10 Day Eat-at-Home Challenge


Here is my tentative 10 day menu:

  1. Tater Tot Casserole ( I said homemade, not gourmet.)
  2. Corndog Casserole; baked beans, salad (Don’t judge-this is for a night when I won’t even be home)
  3. Pigs in a blanket; chopped salad (You can judge, but the chopped salad is awesome!)
  4. Chicken and Noodles (Pioneer Woman recipe); Madeleines with raspberry sauce and chocolate sauce
  5. Chicken fingers (Giada recipe), mashed potatoes, steamed green beans, grapes.
  6. Grilled turkey, provolone and spinach sandwiches
  7. Sausage and potato skillet
  8. Crockpot chicken
  9. Greek grilled chicken, zucchini
  10.  TBD

Wish me luck and follow along!


10 Days of Homemade Food…Sorta

Have you ever seen the blog 100 Days of Real Food?  It’s awesome.  The blog is by a young mother that feeds her family only wholesome, homemade food each meal, every day.  Nothing processed, no shortcuts, just healthy homemade stuff.  That takes some perseverance, dedication and time.  She is a warrior.

Well, bless her heart. As much as I would love to be THAT mom, I’m not.  Friends, let me be real honest.  There are days that having a shower AND clean underwear earns a win in my book. Truth.

So, I’m going to do MY version.  10 days of homemade food.  That means 10 days of cooking for my family with no fast food or Chinese take-out.  By the way, I’m only counting dinner.  Three meals a day?  I don’t think so.

So here we go with Day 1.

Tater Tot Casserole

I said ‘homemade’, not gourmet.

This is a favorite with my family and I have made some modifications to make a bit healthier.

ground meat, 1 pound


chopped onion

light sour cream, 1 cup

1 can cream of chicken soup

diced green chiles (optional)

1 bag of tater tots, 32 oz.  (I like Alexia all natural tots)

Shredded cheese

Brown the meat.  I used a combination of elk and lean ground turkey and I cooked a double portion.  Then I froze half of it for a quick and easy dinner for one of those days when I need quick and easy.Image

Chop 1/2- 1 whole onion and throw in with the meat and season with S&P.  When the meat and onions are cooked, pour the mixture into a 9×13 greased pan.  Mix sour cream and soup (and chiles, if using) and pour over the meat mixture.  Place the tater tots on top and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Remove and sprinkle the top with shredded cheese.

Isn’t that easy?  Your kids will love this.

Day 1 is complete.

Beautiful Pain

At Ana's House in Romania.
At Ana’s House in Romania.

A couple of weeks ago I was able to go back to Romania and visit the group home,   Ana’s House.  It was such a joy to see the kids again and to reconnect with the house parents and other adults that are vital to the House.  I tagged along with Jay, the president of Global Hope, and Jacci, the field director.  This trip was packed with appointments and visits because there were pressing matters to attend to. 

Jay needed to meet the people involved in this mission and to see firsthand how everything operated.  Jacci had business to attend to with the support staff and to check in on some of the children in precarious placements.  At one of our first meetings with support staff, Jacci and I learned of some of the challenges that the families were facing and some of the concerning situations that a few of the children were dealing with.  We helped to create a plan to address some of the issues, while other issues will take a lot of prayer and careful contemplation to resolve. 

The next visit that we made was to a wonderful family that cares for three foster children. They also have their own children.  I have to say that the visit to the family was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. 

We parked on the street and walked around the corner to the home.  All of the homes that I have visited in Romania have been surrounded by tall, solid fences with locked doors.  Someone unlocked the large metal door and we walked in to meet the family.  We entered a tiny L shaped kitchen and saw a sink and stove to the left.  Straight ahead was the smaller part of the L with a table pushed up against a wall.  The room was large enough for the table, some chairs and a small refrigerator.  They pulled out the table so that we could all sit down.  As we all squeezed in around the table, I wondered how they fit a family of six at the table for meals.  Directly behind the table was a door to a storage room that could only be opened if a chair was moved out of the way.  To the left of the table was a door that led into the boys’ room.  There were no hallways.  Evidently you had to go outside to reach the other rooms in the house. 

The family set out refreshments and the mother began to talk about how the children were doing. The boys are 19 and 22 years old.  The older boy works at a pizza place for about a dollar an hour and attends nursing school.  The younger one attends high school and also has a job.  I was astonished at how she was proudly praising the kids.  The foster parents continue to provide support after the kids graduate high school so that they have the opportunity to learn a trade or earn a degree. Through my involvement with Global Hope, I have learned that children who suffer trauma can have significant social and maturation delays; socially they can be as much as half of their chronological age.

 After a few minutes, the father came in with a young girl who was one of the most beautiful children that I had ever seen.  She had dark eyes, long dark hair and fair skin.  Her features were so delicate that she almost looked like an animated china doll.  As I listened to the parents talk, it was hard not to steal glances at this beautiful child because hers wasn’t just a physical beauty.  She radiated a sweetness and innocence that is hard to put into words.  I was sitting close enough to her to notice a round scar upon her cheek.  I would later learn that it was a cigar burn.  As an infant, she was left in the care of her grandfather who did not want to be bothered.  He filled her bottle with brandy and a little milk so that she would be quiet.  Severely neglected and abused, she was removed from the home when she was about three. 

 Later, both parents told of the struggles and triumphs that the boys had experienced while Jacci translated for Jay and I. We were touched at the amount of love, effort and prayers that the parents poured into these children.  Many parents would have walked away from some of the challenges they faced. 

We work with this organization in the hopes that we can make a small difference in the lives of needy children.  I think all of us realized, sitting around the table that afternoon, how small of a contribution we make compared to what these families give.  Jay expressed this to the family and how we do the easy part.  The mother replied that without our support, they could not do what they do.  That is why I will continue to do what I can for Global Hope.  They are making a difference.

As we left, Jay asked if he could say a prayer.  At that point, I think we were struggling to ‘keep it together’; I know my eyes were brimming with tears.  He asked for blessings over the families and we headed back to Ana’s House to get ready for the celebration of the logodna.

Beautiful pain. I was listening to the radio, and a guest speaker was talking about how art and music can be sad but still beautiful.  He called it a beautiful pain.  I think that sums up what we experienced in Arad; not that pain is beautiful, but that beauty often exists alongside pain.

Things I Learned From Being a Mom

mother daughter sculptureMaybe it is the coming holidays or the many Hallmark holiday movies that I have been watching, but I’ve been thinking a lot about family. My kids are on the edge of the ‘nest’ and starting to spread their wings. I hope and pray that they have learned all that they need to make it on their own. I started reflecting on what I have learned over the last 20 years. Here it is:
1. Pizza or mac and cheese always works for a sleepover.
2. Words can heal completely or hurt deeply.
3. Kids pay more attention to what I do rather than what I say.
4. I know how to deal with 9pm requests for wax museum costumes, spirit day attire or nut-free, gluten-free treats for 25.
5. I know how to sign permission slips while at a stop light.
6. I know how to kiss away boo-boos and hug away fears.
7. Prayers and manners count.
8. I learned to never regret putting family before work. One of my favorite people, Dawn Springer, once said that when it comes to the important stuff, going into the office is just another day at work, but being with family is making a memory.
9. You can never have too many safety pins or too much duct tape.
10. When kids learn how to pay their own way (for things they want), it pays off.
11. I can hide lots of healthy stuff in a smoothie and it still tastes good.
12. Kale is not one of those things.
13. Kids are never too old to have a good story read to them.
14. Encouraging my children to learn another language and play a musical instrument was a good thing.
15. Hooked on Phonics was not.
16. Grades and test scores (good OR bad) do not represent who my child is; they only show a miniscule picture of what they have done.
17. A child’s ‘lasts’ are as momentous as a baby’s ‘firsts’.
18.  It takes 10 sincere praises to take the sting out of 1 harsh criticism.
19.  Asking what a child did at school that day reveals nothing; asking a child what made them laugh that day reveals everything.
20.  My most important job title will always be wife and mother.
21.  Raising kids is not for sissies (but, as my husband always said, having only two kids allows for man-to-man coverage vs. zone defense).
22. If you send a boy to camp for seven days where showering is optional, he will return smelly.
23. I learned that ‘differently abled’ is not just a clever term, it is TRUTH.
24. Seeing your child hurting is excruciatingly painful.
25. My kids remember the teachers that built them up.
26. I know the pediatrician’s number, school attendance number and weather number by heart (My husband does not, but he can tell you who won the ’78 World Series).
26. When your kids confide in each other and have each other’s back-you’ve done something right.  They get ‘family’.

What I am in the process of learning as my kids leave the nest:

1.  To cherish those moments when the whole family is under one roof.  It doesn’t happen often enough.
2.  Traditions are just another word for memories.
3.  It’s not my job to prevent my children from experiencing pain or hardship…it is my job to help them handle any situation with grace.
4.  You are never too old to need your mom.
5.  To find joy and purpose beyond motherhood, even though my heart aches mightily from missing my daughter.
6.  That writing publicly is both cathartic and terrifying.
7. Having a dependable, loving spouse makes all the difference.
8.  I don’t have to fill the empty nest, but I CAN redecorate it!

Political Vitriol: We Shall Reap What We Sow

fall sunshineI live in a bucolic suburban community in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. This time of year the sky is a brilliant blue and the splash of color from the crimson and golden leaves can take your breath away.  In the midst of all of this beauty is a contentious political war that has turned nasty. Both sides are throwing barbs and some public figures are behaving shamefully.  I have been reading a forum on Facebook to keep current with the issues and to follow the political maneuverings of both sides.  I was dismayed to recently read a rather ugly post aimed at a particular political party-even though people from both sides of the aisle support the cause on this forum.  I just wish that everyone would step back and take a deep, deep breath.

We all need to get some perspective.  PLEASE remember that when this election is over, we will still be a community. Let us not resort to cruel words and generalizations that cut so deep as to leave our community with no way to come together again and begin to heal.  People from both sides of the issue will still live in our community whether we win or lose.  But even more importantly, we need to remember this:


Some people that post may have children that are too young to read social media, however, they can read their parent’s demeanor and sense their attitude.  What are we showing them about how we treat people that think differently than we do?  Tolerance and acceptance are not virtues that we ‘put on’ when it is convenient.  Parents can read picture books to their children about how important it is to not be a bully, but that message goes out the window when the child sees the parent living a contradictory message. Ironically, we are supposedly fighting this fight for the children!

It’s hard. I get it.  But we are going to have to build back up whatever we destroy.  Let’s make it easier on ourselves and cause as little destruction as possible. I have found that people rarely regret taking the high road…and I have taken the ‘low road’ enough to realize that the satisfaction is fleeting and not worth critically injuring another soul. Remember folks, we will reap what we sow.



Day 3: Change of Heart- Change of Plans…Change of Menu

I couldn’t do it.  I just COULD. NOT. DO. IT.  On my original 10 day Eat-At-Home plan, Day 3 was going to be Pigs in a Blanket.  I just couldn’t bring myself to blog about pigs, in blankets.  Besides, we rarely eat processed meat twice in one week, so I changed plans ( I was still feeling a little guilty for my low-rent recipe, Corndog Casserole).

I took our last big harvest of homegrown tomatoes and made a simple red sauce, specifically Nonna’s Spicy Tomato Sauce from Not My Momma’s Meals.  The host, Bobby Deen, is not only a cutie but he has some great recipes.


The recipe calls for about 3 lb.s of fresh tomatoes, 3 T. of olive oil, 4 minced scallions, 1 small minced red onion, 3 hot cherry peppers, 4 cloves of garlic, 1/4 cup of fresh basil leaves, 1 t. fresh oregano leaves and 1 t. of sea salt.  The recipe says that it takes 1 hour and 20 minutes, but that just couldn’t be correct.  The sauce is only cooked for 30 minutes.  She (Nonna) does blanch and peel her tomatoes first, but that only took me about 10 minutes. This is a delicious and healthy sauce.  I served it over spaghetti and made a chopped salad for the side dish.

Chopped Salad

This is a great way to serve salad to those who may not be salad lovers.  Some people of the teenaged male persuasion may be put off by fluffy salads with exotic crumbles and champagne vinaigrettes.  A chopped salad looks like a creamy, delicious side dish that just happens to have some green stuff in it.

Chop or dice all of your ingredients and toss with some light Ranch dressing.  Sprinkle with pepper.  Guys like pepper.

Start with lettuce and then chop up whatever fresh vegies that you have on hand.  I chopped some carrots, cucumbers, blanched broccoli (it is so much prettier after a quick steam), and snow peas.  You can even sprinkle on some bacon and bleu cheese crumbles if the mood hits you.

So, Day 3 is in the bag and we are ROLLING in money from not eating out all week.  Ok, not rolling exactly, but we’re feeling pretty good!

Is the Fitbit a Good Fit for You?


Fall is the perfect time to get outside and get active.  The bright blue sky, the gorgeous colors and the cool weather are very motivating. I have been looking into fitness trackers for awhile now.  Several years ago, I looked at the Bodybugg, but it was expensive. I got the Nike+ and have tried the Polar heart rate monitor.  I have also used sites like My Fitness Pal. What I like about Fitbit is that it combines aspects of each one of the other systems.  It is by far the easiest system that I have used. 

The Fitbit tracks your food, calories burned (steps, miles, floors and active minutes), water intake, weight and sleep.  It automatically updates your calories in/calories out and lets you know what is left in your ‘budget’.  The food listing is not very extensive, so you will probably end up adding in the food and calories manually for many items.  Also, it takes about 5-10 minutes to update.  I was having so much fun playing with it, that I was annoyed when I had to wait that long for an update.  Other than those two minor challenges, I think the Fitbit is an amazing tool.

So which Fitbit product is right for you?  You can choose from the Zip ($60), One ($100), Flex($100) and Force($129). The Fitbit Ultra is no longer available. The site www.fitbit.com has a comparison chart for each product.  I chose the Fitbit One because I wanted the sleep tracker feature and I wanted something that could tell time.  The Flex is very similar to the One, except it doesn’t tell time and the Flex is a wristband.  The One is a small (about 2″ long) Bluetooth like object that clips on your clothing.  It also comes with a Velcro wrist strap that can hold the One. All of the models, except the Zip, have a rechargeable battery. The comparison chart shows that the One does not have goal setting, but it displays goals on mine.  It gives me a daily goal of calories burned and activities.  After typing in my goal weight, it let me choose what type of program that I wanted and then told me when I would reach my goal.  It would take me until August 2015 to reach my goal weight if I chose the “Easiest” program!  I decided to go with the “Medium” level and should reach my goal by August 2014. 🙂

Have you used a Fitbit product?  What do you think?  Are there any Bodybuggers out there?  How do you like it?