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Friday, October 28, 2011

16 Candles and Fried Chicken

Today is my birthday and I can do what I want so if I want 16 candles, there will be 16 candles right?  No one will be fooled but I will be happy.  So far, my family has done well; roses, Grace's biscuits for breakfast, sunshine, beautiful fall colors everywhere, everyone happy and in a good mood.  Fifty isn't so bad and would even be great if I weren't still tired.  Life has been lived at a breakneck speed lately with me needing to be in more places than physically possible.  I did get a good night's sleep last night and I will the next three nights so I should be much better by Monday.  I have a massage scheduled later this afternoon so I'm getting a bit of pampering.  My husband will take me to dinner and though he doesn't know it, I plan to have some dancing later.

It is only right to spoil yourself once in awhile.  If you spoil yourself too often, you are probably selfish or foolish or both.  Take a day once in awhile to slow down and rest.  Listen to your body.  When you stress yourself out too much and don't take time to rest, bad things can happen to that poor old body that carries you around.  So that is my agenda for the weekend - taking care of myself.  I will still eat right most meals and I've already had a good workout this morning, and every morning.

However, one gift I look forward to all year is the fried chicken dinner I will indulge in on Sunday.  I've mentioned it before, that my sister cooks fried chicken and makes chicken gravy with it.  One of the best experiences on earth if you ask me.  Then the Apple Betty pie my husband and children make and I will be one happy woman.  

So there.  I've shown that you can indulge once in awhile, over do once in awhile and still survive if you do the right things most of the time.  My philosophy of life is that you take care of your body like you would any precious thing and a few over indulgences are acceptable.

So have a lovely weekend with friends and family.  Get out and enjoy the cool weather and nature's beautiful display.  Rejuvenate for the next week.  And if you are inclined, drink a toast in my honor.  I'm 50 after all.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Computer Wrestling

Warning:  Today's post will be a bit odd.  Wrestling with computers or any type of technology should count as exercise.  I have just spent the last hour and a half trying to upload the Wellsphere badge (explanation to follow) to my blog.  Oh, the instructions say that it is easy, even if you are not technologically savvy but I beg to differ.  I feel more tired now than I do after an average workout and I haven't even reaped the benefits of the nice calm feeling I get after exercising.  I am so irritable now I could spit nails.  Along with the badge, I was trying to upload a photo to go with it but that didn't work so well either.

As for those of you who are snickering right now, thinking how stupid could I be, I need to catch up to the 21st. century, etc., you can stop right now.  I have seen plenty of you stumped by your iPhone, dragging your computers into the "docs" to be fixed and on the verge of a melt down too.  The truth is most technology is too complex for what the average person really needs or wants and makes perfect sense only to the designer.  Maybe not even then.  So, those of you who want to consider computer wrestling a sport, type a smiley face.  :)

Wellsphere is a web page devoted to helping readers connect with health information on a variety of topics.  I was honored to be asked to join this page, especially as I didn't seek them out.  I am always looking for ways to connect to others and encourage good health on the home front, where good health begins.  Around the same time, I also received an email from nursing, a web page that serves as an online guide to nursing careers.  I was very honored to be included in the article "50 Best Blogs For Physiology Students", especially since all the other blogs under cardiology were written by physicians.

I sometimes feel like I am talking in an empty room as I know personal health isn't usually viewed as an interesting topic until something goes wrong.  I just like being here for those who are interested in taking better care of themselves and want some support along the way.   Despite all my wishes, there is no magic wand to wave or words to say to ensure perfect health.  You know that.  Anyway, I'm off to manage my high stress level by exercising.  I know I'll feel better after I've sweated.        

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fit2Fat2Fit, A Blog You Should Check Out

I read a lot and watch the TV news so I can stay informed on any health news whether it is a new medicine, the latest exercise craze or people who make a difference.  Today on Good Morning America, there was a feature on a personal trainer who is trying to make a difference.  After years of listening to his clients complain that he just didn't understand how hard it is to deal with food cravings and to lose weight, Drew Manning decided to walk in their shoes.  Literally.  So he embarked on a 6 month reverse diet.  He's been eating the typical American diet; whatever he wants, whenever he wants, consequences be damned.  Exercise has gone out the window.  After the 6 months, he plans to get fit again, all in an effort to reach people and show it can be done.  So far, his weight has blossomed from 193 to an alarming 263 and his waist line has dramatically bloomed as well.  I will be following his blog, especially when he starts the fitness phase, to see how he progresses and the lessons he learns.  If you need some inspiration in your life, you may want to check out his blog as well.

Also today I want to thank my friend Kara for sharing a wonderful new recipe with me, Baked Oatmeal.  I admire Kara because she will spend a day now and then, cooking, baking and freezing so her family can still eat homemade, healthier food on those busy days.  I whipped this recipe together last night, put it in the fridge, then baked it this morning.  I think if you didn't tell your family it has oatmeal in it, they probably won't know.  Just tell them it's a breakfast cake, or coffee cake.  I think next time I will try some raisins or nuts in it or add a bit of flax seed.  I'm sneaky like that.  The peanut butter version would probably be good with chunks of banana as well.  Make a batch this weekend; I know you will like it.

Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal
3 cups quick  cooking oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup milk
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 eggs
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
Mix all ingredients and spread in a 9x13 pan that has been lightly greased.  Spread an additional 1/4 cup brown sugar over the top.  Bake at 350 for 20 to 30 minutes until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Bake less time if you prefer it to be more moist.  Serve warm with a bit of cream or Pet milk poured over the top.  This keeps well in the refrigerator if it lasts that long.

The peanut butter version is the same but substitute 1/2 cup peanut butter for the pumpkin.  My son did fuss about having oatmeal last night when he saw what I was making.  However, he grudgingly said it was OK this morning and ate every bite.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Planning Ahead

This is such a busy time of year with all the band competitions, football games and swim meets we attend.  I always want my family to eat home cooked food so I was happy to find another super easy yet good crock pot recipe this weekend.  I also want to encourage my readers to make extra and freeze for those busy days when it will be impossible to cook.  Make a big pot of soup, chili or spaghetti so you can freeze the extra portion.  I will be making my beef vegetable soup later this week which is more than enough for several meals.  I also want to encourage you to plan ahead for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.  If you are having a bunch of people at your house this year, make your life easier by cooking now and freezing food so you can enjoy your holiday too.  You can even freeze baked goods like cookies and muffins.  You'll be glad you did your prep work early!

Back to my new recipe.  Five ingredients and a crockpot.  Dump it all in and forget about it.  How much better can it get?  Oh yes, it tasted good too.  Leftovers were good the next day.  Cleanup was a breeze.  It was almost like eating fast food but way, way better.  So here it is.

Herbed Beef Sandwiches
3 to 4 lb. beef chuck roast, trimmed
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil or 1 Tbsp. dried
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano or 1 Tbsp. dried
1 1/2 cups water
1 envelope onion soup mix
your favorite sandwich rolls
Place roast in a slow cooker that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Combine remaining ingredients in a measuring cup.  Pour over roast.  Cook on high one hour, then on low 5 or 6 or cook on low 8 hours while you are at work.  Before serving, shred meat with 2 forks and serve on rolls.

Because we all like onions, I sliced a couple of onions and browned then in olive oil and put them on the sandwich too.   A nice white cheese like Harvarti or Provolone would be good too if you like.  These sandwiches are kind of juicy and sloppy but it was a nice change from pot roast.  I also like that you don't brown the meat first which makes it faster and less messy to make.

Still haven't worked out the problem with the photos.  I need a home computer nerd to come help but mine seem to be busy all the time.      

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lentils: Tiny In Size, Big In Nutrition

I have alot of cookbooks as you can imagine.  Most were given to me or they belonged to my parents; a few I bought for fundraisers.  I try to cull through them once in awhile as it seems that recipes get repeated so much.  Really, how many ways can you make spaghetti or bake a chicken?  My advice on cookbooks is that everyone should have one basic cookbook that can serve as a reference book such as Joy of Cooking.  This cookbook has all kinds of cooking and food information such as cuts of beef and a whole section on ingredients.  It is my go-to book when I need to know something.  Then you should be really, really picky about every other cookbook that comes into your home.  They take up so much room after all.  The only other cookbook that I feel is absolutely necessary is Traditions, A Taste of the Good Life, published by the Junior League of Little Rock in 1983.  I have found more great recipes in this cookbook than any other and if you can locate a copy, you will have a treasure.  They were still available a few years back in local cooking stores.

The soup recipe I promised to share comes from this cookbook.  It contains lentils, a member of the legume family that we don't see used very often around these parts.  That's a shame because lentils, like other beans, pack alot of nutrition.  Lentils are high in fiber, contain 2 B vitamins, protein and 6 important minerals.  They have an indefinite shelf life and are quick to cook.  This soup is very comforting on a chilly night.  Just serve with crackers or bread.

Sausage and Lentil Soup
1 lb. lentils
8 cups water
2 16 oz. cans diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
8 slices bacon, diced
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 large onion, diced
1 cup chopped celery
2 lbs. sausage, browned and drained
Wash lentils and combine with water, tomatoes and seasonings.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat.  Fry bacon until limp, then add carrots, onion and celery.  Saute' over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add bacon mixture and browned sausage to lentils.  Simmer for 1 hour.    

I am having technical difficulties with downloading photos.  I hope to have a picture of the soup posted soon.  Enjoy the soup!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Couponing Update

In August, I decided to try to maximize my coupon savings and learn to be a more savvy shopper.   I am also tracking my coupon and shopping savings so I can see my progress.  I felt there was possibly a great deal of money I was basically throwing away by not using coupons.  So I am now in my third month and I feel like I have stalled.  Where are the good coupons?  The best coupons I have found are for things I don't use or that I have plenty of like shampoo and hair products.  I'd like more coupons for fresh vegetables, milk, orange juice, meat and eggs.  We don't eat many processed foods or drink sodas so the free liter of Dr. Pepper at Target did not excite me.  Neither did the coupon for .99 air freshener at Walgreens.

Don't get me wrong; I'm very excited about the savings I've accumulated so far.  Total savings to date are $367.70; of that $106.63 are coupon savings, the rest is sales price savings.  The trouble is you get sucked into believing that you should only pay maybe $5 for $100 worth of groceries like they do on TV.  Maybe I should watch the show for some tips.  One thing I am better at now is really looking at the sales sheets that stores send out.  I've been trying to plan meals around the items on sale that week and of course, matching coupons to sales items when possible.

One new coupon site I've found is  There are several pages of coupons each week and they are easy to scan quickly and print.  I have also tried a few other brands I normally wouldn't have because I had a really good coupon for them, making them a much better buy than my favorite brand.  I have also discovered that Walgreens is a great place to shop for all sorts of items.  I never really shopped at Walgreens before but lately I have picked up things like mascara, soup and and shampoo at really great prices.

So here are my tips: be open to shopping some place different and to trying new brands.  Check out many websites, magazines and newspapers for coupons.  Planning meals and having a shopping list saves money and keeps impulse buying to a minimum.  Watch for promotions such as buy two and receive a coupon for money off your next shopping trip.  I received $3.50 in such coupons yesterday while buying spices and toilet cleaner on sale.

If any of my readers have any coupon tips to share, please do!  We'd all love to save more money wouldn't we?  On Thursday, I'm going to share a new soup recipe I just tried.  I think it's going to get cooler sometime and my family thought this soup was great. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Do School Lunches Measure Up?

I was excited to see a segment on Good Morning America this week about a teacher who began to blog about the school lunches which she felt were less than desirable.  The majority of the kids at her school receive free or reduced lunches, meaning that lunch at school might be their best meal of the day.  Yet what are schools serving up but fat, salt, highly processed foods and empty calories?  I even give my local schools a less than stellar grade on the lunches they serve though they have improved a tiny bit lately.  Let's look at a sample from this week from two different schools:  Clux Delux Chicken sandwich with RF chips; Mac n cheese and beef sticks; Mystery beans, apple wedges, juice bar and choice of milk; Hot dog, potato wedge, pickles, crisp rice square; Mac n cheese, black eyed peas, cornbread, peaches and gelatin.  I don't know about you but I very curious about beef sticks and mystery beans.  Any food with the word "mystery" in front of it is immediately suspicious and probably to be avoided in my mind.

I'd like to see more fresh fruit and raw veggies offered at schools.  I'd certainly like to know that a "choice of milk" meant 2% or skim, not chocolate or strawberry which usually contain more sugar than a soda.  I'd like to see chicken nuggets outlawed all together and a nice chicken leg or breast on the tray instead.  There are healthier ways to cook potatoes other than frying them too.  I'd like to see food served that kids actually want to eat that won't leave their arteries clogged and their waists bloated.

This week I made lunch for 6 of my son's friends because they were all longing to eat whatever he brought that day.  They were tired and disgusted with the school lunches and wanted something fresh and different.  I made a ham salad sandwich on wheat bread with lettuce, grapes and pretzels.  They were so excited and grateful.  It didn't really take more than 20 minutes to assemble 8 lunches that morning.  Some of it could have been done the night before but it shows a healthy lunch isn't hard to make.  Though I can't do it every day, I plan to make them another lunch soon with a turkey, avocado and red onion sandwich to see their reactions.

Are you concerned about what your children eat at school?  If so, get involved.  Let the school board know you expect better for our kids.  If you'd like to check out that teacher's blog, go to  She also has a book out this week.  We can improve our own health with our actions!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

ATV Safety

A friend of mine recently had an accident on an ATV (all terrain vehicle).  He suffered a couple of broken bones and several bad bruises and it will be 6 weeks or so before he is fully recovered.  It could have been much worse.

I have never been a fan of ATVs and never let my children ride them.  Most people take them for granted and treat them as a toy and source of entertainment for themselves and their children.  I have seen children turned loose in the woods near my house, riding on adult ATVs with no supervision.  If they were to have an accident, it would be some time before their parents realized they were missing and then it would take awhile to find them.  The same goes for golf carts and other types of farm vehicles known as gators and mules.  Children don't treat these vehicles with respect and unknowingly take risks.  Earlier this year, a couple of girls suffered broken bones when their golf cart overturned while riding down a steep hill in their neighborhood.  Another teen who lived near me was thrown from his ATV because he was going too fast.  He suffered a broken back.

I never cease to be amazed when parents let children operate such vehicles.  They are not toys and should not be used as such by immature, thrill seeking children.  But back to ATVs specifically.  In 2009, there were 376 deaths and 131,900 ER visits tied to ATV accidents.  Kids were involved in 32,400 of these accidents and 61 died.  In fact, the risk of serious injury to kids from an ATV accident is 61% higher than in football.  Rollovers are the most common accident involving ATVs and children are easily pinned or crushed beneath their weight.  

If you and your family still feel like riding ATVs, here are some basic safety rules.  Number one - GET TRAINED.  Every rider should take a course on operating and using an ATV.  Two - Always wear a proper helmet, long pants and sturdy boots.  Three - Don't ride double.  Children should not ride with another adult or child.  ATVs are controlled in part by body weight so an extra rider could throw off the driver.  Four - Children should never ride adult sized vehicles.  Buy an appropriately sized one.  Five - Don't operate an ATV while drinking.  This should be a no brainer but many accidents are a result of alcohol.  Six - Don't ride alone and always supervise children.

If you use your ATV for work and hauling, make sure you know how to properly load it so it is balanced.  ATVs tip and rollover easily so make sure the weight is distributed in a balanced manner.  Once again, don't work alone when using such equipment or at least make sure someone knows where you are and when you will be finished.  My friend was using his ATV for work but had someone else along who was able to call for help.

Think twice before treating these machines so casually.  The life you save could be your child's.