Monday, January 30, 2012

January goals update

Ok, so January is almost over.  Time to check in on my goals and progress this month....

I originally posted my goals for the year here. I have found that having my goals written down and reviewing them periodically has really helped me to stay on track. 

Reading -Finished the following books
  • Ten P's in a Pod
  • The Help (well, almost, but I will have it finished by Feb 1st!)

Education -
We are visiting the library every week, and Eli knows exactly where the Boxcar Children books are.  Although I'm still working on reading aloud to the kids every day, we have read Blue Hill Meadows, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, If You Give a Moose a Muffin, Eli Whitney, Uncle Jed's Barbershop, and Why Alligator Hates Dog.

The current library stack

We have not yet started the The Chronicles of Narnia, but it is on the iPod, and I think we will start it on our long drive to Orlando in February.

Personal Goals
  • Weight loss - I've only lost 1 pound since posting about losing the baby weight from the past 8 years, but considering that my husband brought home Krispy Kreme doughnuts one night, followed by the crazy idea I had to make homemade oatmeal creme pies the same week, I think I'm doing good to have not gained any weight this month!
  • Run a 5K - I've completed 2 weeks of training and there is a noticeable improvement in my endurance, although I am still in the very beginning stages of running and my speed leaves a lot to be desired.
  • Wake up at 6:30 on weekdays....FAIL!  I'm doing good to get out of bed by 7:15.  Maybe I should start utilizing the nifty little invention that sits beside my bed.  It's called an alarm clock, I think....
  • Freezer cooking - I had a "mini" freezer prep day chopping and freezing veggies to prevent having to take out 1 or 2 peppers, the cutting board and knife 3 or 4 nights a week.  Now they are already ready and I just have to scoop out what I need for each recipe.  It has worked great!  I also had one full freezer cooking day this month and loved it!  The "plan" I followed is pictured below.  I accomplished everything on the list, resulting in at least 16 easy to put together meals.  I liked focusing on one meat all day and plan to do beef when we butcher a steer in February or March. 

The freezer plan

  • New DIY projects - I've successfully made wheat thins, cheese crackers, oatmeal creme pies, hummus and bubble bath so far. I've also attempted pita bread twice now, and while my family loves the bread and I have made some great toasted "pita" chips with it, it never puffed up the way pita bread should, leaving the middle pocket.  Therefore, I can't really call it pita bread...maybe just round sandwich bread.
Oatmeal creme pies....put Little Debbie to shame

Cheese crackers....If you like baked on, crunchy cheese, these are for you!

Garlic hummus with "pita" chips

  • Involve the kids in cooking - They helped with several of the projects above, but I am still struggling with the frustration of having kids on the counter looking over my shoulders and 3 chairs pulled up to the counter (blocking every drawer or cabinet I need to get in)!  Eli and Maggie especially love to measure out the wheat that I need and then monitor the grinder while it is grinding.  
  • Go to bed with a clean kitchen - I've been successful most nights, but my wonderful husband has often helped out.
  • Praise music - I started out good the first 2 weeks, especially when I was cooking, but lately I have been listening on my own when I am out running or walking. 
  • Pray through our Christmas Cards - Inconsistent at best, but the funny thing is, when I was praying for each of the first four families, I always included the baby that was in the mommy's tummy, and when we were finished my kids said, "I didn't know Mrs. so-and-so had a baby in her tummy."  We then came to a family whose children are grown and have kids of their own, and my kids asked, "Does she have a baby in her tummy too?"
  • Reducing clutter - In progress....My specific goal for January has been to prepare and sort all the clothes for Kids' Market in preparation to move them out of the house the first weekend in March.  This includes all the remaining maternity clothes, baby girl clothes (and shoes, hats, bibs, socks, blankets, etc) newborn-5T, and all infant boy clothes that Cooper has outgrown.  A very big undertaking....  Although the clothes are still taking up 2/3 of my closet, almost all of them (that I have hangers for) are hanging and tagged.  I've actually established a system for "decluttering" that has worked wonderfully for the Kids' Market clothes that I will implement in other areas of the house later in the year and blog about as well.
About 1/3 of the Kids' Market....
  • Taking pictures - FAIL!  The only progress I have made here is ordering some hard copies of pictures we took last year.  I need to get on the ball before my kids are grown!
  • College Funds - up to date and in progress
  • Dining Room furniture - The plan is to look at furniture in March and probably purchase in April.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Homemade wheat thins

Here is the requested wheat thins, or thin wheats (to avoid any copyright infringement), recipe...

The original recipe comes from the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion cookbook....Of course, I made some changes to make them more Sugar Busters friendly.  The recipe I used is listed with the original in parentheses.

2 cups whole grain wheat flour (or 1 cup all-purpose & 1 cup wheat)
1/8 cup sesame seeds (1/4 cup)
1/8 cup granulated sugar (1/4 cup)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda (not in original recipe, but supposedly makes crisper crackers)
4 Tbs butter
scant 1/2 cup milk
Coarse salt (optional, but makes them extra yummy!)

Preheat oven to 325.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sesame seeds, sugar, salt and baking soda.  Using a fork or pastry blender, cut in the butter until it is like coarse meal.  Slowly stir in milk, adding just enough to form a workable dough.   Using additional flour to prevent sticking, roll the dough out to 1/16 inch thickness, if possible.  Sprinkle with coarse salt and use rolling pin to gently press salt into the dough. 

I used hard white wheat, but store-bought wheat flour will work

Wheat grinder attachment for Kitchenaid mixer

Fresh whole wheat flour

The dough rolled out

Using a pizza cutter (or fun cookie cutter shapes), cut the dough into desired cracker sizes.  Transfer crackers to ungreased baking sheets and bake for 20-25 minutes*, until they just begin to brown and are firm to the touch.  Cool on a wire rack.

The kids were begging to use some of the new cookie cutters they got for Christmas
If using cookie cutters, take scraps and re-roll, then cut again

 Yield: 7 to 8 dozen 1 inch crackers

*Thinner crackers will brown and crisp faster than thicker crackers.  After 20 minutes check for doneness and go ahead and remove any that are crisp.  Return remaining crackers to oven and continue baking for 2 minutes at a time, until all crackers are done.

3 out of 4 of my children (who are old enough to eat crackers) love these and often ask for a "cookie" when referring to these, probably because of the cookie shapes!  They are crisp, have a great cracker flavor and texture and are not as greasy as store-bought crackers.  I have a feeling these will become a staple around our house.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My personal weight loss story....just in time for the New Year

With every new year many people automatically begin to think about weight loss.  Using my unscientific research methods, I would assume that dieting/weight loss is the most common New Year's Resolution made and probably the most common resolution that fails, year after year.

Well, I actually started thinking about weight loss back in October....6 weeks after my youngest was born.  Following my typical pattern, I lost an easy 20 pounds of baby weight, leaving about 10 pounds that just wanted to stick around (literally) forever.  Over the course of 5 babies in the past 8 years, that adds up, a lot.  I wanted to lose 40 pounds, and having never even attempted to diet or lose significant weight before, I was clueless. 

Now, I'm not trying to put myself up on a pedestal to be praised, but I'm sharing my story for the benefit of anyone who may be looking to lose weight but feels overwhelmed and doesn't know where to begin.  I felt the same way a few weeks ago.  I would not be sharing this if I had not seen success, but I'm using my own experience as an example to show that this works (at least it has for me) if you stick with it.  Not only have I noticed the effects, but friends and family have noticed a difference too, and graciously offered compliments on my appearance or asked for details on how I was losing the weight in recent weeks.

How I started....
At my 6 week post-partum check-up, I brought up the weight issue.  My doctor recommended the Sugar Busters diet, suggesting that most people lose about 6 pounds per month, and I could reasonably expect to reach my goal (40 pounds) within 6-8 months.  I had heard of Sugar Busters but did not know the details.  I started researching it online that night and checked the book out from the library.  It's basically a modified Atkins diet, although the "right" type of carbohydrates are encouraged, while all refined sugars, white flours, corn products and potatoes are "no-no's".  Although I was not looking forward to saying "good-bye" to potatoes, I started the next day, thinking that I would follow the diet to a "T" for at least two weeks before giving up.  Well, 3 days later, I had lost 6 pounds and I was convinced.  By the end of the first two weeks I had lost the last 10 pounds of baby weight from the most recent pregnancy, and I could see a noticeable difference in my waistline.  The post-partum jeans I had bought a size larger than usual (because I didn't have any that fit comfortably) were tossed into the Goodwill pile because they were now noticeably big and baggy.  I finally fit back into my regular jeans, comfortably.  That convinced my to stick with it, even through Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

The Specifics
Sugar Busters is basically the recommended diet for diabetics.  While I didn't pay too much attention to the "science" behind it, it recommends that you eat foods that have a low glycemic index and avoid foods that have a high glycemic index because your body will convert any unused sugar into fat, resulting in extra pounds.   It does not require you to count calories or fat grams.  As a word of warning, many foods advertised as "low fat" have more sugars than their "regular" counterparts.  Simply eat a moderate portion of the recommended foods and avoid the discouraged foods.  Easy enough, right?

In addition to cutting out all obvious sugar (ice cream, Dr. Pepper & cookies), I also stopped eating all forms of potatoes (including chips), corn (including corn chips, cornstarch & cornmeal), fried foods, and white breads, flours, & pastas.  Brown rice and whole grain breads and pastas are allowed and encouraged, in moderation.  I was thrilled to discover that I could still make some of our favorite pasta dishes with whole grain pasta (Barilla Plus).  I also make my own whole grain bread and have started buying brown rice.

Sugar Busters encourages you to eat some fruit everyday, however no bananas or pineapple, as they are naturally very high in sugar.  I have kept a supply of apples and oranges that I typically eat with breakfast or lunch or for an afternoon snack.

They also recommend the following eating habits...
  • Nothing to eat after 8pm
  • Drink LOTS of water - Water will help keep your metabolism up throughout the day as well as help you feel full and prevent unnecessary snacking
  • Eat breakfast EVERYDAY - You've heard it all your life, and yes, it is that important.  This jumpstarts your metabolism for the day.
  • Cooking with olive oil mostly and sometimes canola oil
  • Portion control - Just because it's low sugar or whole grain doesn't mean you can turn dinner into an all you can eat buffet.  I usually use a small dinner plate and fill it without piling foods high or spreading onto the rim of the plate.  I only get seconds on salad or plain vegetables like green beans or broccoli. 
  • Avoiding processed frozen foods because many have hidden sugars
  • Eating at HOME instead of going through a drive-thru.  If I'm cooking it, I know exactly what's in it and can make necessary adjustments to make meals more Sugar Busters friendly.
Ideas for meals and snacks that have worked for me...
  • 1 1/2 scrambled eggs (I cook 3 and share with Charlie)
  • 1 slice whole grain toast with butter, 1/2 an apple or orange
  • 1 egg and 2 slices bacon (not sugar cured, if possible)
  • Sausage and egg scramble - I only eat this when Ezra cooks breakfast.  The sausage does have some sugar in it, but I don't eat it that often and I do not wrap it in a flour tortilla like the rest of the family.
  • 1/2 an apple or orange (split with kids), avocado slices, Triscuits
  • Chicken salad with grapes on whole grain bread or homemade wheat thins (store-bought have added sugar)
  • Homemade mac & cheese with whole grain pasta
  • Caesar Salad (with whole grain croutons, from my homemade bread)
  • Leftovers from dinner the night before
Dinner - At first I struggled with ideas for dinner, thinking that we would only be eating baked chicken, but after some research and reading labels, I discovered that we could still eat many of our favorites with just a few alterations.  Here are several that have been family-pleasing and met my dietary needs as well.
  • Chili with beans and cheese (no Fritos for me)
  • Taco soup or chicken tortilla soup with no corn (and no chips for me)
  • Shrimp or chicken pasta (whole grain pasta)
  • Sauteed or grilled shrimp
  • Baked or grilled fish
  • Baked or rotisserie chicken, seasoned
  • Taco salad (no chips for me)
  • Spaghetti (whole grain pasta), caesar salad
  • Steak (I usually cook mashed potatoes for everyone else) and asparagus
  • Pot Roast with carrots (again, I make potatoes for everyone else)
  • Hamburgers (whole grain bread for me)
  • Jambalaya (brown rice) 
  • Fried rice (brown rice)
  • Sauteed mushrooms and spinach (a favorite of mine that I usually fix as a substitute for potatoes or corn that the rest of the family is eating)
Snacks and Dessert - I only eat snacks if I am truly hungry, usually between lunch and dinner and I always drink a full glass of water with them to help fill me up.  I also pour out the recommended portion instead of just eating from the can/box until I get full.
  • Peanuts or Cashews
  • 1/2 apple or orange, handful of grapes
  • Triscuits (I had no clue they had different flavors now!  I like the parmesan garlic and four cheese.)
  • Dark chocolate - 1 or 2 pieces 
  • No sugar added ice cream - Usually after dinner, but it's hard to squeeze this in before 8pm, so most nights I go without.  I bought one carton during week 1 and it's about 3/4 gone, 10 weeks later.
Results to date
After following the dietary recommendations almost exactly for 10 weeks, I have lost 27 pounds...much better than the average 6 pounds a month that I was hoping for.  I am still looking to lose about 13 more pounds to reach my goal.  I'm not there yet, but seeing early results was extremely motivating for me to stay on track.  I recently ordered a pair of jeans a size smaller than what I was wearing, hoping to be able to wear them later in January or February; however, they fit perfectly the day they arrived!  So, at the suggestion of a friend, I went ahead and ordered another size smaller pair of jeans for continued motivation to reach my goal....well, they arrived today.  And they fit perfectly!  I don't feel nearly as bad about spending money on new clothes in a smaller size as I did buying clothes in a larger size 2 months ago!  I have successfully dropped 3 sizes, and even kept the weight off during the holidays, when I did take a few days off from strictly following the plan.

I also feel so much better physically!  I have more energy, and I haven't felt the need for a nap in the middle of the day, like I so often did (but rarely got) previously.  I really feel more healthy, which is important to me.  I have a husband and 5 children who depend on me, and I want to be there for them when they need me. 

Do I expect to stay on Sugar Busters for the rest of my life?  No.  I miss my chips and salsa and baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, get the idea.  However, it is an easy diet plan that has worked for me that does not have a monthly fee, special (unappetizing) meals that you have to purchase, points or calories to count, and I can easily start it back up again later if I feel the need to.  There are, however, some new habits that will be easy to stick with even when not strictly dieting....not eating past 8pm, cooking with whole grain pasta and olive oil, portion control and drinking water (instead of tea or soft drinks) regularly. 

I also need to add more exercise into my daily routine.  I've been saying that for weeks, but haven't had the motivation to do it yet! Although I am hoping to run a 5K in 2012, so I need to get started!

If I've peaked your interest, I highly encourage you to do more research either online or in the Sugar Busters book.  I will tell you that most critics of Sugar Busters do not deny the effectiveness of the plan, just that the nature of the diet tends to be low-calorie, resulting in weight loss, instead of the weight loss being a result of eating fewer sugars.  Honestly, I don't know the "why" or the "how."  Just that it has worked for me, I don't have to count calories, and I am not hungry all day long eating rice cakes.

Best of luck to anyone trying to lose a few pounds this year... I'm right there with you!  I'd be happy to answer any questions that you might have.