Sunday, February 28, 2010

New Background

My mother in law complained about the strawberry background (OK, it was awfully bright) so I decided to switch things up again. I've got some Irish blood in me (1/16th, but it counts!!) so I'm going with the St. Patrick's day theme. I tend to get stuck in a rut sometimes with things like backgrounds so I'm purposely trying to add more variety, just for fun. With a holiday background I'll have to change it again when the holiday is over.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Portobello Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches

Oh, my stars- did inspiration ever hit last week! I came up with a new recipe. (It's probably been done before, but it was new to me and I didn't get it out of a cookbook or anything, so I claim it.) I was thinking about some of the things we used to eat in our pre-vegetarian days and how we could eat the same meals only without meat. One of the things we used to enjoy was Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches, only healthy. (Cooking Light has a recipe for them using turkey and Kaiser rolls that is really good; we used to sub leftover roast chicken which was ten times better than the turkey cold cuts called for in the recipe.) I said to myself, what's a common meat substitute for vegetarians? Why, Portobello mushrooms, of course. Yep, DH made the cheesesteak sandwiches with mushrooms instead of meat, olive oil instead of the butter, and Swiss instead of the cheese the recipe calls for. (We just happen to like Swiss better; I get vegetarian Swiss from The Fresh Market whenever I can get over there.) He followed the Cooking Light recipe otherwise. We top them with cold dill pickle slices and ketchup. They came out so GREAT!!! I am delighted; I can have my cheesesteak sandwiches again; hooray!!!

Camping Report

I SURVIVED the camping trip!!! It was a close call, but I made it, and I'm actually starting to recover; whew.

Seriously though, it was a great trip. I had 5 out of 9 of my Brownies with me; the other girl who was supposed to join us for the day on Saturday got sick. Her mom came up for a few hours though; she went to a camp planning meeting and volunteered to get Sunday breakfast (for 200) so she had to bring all of that food up. (And I can't tell you how "above and beyond" she went in doing that; she's an amazing person. I'm so lucky to have her daughter, who is a sweetheart, in my troop and I'm so happy we are friends.) She stuck around for a bit to watch our girls while I went to the local Wal Mart to pick up some of the extra food items and perishables she wasn't able to get at the warehouse store. That gave me a bit of a break, too; as much as I love the camp I like to get away for a few minutes while I'm there. It's an introvert thing.

The girls were wonderful and very well behaved. They got along really well; they had a few disagreements (mainly trying to get The Middle Child to STOP telling scary stories) but they worked things out without too much intervention on my part. There were a few bouts of homesickness and one girl got spooked when we were walking through the woods to get to our cabin Saturday night. One girl got a case of the whines; she didn't like all of the walking but she did it!

And there is a LOT of walking to be done. The whole camp is set on a loop that's a little over 2 miles around. We were at one of the camp sites closer in to the main hall but it was still a good 15 to 20 minute walk we had to take before and after each meal. (No cars are allowed except one at each site specifically for medical emergencies.) There was also a long walk out to the sports field where we had our activities on Saturday and a walk back from that. Yep, it's a lot of walking at that camp! I'm a good walker though; I walk daily so that wasn't a problem for me at all.

What is a problem for me there is the sleeping. Oh, my aching back! They have these awful metal cots with saggy, broken springs and thin, flimsy mattresses to go on top of them. I've finally resorted to taking my own bed and bedding. Seriously- I purchased a camp cot at Outdoor World and I took it with me, along with an egg crate foam pad, an air pad, and a thick, fluffy sleeping bag. (Air mattresses are too soft and way too noisy; they don't help.) The first night I made the mistake of not using my cot. I was lucky enough (ha) to get a cot with a board so I thought that would be better. Stop the sagging and provide the firmness I need. Not so much. I didn't sleep at all and my back hurt badly all day Saturday. (OK, I never sleep my first night away from home, but the back thing on top of the tired thing was murder.) The second night I went ahead and set up my cot. I actually slept! Not very soundly, but I slept, and it was enough that my back was somewhat better in the morning. Enough to get me through the day's activities, anyway. I will NEVER try to sleep on the camp's cots again. I'm so happy I found a solution!!

Another factor with sleeping at camp is the NOISE. There were acorns or pine cones or something from the trees falling on the cabin all night long both nights. There's not too much to the roofs (rooves?) at camp so those little plinks sound like THUDS when you're trying to sleep. Then there's the noise from the other leaders. Turning over on the creaky cots, snoring, rustling, and even midnight phone calls about errant teenagers left home alone. (Seriously; I felt so badly for the leader dealing with that. She was on the phone for a long time trying to handle the situation from the camp.) It's not anyone's fault or anything that can be helped, and I certainly make my share of noise too, but it does make sleeping difficult. I came up with a solution for that, too; yeah! I've loaded up my MP3 player with ambient music, you know, babbling brook, rainfall, forest noises, that kind of thing, (mine happens to be womb sounds left over from when the kids were babies) and I turn that on, plug in the ear phones, and all the other sounds fade away. I can sleep to that kind of noise; it works like a charm. The only problem is it blocks out noises from the girls, too. I only used it for part of the night since I was worried I wouldn't be able to hear them if they needed me. I'll use it all night when I go up with other chaperones, though.

Being the only one with the girls was OK. The only time it was difficult was when we were packing up, and that was also because of my lack of experience. On the last morning at camp the troop has to pack up and complete Kapers, then we have to wait for an inspection before we can leave. Welllll, my troop was behind the eight ball from the get go. I didn't realize how long everything would take and that the other troops at our site would be delayed if we weren't ready and done with our packing and our Kaper. I let the girls sleep too late and didn't have them pack anything up before breakfast. I wasn't packed up before breakfast, either. When we got back it was a roller coaster rush to get everything done. The other leaders were gracious enough to step in and help me out, for which I will always be so thankful. They hurried my girls along and hauled stuff out to my car for me. One of the other troops even worked on the Kaper my troop was supposed to complete. They all pitched in and took up the slack; I feel so guilty for not carrying our weight. They laughed it off and said "no problem" when I apologized. True Girl Scout spirit, let me tell you. :)

Thursday, February 18, 2010


I'm taking the Brownies camping this weekend. That's 5 nine year old girls. By myself. (Well, it's a Camporee so there will be other troops there, and one mom from the troop and her daughter will be coming up for the day on Saturday, but still. Trying to generate some sympathy here; sheese.) The weather is forecast to be absolutely gorgeous during the day but we will be freezing our buns off at night; brrrrr. The theme, appropriately enough considering the cold, is "Survivor". I've got my new rated-to-30-degrees sleeping bag, flannel jammies, mittens, a heavy hooded sweat shirt, and various other items to keep me warm so I'm hoping I won't be too miserable.

OK, here's where the sympathy really comes in. The girls chose "The Pink Llamas" as their "tribe" name (part of the Survivor theme) so we're going to learn the Llama Llama Duck song on the way up in the car. They'll be singing it over and over and over and over and over...

Pity me!!!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Oh, Hello There!

Hi! I've missed writing a lot lately. Things have been very busy with some big field trips for the kids. I took the younger ones to the zoo a week ago with our homeschooling group then the whole family went to a Renaissance festival yesterday with (almost) all of our regular activities in between. Both trips were a lot of fun but very, very draining.

In fact, I'm too drained to even start a decent post, so goodnight; I am to bed. (Spent too much time at Ren Fest...)

PS: I got a 97% on my Government test. Should've been 100 but I made a careless mistake; sigh.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Test on Thursday

My government class is perking along nicely. The professor is a font of knowledge; he gets into his history, let me tell you. He's a rather endearing old coot. I get a little aggravated that he doesn't seem to follow current events, though. He doesn't appear to be much of a political junkie; he was even quite proud to tell us he doesn't own a computer. (I mean, you can't be a proper political junkie without owning a computer, for Pete's sake. You have to read the blogs!) He gives us lecture notes then reviews them for the class sessions, and they may or may not be related to what we've read in the text, but they are thorough. I'm enjoying the class, as I usually do. I like to learn and I'm interested in our government and how it works so this is a good class for me. I'm a little worried about the upcoming test on Thursday; there's a lot of memorization involved. Luckily I already know the Preamble to the Constitution thanks to Schoolhouse Rock! He gives short answer and essay questions so there's a chance I'll have to write it out. There are other things to remember about the Constitution, like the "necessary and proper", or elastic, clause, which is in Article I, Section 3, Clause 8. Or Section 8 Clause 3??? Dang it, I have to go look that up.

Back to the books!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Setting My Goal Weight

When I lost weight in 2007, I don't remember if I had a specific goal weight in mind during the whole process. I just wanted to see how much weight I could get off, and as I slowed down I decided to go for just under 130. I never made it and spent a long time hovering between 130 and 135. I wanted to get to 129 on that scale just to see it, but close as I would get I never made it. It felt good to be where I was though, so I didn't really stress about it too much; after all, I was at my high school weight so what's to complain about?! My goal weight was between 130 and 135 and I was very successful at maintaining that. (I believe in a range, not a specific number, especially since I weigh every day.) Then came the trip to Europe. I gained 9 pounds during that trip and had a lot of trouble getting that back off, but came close right before we made the switch to a vegetarian diet. With the switch I threw my portion control out the window; after all, I'm not eating meat anymore so I have to eat a lot of carbs to make up for it, right? Well, not so much. I went back up to where I was when I got back from Europe. I now know what I need to do though, and it's as simple as KEEP MEASURING MY CARBS. (And keep walking, of course; can't forget about exercise!)

But something funny has happened while I've been a little heavier. I've realized my face looks better. The weight has filled out some of the lines that came out of hiding when I lost weight. At below 135, I looked craggy. (Like Alton Brown; have you seen him since he lost weight? His face looks hollow.) I also have a tendency to be jowly (runs in the family) and store weight in my chin area when I'm heavy. That means when the weight came off I had the old "turkey neck" to deal with; blech. At a few pounds heavier, it's not quite as noticeable. But I've also noticed I tend to get hot more easily when I go over 138, and since menopause is right around the corner I don't want anything that will exacerbate hot flashes. (I've had a couple of mild ones already.) So, considering a healthy weight for me is anywhere between 118 and 159, according to one source, I can set it where I want it to be within that range.

Now the balancing act. Below 135 is too thin for my face but I can't handle 140 psychologically. (I stress about continuing to go up, and up, and up when I see 140+ on the scale.) I get hot, hot, hot over 138 and I'd rather be cool, cool, cool. (Are other people that temperature sensitive with weight loss??) My face looks better around 140 but my clothes are getting uncomfortably snug at that weight. Sooo, drum roll please, my new goal weight is between 135 and 138 instead of between 130 and 135. Which means I still have a couple of pounds to lose since I'm right at 140, but if I start getting serious about measuring those carbs I KNOW I can do it. :)

Monday, February 1, 2010


This vegetarian thing isn't so bad! After a day of nothing but rain and more rain, including some local street flooding, I wanted something warm and satisfying for dinner. Luckily I had some kidney beans soaking that were just the ticket. I loosely modified a recipe from my aunt and threw them on the stove top in my dutch oven and let them cook for hours. I also put some frozen turnip greens on to cook right beside the beans, some rice in the rice cooker, (I'm all about the convenience appliances), and at the last minute I put a whole wheat frozen baguette from a local sandwich shop in the oven. (Yes, they will sell them to you frozen, then you can pop them in the oven whenever you want some fresh bread.) The Middle Child rounded it out with a salad. We had a wonderful vegetarian comfort meal. I am so stuffed now I feel like I'm gonna pop! So much for portion control.

Here are the recipes; enjoy!

Kidney Bean Stew

1. Rinse and pick through a bag o' beans
2. Park the beans and water, at least a couple of inches over the beans, in a plastic container with a lid. Put the lid on and let the beans soak overnight. (My aunt skips this; she just cooks them and they turn out fine. The cookbooks say it helps reduce gas if you soak and then discard the soak water, however.)
3. When you're ready to cook the beans, drain and rinse and set them aside.
4. Saute some diced sweet onion (one medium to large onion will do) in olive oil in a dutch oven or soup pot. When the onions are translucent, throw in a little bit of garlic and let that heat up as well.
5. Add some veggie broth (low or no sodium; salt will make the beans tough, according to the cookbooks) and some water to cover the beans by a few inches. Add some seasoning but NOT SALT. (The toughening thing.) I added pepper and a couple of bay leaves.
6. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, until you're starving and you can't take the delicious smells filling your house anymore. Or for several hours; test along the way to see if the beans are getting soft.
7. Stir every so often. You don't want the beans to stick to the bottom and burn. If you need to add more water, go ahead, and if you have too much water and you want a thicker broth, leave the lid off for a while. Be REALLY careful about the stirring if you leave the lid off, though!!!
8. Toward the end of the cooking time, when they are edible but still not quite as soft as you'd like, throw in some potato chunks, peeled depending on the type of potatoes. (You could also use carrots or whatever veggies you'd like to have in your stew. I just put potatoes in tonight.)
9. Did I mention the stirring? You don't have to stand over the pot every second, but when the broth was super thick I set my kitchen timer to beep every 7 minutes and stirred when it went off. I would do that more often if it was thicker, or add some water. I just happen to like a thick broth, which will burn more quickly if not tended to.
10. Salt, salt, salt to taste. Really- taste it. You'll think you are way over salting but it takes a bit.
9. When the potatoes are fork tender and the beans are soft, it's done. The amount of time that takes will vary depending on the size of your potato chunks; start checking them at the 10 minute mark if small, 15 if larger.

Serve over rice. The turnip greens were yummy mixed in. Here's what I did for those:

I haven't been able to find fresh turnip greens at the grocery but I've been wanting to add greens to our diet since they are so darn healthy. I finally realized they might carry them in the frozen foods section, and sure enough, there they were. (At one local store but not the other, go figure.) (And we only have ONE store in the area; several locations, but all the same store.) ~:-P

Turnip Greens
I pretty much followed the package directions, leaving out the pork. I sauteed some diced sweet onion in olive oil until translucent, added some garlic, then threw in a cup of veggie broth and a cup of water. I brought all that to a boil, turned it down to a simmer, slapped the lid on, then, aside from an occasional stir, left it alone until the beans were done. Oh, I added a little extra olive oil when I put the greens in the water, along with some salt and pepper. I had to add pepper and quite a bit of salt when I taste-tested before serving, though. I think they were delish, and better than Cracker Barrel's, which are bitter.

PS: And a happy birthday to my brother. Both of my brothers have birthdays just a few days apart, January 29th and February 1st; go figure.