Friday, July 31, 2009

Maybe I Need To Stop Smiling At People

Why do I always meet weird people when I go shopping?   I had another strange interaction with a lady customer when I recently visited my local Old Navy to utilize my 30% off coupon

In typical Joanna form, I was scouring the clearance racks when I came upon the cutest little black jacket/blazer.  Since it was a jacket, I decided to try it on right there.  As I was admiring it’s fall cuteness in the full-length mirror, a middle-aged woman walked up to me and started telling me how much she liked it.  She went on. and on. and on.  I started to get the feeling that SHE wanted the jacket. 

She asked what size it was.  Yep, that’s just the size she needed.  She asked if there were any more on the clearance racks.  Nope, this was the only one!  She asked how much it cost.  It was marked down from $49.50 to $22.99.  I continued to think about whether I wanted it or not while she continued to stare and talk about how much she loved it.

Looking back, talking about the jacket’s undeniable cuteness probably wasn’t the best way for her to get me to take it off.  She should have told me it made me look fat!  But, I felt sorry for her.  It was painfully obvious that she wanted it, so despite the fact that I could have bought it for only $16.09 with my coupon, I took it off and gave it to her.

I didn’t find another jacket, but I did find a couple of shirts that ended up being $4.20, so it wasn’t a total wash.  And I discovered a new line of jeans that were MADE for me…The Dreamer.


Since it’s a new line, they haven’t gone on sale yet, so I’ll be patient.  It’s still too hot for jeans now anyway!

Anyway, when it was time for me to purchase my two shirts, I got in a long line that went halfway to the back of the store.  I decided it was worth the wait, so I entertained my bored and restless (and napless) 4-yr-old in line for about 20 minutes. 

It was finally our turn to be called to a register.  Just as I approached the cashier, I saw my lady-friend quickly duck under the rope barrier holding several pieces of clothing (including my black jacket).  She headed straight for me and began to show me her items while the cashier rang up my shirts.  Awkward. 

Then I realized what she was doing.  She didn’t want to wait in the long line, so she was making it appear that we were together.  I paid for my purchase and she started placing her items on the counter.  The cashier (good for her!) asked if she had waited in line.  The lady pointed at me and said, “We’re together.” I picked my jaw up off the floor, shook my head, and told the cashier that we were NOT together. 

Then the lady exclaimed, “But I’ve been standing with her for 10 minutes!”  (She had been standing next to me for approximately 43 seconds.)  The cashier (good for her!) informed the lady that she must go to the end of the line and wait just like all the other customers.  I took my purchase and left the counter, so I don’t know how it all ended, but the lady was still arguing and refusing to go to the end of the line when I walked out the door.

I hope she enjoys the black jacket.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Yummy Treat


Last night after choir practice, we had an ice cream social!  There were tons of homemade ice cream and baked goods.  I decided to make a frozen treat that Grace and I could enjoy.  [Translation:  no eggs and lower fat/calories.]

After scouring several online recipes for homemade low-fat ice cream, I just couldn’t find one that sounded inspiring.  So I took basic ideas from a couple of different recipes and made my own Frozen Lemon Yogurt.  I thought it turned out great…tangy and sweet at the same time!

Anyway, it was so easy to throw together, and you can tweek the ingredients to personalize it for yourself.  Use reduced/lower fat items to lighten it up or full fat items for lots of creamy thickness.  Use any flavor of frozen concentrate (limade, pina colada, strawberry, etc.).

Frozen Lemon Yogurt

  • 1 c. plain yogurt
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can frozen lemonade concentrate

Mix all together and pour into ice cream maker.  Freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Great Coupon


Here’s a link to a great coupon that you can use for 30% off your total purchase at Old Navy, The Gap, and Banana Republic.  Just print it off and use it at the register as many times as you would like between July 30-August 2!

The best part is that 5% of your purchase price goes directly to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

You Know You’re A Good Mom When…

you discover your child eating old chocolate chip cookies she found at the bottom of a shopping cart and you let her finish them because she’s “SO SO SO hungry!”

you allow your daughter to go “butterfly hunting” with two friends while you visit with the their mom.  Upon returning from the “hunt” with a live moth, you just smile and shrug as you watch your daughter squish the moth with her hand while trying to hold it, then lick her fingers.  *shudder*

you let your child drink your Pepsi Max right before bedtime because you’re too tired from The Shred to get up and go to the kitchen and get her some juice.

you realize while doing laundry that you forgot to wash your child’s bed sheets last week.

you find yourself rationalizing that a quick coat of hand sanitizer on your child’s major extremities would be a lot faster than bathtime.

you secretly take the batteries out of your child’s favorite Elmo doll because it’s the most annoying toy EVER, then act surprised and suggest that maybe Elmo is tired and wants to take a nap when your child wants to know why he doesn’t talk anymore.

you get to the end of the day and regret that you accomplished nothing on your to-do list…yet your daughter climbs into your lap and hugs you and says, “Thank you mama!  I had so much fun today!”

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday Milestones


Well, I made it!  Sixty pounds is gone.  It’s hard to believe I was carrying around almost two extra Graces all the time.  It took 26 weeks, a lot of sweat, a few tears, and much determination.  I officially weigh what I weighed when I got married over 13 years ago.  (Although it seems like things are shaped a little differently…hello motherhood!)

I have the energy to tackle my final goal of thirty pounds.  I realize this might go a little slower, but I’m hoping to reach it by Nov./Dec.  It’s hard to even imagine how that will feel!  It’s been 17 years since I was slim.  

I really appreciate the comments and notes of encouragement I’ve gotten over the weeks.  It’s hard to explain, but when you’re losing weight, what you see in the mirror doesn’t always seem to match what the scale says.  People tell me I look slimmer, but when I look at myself, sometimes I don’t feel any different.  And it can get pretty discouraging at times. 

But now I’m starting to really enjoy the difference in how I look and feel.  It’s fun to go shopping and try on clothes.  If you are a person who has struggled with weight, you will appreciate this next statement…It’s nice to look in your closet and know that EVERYTHING fits and you have a wider selection of clothes from which to pick! 

So, my goal this week is to stay the course and be consistent with my nutrition and exercise.  My biggest desire is for these to be lifetime habits.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

This Is The Best Website Ever

I read about this website in a Good Housekeeping magazine and I couldn’t wait to try it.

Basically, you upload a full-body picture of yourself, enter your current height/weight, then your DESIRED weight, and…voila!…your picture is transformed and you get to see yourself at your goal weight!  It’s truly amazing. 

It’s called WeightMirror.  Imagine the possibilities for your new Facebook profile pic…(just kidding!).  Boy, I wish it were that easy.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Girls’ Night Out


Tonight I went out with three other friends from my church and had some girl time!  We went to the new Sam Moon’s in Fort Worth and looked around for a while.  It was fairly crowded, but nothing like it was when I went last Saturday.  Unfortunately, they closed before we could finish looking at everything, so I guess that means we’ll have to go back!

I found some cute hair accessories for Grace, a jewelry organizer for myself (what took me so long to get this thing?…it’s fabulous!), and a new fall purse for myself.  It was the cheapest one I saw in the whole store, and ironically the one I liked the best!  Love it when that happens!  It’s a brownish/bronze leather with a big silver buckle.  It’s a little bigger than I normally carry, but I’m starting to like having a larger purse. 

After shopping, we went to Pasado’s Mexican Restaurant.  This was the first time I have eaten Mexican food since I started my diet last February.  Boy, have I missed it!  Anyway, I saved up most of my calories for the day by drinking protein shakes and tried to get a reasonable meal. 

Warning:  Skip the next paragraph if you aren’t interested in “foodie” details.

So, I did some research and decided ahead of time that I would order the chicken soft tacos since they seem to be the healthiest choice on a Tex-Mex menu (other than a fajita salad with fat-free dressing which did not sound good to me tonight).  When I looked at the menu, I noticed the “Authentic Mexican Fajita Tacos.”  I knew that if Rachel Ray were there doing an episode of “$40 A Day” she would totally order them, so that’s what I chose.  Oh, the bliss.  It was two stone-ground corn tortillas with chicken breast, queso fresco, white onions, cilantro, avocado, lime, and tomatillo salsa.  I got them with a side of rice and grilled veggies (onions, peppers, squash, zucchini, and mushroom).

There’s nothing like good food with good friends!  We had lots of fun tonight despite a slightly creepy waiter and an unfortunate incident with a self-serve ice cream machine.  I hope we’ll start doing it more often!  When we got home, Grace was really glad to see me.  Daddy had taken her on a “date” to Sonic and Redbox.  She helped me put my jewelry into my new hanging jewelry organizer before I tucked her into bed.  Actually, she played with my extensive vintage collection of twister beads.  I never thought back in 1986 that I would someday be watching my daughter play with the same necklaces that I loved so dearly! 


I just can’t part with these beads.  Anyone think they’ll come back?  If so, I’m set!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thank Heaven For Little Girls

I always wanted a little girl.  I would have happily and thankfully accepted a baby boy because we wanted a child so badly for so long.  But, God knew how much I would love having a girl, and I couldn’t have asked for anything better than getting to spend my days at home with Grace.

The older she gets, the more fun it gets!  Her little personality is shining, full of quirks and surprises.  She is ALL GIRL.  She loves dolls, kitchens, dress-up, jewelry, pedicures, and pink.  She is insistent that her shoes match her clothes at all times.  Her bedroom must be completely picked up and organized before she is able to fall asleep at night.  She always wants a bow or some sort of decoration in her hair.  The tiniest speck of dirt on our backyard swing set must be wiped clean before she wants to play on it.  She loves a routine and wants to stick to it.  She always wants to know what is coming up and isn’t crazy about surprises.  We are definitely venturing into Type A/OCD territory. 

Some of her traits she learned from me, and some I can’t figure out where in the world she gets them!  God made her unique, created in His image with an individual personality, and I love her so much!

Her latest obsession is her upcoming ballet/tap dance class.  I made the unfortunate mistake of telling Grace about it way. too. soon.  I had to get her registered early to ensure a spot, and I just couldn’t resist seeing the look on her face when I told her she could start dance classes!  As a result, I am answering questions fifty-three times per day about when it will start (not until Aug. 31st!).

Her favorite accessory is the new tap shoe “because it makes LOTS of noise, Mama!”  Yes, I know.  I still hear the tapping in my head when I’m trying to fall asleep at night.


But I wouldn’t trade this for anything in the world!  She brings so much joy to Todd and me, and we are eternally grateful for the huge responsibility we have been given to raise her in the Lord.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bloggy Makeover!

I’m so excited to have a new look to my blog!  Many thanks to The Design Girl for doing such a great job! 

Today was a fun day.  We all stayed in bed until 10:00 (even Grace!) listening to thunderstorms roll through.  Call me crazy, but I love a good rainy day. 

After a late breakfast, I worked out with my new running shoes and it made SUCH a difference.  I had absolutely no heel pain and even found myself running on the treadmill for part of my workout.  Todd walked in and said, “Huh…I don’t think I’ve ever seen you run before.”  Pretty sad after being together for 17 years…

I did The Shred, then took Grace outside to play for a while on her scooter.  After lunch and a blissfully quiet naptime, Grace and I went to a dancewear shop to pick out some ballet and tap shoes for her new dance class, Devotion In Motion

She was so excited and spent the rest of the afternoon testing out her new shoes and trying on her ballet costumes.  I’ll post some pics tomorrow because I’m sure she’ll want to do it again!

Monday, July 20, 2009

The American Way

I ran to the UPS Store this morning to fax some documents and saw something that made me laugh.  If you’re a bargain shopper, you probably know that CVS and Walgreens are having fabulous sales on office and school supplies right now. 

Well, the manager at the UPS Store is also very aware of these deals and decided to take advantage of stocking up his inventory this morning.  The UPS Store has a section where you can buy various office supplies (pens, pencils, highlighters, etc.).  They are dreadfully overpriced and mainly there just for convenience. 

The UPS manager walked in the store with two big bags from CVS and Walgreens.  He eagerly showed another employee all the office supplies he had scored for next to nothing.  He then proceeded to go to the wall of office supplies and restock his inventory with what he had just bought at the pharmacies.  Hilarious.  And quite smart.  Capitalism at it’s finest.

I Think I’ve Fallen In Love


These are the best athletic shoes I have ever owned.  I bought a pair of Nike Air Pegasus + 26 running shoes at Academy this morning.  Besides finding a good value, my two main criteria were a good heel cushion and a high arch support.  After trying on several pairs, I had settled for a pair of Asics. 

Then I saw these on a display…they were $10 above what I wanted to spend, but I just wasn’t completely sold on the Asics.  I put them on and the angels started singing.  These shoes actually make me WANT to do The Shred.  It seems like someone took a mold of my feet and custom-designed these bad boys to fit.  The bouncy-cushiony sole really makes me feel like I’m walking on air.  And aren’t they cute?  Too perfect!

I came back to Earth when I put my old sneakers back on, realizing just how hard and flat they were…no wonder my heels have been hurting! 

If you’ve never tried on “running” shoes because you thought they were only for runners, I’d encourage you to do so the next time you’re in the market for athletic shoes.  I’m sold on this design…Nike has been marketing the Pegasus for 26 years, and now I understand why they are so popular!

Monday Milestones


This week puzzled me a little bit.  I actually ate some extra calories and didn’t exercise as much.  But, I did do a lot of yard work and heavy lifting on a couple of hot afternoons. 

Anyway, the scale said that I had lost four pounds this week.  I kept moving the scale all over the bathroom to make sure it wasn’t some kind of fluke, but it was consistent.  That brings my total weight loss to 59 pounds in 25 weeks. 

One thing that kept me from doing The Shred every other day was some heel pain on my right foot.  My tennis shoes are pretty worn out and there’s not much cushion left in the soles, so doing all of Jillian’s jumps has been difficult lately.  So, maybe buying some new shoes that fit well and cushion my heel will motivate me to keep up my daily workouts.  I’ve always bought walking shoes in the past since that was the extent of my exercise, but I think I’ll try on some running shoes this time…I understand they’re better for impact. 

I’ve only got one more pound to lose on my weight loss ticker!  Woo hoo!  I never thought I’d get to this point.  It’s really helped me to blog about my journey every week because it motivates me and keeps me accountable.  I’ve decided that my goal weight is another 30 pounds.  So look (hopefully) for a new weight loss ticker next week at the bottom of my blog!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Party Central

Grace received an invitation to a birthday tea party for this morning.  It so happened that Grace’s party was at the same time as my sweet friend’s baby shower.  So, guess who took Grace to the Mother/Daughter Tea Party?  DADDY!

Yes, Todd has been scoring major points lately.  Not only did he take her to the party, but he entertained her this afternoon while I made a quick trip to Sam Moon’s with my girlfriend!  If you’ve never been to Sam Moon’s, imagine an accessory store the size of two football fields crammed with 800 women going after the same $99.00 purse priced at $19.99.  It’s insane.  It’s like a Wal-Mart on Black Friday

When I got home, this is what I found.


Grace had so much fun at the party!  She ate sandwiches and cupcakes and drank tea with her little friends from church.  For a fun activity, they decorated hats!  And her party favor was a jewelry set with a pearl necklace, earrings, and bracelet.  Is that not the cutest idea for a little girl’s birthday party?

I got up early this morning and sewed the dress that she wore.  It was hard to explain to Grace why she couldn’t wear her Cinderella princess dress to the party, but she really liked this little ribbon sundress when I was finished sewing.  I let her pick out the fabric…I think she has good taste!  Here’s a picture of the back.

003I forgot to take pictures before we left for our respective parties, but here she was telling me all about her morning when I got home.

004 Thanks for being such a good man and taking her to a tea party, Daddy!  You made a special memory today with her. 

Friday, July 17, 2009

When You Care Enough To Send The Very Best

Grace and I went to Target yesterday to buy a birthday present.  We were browsing the card section where I was trying to explain to Grace why we couldn’t buy a Hello Kitty or Barbie card for a little boy.  “But he would LOOOOVE Hello Kitty, Mama!”  This is harder to explain than you might think.  On one hand, I’m telling her that boys don’t want cute kitty cats…on the other hand I’m contradicting my often vocalized opinion that men who like (or at least tolerate) cats make better husbands.  It’s a valid theory.

Anyway, there must be something about me that invites total strangers to talk to me.  Today it was an elderly woman who asked me to help her pick out a birthday card.  She had selected several and was having difficulty choosing the best one for her 15-yr-old grandson. 

I stifled a grin as I noticed that most of the cards contained flowers, glitter, curly embellishments, or pastel colors.  “You’re buying this for your grandson?” I inquired again.  “Yes,” she said.  “They’re all so nice I just can’t pick!”  I decided to be honest.  “Well,” I said, “They’re really pretty cards, but I’m not sure that a teenage boy would like them.”  Grandma looked at me sorrowfully. 

“Have you looked in the blue section that says ‘His Birthday’?”  I asked.  [She had been looking in the general birthday section.]  I led her down the aisle and showed her the “grandson” section.  She didn’t look too excited although she thanked me kindly.

I went back to the kid’s section and finalized our card choice with Grace.  I noticed that Grandma, after looking at the masculine cards for less than a minute, moved back to the “pretty” section.  Based on what she was holding when I bid her a good afternoon, I hope that her grandson likes garden scenes.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Every Little Girl Needs a Play Kitchen

Grace has been asking for a play kitchen for over a year, but we’ve put off buying her one because we kept thinking that we would sell our home and we didn’t want to pack and move it!  Since it doesn’t look like that’s happening anytime soon, we bought her one yesterday. 

Five and half hours + one jammed thumb + one frustrated momma + one impatient 4-yr-old later, we had a beautiful kitchen!

Oh, the joy!  She is SO HAPPY about her new kitchen.  I am amazed that she was even able to sleep last night.  Every little girl needs a play kitchen! 

This is me, circa 1978, with my play kitchen that I remember so well!

Joanna's Play Kitchen 2

And this is Grace, over 30 years later, with her new pride and joy.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

McDonald’s Visit

After our doctor’s appointments today, I offered to take Grace out to lunch as a reward.  She wanted Chuck E. Cheese’s but it was SO CROWDED, so we changed our plan and went to McDonald’s.  I compromised by driving a little further to a different McDonald’s that has a particularly large indoor playground. 

We got our food and went to sit in the play area.  I was minding my own business and eating my snack wrap when all of a sudden a little boy PROJECTILE VOMITED on my leg.  Grace thought this was quite funny and decided to hop down from her chair, BAREFOOTED, and WALK THROUGH THE VOMIT to see my leg.  I can’t even begin to describe the smell.  Horrors.

I am cursed with a strong gag reflex.  (Nurse Ann…if you are reading this, I know you are laughing).  Working in an elementary school for all those years I believe made me worse.  I just don’t do well with vomit.  As I experienced the familiar feeling rising in my throat I started praying…God, please don’t let me throw up in front of all these people.  Please, have mercy.  Please.  Please. 

I am happy to report that God spared me the embarrassment of hurling in front of everyone, but I will never be able to eat another snack wrap.  Or perhaps even visit a McDonald’s for a while. 

Somehow I got us both cleaned up as best I could while swallowing my gag reflex over and over, then we came home and took a shower.  Grace seemed unaffected by the whole experience.  Actually, she was quite delighted.  Future nurse???  She didn’t get it from me, folks.

Allergy Testing

A couple of months ago, I got a referral from Grace’s pediatrician to go to an allergy doctor and be tested.  At the time, she was having a particularly terrible bout of eczema and I was frustrated beyond belief.  To get an appointment with Dr. Bob Lanier, one of the premier allergists in the nation, the waiting list was pretty long, but we finally had our appointment today!  I grew up watching Dr. Bob on the NBC news every week where he had a special health segment, and it was really neat to meet him in person.

Grace was a real trooper.  It’s not fun to be stuck with ten needles at the same time then not touch or scratch the marks for 15 minutes while your body is itching like crazy from the reactions.  She cried a little bit softly, but was soon distracted by a lollipop the nurse gave her.

Here’s the verdict:  She is highly allergic to eggs and cat.  She is moderately allergic to dogs and mold.  She had NO skin reactions to milk, wheat, household dust, or peanut.  Because she reacted so strongly to the eggs and cat, Dr. Bob order further blood testing to determine the extent of her allergy and help determine the best way to treat it.  Also, it is common for milk and wheat allergies to be verified in a blood test even if no skin reaction occurred today.  (We hope this is not the case!) 

Dr. Bob spent about an hour with us teaching lots of information about the genetic reasons for her allergies.  Basically she was born this way because the gene that determines allergies is quite dominant (there is a history on both sides), so she didn’t have a chance!  We were tickled with his explanation that people with this gene are “superior human beings.”  Basically, humans developed the ability to attack parasites thousands of years ago because they were living in the wild, drinking dirty water, and catching diseases from animals.  Humans who had a particular gene were able to attack certain stomach parasites and survive.  Other humans died.  Our ancient ancestors passed this gene down to us today, where it is manifested by having reactions to environmental stimulants that our body decodes as having a similar make-up to dangerous parasites.  Interesting stuff. 

Anyway, Dr. Bob will be able to give us more information about prognosis and treatment options when the blood tests come back, but usually young children with food allergy-related eczema eventually “outgrow” the problem.  Unfortunately, it can often manifest itself in breathing and asthma difficulties when they are older children.  But we’re praying this doesn’t happen. 

She won’t be tested for outdoor allergens (pollen, ragweed, etc.) until she is at least 5 years of age. 

After leaving Dr. Bob, we went to the Children’s Hospital to have her blood drawn.  Grace was so good…she barely flinched when the World’s Most Unfriendly Nurse inserted the butterfly needle. 

Sidenote:  If your job is drawing blood in a children’s hospital, basic “people” skills would be nice.  Like maybe a smile or even a brief “hello”.  The only communication we got was “hop up” (referring to the chair) and a grunt and a finger point towards a bowl of lollipops when I asked if Grace would get a reward for being so still and quiet during the draw.  It wouldn’t have killed her to say “good job” or even “goodbye” when we were done!  Okay, rant over.

Grace was fascinated by all the blood running through the tube.  Future nurse???  She didn’t get that from me!  :)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sweet Husband

Tonight after dinner, Todd walked in the kitchen and told me to go get a pedicure!  I haven’t had a professional pedicure in.…oh…ages!  I just don’t like to spend money on something I am perfectly capable of doing myself.  It’s a luxury, and luxuries are the first things we cut out when we decided that I would quit work and stay home with our daughter. 

But he really wanted me to do it as a reward for doing well on my diet/exercise plan over the last few months.  So I thought about it for about five seconds, grabbed my purse, and ran out the door for some blessed alone time!  I went to the little nail shop by our house that has been having a “grand opening special” for the past six years.  The ladies are really sweet and they weren’t too crowded, so I got an extra-long foot and leg massage.  Bliss!  That, my friends, is the entire reason I enjoy pedicures. 

Todd told me to take my time, so I stopped at CVS to pick up a prescription and ended up just wandering around the store, savoring a few moments of child-free browsing.  When I got home, Grace ran up to me and said, “Oh, mama, I missed you so much!”  She had red raspberry jam and peanut butter all over her face from a bedtime snack sandwich that she had begged her daddy to make.  But she had a really good time with her daddy, and it was nice of him to spend some quality time with her when he’s really busy with school work this month.  A it was nice of him to give me a little pampering!

Thanks, Todd.

Hot Day

This afternoon the outside temperature reading on our car was 107 degrees.  Crazy.  My poor flowers in the front yard must be watered twice a day to keep from drooping!  But they’re still alive!  I had a close call on one of them, but it perked up when I moved it to partial shade.  I guess even plants that say “full sun” can’t handle July in Texas!

Grace and I went to a little water park today to meet for a play date with my best friend from high school.  It was so much fun to see her and catch up.  (Love you, Emily!)  We reminisced about the old days and swapped stories about raising kids.  It’s weird to see her with a son that is taller than both of us.  Where does the time go? 

It was also sweet to see Emily’s older sons helping to take care of her two little ones in the pool.  What a rare sight to see teenage boys being so nurturing to their siblings!  In this day and age it’s more common to see fighting and arguing, but it was nice to see her kids being so kind with each other.

When Grace and I got home, we were worn out from being in the hot sun, so we got cleaned up and had a lazy afternoon reading books and watching “The Rescuers” on my bed.  Jillian was calling me to do The Shred, but I just couldn’t resist cuddling with my favorite 4-yr-old and being transported to the magical world of Disney!

When Todd got home from studying in the library, Grace was so excited to tell him, “Mama took me to Dollywood, Daddy!”  I gave up trying to explain that the water park we went to today was NOT Dollywood, but in reality it looked just like the water park we went to on vacation!  In her little mind, it WAS Dollywood.

Good times.

Monday Milestones


It was nice to get back into a routine this week.  I’ve missed cooking my own meals and being in my own house!  I used the treadmill most days, but I only did The Shred once.  My original goal after finishing the 30-day challenge was to do it at least every other day.  So, I need to get motivated to maintain my new muscles. 

I’ve been playing around with the idea of trying something different just to make things interesting.  I love Jillian’s workouts, so maybe I’ll check out some of her other videos.  Any recommendations would be appreciated!  Preferably ones that are 30 minutes or less and that focus on upper body since I’m going to continue the treadmill.

I lost two pounds this week, so that brings my total to 55 pounds in 24 weeks.

My monthly weigh-in/check-up went well last Friday.   My blood pressure was good and the staff continued to be very encouraging to me.  My doc did another routine blood panel just to be sure everything is still fine…sometimes when you lose a lot of weight quickly the thyroid can do weird things, so she just wanted to be safe.  If anything is off, they’ll let me know. 

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Homemade Strawberry Jam

strawberry jam

A while back, I saw an episode of Barefoot Contessa - Back To Basics on the Food Network.  Ina made a very easy recipe for homemade strawberry jam.  I copied the recipe and filed it for a rainy day.

Well, today’s not actually rainy (dry and HOT), but I decided to see if I had the ingredients on hand, especially since I scraped the bottom of my Smucker’s jam jar when I made Grace’s PB&J for lunch!  I had everything I needed, so Grace and I went to work. 

The recipe is very simple and took almost no time to throw everything in the pot to boil.  This was actually my first time to make homemade jam, and I was so excited to see it turn out so well!  I could have totally sat down with a spoon and eaten the whole thing.  Grace tried to.

I altered the recipe by making a substitution for the Grand Marnier.  I don’t normally keep that around, but I do have a bottle of homemade vanilla vodka in the pantry.  I substituted one tablespoon of the vanilla and one tablespoon of orange juice for the Grand Marnier.  Yum!  Also, I used regular sugar instead of super-fine sugar.  (You can make super-fine sugar by pulsing it in a food processor.)

Oh, also, I used a small handheld immersion blender at the end to make it more jam-like.  This quick recipe would be great on biscuits, sandwiches, or as a topping for vanilla ice cream!  It would also make a great gift.

Easy Strawberry Jam

  • 3 pints fresh strawberries
  • 3 cups superfine sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur (recommended: Grand Marnier)
  • 1/2 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and small-diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries

Place the strawberries in a colander and rinse them under cold running water. Drain and hull the strawberries. Cut the larger berries in half or quarters and leave the small berries whole. Place the strawberries in a deep, heavy-bottomed pot such as heavy Dutch oven and toss them with the sugar and orange-flavored liqueur.

Bring the berry mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Add the apple and blueberries and continue to keep the mixture at a rolling boil, stirring occasionally, until the jam reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer. This should take 25 to 35 minutes. Skim and discard any foam that rises to the top. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature and then store covered in the refrigerator. It will keep refrigerated for at least 2 weeks. To keep the jam longer, pack and seal in canning jars according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Courtesy of: Ina Garten

Friday, July 10, 2009

Random Thoughts…

I have a lot of thoughts rambling around in my head this morning with no coherent organization.  So I’ll just list what’s on my mind!

1.  Our home has been on the market since last October with little to no interested buyers.  The market here is just tough.  We switched realtors a couple of weeks ago and…voila!…all of a sudden there are several people wanting to see the house.  We’re praying that someone will love it land want to buy it like we did.  Of course that means that the house must continually be in tip-top shape so we can leave if the realtor calls for a showing! 

2.  I bought 5 beautiful pots of flowers for our front yard.  Grace and I had a lot of fun planting and watering them.  I read all the instructions very carefully on the soil bag and little plastic thingies in the plants.  So far one has died.  Uugh!  Someone help!  Why can’t I keep plants alive? 

3.  This is the most hilarious post I have read in a while called “Urine The Money.”  Good one, Larry.

4.  I had my first mammogram yesterday.  I felt so old!  Normally women get their first baseline around the age of 40, but since my mom is a breast cancer survivor, I have to start at 35.  It wasn’t too bad…I had heard horror stories from other women.  I would just label it slightly uncomfortable.  It helps when you have a great nurse tech like I did!  I should find out results in 5-7 days.  If you are a 40+ year old woman and have never had a mammogram, please schedule one ASAP!  It saves lives.

5.  Todd is continuing his doctoral work at Tarleton University.  He left yesterday morning for “doctoral boot camp.”  I actually had to pack sheets and towels for him to stay in a dorm room!  He was not happy.  Anyway, when I asked him what he was having to do, he said that there were lots of seminars and heavy loads of assignments to complete before Saturday.  Last night he was working on writing 1-2 page synopsis (each) of 100 biographies before Saturday.  (I think they’re trying to weed out people.)

That’s most of what swirling around my head this morning.  I’ve got to run and get Grace quickly ready to run out the door for our busy morning…weigh-in at the doctor, go shopping for baby shower presents and birthday presents, then go to the dollar store to see if they have any of those cheap charcoal grills to replace the one we lost in our last Texas Tornado!  Hope everyone has a great day!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Farmer’s Market


Todd went to the farmer’s market today to buy some fresh fruits and vegetables for the week.  He came back with absolutely beautiful produce at mostly decent prices.  He bought a few extra things that weren’t on my list because they looked so yummy including strawberries, peaches, and blueberries. 

The strawberries were so sweet and there wasn’t a soft spot on any of them…just perfect.  Grace LOVES blueberries, so she got a nice surprise for snack time.  And the peaches were so delicious that they are almost beyond description.  He bought a lot of peaches because the 2009 Peach Festival is this weekend and they were abundant. 

After eating a peach, then chopping some and putting them in the fridge for later, I still had some left to freeze.  However, they didn’t make it to the freezer because I suddenly decided to make a peach crumble as a quick treat.  It turned out great, so I’ll share the recipe from the Food Network’s Robin Miller.

Peach Crumble

  • 2 cups fresh peaches or thawed frozen peaches, sliced
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange peaches in the bottom of a shallow baking dish; set aside. In a small bowl, combine flour, oats, oil, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Stir with a fork until mixture is crumbly, adding more oil if necessary. Fold in nuts. Sprinkle topping over peaches and bake 15 minutes, until golden brown.

I altered the recipe a bit to make it more diet-friendly by using whole wheat flour, omitting the nuts, cutting the oil in half, and spraying it well with butter flavored Pam cooking spray.  I served it warm with a dollop of Cool Whip Lite.  It was amazing!

Cutting fresh peaches can be a little tricky, and I found a website that gives a great description of the best way to do it.  In the past, I’ve done it wrong by trying to peel the peach first…it ends up in a mushy, smushy mess.  This method is much easier and cleaner, resulting in clean and beautiful slices for cakes, pies, or crumbles.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Home Again!

We arrived home safely last night from our road trip to Tennessee.  It was nice to pull in the driveway and give thanks for God’s protection on the road.  I-20 was a mess yesterday with heavy thunderstorms, crazy truck drivers, and lots of construction.  There were so many opportunities for bad things to happen, but we stayed safe and Grace stayed happy!

When we walked in the door, Grace ran upstairs to her room and said hello to all her toys, basically making a huge mess in under a minute.  She kept calling me into her room and saying, “Look, mama!  It’s my Barbie doll!  Look, mama!  It’s the ceiling that Mimi painted!  Look, mama!  It’s my Pet Shop house!  Look, mama!  It’s my _____ !”  She was so happy when she went to bed, and she’s still sleeping as I type this morning. 

Today I’m just going to enjoy being home and getting unpacked.  Todd is running to the farmer’s market to get a few fresh items, but I’m going to save my heavier grocery shopping for next week.  Todd is going out of town again tomorrow for four days on school business, so Grace and I will eat out of the pantry and freezer until he returns.  By then, I’ll have clipped more coupons and mapped out my shopping plan according to the new ads.

Today I’m also going to…gasp!…buy some flowers to plant outside.  I have been convicted over the past few weeks about denying Grace the enjoyment she gets from gardening.  Just because I have a black thumb doesn’t mean she has to as well!  My mom and my mom-in-law are both master gardeners, and Grace was thrilled to help them in their yards during our visits.  I want her to have fun in our yard, too, and learn all about taking care of growing things.

So, I got up early this morning and dug out some big planters from my garage.  I’m going to start easy and put some hardy flowers in the big pots and set them on the front and back patios.  I’ll let Grace help me plant them, then I’ll make a little chart on the fridge to help us remember to water them…maybe with Grace’s help they won’t die!

Monday Milestones (a day late)

runnerI’m happy to report that I didn’t gain any weight this week.  Believe me when I say that is quite an accomplishment!  I ate more meals in restaurants than I have in the past year, and even though I made (mostly) smart choices, the calories just add up.  We won’t even discuss what I ate in the car driving home yesterday.  I guess I attribute not gaining weight to staying active!

We arrived home safely last night from our road trip…while we miss our family, it’s good to be home!  I’m looking forward to getting back into my routine with my diet/exercise plan. 

Hopefully I’ll have better news to report next week, but I’m satisfied with how I’ve done over the past few weeks on the road.  I’ve still got 7 more pounds to lose before I reach my first big goal of 60 pounds.  Then, I’ll make a smaller goal to reach my ideal weight. 

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Gene That Got Away From Me

It is an ongoing joke in my family that I can’t keep a plant alive.  Ever.  Anywhere.  Period.

Despite my inability with anything involving gardening, Grace absolutely loves helping both of her grandmothers take care of their yard. 

005 She desperately tried to carry around this heavy watering pail on her own.  Nan had to help her a bit.

006 After watering, we refilled all the birdseed holders.

004 It’s a good thing we have a sprinkler system…

Friday, July 3, 2009

Birthday Lunch

Tomorrow is Nan’s birthday and we began our celebration by taking her to P.F. Chang’s for lunch today!  Todd and I have never eaten there, but I have heard people rave about their food.  We weren’t disappointed! 

Nan ate the sweet & sour pork, Todd ate the sweet & sour chicken, I ate the beef & broccoli lunch bowl, and Grace ate veggies and rice.  It took a while to figure out what she could eat because everything on the kid’s menu came with food containing eggs:  fried rice, egg noodles, egg-battered meats, etc.  Our waitress was very nice and spoke to the chef about making sure no eggs touched her food.

It was all delicious!  And Grace had a blast using her chopsticks…she managed to pick up her food pretty well!


Then it was time for dessert.  We decided to order the little individual mini-desserts because it was easier to make everyone happy.  (And there was a “light” one that I could eat).  We ordered Grace the S’mores bar…alternating layers of fudge/marshmallows/graham cracker crumbs in a little glass. 

She got through the first layer of fudge, then barely dabbed a little of the marshmallow on her spoon to taste.  She instantly started crying and clawing at her mouth and tongue.  Come to find out, it was actually a marshmallow creme that contained egg whites.  I rushed her out to administer medicine that I always carry in my purse while Todd paid the bill. 

Thankfully she’s okay, but not very happy.  We had planned to go to the new Turkey Creek shopping center and walk around a bit, but we changed our plans so we could get Grace home. 

Another lesson learned…assume nothing about restaurant menus.  Always ask if your child has a food allergy. 

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Great Smoky Mountains

We got up early this morning and drove into Gatlinburg for a meal at our favorite breakfast place, the Pancake Pantry.  It’s always delicious and nostalgic…we have taken pictures by the fountain outside the restaurant every year since we got married 13 years ago. 

103It’s funny how we always order the same thing.  Nan gets the raspberry crepes, Todd gets the french toast with cinnamon creme, I get the Caribbean pancakes (this time with whole wheat pancakes and sugar-free syrup), and Grace gets a “bear” pancake.  This morning, however, Grace simply picked off the M&M eyes, nose, and belly buttons.  Then she ate her daddy’s side of bacon.  The breakfast of champions, my friends.

102 Next we drove about 20 miles up the mountain to Clingman’s Dome.  This is the beauty of God’s creation at it’s finest!  I took this picture out the window during our drive.  (Sorry about the weird date stamping…I fixed it!)

107Clingman’s Dome is the second highest point in the U.S. east of the Mississippi River.  (The first is Mt. Mitchell in N. Carolina).  We didn’t even think about the difference in temperature when we got to the top.  It was in the 50’s with a stiff cold breeze!  We had to hike another mile to and from the observation tower and the only thing we had was Grace’s pink blanket to keep her warm.  Todd and I just dealt. 


The higher we went, the colder it got.  Grace actually walked about 80% of the way by herself on a steep incline.  Todd carried her some to give her breaks.  When we got towards the top, we started walking into the clouds.  Grace thought that was so cool!  But, unfortunately, since it was a cloudy morning, this is all we could see when we got to the very top.

007Bummer.  On a clear day, you can see over 100 miles into 7 states!  We took a few pictures anyway.

009It warmed up a little on our hike back down to the car, thankfully.  I think it was actually physically harder going down than coming up!   At one point Grace exclaimed, “Hiking a mountain is HARD, Mama!”  Yes, it is.  Especially when your body temperature is approaching hypothermia.  And the altitude is so high that it’s harder to breathe.  And you’re still recovering from the car sickness that is inevitable when riding in the backseat on a drive through the Smoky Mountains.  We stopped to take a few breaks.


We drove down the mountain a few miles and stopped at Newfound Gap to see the beautiful mountain pass and stand on the Tennessee/North Carolina state line.115

017111On our way home, we stopped at the Tanger Outlet to run in a couple of stores.  I found two cute pairs of pants for $6.00 at Coldwater Creek and several $2.99 items for Grace’s summer 2010 wardrobe at The Children’s Place.  While Nan and I were shopping, Todd took Grace to ride a Go Kart (which she was determined to do by herself!).  Todd let her try, but she got frustrated because she became stuck and kept driving into a wall and banging her head on the steering wheel.  Hopefully this doesn’t bode poorly for her future in driver’s ed…

Grace was pretty fussy on the ride home.  The bacon and M&M’s had worn off and she was exhausted from the hike!  We’re just going to relax for the rest of today, then tomorrow we’re headed to Knoxville to celebrate Nan’s birthday!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009



Today we had a blast at Dollywood!  This is another one of our favorite places to go when we visit Todd’s family.  Grace had so much fun and was quite adventurous.  She surprised us at Splash Country the other day, and today she continued the trend of wanting to try new things on her own.  It’s so great to see her enjoying new experiences instead of clinging and being scared (like in times past). 

We started the day (crazily) by going on a water ride.  Todd took her on a boat where you use huge water guns to super-soak everyone.  When they debarked at the end of the ride, they looked like two wet rats and their shoes were squishing with every step. 


Since it was the beginning of the day and the crowds were pretty slim, Todd and I took advantage of the short lines to ride the adult roller coasters.  It was quite the experience, and I’ll sum it up by saying that at the end of the Tennessee Tornado, I was literally drooling.

We made our way to the kiddie park where Grace enthusiastically rode all the rides she could and pouted about the rides she was too small to board (just one more inch until she reaches the 42 inch milestone where she can ride almost everything). 



We took a break for an early lunch at a sandwich shop where we enjoyed turkey wraps and fruit salad.  Grace took her apple to go.

018Here’s a picture of Todd and Grace right before we saw the 4-D Brendan Frazier movie “Journey To The Center Of The Earth.”  Unfortunately, Grace and I had to sit in the non-motion seats because she lacked one inch! 


To beat the afternoon heat, we went to Dolly’s country musical/acrobatic show and a Kraft Brothers live animal show (which was great!).  Then we went back to the kiddie park for more rides that Grace could enjoy.  Here she is on a ride that takes you up high and drops you fast.  She was the smallest person on this ride and was so thrilled that we let her do it twice in a row.  They actually stopped the ride on the second time to let an older kid off who was screaming.  Grace informed me, “Mama, when I was a little girl I was scared and cried, but I’m a big girl now and I’m not scared.”  What a difference a year makes!

030 At the end of the day, Grace rode the ferris wheel with Nan.  So sweet.

029We had so much fun today, and I know that Grace is going to remember this for a long time!  We completely wore her out and she happily fell asleep about five minutes into the car ride home.

032 Tomorrow we’re getting up early and eating breakfast at the Gatlinburg Pancake Pantry, climbing Clingman’s Dome, then shopping at the Tanger Outlet (if we’re still alive after climbing a mountain!).  Hopefully I’ll post a few pictures of the beautiful Smokies tomorrow after our hike!