Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Thai Chicken & Noodle Salad

I made this last week for dinner and it was a hit. It is a great dinner for the summer- not too much time over the stove.

1 1/4 lb chicken breast
Chinese rice noodles
1 Tbsp veg. oil
2 carrots sliced into ribbons
1 cucumber thinly sliced
Garnish: 1/4 cup torn fresh basil, chopped peanuts, mint leaves, scallions

Spicy Asian Dressing:
4 thinly sliced scallion whites
2 minced garlic cloves
1/2 c soy sauce
1/4 c white vinegar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp anchovy paste
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1. Marinate chicken in 1/2 of the dressing for 1/2 hour.
2. Grill chicken or heat oil, slice chicken thinly and cook
3. Cook noodles- boil water, cook for 3 minutes, drain
4. Place noodles on plate, top with chicken, carrots, cucumbers and garnishes. Drizzle with remaining dressing to taste.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Birthday Carnival

Every year we have had 2 birthday parties for each of our kids- one family, one friends. Adding another child into the mix has made it too much. So this year we decided to start something new. The kids would still have a friend party on their birthday, but instead of individual family parties, we would put them all together and have one big party in the summer. Since K was turning one, she did have a family party on her birthday, but the other two waited to celebrate until this past weekend. We decided on a carnival theme, and spent last week in preparation. The kids and I painted signs for the booths, and went shopping to the dollar store, Target, and the party store for prizes and supplies. Friday I spent baking 5 separate boxes of cake mix, and then that evening Ed decorated them into a carousel cake (it was a 3 hour job, lasting until midnight). Saturday morning Ed left for Jersey to help his parents clean up the cottage while I stayed home and ran last minute errands (buy soft pretzels, ice, and balloons), and then set up the backyard with the help of Anna. Ed arrived home at 2 and had time to help us finish setting up before guests began arriving at 4. E and N stationed themselves at the end of the driveway in a ticket booth, handing out tickets and bags to their cousins. Once everyone got here, the fun started! We had a concessesion stand with watermelon, lemon icees, soft pretzels and lemonade. Then we had 7 booths- a duck pond (throw the ring around the duck to win), tip the ship (shoot toy boats with water guns to tip them), face painting, bean bag toss, knock the block (throw a ball to knock over the tower), spin art, big dig (dig in sandbox for a toy prize), and the favorite- lollipops and pennies (pull the lollipop to see what color is on the stick to match to a candy prize in jars and penny stack- stack the pennies as high as you can, the one who stacks it the highest by the end of the party takes home all the pennies). We also had the moon bounce going, and the kids went in and out throughout the afternoon. We let them play for a couple of hours, and then E and N opened their presents. E got to go first because her birthday is first, while N waited anxiously for his turn. We then had dinner before finishing off the party with the cake. Before the kids blew out the candles, we sang their special songs to them. E had "Great is Thy Faithfulness" because we prayed long and hard for a baby before God blessed us with her. N had "My hope is built on nothing less" as we pray he will build his life on the foundation of Jesus.

The guests left soon after, and Ed and I put the kids to bed before collapsing ourselves! Of course E woke up the next morning asking what the theme would be for next year!!

Since I took so many pictures I decided to create a slide show. Click on View all Images to see pictures without the little black box.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Before and After

First off, thank you for all the dieting support-- I have been doing really well. I think the first day was the hardest. Once I got some snacks that could tide me over, I was fine. I also found a lunch that I really like, and that I would eat, even if I weren't trying to lose weight. Jess had suggested that I take 1 slice of jarlsburg lite (Trader Joe's), 2 slices of turkey, and put it in 1/2 whole wheat pita with a little light mayo. I don't really like pita, so I found some whole grain tortillas with rolled oats and flax seeds at TJ's and used that instead. I also added a couple leaves of lettuce and then myself a wrap. The whole thing is about 230 calories, and delicious! So between that and the eggs for breakfast, and a morning snack of edamame, I was only at 450 calories by lunch. I then snacked on carrots and popcorn in the afternoon, and had a smaller portion of dinner than usual. I found that I wasn't really that hungry, and I would just pop a couple more carrots if I was. And for a little treat, these were awesome:
They are light and crispy, and have a very chocolately flavor that totally satisfies that craving with only a few. The serving size is 13 (110 calories), but I never ate more than 8 a day- a couple at a time, spread out in the afternoon when I needed something sweet (Thanks again, Jess for the tip!)

Anyway, the end result is that I reached my goal- 5 pounds! And if you think that title was talking about before and after shots of my mummy tummy, you've got to be kidding me! Yes, I feel like I lost a little, but I am not able to post that kind of photo yet, nor will I ever be.

I actually was talking about some yard work I did today. There is a corner of our house that we haven't gotten to in the past couple months because of our busyness. I thought I would tackle it today, since the weather was so cooperative (a cool 65 degrees). It is amazing what an hour of weeding and mulching (12 wheelbarrows full) will do:



Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pass the carrots, please!

I have been trying to lose K baby weight for the past year. It has not come off so easily this time around. I am still 10 lbs heavier than I was when N was 1, and even then I wanted to lose 10 lbs. So I decided I needed to exercise in a way that I would keep at it. I do have a gym membership that is currently on hold because I honestly can't find the time to go consistently. I am hoping that I will be able to get back soon, but for now, and for the past 3 months, I have been waking up at 5:45 am to go walking. I knew that if I was going to keep it up, I would need accounability, and the best accountability is a walking buddy. So I convinced my neighbor, to join me. And we have been really good about not skipping. I must admit though, mornings that she isn't able to go, I sleep in.

Anyway, walking 1/2 hour 5x a week does not melt off the weight. It does build a healthier lifestyle, but the weight does not melt. I needed something to kick it up a notch, and that something arrived yesterday in the form of a life-insurance rate. I currently am uninsured, and so we just got around to the application. Apparently I am just on the edge of the lowest rate, providing that I don't gain a pound. Literally, a pound. My physical is next Thursday, which will include a weigh-in. So in order to make sure that I hit that target, with pounds to spare, I have decided to go on a super-diet this week, and then continue to watch what I eat in the upcoming weeks in order to get to my goal weight(s).

I called my friend, PCP, who has had some experience with calorie counting and she informed me that I have to limit my intake to 1,200 calories a day or 20 WW points. Then she informed me that I had already eaten more than half my daily allotment in breakfast and lunch. This just about made me faint, especially since I was feeling faint with hunger already, and thought that I had done really well so far. I mean, I felt like I was STARVING, as well as a little light headed and weak! Anyway, she told me some helpful things that I could eat for each meal. Unfortunately her #1 breakfast suggestion-plain nonfat yogurt with honey and fruit is not at all appealing to me. I like yogurt, but nonfat plain is unpalatable to me. So we came up with another alternative- egg whites. Lots of protein, but only 1 point for 3 whites. That seemed more doable. We then discussed how hard dinner is going to be- how to prepare a super healthy meal that tastes good, and the whole family will enjoy? Not an easy thing to do. I plan on looking at some Cooking LIght recipes to see if I can find ones that will work. A couple of other helpful hints she gave me for surviving this restricted diet is to eat lots of carrots, a bag of fat free microwave popcorn, lots of water, and I can even treat myself to some Trader Joes chocolate meringue cookies. Thank goodness for carrots- I think I consumed about half a bag this afternoon. I think I will have to go out and buy the jumbo Costco bag tomorrow! All that being said, I only have a week to survive the worst, and then I don't have to be so strict. What will be the hardest is this weekend- I have a birthday party to attend where I have been forbidden to have any cake, and then there is our family Father's Day lunch on Sunday. To stay disciplined, I need to keep my eye on the goal, and my bathing suit! Do you have any weight loss tips or ideas? How do you make it work?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

'round and 'round the mulberry bush...

When we first moved in, in mid winter, we surveyed our yard and made preliminary plans for landscaping. One of the trees marked for removal was a little mulberry tree on the edge of our property. We figured it would be messy when it fruited, and it seemed like it was half dead anyway.

E was 5 at the time and just starting to climb trees. She would easily climb the dogwood in the front yard, but this tree was more of a challenge. She would grab hold of the lower branch and try to walk her feet up the side, but she didn't yet have the arm and leg strength to swing up into the branches. Still, she persisted.

When early summer came, the berries came out and E delighted in picking them, staining her hands and mouth with the bright purple juice. I learned to send her in clothes I didn't care about when she was going to go pick the berries.

Fall arrived, and E finally was able to climb into the tree and sit, tentatively but proudly in the lower branches of the tree. I insisted that she learn to get out of the tree herself before being allowed to climb it on her own. It took some maneuvering, and a little bit of courage as she had to simultaneously reach for the branch, twist her body, and jump from her seat (a sawed off portion of the trunk), as the branch was just barely out of reach of a firm two-handed grasp. Then she would swing for a few seconds before dropping the final foot and a half to the grass. From that point on, the tree was hers. We never thought about cutting it down again, she loved it so. It was a place for her to get away from her younger brother, as well as a quiet perch for imagination and contemplation.

Each summer she has looked forward to the return of the berries. A few weeks ago the hard green berries popped through the branches, and soon they turned a dusty pink, bright red and now they are a ripe, juicy black. Yesterday the kids picked a whole container full of berries and then joyfully ate them together. Their feet were stained from the berries they crushed underfoot while picking, and their hands, mouth and teeth also turned purple from their feast.

Unfortunately for E her private reign of her tree ended this spring. N has longingly watched E play in the tree, begging me to put him up there, but my rule has been that no one is allowed in the tree who can't get their on their own strength and skill. So he has studied the trunk and climbed the roots, straining to reach the lowest branch. Finally, he was able to pull himself up to that sawed off trunk-seat and sit there. I ran out to take a picture to capture the moment, and his pride is all over his face. He then learned how to swing down, in the same way E had learned a year and a half before. Since then the two of them have climbed the tree together, sitting in its branches.

I know it won't be long before K will be stationed on the roots, gazing up, yearning to join her siblings in the mulberry tree.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A New Season

The long anticipated day has arrived~ first pick-up for the farm! While K napped (Ed works from home on weds.) N and I drove over to meet my mom. On the way there we discussed what may (or may not) be there to pick.

"Mama? I want to pick peas. I will open them up and eat them all up!"

"That sounds really good! I love those sugar peas too."

"Yup. They are soooo good!"

"They might have strawberries too, N. That would be fun to pick, don't you think?"

"Oh yes! I loooove strawberries! And Mama? E will like them too, right? And Daddy?"

"Yes, everyone loves to eat strawberries."

"I can't wait! It will be soooo yummy!"

When we went into the Harvest House, we were very excited find that strawberries were indeed on the list for the week, but the peas were not. After picking out some beautiful chard, bok choy and lettuce, we headed out to the fields.

The strawberry patch was overflowing! We did not have to pick long to get a quart. N enjoyed snacking on the sweet berries and holding the container as my mom and I picked.

We then went over to say hi to the chickens. N was a little disappointed that we didn't have anything to feed them this time. In the past he and E have gotten into the pen and fed them their chicken feed.

Finally we stopped in at the herb garden to pick some parsley. I was amazed at how big the herbs were already-- here is N with the oregano.

Tonight we will have the chard with dinner- I have never made it before, but I am excited to try it. I plan on using this recipe.

2 (1-lb) bunches rainbow chard or red and green Swiss chard
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
toasted pine nuts to taste

Cut stems from chard (if leaves are large, cut out coarse portions of rib), then cut stems crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Stack chard leaves and roll into cylinders. Cut cylinders crosswise to make 1-inch-thick strips of leaves.
Heat butter and oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté chard stems and garlic with sea salt and pepper to taste, stirring occasionally, until slightly soft, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add chard leaves and continue to sauté, stirring frequently, until wilted. (If greens begin to brown before they wilt, sprinkle with a few drops of water.) Garnish with pine nuts.

Monday, June 2, 2008

On the DL at the Salon

My hairdresser's is the same place I have gone to since I was about 12. It is located in our old neighborhood- my sisters and I used to walk there. I had my hair fixed for my prom and my wedding there. For a brief time I went to another hairdresser, but when she had a very unfortunate drowning accident, I returned to the old 'hood for my haircuts. Two of my sisters and my mom also still go there. Honestly, I go for the prices. They do a good job, but you can't beat $55 for a cut and color. It is the reason why I travel 1/2 hour to get there, even if there are salons right around the corner from my house.

The last time I went (about a year ago) they were talking all about a very well known (in these parts) flea market where you can get some cheap knock-offs.

"Oh yeah, I got this great Coach bag for $30!"

"I remember that- where did you find it?"

"Well, I was told to say that I was a friend of Linda's and the vendor would then get me into the van. So I go and say the "passwords" and they take me behind their tent to this big black van without windows. They motioned me to the back doors, and after looking around, opened them and hurried me inside. Then they
shut the doors! I was so nervous- I thought I was going to be kidnapped so I called you, guys, remember? And told you that if I disappeared, that this was where I was."

"Oh yeah! We remember- and then you saw all the bags, right?"

"It was amazing! There were all kinds of bags and sunglasses, by every designer. I ended up getting this one." At this my hairdresser went into the back room to bring out her D&G knock-off bag.

"That's a great bag- we'll have to go sometime!"

And that was where the conversation ended. Coincidentally, this year I was sitting in the chair, getting my color done when this guy walks in with a huge tote bag. He starts pulling out all kinds of purses and laying them on the floor. "Who's that?" I asked.

"Oh, that's the 'Bag Man' He comes every couple of weeks to sell us bags."

"Really?" I asked incredulously. I mean, now they had the bags coming to them? "So what about the van at the flea market? I remember last year you were telling us about that."

"Oh yeah- we still go there too. In fact, Cindy is there right now" And as if on cue, another hairdresser got a text message from Cindy "I am in."

I watched as several of the other customers looked over the bags and made their purchases. "Do you want to go over there and look at them?" My hairdresser offered generously.

I quickly declined, "Oh, no, no. That's all right" I wasn't in the market for a new bag, especially since these bags were very, um, big. And shiny. And big. I probably would have been more tempted if he sold a cute Kate Spade. But I am definitely not big and flashy, and I am not sure about the legality of the whole scenario. Even so, I was fascinated by the exchange.

He sold about 4 bags in all. He also offered
Indiana Jones, the Cameron Diaz movie, and some other movies. Sex in the City wasn't quite ready yet, but he promised it for next week. I thought those things were only in the Seinfeld world- I never imagined I would meet someone who taped movies with a video camera and sold them--as I got my hair colored! I also imagine that the quality must be horrible- do you hear the person next to you munching on their popcorn? Who buys these things anyway?

About 15 minutes later he packed up his stuff and was out the door, promising to return in a couple of weeks.

Later, as I was paying, I realized that I could have these really affordable haircuts, partly because they were spending $35 on a bag instead of $1000. So they get their cheap bags, and I get my cheap cut. Ed suggested that I was funding illegal activity by going there, but I don't see it that way. I mean, my great deal on haircuts isn't directly related to their great deals on bags. This establishment is definitely above board. Still, it was interesting to see firsthand that capitalism is alive and well in the northeast.