Christmas Grace

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Christmas Eve is upon us and with it comes sweet release.

Tonight is the night I exhale.

No more shopping…no more waiting…no more planning, and no more baking.

Everything that needs to be done has been done, and whatever didn’t get done, won’t be done.

It is as it should be.

Tonight, I relax, and I allow His Spirit to transform me from a shopping machine to a willing repository of His grace.

Ahh, Grace.

Grace: that magical, mystical mix of love and caring, forgiveness and restoration, humility and exaltation that builds, and saves, and strengthens. How I love it!

Mindful of grace, I thank my God for:

Unconditional love. I don’t deserve it, nor can I earn it, and yet it is given to me over and over, and over again. Where would I be without Grace?

Forgiveness, without which we are all destined for slavery, imprisoned in cells of self with no hope of escape. Forgiven, I am wrapped in warmth, encouraged to let go…prompted to try again, this time with the understanding that I don’t need to be perfect so long as I’m forgiven. Forgive, as I am forgiven, that is my goal for 2015.

Hope. Hope renews my soul and keeps me from being hardened by a harsh world. It convinces me that there is a path to the place I want to go, and I can walk it in the here and now. Hope helps me formulate a plan, stick to it, and benefit from it. Without hope, I would never weigh myself again. Never journal a single meal. Never look for results from my efforts. Hope keeps me ready to receive the good things in life and keeps me stepping on that scale.

Love. Who can forget love? Love is the glue that holds everything else in life together. Love helps me become open and willing to accept the advice of others. Love guides me. Love affirms me. Love enfolds me. I am loved and in return, I love.

Tonight, I meet with Love and pay homage. Love is the essence of Christmas, and I, its humble servant. Tonight, I exhale. Ahhhh, that feels good!

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Ummm, Good!!!

One of my favorite comfort foods is homemade soup.

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Last night we had a hot bowl of hamburger soup made with my brother’s grass-fed beef. It was delicious and so easy to make. Here’s how I did it:

Brown ground beef with garlic in a pan. Clove garlic or powder will work, but I like to keep it real, so I use a clove of garlic, whole.  Drain grease, which brings me to comment on the greasy nature of this beef.  When liquids were added, a lot of fat came to the top. Much more than store-bought beef. Why?  I wondered about that, but I digress…

Drain the grease from meat, then add 1 large container of beef broth. I use the low sodium Swanson brand.  Then I take one 12 oz or so can of stewed tomatoes and put them in the blender.  Some of the men in my fam don’t like tomato chunks in their soup, so I do this to please them, but you can leave them chunky.  I use stewed tomatoes because they already have the peppers and onions and other spices in them. Easy. Add them in.

Next, I add 2 raw potatoes and 2 carrots that have been sliced into coins, and let it go to work for about 10 minutes.  Next, I add salt, pepper, basil, oregano, and celery seed, to taste.  Then I add frozen mixed veggies (10-12 oz bag), and half a cabbage, shredded.  I put the pot on and let it do its thing while I make a whole wheat anise and pumpkin cornbread I found in the Everyday Happy Herbivore cookbook, one of my favorites.

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The whole process takes only 30 minutes, and we sit down to a homemade and nutritious meal that we all enjoy.  Yum, Yummmmm.  Last night, I got hubs to start the meat while I commuted from my day job, which made prep that much easier.

I love easy!

For you guys out there, this is a really easy recipe.  My guy made the cornbread last night, himself, and it was soo good. The anise makes it taste like candy and the pumpkin ensures it is never dry.  For an even shorter short cut, all the liquid stuff could be done in the blender, including the addition of spices, and then poured int a bowl, covered and left in the frig overnight.  It really is a great dish for a cold night.  Enjoy!

Random Thoughts on a Busy Day

Hurry, hurry, hurry.
Rush, rush, rush.
The holiday pushes.
I run.

Good, because I move.
Good, because I’m focused.
Good, because vacation is on the horizon.

Ten blissful days of fun, family, rest.
No work.
Well, work, but my work.

My pace.
My schedule.
My way.

Sleep in.  Build block castles. Race Matchbox cars. Sip tea as the young ‘uns run through the house.

House on the hill.

House surrounded by wood.

Our Home.

Can’t wait!
Only eight more days. 🙂

I Stepped in it Yesterday!

000cowsLiving in NEPA as I do, I’ve had the occasion to step in a cow pie or two in my time.  Truth be told, I have not only stepped in pooh, I have slid through it, had it squish through my bare toes, and flung it at others in some crazy kids game of keep-away that included dried and hardened meadow muffins.  People who don’t farm will recoil at the idea of it all, but for us, it was just another day…another trip to the lower forty…another distraction from the mundane life of herding cows.  Besides, cow pooh isn’t all bad.  It’s organic and it’s recyclable, plus I’ve seen folks sell this stuff as pricey trinkets and garden fodder, so its very adaptable, too.

Hey, don’t judge me until you’ve lived ten miles outta town and had a whole summer to do absolutely nothing but farm chores.

But I digress…

I stepped in it yesterday.

Not literally, mind you, but figuratively.  I did something with the best of intentions, but it didn’t turn out so well.  In the end, I felt like I had gone swimming in crap.  As horrible as that sounds, it felt worse.

Can I say that I hate my overdeveloped sense of conscience sometimes?

I also hate it that somewhere along the line to adulthood I got the impression that I’m supposed to be perfect.

I am not perfect!

I’m far from perfect, but my expectations for perfection are definitely out of whack. They are out of sync with reality. This causes me pain, and pain urges me to look for comfort, and too many times in the past that comfort was found in food.

Today, I choose not to be comforted by food, and so I am left to deal with feelings that don’t feel all that good without being able to eat to sooth them. Drats!

What do I do in these times, when food is not a comfortable option?

I pray: for me, for them, for all of us.

I try to envision forgiveness waiting for me on the other end of a crappy occurrence.

I remind myself that my intent was not to harm but help, and that maybe, just maybe, it is the third party in this equation that is overreacting.

I press on, not eating over the awful sinking feelings I have.

I remember that my time here is not about perfection, but doing the very best I can today and opening myself up to the wisdom of others that can help me do better tomorrow.

I wait for the awful feelings to go away.

“This, too, shall pass,” I tell myself. 

I remind myself I’m human and fallible, and fragile.

I apologize if I can, and I begin the work of letting it go.

I sense the urge to eat, but instead I wait, because eating will only add to the problem, not erase it.

Thankfully, crappy days do not extend into eternity. They have a beginning and they will have an end.  Mine ended at 11:00pm last night.

Ah, the chance to begin again, and this time I will watch where I’m walking!

Strategies for a less-stressful Holiday

I have a tendency to take on too much during the holidays.

Big Shocker, hunh?

000be presentWhen I take on too much, I feel like I miss the chance to be present for my family.  I hate that, so this year I’m doing something about it.

During the Holidays, I don’t want to lose myself, and I don’t want to miss out on the joy that is unfolding around me.  Instead, I’ve developed a few strategies I’m hoping will help me not to get lost in all the “stuff” that comes along with a visit from the fam.

Here’s my short list:

1.  I’m going to cook, bake, store, and freeze meals before the holiday.  When its time to eat, we will choose the meal we want, roll it outta the fridge, and throw it in the oven or crock pot–which leads to my second strategy for remaining stress free and in the moment this year.

2.  I will be using the crock pot more, and roasting meats and root veggies. Oh, how I love a roasted vegetable, caramelized to perfection. Yes, YES, we will be doing lots of that this year.

3.  I will be buying throw-away plates; those stiff paper ones we can burn without hurting the environment. These are what we’ll be eating on.  Maybe not for Christmas day, but the rest of the week we will.

4.  I’m going to be hosting a picnic in the living room more than once while the munchkins are in town.  If its warm enough, we may even take the show on the road, to the valley play land.

5.  I’ve also decided to hand out duty slips each day, especially focusing on meal times: some for the older crowd and some for the wee ones, so that everyone can help in the set up and clean up, instead of the usual, which involves me doing everything.

I’m hoping these strategies will help me to feel less stressed this Christmas and avoid the trap that is self obsession.  I don’t want to wander away in my mind, or be overworked the whole time my favorite people in the world are under our roof.  No way. I want to live in the moment and savor each one.

This year, my motto will be:

Be Present with the Presents God’s Given You!

Fashion Hides Flab

It’s true, what they say about fashion. Accessories count. Look at these two comparison pictures, taken on the same day, about 5 minutes apart, and in the same location.

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Sorry for the resolution/quality of these photos.  I am not a photography nor an artist, but this works to make my point.

Which image of me do you think looks better?

On the right, I have my hair down and no vest, and I look a little bit slumpy, frumpy, and chubby.  I am a bit chubby, but tons lighter than when I began this journey.  On the left, with my hair up and my vest on, I definitely look thinner, right? Taller, too, right? Even slimmer in my legs, right?

Wow!

It’s amazing to me that the addition of a simple vest could make that much overall difference in how I look in this picture.

I will definitely be playing around with accessories in the future.  If fashion can disguise that much of me, I need to give it more of my attention.

Amazing!

After Thanksgiving Thankfulness

I didn’t gain any weight during the Thanksgiving Holiday!

In fact, I came out of the holiday weighing exactly what I did going into it, and this morning I weighed less.

Woohoo! This is great news for a recovering COE!

How did I do it? 

I measured everything I ate.

I made sure I invested myself in other people.

I kept up with my 30 in 30 exercise regimen.

I burned added calories by playing with babes on the living room floor at my brother’s house.

I tried a new technique when making pie, but I also made a choice to forego one particular favorite food of mine–a fav filled with sugar.  I can honestly say that I didn’t miss it, although I thought I would, and my blood sugar wasn’t sent into the stratosphere by partaking of it.  Plus, there were no leftovers of forbidden fruits.

I thought I would share with you a few pics from my Thanksgiving Day celebration.

A picture of the pie–it really did turn out great!

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Don’t you love those fox salt and pepper shakers? So cute

 

 

 

My younger son likes apple crumb topping on his pie, while my hubs likes as much flaky crust as he can get with his.  I decided to shoot for both, and used a dish towel set on a slice of tin foil, covered with two pot holders to weigh the pie down on the top as it cooled.  For those of you who like to cut corners by folding your dough in, rustic-style, this method prevented the top crust from cooling high above the filling, a no-no in my play book.  The pie turned out nicely, and I was very excited about that–probably more than pie crust warrants, truth be told. 😉

I also wanted to share with you a picture of me and my love. I call this Winter Blush. DSC_1850

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving where you are, that you didn’t gain ten pounds after the dinner meal, that you had a lil bit of snow to play in after eating, and if you don’t celebrate the holiday, that you were able to celebrate a personally happy and healthy Thursday!  Mine was blessed beyond belief.

Thank you, Lord.  Change is possible!