Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Chocolate I Have Known

I love chocolate.
It's something I crave from time to time.
Okay, I give. I crave it daily.
Unfortunately for me, losing weight, keeping fit and eating chocolate daily don't jive (and I'm not a fan of dark chocolate), so I found a couple great snacks that satisfy my chocolate urge and don't pack on the pounds. One of these snacks also covers my ice cream craving, so I nipped two birds in the beak with this one!

Jell-O Mousse Temptations
As I was packing my daughter's lunch one morning, I had an urge to pop open her chocolate pudding and inhale the contents. So, instead of doing the unspeakable, I set out on a search for some chocolate pudding that both tastes good and is low in sugar. I found that Jello-O pudding has many low sugar products, but it was the Temptations line that enticed me with it's mousse-like pudding, 60 calories per cup and zero grams of sugar.

It tastes so light and chocolately I knew from the second I tasted it that this was my go-to chocolate friend. My favorite is Chocolate Indulgence, but there's also Caramel Creme, Dark Chocolate Decadence and a new mint flavor called Chocolate Mint Sensation.

Once I stocked up on Chocolate Indulgence I tried to keep it off my kids' radar because I knew once they tasted it they would love it, want it, and eat my stash.

My chocolate pudding! MINE!!

I was right.
Now my daughter wants me to replace her pudding with my pudding. She is as in love as I am. I also read that you can freeze it, and I just may try that too and see how it tastes.

No Sugar Added Fudgsicles
I learned about these when I first researched the South Beach Diet. They have less calories (40 per bar), and of course sugar (2-1/2 grams), than their regular Fudgsicle counterpart. None of the other ricotta infused, sugar-free recipes that South Beach Diet suggests sounded like anything edible as far as I was concerned. I needed chocolate and I needed ice cream. At the same time. I was a little hesitant of them at first, (how good could no sugar Fudgsicles really taste?) but bought them anyway. SOLD. They are just perfect for my after dinner, chocolate & ice cream mind scream that tempts me to my freezer at night.

I am so jazzed I now have two desserts that satisfy my chocolate needs without making me feel like I have to run for fifty hours after consuming.
And yes they are needs.
No need to water it down or anything.

*I am in no way affiliated with either of these brands and receive no compensation for mentioning them. I'm so thrilled to find them and just want to pass along the find!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

February 2011 Goal Update

I'm a little late on my goal update for the month of February. So, let's get right to it:

1. Lose 52 pounds
At one time, I was down 4 more pounds for a total of 16 pounds lost, but it fluctuates up and down and has never made it all the way back down. Basically, I'm weighing the same as I was in January (give or take 1 to 2 pounds).

I took measurements of my body at the beginning of February, but when I went to take them again they were so off from the original (in both directions) that I know something is wrong. I need to learn how to take proper measurements and start over.

I have slipped somewhat on my healthy eating plan, but I always jump right back on track with my next meal. I'm not hitting an average of 3 times per week exercise, so my consistency needs work. On a postive note, I have been walking a lot more, taking stairs whenever possible and keeping busy on my feet as much as possible versus sitting on my tush all day.

March outlook:  Become consistent with exercise, at least 3 times per week. Walk daily. I will lose 4-8 more pounds. Take measurements again the proper way and re-evaluate after one month.

2. Enter my writing into at least 12 contests (1 per month)
This month, I sent my poetry to 2 seperate contests. The point is not to sit around hoping for a reply or a win, it is to get myself into the habit of writing and releasing. My initial goal here is to boost my writing confidence by continually sending my stuff out into the world.

March outlook: Incorporate daily writing practice, even if only 15 minutes a day. Entry into at least one new market.

3. Become more fluent on the guitar
Boo! I've hardly played this month! I can't figure out why. When I end up sitting down with my guitar, I love it. Not sure why discipline to practice everyday is so hard to come by....

March outlook: DAILY practice!!!

4. Read at least 24 books
I enjoyed Number the Stars by Lois Lowry so much in January that I decided to seek out another by the same author. The Giver by Lois Lowry did not disappoint. Once again, this is another book I'm embarrassed to admit I had never read, but now that I have, I believe it sets the benchmark for all distopian novels. Was it easy to imagine happening in our time? Yes. Was it suspenseful and full of wonder? Yes yes. Was it full of interesting, intellectual characters? Yes yes yes. Loved it.

I also checked out Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. Of course, it was the title that captured my interest. Unfortunately, the title was the only thing. Basically the book told me the reason I am fat is because I eat meat. I kept reading hoping to glean some facts I could use in my day to day life. It told me to eat fake cheese and butter. No thank you. Then it began to detail, blow by disgusting blow, how poorly animals are treated. I almost threw up. I'm sure that was the scare tactic the authors intended to turn readers into full-fledged vegetarians, but it merely managed to intensify my need to research the claims further. I liked the authors' "no-nonsense" approach, yet their way of getting a point across to the reader was borderline insulting. In conclusion, I didn't walk away with anything remotely useful from this book.

I've begun to read The Best Life Diet by Bob Greene but haven't finished yet. This is a book I should probably purchase because it's a reasonable guide to follow for healthy eating. It also introduces an exercise plan that utilizes levels as a way to work towards your ultimate goals. This is a book I want in my home library.

I'm also a quarter the way through The Vampire Armand which is Book #6 in The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice. I will provide a review when I'm done reading.
During February I also read my fair share of e-newletters, magazines, newspapers and blogs.

March outlook: Finish The Vampire Armand by Anne Rice. Finish The Best Life Diet and let it motivate me to exercise! Make another trip to the library and read at least 2 more books.

5. Make $1000 per month for extra income
I didn't earn a cent this month. However, I think I have a better handle on how Ebay works. I also got Paypal up and running and am ready to post my first item in March.

March outlook: List something on Ebay. If it sells, list again. Work on marketing my writing.

6. Get out of credit card debt
With all the work I've been putting into my apartment, and the poor economy effecting my husband's business, my credit card debt situation is still the same.

March Outlook: Organize paperwork and call consumer crediting counsel to get some assistance.

7. Spend under $150 per week on groceries for my family of four.
Much improvement this month. One week I spent more than $150, but the rest of the time I was able to keep it well under that amount. Our average spending for groceries in February totalled $139/week. This  includes toiletries and other non-food items. I've had to learn to go without and make do more than once. We also ate out twice this month for a total of $43. These two times were a treat. Limiting our trips out to eat takes immense discipline but we appreciate, and look forward to, our trips out that much more.

March outlook: Work on menu planning so cooking dinner is not such a chore. Shopping is more pleasant when I know ahead of time what I need, and it helps me better utilize coupons and save more money.

8. Get my foot in the door someway, somehow working in a library and/or bookstore
No luck here. I look daily, but I haven't found any openings.

March outlook: Keep searching!

9. Get all my pictures organized and labeled, both print and digital
I have managed to get some organizing done on my computer. It's a step in the right direction. The first half of February I was still knee deep in apartment renovations, namely reorganizing and cleaning after getting new paint and carpet. My print pictures are all in one place at least. This month I displayed some framed pictures that were in storage. I want to swap out others and get my print pictures better organized.

March outlook: Continue getting pictures on computer labeled and organized. Swap out some framed pictures to start fresh.

10. Post to my blog AT LEAST once per week, preferably more.
This did not happen in Februrary. My last blog post was so disheartening that I wanted to give it the space it deserved.
March outlook: Get posting!

11. Get my husband on an airplane, and finally visit Chicago 

Didn't happen this month. But now I have my daughter working on daddy too. I just know he doesn't want to disappoint us! Even if we don't get him on a plane, I see a road trip by car or train in our future.

March outlook: Gotta make that money...one of our biggest obstacles to travel right now.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Goodbye White Stripes

Today is a sad day for music. 

One of my favorite bands, The White Stripes, have officially announced their break up. 

You will be missed.  Thanks for all the music you've given us over the years. 

Monday, January 31, 2011

January 2011 Goal Update

It's the last day of January and I need to revisit my goals to see how I'm doing:

1. Lose 52 pounds
This month, I'm down 12 pounds! The scale definitely fluctuates; sometimes I'm down only 8 pounds, sometimes 10. But today when I weighed myself, I was down 12. So we'll stick with that.

It seems like a lot, but I made major changes to my eating habits this month. I paid attention to portion size, and the types of foods I allowed myself. I have cut out most sugar, and upped my intake of veggies, proteins and healthy carbs.

No white pasta, rice, breads; it's all whole wheat for this girl.
No ice cream (my biggest weakness), cookies, cake (except for one bite of my birthday girl's cake), or cereal (a tough one for me, especially at night).

Most importantly, I've totally cut out condiments and mock healthy foods that are loaded with sugar such as ketchup, bottled spaghetti sauce, flavored yogurt, instant oatmeals...all kinds of things that seem to be okay to eat, but really aren't if you're trying to lose weight.

I still have about 40 pounds to lose.
February Outlook: I am adding exercise to the equation. I will lose 4-8 more pounds.

2. Enter my writing into at least 12 contests (1 per month)
I sent a couple ideas to two different greeting card markets. I also entered my poetry into a couple different contests. I have been trying to write on a daily basis, using prompts to help me get going when I need a starting point.
February outlook: Daily writing practice! Entry into at least one new market.

3. Become more fluent on the guitar
I have been working on scales and revisiting some old stuff to wash the rust off my chops.
February outlook: DAILY practice!!!

4. Read at least 24 books
This month I only read 1 book, unless Newberry honors count as 2? Maybe? Yeah? No? Okay.

The book was Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. I'm almost embarrassed to admit I had never read this one...it's been on my to-read list for a long time!

It's a children's historical/speculative fiction book about a 10 year-old Danish girl who lives during WW2 when Nazis begin to eradicate Jewish families living in the area. Annemarie Johansen and her family aren't Jewish, but her best friend's family are, so Annemarie summons up the courage she needs during a scary time to help save her best friend's life.

I can see why this book won a Newberry Medal. It's a page turner with all the suspense you would expect from a story written during one of the most insane times in history. I read it straight through from beginning to end, so I'm ashamed to say I read no other books the remaining 30 days of the month.

Most of my reading this month has been magazines, e-newsletters, and blogs. Oh, how I love reading a good blog!
February outlook: Read AT LEAST 3 books to make up for my lack of book reading in January! I have no idea which ones yet!

5. Make $1000 per month for extra income
I didn't earn a cent this month.
February Outlook: I have a bunch of stuff set up to sell on EBay and I am also going to work on marketing my writing.

6. Get out of credit card debt
This one is tough. Nothing happened this month. Unfortunately, I need to get our credit card situation organized so we can tackle it somehow.
February Outlook: Call consumer crediting counsel to get some assistance.

7. Spend under $150 per week on groceries for my family of four.
I spent an average of $184/week on groceries!

At first, I was appalled at this figure because I know that I shopped smart, utilized coupons and really watched what I put in my cart. But then I realized, the figure is inflated because I have seriously altered the types of foods I buy. Organic and natural foods cost more. Also, we've really cut back on eating out which used to help stretch our groceries at home. We're eating out of the home every meal, every day.
February outlook: Get a handle on buying organic and plan out menus so I buy just what I need and nothing more.

8. Get my foot in the door someway, somehow working in a library and/or bookstore.
No luck here. I applied for both type jobs in December and heard nothing in January. {sigh}
February outlook: Keep searching!

9. Get all my pictures organized and labeled, both print and digital.
This project got sidelined this month because we (we, meaning my husband) decided to rearrange our whole apartment and do an intense, deep cleaning which also includes repainting, rearranging and redoing just about everything. I've been busy trying to hold onto as much of my junk stuff as I can at the same time my lovely husband is carrying it out to the trash. Not to mention, I now notice a dozen new projects I need to get started on.
February outlook: Project Pictures begins (I hope).

10. Post to my blog AT LEAST once per week, preferably more.
YAY! Exactly one blog per week this month! With my house in chaos, and tons of hockey to watch, I'm impressed I've blogged this much.
February outlook: I have so many ideas and I just keep stashing them in my idea folder! With that said, I hope to blog more next month.

11. Get my husband on an airplane, and finally visit Chicago.
Despite the fact that he still won't agree to a plane trip, I did get him to mention that, if we win the lottery, he will set foot on a plane to take me to Detroit where we can watch the Red Wings on home turf.

While we didn't win the lottery, are still in massive credit card debt and have no extra money for traveling, I hold a little more hope that I will eventually get him on a plane.

And we will definitely make a detour to Chicago. He'll want to get up close and personal with the Blackhawk boys. I'm sure of it!
February outlook: Work on winning the lottery!
Mention in everyday conversation about safe plane take offs and landings, instead of the usual media mention of plane crashes and disasters.
Butter him up with pictures of the Windy City, blog posts from Meesa chronicling her and Justin's escapades around "sweet home Chicago", and their close proximity to The Blackhawks and the ice they skate on.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

How to Keep Fresh Berries Fresh

About a week ago, I bought some blueberries that were on sale at Sprouts for $1 per 6 oz. container. (* A 6 oz container will provide a little over a cup of berries.)

I have no idea what I am going to use them for, or WHEN more importantly, and since blueberries (and other berries) don't last long in the fridge I freeze them for later use.

Here's how:
  • Rinse berries thoroughly
  • Line little critters up on a baking sheet or small dish (depending on what you have).
  • Stick in freezer for about 1 - 1-1/2 hours
  • After berries are frozen, take them off plate or pan and put them into a freezer ziploc.
  • Label bag and stash in freezer for future recipes. I like to use them in smoothies, pancakes, muffins and pies.
Rollaway Blueberries
Unfortunately, my little 6 oz. container is missing a few blueberries. The grocery bagger placed my delicate blueberries with my eggs and I put the bag in the front compartment of the grocery cart. As I exited the store and went down the ramp to the parking lot, my blueberries decided they didn't want to come home with me and slid out of the bag and through the leg opening of the cart.

Blueberries everywhere!

I probably should've went inside to get some more, because I'm sure they would've given them to me with no problem, but I didn't want to take the time and effort, and luckily, they didn't all escape the container.
Instead, I held traffic to pick up my little container and save what was left of my precious blueberries! I'm sure the driver had a few nice words for me...
I think I'm going to try these blueberries, along with some of my frozen raspberries and/or blackberries, in a muffin of some sort. Once I try the recipe I will let you know how it turns out!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Number Eleven and 11 Goals in 2011

In celebration of 1-11-11 I bought 11 lottery tickets. At 11:11. I hope my choice of date, time, and number of lottery tickets purchased means I am in alignment with whatever forces will cause me to win the lottery. I'm keeping my 11 fingers crossed....
Anyhow, since it's the beginning of a new year and I haven't formally done so, I wanted to share my goals for the year.
But first, I want to look further at the significance of number 11.
Apparently, my life number is 11. I guess this means I am pretty awesome, because 11 is considered a "Master Number"

I was born June 3, 1973
June = 6
6+3(day) =9
1+9+7+3 = 20, and 2+0 = 2
So, 9+2 =11! Ta DA!!!
Since 11 is a Master Number, it cannot be reduced. You aren't supposed to take 11 and make it 1+1=2. It stays at 11. (So does my guitar amp, but that's another story.) Eleven is also said to symbolize both good and bad traits, both honesty AND sin. Go figure. There is a yin and yang to everything...EVEN numbers!
Seriously though, did you realize...
  • that 11 is a prime number?
  • that the number of players on the field in many sports such as soccer, American football, cricket and field hockey is 11?
  • that the number 11 stays the same when written upside down?
  • that the 11th step of a 12 Step Program is praying for something beyond ourselves to provide us energy, control, comfort?
  • World War 1 ended on November 11th? and the Armistice to officially end the war was signed at 6 am, and went into force 5 hours later?
  • the first landing of the moon was made by Apollo 11?
  • 11 is found all throughout the bible: Joseph had 11 brothers, David had 11 Mighty Men, and there are 11 canticles in the Bible.
  • that there's SO much more about the number 11 you could do a research project on this number alone?
For more indepth observations of number 11, including incredible historical and biblical occurences, click here.  And here's another fascinating article about eleven's significance.
I wish I could say there are 11 mentionings in this blog post of the number, but I'm afraid there's much more.
My 11 Goals for 2011
1. Lose 52 pounds (I'm being cautiously reasonable here, that's 1 pound per week and completely doable!) ~ I might lose more, I might gain some weeks. I'm ready for the flexibility of the scale. Ultimately, I just want to be able to clothes shop without crumpling up into fetal position bawling in the dressing room.
2. Enter my writing into at least 12 contests (1 per month).
3. Become more fluent on the guitar
4. Read at least 24 books ~ Last year, I only read about a book a month. I want to increase that this year. Hopefully by a lot!
5. Make $1000 per month for extra income
6. Get out of credit card debt
7. Spend under $150 per week on groceries for my family of four. This should be relatively easy considering $150 per week is a lot of money, although we struggle with that now.
8. Get my foot in the door someway, somehow working in a library and/or bookstore. It would be heaven to have a job where I am surrounded by books.
9. Get all my pictures organized and labeled, both print and digital.
10. Post to my blog AT LEAST once per week, preferably more.
11. Get my husband on an airplane, and finally visit Chicago.
I hold the least hope for #11.
What are your goals for the year?

Monday, January 10, 2011

All Purpose Cleaner Put to the Test

Today I discovered a recipe for an all-purpose cleaner I've had tucked away on my computer for who knows how long.
It's recommended for general cleaning in the kitchen and bathroom: for countertops, toilets, mirrors, etc.
Because I'd rather save money by making my own cleaners, I decided to give it a try and put it to the test.
Here's the recipe:
All-Purpose Cleaner
2 cups water
1/4 cup vinegar (distilled white)
1/2 teaspoon dishwashing liquid (like Dawn)
Mix well and pour into a spray bottle (like an old Windex bottle).
I made one batch and used it in the kitchen on the stove, over the stovetop, on the kitchen cabinets, appliances and counters.  I also tackled the top of my fridge which, for some reason, is a favorite hangout for dust bunnies.
In the bathroom, I used it on the mirrors, counters, toilet, cupboards and baseboards.
First thing I noticed? No chemical smell. In fact, it really doesn't have a scent at all.  Maybe just a hint of a mild, clean scent. A good thing if you're trying to, well ....clean!

Trish's Take:
  • This stuff works great.
  • It gives a great shine to all surfaces.
  • It cleaned up all the baseboards in my bathroom, so I know it would be effective on floors too.
  • The most surprising thing was how well it worked on my bathroom mirrors. It left no streaks or smudges.
  • It didn't work well as a degreaser for over my stovetop. I also don't think it's the best cleaner for tubs and showers because it's not strong enough to handle resistant soapscum or hard water stains.
I'm glad I decided to go through my old computer files to come across this easy-to-make cleaner.  I will definitely be keeping it on hand for general cleaning needs.  Can't wait to find what else is hiding in the dark corners of my hard drive.