Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Food Prep

One of the biggest keys to success for our weight loss journey has been preparing our meals ahead of time. This is not only good for helping us stay on track with what we are eating but also for our budget. Over the last year and a half we haven't kept up with it and have slowly...ok maybe not so slowly seen our weight rise and our saving shrink.

We like to cook but time is a huge factor and honestly during the day I don't like it because I end up eating more. So we have a list of foods once a month we prepare and freeze so if we don't feel like cooking or don't have time we can just pop in the oven. Let me tell you I HATE reheated foods but there are certain ones I like and sometimes they are even better than the original because they have been able to marinate more.

With us looking to lose weight though we haven't made those "comfort" foods so we stay out of temptation. Instead we have been cooking up chicken (plain, marinated, raw - to be cooked later) ground turkey, and ground beef. Fresh fruits and vegetables seem to go bad quickly which kills a budget so slice them up save what we think we will eat for the next few days and freeze the rest.

Here comes the next issue...freezer burn. One of those reasons I hate reheated food but after subscribing to a food service a few years ago I learned the art of vacuum sealing and have loved it. Especially since you can seal individual portions or what we do is enough for the 2 of us adults to have lunch.

We go through it faster because everything is organized and I have a log of what is in our freezer...maybe a post for another time if you are interested, and even if we don't it stays good longer. Our bigger dishes; lasagna, pizzas, enchiladas, pot pie etc. have not been vacuum sealed because typically those only last a few weeks in the freezer.

Right now our meals consist of eggs and fruit for breakfast, chicken with a little rice and vegetables for lunch, and 4-6ozs of protein, a "smart carb and fiber" for dinner. Last night we had chicken for me/fish for my husband, medium sized sweet potato and 1 cup of broccoli. You may wonder what the kids had...the same thing. Lunches we do treat them to other things because our food is usually prepared individually so it is easier than trying to do that three times a day, but they typically eat the same as the other (cereal, pancakes, pbj, chicken, etc) They also get snacks so they have more calories than we do because they need them.

So most of what we have can and is frozen.

I try to make scrambled eggs fresh every morning but I also have some frozen in case we are in a hurry. I bake the eggs in ramekins (or muffin tins) at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. We pop the yoke and add a little salt and pepper before cooking. Once they are not wiggly, we let them cool and then seal and ready for breakfast. In the morning I throw them in the microwave for 45secs with a slice of canadian bacon, top with american cheese and if we are having carbs then put it on top of a toasted english muffin. Without the english muffin it is about 210 calories.


Added some green pepper to 2 for an omelet

The chicken we marinate in some liquid smoke and lemon or lime juice then grill. This last time we also did bbq. Depending on the size it usually takes about 1.5 minutes in the microwave, less if around 4 ozs and cut up. This is especially delicious paired with my husband's fried rice and vegetables.

Zucchini and squash is one of my favorite vegetables but I hate taking the time to wash cut and prepare it. Really it doesn't take that long but now that I have it prepared and in the freezer it only takes about 30 mins in the oven to roast it and enjoy.

We also make our own "stir fry" vegetable mixes. In these bags I used broccoli, carrots, squash, corn, peas, and mushrooms. Each bag is a little different than the next some leaving out a vegetable. I don't add any sauces, just mix the vegetables and when we are ready to cook then we can decide what to use. Sometimes instead of stir fry I'll use it in potpies...although it has been quite a while since I have made one of those.

I still have to make a list every week of what we plan to eat, mainly for dinner, but it is much easier to complete a meal. Our goal is to only eat out once a week but even then we are trying to avoid. Take last week for example (before we really got back into the swing of things) we had our plate full, celebrating birthdays, working on front porch, exhausted from working out, no food in the house, so we ate out almost daily. Over the weekend we sat down and talked about how we lost the weight every other time (after the birth of each kid) and came to the realization that this was a key element.

In the few days that we have prepared and following a stricter diet we have both seen the scale go down and feel better. Maybe not from the food but the feeling of not having to spend more time than once a week planning what to eat for the week and once a month doing a mass shopping, prepping, cooking, and freezing day.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

First Day of School

Every year...okay so this is only our 3rd official year...I try to make the first day of school special. I always have a great plan in my head and maybe pinned out on Pinterest but execution is not my strong suit.

Granted for Kindergarten the boys had Hand, Foot, Mouth and it was raining outside. Last year their classroom was under construction and we had flooding but I did manage to make them pumpkin muffins. I also was babysitting.

This year I planned to make a special breakfast but both wanted something very simple...cereal and milk. They were also a bit grumpy so I let them play Minecraft for a bit while I cleaned and then next thing I knew it was lunch time. It rained right as we left to have a special lunch with daddy and I forgot the camera so we could take pictures at the park. Oh well we still fit them in once we got home.

So my youngest really wanted to start school this year but once I started prepping stuff for kindergarten I realized that preschool was still a better fit for him right now. He is still 4 after all. I just added worksheets and working more on his alphabet. So next year won't be as hard on us.

Then there is my 2nd grader. He has had a hard time transitioning back into school mode. He is also into, I will give you a death stare and only a small smile unless on his terms.

I will admit school has not been as easy to get back into. I have one eager to go and the other gets distracted easily. Even his favorite subject, math takes a long time to finish. But I have found that this year I can work on other things like folding laundry, cleaning the basement, or yesterday he brought his math outside and I planted flowers while he worked on it. This helps me not to get frustrated about the time it takes him and gives him more responsibility to finish on his own. I am still close by so if he has a question then I can answer and help as need be.

It is also REALLY nice to have all our school supplies in one room within reach so I don't have to have our desk and table covered in everything we need for that day. I have a feeling that within the next week we will all be back in sync.

This year we are still using the Sonlight curriculum which helps me so I don't have to worry about planning ahead. Especially since I get my fair share of coming up with stuff for my younger son. I also can reuse the curriculum for my younger with only the cost of getting new consumable items (things they write on or use up) For writing we use Handwriting Without Tears and math has been Singapore.

I think this is a great program for anyone that may be just starting out and trying to get a feeling for how to put together a curriculum, someone who doesn't want to think about planning, or is extremely busy and needs something that helps relieve some of the stress.

I fall into all 3, although not as much just starting out but with being a real estate agent, babysitting, taking care of the home, working out, home improvements, and trying my best to make sure God is put first...This helps. God is first when we sit down for school and helps us to refocus on life and our attitude towards what we will get out of the day.

If you want more information on Sonlight or homeschooling in general just let me know. For now have a Great day and remember to smile!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

School Room Part 2

While my husband was at work, or when he was home and I couldn't be of use, I started another project. I wanted something to hold the boys toys and conceal them. We have cubes but race and train tracks don't fit in them. I found a post on Kristen Duke Photography site that made me fall in love with her red dresser. So I set out in search of a dresser, and had to convince my husband of this idea. I found a dresser on craigslist for cheap $20.

I figure if it didn't turn out like I hoped then at least I wasn't out a huge amount, although hubby may not let me live it down.

I did not get the same paint as Kristen used so I sanded the dresser down, I just wanted to make sure it was rough enough to hold the paint. We used the same color and paint Sunflower in a satin finish as we did on the accent wall.

After it dried I applied a lacquer clear coat to give it the shine and try to protect it. Unfortunately it was right after this that we had our water issues and had to put stuff on top which stuck to it. I haven't went back over it as of yet but once I touch up a few other spots on the accent wall my plan is to redo it as well.

This is the finished room as of a couple months ago but will take updated pictures next week when we start school. We are adding a few things such as lego storage to the walls and a new table for the boys.

My husband built the cabinets from scratch and we used solid core doors to make the counter.

If you look closely you can see the access panels we installed to access the wall anchors for tightening and the water pressure regulator.

Over the last year the boys have had a lot of use out of the dresser and have a much easier time finding their toys as well as picking up. They loved the blocks from the last post so much that one of the drawers has become home for those as well.

Monday, August 3, 2015

School Room Part 1

It's that time of year again, Back to School! While I am watching all the supply lists come out and shelves empty I contemplate what we need to do to finish our classroom. Last year we renovated our playroom/classroom to be nicer but also include a temporary office while our college student uses the original office. 

This is what the room looked like before we renovated...

The first year, actually first few weeks, we moved into the house we had severe flash flooding. The rain filled our window well and poured in. I just remember being pregnant and overwhelmed. But we did some landscape work and it has been 4 years since that happened and no further issues so we decided to finally tackle this room!

We started by cleaning out the room, removing all the electrical plates and ceiling tiles. My youngest decorated the room the year before by adding his hand prints. We plan to actually keep a few and frame them.

This room was constructed out of metal, vinyl, and cedar planks. They had the water shutoff and pressure valve in here but neither worked very well. Our plan is to relocate the valves to be closer together and have the ability to conceal them.

Time for the real fun! Finished taking out the drop down ceiling which gave us an extra 2-4 inches ofceiling height. Instead of florescent lighting we plan to put in recessed lighting, again to give us more height.

Then the walls came down! We are saving the wood to either sell or use for our front porch. We have a few ideas and with it being cedar in good condition we know it is not scrap yard worthy.

Recessed lighting installed along with more electrical outlets. There were only 3 outlets before and not very safe. Making this into our office we needed more outlets, so we now have 6!

It was not easy but the plumbing has now been upgraded and we can access it so much easier. On top of that it actually shuts off instead of allowing a trickle through.

Just to make sure we did not have any water issues we filled all cracks and then waterproofed the concrete walls. There were only a few hairline cracks and as you can see in previous pictures the walls had been exposed for several years and never had issues but for reassurance we wanted to take every precaution possible.

After we waterproofed the wall we added plastic vapor barrier too. Again to add as protect against any moisture especially since we added insulation we wanted to keep a barrier between the concrete and the batting. Then framing finally began. It was a bit tricky with our wall anchors (used to stabilize the wall) and the water shutoff but we got it done!

Drywall makes a huge difference, you can really see the room starting to take shape. It is also at this point I get a little restless and want to finish it but of course there is the mudding and letting it dry...

And repeat, until it is all smooth.

With all the extra ends of lumber we cut off I decided to let the boys have them. Everytime they heard the saw they would end up running in (after we were done with the cut) and taking the leftover pieces.

Excitement ensued once my husband gave me the go ahead to dust down the walls and begin painting, eeek!

I chose a yellow "sunflower" for the accent wall. Our plan is to have a built in desk along this wall to help break up the brightness.

And a lighter neutral gray for the rest of the walls Glidden Pebble Grey. The boys also got involved in painting, even "our" 21 year old.

I still find it amazing the difference that a 2nd coat makes.

Wall and ceiling painting completed!

Next up Flooring!

We chose to go with a laminate flooring so we could lay it over the existing vinyl flooring. With it being our playroom and schoolroom we wanted something durable and easy to clean yet inexpensive so if we needed to change it out later we could...This actually turns out to be a good and bad idea.

We laid the flooring and put in the built-in desk and all of the toys, basically everything was done except hanging things on the walls when we had major flash flooding. I didn't even have time to take pictures. We literally finished the day before and the next day we had rain that came so quick that streams were rising 6 inches every 30 minutes. Our window well filled and water rushed in :( We were up until 3am ripping up the floor (we were able to save it, just not the underlayment), taking out any wet drywall, and continuing to use a portable sump pump in our window well. Last fall we had quite a few flash floods and we couldn't get outside to work with the yard to do a permanent fix. As soon as the yard dried up enough it became to cold dig. The spring hasn't been much better but we have been able to do temporary fixes until we can get to it, hopefully within the next month or two.

Tomorrow I'll post what the room looked like after we redid the floors and 2 walls...