Still Steppin’

I just wanted to give a quick update… it’s now been five weeks, and I’m still stepping three days a week. Whew! Tuesday this week I decided I was bored with the video I’ve been using, and went online to find another.  While I was reading the reviews, I saw someone mention progressing through their video by raising their step. Ah! Lightbulb moment for me there.  I started with one set of risers, but have a second, so yesterday I added them in and made it through the introduction before lowering it back down.  Today I made it through the first combination before lowering the step.  Maybe by the end of next week I’ll have the whole video mastered with the step at it’s highest point.  You wouldn’t think a few inches would make such a difference, but wow! By the time I lowered the step today I thought I was dying.  It was a real challenge to stick it through to the end of the video.

For anyone interested, I’m using Cathe Friedrich’s Basic Step video.  I really like her, and will be picking up a few more of her DVD’s down the road to swap out with.  She has many videos out there, and doesn’t just do step aerobics, she seems like an all-around type of girl, so I’m looking forward to seeing what else she brings to my fitness routine.

I am noticing the benefits as far as stamina goes, which is my real goal with exercising.  By the time spring comes, I’ll be ready to tackle that yard work.   I haven’t noticed a thing on the bathroom scale, which would normally be discouraging.  But I like to think that I have been converting fat to muscle, and since muscle is heavier, that would be the reason for no change.  I’ve also noticed that I have more energy during the day, and I sleep better at night after doing a work-out.  Hopefully I can keep it up, one day at a time.

Menu Plan Monday 2/2

Happy February!

I actually had an easy time menu planning this week.  I asked Andy and the kids each to come up with two meals they’d like to eat over the next week, and they filled it in for me.  Mostly.  I did have to turn down a few suggestions here and there, but it was nice to have the help this week.

A surprise this week is tonight’s dinner- leftovers.  Normally, I hate leftovers, but after having company for two days in a row, we have a ton that should be eaten up, and can’t be done so during lunches, so tonight is leftover night.  I think we can manage for just one night.

Sunday: Fall off the bone baby back ribs, layered taco dip, fruit salad

Monday: Leftover night.

Tuesday: Dinner at Mom’s

Wednesday: Taco Night, fruit

Thursday: Oven Roasted Beef Stew, Homemade Bread

Friday: Out to dinner

Saturday: Spaghetti and Chicken Parmesan

Check out all the other entries this week over at I’m An Organizing Junkie for tons of meal planning inspiration.

Spring Cleaning For Normal People

When I saw this little “play-along” accountability group going on over at Biblical Womanhood, I just knew that I was going to have to join in. Being a stay at home mom, sometimes it can get really easy to just say that I’ll do something tomorrow instead of today, or there’s always next week.  And before you know it, it’s been a full month since you’ve changed the bed linens, and you really can’t remember the last time you scrubbed the shower.  Yes, that is the story of my life sometimes.   What intrigued me the most about Crystal’s approach to it is that she was going to take baby steps, using a book called Spring Cleaning For Normal People, each week she would post an assignment that will really take little time at all.

So for this week, there were a few parts to the assignment.  The first part was to take a garbage bag through the house and throw out every pieces of trash there was.  That’s easier said than done sometimes at our house.  But I did do that Thursday morning, and you know, it was funny, but once all those scraps and wrappers and bits of this and that were gone, it did feel much cleaner.  Total it took about ten minutes to walk through the house and gather trash, really, it didn’t take long at all.

The second part of the assignment stumped me a bit at first though.  The second part was to go through your house and separate things into give, sell, and maybe boxes to be taken care of in that manner.  The thing about that task is that we don’t have that kind of stuff.  We don’t really have knick-knacky things or collectibles, so at first I was just going to not do that portion of the assignment.  And then one day I took a good long look at one of my bookshelves.  I looked at all the books that I don’t read over and over again, and I looked at the books that probably shouldn’t be in the house in the first place.  Thrillers that I have enjoyed reading, but at the same time, books that I certainly don’t want my children picking up and deciding to read… So I decided to apply this task to my bookshelves.  And considering that all told I have…well, now six bookshelves in the house, this was no small task.  But I did do it. I offered up many books to other people who I know would enjoy them, and other books went in a box to be donated to the library for their next used book sale.   I  also went through the kids books and organized those a bit, and put many of the board books that we’re beyond and put them in the donation box as well.

And in the end, my wonderful husband built me a new shelf for my cookbooks, so I now have extra bookshelf space in the house which is fantastic.  Anyone who knows me knows that I love books, I love reading books and usually have several going at one time.  So this was a difficult task for me- parting with books are like parting with old friends.   But it felt fantastic to pack those books up into boxes, and now there’s space on the shelves for more of the books that the whole family enjoys.

Now I’m ready for next week’s task, and I can feel really good about this week’s efforts.  Thanks Crystal for putting this together.  If you want to check out all the other people participating, you can head on over to Biblical Womanhood to see the group that’s gathered to cheer each other on.

Menu Plan Monday 1/26

Well, it’s a special week here in our household.  This week, our little man turns not-so-little with his very special fifth birthday.  His actual birthday is Tuesday, and we’ll be doing a few things to celebrate with him, and then we’re having a little party for him on Saturday as well.  Otherwise, I think it’s a fairly easy and straightforward week around here.  Mostly pantry dinners again…Zander chose both the corn dogs and the sliders for his birthday dinners.  I’m working my way through that freezer slowly but surely.  I’ll have to run to the store for a few odds-n-ends this week, but that’s really only because we’re in charge of the snacks this week at Zander’s preschool, so I’ll need the things for that.  Otherwise, my grocery list is simply milk, ground beef, and fruit.

Monday: Deep Dish Chicken Pot Pie, salad

Tuesday: Corn Dogs, sides TBD

Wednesday: Tortellini, Sausage & Peppers, Fresh Bread

Thursday: Beef & Broccoli Lo Mein

Friday: Salmon Chowder, Fresh Bread

Saturday: Sliders, Macaroni and Cheese, Fruit Salad, Spinach Salad

Sunday: TBD…it’s the Super Bowl, and while no festivities are currently planned…that could change.

As always, each and every week, head on over to I’m An Organizing Junkie to check out all the other menu planning inspiration from around the blogosphere.  The last few weeks there have been over 400 entries! Can you believe it?  There’s a whole lot of inspiration out there, so be sure and check it out.  If you blog, you can participate too, and if you don’t blog…well, what are you waiting for?

Kid Tip: The Treasure of A Forgotten Toy

There are simply some toys in our house that don’t get played with very often.  There are a few, like the Play-Doh, that reside in a large tote in the basement, to come out only when mom or dad feel like getting it out and dealing with the mess.  There are also a few, like a large box of mega-blox, that are in a box so bog, that it only fits in the basement, thus, it’s forgotten about and not played with very often.

And then there’s toys like this one, which hides away in Zander’s closet, to come out only when there is plenty of room on the living room floor for it to sprawl out.

These Geotracks only come out…hmm…maybe four times a year or so, but when they do come out, everyone gets involved.  Zander revisits each and every piece to make sure none is missing, Abigail jumps right in, helping to assemble track, Daddy becomes the master track builder, and Mommy’s assistance is always required when testing the tracks.  Once out, the train will stay out for about a week or so before the kids get tired of it and it makes it’s way back to the closet to hide for another few months. While out though, it’s great for many, many hours of play time-how can you not love that?

We’ve thought once or twice about getting rid of them and passing them on to someone else, but I’ll tell you, pulling out a toy that doesn’t get played with very often can be so welcome this time of year when it’s much too cold to play outside.  I know I’ve heard of day care centers and schools revolving toys just for this purpose.  They pull out one group of toys for a time, then put them away and pull out a whole different set of toys to replace them with- they cycle them, to keep the kids from getting bored.  While a great idea for a day care center, this isn’t so practical at home- some toys only have a shelf life of a year or so before the kids lose interest entirely, and by the time you pull something out again, it may be a worthless toy in their eyes, and I certainly don’t spend money on toys to put them away.

But there are times, when pulling out something forgotten can create magic.  Perhaps next week when the trains are put away, the Little People in their entirety will be assembled.  Or maybe the play plastic food and cash register will come out and a small grocery store-slash-restaurant.  Either way, winter is the perfect time to pull out that which has forgotten, a great way to beat away the winter blues.

Menu Plan Monday, 1/19 thru 1/25

Well, I did terrible last week! I followed my plan through Tuesday, and then the rest of the week sort of fell apart.  Cold weather changed things up for us as there was definitely a need for more hearty food than what I’d originally planned.  We did run to the store once or twice to pick up a few things, but have been very careful to not buy more than precisely what we needed.  I’ll tell you, this eating out of the pantry and freezer has really been paying off.  We’ve been enjoying the fruits and vegetables that I froze last summer, and it’s been nice to pick away at the pile of meat products that have been going in the freezer over the last year and a half.  Aside from saving a ton of money by eating from what we already have on hand, I’m also hoping that by the time spring hits, we’ll have emptied the freezer enough to defrost it.  It needs it!

I’m also happy to report that today is the 19th of January, and so far this year I’ve only spent $35 on groceries! And we’re hardly suffering. 😉  This week though, I’m running low enough on a few staples, so I’ll have to bite the bullet and go do a major shop.  It will be strange to actually use a shopping cart! Lol!

So this week you’ll see a lot of repeats from last week, simply because we didn’t get to them last week. We’re not eating the same thing two weeks in a row, honest.

Monday: Oven-Fried Chicken, mashed potatoes, veggie, applesauce

Tuesday: Tex-Mex Chicken and Beans

Wednesday: Sloppy Joes, Beautiful Burger Buns, Potato Wedges

Thursday: Breaded Pork Chops, Easy Baked Rice, Salad

Friday: Homemade Pizza and Ribs

Saturday: Michael’s Roasted Chicken (I swear, we’ll get to the chicken this week!)

Sunday: Ravioli, Sweet Italian Sausage, Salad

As always, don’t forget to check out the weekly round-up over at I’m An Organizing Junkie!

Menu Plan Monday!

Another week where I planned early! Yippee! I ended up making a few changes to last weeks menu as the week went on.  I did go back and edit to reflect my changes so I can look back and see what we actually ate, versus what I thought we ate.

This week I’m adding some vague breakfast, lunch, and snack suggestions to the week.  Abigail has a few days where she has requested lunch from home instead of whatever nasty they’re serving up at school, so the lunch menu is mostly for those purposes.  Otherwise lunch is usually leftovers or some random sandwich.   For breakfast, no one here is really a big breakfast eater.  A few bites and the kids are done, so I’m trying to vary the breakfasts up a touch to keep them interesting.  Usually they prefer cold cereal or waffles, but this week we’ll try some oatmeal, which we don’t eat very often, and some pancakes.   I have tons of strawberries in the freezer from last year’s harvest, so these will be great opportunities to use some of them. For snacks, those would be things like quick breads and cookies that we like to munch on between meals.  Always homemade, of course.

My grocery shopping list is: Bacon, Mozzarella, sausage, mushrooms, lemons, eggs and flour.

Sunday: Enchiladas made with Corn Crepes, Beans & Rice, Salad

Monday: Strawberry Waffles, Bacon

Tuesday: Cheddar Chicken Chowder, Buttermilk Honey Bread

Wednesday: Sloppy Joe’s, Beautiful Burger Buns, Potato Wedges, Pickles

Thursday: Macaroni and Cheese, Sausage, Broccoli

Friday: Pizza and Ribs

Saturday: Whole Roasted Chicken, Celery-Onion Stuffing, Easy Glazed Carrots

Breakfasts: Cold Cereal, Strawberry Oatmeal, Pancakes

Lunches: Ham and Cheese/Grilled Cheese/Quesadillas, Tuna Salad, PB&J

Snacks: Banana Bread, PB Chip Cookies

Head on over to I’m An Organizing Junkie for this week’s round-up.  She has a giveaway going on this week for anyone who participates in this week’s Menu Planning Monday.  I definitely plan on spending some time perusing menus this week, as I’m looking for more winter inspiration.

Kid Tips: Cups, Cups, Cups

I thought that today I would share one of the best ideas I think I’ve ever had.  Some time last year, I was lamenting the loss of sippy cups.  We’d been done with sippy cups for a while, but there is something really great about a cup with a top for kids.   You don’t have to worry as much about spills, and when the kids want to take a drink outside, you don’t have to worry as much about bugs and bees making their way into a cup of something sweet.  But, as all moms now, one day, you realize that your children are much too old for sippy cups, and you just need to buck it up and give them a real cup.

But then one day, after a lunch out at a restaurant, the kids brought their restaurant cups home.  They were plastic, with a lid, and in the lid there was a hole for a straw.  After they’d finished their Sprites, I went to throw them out, when the thought came to me… so I washed the cups and their lids, and used them again.  And again.  And again.  Then we went out to another restaurant and brought a second pair of cups home, and then a third pair, and a fourth pair, and before long, we had a nice supply of cups for the kids.  The plastic cups wash up nicely, as do the tops, and buying replacement straws are really easy and inexpensive. Sure, there is still the occasional spill, but I can let the kids take a drink to the computer, or take it outside to the sandbox.  We still use regular non-lidded cups when we eat a meal together at the table, but for portability, the straw cup cannot be beat.  And the best part?  They really didn’t cost anything extra.  They were a by-product of a few lunches out, so if they get stepped on, or the lids lose their ability to seal, throwing them out is painless and easy.

I love these straw cups, and now have a few dozen on hand- which makes having other little ones over easy as well.  You don’t have to wonder if that child still uses a sippy cup or is too old- just give them all straw cups, and they’ll all be happy. I suppose I may be one of the last people on earth to figure this trick out, but just in case there’s a mom or dad out there who hasn’t yet, I thought I’d share it.

Do You Step?

I’ve gone back and forth on posting this…  this week, I decided it was time to re-incorporate some kind of exercise routine.  I’m really terrible at exercising with any regularity.  I’ve always been that way, and would like to change that… but what had me thinking about it this week was that I was gazing longingly at my snow-covered garden, wishing it was spring, and thinking about all the work to be done out there.   Then I thought of those few days of spring when I end the day exhausted, because I’m just not used to working hard all the time.  Then I thought of the aerobic step in my front closet that I bought…two years ago… and have seldom used since.  Then I started scolding myself.

See, I’m a private exerciser.  I hate, hate, hate it when anyone else is around me when I’m working out.   I could never, ever work out in a place like Curves… I don’t care to have others see me gasping for breath, thankyouverymuch.  So one of the reasons I don’t work out is because there’s always someone around.  Even having my kids watch me is uncomfortable to me.  But Zander is in preschool this year for three mornings a week, and while I’ve been enjoying the time getting things done… shame on me for not capitalising on it sooner to get a little fitness in.

So this week I pulled out my step, pulled out my DVD and headed to the bedroom.  Tuesday I did 20 minutes of the video, today I did about 5 minutes more.  Tomorrow I’m hoping to get in a full half hour, and by the end of next week, I should be able to get in the entire 45-minute work out, with cool down.  I will be happy if I can maintain three days a week, at least until spring and I can tackle that yard work.  Maybe by putting this out here, I can feel like there’s someone watching me sit around and do nothing, and that will motivate me to do my work-out.  Once I get a good rhythm going, I’m going to hunt down some boot camp DVD’s, but in the meantime, me and my step have a recurring date.  I sure hope that I can keep it up.

So there is my confession.  In the past, every time I’ve started a good workout routine, it has ended up getting sidelined by illness down the road.  This year, I’m going to stay healthy, and the workout is going to stick.

ETA: It’s Friday morning, and I successfully completed week one of the step challenge! I actually was a little sore last night when going to bed, but I felt good about the week, and hopefully can keep it up next week as well.

Menu Planning Monday!

I’m back on track this week, having my menu plan complete as early as Saturday morning!  This week’s menu is yet another clean-out-the-freezer menu, as well as using up some odds and ends lurking about in the fridge.  Last week I made an amazing Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup, but only used half the can of pumpkin.  This week I’ll be using that in either pumpkin waffles or pancakes.   This past Saturday I made brown rice for dinner with the express purpose of having the leftovers for another batch of Cheesy Rice Cakes.  Tuesday’s soup will come out of the freezer, and this evening’s Tuna Patties are a complete shot in the dark.  We’ve had tuna burgers before made from fresh tuna, and we all enjoyed them, these use canned tuna.  Last week Andy cleaned and organized the pantry in the basement (or Kitchen Annex as we lovingly call it) and found a family size envelope of tuna.  I could use it for sandwiches… but this sounded more fun and a little out of the box.  Plus it utilizes a jar of tartar sauce also lurking about.

I’ve really been happy with what I’ve been able to pull out of the freezer and use in one way or another. Sometimes the freezer can simply be an abyss… you put something in and it never comes back out again! I’m also making a note that next year, when I am actually stocking up the freezer again, I need to tuck a few things in that are acceptable for lunches.  Tortillas, luncheon meat, shredded cheese, that kind of thing. Baby back ribs is a bit much for lunch, don’t you think?

Anyway, be sure and check out the weekly round-up over at I’m An Organizing Junkie’s Menu Plan Monday.  I imagine that with the new year and new resolutions under way, that our little group may grow a bit bigger over the weeks to come.  You can join in too, so be sure and check it out!

Sunday: Homemade Individual Chicken Pot Pies (from freezer), Fruit

Monday: Tuna Patties, Green Beans (from garden!), and something TBD

Tuesday: Potato-Leek Soup with Ham, Fresh Bread

Wednesday: Frittata, Silver Dollar Pancakes, Kiwi and Pears

Thursday: Cheesy Rice Cakes, Salmon, Spinach Salad

Friday: Easy Baked Chicken, BBQ Beans,  Applesauce, Frozen Corn

Saturday: Roasted Chicken, sides TBD Spaghetti and Meatballs, Garlic Toast, Mixed veggies