Some Things I’ve Been Thinking About

Hey y’all! Craig and I have been busy baby makin’ and I just passed my big audit for work (another excellent progress report!) so needless to say I’ve been a bit preoccupied. In other news we got a new car… YAY! Here’s a pic of my beautiful new baby. We really enjoy her and have named her Bindi (yes, that’s Steve Irwin’s daughter’s name). Since she’s an Outback we figured we needed something Australian and Bindi is Aborigine for little girl. Cute.

Also, our first baby, Jethro, has commandeered the guest room bed. He loves to sleep with his head on a pillow (or arm rest, etc.) and evidently the couch is too far away from us at night. This is a new thing he’s doing but he’s simply precious. We love that little dude and can’t imagine our lives without him. I mean, look how precious he is! I can’t get mad at that fluffy guy for wanting a little comfort.

Next up, we bought a new vacuum. My other vacuum finally bit the dust and after quite a lot of research and not wanting to spend a fortune we settled on the Shark Navigator. So far, so good. It really performs well. Jethro likes it (as referenced by the picture below). I mean, just look at that happy face!
In other news, I’ve really been struggling with not commenting on or posting about every little political and/or cultural war happening right now. I’ve definitely posted on facebook a few times too many for some of my friends but it’s hard to keep my mouth shut when I feel so passionate. There are two sides to every story and I feel like some of my “friends” keep speaking from their limited point of view where they cannot possibly understand the whole picture.

Besides that, most of these “friends” call themselves “Christian” and as a Christian I find it hard to stomach their intolerance. From what I have read of the Jesus I follow, He would have been the first to sit down with the “sinner” over dinner and really get to know them and pour LOVE into them. Yet, these very people who claim to be His disciples are those who are the loudest in judgment and hate. It breaks my heart.

So, I will continue to post things I think help open up the debate and help to cross barriers and I will continue to do my best to LOVE my neighbor (John 13:35). That’s all I can really do, eh?

Also, I’ve been thinking a lot about going back to work once this future baby is born. I know that children of working mothers are more successful and I know that as a working mother I will be a better role model for success outside the home, yada yada, but I can’t help but fear the coming day when I drop my child off at day-care and head off to work. My friend, Emily, recently had this discussion with me. She always thought that she’d have no problem going back to work but now that her baby is here in her arms she’s finding it incredibly difficult.

I guess I’ll have to cross that bridge when I get to it. I know that financially we just really cannot afford to have me stay at home. I also know that the benefits I receive through my state employee position are unlike anything I could acquire on my own. I’m praying that something flexible will arise when the time comes and I will feel greater strength in leaving my child with others. Too soon to tell but I will continue to pray about it anyway.

So, to end this random smattering of thoughts on this hump day I leave you with another picture of my boy Jethro when he was outside playing in his pool. I mean, what parent doesn’t shove pictures of their baby in your face every other second? Just wait until we have a human baby… HA! It’s almost the weekend y’all! Chin up!




RAPA scrapple

Welcome to another episode of “Things I Like.”

I know, I know, it’s been forever since I’ve done one. This time I’m featuring scrapple. More specifically I’m featuring RAPA brand scrapple.

I know this sounds crazy but I literally crave the stuff. I know not many of y’all have heard of scrapple and there are probably not many of y’all that even really like sausage but this stuff is seriously delicious.

My mother’s family is from the Philadelphia area, Ambler specifically, so scrapple is a part of our tradition. Scrapple is pretty much like any other breakfast sausage in that it’s made from the left-overs. Sliced and fried so it’s crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, scrapple brings back such wonderful childhood memories. The pork gives it a unique flavor profile and not everyone is a fan but if you try it I do not think you’ll be disappointed.

Here’s my little disclaimer… I can only recommend RAPA brand scrapple. Habbersett and others are just not the same. Call me a purist but I want the good stuff. Every once in a blue moon you can find scrapple down here (usually in Publix) but it’s never RAPA brand. Therefore, it’s a treat we request from our family to bring when they’re headed south. Either that, or you must place your order online.

So, have you ever tried scrapple? What are your thoughts on breakfast sausage, in general? Next time you’re in the mid-Atlantic region and a restaurant has it on their menu I would encourage you to try some scrapple… and if you feel so inclined… send me some!

New Year – New Goals

Hello everyone and I hope that you’ve had a wonderful extended holiday. Craig and I were able to spend some time with our family and were able to start on yet another construction project so I’d say it was a pretty good holiday in my book. I’m back today with a post on, what else, new year goal setting.

January is typically a time of year in which we take a moment to reflect on the past year, the good and the bad, and make new goals for the coming year. I’ve decided to set 5 goals for the year 2015. I feel that by keeping these goals broad I’m better able to make them a reality. I know myself and I know that I routinely fail. Instead of focusing on the challenges negatively I’m going to use them to my advantage. So, here goes:

  1. Focus on Christ – First, and foremost, I plan on really renewing my relationship with Christ. Through daily reading, my small group, and church attendance I hope to make some new habits that have a life long effect. Starting this month I have been daily reading in an app called She Reads Truth. This app makes it super easy to stay in the word on a daily basis and it has a wonderful graphic at the end of each reading to share through social media as a way to hold yourself better accountable and to share God’s goodness and grace. I really enjoy the format and I pray to make this become habit. In addition to She Reads Truth, I’m leading my small group (aka Life Group) in the Beth Moore study of Esther. This is a study I have done before years ago and I’m looking forward to doing again with my group. I pray that God uses me for these women and their hope in Him. Also, I’m still involved in the Disciple study that goes through May this year so I’ve got a lot of ways to really make my relationship with Christ more intentional.
  2. Nurture Relationships – I feel like this goal really goes along well with my number one goal this year. In 2015 I really want to work more on strengthening my relationships with my husband, my family, and even more so, my friends. It is so easy to get caught up in daily life that I let my relationships fall by the wayside. Like I mentioned with my first goal, being more intentional means that I’m really making time for what is important. Last year, the deaths of both of my fathers really brought home the importance of relationships. I’m going to work harder on strengthening my relationship with my husband by daily making time for his needs. Whether it is as simple as being more diligent with my cleaning or making more time for physical affection, I plan on making him a priority. I want to be sure that we are setting ourselves up for success with a long and healthy marriage. In addition, Craig and I have talked at length about focusing on our friendships this year and making time to clear our schedule for our friends. We can get so busy at times that we’ve gone a whole month and haven’t spent time with anyone but ourselves. Well, this year we want to change. I want to make sure to take more time for my mom this year and I want to visit my grandparents more. Hopefully this goal will make a lasting change in our lives.
  3. Healthy Living – This past December I started taking classes at my local Pure Barre and I’ve really enjoyed the workout it gives me. I’m enjoying the classes and their varied but yet consistent nature. In addition to remaining in a workout routine for 2015 I am going to continue my healthy living by really working on my diet. I’ve decided this year that I will no longer be drinking soda (specifically dark soda). I know that if I eliminate Coca Cola Classic completely from my diet I will need something to wean me off it’s deliciousness so if I find myself somewhere (like a drive through) where I feel the need to order a soda I will order a Sprite. If y’all know me it’s how much I love a good Coke. The real thing … no diet! I drink them rarely because we don’t keep soda in the house. We know how bad sodas are for you so we treat them as special occasion drinks. With that being said, this year I plan on eliminating them entirely. Craig and I are going to try and get pregnant this year so my health is even more important now. We already do a pretty good job with our health but I plan on stepping it up with diet and exercise and regularly taking my prenatal vitamins.
  4. Better my Budget – Okay, so this is a tough one. This year I’m really going to work on my saving and spending habits. I like to think that Craig and I are pretty good at this already (at least he is) but I know that with a baby coming we really need to step up our game. I’m one of those people who really HATE to budget. Not that I can’t live with a budget, just that I hate tracking and dealing with all the math! It’s easy for me because Craig and I took a look at expenses and we have put me on a cash diet to keep my spending in check but I still find times that I’m swiping my Amex or not really knowing what I’ve spent my money on that past month. This year I want to be more conscious of the whole process and to be more active in pursuing better spending habits. We want to make sure we’re setting ourselves up financially in the best possible way, especially with a future child in the picture. Seeing as my husband is an accountant this goal is a very real one for us.
  5. Personal Development – Finally, I really want to work on myself both professionally and personally. I don’t have time to re-enroll in graduate school this year but that doesn’t mean I can’t make time to pick up Fluenz again. I want to keep my brain sharp and focus on that passion I have for life-long learning. I hope to make more time this year to really keep my mind active and engaged and less focused on trivial pursuits. I find myself spending an inordinate amount of time on Facebook that could be better used by completing a Spanish lesson or even just reading a good book! Also, I want to make more time for this blog. I find that writing is a good outlet for me and I like to share my life with y’all. It’s not a matter of finding time but of making time. This year I want to really make more time for the things that make me a better person and this is a good place to start.

So, what about y’all. What are your goals for this year? Do you have any do-overs from last year that you’d like another shot at? Are you setting just one big goal or many small goals? I’d love to know what’s in store for you for 2015!


The Mediterranean Diet

A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine was just released to the public and is already spreading like wildfire, and for good reason. Not only does the study recommend at least 7 glasses of wine a week (which seems to be the main source of excitement) but it basically debunks the entire “low-fat diet” that has long been recommended. Quite interesting, eh? The New York Times article started right off with the hook, “About 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals”. The Atlantic has even done a piece discussing what they thought were the highlights of the study. Articles from all sources seem to point to the fact that what was long recommended is no longer valid and what was long considered by our ancestors is what should be practiced today.

As the journal states:

The traditional Mediterranean diet is characterized by a high intake of olive oil, fruit, nuts, vegetables, and cereals; a moderate intake of fish and poultry; a low intake of dairy products, red meat, processed meats, and sweets; and wine in moderation, consumed with meals. In observational cohort studies and a secondary prevention trial (the Lyon Diet Heart Study),increasing adherence to the Mediterranean diet has been consistently beneficial with respect to cardiovascular risk. A systematic review ranked the Mediterranean diet as the most likely dietary model to provide protection against coronary heart disease. Small clinical trials have uncovered plausible biologic mechanisms to explain the salutary effects of this food pattern. We designed a randomized trial to test the efficacy of two Mediterranean diets (one supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and another with nuts), as compared with a control diet (advice on a low-fat diet), on primary cardiovascular prevention.

Recommended in Mediterranean diet

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(New England Journal of Medicine)

Discouraged in Mediterranean diet

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(New England Journal of Medicine)
Of course, we must remember that diet is a lifestyle and not a temporary adjustment. In my house we try and stay away from red meat, we drink red wine regularly, eat fish as often as possible, and use olive oil like it’s going out of style. I had heard someone say years ago that if we just ate the way Jesus ate we’d all be healthier. Well here it is in black and white. I know that I post a lot about diet and lifestyle but I honestly care about each and every one of you. I want people to experience all this life has to offer and not be held back by their health. Thoughts?

Daily Diet

This was such a cute song on Sesame Street when my sisters were little and watched it regularly. Whenever I hear the words “healthy food” I hear this song in my head!

Healthy eating is not about strict dieting and never eating special treats. It’s about understanding that the special treats are just that, special. The word special is defined as something designed for a particular purpose or occasion. I think what has happened to not only our health in this country but also other aspects of our American lives is that we have taken this word and made it an every day occurrence. That aspect alone negates the definition. In addition, we’ve taken things like cake and ice cream and made them as if they’re the only thing considered special when I get just as much enjoyment (most often) from a good piece of kiwi fruit. Remember, even Cookie Monster himself understands that cookies are “sometimes food“.

We need to shift our way of thinking. We need to look at the total package and our overall lifestyle in order to be healthy. We need to think outside the box and introduce foods into our daily diet that are diverse and colorful. The HelpGuide article on healthy eating says to think of “water and exercise as food groups in your diet.” How often do you drink water? Not soda or even tea… water. How often to you take a walk for more than just from your car into your house or work or the store? Our lifestyle can help us live a long and happy life or can contribute to a shortened unhealthy one. Taking charge of your health begins with simple day to day choices.

Whole Foods has a portion of their website dedicated to healthy eating. They maintain that choosing whole foods, plants, healthy fats, and foods that are nutrient dense are the four pillars of healthy eating. They even have a whole page dedicated to the simple changes you can make to improve your health for the long term. Even Good Housekeeping has gotten in on the bandwagon with their site dedicated to healthy living and eating called The Daily Green. These resources can help you to find ways to incorporate healthy foods into your diet. One of the easiest things I’ve done is kept sometimes foods out of my house. I rarely have soda or cookies or ice cream around and this means when I have a craving for something that is unhealthy I’m forced to make the healthy choice. It helps to keep those sometimes foods to just that, sometimes.

Another thing that I’ve done is to adopt the habits I developed a while back when I did a short-term modification of the South Beach Diet. I have always felt like a diet should be a lifestyle change and not a temporary fix so I’m not big on fads, however, I do understand that for people who have a large amount of weight to lose they are best to utilize a program that will help jump start their health goals. Programs like Weight Watchers, South Beach, Atkins, NutriSystem, and the Zone are ways to help you build healthy habits but they are not meant to be long-term solutions. You cannot permanently eliminate an entire food group and you cannot permanently abstain from sugar. If you try to live life that way you are setting yourself up for failure. This is why so many people gain all the weight back when they give up on the “dieting.”

Instead, you should use these tools to help you identify your weaknesses and strengths and build habits that will last throughout your life. By keeping the sugar snacks and sodas out of my house it allows me to know that when I indulge I don’t need to feel bad about it because it’s not an everyday occurrence. Sometimes it starts with just knowing what are foods that should be included in our daily diet and what should not. Many people assume that because “diet” soda is “calorie free” it isn’t bad for them when, in fact, it’s horrible. Drinking diet soda has been linked to depression, it is hard on the kidneys, and can actually lead to weight gain.

So, where do we go from here? How can one possibly lead a life where they never have special treats? I don’t think it is possible nor do I think it should be practiced. What I do believe is that we should live more simply, like our great-grandparents did, and really “live off the land” so to speak (read anything by Michael Pollan to help you understand what this means). Craig and I try very hard to eat lots of fruits and vegetables. In fact, we eat two veggies and a protein each night for dinner. Rarely do we have a starch on our plate. In addition, we bring our lunch to work and we drink nothing but water throughout the week (and sometimes a glass of wine with dinner). This means that for most days of the week we’re getting the proper nutrients in our diet and when we decide to go out to lunch or dinner once in a while we can feel free to splurge. Craig and I spend roughly $100 a week for groceries but when we buckle down, continuing to eat healthily, we can maintain our current diet on about $300 a month.

My daily schedule really helps keep me on track:

  • I start out with breakfast every morning. My momma always said it was the most important meal of the day and she was right. Eating a breakfast high in fiber will not only help give you the fuel you need to tackle your morning but will set your metabolism for the day. I usually have some high fiber cereal, some coffee, and if I have time I’ll eat some fruit. I fall victim to the time factor every morning so I completely understand how hard it is to work breakfast into the routine. Another quick way to jump start your metabolism is with a smoothie. They’re easy to make and taste great. You can even sneak in some kale or spinach and you won’t even taste it. Although my morning meal is not large, it helps, and if I can do it, so can you!
  • To keep my metabolism riding high and to keep me from overeating at lunch I have a small serving of greek yogurt around 10 am. Greek yogurt is an excellent source of probiotics that keeps my digestive track working properly and is lower in sugar and higher in protein than regular yogurt. I can’t eat a giant serving and I like my yogurt fully blended with no “chunks” so I tend to purchase plain Fage and then I scoop out a bout a half a cup into a container and add a tiny bit of honey. It is just enough sweetness for me. If that doesn’t work for you there are plenty of single serve varieties out there. Just be sure that you’re reading labels. You don’t want to choose something so high in sugar that it completely negates the healthy qualities, this goes for just about anything you eat.
  • For lunch I utilize a trick I learned a long time ago… I try to make it my “main meal of the day” meaning I eat the things at lunch that normal people eat for dinner. Sometimes I crave a bowl full of creamy pasta so to satisfy my craving I’ll eat the pasta for lunch along with my fruits and veggies and a glass of water. This way I’ve eaten most of my simple carbs by mid-day and I have more time to work them off before my metabolism shuts down for the night. I know a lot of people try and claim that salads are the best for lunch but really I feel like they should be your dinner and I’m not the only one who feels this way. Food should be thought of as fuel and used as such. When we realize the importance of fueling our bodies we understand the effects of empty calories.
  • In the afternoon, around 3-4 pm, I have my second snack for the day. Usually some carrots and hummus, cheese and grapes, or if I feel I need an extra boost to last me through the evening I’ll eat a protein bar. I really love the Nature Valley Protein bars. They don’t taste like cardboard. It’s at this point of the day when I take inventory of what I’ve accomplished. Have I had enough water? Have I eaten too much and feel I need a quick walk around the building to burn off some calories? Have I not eaten enough and know that my work out that evening will suffer? Once I have assessed where I stand I will adjust accordingly. Sometimes, I’ll add a little extra to my snack to give me the boost I need to make smart choices that evening.
  • Last but not least, we come to dinner (or supper for those in the south). Craig is the one that cooks in our family and boy am I grateful. He can make chicken and veggies taste like a four-star restaurant. However, you do not need to be a fancy chef to eat healthy delicious food. One trick I absolutely love is roasting vegetables. Take some asparagus or Brussels sprouts, place them on a cookie sheet (with sides) drizzle over a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or so. Best veggies you’ll ever eat. We like to take canned salmon and make it into cakes like you would crab and then place it on top of a chopped salad. We like to grill up some pork tenderloin and roast some veggies for an easy simple meal. Every once in a while we’ll make some Quinoa or CousCous to go with our meal but mostly it’s just the meat and veggies and boy is it delicious. The point is to sit down and eat a healthy meal at the dinner table and learn to build good habits (especially in children).

Usually at this point I’m satisfied and don’t feel the need for dessert however when the need arises I will have a quick piece of fruit (like watermelon) or a small piece of candy (bite-size Snickers) or a small scoop of ice-cream (always something with the least amount of ingredients possible). It is completely fine to indulge once in a while. The key is moderation. In fact, I find that when I have a single scoop of Ben & Jerry’s or Haagen Dazs chocolate ice cream I am satisfied whereas when I have a single scoop of a “low-fat” or “light” ice cream it leaves me wanting more, as if I hadn’t had any at all. This leads me to another subject I want to address: most everything is okay in moderation. Go ahead and have that regular Coke instead of diet. You’ll find that one is enough and you have no need for a second glass. I really feel like it’s better to have the full fat deliciousness and feel satisfied than to find yourself having the “lower calorie” substitute on a regular basis.

So, tell me your thoughts? What tips or tricks do you have for maintaining a healthy lifestyle? What do you feel are your weaknesses? Where do you find strength? I feel the healthiest I’ve ever been. In fact, since I’ve started eating this way I’m naturally slim and trim with little illness. In fact, when I skip my yogurt I can tell. It is so very important to digest the proper nutrients on a regular basis. You’d be amazed at how better you will feel when you take steps to improve your health. If you want to know more start with Food Rules by Michael Pollan. His 6 Rules for Eating Wisely are a philosophy that Craig and I try to live by. Hope y’all had a wonderful weekend and that this post serves as a source of inspiration. 🙂