Category Archives: Living Healthy

Weekend Hiking – Independence Monument and Dominguez Canyon

How did your weekend go? We had beautiful, warm weather. On Saturday, we hiked to Independence Monument. It’s a beautiful trek through the Colorado National Monument and uphill most of the 2.5 miles to the rock. It was about sixty degrees in the morning and overcast most of the way there–the perfect weather for hiking in our high mountain desert.

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When we reached the monument, we scrambled up a large, flat boulder and ate lunch. We’ve tried several different lunches that are easy to pack and don’t require refrigeration, and our favorite is whole grain crackers, natural canned chicken, oranges or apples, and sparkling juice for something bubbly.

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The walk downhill was much easier, and the views are amazing. I should have taken some pictures, but my phone was in my pack and kind of a pain to take out. The entire hike is five miles, and we were all pretty tired by the time we arrived back at the trailhead. I’m so impressed with how well the kids are hiking this year. We’ve only been out a couple times, and they’re already able to go so much farther.

Because Independence Monument is part of a national monument, you can’t take dogs hiking in the area. Buttercup and Gunther were not happy when we loaded up the packs but left them behind, so after church on Sunday, we decided to take another hike. This time, we drove to Dominguez Canyon. We hiked a little of it last year (you can check out that post here), but we covered a lot more yesterday.

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We did almost six miles this time, bringing our weekend total to eleven.  The kids are at such a fun age. I love that we can get out and do so much.

Here’s a picture from our first hike of the season to Mica Mine the weekend before last.  It’s the first time the kids were able to make it all the way to the mine.

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That’s all for now. Tomorrow I’ll go back to posting my food journal (I’m not going to keep track on the weekends).

Have a great day!

 

Weight Loss Challenge – One Week Mark

Happy Friday, everyone! It’s supposed to be really nice here this weekend, and I’m definitely looking forward to it. Jake should be off work early. If he gets home in time, I’m hoping to do a family bike ride on the local riverfront trail system. We have a bunch of birds returning and migrating through, and it’s a great place to watch for them.

Today’s the fifth official day in our family’s weight loss challenge, but it’s been a week since I started watching what I’ve been eating. I’ve lost four pounds, and my jeans are fitting looser!

Here are the biggest changes I’ve made:

  • I’ve been making sure to drink at least 8 cups of water. I’ve been refilling my 16 oz waterbottle 5 – 6 times a day.
  • I’ve cut back on coffee –  I like creamy, sugary coffee, and I was drinking a lot. About 4 – 5 large mugs a day. I’m still drinking 1 – 2, but I’ve cut out the flavored creamers, and I’m limiting my sugar to 2 teaspoons of unrefined sugar a day.
  • I’ve swapped white flour for whole wheat.
  • I’ve been eating a lot more salads. I love veggies, so this isn’t a hardship. It does get a little boring to eat the same thing every day, though, so I’m going to have to learn how to mix up the greens and add-ins.
  • Exercising – This comes naturally for us as the weather gets warmer. As a family, we love to hike and ride bikes. The kids are getting old enough we can actually go on some longer trails. We hiked Mica Mine last weekend, and that’s over five miles there and back. They didn’t complain once! I’ve also been using my mini stepper in the evenings. If you have no room for an elliptical or treadmill, I highly recommend getting one of these little guys. I love mine. I’d also like to note that excercising alone wasn’t enough to help me lose weight. We’ve always been an active family, but if I’m not eating well, the weight won’t budge no matter how much we do.

All right, here’s my food journal for yesterday:

  • Breakfast: 1/2 whole wheat bagel with 1 tbsp natural peanut butter and coffee with steamed milk and 2 tsp unrefined sugar.
  • Lunch: 1/3 large chicken breast, 2 cups steamed veggies, leftover breadstick from last night’s dinner.
  • Snack: 1/2 whole wheat bagel (the other half from breakfast), 1/3 chicken breast, coffee with splash of half and half, apple.
  • Dinner: Subway Club sandwich on wheat – no cheese. I went through the drive thru, and, unfortunately, they got my order wrong. It was missing all the veggies. The only thing on it was spinach. We were already home before I found out what happened, so I was pretty bummed. I also had 1/3 indivudual size bag salt and vinegar kettle chips.
  • Snack before bed: I was ravenous after exercising, so I had another 1/2 whole wheat bagel with 1 tbsp peanut butter.
  • Splurge: 1 cup of chocolate ice cream.

Day 1 – Family Health Challenge

My mother-in-law called last week to see if I wanted to do a weight loss challenge with her and Jake’s sisters, and I jumped at the chance. Just recently, I’d been telling her how upset I was that I’d allowed myself to gain as much weight as I have in the last few years.  In fact, every time Jake says we should start jogging, I picture me looking like this:

giphyNot pretty. I feel your pain, pup.

Anyway, her plan is simple. We all do our own thing, but we motivate each other, and we reward each other when we hit a goal. For example, my teenage niece offered free babysitting. How cool is that?  And we’ll all do things like that. How motivating, right? I can’t wait for my sweet family members to hit their goals so we can shower them with awesomeness.

My plan is to eat clean. Yeah, yeah…I know, I know. I’m gonna stick with it this time! I did it before–I know I can do it again.

So, I’m going to be keeping a food journal here. I figure if I have to fess up to you all what I’ve been eating, I might do a slightly better job. 😉 I’ll be posting the menu from the day before (or possibly post it weekly, depending on what seems to work better.)

Let’s get started.

Day One

  • Breakfast: 1 cup of strawberries and scrambled eggs – I was starving twenty minutes later, and I decided I need a grainy complex carb with breakfast. It’s what I always used to do, so it makes sense that I still need to.
  • Snack: 16 oz coffee with splash of milk and tiny bit of real cream. Sweetened with stevia and 1 tsp unrefined sugar – I’m not giving up my morning coffee, but I will stay away from the fake flavored creamers. Also, I had a bite size sausage biscuit made with clean sausage and homemade, whole grain biscuit.
  • Lunch: 1/2 leftover roasted chicken breast, handful roasted cubed potatoes, and steamed broccoli and cauliflower blend.
  • Snack: Handful of trail mix and sparkling water with lime and pineapple
  • Dinner: Taco salad made with ground turkey, kidney beans, lettuce, tomatoes, homemade taco seasoning blend, and a handful of tortilla chips (fried but no chemicals added). I omitted the cheese and sour cream. I also swapped salsa for the dressing. It was really good, but next time I’ll remember black olives and avocado.
  • Dessert/Snack: 1 homemade strawberry oat muffin – I made a batch for Tuesday’s breakfast, and they hit the spot for dessert as well.

Also, I’ve returned to making homemade bread with whole wheat flour (I’ve been using the Kroger brand white whole wheat, and it’s really good). If I want to stick with it, I know I have to start cooking from scratch again. That’s the hard part. Still, it’s doable.

Okay, so that’s all for today. I’ll be back tomorrow!

 

Cold-Weather Vegetable Soup with Minestrone Variation

I don’t post many of my own recipes, and that’s because I don’t usually measure. You know what I mean–I add a little of this and a little of that, and it’s hard to figure out just what it I’ve done exactly.

The great thing about soups is that you don’t have to be exact! Add what you have and substitute what you don’t.

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Hearty Vegetable Soup

1/2 head of cabbage

6 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 head of celery, including leaves, chopped

I bag of frozen green beans (feel free to use fresh if you have them)

2 cans fire roasted tomatoes

2 32 oz containers chicken or vegetable broth

1 can kidney beans

1 1/2 tablespoons dried basil

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Add everything to a large pot, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low. Simmer for several hours. This recipe makes lots of soup, and it tastes even better the second day!

This recipe is also perfect for making in the slow cooker.

Minestrone Soup Variation (my grandmother’s recipe)

Swap the chicken broth for beef and add a cup of small noodles at the end of the cook time. My grandmother’s minestrone soup was the best ever, and I love to make it and remember her. If you’re a vegetarian, feel free to use vegetable broth instead of beef.

Day 8 of Eating Clean

I’ve officially been eating clean for one week now (let’s just forget about those two little fun size candies I had on the day my desktop computer almost died). I feel awesome, and my headache is finally gone.

It’s definitely harder starting to eat clean again the second time around. For so long we were eating kinda-clean, and doing that really cements some bad habits. We started splurging on soda, white-sugar, white flour, and fast food. We still ate a ton of fruits and veggies, so I figured we were fine. Nope. We were all feeling horrible and the kids were hyper and crabby.

We’re back on track now, and these are a few things we’re really loving on top of all the fruits and veggies we’re eating:

Sweet Potatoes – After about day 4 they started tasting sweet even without the sugar.

Celestial Seasonings Teas – Our new favorite is Caramel Apple Dream. It’s so good.

Greek Yogurt with Berries and Homemade Granola – Thanks to Now Foods Dairy Digest Complete I can eat yogurt again. So exciting!

Local Honey – We use this in moderation, but it is nice to have as a sweet treat in tea. Hopefully soon I will be able to buy honey from my niece! Her mama is quite the homesteader. You can check out her new blog here.

Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Pastry Flour – I found a whole wheat pastry flour that isn’t awful! I tried it in biscuits (the ultimate test of whole wheat pastry flour), and they turned out fabulous! They were tender, soft, and decadent.

Coconut Oil – Nothing new here, but, you know–it’s just as awesome to cook with as it is to make soap. And it’s pretty awesome in soap. Use it in place of shortening in any baking recipe.

My Desktop Computer’s Near Death Experience

You know what’s fun? Losing the first 17,000 words of a novel you’re working on and almost all  your children’s baby pictures. My old desktop computer died today.

So I did what any rational eating-clean person would do. I broke down and ate a fun size Kit-Kat bar and a baby Tootsie Roll. It’s called willpower. I am the queen.

I did not have a diet soda, though. If you read this post, you’ll see what an accomplishment that is.

The good news is there are tons of people out there who are way more computer savvy than I am. After a few searches, I found out the horrible alarm going off when I tried to start my computer wasn’t just its death call–it was trying to communicate with me! That was lame. Sorry.

Anyway, the five alarms on startup and the black screen meant the cmos battery needed reset or replaced. It took lots of searches to figure out what in the world a cmos battery is, but we got it! It’s like a watch battery in your computer, and apparently it’s more important than it looks. We opened the computer up (terrifying), popped out the battery, waited about fifteen minutes, and then we put it all back together and plugged it in.

It worked! Oh, it worked! I can’t even tell you the joy.

So now I’ve done my version of open heart surgery on a computer.  I feel pretty good about that, even if all you high tech people out there are laughing at me right now.

Oh, and yes, I know I should have my pictures backed up. I have been talking about getting it done for years (once again, please refer to the title of my blog).

10 Interesting Facts About Eating Clean

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Interesting Fact #1 – When I stop eating clean, I get fat.

Oh, not funny. But true. So true.

(Keep reading for the real facts. I didn’t taunt in you the title.)

My computer charger died yesterday, so I had to start NaNoWriMo on my ancient desktop computer. Yesterday the kids and I stumbled onto some old pictures. Lots were from when they were babies, some were before they were born, and the last few folders where from almost exactly to years ago.

What I found terrified me.

I was healthy. Really healthy. Like, what-in-the-world-happened-to-me healthy.

I showed Jake the pictures. He was a little too shocked. Mmmhmmm.

Needless to say this is my second day eating clean. I have a horrendous, mind-numbing headache, and I want to crawl back into bed. This tells me I’ve been really, really eating badly. I didn’t even have this kind of caffeine and junk food withdrawal when we first started our eating clean journey.

Feel the pain. It’s a good pain.

So here’s my list (the real one):

10 Interesting Facts About Eating Clean

1. The first few days you may feel like you were hit by a bus. Fun, right? This is your body getting rid of all the junk in your system. You’ll feel better in a few-ish days.

2. If you drink, drink, drink your water like a good girl (or boy), your skin and eyes will start to look brighter in only a few days.

3. Complex carbs and lean protein are partners. Don’t make the mistake I often make by grabbing one without the other. Don’t eat your morning oatmeal without some kind of protein. Don’t.

4. You have to eat fruit and veggies. I love vegetables, but when I want a snack, I almost always grab a piece of fruit. You must eat the veggies, too–and lots them should be green leafy things. Yes, they are a pain to prepare. Yes, an apple is infinitely easier, but you need to eat them both.

5. You mustn’t wait until you are starving to eat. If you do, you will likely consume something you really don’t want to eat. Like an entire sheet cake. Or something like that. Eat every 2 1/2 – 3 hours.

6. White flour will destroy you. I struggle with this. When I bake, I want my cookies/cakes/pies to be decadent. There are certain recipes that aren’t awesome with whole wheat flour–even the pastry kind. Don’t be me; don’t give in and use the all purpose. Grind oatmeal in a blender or food processor to make wonderful oat flour. It tastes great in many cookie and cake recipes–I like it much better than whole wheat flour in sweets. Also, make fruit crisps. They are much healthier than pies, and you can use coconut oil in the topping. (By the way, these are occasional treats–don’t make sweets very often).

7.  Prepping ingredients makes your life so much easier. Clean your kitchen before  you shop for groceries so it’s sparkling when you return. Cut up all the fruit and veggies before you put them away. If you are going to make hummus, make it now and put it in the fridge. By the way–do you have a good recipe for hummus? If you do, please, please let me know. I can’t find one that tastes as good as the stuff in our deli department.

8. White sugar, sadly, is not your friend. It’s like the snarky girl in high school that you really wanted to be friends with. She was nice to your face and then she gossiped behind your back. White sugar is sweet at first, and then it does horrible things in your body. It’s best to avoid it. There are unprocessed alternatives. Honey, molasses, raw sugar, and agave* are good substitutes as long as they are used in moderation. I can’t use any form of sugar in my coffee. I go a little crazy with it.

9. Diet soda isn’t clean. I should be in DSA – Diet Soda Anonymous. Hello, my name is Sharrie, and I am addicted to diet soda. I wish this were a joke. This is my stumbling block. I can give up everything, but diet soda is the siren on the rock calling to me. If you need something bubbly–oh, and I do–try sparkling water with a tiny bit of fruit juice. Cranberry is lovely. While a whole glass of fruit juice is frowned upon, a little isn’t too bad as long as it’s 100% juice. By the way, my kids love this. Weston would rather have grape juice with sparkling water than any soda.

10. The cravings will stop. I promise. It takes some longer than others–I was still struggling after three months, but by six I was fine. But–BUT–if you give in, and you start to take a forbidden nibble here and there, the cravings will come back. And that, friends, is how Jake and I toppled off the wagon. Don’t be us. Starting over after several years of kinda-clean really, really stinks.

*There are some debates about whether agave syrup is actually clean. If you’re interested, I’m sure you can find info on Google. I don’t use it, so–you know–I don’t really care.

Camping Recipes – Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix Using Real Ingredients

***Update–I’ve changed the recipe. I’ll keep the old one on here underneath my changes.***

Hot chocolate is a fairly simple drink–milk, sugar, cocoa powder, a little salt, and maybe a dash of vanilla. My kiddos drink tons of it during the winter, and I don’t mind mixing it up on the stove for them. However, that’s not so easy to do when you’re camping. I’m not packing a whisk with me, if you know what I mean.

We used to buy instant cocoa and take it with us, and then I looked at the ingredients. What in the world is all that junk in there for? This is what was in our cocoa mix in the cabinet: sugar, whey, corn syrup solids, cocoa (processed with alkali), nonfat milk, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, contains 2% or less of: whey protein concentrate, salt, sodium caseinate, dipotassium phosphate, emulsifier (mono-and diglycerides), arficial flavor. 

Um, no. Just no.

So here ya go–my recipe. There are others out there with pudding mix and coffee creamer in them, and I’m sure they’re decadent and delicious, but that kind of defeats my purpose at this time, so mine is a little more straight forward. Not that I have a problem with an occasional pudding mix, but we drink hot chocolate often. In fact, we should probably try to cut back. But not today!

Hot Chocolate Mix:

4 cups dry milk

1 cup sugar (we like turbinado)

1 cup cocoa powder

1/2 tsp of salt

To Make Mix:

Mix everything together and store it in an airtight container.

For Each Serving:

Add 1/4 – 1/3 cup mix to each mug (more or less depending on the size of the mug)

Stir in hot water.

Optional: Add a splash of half and half to each cup. 

I hope you enjoy it! I’ll be adding more camping recipes soon.

***Old recipe I had posted was 3 cups dry milk, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 cup cocoa powder***

Homemade Strawberry Syrup Recipe for Strawberry Milk and More

Have you ever looked at the ingredients on the bottle of strawberry syrup? I did, and then I wished I hadn’t. My son absolutely loves strawberry milk, but after we ran out of the only bottle I’ve ever purchased, I didn’t buy any more. He asked for some yesterday morning. When I told him we were out, he asked me to make some. I have never thought to make strawberry syrup, which is kind of silly because I make elderberry syrup all the time.

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It was very easy to make, and though I didn’t make a large batch this time, I’m assuming it would can well. Here you go: Homemade Strawberry Syrup.

Ingredients:

1 lb of strawberries

1 cup of sugar or honey (I used turbinado sugar)

1 tbsp lemon juice

1. Cut the stems off your strawberries and then cut into quarters. Toss into a small saucepan. Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan.

2. Cook on high heat and then turn to medium once it starts to boil. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.

3. Mash the berries.

4. Strain the juice and berries through a mesh strainer. Make sure to ‘squish’ out all the juice before you discard the pulp.

5. Transfer the juice (it will be about 1 cup) back to the saucepan and add sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil 1 minute and then remove from heat. (If you choose to use honey instead of sugar, simply stir it into the juice–no need to boil it in.)

6. Let cool slightly and then add the lemon juice.

7. Transfer to your jar or container.

Fun ways to use strawberry syrup:

1. In milk

2. In herbal teas (any of the Celestial Seasonings berry teas would be fabulous)

3. Add a few tablespoons to a glass filled with ice, and then fill with sparkling water for a yummy strawberry soda.

4. Over pancakes and waffles

5. In oatmeal

6. Over ice cream

7. Mix with your favorite vinegar to make a strawberry vinaigrette dressing

8. Drizzle over quick breads

9. Drizzle over fruit pies or crisps

10. Whip with cream cheese to make a strawberry dip for graham crackers

Note: Since this strawberry syrup doesn’t contain food coloring, your strawberry milk will not be pink. This is not a problem for us, especially since I was trying to stay away from the dyes. If you have a picky eater that demands pink strawberry milk–I totally understand that–feel free to add a few drops of food coloring.

Now that we’ve made strawberry, just think of the possibilities! Raspberry! Blueberry! Blackberry! Oh my.

Pickin’ Pears – When to Pick a Perfect Pear

We moved into our house in May. I was ecstatic when I found out there were fruit trees in the backyard – two apples trees. Those apple trees didn’t produce a thing… no blossoms, no fruit – nothin’. However, I was very pleasantly surprised when I found a teeny,little pear tree growing next to our shed. Like a good fruit tree should, it put on pears.

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Aren’t they cute?!? I took this picture about a month ago. They weren’t ready to pick yet, but they were already getting that pretty red blush.

I scoured the internet for info on identifying these pears – just to make sure there wasn’t some variety of crazy poisonous pears – I don’t know. Maybe. You never know, right? Anyway, I found out these were definitely eating pears, and they are probably Seckels.

Why am I sharing all this with you? Because in my research I found a couple of handy things to know if you have a pear tree growing in your backyard.

1. Pears should be picked before they are ripe. If they ripen on the tree they get gritty, mealy, and…well, gross.

2. Pear are ready to pick when the fruit separates easily from the tree when tilted upright.

3. If you find a bunch of pears have fallen off your tree…you might be a little late. Pick them right away!

4. Ripen in a dark, cool place. Some varieties need to be chilled.

I found two pears on the ground, but I think I’m alright. I picked most of them today, leaving the stubborn ones to mature a bit longer. I had a good saucepot full of these cute, little fruits. It was a good day!

I’m thinking about making pear butter when they ripen, but my son was looking at them like a hungry chipmunk. Not sure if they’ll last long enough to make the butter…