Getting To Know You

I went to a funeral today.  Not the way I typically spend the Saturday before Easter.   I didn’t know the person who had passed very well.  I was mainly there to support the family.  You do that a lot when you’re a minister’s wife.  You attend funerals for former members…maybe the quit attending before you even moved there, but you go…to show support.  When that happens, I like to think of the verse in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

When I go to a funeral of someone I didn’t know, or someone I was just acquaintances with, I always leave with this thought “Wow!  They sounded like a wonderful person.  I wish I had gotten to know him/her better.”

You see, at funerals, you always hear the wonderful attributes of a person.  You never hear (at least I haven’t) people get up to share a memory when the deceased was perfectly awful…”I remember how they used to cut people off in traffic” or “Remember that time they cheated on their tax return??”  No, we remember the good things.

So, for the past week, I’ve been thinking a lot.  I’ve been thinking of how I missed an opportunity to know a really nice person.  I think back to other funerals I’ve been too and think about those missed opportunities.  Then, I think…I need to do something about this.

I need to become more invested in people’s lives.  I need to take the time to sit down and really listen to them.  Find out what’s going on in their lives.  The good.  The bad.  And yes, even the ugly.

But that takes time.  And emotional investments.  If I ask someone how they’re doing, I better be ready to hear them.  I need to listen for something more than “I’m fine” or “Doing well”.  

I also thought about what it would have been like to be a Jesus’ funeral, if there had been one.  Of course, we have the Bible, so we already know the great things that he’s done.  But, if I had been there and heard about the miracles, the healings, the words he spoke, what would I have  thought?  “Oh yes, I remember that”, or “Wow!  He sounded like a wonderful person.  I wish I had gotten to know him better.”

Luckily, even if we would have uttered that last statement, it’s not too late.  We can still get to know him.  Through study, through prayer, through sitting around and looking at creation.  He is there.  And, as we celebrate Easter tomorrow, we have the reassurance that he will be coming back someday.  

Take some time to get to know Jesus today.  

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No Pain, No Gain

As a Weight Watchers leader, I am a member.  Every employee of Weight Watchers is a member first, even all the way up to our CEO.  Each employee must stay within their weight goal.  We weigh in once a month.  Even as employees, we struggle with weight loss and maintenance.  Talk to anyone Lifetime Member (a person who has reached their goal weight and is now maintaining), maintaining weight loss is sometimes harder than losing.

Why is that??  Why would maintaining be harder than losing?  Doesn’t really make sense.  However, I have personally experienced this in the past few months.  You get a little lax in what you’re eating…you don’t exercise quit exercising and all of a sudden, you notice the scale creeping up little by little.

So, it hit me.  Even though we still have snow on the ground, summer will be here soon.  You know what that means.  Trips to the beach…and every woman’s nemesis…swim suits!!  I saw that season looming….and I was no where near ready for it.

So, what’s a girl to do??  Well, I started tracking again.  I started exercising.  Basically, I started following the Weight Watchers program again.

If you haven’t considered Weight Watchers, or are curious about it, seriously…check it out.  I’ve only done Weight Watchers, but it is the only weight loss program that I see makes sense.  It’s not a “diet”…it’s truly a lifestyle.  To find out more, check it out here.

The thing I think that has made the biggest difference for me (besides eating more fruit & veggies…) is the exercise.  I have been wearing a device that Weight Watchers offers called the ActiveLink. Basically, it monitors your movements in a very precise manner, comes up with challenges and keeps track of your results.  It’s wonderful!

So, I’ve been doing at least 45 minutes on the elliptical everyday (except for a few days over the weekend).  I discovered a show on Netflix, maybe you’ve heard of it…”Drop Dead Diva”.  While the premise sounds, well, ridiculous, I really like the show.  So, to motivate me to exercise, I have restricted the show to “elliptical only”.  I can only watch while on the elliptical.  Brilliant, right?  So, thank you Netflix & my Kindle Fire…I now have reason to exercise 🙂  

I’ve also come across this app.  “Sit-Ups to Six Pack” walks you through a 9 week challenge where it will help you develop a six pack.  I came across this app one day & it was (wait for it)  FREE!  Of course, I downloaded it.  I looked it over and thought it seemed doable for me.  So, in addition to the elliptical, I’ve integrated the app into my exercise regimen.

Now, I’m only on day 1 of week #2, so no six pack yet.  I didn’t take my measurements last week (oops….always take your measurements before you start a new exercise routine), so I’m not sure how many inches I have lost.  However, I weighed in this morning, and I’m down 3.6 pounds!!  While not everyone will lose at this rate (disclaimer), I was pretty psyched!  I feel energized & for the first time in a long time, I’m enjoying exercising & tracking!!!

I’m looking forward to the day where there won’t be snow on the ground, and the bitter chill has left the air.  I have visions of playing with the kids at the park, taking nice walks, working out in the garden, eating fresh fruits and veggies.  Until then, I’ll dream of sunny skies and keep up the elliptical and work on my six pack 🙂

Say “Cheese….Cake!”

As I sit here, with the computer on my lap, I’m looking out my back door and I see this:

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Yes, that’s right…tomorrow is my son’s first day of Spring Break, but it seems mother nature had other ideas.  I’m ok with this…at least we don’t have to use anymore snow days!!

A few weeks ago, some friends of ours invited us over for dinner.  When I asked what I could bring, the hostess said “dessert”.  Yay!!!  One of my favorite things to make 🙂

Well, I decided to get a little ambitious.  I found this recipe on Pinterest for Salted Caramel Cheesecake.  I had pinned it a long time ago, but hadn’t worked up the nerve to make it.  I have never made a cheesecake from scratch before.  I’m an icebox pie type girl.

However, my love for salted caramel whatever trumped inexperience.  So, against every Weight Watchers bone in my body, I bought 3 8 oz packages of REAL cream cheese, REAL butter, REAL sugar, REAL…well, you get the idea.

This is a multi-step process, so allow yourself at least 2 days to work on it.  In the recipe, it says it’s best to let the cheesecake setup overnight.  One note also about the salt in the recipe…a lot of people commented that it was too salty.  However, please note that the first word in the name is SALTED.  It’s supposed to be salty.  Also, use kosher salt & I think you’ll be fine.

This morning, I woke up early to make the caramel sauce.  The first step is to combine the water and sugar over medium heat until it turns a dark honey brown, claiming to take only 3-5 minutes.  Simple enough, right? Hard to mess up sugar and water.  Well, I watched the clock.  3 minutes went by.  Then 5…then 7…at minute 10, I started to get worried.  Then, I reasoned to myself, “maybe it’s a misprint.  Maybe she meant to put 13-15 minutes.”  At minute 11, I thought “Well, if this doesn’t work out, I can always go buy caramel sauce…hey, why didn’t I do that in the first place??”  About that time, it started turning that honey color and all was well in the world.

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So, at the end of the day, it was a big hit!! Our friends loved it & my hubby took back what he said about how I “shouldn’t try new recipes on our friends”.

If you are a fan of cheesecake, or caramel, or salt…or all three…this recipe is for you!!  I definitely will be making this again!!

Happy Sunday!!

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

Well, it’s that time of year.  Baseball season is upon us.  Brayden just finished his first week of practices.  We missed last week’s practices because of the snow.  Yep, that’s right.  One week snow…the next week baseball practice.  Gotta love spring in Virginia!

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This is what we were dealing with Wednesday at practice.  Sophie and I sat in the car and she watched “Wreck It Ralph” while her bubba practiced & daddy coached.  Luckily, we had to leave early 🙂

Although baseball season will turn our schedule upside down, I love going to Brayden’s practices and games (especially when it gets warmer!).   Their team may not set any records, but it’s a lot of fun to watch the boys get better and better as we go further into the season. 

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Baseball is one of those sports that is truly a “team sport”.  You can have a few good hitters on the team, but that can only take you so far.  It takes communication and coordination for the team to play defense.  Good fielding can make all the difference in a game.

Such is life.  As Christians, we can individually try to be the best Christian we can be.  However, if we work together, we can accomplish so much more.  In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about unity and spiritual gifts.  He paints a picture of the church being like a body.  It wouldn’t make much sense for a hand to wish it was a foot, or an eye.  Each part plays an important role and without it, the body wouldn’t be as effective or efficient.  You could use the same illustration for baseball.  Everyone might want to be the pitcher, or short stop, but what happens if there’s no one out in left field???  

Verse twenty-six says, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

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Brayden’s team won the championship last year.  He didn’t make any home-runs.  However, he showed up to practices, worked hard and did his best in the games.  He contributed to the team.  He did his part.  At the end of the season…he got to rejoice with the team 🙂

When you are serving the Lord, you might not feel that what you do is important…that it’s making a difference.  But it does.  It may not seem like it at the time, and you may not see the benefits until years later, but as long as you are doing your best and serving the Lord, YOU are an important part of the body!  

Have A Fiesta For Lunch!

Well, you’re in luck…it’s another new recipe day 🙂  What can I say??  Being snowed in brings out the chef in me!

I found this new recipe on Pinterest as well.  Here’s the link to it.  If you click here, you’ll get directed to the actual blog where the recipe originated from…however, if you try to go there today (Sunday), you’ll see what I saw this morning.  The site is under construction until tomorrow!!

I know, trying a brand new recipe on a Sunday morning… Daylight Savings Time Sunday no less…wasn’t the brightest idea.  When I saw the site was under construction and there wasn’t a way to get to the recipe, I…well…freaked out, stressed out, panicked!  After my little panic session, I realized I had a whole recipe box at my finger tips…thank you Google!

So, I googled “crock pot chicken fajita recipes” and came up with this little jewel.  When I bought groceries this week, I had looked at the ingredients list on the original recipe, so when I saw this, I knew it was pretty much the same recipe, with a few minor details.  

One difference between the 2 was the original recipe I was going to use had a little bit of chicken broth in it…to keep the chicken moist.  I didn’t remember how much, so I added about 1/2 cup.  Next time, I might use about 1/3-1/4 cup, because it seemed a little soupy. The rest of the recipe was pretty much the same (from what I can remember).  I used 2 full chicken breasts (I cut them lengthwise because they were so thick).  The veggies were cut kind of thicker, since they would be in the slow cooker for several hours.  Instead of getting juice from fresh limes, I picked the lazy way out & got the lime juice that comes in the plastic lime…much easier & almost as cheap as the regular limes!

I cooked it on low in my slow cooker (check out “What A Crock…Pot” to read about my  obsession with my new slow cooker) for about 5 hours.  How nice is it to throw everything in one pot, turn it on, go to worship services (which were wonderful, by the way) and come home to a perfectly cooked lunch??

We used soft tortillas to serve the fajitas in.  You can come up with all kinds of toppings to make it more interesting.  We had sour cream, salsa, cheese, lettuce.  I didn’t think about it until later, but jalapeno peppers would have been great as well!  I also added some lemon juice on my fajitas…kind of brightened the flavors up a bit.

My house smelled like a yummy Mexican restaurant.  My son raved about the meal & before I could even ask, my hubby told me that the new recipe was “a keeper”.  He also complemented me, since I tried two brand new recipes out on the fam this week & both were hits (read “Easy Chicken Dinner” for the other new meal).

I still can’t get to my Recipe Builder on my Weight Watchers eTools,  However, the only ingredients with Points Plus Values would be the chicken (plus all your toppings and tortillas).  The actual recipe would be very low PPVs.  It’s also very economical.  It feeds a lot of people (even more if you add more than 2 chicken breasts) and the ingredients are fairly inexpensive.

I hope you enjoy this meal as much as my family did.  I can definitely see myself making this dish again…probably this week 🙂  Have a wonderful Sunday!!

Easy Chicken Dinner

Well, we survived the March 2013 blizzard.  After almost 17 inches of snow, 3 days of no school, & 2 days of 40+ degree weather, I can see grass!!  Driveways are clearing, snow is melting!!  

One thing that comes with being snowed in is cooking/baking and trying new things.  I tried a new recipe tonight, and let me just say…Yum-O!!!

I pinned this on Pinterest a while ago.  When I went to click on the link, it took me to just the picture.  Luckily, the directions were in the comment section!

Here’s what it looks like before you put it in the oven.  Don’t forget to put the aluminum foil on…I remembered about 20 minutes into baking & believe me, it’s not fun to put foil on a hot dish!

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I think it looks pretty 🙂  I’m having visions of making this in the summer, with fresh green beans straight from our garden!!  One note…when (not if, when) I make this again, I will most likely cut the amount of butter in half.  I felt that it was way too buttery/greasy, but that’s probably because I hardly add butter to anything anymore.  I felt a bit like Paula Dean!!

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This is what it looked like after dinner was over.  Needless to say, it was a big hit!!  There was actually a little bit of chicken leftover, but it didn’t make the pic.

I used 2 chicken breasts, cut in half lengthwise.  They were pretty thick, so I thought it would help them cook faster & more evenly.  I used 1 can of green beans and 2 red potatoes, cut up in decent sized cubes.  I did end up baking it a little over an hour.  I wanted to make sure the chicken was cooked thoroughly.  Call me crazy, but I’m a little picky when it comes to chicken 🙂

This meal fed a family of four (with some chicken leftover…also, some of us had seconds). Like I stated earlier, it’s not a matter of if I’ll make this again, but when.  It was a big hit with everyone, even the kiddos.  I felt like the chicken was moist and flavorful.  The green beans were yummy & the potatoes were cooked to the perfect tenderness…not raw, but not mushy (this is something I sometimes have problems with).

I ran the meal through my recipe builder on my Weight Watchers eTools.  I came up with 5 PPV, if you say the meal serves 4 (which it did, and then some).  However, I forgot to put in the butter information and now, I can’t pull the recipe up to edit it (don’t you just love technology??).  I’m guessing the butter may add another point or 2 to the individual number, which would bring it up to a 6 or 7.  It’s still a great bargain for the amount of food you get.  

This is definitely a meal worth making!  I love simple, easy and tasty meals that the whole family enjoys.  It’s a good value, considering that all of the ingredients are reasonable in price.  I love the fact that it’s a one dish meal & I don’t have to stay in the kitchen, babysitting pots and pans!!

Have a wonderful weekend (what’s left of it!).  Don’t forget to “spring forward” and set your clocks ahead one hour.  If you’re reading this and you live in an area that doesn’t follow Daylight Savings Time, consider yourself lucky 🙂  

Punxsutawney Phil…You Were Wrong!

So, on February 2, 2013, up in Punxsutawney, PA, a little ground hog named Punxsutawney Phil stuck his head out of his hole…or maybe he was pulled out…anyway, he came out of his hole and (drumroll please) did not see his shadow!  According to legend or tradition or old wives tales, that means we’re going to have an early spring.

I’m not sure why that’s the case.  The meteorologist, who go to school for years to learn weather patterns can’t even get it right…how can a large rodent up in Pennsylvania do any better??

Well, apparently, he can’t!  Last night (March 5th), it started snowing.  Before that, it had been snowing all over the northwest part of the country.  Flights were cancelled.  Schools closed.  And…it’s March.  And…we’re supposed to have an early spring…  According to the Weather Channel, the winter storm they named “Saturn” (someone please tell me why we’re naming winter storms now), our area got the largest snow accumulation that has come out of the storm so far!

We ended up with almost 17 inches at our house.  A friend of mine said she had 23 inches and more was coming down!  Amazing!!

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This top pic was taken last night, right when it started snowing.  The bottom pic was taken at about 9 this morning, when we had about 14 or so inches.  What a difference!!

A few things come to mind when one has an unexpected snow day.  Staying in pajama’s until lunch time, sleeping in, watching movies, playing in the snow, etc.  This morning, since no one had to rush off to anywhere, I decided to make Chocolate Gravy (it must be said that I rarely make a fancy breakfast…and yes, Chocolate Gravy counts as fancy, at least for me!).  Now, if you’re not from the South, this may sound foreign (and a little gross), but believe me, it’s wonderful!!!!  How to describe??  Basically, it’s a little like chocolate pudding, served hot over freshly baked biscuits.  Yummy.  I have my mother-in-law’s recipe that I use a lot.  I hope it’s ok with her…I’m going to share it with you (sorry Nana!)

Nana’s Chocolate Gravy

3/4 c. sugar   1/3 c. flour    2 TBSP cocoa    1/4 tsp salt    2 c. milk    1 TBSP butter    1 tsp vanilla

Sift flour, sugar, cocoa and salt.  Gradually add milk.  Mix until blended. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and boils.  Cook an additional minute.  Remove from heat.  Add butter and vanilla.  Serve over fresh baked biscuits.

Yum-O!  Seriously!!  And not as bad as you might think.  I ran the recipe through the Weight Watchers Recipe Builder on my eTools & it worked out to be 3 PPV (if you make 8 servings.  I estimated it did and each serving is 1/4 cup…plenty of chocolate gravy!!)  I used light butter and skim milk…still tastes rich and creamy!

Another thing that comes to mind with a snow day is snow ice cream!!!  I’ve made it dozens of times, but can never seem to keep a recipe around.  So, I searched on…where else??  Pinterest!  I found this simple, easy & quick snow ice cream recipe!

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The kiddos loved it!  The look on my son’s face is amazement 🙂  My daughter said it was better than Sweet Frog (and if you know my family, you know we love those new “pay by the ounce” fro-yo places popping up)!  I think it’s the novelty of eating snow…not something you do every day.

Of course, we also played out in the snow.  After about 3 hours of getting snow pants, hats, gloves, coats, etc on, we were finally ready.  Of course, you only play out for about 20 minutes and then it’s time to come back inside for some hot cocoa!  I had to carry Sophie around the yard until we came to a place and cleared out some snow.  It almost buried her!!

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As you can see, we had a blast!  Now, everyone’s inside watching “The Lorax” on Netflix, since our cable decided to quit working.  I should count my blessings…we still have power while some do not (knock on wood).  

I just found out that there’s no school tomorrow!  Ahhhh!!!!!  I’m sure we’ll still have plenty of snow leftover for more ice cream.  What to do next???  I know!!  I’ll peruse Pinterest for some more snow day ideas 🙂

p.s.  If you’ve noticed, recently I’ve been putting a watermark on my personal pics.  I do that via an app I found.  It was free and it’s very easy to use.  Check out the link to the App Store here!!