Budding Artist

Yesterday was a beautiful afternoon.  After everyone got home (and finished homework) we headed outside to play a little backyard baseball, goof off and take a few photos. 
After my son accidentally beaned me in the leg with a wayward baseball, I decided it was time for the goofing off and photo portion of my afternoon.  I snapped a few photos of this and that when my daughter said she wanted to give it a try.  She's always like to take pictures.  When I got a new "point and shoot" camera several years ago, I gifted her my first one.  She was in heaven.  Then about a year later, my mother-in-law gave her a more child friendly one for Christmas.  She always ended up going back to the Kodak though so I thought she could handle the SLR okay.  I tightened up the neck strap as much as I could and told her that if she took her hands off the camera for even a second I would freak out.
As soon as I showed her how to use the lens to zoom in and out and how to use the auto focus function, she was gone.  To my horror, she turned the camera on me.  I couldn't help but to be amused when she started turning the camera at an angle and saying things like, "Work with me here!" and "That's great! Turn this way!"  She'll be the next great photographer.  I'm sure of it!


Lunch Intervention

Last week I wrote about a new television show that I had watched, 'Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution'.  The show really woke me up about what my children were eating for lunch at school.  I had made their lunches in the past.  It was a feat of my patience most of the time with both of them complaining about something in the lunch box at some point.  I did what most parents end up doing.  I let them start eating at school.  It's just easier.  I had never really paid that much attention to what they were actually eating.

This past week I asked them to report back to me what they were eating everyday.  The very first day they reported they had hot dogs for lunch.  Neil had a hot dog, pineapples, and white milk.  Kaia had a hot dog, a banana, and chocolate milk.  I didn't even bother to ask what they had eaten the rest of the week.  The first day was all I needed to hear to know that from now on I would take whatever means necessary to make their lunches.

We made a big deal about it this weekend.  Went shopping for new lunch boxes/bags and all the 'fixin's' for a nice healthy lunch.  My son has always been a little 'off' from other kids of his age.  He likes to drink water and eat vegtables.  We purchased turkey, whole wheat bread (which we always have), cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, Wheat Thins, string cheese, sugar free Jello (which Kaia picked out herself because it said 'sugar-free'), 25% less sugar Capri-Sun, and... Little Debbie cakes.  Ok, ok... I know that the Little Debbie cakes are exactly nutrious, but the kids made great choices with all the other foods.

So our own personal food revolution has begun!

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Earth Hour

Earth Hour is today!  Don't forget to participate!  At 8:30PM local time, turn off the lights!

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Feelin' Sad

My daughter has a book that has little crafts and things she can do, recipes, etc.  Last night she decided she wanted to make a 'happy box'.  A 'happy box', she explained, was a box where you could put some of your things that make you happy so that anytime you are feeling sad you can go to your box and be find things to make you happy again.  I'm really not as crafty as I would like to be.  I decided to give it a try though. 

I had this awesome damask wrapping paper left over from a couple of Christmas' ago.  I'm sure there is a technique for wrapping a shoe box with old Christmas paper out there in the interwebs somewhere, but I just winged it.  If she weren't so anxious to get it done, I may have been able to do a bit of a better job.  I thought the damask just didn't have enough color so i grabbed some colored card stock and cut out some letters and a seriously lousy star.  She's happy and that was the point, right?

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Rainy Day

All Around Me by Flyleaf   (5359 KB)
Listen on posterous

It is a seriously gloomy day around here.  Rainy, cloudy, gloooooomy.  I know we have to have the rain to have the flowers and the Spring and the whatnot, but rainy days just make me want to go back to bed.  How 'bout you?  So today I'm going to sit around listening to music, drinking some Chai tea, while playing some mahjong on the computer.  Enjoy the music.

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Breakfast Cookies

Cookies and breakfast aren't two words you normally see in the same sentence. These cookies look so good that I couldn't pass up sharing the recipe!

Breakfast Cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1 egg
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup of peanut butter
1 1/2 cups of white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 1/4 cup of whole oats (not the quick kind)
3 cups of Cheerios cereal
1 cup of walnuts
1/2 cup of raisins
1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips (the higher the cacao content, the better)
1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Cream butter& sugar. Add egg & vanilla and then the peanut butter.
3. Sift in the flour, baking soda & salt.
4. Add oats and stir very well. Add water.
5. Add the cereal. Your batter will be very difficult to stir. That’s good.
6. Add walnuts, then the raisins and finally the chocolate chips.
7. Your gonna get dirty now. Form golf-ball sized balls out of your dough with your hands and place them on a cookie sheet.
8. Flatten your golf-balls with the palm of your head, not too much. Think hockey puck.
9. Bake for approximately 12 minutes.


Count Me In

I have to complain.  It's ridiculous.  A couple of weeks ago I received a letter from the 2010 Census Bureau stating that I would soon be getting my census form.  I thought that was a little redundant.  Why send out a letter saying that I was going to be getting yet another letter in the mail soon?  It seemed like a waste of money to me.  A huge waste of government money especially since our government is still facing a huge deficit! 

I got my census form in the mail a few days later.  Promptly filled it out and placed it back in the mailbox the very next day.  Simple, easy, quick, done.  With the threatening bold print telling me that I was REQUIRED BY LAW TO FILL OUT the form, I felt like the sheriff would be banging on my door if I didn't get it turned it ASAP.

Fast forward a week, to yesterday... I got yet another piece of mail from the 2010 Census Bureau.  This time it was a post card.  A reminder that if I had not yet filled out my census form I needed to do so.  Of course, the strongly worded threat of the form being REQUIRED BY LAW was plastered all over it.  Yet more proof of wasted money!!

How many forms or letters have you received?

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Spinach Lasagna Rolls

Doesn't this look yummy?? I can not wait to give it a try!!
Spinach Lasagna Rolls
9 lasagna noodles, cooked
10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and completely drained
15 oz fat free ricotta cheese (I like Polly-o)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
salt and fresh pepper
32 oz tomato sauce
9 tbsp (about 3 oz) part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
Preheat oven to 350°. Combine spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, egg, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Ladle about 1 cup sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 12 baking dish. Place a piece of wax paper on the counter and lay out lasagna noodles. Make sure noodles are dry. Take 1/3 cup of ricotta mixture and spread evenly over noodle. Roll carefully and place seam side down onto the baking dish. Repeat with remaining noodles. Ladle sauce over the noodles in the baking dish and top each one with 1 tbsp mozzarella cheese. Put foil over baking dish and bake for 40 minutes, or until cheese melts. Makes 9 rolls. To serve, ladle a little sauce on the plate and top with lasagna roll.

A Food Revolution

Did anyone catch the premiere of Jamie Oliver's 'Food Revolution' last night?  If you didn't see it, you can watch the full episode right here.
Since the end of November, when I found out that my cholesterol level was shockingly high, I've been a label reader.  I know that I go on and on about that cholesterol level, but I have to tell you, I was seriously blown away with the number.  I had no clue whatsoever that it was that high.  Most doctor's consider a level of 150 to be high, 200 extremely high.  Mine was 248.  Now I pay attention to what I'm eating and to what the rest of my family is eating.
I never really stopped to think about what the kids were eating at school though.  You know that there are regulations governing what the schools can serve.  Obviously, they aren't frying up anything, but... they are eating fries.  They just bake them.  Thinking back to what I know the kids have told me that they've eaten, I'm seriously considering making their lunches from now on.  Hot dogs, chili dogs, chicken nuggets, hamburgers, fries, tacos, etc.  I understand that the cooks have to make enough food for hundreds of kids.  I also know that they offer healthy 'sides'.  But the kids aren't actually eating those 'sides'.  They eat the hot dogs or the tuna sandwich and leave the apple slices or peaches.
Mr. Oliver was very straight forward in the show last night.  He definitely wasn't trying to spare anyone's feelings.  And that's wonderful!  This morning I read a comment on Facebook that said, "That Food Rev. PISSED me off!  He's an idiot!!!!".  I immediately felt sadness for the woman.  I know this is just a TV show, but the ideas that he is pushing are serious issues with the way we eat.  I responded by saying this, "I loved Food Revolution. When I found out that my cholesterol level was beyond high and I started paying attention to labels and ingredients, I realized just how bad the food we eat is."  I felt even worse for her when she responded back with the comment that he was "rude, crude, and socially unacceptable" and that he "needed to be slapped".  I supposed the little " :-) " at the end was supposed to make what she was saying okay.  I decided to not comment any further.
If being healthy is considered "socially unacceptable", then I'm an outcast and PROUD of it.  I personally don't care if society finds eating healthy, non-processed, non-preservative added food unacceptable.  If it means that my son, my daughter, and our family will live longer, healthier lives, than I'm on board!

Little Lemon Hazelnut Cakes

Found this recipe and had to share it! It looks so scrumptious!  And perfect for the first sunny, warm day of Spring!

Little Lemon Hazelnut Cakes
     *makes 12 little (cup)cakes
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup hazelnut oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of one lemon
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Place a rack in the center of the oven.  Line a cupcake pan with 12 cupcake liners and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.  In another medium bowl, whisk together hazelnut oil, buttermilk, egg, vinegar, vanilla extract and lemon zest.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients all at once.  Whisk together until just combined and no lumps remain.  Divide between twelve cupcake cups and bake for 18-22 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center of one of the little cakes comes out clean.
Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Remove from the pan to cool completely and top with an easy lemon glaze.
Lemon glaze is simple 1 heaping cup of powdered sugar mixed with the juice of half a lemon and a dash of water or milk to reach your desired consistency.
Original recipe found here.


Vlog 3.19


A Breath of Fresh Air


Soda Bread

I'm sure a quick search of the interwebs today would herald thousands of hits for traditional corned beef and cabbage recipes.  I considered throwing my recipe out there too.  Then I changed my mind because who needs another recipe for corned beef and cabbage?  I still wanted to give a traditional recipe since I'm seriously Irish.  Truthfully, I'm only like half-ish Irish, but I fly that Irish flag high.
Soda bread dates back to approximately 1840 and there are various ways to make it.  This is how we make it.
Christine's Irish Soda Bread
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons cold butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons raisins
  • In a small bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter until crumbly. Combine egg and buttermilk; stir into crumb mixture just until moistened. Fold in raisins.
  • Turn onto a lightly floured surface; gently knead 6-8 times. Shape into a 5-in. round loaf. Place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut a 1-in. cross about 1/4 in. deep on top of loaf. Bake at 375° for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Happy St. Patrick's Day to all those celebrating today!


Seafood is Where It's At

In keeping with the whole -Christine dropped her overall cholesterol level by 51 points!- theme...

I forgot to mention that I eat fish or seafood at least two days a week.  I'm not able to go completely vegetarian. Not yet.

On a low cholesterol diet, chicken and fish/seafood are the main meat ingredients.  Just like milk, I've never been a huge fan of chicken.  I've found salmon, tilapia, and tuna to be my new best friends.  I've also found a new liking for shrimp.  I think the problem I've always had with seafood is that I've tried it while eating in big chain restaurants and they were usually overcooked.  Leave it to my husband to cook some shrimp at home and convince me that I do actually like seafood.

This is a recipe that I adapted from one I found at Kraft Foods.com.  I love it because it can be made for the whole family or just for me.

Christine's Italian Shrimp Stir-Fry

  • 1/4 cup italian dressing

  • 1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen broccoli florets or a couple of fresh bundles (chopped)

  • 1 pkg. of fresh mushrooms (cleaned and sliced)

  • 1/2 lbs. frozen, cooked, cleaned, medium shrimp

  • 2 cups of hot cooked brown rice

  1. Heat the dressing in a large skillet on medium-high heat.  Add broccoli and mushrooms; stir for 3 minutes or until tender.  Stir frequently.  Add more dressing if needed.  I usually end up adding a little more myself.

  2. While cooking veggies, prepare brown rice as directed.

  3. Add shrimp to veggie mixture in skillet.  Cook for 5 minutes or until the shrimp is heated through.  Do not overcook shrimp.

  4. Serve over rice.
This recipe creates about 4 servings and only takes about 30 minutes.

I prefer to use fresh broccoli instead of the frozen kind, but either can be used for the same result.  I also like to cut and prepare the broccoli and mushrooms in "me" size portions.  I use the snack size Ziploc bags.  I add just enough of the veggies with some of the still frozen shrimp, then seal tightly and place in the freezer until I'm ready for a little snack or lunch.  It's easy to make just enough rice for myself.  


51 Points

I finally got the phone call I've been waiting a week to get.  The results from my bloodwork came back.  My cholesterol level dropped from 248 to 197!  I'm so excited with the progress I've made.  My goal is to get it even lower, at least 150, in the next 3 months.

I was shocked to find out that it had dropped 51 points in the first 3 months.  It was much easier than I anticipated to change my diet.  I will admit that I have cheated a time or two.  Since Dec. 1st, I've had 2 cheeseburgers, 6 slices of bacon, 2 egg rolls and one McGriddle.  Those are things I felt guilty eating.  Oh, and a single hot dog.  Trust me on this one... I'll NEVER eat another hot dog.

I really didn't make that many changes.  Cheerios was a huge factor.  I had no idea there were so many flavors of Cheerios!  You've got regular, honey nut, multi grain, banana nut, chocolate, Cheerios crunch, berry burst, frosted, apple cinnamon, fruity, and yogurt burst.  Banana nut and fruity are my favorites.  The kids are really liking the frosted.  A bowl of these for breakfast or just some in a bowl without milk for a little afternoon snack.

I switched to soy milk.  I was never a milk drinker before.  I just didn't like milk.  I gave Silk Very Vanilla soy milk a try and I love it!  It has to be the Very Vanilla though.  I did try Vanilla instead, but it wasn't what I was looking for.  Now I drink at least 2 glasses of this every day.

Almonds.  I grab a handful of these little jewels and snack away.  Sometimes I get carried away and eat more than just a handful.

Believe it or not... Ramen noodles.  They are pretty high in sodium though.  BUT the sodium is in the seasoning packet so I just use only half of the packet.  I started doing that when the kids eat them also and they have never noticed.

In conclusion... I did it!  I did it! Go me, go me!

Vlog 3.8

UPDATE:  Unfortunately, Mr. Walker's Twitter account is no longer active.  So... oh well on that one.  At least we can still check out his awesomeness in photos, right?

Vlog 3.5

Flaming Ball of Gas

There is a giant flaming circle in the sky today. Could it be? The SUN?!?! It's been so cloudy and gloomy around here lately that I almost couldn't go out this morning because I thought the sunlight was going to bake me to smithereens. I love it though. It put an instant smile on my face.

Having the sun shining after days of gloomy cloudiness is like buying a new pair of shoes. Both make you feel like a brand new person that's worth a million dollars.

How many times have I gushed over Netflix? That service is absolutely worth it. I think we have the basic of all basic packages, but still I'm in love with it. We only get one DVD at a time, but we can also watch shows online as well. All for less than $10 a month. This comes in handy when renting only two movies once at the local Movie Gallery costs about $15. It's also handy when you rent a shitty movie. Case in point... "Paranormal Activity".

ATTENTION: Bergen LaBelle (or anyone who hasn't see it). "Paranormal Activity" is the most ginormous waste of 86 minutes of your life. DO NOT watch it. It is neither paranormal or active. It's... it's... crappy craptasticness. I could have made a better scary movie.  I couldn't believe all the reviews that said this was the scariest movie they've ever seen.  Apparently these people have never seen "The Exorcist".  And that business about "demanding it" at your local movie theater...  rubbish.  The movie was made for under $15,000, shot at the director's own home, and because of all the hype surrounding it, grossed $9 million on opening weekend!!  The actors were only paid $500.  I can not stress enough to not waste your money.

With that said....  I'm going to go enjoy the not crappy sunshine!

P.S.  It's almost the weekend!!!

Food for the Mind

I feel like I've been away from my blog for weeks.  Even though it was only one day...

I had a good time yesterday working at the school in the library for the Scholastic Book Fair.  It was nice to get out of the house and be productive.  I actually enjoyed working with the kids, helping them find the books that they wanted.  I'm not usually up for working with kids.  I know I have my own kids, but they're mine.  I am always tentative with others kids.  But yesterday, it all just disappeared.  I think it might have been because I was in the library surrounded by loads and loads of books.  I would love to have a job as a librarian!  I'd even settle for being her assistant.  Heck, I think I might like that better.

I'm going to work on some new jewelry for the Etsy shop today.  I hit the mother load at Hobby Lobby the other day.  Lots of their beads were 50% off so I went a tad bit crazy.  Shhh.... don't tell my husband!

Monday... shumundee...

Ugh, how did Monday get here so fast?  It's like the weekend came and went while I was sleeping or something!  I'm waiting for the warmer weather to get here.  It seems to just be taking it's sweet ol' time though.

Went to see the doctor this morning to get that dreaded 3 month follow up to check the cholesterol level.  The nice girl who is exceptionally talented with a needle said that my results should be in by tomorrow afternoon.  I'm excited and scared all at the same time.  I just hope that the level has dropped.

I headed into the "big city" to do a little me shopping.  I've been wanting to stop by a store called "Plato's Closet" for a while now, but never had the opportunity to get there.  I went today and probably could have walked out of there with everything off the racks!

I wanted some new blue jeans, but for a second hand store their prices were a little high.  So I made do with these awesomely awesome dresses!  Now... if we could just get a little warmth around here...