Unwrap the Gift Only You Can Give

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     Hello again! Finals are over and now a different chaos is settling in. Christmas. With so many events to attend, from cookie exchanges to several dinners, it can be easy to run short on time. The kids are home for break and you have even less time for your to-do list(s)! How can you make this time of year less stressful and enjoy the ones you love? Being pulled in so many directions it is easy for many of us to feel out of control. Put yourself back in control and save your sanity! Here are some tips:

  1. Breathe– Oxygen helps remind your body that it is not in emergency mode. Even if you feel like it, your hair is not on fire.
  2. Make a List. Check it twice. Prioritize people, events, recipes, etc. Check with those you will be dragging along, to see what events they find important. Then you can come up with a combined priority list.
  3. Make a New Year’s Resolution to show the people in your life how much you care through out the year, instead of trying to fit it into one season. Out of guilt we often try to see everyone this once a year. Then we vow to meet up more after the holidays. How about actually planning time in the year to get together? Set a reminder on your phone to get a hold of one person each month. This lessens the obligation to see EVERYONE during the holidays. 
  4. Find one outfit that works for you and change up the way you wear it. It can be stressful to pick out the perfect outfits for parties. If you pick one piece, and change up the accessories, add a jacket, loose a jacket, pair with leggings, or wear your hair differently, you can have different looks and keep it simple. You can get ideas from online magazines like http://www.modcitymag.com for tips. 
  5.  Make some of the to-do’s something the kids can join in on. Carve out extra time to complete them. Kids take a little patience and lots of paper towels. The trade off is worth the effort, because kids also make memories special.
  6. Communicate with those who more or less fall lower on the priority vs. time list. Show appreciation for the invitations, and try to reschedule a time after the holidays to get together. This way you can do your part in avoiding drama and letting them know you care about his/her feelings.
  7. Rethink gifting. The commercials will tell you to buy expensive gifts and convince you that it is not fabulous to live within your means. You are not a bad parent, spouse, or friend for not going into debt for Christmas. One of my favorite gifts of all time was a great coffee mug. My friend knew how much I loved coffee and I use it almost every morning. Think about the person and do something to show you care. Maybe you and your spouse could do a coupon book for each other? How nice would it be to redeem a coupon for a back rub or breakfast in bed, or babysitting duty while one enjoys a night out with friends?
  8. Recall your favorite memories. Take time to remember the good moments either of the year or of Christmas’ past. It does the heart good to reflect on positive thoughts. Maybe you have had some tough Christmas’ but you have people who care about you. Thinking about the good things in your life can enhance everything about your life.  
  9. Be a kid. Enjoy the events along with your kids. If you don’t have kids, take the time to be a kid. Soak in all the sights, sounds, and tastes of the season. Don’t just get through Christmas, enjoy it.
  10.  Lower expectations. Mainly this probably applies to you. You are one person. You are amazing, and can probably technically physically manage to do most if not all on your list. Think about this though, how are those you care about seeing you? What message are you sending when you are rushing everyone out to be somewhere, pushing your children out of the kitchen so you can make the perfect dish, or freak out about messes? What really matters? If we stop expecting perfection out of ourselves, maybe we can stop expecting perfection out of others. This trickle effect may promote a society change. “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.” (Sy Miller and Jill Jackson) 
  11. Make meals easy. If you are doing a lot of cooking and baking, meal time can be stressful. Lower the stress by making a breakfast strata for well… breakfast. You could do chili and have it as soup for one night, spaghetti for another(over pasta with reduced-fat cheese), and then a walking taco for yet another (add Frito chips and low-fat sour cream, shredded lettuce, and reduced-sodium taco seasoning). You could also do a shepherd’s pie or other tasty one dish wonders. If you need something light, roast a chicken in a crock-pot and use it to top a salad, shred it and add bbq for a sandwich, or use it for chicken tacos. This way you can feel good about what you are feeding your family without the hassle of preparing big meals every night. You simply make one item work for several days. 

I hope these tips help you and your family better enjoy this season. Feel free to share your ideas below or comments about my tips. Do you feel they are practical? 

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Fighting the Good Fight of PCOS

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Things have been pretty crazy around my place lately. This senior year workload has kept me pretty busy, along with having a 9 month-old and a 2 year-old! Sorry if it seems I have been absent. This week I won a big battle in my fight against PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). I sat in the waiting room in excitement to speak with my doctor. 5 years ago I was in that office and she diagnosed me with the disorder. At 209lbs and struggling to find something that worked for me, it was nice to put a face on my opponent. From that moment on I was determined to do something about it and to help others as well. I knew she would be proud of the progress i made. She has been there as I have struggled over and over again, watching me feel hopeless. She has also watched me succeed.

I understand what it feels like to be frustrated, cranky, hungry, and overwhelmed in weight-loss battles. I have since lost the weight, have 2 children, and ran my best time. As of that office visit, I am officially off my Metformin medication! That is right. You can get healthy and get off some of your medications by changing your lifestyle. In this economy, who couldn’t afford to have their doctor drop a prescription or two? Think of all the pages of side-effects from medications you are on. There are a lot of medications your doctor could eliminate by your change in lifestyle. Less chemicals entering and running through your body. You take control back from the medications by becoming disciplined. Obviously you should NEVER attempt to go off a medication without your doctor’s orders. This is simply a goal you can set for yourself to motivate you for healthier living.  

You have to first understand that you are worth the time and effort. Your loved ones deserve the best you possible. Life has battles great and small. We have to have the courage and gumption to face them head on. We cannot control everything that happens to us. We can choose how to deal with them and do our best to prevent damage. Respond. Do not let life keep you juggling with symptoms health-related or in general. Use what power you do have to make the best decisions you can. I personally believe that God will handle the rest. At the end of the day, come what may, I want to know I did what I could and didn’t sit idle. What battles have you won? Please share and encourage others to keep pushing! Feel free to comment or share a story below!! 

Moment of Greatness

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   School has started at Miami University in Oxford. I have to say how excited I am at the prospect of graduating in the Spring! Someone once told me that the world of people who need help is just waiting on me to graduate. Though I doubt my influence will be so great, my care for people is pretty huge. Sometimes I feel like a Leslie Knope of health and fitness at heart. Though I may not be able to reach the whole world, I think it could still feel like a moment of greatness for me.

 Think of some favorite moments in your life. Think of what you see, how you felt, the smells, and who you were with. To me, great moments in my life involved great food, great company, and sharing a special moment. We can create more positive moments in our life by changing perspective and by setting the stage. It may not always work, but the effort in the end pays off.

What is the last great meal you ate? I mean a meal that made you utter unintelligible words. It may have been a while, or you may not have had that chance. When you use that standard and compare it to what you have been eating, you see there have been a lot of wasted bites. If budget or time tends to of concern, plan it out and work on your confidence in the kitchen. Practice using proper utensils and following basic recipes. Otherwise, keep an ear out for some great places and try new things, maybe once a week or so. Make food an adventure. 

How does the discovery of being down a size in a store’s fitting room make you feel? Embarrassingly, I dance and jump about. Maybe you experienced being able to move around better than you used to. How does it make you feel to do more with less effort? These things come with moderation in eating and exercise. We know this, but the discipline to keep at a lifestyle of it can seem daunting. Even if your goal is to maintain, keep a goal to keep motivated. 

Putting in the effort can help you create great moments like this. Moments you can reflect on later as moments of greatness. You don’t have to invent something or lead a group of people to achieve greatness. You just simply have to do the most you can with what you have.  I am sure when I graduate it will feel like a moment of greatness, simply because I will have worked so hard to get there. Your moments of greatness did not end and neither will have mine, unless we choose to not change or press forward. Allowing moments to be great and being great in a moment might seem unrelated, but they both involve effort and standard you set for yourself. So get out there and have a great day!

 

Cheese Clafoutis Recipe Review

So as I mentioned we recently returned from Disney World. I was on a culinary quest to broaden my taste buds and rekindle my passion for food. I had not lost it, but being a stay at home mom on a budget can sometimes cause the fire to dwindle a bit. Then I walked into Epcot’s World Showcase section of the park and my heart soared feeling immersed in the cultures and smells coming from kitchens preparing for the dinner rush to come.  I waltzed into a small shop in “France” and found an adorable cookbook for just $9 and it had some wonderful staples I wanted to try. I love trying new recipes, if for nothing else but to try a new cooking technique that broadens my creativity in the kitchen.

Last night, a dear friend was in town and we had an impromptu French-themed night. We watched Ratatouille and made cheese clafoutis. This was chosen for the short list of ingredients and relatively easy on the budget. We were able to cut the recipe in half since it was just the two of us eating it. My husband was really enjoying some time to himself, and the kids had already been put down for the night. Of course the smell from the kitchen woke my son up (or maybe the fact that I grabbed the movie from his room) and we shared a few moments with him. He ooed and awed at the sight of Paris first on the screen, as my friend and I did the same over this delicious dish!  It really felt like a special moment of living in good taste for little cost. 

The Recipe:

Cheese Clafoutis from “The French Kitchen Cookbook: Everday cuisine from the French country kitchen”

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Serves 4-6   Prep Time:15 minutes    Cook time: 50-55 minutes (35-40 if halved) 

Ingredients:

-Olive oil for greasing    -3 cups Cherry Tomatoes      -3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled     -2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves    -1/2 cup all-purpose flour  – 4 extra-large eggs    -1 1/4 cup whole milk    -pinch of salt    -pinch of sugar

Directions:

One: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Arrange the Tomatoes in a single layer in the dish, then scatter the Cheese and Thyme over them and set aside.

Two: Sift the Flour, Sugar, and Salt into a large bowl and make a well in the center. Break Eggs into the well and use a whisk or fork to blend them together. Add half of the Milk and stir, gradually incorporating the Flour from the side of the bowl until blended. Stir in the remaining Milk until a smooth batter forms. 

Three: Gently pour the batter over the Tomatoes, shaking the dish slightly to distribute the Cheese and Thyme. Place in preheated oven and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the batter is puffed, golden, and set and the Tomatoes are tender.

Four: Remove Clafoutis from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

 

This was absolutely delicious!

A few tips to tweak it for healthier eating:

-Use 2% milk instead of whole

-Use whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose

-Limit your serving size. 

Food Snob rating: 9/10

Salmon Strawberry Almond Salad with a Mango Poppy Seed Dressing.

My husband and I went on our first vacation this past week, which is why it has been quiet around here. We took our children for a magical time to Disney World in Florida. In an attempt to save money on the trip, we stayed at a villa with full amenities. This way I could cook most meals. I was craving some seafood since we were surrounded by a tropical backdrop. Additionally i began to understand that a day at Disney made for one tired Momma. What could I cook that would satisfy, be quick to make, taste great, and hit the spot. This is what I came up with.

Salmon Strawberry Almond Salad with a Mango Poppy Seed Dressing.

Ingredients:
-1 lemon -1 lb Wild-Caught Salmon fillet (If it smells fishy, do not buy) -Salt and Pepper
-1 cup chopped strawberries (or sliced if you prefer) -1/4 cup slivered almonds – 1/4 cup Mango Poppy Seed Dressing (or to taste) -1 Package Baby Spring Lettuce (Rinsed and Dried)

Directions:
One: Preheat oven to 425 Degrees F. While the oven is heating up, Slice up your Strawberries. Cut Lemon in half.

Two: Place the Salmon in a baking dish, and season it with Salt and Pepper. Drizzle the Salmon with lemon juice, by squeezing one half of the Lemon at a time, over the fillet evenly with one hand. Use your opposite hand as a sieve to catch seeds. Slice the juiced Lemon and place the slices of Lemon directly onto the Salmon.

Three: Place the Salmon in the pre-heated oven and enjoy the aroma for about 15-20 minutes depending on the size and thickness of your fillet. You are looking for firm and flaky texture. While that is getting yummy, place your Slivered Almonds evenly on a cookie sheet with salt and pepper if desired. Half way through the Salmon baking time, place the Almonds in the oven.
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Four: Toss the Baby Spring lettuce into a bowl. Once everything in the oven has come out, place the toasted Almond Slivers and chopped Strawberries evenly over the bed of lettuce. Use a fork to pull chunks of Salmon out and lay across the bed of green and red goodness. You may or may not want to keep the skin. It is whatever your preference is. I usually allow my family to dress the salad to their liking, so I don’t have to receive complaints and it does not get soggy with pre-dressing. Serve.

salmon salad

This salad as a meal serves 4 and as a side to soup may serve up to 6. Good crusty bread and a bit of dipping olive oil with fresh-cracked black pepper would make a great add to this dish. One soup that may pair well is corn chowder with a hint of lime.

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Back to School Sanity

Back to School Sanity

Whether you are the student or the one responsible for a student this is a crazy time of year. You begin to get used to the summer routine just to be thrown a curve ball. I know because I am a student and in my senior year. These are a few things I have done in the past that may help you as well:

1. Get rest. As plain and simple as this may sound, how often do we do so? No one can be their best without rest.

2. Pack lunches the night before, even for those who pack lunch and are not attending school. This avoids the morning rush. Maybe even get the kids involved in making it themselves. They may be less likely to complain too.

3. Get organized. Have a family calendar prominently placed with everyone’s schedule scribbled in. Maybe even chores, so it helps streamline expectations of the day.

4. A nightly routine that brings everyone together, even if only for 10 minutes. Stress can be reduced with a routine and the comfort of knowing you have each other at the end of the day and can provide security.

5. Set your coffee alarm and use it. Maybe you prefer hot tea or oatmeal, but set the hot something to be made, waiting for you to rise. Nothing is more stressful than running late.

6. Reward yourself or your student with something at the end of the day. It may be a nice warm bath, story time, good book in the quiet, or even a square of good chocolate. Find time for something you enjoy even if it is only 5-10 minutes.

7. Remind yourself (or your student) of the positive moments or accomplishments of the day. It is okay to vent over the horrible mishaps and learn from them, but focus on the positive. It boosts your confidence and makes the learning and social aspects of school easier to cope with.

8. Eat well. When you eat well, you nourish your body. When your body feels nourished it keeps additional stress signals sent by your hormones, away. It also boosts your confidence in your decision-making.

9. Remind yourself that perfection is not the goal. Your best is. The ability to let go of the pressure to know everything opens you to become more of a knowledge vessel. It makes the learning experience more exciting and less stressful. Whether you teach or are a student there is always something to learn.

I hope this helps you feel better about the new road ahead! What do you do that helps you or your students feel less stressed? Tips and tricks are welcome!!

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Drive-thru Rut?

There are times you have to hit a drive-thru. It happens. A new meal that Chick-fil-a is serving is Chick-fil-a Grilled Market Salad. It is Food Snob approved.

I actually do not like eating a salad when I am out, but this one is super yummy! Loaded with berries and apples and sprinkled with blue cheese, it has enough flavor to satisfy any appetite. Topped with grilled chicken it comes in as a low-fat, low-calorie option. Only 180 calories and a big portion you can easily say yes.

Warning: It does come with granola and roasted nut blend on the side that are not included in the caloric count. The granola is 60 calories and the nuts are 80 calories. Compared to a chicken sammy this is still a great option and sprinkle away! The recommended dressing is Zesty Apple Cider vinaigrette, but beware if you use the whole packet it is over 200 calories. A light drizzle would go a long way since there is already so much flavor. You could also pick out some blue cheese to help make up the difference if you really want to. Omit the chicken and you have a vegetarian option and fewer calories.

This meal has anti-oxidants, iron, lean protein, good fats, and great flavor. I would obviously like to see organic produce, but this is fast food after all. Rating: 8.5/10

Check it out below:
http://www.chick-fil-a.com/Food/Salad-Detail/