to improvise.

Instructions:

1. Cook ground beef in skillet. I bought 97% lean, so there was no grease. Add onion and garlic (we had a few mushrooms left so I added those too). Preheat oven to 350.

2. Add chopped green pepper.

3. Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes.

4. Cut up spinach (I use kitchen scissors) and add to sauce. Add seasonings. Mix together and let simmer over low-medium heat for 5-10 minutes.

5. In the meantime, spray 8×8 glass pan. Break uncooked spaghetti noodles in half and place on bottom of pan. About a quarter size is what you need.

6. Mix together eggs, cheese and milk in separate bowl. If you don’t have mozzarella, you could use ricotta or even cottage cheese.

7. Spread cheese mix over noodles in pan.

8. Add sauce mixture on top and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.

9. Bake in oven for about 30 minutes.

It was a great success! We both loved it. We sprinkled parmesan cheese and had bread and butter on the side.

The season of good.

Good things are happening in the W household… Fall is here! And to celebrate, we’ve had temps in the 90’s in the desert. Fall-like, eh? And the leaves turn yellow and just fall off the tree. It has been cooler at night. In fact, I’m using three thin blankets now instead of just the sheet and and one blanket. How did 65 degrees become cold? I digress… Here are a couple pics of our fall decorations.

I put candy corn and a white pillar in the hurricane. I made the leaf coasters from felt.. super easy, and cheap! Gotta love that Pinterest for ideas.

A “Happy Harvest” decoration, a couple pilgrims, pumpkin salt/pepper shakers and leaf garland. I swore we bought more than this when we got married… our collection seems to shrink every year!

Running

As far as running is concerned, I’ve discovered the track at the gym. It’s indoor, and measured weird. 11.3 laps equal one mile. I did some half-mile repeats yesterday without the Garmin and felt really good. Just taking it literally a step at a time. No use in forcing myself to run when I just don’t want to. Staying fit and healthy is the goal here, so whatever exercise gets me there, right?

Work

There’s been some drama at work lately. I’m not a fan of drama, never have been. I try to stay away from it, and sometimes come off as a big jerk. This isn’t personal drama, it’s scheduling drama. I had been offered a promotion, like I said, and so I worked in this new position for a couple weeks. It’s just not my thing, doing administrative tasks, and especially having lots more responsibility for not-so-great pay. ¬†Because I was in the office more, I wasn’t teaching as much. I love¬†teaching and tutoring. That’s why I sought out this job in the first place. (I don’t think I’ll ever be a principal. Ever.)

I talked with my boss on Monday, which went really well. We figured something out to where I’ll be working in the office on Fridays and the rest of the week I’ll be tutoring in the evenings. And, get this, I’ll have most Saturdays off! I have no idea¬†how that transpired, but I’m not gonna complain.

I still would love to find a full-time aide position or something like that. I’ve applied at a few districts, but not getting my hopes up. The job I have now definitely suffices. I love being able to be at home during the day and get things done.

Husband

I love my husband. Seriously. It gets sweeter every day, and I thank God for giving us the strength to get through the distance, because being together is just the best thing ever. The other night he went to bed earlier than usual because he had a migraine. I wanted to go to sleep, too, but just wasn’t tired enough. I stayed up for awhile and then finally headed to bed. It was such a great feeling knowing he was home. Sleeping alone was something that took me awhile to get used to, and now I really try to not take for granted that we’re together.

We work well together around the house. We try not to eat out except for once a week, so during the week I’ll get dinner ready and then he’ll cook it since I don’t get home until two hours after he does. This system works out well. We also both tackle the chores around the house. I’m blessed to have a man who not only knows how to do things around the house, but doesn’t complain about it.

Right now it’s rumored that his unit won’t deploy until the end of next summer. How awesome is that? It could change, of course, but that’s the latest he’s heard from one of his superiors.

Church

Harvest is an awesome church. We love the people… we’ve made some good friends through small group. We officially became members after doing the “mission and values” class. We were approached by one of the pastors who asked us if we’d be interested in teaching the junior high class on Sunday mornings. We would go to first service and then teach in the second. We met with another pastor on Sunday who oversees some of the youth activities and he explained our duties. Basically we’re going to set up a coffee shop feel for discussion, study and prayer for the 7th/8th graders. We have so many resources at our disposal… it’s just crazy. And we have freedom in what we teach, which is great. We’ll start that October 9th.

Around the house

We got a washer and dryer a couple weeks ago for just $150 total! I got them on Craigslist, and the guy and his wife actually brought them over and set them up. I went to Lowe’s to get a hose for the hot water and a vent for the dryer, and wa-la! No more hauling everything to the laundromat.

In the interest of saving money, I asked one of my friends from our old church (sad to say “old church”… boohoo) how she makes her laundry detergent. It’s cheap, mostly all-natural and so easy to make!

Just one batch lasted me almost two months. Granted, we’re only two people, but lots of time we’ll have two outfits per day when we work out. Mix these ingredients (I found both Borax and washing soda at Walmart) and use 1 tbsp per regular load.

Going into fall and winter…

I am so¬†excited about the next few months. About the cooler weather, earlier sunsets. About giving out Halloween candy to trick-or-treaters. When we lived in the apartment, we didn’t have kids come and trick-or-treat, so we’re doing it this year since we have a house. There are lots of kids in our neighborhood; I see them walking back and forth to the school down the street all the time.

I’m excited to celebrate our first¬†Thanksgiving at home. We went to my parents and my in-laws’ before for dinner. Last year I had my immediate family over. This year it’ll be the two of us, and hopefully a house full of friends. We’ll see… lots of people already have ¬†plans.

And there’s the Turkey Trot and Thanksgiving Parade.

This Christmas we’ll get to celebrate at home. Not sure where we’ll get a real tree (that’s something the husband insists on…). I suggested decorating a cactus, but he wasn’t too keen on that.

While it’d be great to be able to go back to Illinois and celebrate the holidays with family, it’s nice to just be at our¬†home and celebrate together. After all, the two of us do form our¬†family for right now.

 

El Paso

Aaron mentioned the other night that El Paso is starting to grow on him. I have to agree, and it surprises me. Most likely, we’ll be here for about three years. I’d actually love it if we were here through the end of his enlistment (4.5 years left). We’ve joked around about settling here, but I’m not quite sure about that possibility. I admit, there’s something about Texas in general that draws me in. With his job prospects in the civilian world, we could live in a number of different places. Guess we’ll see what’s in store for us…

>Darn perfectionism

>Now that summer is upon us and most people are wearing less clothes (some are significantly more revealing than others, ahem), I find my little friend called Perfectionism whispering into my ear.

Before I had lost 40 pounds, all I could think was, “If only I could lose 20 pounds, then I’d be happy.” Then when I’d lost that much, I’d think, “If only I could weigh what I did in high school… I’ll be happy with myself then.”

I hit my goal, and surprise, surprise, I realized this morning that my body does not reach my ridiculously high standards. I even find myself dillydallying (yes, that’s a word) at the grocery store to compare my completely normal, imperfect body with those of the magazines’ “best and worst swimsuit bodies”.

What in the world? I worked hard to lose those 40 pounds, and darn it, I should be proud. I should be confident in my own skin instead of wishing I looked like someone else. Who wants to be one of those super-skinny emaciated models anyway? They don’t have real curves, and Lord knows they don’t eat real food. They also don’t have much muscle tone from marathon training…

I’m not willing to give up my occasional every-other-day ice cream for the absolute best and most trim body…  and that’s fine. On my good days, I look in the mirror and am proud of my curves and my height, though sometimes it’s difficult finding clothes that fit just right.

I realize that there are many people out there who have much deeper struggles than I do. More weight to lose, more health issues that get in the way of exercise (thank God my heart issue does not prevent running!). I’m also not fishing for compliments… I’m just being real, maybe saying what others are thinking about themselves. The point I’m trying to make is that if we let ourselves, we can get so caught up in how we look that we miss out on appreciating the amazing benefits of losing weight and exercising.

I will never be the fastest runner… I will never be the most fit woman… I will never have my “ideal” body… but I’m healthy, fit, strong and have done things I never thought I’d achieve like run a marathon. I enjoy being active and [most days] I like what I see in the mirror. That’s something to be celebrated!

>Week in review, June 6 – June 12

>This week, I’d say I was pretty active, adding in a couple different activities…

Monday: rest
Tuesday: ~3-mi hike with Megan and Patrick
Wednesday: 2.6 tempo run with Gabi, and then a 1 hr 45 min trail ride with Becca. We didn’t bike that whole time.. see a previous post for a review on that. It was tons of fun.
Thursday: rest, my butt hurt. Whining, I know.
Friday: rest
Saturday: 10-miler with Gabi this morning; I love those runs where you’re sore later. Longest distance we’ve done since the marathon in April.
Sunday: I’m going to plan some sort of cross-training for the gym.

I really really really love the idea of Run Less, Run Faster of doing three key runs per week, and sandwiching in two cross-training workouts. Because of the intensity of the runs, you need a day between each run to recover. However, the runs don’t wear you out so much that you need to take the next day completely off.

I want to get faster, and I want to keep my tempo and long runs at decent paces… Maybe 5-7 miles for the tempo and 8-14 for the long runs for right now. If I do a 3-mi interval run each week, that would give me 16-24 miles per week, plus cross-training. I have no race planned at this point, so I just want to keep up a good base so when I start training for the half around September/October, I can really kick it in the butt!

I admit that my eating has not been the best. I don’t think I’ve been eating too much from day to day.. it could possibly be the opposite. It’s summer, and I don’t have to take my lunch so I have a hard time being motivated to cook. Also, the movers come in less than three weeks and I don’t want to have a ton of food to throw away. I’m really bad about thinking I need to keep a full cabinet and fridge all the time. I don’t have to cook, necessarily… but I do need to make sure I’m getting enough fruits, veggies, and proteins instead of filling my calories with leftover Texas cake and ice cream.

Hydration with this heat and humidity is also a key issue. Sunday night I had a prolonged SVT episode and to make it stop I jumped in a cold shower. (To snap the heart out of the rhythm it needs to be “shocked” in some way.) Because my iron is better now, I think the problem was hydration and possibly lack of balance of vitamins and electrolytes. Also, the occasional drink can slow heart rate, and if I’m already dehydrated, my heart freaks out. Live and learn, I suppose.

This entry is quite long enough so I’m going sign off and enjoy the rest of my day. Enjoy the cooler weather while it lasts!