The Game I have Circled

Common question to Coach:  Which game have you circled as THE game you want to win this year?

Coach’s standard response:  The next one on the calendar.

That makes perfect sense as there is no need for him to worry with winning a later game until we’ve taken care of the most immediate game.

But I’m not the coach…I am the coach’s wife, and I do have one particular game circled on my schedule.

In fact, if you can only get to one game here in Tulsa this year, I’m asking that you make it the New Mexico game on Saturday, September 23rd for our 3rd Annual Alzheimer’s Awareness Game.

Three is my all-time favorite number.  I was born on the third, I have three precious loves in my home, and sets of three always seem to balance in a most perfect, harmonious way.  In light of my admiration of all things three,  I – no, WE – are going all out for our third Alzheimer’s Awareness Game.

  • Festivities for the day begin with the 2017 Tulsa Walk to End Alzheimer’s right on the University of Tulsa campus.  The party kicks off at 7:30 am with entertainment and booths and programs and fun, and then the actual Walk begins at 9 o’clock.  Registration to participate is free, and we’d love for you to join Coach’s team in honor of his mom: TEAM SANDRA JEAN.  Visit www.TulsaWalk.org to sign up and find all the details.
  • After the walk it will be TIME TO TAILGATE!!  I love spending the day with family and friends prior to the game.  My cousin, Cody, is always in charge of the meat; my favorite is when he grills fajitas right on-site!  My Angel Girl has to have her Tailgater Sliders, and I don’t believe it is a party until there is a dessert or two on the table, especially my Sopapilla Cheesecake!
  • Next up?  BEAT NEW MEXICO!!  I typically pack up the tailgate and head into the stadium to watch a little pre-game an hour before kickoff.  I like to catch a glimpse of Coach down on the field, and I like to be settled in my seat before the national anthem.  Hearing “The Stars and Stripes Forever” in a sport’s stadium gives me cold chills. Even after all these years and hundreds of ballgames, it brings tears to my eyes every single time, and I hate missing that experience even once.

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Without a doubt, we want you – WE NEED YOU – at every game this season.  Our boys won 10 games last year, we were victorious in a fabulous bowl game in a very convincing fashion, and we set a national record that landed us right in the College Football Hall of Fame in an “instant classic” type of way.  Our games are fun, affordable, and a treat for everyone to enjoy.

But if you have to put your tickets in order of priority, please put Saturday, September 23rd at the top of your list.  Here is everything you need to know:

  • All Tulsa Walk to End Alzheimer’s participants will have access to discounted game tickets, so please take advantage of that special offer! (It will arrive in an email confirmation after you complete your Walk registration.)
  • Premium tailgating spots are also available to Walk participants in a 1-game, discounted package, so be sure to check that out at www.TulsaHurricane.com as well.  You can always call 918-631-4688 or read here for customer assistance.
  • This year’s ALZ game t-shirt is now ready to purchase online, and 25% of the sale of every shirt will be donated to TEAM SANDRA JEAN.  We have adult and youth sizes available, so order plenty for all your friends and loved ones: click here to order.  We can’t wait to see everyone wearing them as we raise awareness and funds to fight this tragedy and #tackleAlzheimers together!

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I can’t wait to see you there!

With love and hugs,

Ashli

My Carnival Career is Back in Business

After my PTA Carnival days ended approximately 4 years ago, I vowed I was finished with the carnival planning “business” (you’ve heard what volunteers get paid, right?).

BUT…Coach and I are super excited about chairing the 2017 Tulsa Walk to End ALZ, and it’s time to really begin our Walk efforts so we are kicking off the fun in the best way we know how: a party at the football field ❤️💛💙💜

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We’ve already confirmed with several Walk teams and Walk supporters to join us for the fun:

  • a local radio station to provide live music
  • Barre 3 Tulsa will be teaching a free community class in the south end zone
  • our TU Spirit Squad will be on hand giving out free t-shirts and Golden Hurricane goodies
  • my Tulsa football boys will be on the field passing the ball and teaching impeccable touchdown technique with the kids (of all ages)
  • there will be more than one fun photo opportunity to enjoy
  • Verdigris High School Softball Team wants to see just how fast you can pitch a baseball or softball with their handy radar gun
  • the Cascia Hall Cheerleaders are setting up sidewalk chalk for everyone to dazzle us with their creations

We will offer a very reasonable dinner purchase (I’m thinking a BBQ plate or hamburger basket), water and soft drinks, and definitely some sweet treats like maybe an ice cream stand or son-cone truck.  Or a CAKE WALK – that would be perfect!!

And, of course, there will be help on hand to get you registered for the 2017 Tulsa Walk to End ALZ.  You are always welcome to join our team (TEAM SANDRA JEAN), or you can start your own.  We will also have information about the many services and programs available to help those you love who are dealing with Alzheimer’s.  You are not alone, and we want to make sure you know what assistance is out there and how to access it!

Let me know if you have a Walk team, church or neighborhood group, civic or social organization, company or business that would like to participate in our kickoff carnival.  Hey, I’ll take individuals and families and flocks of friends – anyone who wants to help out is greatly appreciated!! We are open to all kinds of fun booths and games to attract and entertain the community.

My vision is BIG, so come one, come all, and let’s have some fun!

Love and hugs,

Ashli

PS:  Please like and share our Facebook event to help advertise the fun: 2017 Tulsa Walk to End ALZ Kickoff Party – June 21st

Drum Roll, Please…

Well, the last time I checked in I had 3 days left on my 10 Day Challenge…here are the final results:

Those last 3 days were not easy! We were (and still are) in mourning for our sweet Belle, and we were excited for nine days off of school as well as family and friends that needed hosting, feasts that needed eating, and a big football game that needed winning. Talk about the ups and downs, hills and valleys, positives and negatives of life!!

Days 8, 9, and 10 looked very much like days 1, 2, 3, and 4:

  • 1 oz Ionic Supreme (early morning)
  • 2 IsaGenix Shakes (usually breakfast and lunch)
  • 1 Natural Accelerator Capsule (with one of my shakes)
  • 1 clean and healthy snack (usually mid-afternoon)
  • 1 “normal” meal (usually dinner with the kids)
  • 1 IsaFlush Capsule (right before bed)

(I did have “tasting” bites of Thanksgiving recipes throughout those days as Angel Girl and I baked and bagged 12 dozen Salted Caramel Maple Pecan Pie Bars, 12 dozen Thanksgiving “Dyed Dough” Sugar Cookies, and 12 dozen Pilgrim Hat Cookies for the local Meals & Wheels program.  That is a whole lot of sugar that I added bit by bit, but I didn’t have the confidence to feed strangers without testing the recipes first!)

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When I weighed on Thanksgiving morning (Day 11), I was still hovering right at the 120 pound mark.  That means that I have lost a little more than 8 pounds since beginning my “refocus” on October 3rd, and I lost 5 pounds those last 10 days before Thanksgiving.  Considering the roller coaster of excitement and sadness and stress and relaxation over those 10 days, I am very pleased!

I didn’t do too much damage Thursday through Sunday, either.  I weighed again this morning, and after REALLY enjoying very indulgent foods for four days, I was glad to see 123.4 on the scale.  I was worried to look down and see a 1, 2, and 8.5 in shining blue numbers, so 123.4 was juuuuust fine!  I attribute the minimal gain (as opposed to what I normally see over a holiday) to the IsaGenix products that I’ve been using to keep my system detoxified.  I ate a ton, but the food didn’t seem to stick.

Our feast included all the favorites: turkey, dressing, giblet gravy, ham, candied yams, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, green bean bundles, buttered corn, broccoli-rice casserole, broccoli salad, sweetheart salad, and warm rolls.  The snack bar contained deviled eggs, relish tray, veggie tay and dip, summer sausage, cheese assortment, crackers, and seasoned pecans.  The dessert island was filled with chess pie, pumpkin pie, the pecan pie bars, pilgrim cookies, sugar cookies, fresh fruit, and plenty of whip cream to top it all off!

Our feast included all the favorites: turkey, dressing, giblet gravy, cranberry relish, ham, candied yams, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, green bean bundles, buttered corn, broccoli-rice casserole, broccoli salad, sweetheart salad, and warm rolls. The snack bar contained deviled eggs, relish tray, veggie tray and dip, summer sausage, cheese assortment, crackers, and seasoned pecans. The dessert island was filled with chess pie, pumpkin pie, the pecan pie bars, pilgrim cookies, sugar cookies, fresh fruit, and plenty of whip cream to top it all off!

At least I wan't the only one piling my plate(s) extra high!

At least I wan’t the only one piling my plate(s) extra high!

To help my body recover further, I began another Deep Cleanse this morning.  I also came across a great article that answers very common questions about the Cleanse for Life system:  Top 25 Questions About IsaGenix and Nutritional Cleansing.  Take a look, and let me know if you are interested in giving it a try.  I can only tell you that I feel a huge difference in my own metabolism, energy, and well-being.  After cleansing today and tomorrow, I will pick up my 2-shakes-a-day schedule until Christmas.  I appreciate that it allows me to stay full throughout the day, sit down to a family dinner with the kids at night, and still be on track for my goals!  Once Christmas arrives, I will enjoy my holiday, enjoy my kids being home for a few weeks, and enjoy a hard-earned and well-deserved bowl trip (or hopefully 2!!).

I love knowing that I can live my life and ALSO work on me, all at the same time!  I am eager to see where these products lead, and I am anxious to see additional results.  The past two months, I lost most of the weight in my stomach, which is also the last place I tend to add weight.  I hope that as I continue the 30-Day Cleansing and Fat Burning System, I will see more trimming in my hips, thighs, and face, so stay tuned for more updates.

Coach says he can see a definite difference already, and that brings a warmth to my heart and smile to my face 🙂

Happy, happy December, my friends!

With love and hugs,

Ashli

Only the heart knows how to find what is precious.  – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Cleanse Time

If you’ve been following my 10 day nutrition challenge, thank you 😉

I am already on Day 5, and I’ve lost about 3 pounds.  So far, so good!  I haven’t felt too hungry or fatigued, I’ve been going to the yoga studio everyday, and I even made it to Zumba on Day 2.

To this point, the program has consisted of two shakes, one healthy meal, and one healthy snack each day along with two nutritional supplements and 1 ounce of a green juice.  I am NOT restricting calories; my daily caloric intake has been right around 1200 which is normal for a 5’2″ female.  It’s an easy program to follow, and honestly, it has been nice not having to decide what to eat all the time.

Today and tomorrow I am switching gears to do a “deep cleanse” which is part of the 30 Day Cleansing and Fat Burning System.  I like this cleanse for three huge reasons:

  1. It tastes really good (berry fruity!),
  2. It does not chain one to the restroom, and
  3. It does not allow for lulls in the day which lead to a feeling of utter starvation.

So, here’s how it goes:

DAYS 5 & 6 DEEP CLEANSE

  • 7 am – 4 oz Cleanse for Life and 1 Natural Accelerator Supplement Capsule
  • 9 am – 1 oz Ionix Supreme Dietary Supplement (Green Juice) and 2 Chocolate IsaGenix Snacks
  • 11 am – 4 oz Cleanse for Life
  • 1 pm – 2 Chocolate IsaGenix Snacks and 1 Natural Accelerator Supplement Capsule
  • 3 pm – 4 oz Cleanse for Life
  • 5 pm – 2 Chocolate IsaGenix Snacks
  • 7 pm – 4 oz Cleanse for Life
  • 9 pm – 1 IsaFlush Supplement Capsule

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I keep a tall glass of ice water with me throughout the day, and I probably refill it every three to four hours.  I’m not jittery, and I’m not grouchy (always a good thing for the fam!). But I am very excited to see the results after these two days.

Meet back here Sunday for the results…and Sic ‘Em, Bears!!

With hugs and love,

Ashli  🙂

Progress, NOT Perfection

Yesterday I rambled (a lot!!) about yoga…today’s message is very short and one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned from my yoga practice:

No one is perfect, no one is supposed to be perfect; if I am not perfect, then I am exactly who, and how, I am supposed to be because life is all about progress, NOT perfection.

Here is a “perfect” example from my yoga practice:  Crow (Kakasana) and Crane (Bakasana)

Crow/Crane is an intense arm balance pose.  The idea is to use the triceps as a shelf to support the upper thighs or knees, then shift the body weight and visual gaze forward to balance on the arms and lift up the feet.  My first attempt was not too bad.  I was very proud of it, and it immediately became a favorite pose:

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You can see in the picture above (which was taken on May 9, 2014) that I needed a lot of shelf to hold up my legs, and I am also “sinking” into my arms to hold the balance.

Now fast forward 16 weeks to September 18th:

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This time my knees are tucked much further into my under-pits, which is considerably more difficult to hold, and my back is straighter which shows that I am getting stronger and better able to “lift” into the pose…still not perfection, but definitely progress 🙂

Finally, go forward one more week to September 24th:

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This is called Fallen Angel Pose (Devaduuta Panna Asana), and it’s a toughie!!  It is a progression from Side-Crow/Crane that I tried for the first time as this picture was snapped.  In a critical world, it is far from perfect, but I have to tell you that I was completely amazed and quite impressed with myself that I had the courage to attempt it, the focus to hold it, and the strength to lift it so that my head was off the ground.

Yoga taught me that I’m allowed to be excited by the progress and improvements rather than be discouraged or disheartened by the shortcomings and imperfection.  What an important lesson!  It is a lesson that has made me a better mom, a more patient person, a kinder friend, and a stronger wife.  For that I am eternally grateful!

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Be happy being you, and know that you are valued and adored, friends!

Hugs and love,

Ashli 🙂

 

PS:  Here are my results from yesterday, Day 3 of my 10 day challenge to lose 10 pounds before Thanksgiving:

Day 3 weight: 122.8 lb.
Early Morning: 1 oz Ionix Supreme Dietary Supplement (Green Juice)
Meal 3-1: Chocolate & Banana IsaLean Shake and 1 Natural Accelerator Supplement Capsule
Meal 3-2: Natural Oatmeal Raisin IsaLean Snack Bar
Meal 3-3: Chocolate & Peanut Butter IsaLean Shake
Meal 3-4: Spinach Salad with Scrambled Egg, Avocado, Bell Peppers, and Feta Cheese and 1 IsaFlush Supplement Capsule

Living Life Upside Down

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Last February a new yoga studio opened up in town. I followed them on Facebook, admired the cuteness of their website, commented on how inviting the building looked, and I thought to myself, “I really need to give that a try!”

But I didn’t make the effort to actually go.

A few weeks later a group of friends invited me to try out a free class at the studio, so I figured “Why not?” If nothing else, it would be a fun morning with friends followed by a chatty lunch and lots of smiles and conversation with people I adore.

That free trial class changed my life!

Yes, that sounds hokey and dramatic, but it is true, and there is simply no other way to say it. I had been right about the studio; it was inviting! I was right about the staff; they are too cute and so welcoming and kind and non-judmental that I felt a connection there from that very first day. I have to tell you, though, the most impactful part of that first day, the most relevant bit of that free trial class in which I had absolutely nothing invested, was the emotional and spiritual and physical effects of my first practice. If I was better with words I might be able to fully convey how freeing it was to go through that practice, to fully let go of the myriad of thoughts and responsibilities that hover above me at all times, to really be in the present moment.  It was a peace that I had only ever noticed many years before as I can only remember feeling that serenity when holding my infant babies in my arms as they slept or cuddled.

At the end of that class, I knew that I had to return, and regularly, so I purchased a 1-month pass to attend classes as often as possible. I fell deeper in love with yoga that month as I learned about poses and flows and breathing and me. I was astonished at poses I could do and energized by poses that I could not. For me, a person who is very, very competitive personally (as in, I like to be the best…the highest grade in class, the first to get done, the prettiest project, the teacher’s pet, and so on and so on), for maybe the first time ever I was okay being a beginner, I didn’t feel like a failure watching others go way beyond my skill level, and I was okay with the fact that I could not do everything that was presented. That was a life-changing moment within itself!

When that pass expired, I purchased a full 6-month pass, and my yoga addiction was fully rooted in my soul.  As I learned more, I craved more.  I found a phenomenal yoga community on InstaGram, and I started following some incredibly amazing yogis from all around the world.  In May, I even jumped out of my comfort zone and participated in an InstaGram challenge to post a photo once a day throughout the month:

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Here are a few of my favorite poses from that first yoga challenge: #mayibeginyoga.  (If you are on InstaGram, check out my entire month on my account: MeAndCoach.)

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One-Legged Bound King Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

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Bound Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)

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Camel (Ustrasana)

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Mountain (Tadasana)

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Eight-Angle (Astavakrasana)

The next month, my sweet teachers at The Yoga Bar, named me their Student of the Month – what???  I was finally at a point in my life that I didn’t need affirmation or praise, and yet, there it was.  I was so honored that I actually teared up when I told Coach about it, simply because the studio, the new friends, and the peace-inflicting practice was helping me love myself.  If that’s not tear- worthy, nothing is! Loving ourselves is not easy, but it is vital.

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It’s hard to put that out there, hard to put myself out there!  Every time I think I should keep my adventures to myself, just delete the account, someone says that they want to try yoga after seeing my pictures, or they say that they read something inspiring that they needed to hear in my posts, and in those moments I feel like I have accomplished a goal in conveying love to the world around me, so I get re-motivated to keep sharing.

The last IG challenge that I participated in online was #7daysupsidedown and consisted of all inversions – I LOVE INVERSIONS!!  I have a blast living life upside down! In honor of the adorable yoga bird above, here are few of my favorite inversion pics, too:

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Tripod Headstand (Sirsasana II)

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Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)

Supported Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana)...on a Stand Up Paddleboard ;)

Supported Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana)…on a Stand Up Paddleboard 😉

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Shoulder Stand (Niralamba)

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Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana)

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Wild Thing (Camatkarasana)

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Three-Legged Downward Dog (Tri Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana)

That is quite a few poses to digest at once.  Sorry…once I start picking my faves, I can’t ever seem to stop.  If you are interested in reading more about them, I recommend the A-Z Pose Finder on Yoga Journal’s website.  It is one of a gazillion great yoga resources online, and I especially like it because it gives steps for getting into and out of the pose, tells the specific benefits of the pose, and provides health warnings for any potential problems with the pose.

Well, if you’ve made it this far into this marathon blogpost, give yourself a pat on the back (Gomukhasana)!!  I never would have guessed that I could achieve these poses, nor could I have ever imagined the impact that learning, practicing, and sharing them would have on my sense of peace and my sense of self-worth.  Thank you for letting me share!

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Don’t let YOU stop you from trying whatever is in your heart to do.  Give it a try!!

Lastly, here are my results from yesterday, Day 2 of my 10 day challenge to lose 10 pounds before Thanksgiving:

Come back tomorrow for more results…

With hugs and love

Ashli  🙂

 

My 10 for 10

I am without a doubt the least self-disciplined person currently walking God’s green earth.

Here is my proof:

A sane person sets a goal, tries a system or method or program to attain set goal, finds a system or method or program that works, and then sticks to said system or method or program until goal is successfully reached. Not me, oh no! Definitely not me.

Lately I have been “displeased” with my weight, my nutrition, and my overall physical fitness. I don’t hate my body, I’m not being overly dramatic, I simply realize that I am not where I want to be.  I find the old saying to be true: I actually AM what I eat. Therefore, I am as soft as a hot, fresh dinner roll with melting cinnamon butter, as mushy as a tasty heap of fruit dip with an oo-y, goo-y chocolate fudge brownie on the side, and as lumpy as a steaming, golden apple turn-over straight from the oven…

I have felt this way for most of the past decade. When I was turning 30 in 2004, I determined that what was once just a few pounds over my typical max weight was going to become a new normal if I didn’t do something about it. Since then, I have tried several shake systems, workout methods, and nutrition programs. Out of those efforts, I found some I liked, some I loved, and some I couldn’t stand, I met lots of great people who are now precious friends, I picked up some fabulous new recipes, and I learned a lot about my self along the way. And, yet, at the end of 10 years, basically all I accomplished was proving myself absolutely correct: what was once my worst has become my norm 😦

On October 3rd, one month prior to my 40th birthday, I was quite put out with myself, disgusted really.  How did I allow 10 years to drift past?  TEN YEARS!!!  I just floated along thinking that I could tackle the issues that displeased me tomorrow, and the tomorrow after that, and so on and so on.  The problem now is that tomorrow is TODAY!  I wanted to be my best when I turned 40, not my worst.  How could I fix this in just 31 days?  What could I do to be more pleased with me by November 3?

My answer came from a good friend from way back.  I valued his input not only as a medical doctor, but also as a friend who has known me, seen me battle with physical fitness and extensive knee pain, and understood what makes me tick since I was in high school.  In other words, he knows the 18 year old me that I realistically know I will never be again, and he also knows the mom I am today who puts top priority on my husband and kids and home and community before myself, what I eat, and if/when I workout.

He recommended a program that he’s been associated with for a few years.  I replied, “If I eat clean and workout regularly, shouldn’t that be all that I need?”  He agreed that ideally, yes, that should be all that it takes, but in reality, our bodies plateau…sometimes it takes a higher level of nutrition to break through that barrier.  After an hour-long discussion full of my concerns about yet another nutrition program, my health concerns about restricting calories, and my mommy concerns about my 14 year old daughter and 16 year old son watching me eat shakes instead of meals, I decided to give his 30 Day Cleansing and Fat Burning System a try.

It wasn’t cheap, but it is very high quality.  I especially like that it includes a cellular cleanse (as opposed to the kind of cleanse that chains one to a restroom…), and I really enjoy the “flush” tablets that I take at night to release toxins that my body has held onto throughout the day.  I found the system really easy to follow, and best of all, I found that it worked.  Very quickly!  That’s a good thing, right??

Well, it is.  And it isn’t.  See, I had so much success within the first few days, that I found myself justifying a cupcake, and an extra piece of pizza, and maybe just one more slice of pumpkin pie.  With Cool Whip on top.  Rather than being worried about undoing my progress from the 30 Day Program, I was relieved that I could eat whatever I wanted (which meant anything and everything in sight), and then I could undo those bad food choices because I knew, without a doubt and through real life proof, that with this fabulous system I could just lose it again. I was allowing the guarantee of results to be a crutch, and in doing so I was living on the end of a yo-yo string.  And that’s definitely NOT a good thing!

Needless to say, the big 4-0 arrived on November 3rd, and I had not stuck to my intentions, I had justified my way right back to where I was in the beginning (about 10 pounds heavy and thoroughly irritated with myself), and I had failed in accomplishing the goal that I had set for myself.

UGHHH!  Again, I’m obviously not a sane person 😦

<In walks my knight in shining armor, my voice of reason, my Coach>

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Coach saw the vicious cycle I was allowing myself to function within.  He sat me down and said, “I don’t care how much your nutrition stuff costs…if you use it!  If it’s important to you, and you say it is, then do it.  If it’s not, then quit buying it.”

Ouch.  Why does he always have to make so much stinkin’ sense??

“I want to do it.  I know it works, maybe too well…  I want to be pleased with myself, and I want to know that I can set out to do something and actually finish it,” I confessed.

“Well,” he said, “you have 10 days between now and Thanksgiving.  Follow it to the letter for those 10 days.  Then enjoy your holiday weekend.  After that, you’ll look at where you are, and where you want to be, and you can decide again where to go from there.”

<Reason #12,457 that I love my Coach:  he always helps me find my way>

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So here is my Day 1 of 10.  I’m going to share them all to keep myself accountable and disciplined, and maybe my daily consistency will be the support that someone out there needs to take their baby steps towards whatever goal they are working and wishing and wanting to reach…

Stay tuned for more results…

With hugs and love

Ashli  🙂

 

PS:  I have provided a link to the products I am using.  I am not here to sell those to you, just to share (and hopefully stick to!!) what is working for me.  I will say that after signing up as a wholesale shopper to get the best price possible on my own products, my brother began using and enjoying them, too.  The links take you to his website, and if you ever decide to try some of it, please consider ordering from him.  You know, starving college students can use all the support they can find 😉 Either one of us can also help you with questions, concerns, finding answers, or simply getting more info.

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10 Day Checkup: My 40-for-40 Challenge

LENT CHALLENGE

Contrary to popular belief, I am not perfect 😉

I am, however, proud to say that I have risen to my 40-for-40 Lent Challenge in a close-to-perfect kind of a way…here is my 10 Day Checkup:

I have managed to completely give up sweets with 2 tiny slip-ups.  I have not had any cookies, cakes, pies, brownies, etc…, but I tossed two chocolate mints in my mouth at Kona Grill without even realizing what I was doing (I wanted to spit them out as soon as I became cognizant of what I had done, but I thought that might not be too lady-like so I chomped and swallowed them in a sickly, guilty manner), and I had blueberry muffins for breakfast (my adorably sweet family made them, so I did not have the heart to say, “Thanks for the efforts, loved ones, but I refuse to eat that.”) – all in all, though, I feel like my Give Up challenge has been uberly successful.

It has been so successful that for the next 10 days, I am adding to my Give Up column.  Drum roll please…I am also giving up bread for the rest of Lent.  My reasoning goes like this:  #1) Bread is heavenly, just like dessert, so really it could be considered a sweet in my world, therefore, I need to give it up, and #2) I’m not gonna lie, I had hoped that the extra “sweet” pounds would just fall off of me after 10 days of no dessert, but it has not (although, I’ve been eating more than I usually do and not gaining weight, either), so I figure the next highest hurdle on my list of weaknesses is bread.

This one will be tough!  I use bread daily, and let’s be honest, I love bread.  I keep cinnamon raison bread on hand for a quick breakfast with fruit, I snag a PB&J sandwich on the go for lunch on a regular basis, and I serve some sort of bread with dinner almost every night (like any self-respecting southern momma who shows her love through over-stuffing her family at least once a day, sometimes twice or thrice!!).  But I can do it, and I have a hunch that I will feel much less “bogged down” because I do believe that while bread is tasty and filling, it does slow us down and create that weighted, sleepy feeling that encourages doing less and napping more.  I can do it…at least, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…

Now for the Add To challenges I gave myself.

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I purposefully aligned certain challenges with dates that I had fun things planned, so “Begin a daily yoga routine” was easy because I was enrolled for a free trial class that day, and “See a show” was absolutely no effort as I already had tickets for the theater.

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WICKED was AWESOME!! Angel Girl and I went to Austin to see it with Aunt Aimee, Clara Belle, and our Sophie Rae. We had a phenomenal dinner at Eastside Cafe before the show, and then we were dazzled with truly amazing singing, dancing, characters, music, lights, costumes, and one heck of a Broadway experience right here in Texas!

My beautiful meal at Eastside Cafe: Elaine's Blue Plate Special of Chicken & Spinach Crepes with Yellow Curry Sauce and Apple Chutney.  It was so good!!

My beautiful meal: Elaine’s Blue Plate Special of Chicken & Spinach Crepes with Yellow Curry Sauce and Apple Chutney. It was so good!!

My beautiful girls outside this charming restaurant: www.eastsidecafeaustin.com

My beautiful girls: Sophie Rae, Clara Belle, and my Angel Girl
www.eastsidecafeaustin.com

After putting the easy Add To items on my list for those first ten days, I filled in with wish list items.  I am happy to report that I accomplished most everything I challenged myself to do.

I was less-than-perfect on my exercise which is, sadly, no big surprise as this is an area where I fall flat from the greatest of intentions pretty regularly.  But I’m not giving up, and I plan to continue putting yoga and core work on my daily calendar.  The other items on the list are checked off, and I’ll share some pics and stories over the next few days.  I will also share progress on days 11-20 which I have tweaked just a little after days 1-10 illustrated to me exactly how desperate I am to get a few projects and organizational tasks checked off and put out to pasture.  So, here is how my next 10 days will look:

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That should keep me busy and in line!  I hope your first 10 days have gone well, and I hope your next ten days are even better – please, please, please share your ideas, your challenges, and your progress 🙂

Just think, only 30 days till Easter dessert!!

Meal Planning

This is one of my favorite “social media posters” because it is so very reflective of how I feel almost every week:

Amen, sister!!

Amen, sister!!

The saddest part about that feeling is that I actually really, really enjoy cooking!  Especially for Coach; he loves my cooking, and I get that 19th-century-good-little-housewife-glow when I see him overstuff himself because he liked dinner so much that he couldn’t stop.  It’s wonderful!!

When I started this blog in August of 2011, I had great intentions of posting every couple of days and including a weekly menu with recipes and photos of every single meal.  Twenty-six months and only 39 posts later, I am ready to concede that I will NEVER actually get that done.  Please accept my apologies…

I am also here to confess that if I force myself to do a little meal planning, my days run much smoother than when I try to shoot from the hip in my on-going struggle to feed my family EVERY night.

I have managed to create a system that works for me pretty well.  It is very similar to what I posted on here way back when my intentions were good, with a few tweaks here and there.

First, I print a full year of “blank” months from iCalendar (I only include national holidays, not any family or personal calendars on the printouts).

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Then, I label the columns as such: Sunday = Soup & Sandwiches, Monday = Crock Pot, Tuesday = Chicken, Wednesday = Pasta, Thursday = Pork, Friday = Beef, and Saturday = Anything Goes (which is denoted by a smiley face because I got tired of writing it over and over).  I do this to make sure that I am feeding my crew a variety of foods as opposed to red meat and potatoes 5 nights a week even if that would be their dream come true.

I put Crock Pot on Monday because I am not a great Monday Mom; as in, I need a day to warm up to the new week every time it comes around, so throwing a few items in a crock pot is way more likely to happen than me exerting tons of effort on a Monday.  Furthermore, you might notice that Pasta night will be switching from Wednesday to Thursday in 2014 because SonShine intends to be playing ball on Fridays from now on (as opposed to Thursdays), so his carb-loading will need to be moved back 24 hours 😉

The next thing I do is fill in ballgames, volunteer nights, etc…so that I know which nights we will most likely need to eat out while we are on the run.

Finally, I start filling in ideas under each column.  I find that it is easier to think up 4 crock pot recipes, then 4 chicken dishes, then 4 beef favorites, and so on than it is to randomly pick 30 meals out of the sky.  When you attempt this, I think you will be surprised how easily the squares fill up.  I usually have to go to the next month to exhaust all our favorites as well as new recipes that I want to try.  This gives me a head start on next month which is AWESOME!!

If you choose to try this planning method, arrange your labels to match food categories that your family loves, and put them on the nights that fit your own crazy chaos rather than mine.

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I began this system last January, filled in a portion of February, and lost focus until September…but October was a good month for me.  I actually filled in the whole month and stuck to it really well.  There were only 5 nights last month that I intended to cook at home, had a meal scheduled, and did not actually follow through.  For me, that is a major success!  I circled those 5 at the end of the month and immediately filled them in wherever I had the next open square for that food type.  With a blink of an eye, November is filled, and December is already half full.

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To complete December (and every month thereafter), I use 3 great resources:

1.  Previous months’ schedules and my cookbook/recipe collection – this ensures that I am revisiting meals that my family enjoyed and not “accidentally” forgetting them in the mix.  I also enjoy using the same recipes and cookbooks that have been passed around our families for generations.  These are just two of my cookbook stashes around the house…

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2.  www.OnceMonthMeals.com – my BFFK introduced me to this website a couple of months ago, and although I do not follow their shop/prep/cook once per month system, I do find it very, very helpful.  Each of their recipes is intended to feed your family twice, so I make it one night, using one portion for that same night and freezing the other portion for another night within the next 4-5 weeks.  I love that the one meal idea actually fills two squares on my calendar sheets.  You will see the second (frozen) night denoted with a star…that way I know that I do not need to buy/prep/cook it again.  I encourage you to explore OAMM and check out their menus.  Access to archives prior to 2011 (I think that’s the correct date, but forgive me if that is not exact) is completely free, and current memberships are available to enjoy all the newest menus and website features.

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3.  Tosca Reno’s Clean Eating philosophy and books – we are blessed that no one in our home is lactose intolerant, shows symptoms of celiac disease, or requires special dietary needs, but I still attempt to watch what we eat at a casual level.  I use canned soups, pasta out of a package, and I buy from the middle of the grocery store.  At the same time, I introduce recipes into our home that just happen to be clean, paleo, gluten free, dairy free, or whole foods.  I cook to nourish and please my family, and along the way, I hope to keep them healthy without becoming obsessive or neurotic.  We have been known to enjoy a nice clean meal of grilled chicken, steamed veggies, and fresh fruit followed by a big bowl of peach cobbler with Blue Bell Vanilla melting on top…and that’s just how we like it!!  Tosca Reno’s books have taught me a lot without creating that dreaded sense of failure in myself when I do not follow it 100%…take a look, and see if they speak to you, too.

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As I write in my meals on the calendar, I gather recipes or make a note of where to find them on the fly.  If I have a computer printout or recipe card for something that month, I just paper clip it to the back of my schedule for safe keeping:

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Tomorrow, I will update that old “This Week’s Menu” page to reflect what is actually working for me these [hectic, insane, rushing-around-like-a-chicken-with-my-head-cut-off] days, so please check back to see if my system might also make your days run a little smoother, or at least provide a few new ideas for feeding your family.  EVERY night…

Enjoy,

A.

Dinner During the Daytime

I haven’t done any meal planning in a while – our schedule is so insane that we are rarely home early enough in the evening to actually sit down to a nice dinner (by the time we make it home from practices, games, and activities it is 8 pm – or later – and everyone has already found something to eat elsewhere).  I’m hoping to do a little strategizing this afternoon, but in the meantime, I cooked dinner just to guarantee that we actually eat home cooking at our dining table that resides in our house.  Tonight!

I even sampled it (just to be on the safe side), and it was really, really, really good.  So, of course, I am sharing 🙂

Enjoy!!

I had a gorgeous salmon filet that needed to be used, so I started in a very helpful cookbook that my big sis gave me years ago:IMG_5882

I found a baked salmon recipe that looked good, and then I modified it for what I had on hand.
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Instead of the dried apricots, I used a mix of dried fruit that needed to be used up from the pantry, I omitted the water chestnuts, I used lemon juice instead of lime, and I substituted Worcestershire for soy.  I added some onion slices for extra flavor which had a built-in bonus of using it up before fur starts growing on top of its layers.
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Chopping the dried fruit was a sticky, messy irritation, so I just threw them in the pot “as is” and set it to simmer. For a side, I steamed some fresh broccoli that also needed to be used up (Is it just me, or is there a repetitive theme here?  Hey, at least I attempted to buy healthy foods last week!).
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While those were on the cooktop, I got the salmon laid into the baking dish, tossed in the sliced onion, and seasoned it with my standby trio: salt, pepper, and seasoned salt.
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At this point I wasn’t sure if it would be edible, but it smelled AMAZING!!
After the fruit had simmered sufficiently, I poured it over the salmon and baked for about 25 minutes…just until the meat of the fish was flaky so that it stayed nice and moist.  I also sliced a half a tomato (that was needing to be used up, too), and heated up a little left-over corn that was in the fridge (that needed to blah blah blah).
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So, here is my finished product, aka: LUNCH.  I have to admit, I hit a homerun on this one; the veggies were the perfect compliment to the juicy salmon, and the dried fruit blended with the onion just right!
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I think I will also set out some grapes and dinner rolls for the kids’ dinner tonight – Coach works extra late making playcards on Thursday nights, so these pics are as close to this scrumptious meal as he will get 😦  Sorry, Coach.  But ILY!!

I have to say, making dinner during the daytime was fun.  Best of all, I have a real supper ready and waiting for the kids once we are done with football tonight!  I may just have to make this a regular thing 😉

PS:  On a side note, check out these grapes…they are plump, crispy, and oh so sweet.  I don’t worry too much about buying organic stuff, but lately I’ve been purchasing the organic grapes (mainly because the non-organic bundles were turning brown and mushy at the store so I knew they would not last long at home).  I know the organics are a little more expensive, but I am amazed at the difference in these grapes.  There are lots of produce items that I can’t see much change between organic and non, but I encourage you to try these little suckers – they are THAT good!
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