Thursday, November 26, 2009

End-Of-The-Year Resolution

So to me, this makes so much more sense than a New Years Resolution. Wouldn't you rather start a brand new year having already completed your resolution goal? That way, it's like starting fresh with a brand new year, instead of starting the new year in the same predicament you were in the prior year. Does that make sense? Like, wouldn't you rather start a new year as a non-smoker, having kicked the habit during the last months of the prior year? That way, it's a fresh start.

Anyway, my point of all that is, although I have never made a New Years Resolution, this year I'm making an End-Of-The-Year Resolution. Today is Thanksgiving. By Christmas, my goal is to lose 13.5 pounds. That'll take me to a nice even number (I'll tell you what that is when I get there). That's like 3.5 pounds a week. Not impossible. Not easy, either, though, so if you talk to me, ask me how it's going!

Monday, November 2, 2009

What's Your Cause?

So what is your cause? Everyone has one. Everyone has something they believe in supporting...whether it's breast cancer research, March of Dimes, helping the homeless...everyone has one thing that just touches their heart. Makes them want to open their wallet. Makes them want to donate their time. We're entering the Season of Giving. Who will you be giving to?

Breast Cancer research is a cause that touches my heart deeply. My mom is in a 14-year battle with this disease. That means I was 12 when she was diagnosed. That means I don't remember much of life without it being a part of it. I've felt the ups and downs, the uncertainty, the fear that this disease brings to all affected by it. That also means that I open my wallet and give my time to help this worthy cause.

However, that's not my cause. That's not what grabs my heartstrings and yanks to the point where I can no longer do nothing. And really, I don't have a cause, I have two. The first is donating blood. I believe every healthy person should be willing to step up and donate, if not on a regular basis at least once in a while. I've watched my mom receive blood transfusions during her fight with the aforementioned disease, and I've seen the immediate effects of that 10 minute, slightly uncomfortable time someone else used to donate their own blood.

But, that's not the cause I wanted to talk about tonight. That's not what is currently on my mind. It's almost Christmastime. And I am so excited for it. The look of my kids opening their presents, the wonder in their eyes as we talk about the magic of Santa, the awe in their voices as I try to explain the real miracle and they question me about baby Jesus and His Father. I love this time of year. But what if you weren't able to give your kids presents? What if you weren't able to provide the big Christmas brunch and the turkey dinner? What if you were barely able to give them a piece of bread to eat and a pair of used tennis shoes to wear when the shoes they have been wearing for years are so worn out and painful to even put on? What's it like to be hungry? More than that, what's it like to watch your children be hungry?

Samaritan's Purse is an organization started by Billy Graham's son, Franklin Graham. It is an international charity that helps many people in many nations throughout the year. My favorite part of Samaritan's Purse, however, is their Operation Christmas Child. Operation Christmas Child is simple, really. It doesn't cost much, and it doesn't take much work. All you have to do is fill a shoe box with gifts for a child in an underprivileged country. Coloring books and crayons. Dolls. Toothbrushes. Candies. Matchbox Cars. Books. Then drop it off during their annual collection week, and it will be sent to a child who needs it. Check out more details here: Operation Christmas Child.

Why is this "my cause", you might ask? Well, let me tell you! When I was 18, I went on a trip to Honduras to help build a medical clinic. When I was there, I was asked to come back and teach at a small school there. So I went home after my week-long trip, told my mom I was moving to Honduras, and just three months later I got on a plane by myself and moved to a third-world country where I knew no one other than the people I met during my one prior week there. It was just after Christmas, 2000. Shortly after arriving there, I assisted a church in an event to help the local children. They told me it was Operation Christmas Child and I'd be handing out presents to children who had never gotten a present in their lives. And from then on, I was hooked. Seeing a child in a tv commercial or in a picture is one thing. Seeing a poor, dirty, malnourished child in person receive their first doll, their first toothbrush, their first piece of chocolate is amazing. And heart-wrenching. And it is so much more so now that I am a mom myself. So I urge you, if you can, take the time and spend the money and help make a moment for a far away child that they will never forget. Check out the website, read the list of approved items, and look up a donation center. Drop-off week this year is Nov. 16-23. You may not get to see the face of that child opening their one and only Christmas present, but try to imagine it.


When my mom first gave me this recipe, I thought, "Eh, I don't like enchiladas so much." But then I read the recipe, and although it was called enchiladas, they are so not traditional enchiladas. There is no enchilada sauce, which is what I really don't like. In fact, it's a strange combination of things you may not expect in Mexican food. So we've since had a lot of fun thinking up new names for this recipe. I decided to go with Non-chiladas, but we also tossed around Enchilitos (enchiladas + burritos) and more (if you've got a good one, let me know!). Don't let the ingredients gross you family LOVES this recipe. In fact, my 5 year old ate three servings tonight!

8 soft taco size flour tortillas or 6 burrito size flour tortillas
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 c sour cream (Daisy Light is by far the superior sour cream out there!)
1 c Pace medium picante salsa
2 tsp chili powder
1 lb ground beef, cooked
2 3/4 c shredded cojack or Mexican blend cheese

Mix together soup, sour cream, salsa, and chili powder.
Stir 1 1/2 c of the mixture in a separate bowl with the cooked ground beef and 3/4 c of the cheese. Divide the beef mixture among the tortillas.
Roll up the tortillas and place them seam side down in a 9x13 baking dish.
Spread the remaining sauce over the top making sure to cover all exposed tortillas so they don't harden in the oven. Cover the top with the rest of the shredded cheese.

Cover the dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

My Skin Experiment

I always felt so thankful. I made it through high school, through adolescence, through puberty, being able to count the number of zits I ever had on one hand. People always told me how great my skin was. I didn't wear foundation or concealer; I had no use for it. I barely wore powder.

That all came to a crashing end when I had kids. In fact, that all ended with my first pregnancy, way back in 2003. Women always talk about how great their skin looked while they were pregnant, how they had a "glow". Well, true to my apparent form of having backward medical issues (can we say too LOW cholesterol?), my skin took a crazy turn for the worse when I got pregnant. In addition to acne issues, I also got that lovely "mask of pregnancy". It has never recovered. In fact, it's worse lately than it ever has been and I have no idea why.

So, I took to wearing foundation and concealer to hide it, and I've tried all the products...Proactiv and more. My last step before seeing a dermatologist is to go one week with no makeup on what-so-ever, and going back to the very basic skin care I used as a teenager.

I'm three days into it. The first day was a day I didn't have anywhere to go. The second day, yesterday, I did have places to go. So, I sucked it up, put on some mascara, and left the rest of my face bare. I think this was the first time in my adult life I left the house this way. I felt self-conscious and uncomfortable, but I quickly got over it. And the weirdest thing happened.

I think my least favorite thing about Seattle is the unfriendliness of people. No one says excuse me, no ones makes eye contact and smiles or says hello, no one even waves when you let their car in front of yours. It's very strange. Very very different than when we lived in Oklahoma, and even noticeably different from across the state in Spokane.

However, and maybe it was some random coincidence, but when I took the kids to the grocery store, bare face and all, not one but two people went out of their way to be friendly and chat. Maybe they both happened to be from out of town. Maybe they were both drunk. Who knows, but the only difference I came up with was the fact that I was wearing no makeup. I know, it makes no sense. Whatever.

Anyway, so far my skin for the most part looks and feels good. I still have the one main trouble area and it is not getting any better, though. In fact, it's painful. I'm hoping that in the next 4 days it will clear itself up, but if not, I'm for sure shaking things up and getting a referral to see the dermatologist. Anybody have any other suggestions??!

Spinach Ricotta Manicotti

This is one of my absolute favorite dinners. A go-to recipe. An easy recipe. A recipe that I know my kids will eat, my husband will eat, and no one will complain. I found it on a box of noodles a long time ago while browsing at the store, and bought the noodles simply to try the recipe. It is SO good. It's actually intended to make in jumbo shells, which I did here, but I often use manicotti noodles, so in our house we call it Spinach Ricotta Manicotti.

16 jumbo shells or 12 manicotti noodles, prepared as directed on package
1 lb frozen chopped spinach (or you could use fresh)
1 Tbsp chopped onion
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 beaten egg
2/3 c Ricotta cheese
1/2 c grated parmesan
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 recipe of tomato sauce (if not making homemade sauce, I think Prego is the next best thing!)
Thaw the spinach in a pan with a little water. When thawed, drain well, squeezing to remove the excess water. Cook onion in olive oil in a skilled until tender. Add spinach and heat through.
In a bowl, combine cheeses, egg, and nutemg. Stir in the spinach and onion mixture. Pour 1/3 of your sauce in a 9x13 baking dish. Stuff the cooked shells or manicotti with the filling and lay out in the sauce. Cover with the rest of the sauce, being sure to cover the exposed noodles so they don't get hard while baking.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.