August 29, 2017

BBQ Sauce!

I like to keep it honest, I hope you all know.
I love THM and I love BBQ sauce, but I've never tried the E one from the Cookbook because BBQ, to me, goes with S meats and a side of slaw.
My family eats BBQ regularly and I often just buy a sauce.  After all, I like to keep things easy.  But we were out?  Seriously!
So then I was in search of a low carb sauce online that I could use in any setting, and honestly, all the pop ups, ads and a ton of words just to get to the recipe gets to me.  So I'll keep it short and sweet with a few photos from my handy iPhone to show I actually made and eat the stuff.
The meal is pulled pork from a pork roast (S in THM speak) cooked overnight in my crockpot with some water and salt/pepper.  The slaw is my base recipe but with a broccoli blend that I bought in a bag (I've been busy and didn't have the time or need to chop) and I added sriracha instead of the mustard and poppy seeds (basically mayo, vinegar, sriracha and a doonk of pure stevia). Okra pickles are my newest obsession and there are a few on the side with a joseph's low carb pita underneath it all.
I hope you enjoy!

Kimi's BBQ Sauce!

1- 6oz can tomato paste
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp mustard (I used brown mustard from a jar, you could use any kind or the powdered version)
2 doonks stevia, more if you like sweet/I don't
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1-2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1-2 tsp Franks hot sauce, sriracha would also work
3/4 cup water

Put it all in a small pan, bring to a light boil and then turn down the heat to simmer for about 20-30 minutes.  Keep in the fridge and use in 2-3 weeks.

January 31, 2017


I've had a hard time with exercise the last 2 years.  As I've gotten older I find that injury and weakness are also increasing.  Because of this, I find that I can no longer push myself as I had in the past.
But I've discovered in training that sometimes going slower and keeping things easy are what make you stronger.

He has told you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8
I often feel my expectations are harder than what God puts on me.  I push and push while God just wants me to walk.
He doesn't say sit or dwell.
It doe
sn't say run.
He says walk.
This is the way, walk in it.
Jeremiah 30:21

Thus says the Lord: Stand by the roads and look and ask for the ancient paths where the good way is, and walk in it and find rest for your souls.  
Jeremiah 6:16

I often feel so stressed by all the things I feel I should be doing, but God isn't telling me to work harder.  He is saying that there is action on my part, but that maybe sometimes I overthink and over-react. 
When all I need to do is just walk.

January 30, 2017

Getting out of the menu rut with THM

Getting in a rut with menu planning is always a challenge for me.  Yes, I like and appreciate the comforts of some foods, but it just kills my soul to have the same foods day after day.
This is part of the reason I read cookbooks regularly... not just things that are Trim Healthy Mama approved, but things that I might be able to transform to THM.
Yes, there are some things that I consider weekly staples and will plan for just because I know they are quick and easy... mainly variations of the Loaded Fotato Soup are just too easy, healthy and tasty this time of year to not enjoy.
Kimi's Quick Cole Slaw
And even though I often have lofty aspirations, my final menu usually ends up fairly normal.  It's really about rotating proteins and ingredients, but shopping sales at stores can sometimes limit this.

I've also added some recipes with Baking Blend.  I'm actually out at this time but I have been using this recipe for Low Carb Baking Mix from Little Lambs with success.
Got chicken?
I bought a few packs and made Bangin' Ranch
Drum (and thighs) along with using
the sauce from Spicy Chicken Wings
Many of these recipes are found on the THM Membership site (I have links for others).  I tend to love the Menu Builder for just this reason.  I can put in what meal, type of meal and style of food and see a bunch of options to choose from.  You may also search by ingredient and then tag the recipes you like the best.
It is still on sale for a few more days if you want to try it out.  
I'm still working at getting back to my goal range, only 2 pounds away today!
This is my plan for the week

I personally enjoy drinks like Good Girl Moonshine and the Winter Wonderland Sip throughout the day.  I listed the Trimmy Lite on day 1, but it is a morning staple.
Day 1
B-  Hardboiled eggs and berries with Trimmy Lite (S)
L-  Meat loaf with cauliflower mash and broccoli salad (S)
S-  Popcorn (E)
D-  Greek salad with Potsticker Patties (S) Cookbook/Membership site

Day 2
B-  Cinnamon Bun Cake (S) 
L-  Sandwich with 2 slices Ezekiel bread, lean cold cuts and veggies.  Apple on the side (E)
S-  2 Wasa with Laughing cow wedge (FP)
D-  Bangin' Ranch chicken, cole slaw and side salad (S) Cookbook

Day 3
B-  Raspberry Scones (S)
L-  Loaded Fotato Soup (FP)
S-  Spiced Apple Cake (E) Membership site
D- Rainbow Kai Si Ming (S) Cookbook

Day 4
Faux-Carb Alfredo Sauce-s
B-  Eggs and Bacon (S)
L- Chili Relleno Casserole (S) Original book/membership site
S-  Almond Raspberry Breakfast Swirl (FP)
D-  Spaghetti squash with Faux Carb Alfredo and veggies (S)

Day 5
B-  Trim Healthy Pancakes (E)
L-  Cheesy Dream Soup (FP) Cookbook
S-  Peanutty Fudge (S) Cookbook
D- Pearl's Chili (S) Original book/Membership site

Day 6
B-  Sausage Balls (S) Cookbook
L-  Chana Dal Soup (E) Recipes in books, but I just cook it in chicken stock and spices
S-  Cottage Berry Whip (FP)
D-  Pizza on sourdough crust with lean meats, veggies and part-skim mozzarella (E)

Day 7
B-  Oatmeal (E)
L-  Chef Salad (S) Go crazy with S ingredients on the salad bar!
S-  Shake Gone Nuts (FP) Cookbook
D-  Lazy Lasagna (S)  Cookbook

January 24, 2017

Kimi's Simple Cole Slaw

I love all things cabbage.  Seriously.  It's cheap and amazingly healthy and also pretty easy to prepare as well.  You can get as intensive as you like with culturing to make things like sauerkraut or kimchi or just take it easy and saute it in a pan of butter.  You can steam it or use it as a wrap.
But one of my all time favorites is just to make a slaw.
Cole slaw is a great side dish or  even topping for BBQ or chili dogs.
This is the recipe I've used for the last few decades with a few tweaks to make it THM-worthy (Trim, Healthy Mama) as an S recipe.
Also... like most things in life, there are no absolute directions here.  I am including rough amounts, but they will always vary depending on your own tastes.

Kimi's Simple Cole Slaw- S
1 small, or half a large, head of cabbage
1/2 sweet onion, finely sliced (a regular white or yellow onion is fine)
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2-4 T apple cider (or white) vinegar
1-2 doonks pure stevia
1 Tbsp poppy seeds

Cut the cabbage into very fine strips or shreds, the finer the better.
In a bowl, mix in the onion and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
In a separate bowl or cup, mix together the mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, stevia and poppy seeds till blended well.
Pour dressing over the cabbage/onion and mix together till coated.
Allow to chill for a few hours before serving.

January 11, 2017

It's really about the story

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."
Marcel Proust

Over the past year, I have re-discovered my love of reading.
I grew up as a reader, but as I grew older, I had the issues of time and focus.  I also have always found that I become very immersed in stories so I would allow a once a year splurge that would usually involve a three day marathon with several hundred pages with everything else in life taking a back seat.  This is fine when you're a childless twenty-something, but not always a good thing as priorities and needs shift.

Realizing that this reading style wasn't sustainable for my life, I'd limit my reading to one book every year or so.
But I found as life changed, stress or big events seemed to be defined and remembered by my reading.  I turned to books for therapy when I had major life changes or events, and now think of the book that went with that time and how it helped or supported me.  

Last year I discovered that I have time to read.  I always had the time actually, but it just was hard to see from certain perspectives.  The time was subtle and always there.  It was about changing how I viewed reading and using my time.

Sometimes it is just as simple as recognizing what was always there....

In a recent read, I've been looking at the life of St. Francis of Assisi.  One thing that I learned was that my God time shouldn't be a marathon either.  It shouldn't be on or off, or black or white, a valley or a mountain. 
It should just be.

I remember falling in love with the stories I heard in the Bible as a child.  Doctrine didn't draw me to God.  What made sense was the stories.
I spent a lot of time with my grandparents growing up.   They taught me so much including how to read and love books and stories, but more importantly,  they made time to tell me stories and play games.  I don't recall them ever telling me that they didn't have time.
In these stories I saw protection and promise.  I saw God's caring and constancy.  It was made real thru these people who cared for me.

God's word isn't made of doctrinal rules, but shows the struggles and real lives of His people.  People like me.
I learned from my Grandparents that the stories were just as much a part of God as they were.

I love logic and that God has provided structure in our world, but I have been missing the part as an adult that God is a creator and artist.  He is telling his story, not just his laws or rules, in the Bible and with his people.  
I have been trying for most of my life to put God into the same pattern I had in reading.  Worship and study was either off or on.
I was in the habit of  trying to fit God into my life instead of seeing how I fit into his plan.  I was failing to see that God wasn't a splurge, but everywhere and in all things.

I'm seeing that the story and taking time to learn it as well as live it are what my life should be about.

What I've realized is that study and worship don't have to be big.  They don't always require going to a building with a minister or leader or following a certain schedule.  Sometimes worship means being aware of God's presence within our world.
It's recognizing his art in nature.
We just have to see it.

It makes me aware that God has given me a story as well to tell with my life, and that I need to be more open to listening to the stories of others.
Most days I still don't know what my story is, but I'm learning that often it is just about showing up and being aware of life and those around me.  I'm finding that so much of my life is filled with those who just want me to be there and be present with them.
And maybe I just need to start with learning to tell the stories I already know with the passion and love that they were told to me so that the children whose lives I'm blessed to be in will learn to love them and hold them in their hearts just as I did.

January 9, 2017

A week of THM..... Family style!

Most of us on Trim, Healthy Mama (THM) don't live in a bubble where we just make single serve meals for only ourselves while having a perfectly stocked pantry of every possible ingredient with a limitless budget.
Many of us are busy Mama's who are juggling jobs, homeschool, kids of various ages, husbands and budgets.
I'm right there with you.
I'm a wife and mother of three kids who range from college to preschool.  I homeschool as well as work as a RN outside the home.  My family has a background that tends towards natural, purist-y eating, and this means that I tend to cook most of our meals.

Making a meal plan means that I need to look at what we are ALL going to eat.  I don't get stressed with rounding out meals, but have to make sure that I plan on giving my growing kids more.

As someone who has lived on THM at goal weight for the last several years, one of the issues is making a THM meal for me and rounding it out for my family without me going overboard.  While my family can enjoy crossovers regularly, and even eat off-plan, I can't let myself fall into the trap of continuous crossovers or with having off-plan foods even at goal.
After all, a little soon becomes a little more and then even more.... at least for me.

My boys with Trim, Healthy Pancakes covered in honey
and some freshly whipped cream.  Big guy gets
some coffee with half and half.
One thing I look at with menu planning for my family is content of food.  I don't want them to eat poorly, but to have well rounded meals.  This is yet ANOTHER reason to really focus on getting in non-starchies with each meal and snack.  I don't want to just fill them up with carbs and fats, but make sure that health is a huge part of our habits.  To me, this means getting in non-starchies.

This is obviously a 5 day schedule, but I think you get the idea.  My kids are all pretty thin, active and have no health issues so I do opt for rounding out meals in this way for them.
Hope you find something that is a help or inspiration for this week!

B-  Trim Healthy Pancakes (E) with berries (OK, I forgot the berries so mine were plain) Add whipped cream with stevia and honey as a family option.
L-  Kai Si Ming (S) add ramen for family option.  (I use store bought ramen, throw out the flavor pack and make my own soup base with homemade chicken stock, spices and gelatin).
S-  Popcorn (E)  cook in coconut oil, for family feel free to add S-style limits when cooking
D- Salmon patties with peas and roasted sweet potatoes (CO).  Feel free to add regular potatoes for kids.

B-  Eggs and hash (S)  add 2 slices of sprouted bread with butter and honey for family
L-  Cheeseburger Pie with side salad (S) add side of potatoes or brown rice for family
S-  Cheesecake berry crunch (S) no need to add to this great snack!
D-  Curry with rice (E)  top with plain full fat Greek yogurt (S) for family

B-  Anabolic oatmeal (E) add butter
L-   Broccoli chicken casserole (S) add 2 slices of sprouted bread for family
S-  Apple with 1 tsp peanut butter (E) for family let them smear on peanut butter or add some cheese
D-  Beef stir fry with veggies (S)  add rice for a crossover

Briana's Berry taco with Winter
Wonderland Sip
B-  Creamy quinoa (s-helper) add butter or coconut oil for family to make crossover
L-  Chicken salad on joseph's pita with broccoli salad (S)  use sprouted bread instead of pita and add a piece of fruit for family
S-   Briana's Berry Taco (S) use whole wheat or sprouted tortilla for family
D-  Burger with cabbage (S) add roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes for family

B-    Baked blueberry oatmeal (E) with whipped cream (stevia sweetened) for family
L-  Clam chowder (S) family gets a side of sprouted bread or make 2 batches of soup, one with radishes and one with potatoes
S-  Pink smoothie (E) after making, pour mine into glass and add bananas and some coconut cream for family
D-  Mediterranean Chicken Stew (S) add some brown rice for family

January 1, 2017

Continued success.. a menu

I spent the last week getting back to basics on Trim, Healthy Mama with this menu.  I've been feeling more energized
and looking to the next week.  After all, success takes planning and preparation.
I've been working a bunch since we've been off homeschool the last few weeks and I have one more week left.  Add in play time with my little guy and I really am not feeling inspired to spend a ton of time in the kitchen.
I've always felt that THM is a lifestyle that promotes health and keeps me able to do all that I need to do in life.  Yes, it is wonderful to be free of all the weight I've lost (starting in November 2012 with 45 pounds over 9 months and maintained since then, mostly until the last few weeks) but this mainly allows me to be able to move and do more each day.  That is the real JOY of THM.

But as I posted last week... I've been cheating myself here and there for the last few weeks, and had put on 10 pounds.  I'm down 2 pounds from last week and feeling better.  Yes, I've had some 10-12 hour days at work and have been so busy and stressed.  

 So this is my plan for this week filled with more busy, long days and work.
I love the THM Membership site and am using many recipes featured there.  I've been a member since it opened and have been so happy with all the new recipes, videos and hints as well as all of the Original book's recipes and ingredients from the Cookbook.  The menu builder is a great help and allows you to customize and prints a shopping list based on your menu down to the serving sizes.  The Menu Builder is great when you're not sure what you want but know a certain ingredient or meal type that you want to utilize.

I like sharing a good thing and the MEMBERSHIP is currently on SALE!  Google THM Membership  for more info.
Most recipes from my blog here are also on the website so that you may use the Menu Builder or grocery list function as well. 

Also... I realize looking at this menu that there seems to be lots of cake for breakfast.  I find it goes well with coffee and helps to inspire the rest of my day!

Getting back on plan/ Week 2

B-  Hash and eggs (S)  Membership site
S-  Almond Raspberry Breakfast Swirl  (FP)  Original book/Membership site
D-  Buffalo Chicken Casserole (S)  Membership site
B- Anabolic Oatmeal  (E)  Original book/Membership site
L-  Golden Chana Soup (E) Cookbook/Membership site
S- Popcorn (E)
D-  Burrito Bowls (E) Membership site

B-  Berrytastic Smoothie (S)  Membership site
L-   Spanish Rice Quinoa  with side salad (E)

B-  Baked Blueberry Oatmeal (E)  Membership site
L-  Mozzarella and Turkey Toast with side salad (E)  Original book/Membership site
D-  Blackened Chicken with Mango and Black Beans (E) Cookbook/Membership site

B-  Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Cake  (E) Membership site
S-  Anti-inflammatory Smoothie  (FP)  Membership site -OR- Detoxifying Smoothie (FP)
D- Alfredo Beef and Broccoli (S)  Original book/Membership site
B-  Eggs and Bacon (S)
S-  Big Boy Smoothie (FP)  Original book/Membership site
D-  Egg Roll in a Bowl (S)  Cookbook/Membership site

B-  Cinnamon Special Agent Cake (S) Membership site
L-  Cranberry Pecan Salmon Salad (S) Membership site
D-  Burgers with cheese, sauteed cabbage and roasted sweet potatoes (crossover)

December 27, 2016

THM Menu... Getting back on track

A little nibble won't hurt.  I'm worth getting a treat every now and then.  I'm on vacation.  I'm stressed.  I'm tired.  I was really active today.  It's Christmas.

These are just a few of the things that I've either said or thought over the last 4-6 months, and have contributed to me sliding ever-so-quietly off THM, or Trim Healthy Mama.
Yes, I'm a die hard THM fan for life.  Yes, I'm still an admin in the groups and know the plan quite well.  Yes, I know what works for me and what my body needs.

BUT... as I've always said... sometimes losing and maintaining weight has more to do with what's in your head and the constant emotional pull that food has on us.  This time of year, it is so much easier to justify that bite because it is tradition or a memory that holds meaning for us, but bite after bite adds up.  The stress and busyness of the season change our hormones and it is all an endless cycle that leads to weight gain, bloat and generally feeling bad.

I've been on THM for 4 years and have never really had issues with this until this year.  I was a couple pounds up for my Trimaversary, pictured here, but it really spiralled in the last several weeks. Life has been busy and  I've allowed stress to rule and if I can go 1 day fully on THM, then it has been a miracle but also seems the reason to eat horribly the next day it seems.

So for confession.... I'm actually up about 10 pounds as of today.  Much of it is bloat and inflammation from eating poorly.  My photos don't look like I've gained much, but I can feel the bloat in my face and belly and can feel the spiral of gain growing.

I've taken time to evaluate why I'm making these choices and working on solutions.

I need a plan, and in addition to THM, I have also fallen off the consistent exercise wagon as well.  I've got that going, but I also realize that food is so much more important than exercise.  What we choose to fuel our lives is always the key.  So here's my menu for the week.
I tend to make family meals based off of what is in my freezer or on sale at the local grocery.  This week was chicken breast meat so it will have a heavy presence here.  I'd call this No Special Ingredients, but I find that is a very subjective term.
My family eats what I cook, but as I have 3 skinny, active kids who need to gain, I round their meals out with healthy crossover choices.

Links to recipes are either my recipes or will be from the THM books or membership site.   If you don't have the books or are wanting to try out some official recipes go HERE.
Not all meals will have non-starchies, but this is and should always be a goal.  I'm trying to keep it real here, and I find that eating at the cafeteria at work is limiting for veggies or berries for breakfast.
I will also add that there is no rhyme or reason as to the meal combinations.  I go with what I think will be a healthy daily menu based on what I have on hand.  Planning a menu in advance helps me to see if I'm having too many of one fuel type and helps me to know to switch it out and change my fuels.

I enjoy the GGMS (sipper) throughout the day with water.

B- Cheese eggs with Bacon (S)
L- Broccoli Chicken Casserole (S) Membership site recipe
S- Fat Stripping Frappa, Original book
D- Cabb and Saus (S)  Membership site recipe, Cookbook

B- Creamy Quinoa (S-helper) Original book
L-  Salad with poached salmon (S) Original book
S- DeToxifying Smoothie (FP)
D-  Chicken curry with brown rice (E)

B- Oatmeal (E) Original book
L- Avo Bacon Noodle Toss (S)
S- Cheesecake berry Crunch (S)
D- Pearl's Wicked White Chili (E) Cookbook

B-  Cheese Eggs and Bacon (S)
L-  Confetti Quinoa (E) Made with chicken breast meat, not turkey this week!
S- Pink Smoothie (E)
D-  Salmon patties with sauteed cabbage (S) Original book for crabby/salmon patties.  I use my old recipe from pre-thm and sub ground rolled oats for flour.

B-  All flax version of Muffin in a Mug (S)
L-  Loaded Fotato Soup (FP)
S-  Cottage Berry Whip (FP)
D- Pepperoni Spaghetti Squash (S)

B-  Trim Healthy Pancakes (E)
L-  Cheesy Burger Soup (S)
S-  Festive Pink Smoothie (FP)
D- Balsamic Chicken with quinoa (E) Cookbook

B-  Hash and Eggs (S)  Membership site recipe
L-  Pimento Cheese on ezekiel bread with side of broccoli salad (S-helper)
S-  Pineapple upside down cake  (E)
D-  Mediterranean Chicken Stew with a side spinach salad (S)

I'm all about making things simple.  This is my personal menu and plan for the week.  Sometimes there might be unanticipated left-overs that I will sub for another meal the next day, but I try to not plan on them so that there is a larger variety of food.
I've tried to include recipes, both official and my own, that are available for free.  THM is a very accessible plan and Pearl and Serene have offered so many recipes for free.  So just imagine how many gems are in their books as well as the membership site!
I get nothing monetary from sharing any of this.  I just believe in sharing a good thing, especially if it promotes health and well-being!

Fake Curry of Life

Sometimes I wonder how I get thru life.  I mainly blog because I can't keep up with things, especially recipes.
One of our favorites is a chicken curry that I thought was posted here.  Turns out I was wrong.

The anime show Naruto is a staple at our house and this recipe came about at the same time we were in the "Curry of Life" arc.  While this isn't one of the best story lines, we made the best of it by creating our own curry of life that is obviously a fake curry as I am neither a native or expert in my curry preparation.  This recipe is made from ground spices, not whole, traditionally roasted ones so it is easy for western kitchens.
I do know what we enjoy though, and this curry is one that is pretty easy to prepare and is absolutely delicious.
It is actually a FP on THM, but I add rice to make it E.  Also google and read up on how great turmeric and black pepper are for inflammation!  It's not just tasty, but so good for you!
And as always, feel free to alter and adjust the seasonings per your taste.  These are all simply suggestions and the general direction I tend to go.

Fake Curry of Life
Serves 6-8

2 tsp coconut oil
2 pounds chicken breast meat cut into cubes
5 cups, or 3-4 zucchini cut into small cubes
1 onion, diced
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 tsp turmeric, ground
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
14 oz crushed or diced tomatoes
1/3 cup fat free plain Greek yogurt (optional)

In a large frying pan, cook chicken in oil till cooked thru over med-high heat.  A little brown is good.
Add the dry spices and cook for a couple of minutes.
Add the tomatoes and stir to combine and make a fabulous sauce.  You may also add a little chicken stock if you like.  This bumps up the nutrition a little.
Add the onions and zucchini.  Stir well and simmer for 20-30 minutes till cooked.  You can leave it on low heat for a while and let the flavors develop.
Stir the yogurt in before serving.
Serve alone as a FP or over brown basmati rice or chana dal for an E.

August 26, 2016

Mediterranean Chicken Stew

I realized recently that I've been living on Trim, Healthy Mama for almost 4 years with 3 years at goal.  I have always said that this isn't a diet, but a lifestyle because I'm living and not going without.
After all, it's hard to feel deprived when you are eating rich, real foods.

This stew reminds me of a puttanesca but is without the capers or pasta.  You could add capers or use dreamfields or Not Naughty Noodles if you wanted a pasta option as well.  It is quick and delicious and can be made from things at your local store.  I enjoy this style of food year-round, but as with any stew, fall and winter are ideal times.
Serve as part of a meal or as a stand alone.  With THM an added salad is always great, but this dish contains non-starchies and can be stand-alone.  It's great fresh, but also tasty warmed up the next day.

Mediterranean Chicken Stew-S

Serves 4-6
1-1/2 pounds of chicken thighs, boneless and skinless, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 T coconut oil
1-2 T balsamic vinegar
1 red onion, sliced
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp Italian seasoning
14 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 pound bag of frozen cauliflower, defrosted
3-4 oz Kalamata olives, pitted, sliced in half
Feta cheese

Brown the chicken in the olive oil for a few minutes till cooked through.
Add the balsamic vinegar and sliced onion; cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add garlic powder and Italian seasoning.
Add crushed tomatoes; stir for a few minutes to heat through.
Add cauliflower.  Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Add kalamata olives and continue simmer for another 5 minutes.
When ready to serve, sprinkle, if desired, with Feta cheese

I like to add the Feta just before eating so that it stays cool.

This S meal goes great with a Greek salad topped with the Grand Greek Dressing (S) on page 475 from the Trim, Healthy Mama Cookbook.

July 27, 2016

Soothing Shea Lotion

I've never made a lotion or body butter before.  I tend to like proven products and certain scents, but this year has been tough on my aging skin.
I have been more active and in the sun so much this summer, more than in the past years.
When I got a jar of unrefined shea butter, I kept finding myself using it on my hands, but thought it would be fun to make something new.

This is my attempt at a body butter, but it is actually came out as more of a lotion.  It has a very rich and luscious feel that nourishes the skin.

First I made an infused oil.  I used an organic sunflower oil as my carrier and added dried calendula, chamomile and lavender to it.
Sunflower oil has hydrophilic properties and helps skin to stay hydrated.  It is rapidly absorbed on the skin and studies have found it to have anti-inflammatory and anti-aging characteristics.
Calendula has been used extensively for healing in skin trauma and wounds.  Chamomile is very soothing to the skin while lavender promotes healthy circulation.

I weigh my oils, so to make sure I had enough, I measured out a bit more of the sunflower oil than I needed and put it in a glass bowl.  Then I added some of the dried flowers.
I allowed it to steep over heat for a few hours and then strained out the herbs.
To see an example of an infused oil, check out my salve post (just don't add the beeswax).

After allowing the sunflower oil to cool a few hours, I added it to my unrefined shea butter.  Shea butter is great for rough skin and contains Vitamins A and E.
It does have a slightly nutty scent, but it isn't unpleasant.

I added some arrowroot powder and bentonite clay as well  along with a few drops of lavender essential oil.  The essential oil is part preservative while also have therapeutic values as well due to it being a plant based product and not just a scent.

Using a hand mixer, the oils and butter were carefully blended and whipped together until light and fluffy.  I tried to be careful not to overheat or overblend so I'd take breaks occasionally and check the texture.

This made about 1 cup of lotion.  I am choosing to store it in a glass container.
My skin is thanking me!

Soothing Shea Lotion
100g of unrefined Shea butter
25 g Sunflower oil infused with calendula, chamomile, and lavender
1.25 tsp arrowroot powder
1/4 tsp bentonite clay
10 drops of lavender essential oil

June 21, 2016

The Lady Skater Dress

I wrote a few weeks ago about my first experience sewing knits.  I had a great comment from the momma that pointed me in the direction of Kitschy Coo's Lady Skater Dress.
And that was when I realized I had found the perfect dress.

Hands down, this is a wonderfully written pattern that is so easy to follow, versatile and flattering while being so very comfortable.

I thought I would have a hard time using an online pattern, but the parts that needed to be printed were perfectly done, and the online directions were thorough and simple to understand.  There were also a ton of photos and visuals and that helped me so much.
The pattern gives you all kinds of tips and explanations that taught me about how to use and work with knits.

Making a muslin is recommended.  The thing, that in my ignorance, I didn't realize was that a muslin doesn't have to be muslin, but is a first draft of a dress.  Don't use actual muslin, especially when it is a knit pattern (please don't ask for photos or any other explanation).

Next I learned that all stitches are not equal... there are different knit stitches on my machines and some of them worked better than others.
The pattern discusses all of this, but I still found it helpful to see how the different stitches worked with each fabric.  Ironing also made a huge difference as well.
I found that my first thoughts weren't the best and I played around with the different stitches in different places.  I found that the 'triple' stitch worked well for most seams while a narrow zigzag was great for the hem (green dress).  The 'lightening bolt' stitch seemed to pucker more and didn't seem as strong (I used it in the purple dress)

I had a hard time finding knits I liked at the store, so I actually ordered some online from  I was wary of ordering online, but was pleased at the options.
The ones I chose are 95% cotton with 5% lycra for stretch.
I was concerned they were too thin when they initially arrived as they are like a good t-shirt fabric, but they worked perfectly.
The pattern specifies fabrics, and using the categories to select fabric type and content along with stretch was very helpful in figuring out what would work for this dress.

Also remember to not get overly excited by new fabric,and make sure to wash it before sewing. Yes.  fabric will shrink.  Especially cottons.  And when you cut a dress per the pattern and are taller than average at 5'8", chances are it could end up being a tad short.
I found this out when I excitedly completed the purple dress, tried it on and it fit well then I realized I had a deer in the headlights moment... I hadn't washed the fabric.  It's short, but my husband calls it cute, so I'm just going with it.
I will also add that since losing weight I still have issues with wanting to make things larger than I probably need.  I cut both dresses a size or 2 larger than what I measured, but the purple shrunk and is a better fit than the green for this reason.  The green does have some extra fabric and 'bunching' under the arms which would have been eliminated if I had made it the correct size to begin with.

I'm definitely still learning, but this dress is very quick and seems like it will be a good addition to my wardrobe.
My daughter has also requested a couple of these as they are just easy to wear.
I'm also looking at making some with the longer and 3/4 length sleeve variations included in the pattern as well.  It is just warm where I live and short sleeves are practical for a good 6-9 months, or so, of the year.

And since I realized I never seem to smile in photos, I tried to get some where I am more 'me'.  I'm not photogenic as I seem to always be moving, but that's just me on a windy summer day in Georgia, and yes, I keep my piano on my front porch.

June 20, 2016

Sewing: Legend of Zelda, but Subtle?

My kids are Zelda fanatics.  I really don't get the whole video game appeal, but then, I'm old and my brain has never liked moving at the speed of nintendo.
My kids love wearing boxy, game t-shirts.  Personally, I never went through this phase in life and don't really get that either actually.

We were at the fabric store one day when we came upon a couple of gems.....  Legend of Zelda prints.

I immediately saw a cute fabric shell in my mind for the black, and thought a sundress would be great for the tan.  Both kind of unexpected, the subtle and grown-up versions of a game t-shirt.

The top is a Burda pattern 7051.  It was my first time sewing from this brand, but I was impressed at the bulletpoint presentation.  It was clearly written and was a very quick project.
There are a couple of neckline and fit options.

The dress is pattern S0742 from Simplicity from their Project Runway inspired superhero collection (???).
I'm not big on taking a ton of words to say something simple. There are a ton of directions and an 'inspiration' sheet included.  I think they just want you to feel like a designer for being able to pick which top option you wanted to go with the skirt.
The directions were actually really clear and the multiple drawings provided were great as I'm very visual (and I don't know that I've ever sewn a wearable dress for an adult before?) and the techniques were along the beginner level.  That said, I did change some things to make it work better for me.  I also thought the skirt darts were weird and too structured so I changed them as well.

I'm still working on solving fit issues and the hardest thing is understanding how our figures are all so diffferent and what works best for different builds.  This could have been tailored better, but I'm still learning how to get the best fit before I'm finished.

June 13, 2016

Reading: Gold, Silver and Mirth.

“It seemed funny to me that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren't so different. We saw the same sunset.” 

I was in middle school when movie The Outsiders came out in theaters.  The teen-hype filled magazines and posters led me to the belief that this was a shallow story full of predictable angst.   It was many years later before I finally got over myself, and gave it a chance.

It has been decades since I saw the movie, but had always heard that the books by S.E. Hinton far surpassed the movies made..

“They grew up on the outside of society. They weren't looking for a fight. They were looking to belong.” 

This book is my pick for the book I "should've read in school" category of the MMD 2016 challenge.  This book is a simple and beautiful telling of growing up when it isn't easy.  It's about not fitting in and friendship. 

The Outsiders allows us to see a glimpse of a life that has layers.  It shows us the hopes and dreams that are in each of us.  This wonderfully written story makes us feel that pain that comes with not fitting in and feeling limited by nothing more than who we are.

I admit that I love YA reading.  I love the emotion and tone.  I love that there is usually one overwhelming issue.

This book reminded me of the 16 year old that is inside each of us.  It reminded me that I still need to remember who I am on the inside and remember to appreciate all that is in my life.  That I need to see the uniqueness and beauty in each day.
I picked up the audio download from the library site and listened while I sat and sewed one afternoon.  The audio was well done and really brought this story to life.  I also bought a copy for my kids to have for 'required reading' this summer as well.

“I've been thinking about it, and that poem, that guy that wrote it, he meant you're gold when you're a kid, like green. When you're a kid everything's new, dawn. It's just when you get used to everything that it's day. Like the way you dig sunsets, Pony. That's gold. Keep that way, it's a good way to be.” 

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton.

"She was realizing for the first time that a woman's dignity may cost more to keep up than her carriage; and that the maintenance of a moral attribute should be dependent on dollars and cents, made the world appear a more sordid place than she had conceived it."

I really, really wanted to like this book, but it turns out that it is in the running for "a book I hate" status.  I selected this book to read after hearing it as a favorite on the MMD podcast.  I was expecting a classic filled with social intrigue, witty writing and a commentary on the time.

What I found was sadly, pathetic characters with a writing style that I'd call uninteresting.  I did not find any of the beautiful prose I was expecting in this story.  There were details upon details, and just so many words that seemed to have no point.

"Miss Farish could see no hope for her friend but in a life completely reorganized and detached from its old associations; whereas all Lily's energies were centered in the determined effort to hold fast to those associations, to keep herself visibly identified with them, as long as the illusion could be maintained."

I thought about giving up, but kept hoping it would become better.  The writing and tone did seem to change in the last 10% of the book and the characters finally seemed to develop, but it was too late for me.
I do admit that I appreciate getting to the point, and maybe that's why I enjoyed the style of the ending a bit more.  It was more to the point and quit going on about all the meaningless details.

This story takes place in the 1890s in New York society.  It follows a poor, but well-born lady who continues to make foolish choices in life time after time.  She is abandoned by society and must start to work, but realizes she lacks any real skill or knowledge.  It goes down from there.

The flat, one-sided characters didn't lead me to empathizing with them as their shallowness was so overwhelming.

It has been years since I read Gone with the Wind, and this reminds me somewhat of House of Mirth.  GWTW is not one of my more favorite books actually, and they may strip me of my "Native Atlantan" banner for saying that, but the story is long, overly-detailed with an unsympathetic heroine.  I think the difference between the books is that Mirth gives you someone who feels defeated, while Scarlett never gives up.  The characters are in similar circumstances, but their temperments lead them to handle things differently, and the passivity in Mirth really bothered me.

I realize that I come from a different time and sensibility, but I think I just have a hard time with understanding this mindset and culture. The book didn't draw me in, but seemed to shut me out.

“I have tried hard - but life is difficult, and I am a very useless person. I can hardly be said to have an independent existence. I was just a screw or a cog in the great machine called life, and when I dropped out of it I found I was no use anywhere else. What can one do when one finds out that one only fits into one hole? One must go back to it or be thrown out into the rubbish heap - and you don't know what it's like in the rubbish heap!

After this book I needed something to get the taste out of my head.
I had The Silver Lining Playbook on my Kindle and decided to read it.  I had never seen the movie and had no idea what the plot involved.
I hate giving a book synopsis as you can find them everywhere, and I'm more interested in the why behind someone did, or did not, enjoy a book... and I'm also always worried I'll give more away than I should.
This book was a great read.  While it was as long as Mirth, it only took about 3 days to read compared to the 3 weeks of toiling away I spent with Edith Wharton.   

"If clouds are blocking the sun, there will always be a silver lining that reminds me to keep on trying, becase I know that while things might seem dark now, my wife is coming back to me soon."

It is a quick read about people working through the issues of life.  Yes, some of it was predictable, and what it says about living with mental illness is sometimes uncomfortable (at least it was for me, but not in an overt way?), but this was an uplifting story about people just trying to make it through life and be their version of happy.

The characters were real and well-written, ifnot always likeable. They made poor decisions, but there was a glimmer of hope for something better here.

"But I do know that sometimes people say and do what they think others want them to.  Maybe Tiffany really did not want to have sex with you, but only offered something she thought you would find valuable, so that you would value her."

On the surface, this story of Eagles football, a dance contest, and mental illness might not be one that draws you in, but the writing immerses you in this world, and you enjoy it.

I am already looking to find more books by the author, Matthew Quick, as I enjoyed his perspective here and his writing style was interesting. 
I'm hoping that my library gets his new YA book, Every Exquisite Thing, soon as it sounds like it would be a good read.

And just to put this out there... I googled the movie synopsis, and it would seem, that like the Outsiders, the story in the book is much different and deeper than the movie.

This post is linked with the Modern Mrs Darcy June Quick Lit post. You can find more great reads for the summer there.

June 10, 2016

A Homeschool Diploma

I figure that we didn't have a traditional school, so why have a traditional diploma.
Yes, I did take the wording from samples, but I wanted to create something meaningful that my daughter would be proud to hang on her wall.
The background is a painting that my mother did from a photo I took back many years ago.  This avoids any copyright issues, I hope.  I used PicMonkey to add the wording as I'm fairly technically illiterate.
This place was very special to us and this was taken the first week we started homeschooling (because isn't going on vacation the first thing you think of when you start homeschool?).  I hope that Shawn will find it meaningful as well as she remembers her time in school and how much we love her!

June 9, 2016

Sheep Balls, Because just saying it is fun

Seriously.  Sheep Balls.  Sheep Balls!!!
This isn't necessarily a new, mommy version of profanity (though it could work, I'd guess), but a cool way of doing laundry naturally.

There are so many options for natural laundry soap available with most becoming more and more affordable.  You can make your own or buy some great brands at most stores.
But drying.  
Dryer sheets are a nice thing, but contain so many chemicals and nasties.  The natural ones seem to be very high in price, or at least more than I care to spend.

So I started researching options.  I'm not going to hang my laundry outside because I really don't have time for that, and I have set laundry days and don't care to deal with rain or cold.
Then I found  Smart Sheep Wool Dryer Balls on Amazon.  **this is not an affiliate link, and I'm only saying Sheep Balls because I enjoy it**

They are balls of wool that help to shorten dryer time and naturally soften clothes.  They make your clothes soft without any smells or perfumes.
I have to admit that I love these things.  I don't know that I've seen a significant change with dryer times, maybe a few minutes per load, but the clothes are much softer and static is also decreased over using no softener at all.  Even nylon-y workout clothes come out pretty much static free.
I do tend to have a sensitivity, not allergy, to wool, and I've been able to use these for about 4 months without any issues.

It has also been a great help in teaching my little guy to do the laundry.  He gets to help search the clothes to find the balls, and then runs, screaming "sheep balls" as he goes to put them into the dryer for the next load.

Here's a link to the company's site.  I'd encourage you, if you google, to search for "smart sheep dryer balls".  Sheep balls might take you somewhere you don't want to be online.

Sheep Balls!!!

June 8, 2016

Honey, wheat germ soap with oats

I spent yesterday at the water park watching my toddler slide down the same slide about 1000 times.  Last week I got some great time kayaking on the river.
The thing is... I'm a very white, white girl.  My skin fights the urge to tan each year despite all efforts.
Right now my skin needs some love.

Despite being a product junkie for all things lotion-y and soap-y, I still end up making my own.
But sometimes you realize that simple is best.

I wasn't sure this soap was going to turn out as it is a much softer bar than I've made in the past.  I thought I went overboard with the wheat germ oil at trace, but turns out, this is a lovely, nourishing soap.
My stressed skin is thanking me right now....

Please consult a site like MMS for checking your lye amounts and be safe!

Honey-Wheat germ Soap with Oats
8 oz coconut oil
20 oz olive oil
2 oz castor oil
2 oz wheat germ

9 oz water
4.35 oz lye

1/2 T ground oats
1/2 T honey
1-2 tsp wheat germ oil

May 31, 2016

Intimidating Reading... Till We Have Faces

A book that intimidates me.
Of all the categories on the MMD 2016 reading challenge, this is the one that puzzled me the most.

I actually looked it up the word "intimidates", and the first definition I got was to "frighten or overawe".

It made me wonder what really frightens me?
I enjoy some horror and even true crime but I don't think that's what this really means.
Then I wondered if it meant that I should pick a subject matter that I normally would avoid?  Should it involve me pushing myself to a place I don't want to go?  There are certain subjects that I don't care to be exposed to.
Then I wondered if maybe it just meant that I should pick a really long book as I do appreciate short and to the point.  But the thing is, I can usually get past a book being long if the story is good.  Longer books just mean they will take more time invested in getting through them.
So should I pick a book that I'd call boring?  Is that what is really intimidating to me?
I'm not sure that boring me to death is intimidating either.

All of these questions only left me asking more, and I still had no real answers.

"But I think what really kept him cheerful was his inquisitiveness.  I never knew such a man for questions.  He wanted to know everything about our country and language and ancestors and gods, and even our plants and flowers."

Then I thought of the one book I'd been shuffling around for the last few years, Till We Have Faces by CS Lewis.  I'd considered it for 'started but never finished' and also for 'published before you were born'.

Part of what made this book so intimidating is that so many good friends consider it their favorite, and it was recommended by someone I love and respect.  I didn't want to let them down by not understanding it or get what they did from it.

I guess what I find intimidating is feeling stupid.  I won't even pick up a "Dummies" book as I am afraid of that label.  This might be the real insecurity here.
I am a big believer in asking for help when you need it and always learning and growing, but it is scary when you really don't understand or things don't come easily to you.  It's work sometimes, and it is intimidating when you know it won't come to you easily.

"You don't think-not possibly-- not as a mere hundredth chance-- there might be things that are real though we can't see them?"
"Certainly I do. Such things as Justice, Equality, the Soul, or musical notes."

I find that the language of CS Lewis is simple yet beautiful and filled with complex thoughts.  He makes me think.  He makes me work to comprehend each word.  Each word carries its own meaning, and he requires me to do equal work in discovering what he is saying.
I am also somewhat shallow and I'm often afraid that his books will be boring or slow... that they won't keep my interest.

To prepare for successfully getting through this book, I purchased the Kindle version so that I can highlight and look up words easily, and I 'splurged' and added the Audible option as well (it was $2.99 extra) so that I wouldn't be bogged down by trying to figure out how to say some of the names and words.  Often it is this kind of thing that leaves me feeling clueless and doesn't allow me to get into the actual story.

I often feel the need check books off my reading list.  I realize that as I'm getting deeper into reading, how much I need to get over this.  I'm finding that though I do read quickly, there is a time and place to slow down and really savor the words.
I also wonder if sometimes I think that certain books have a deeper meaning, and I'm trying to figure out the 'mystery' of the allegory from page one.  I'm letting this go and just taking the story for what it is.

It turned out that I read this book more quickly than others I've been working on lately.  This was due to it being a wonderfully told tale of love, pride and how we look at life in our own small ways.  It is about how we give hurt and pain power over us to change who we are.

"I could have loved him if I had let myself.... but I would never give my heart again to any young creature."

This story is a re-telling of the myth of Psyche and Cupid from the point of view of a a sister, accused of jealousy, who blames and resents the gods.  She allows this to build until she is no longer the same person.  Transformation occurs and we realize that things are not all that they seem.

"The change which the writing wrought in me was only a beginning--only to prepare me for the gods' surgery.  They used my own pen to probe my wound."

This is one of those stories that will haunt me for the rest of my life.  I believe that there is much that I missed and I'm quite sure that time will add more perspective to this book as well.
I already have it on my list to reread again in the future, or maybe listen to it a bit more.

"I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer.  Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean?  How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?"

All quotations from Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis.

This post is linked with the Modern Mrs Darcy June Quick Lit post. You can find more great reads for the summer there.

May 24, 2016

Faux-carb Alfredo Sauce

I used to make a killer alfredo sauce years ago.... flour and butter to make a roux with garlic infused milk and cream added and cooked till thick.  Lastly, some fresh Parmesan cheese added.
It was delicious and took some time to make just perfectly.

But those carbs.  They are not so friendly to me and my health, so I look to alternatives.

This is where I like to think out of the box and consider ways to add more nutrition.
I want creamy and delicious, but healthy is a must
This is where a puree comes in.
I use a cauliflower puree in my Cheesy Burger Soup and a beet one in my Trim Healthy Pancakes Made With Love, but I often use them in other foods.  I started adding an okra puree to my Lighter Side of Chili.

Purees are great because you can add nutrition and depth to the dish with little mess or fuss in a fairly inexpensive way.  A cup or 2 of frozen veggies might cost 50 cents, and stretched out over the whole recipe adds more than a dime of benefit..

The key is to make sure you season any puree well.  Remember it isn't the star of the show, but a supporting player.  Cauliflower won't bring what flour and butter will so you must compensate to make it work.

I make my puree in my Blendtec using the Wildside jar.   It is great at getting foods very smooth and blended.  It's hard to fake people out when there are pieces of cauliflower in a sauce, you know?

Faux-carb Alfredo Sauce-S
makes about 2 cups/1 'jar'

1 cup of half and half
4 cloves of garlic
8 oz frozen cauliflower
1 oz parmesan cheese
2 oz low fat cream cheese
Salt to taste

Infuse the garlic into the half and half by putting them in a saucepan over low heat for about 10-15 minutes.  I do this so that the garlic doesn't have an overwhelming, raw taste.
Add the cauliflower, parmesan cheese, and cream cheese to the blender jar.  Slowly pour the half and half over the top, secure the lid and process till very smooth.
Return the sauce to the pan, add the salt to taste, and heat on low till warmed.

Use or refrigerate for up to a week.

I served it over Dreamfield's pasta with poached salmon and a side salad.

May 23, 2016

Sewing.... Skirts

Sometimes you realize to really learn and progress at something you're going to have to go against your basic nature.  I like to be quick and take short cuts, but sewing isn't something that fosters this attitude.  I have decided to start studying and really taking my time with sewing and it seems to be paying off.

This whole sewing deal started when I wanted to get my 18 year old a skirt off of ModCloth.  I have the habit of stopping people on the street when they are wearing something interesting or in something I like, and I ask if I may take their photo.  Most people actually agree and then tell me about their outfit.  I've found many cool girls wearing things from ModCloth and decided to get Shawn a few things.
Most 18 year old girls would probably like this, but mine... not so much.  She is cheaper than I'll ever be.  I then realized that I could sew up a skirt fairly easily, but I wanted fun, funky material.  Turns out that local stores had better inventory than I realized so I stocked up and let her go wild at picking out fabric.
I also love that everyone blogs today.  I found so many great tips and tutorials online.
I decided to make my first skirt patterns on my own.  This was a tribute to not following directions completely, but still having a guide, as I am prone to do.  I altered Gertie's directions since I don't have an invisible zip foot (as of today) and was so happy with the results.
Shawn's panda skirt and pink steampunk skirt and my bird skirt are Gertie's designs.  She has great directions and they are easy to follow.  I altered the seam and  side zipper installation by adding a regular zip with hook and eye to close, but otherwise stayed on plan.  The skirt is easy to alter to fit how you need.  All you need is a waist measurement and length.  The panda fabric was limited so I went shorter than the directions.  Shawn is 5'9".
These are both basic cotton fabrics that can be casual and comfy with a tank or dressed up with a nicer shirt and cardigan.

I am not one to wear skirts or to wear what I sew.  Usually what I make looks horrible and isn't something I could wear out.  I realized that mentally, I needed to commit and make something that I'd feel good wearing.
I'm not thrilled with the pattern style I picked for this skirt, but I loved the batik fabric.  While it does kind of scream for a long boho style, I wanted something short.  I admit that I've always been a bit intimidated by shorter skirts, but since losing weight, I find longer skirts tend to make me look heavier.
The batik skirt is a bit too structured with the pleats, and I don't think it was the best choice for the fabric, but it is still pretty and comfy and I've actually worn it out a few times.  It comes from McCalls pattern M7253.

I do tend to be practical and I don't care to dress in novelty clothing.  But I saw this fabric and immediately became obsessed with it.  Maybe it is because I just lost my Grandmother a few months back and when I think of her, I think of her love of birds.
I went thru several pattern ideas before deciding Gertie's dirndl skirt.  I needed something that would maintain the pattern while respecting the lightness of the light, cotton fabric.
The main thing I'd have done differently, and with more experience, would have been to line the skirt. I did add a ribbon on the inside hem, please don't look too closely, it's as crooked as can be.