Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas Memories

Over the years, my attitude towards Christmas has changed quite a bit. Growing up, it was always such an exciting time with days of fun and looking forward to opening gifts and being with family.  As time has gone on, I feel a little cautious and anxious. I'm constantly reminded of how little control we have over our own mortality and those we care about.  The week of Christmas has been a hard week for my family over the years, I have lost an aunt, a grandmother, and my father all in week surrounding Christmas over three separate years.  Their passing was incredibly hard and still is at times. My dad passed away unexpectedly 6 years ago and not a day goes by that I don't think of him and talk to him in my head.  I would give anything to just talk with him and tell him about how we have all been doing... the good and bad.  This year I told my husband I was having trouble feeling in the spirit, I think the state of my country from the recent election was a big contributor but so was the continuous increase of commercialism and selfishness.

This last week I finally started to get into the holiday season.  I started focusing on the memories and traditions that are meaningful to me.  I do not care if I receive a single present for Christmas. What I do care about is being able to do things with my own family that are important to me at Christmas to carry on traditions and create new memories as well.

Cookie Baking - Baking cookies were so important growing up.  My mom and grandmother were excellent bakers and we always committed many hours to making cookies and candies for the holidays.  My girls and I spend at least a day each holiday season doing the same, with my mom if possible.  This year she came over and we made several things and I loved every minute of it.  I also love watching how independent my girls are now... reading directions, washing their own dishes...

Holiday Movies - Every year my dad would make us watch a movie on Christmas Eve but we also watched plenty of holiday movies throughout the season.  I remember watching National Lampoons Christmas Vacation together with him a couple of years before he passed.  It has always been a favorite and my family sat down with my mom and watched it together again this year.  We have also managed to check out Krampus (which is more of a Christmas Horror) and have several others on our list.

Christmas Dinner - Over the years Christmas dinner on my mom's side of the family was always hosted by my grandparents, my mom, or an aunt.  In the last few years I have taken over as the host of dinner for my family and some of my husband's family that is local.  We usually have a pretty big turnout.  While it is a lot of work, I love having people over to my house to celebrate the day and play games.  We typically do The White Elephant game which serves as a good hour of entertainment at least.

Holiday Giving - Something that my husband I have done since we became a couple is to make it a tradition to give to at least one charity or cause over the holiday season.  Over the years we have given to the Human Society, families we knew were in need, Angel trees, and the Goodwill. As time has gone on we have made our girls a part of these traditions and it is one of my favorite parts.  This year we are doing a couple of things and my girls decided to each give up a gift that would allow them to do extra giving.  I am so very proud of how selfless and loving they can be.

Holiday PJ's - I love seeing my girls in holiday pj's.  For the last several years I have bought them pj's that matched. This year I surprised them with my own matching pj's as well.  I love getting a cozy picture in front of the tree to commemorate the season.

Christmas Break - Growing up my mom always had the week off between Christmas and New Years from work that allowed us to go and do fun things.  We hit up the movies, hung out with friends and cousins, made NYE snacks, and enjoyed our new gifts. This year my husband and I are doing the same and hope to spend the week with the girls enjoying being at home and doing local things in our city.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Good At Heart?

I am not an outspoken political person. In fact, I do not follow politics closely most days.  I'm not saying that I don't have opinions, I do have opinions, strong ones in some cases. The election grabbed my attention this year, much more so than it ever has before.  And not because of my political views but because the behaviors that I saw displayed every day.  Behaviors that have been so unapologetic and extreme.

Here is the thing about me, while I don't closely follow politics... I closely follow people. People are the most interesting thing on this earth in my opinion.  I am constantly intrigued by what motivates a person to say and do things.  I seek to understand how they arrived where they are; their experiences, the cards that they were dealt in life. I studied English for my undergraduate degree and it taught me to observe the behaviors of characters to pick out themes, symbols, and tone. So naturally as the election activities started ramping up this year, my brain did as it typically does and tried to figure out why the population was leaning one way or another, why candidates said and did certain things, and why the media reported as it did.

I am a strong believer in things are not black and white.  As I have formed relationships and developed deeper understandings of my relationships, I have learned that nothing is simple.  Sure, we'd all like to think it is but in reality it is not.  For example a poverty stricken man who struggles to make ends meet each paycheck.  This does not imply to me that the man is stupid, or unmotivated, or a drug addict.  What this tells me is there a story behind how he arrived at this state. He may in fact be unmotivated or any of the negative things that some might assume but my experience is that he typically is not.  My experience tells me that some situation has led him to this place  not of his desire but happened regardless.  He lost his job.  He became ill.  He wasn't raised to think he could achieve more.  The list of possibilities could go on and on.  A similar example of a wealthy man with a full family doesn't imply to me happiness or great luck.  For all I know this man has struggled with addiction or worked so hard he barely sees his family.

I am not suggesting, though, that people not be accountable for the situation they are in.  People are dealt some tough cards in life and I do believe that life is what you make of it. Some will have to fight harder and others less so.  It doesn't make either a bad person.  It is just how the story goes.

Now that the election is over, I see a lot of friends and family taking to social media in support of their candidates win or in devastation over their candidate's loss.  I understand both sides have a perspective and that their personal experiences have led them to support or deny what has happened. Some of it has been so extreme and fueled with hate, it is hard to watch and read. It has been hard on me to see people act this way, people that I care about. I struggle with anyone invalidating how someone else feels and I see it over and over.

I see Trump supporters saying, "stop being sniveling babies about the loss!" and I see Clinton supporters saying, " I am afraid of half of America"

I see Clinton supporters saying, "half of America is racist!" and I see Clinton supporters saying, "it's not about race, it is about change!"

And those are the nice comments.

In my opinion everyone is right and wrong all at the same time.  What is right for one, is wrong for the other.  And that is what makes us unique.  I see no reason for me to persuade or argue with how some feels, it would be like invalidating their experiences in life which are completely valid.

No one can deny you your experiences unless you let them.  The only thing people can do is limit their exposure to you should you offend them.  I am personally not offended because someone has a different point of view, I am offended when they make assumptions about who I am or attack my point of views.  And I don't feel the need to explain who I am to everyone. I save that for those that I love and trust.

I suppose what has been reiterated to me yet again is that we really do choose how we want to respond to life.  We can see only the negative.  We can embrace the positive.  We can reach out to others. We can become sad and depressed.  We can ignite and show passion. We can be reckless and arrogant. It is all up to us on how we respond to the hand we are dealt.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is one of my favorite books. I can only hope Frank was truth telling when she wrote,

“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”

― Anne FrankThe Diary of a Young Girl

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Bad Blogger

I've been a bad blogger this last month.  It hasn't been for any reason in particular other than I've just been interested in other things.  Mostly cross-stitch projects and planning for renovations that I want to do to my house.  I thought I'd just do a life update over the last month and hopefully return to some more frequent posts this month.

My husband, my mom, and I all went and saw the band Heart in concert.  I've seen them before and while the concert wasn't bad, it wasn't as memorable as when they performed at the state fair a few years back.  They skipped over some favorites like "Magic Man" and "Never" which left me disappointed.  My mom and I did rock out to "Crazy On You" and it will be a great memory to hold onto.

Halloween wasn't so eventful this year.  We carved pumpkins but didn't make it out to any of our normal festivals like Cider Fest or Neewollah. We did do a Paranormal Investigation tour at Cowtown that was pretty fun.  Penny really got into it.

I mentioned house renovations and we have really been considering some major projects.  Last year we had the siding and roof replaced from storm damages the year prior.  We are now ready to take on having new tile installed and cabinets redone.  I'm still working on numbers and timing but hopefully in the next six months.

I got a nice raise at work and was cause for celebration.  My job is still going really well and I am thankful every day that I made the decision to leave my old job.

I am still doing keto.  93 lb down.  I have definitely slowed down on the numbers but my clothes are still getting larger day by day.  In fact, I've had to buy all new fall/winter clothes.  Nothing from last year remotely fit so I've been trying to get it weeded out of my house.  A closet with clothes that fit and isn't overwhelming is perfect.  I am refusing to overbuy clothing again. And I think I've really gotten better at buying things that are versatile and classic as I've repurchased.  I have no idea if I will drop further in sizes but I can hope!

I just finished reading, The Art of Not Giving a F*CK by Mark Manson.  It caught my eye because of the title and was pretty entertaining.  In general, it aligned to a lot of my thinking these days so was refreshing to read of someone else who had similiar ideas about life and how to be content with one's life.

Tori made the honor roll and is the top kid in 6th grade.  I'm so proud of that kid.  Such a smarty and so disciplined.

Josh and I celebrated 6 years of marriage. It wasn't an eventful year (no trips) but we did manage to take a day to see movie, Snowden, and grab some dinner. I really did luck out finding Josh and he is such a great partner to have in life.

Back in June I posted about starting to take Biotin and working on growing back thicker hair.  I am happy to report that I am now growing a ton of new hair.  I had taken some before pics that I lost when my phone died earlier this month but it has been crazy how much it has grown.  When I run my fingers back across my scalp, I feel all kinds of new hairs and i have curly baby hairs all around my hairline in the front.  The stuff works and I am really pleased with the results.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Faux Loaded Potatoes

I am back with another low carb, keto-friendly dish that I tried out this last weekend.

Cauliflower is great substitute for mashed potatoes but doesn't do it when it comes to boiled or fried potatoes. I had been hearing that radishes are a good substitute but I have never liked radishes.  They have always tasted far too bitter and peppery for me.  Apparently if you boil radishes, they lose a lot of the strong flavor and become much mild.  I was skeptical but I still wanted to try.

Rinse radishes and remove the ends.  Slice into bite size pieces.

These look like new potatoes already.

Boil radishes for about 10 minutes on medium heat.

The water will turn a bit purple, that's ok.

Drain radishes and try to dry the radishes as best you can.

Add radishes to heated skillet with the oil of your choice. I salt and peppered my radishes as they cooked.

Fry radishes until browned.

Once complete, prep your faux fried potatoes to your preference.

Mine are topped with cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon, and ranch dip.  The radish has a slicker texture than a potato but the flavor becomes very mild.

This was definitely one of the more decadent things that I have made keto-friendly but I wasn't disappointed.  I can now say I am a former radish-hater as these were really tasty.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Book Review: Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll by Ann and Nancy Wilson

My mom introduced me to the band Heart when I was a young.  I guess I could have been even been listening to their debut album, Dreamboat Annie, while still in the womb. It wouldn't surprise me since their music has made such an impression on me.I recall in the late 80's the Bad Animals album coming out and by that time, my mom had it on cassette tape.  I would borrow her tape and play the song "Alone" over and over on a boom box that I got for my birthday one year.  What a preteen could be contemplating while listening to that song, I always was the moody, pondering type. By the time cds came long, I added The Road Home album to my collection and of course, bought another copy of Dreamboat Annie so I could listen to Heart in the car. I loved the acoustic version of "These Dreams" in my twenties and found it inspirational when I sometimes felt down.

Kicking and Dreaming was another goal fulfilled for me as I work my way obsessively through all that has been produced by the Wilson sisters.  Yes, there are albums which I still don't own and songs which I still haven't heard. I will conquer them yet.  The storytelling felt intimate as chapters were divided between Ann and Nancy, both described their progression over the years. I felt like I was reading a diary of someone's intimate past.  Both so freely spoke about their upbringing, their relationships with friends, lovers, and each other.  I learned that the "Magic Man" was indeed a love interest of Ann Wilson, Michael Fischer, who she had a young, passionate relationship with while she wrote the songs for Dreamboat Annie.  And Nancy Wilson was in a relationship with Michael's brother, Roger, at the same time. Both dated the Fischer brothers for many years.  Later Nancy went on to marry the director, Cameron Crowe, whom she later divorced but also had twin sons with.  I can now tie together the influences Nancy had on one of my favorite film's he directed, Almost Famous. Lyrics were interwoven throughout the book, describing times in their lives because that's what they wrote about.  When the grunge scene hit in Seattle (where they are from), I learned that they not only had close friendships with bands like Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains but heavy influence on who they became.  Grunge bands of the time treated them like Mother Hens.  Ann and Nancy now in their 60's are still writing music and doing what they love.  I really enjoyed this book and raced though it beginning to end.  Last year, Heart was in concert near my hometown and I was able to see the powerful sisters live.  I loved the concert and sang along with them to all the old songs.  Girls who rocked before it was common for girls to rock.  


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

To You (who might feel the way I do)

To You (who might feel the way that I do):

I struggle to sometimes relate to the rest of the world.

It has become such a frightening place these days. Tolerance and humility seem to have fall by the wayside for some and has resulted in violence and picking sides (sometimes just for the sake of being on a side).


They mean something to me. I try not to toss them around (although I sometimes mess up too, just ask my husband).

Some are afraid to say anything and others have already said too much.

Social media posts leave me feeling overwhelmed with disappointment at times. I can't stomach the news most days. And I duck and cover when someone speaks to me as though they already know how I feel about current events (as they do, of course).

I don't want to judge you for your religious beliefs, income level, political preference, sex, or race.

For I am not a judge.

I don't want to disrespect you, your culture, or your beliefs.

For I am not keen on disrespect.

I don't want to argue with you about right and wrong.

Because I know that we are all wrong to some degree, myself included.  We see life through a lens that is personal to us as individuals. We have had experiences, good and bad, that have swayed our opinions one way or another. We were born into a lifestyle that differs from each other. We have grown frustrated and tired, given up hope on some things and remain passionate about others. We have watched different channels, read different books, had different teachers, and walked a different path that has led us to where we stand today.

Life is an illusion that we create on our own personal journey.

And life is far more complicated than we would like it to be.  We live in a world that is full of shades of gray. How someone arrived at their current state is usually a far more tattered tale than we'd like to think. Patience is required to reach a depth of understanding. And even then, we will never truly understand.

I want to be able to have a conversation with you and share the time we talk and listen. And enter into that conversation with the intention of inhaling that which the other speaks. To let our words impress upon each other thoughts that we might not normally think.

Because I think we can learn from tattered tales, wrong thoughts, and conflicting views. I think we can speak and be heard, if we stop to listen too. I think we can share our illusion without disrespecting each other or making someone feel invalid for feeling the way that they do.

If we could just practice tolerance and humility.

I have no interest in impressing upon you anything more than to let you know, that if you feel  the way I do, then you are not alone.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Record Obsessed - Record Stand Upcycle and Expanding Record Collection.

Growing up, my parents had a large record collection.  We often listened to records while cleaning the house on Saturday mornings. I can still recall the smell of Klean n' Shine ... (Remember Klean n' Shine when Florence Henderson (Brady Bunch) did those commercials long before she did the Wesson Oil commercials?) I remember my favorite record albums back then were Heart's Dreamboat Annie, Juice Newton, and the soundtrack to Grease.

The first larger gift I gave my husband back when we were dating was a record player.  He and I often talked about how much we missed the sound of records and thought it would be cool to own one again. I actually had previously owned a stereo system with a record player but it was stolen from my old house when it was burglarized along with several records.  The record player that I got him back then and that we still own now is a Crosley record player with a removable lid.  It isn't the greatest player but works.  I had decided around the same time, several years ago that I wanted to restore an old buffet that I bought at an antique mall.  We decided that it would make a great record stand because it has a door with tall shelving that is the perfect size to put records and allows them to stand up on end.

Over Labor Day weekend, I finally started my restore project. To be honest, my husband has been harping me about it for years and now that he has an arcade room in the basement, he wanted it out of there. The buffet itself was in great shape, the color was just not so appealing.  A light mustardy yellow paint that while very retro, didn't match my décor at all. 

I used Citri-Strip to remove the old finish.  I had never tried Criti-Strip before but it worked quite well.  It just took a plastic scraper to pull off the paint after letting it sit for a few hours.  I did have to go back across the buffet and strip it a second time but I let the chemicals do most of the work.  My husband sanded it for me to get it nice and even work out some nicks that were there prior.

To stain it, I used a staining gel.  I've stained things in the past with gel and always had great results so I didn't doubt my choice this time.  I definitely made the wrong choice. My furniture is all very dark so I chose a walnut color to match. The color itself was very nice but the number of layers it took to get it dark was a lot and the stain was so thick that it ran down the sides of the furniture.  It was definitely a pain to work with.  I think I ended up with 4 coats and still wasn't completely satisfied but in the end, gave up and went with what I had.  To be honest, unless you are right on top of it inspecting for flaws. it is hard to see the imperfections but believe me, there are plenty of them.  I also replaced the hardware with some more modern knobs that matched the stain. 

Over this last weekend, we moved it inside and put it in it's permanent home in our formal living room.  The record player has been relocated and we even tried it out on Saturday night while we played 90's Trivial Pursuit.  We will probably store board games in the drawers or maybe my old CD collection which has all been moved to flip books over the years. 

We have been working to add to our record collection in anticipation of the completed stand.  A store that we both love in a nearby town, Hastings, is going out of business.  We hit their closeout sale and got some records 50% off and others I ordered online.

My haul so far is: Lana Del Rey, Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine, and Pink Floyd - Roger Waters The Wall. I have a couple of others coming in the mail soon.  I definitely will be replacing my old favorites like Dreamboat Annie.  That's actually a pretty easy sell because I am pretty obsessed with the band Heart and have followed them for years.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Book Review: The Girls by Emma Cline

Set in the late 60's in Northern Caliform, The Girls by Emma Cline is the story of curious good-girl, Evie Boyd.  Always the trustworthy daughter, Evie had never been much of a rebellious kid.  In her fourteenth year, she itches for some excitement and finds herself fascinated by a group of wild, free-spirited girls she sees at a park.  After being ditched by her best friend, she befriends one of the wild girls, Suzanne, that introduces Evie to a new world filled with free love, drugs, and rock 'n roll.  Evie joins a new family that gives off a cult-like vibe and has ties with a famous musician who somehow funds their way of living.  Unfortunately her new family of friends isn't all about peace and love and as the story unfolds a crime is revealed that forever changes Evie for the rest of her life.

I really wanted to like this book.  I liked the writing style although it sometimes moved a little bit slow for me.  Some of the descriptions the author writes make you feel as though you are right there with Evie or at the very least can relate to her feelings.  What I found lacking was the plot.  I had a hard time connecting with any of the characters other than Evie and the motivations for their behaviors was sometimes vague or just left me feeling apathetic. The genre and setting are right up my alley which is what made me so frustrated with the book.  I wanted to LOVE the book, and in the end, it was just ok for me. I think Emma Cline has some great talent as a writer so I would definitely check her out again and hopes that maybe the next story has a plot that holds my interest more.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Labor Day Weekend and a Lisa Frank craft

Labor Day weekend has just passed and that meant a nice long 3-day weekend at my house.  My to-do list included some family time, a little work, a little work-work (my business), and a lot of relaxing and crafting. 

My sister's family came into town and we spent some time hanging out, eating, and visiting my grandmother.  I am currently addicted to a newish restaurant we have in Wichita called Georges French Bistro.  They have this salad, the most excellent Goat Cheese Steak salad.  It has steak, almonds, and these perfect little tomatoes on top of mixed greens with a buttermilk dressing...and a FRIED WHEEL OF GOAT CHEESE!  I have a goat cheese problem, see prior posts as evidence.  The cheese is easily broken up to spread across the salad but I always save a hunk of it just to savor on it's own.  Also, they have really great French Onion soup (hold the croutons for me).  So we ate there for lunch on Saturday and it was magical as always.  We also visited my grandma who had been under the weather recently but is on the road to recovery now.

I worked a little bit on a cross stitch project I have been leisurely working on for the last few weeks but grew bored of it so decided to do a mini-project just for fun.  As you all know, I am obsessed with Lisa Frank, perhaps even more obsessed than my former 12 year old self.  So I thought it would be fun to make some Lisa Frank shrinky dinks to either turn into magnets or charms for jewelry.  I used to actually sell this kind of stuff at craft fairs over 10 years ago.  I had some old shrink dink paper that had been sitting around on a shelf in my office so I found a Lisa Frank coloring page printable online (there are tons!) and went with a very 80's design -- a teddy bear ice cream sundae. I made it quite large as I was mostly just playing around so it will likely turn into a magnet that goes on my fridge.

 After you have the art you are going to trace, then just lay the shrinky dink paper rough side up and trace the design.  Once you are done, you can color it lightly and cut it out.  You bake them at 325 degrees (preheat the oven) for about 2 minutes and voila they are done.  I pulled mine out quickly so I could press it flat as they sometimes can be a bit lumpy. 

Here is the outcome.  I didn't do so great coloring in the art as I see misses all over it but they may have to do with the markers I used.  Next time, I will use my better quality markers that will do a better job of filling in the shapes. 

I also managed to start a project restoring a vintage buffet that I've had for years.  I'll save that for a separate post so I can show before and after photos and describe the process in more detail.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

London & Paris in the Spring

Norwegian Air is having a huge fall sale that covers round trip travel from major international airports in the US (Boston, New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles) to Europe and Caribbean destinations.  My family jumped on round trip tickets to London from Boston in March of next year for $550 each.  I have never seen such a low fare to Europe.  We are also taking advantage of Southwest Airlines low fares to get us to Boston and are able to use miles to pay for most of the SW flights. 

We are excited to finally make it to Europe.  We plan to take the train from London to Paris for a couple of days as well.  I took 4 years of French in high-school in an advanced class that gave me an extra year and I took French in college about 6 years ago as well.  I'm really excited to be able to use my French!  Aside from the museums and such,  I'm also not going to complain about visiting some of my goal destinations like,  Jane Austen's Bath and Shakespeare & Co. bookstore.

The sale is still going on and I am trying to resist planning ANOTHER trip at rates this low.  Martinique for $49 one-way, no joke!  If I could pull off Italy as well, I surely would.

I've gotten pretty good at travel hacking from the Midwest and people have started to ask me how I do it.  Lots and lots of research and time....

Friday, August 26, 2016

Kansas City Comic Con

We hit up Kansas City Comic Con a couple of weeks ago for Penny's birthday.  Since our discovery of MegaCon over the summer, Penny was really wanting to check out Kansas City Comic Con (and so was her sister and their dad).  So we made an overnight trip up to KC with my mom and the girl's cousin to swim and check it out. 

After learning about Cosplay, both girls HAD to dress up.  We found Dr. Who costumes online so Tori wore a Tardis dress and Penny wore a Dalek dress.  They loved being a part of the crowd and getting attention from people who wanted to take pictures with them.

We went on a Saturday morning and were happily surprised that the crowds weren't nearly as big as MeganCon nor was the walking distance to get inside.  The event took up a large space at Bartle Hall in the KC Convention Center.  There were definitely some interesting comic book artists including one of Penny's favorites, Ian McGinty, who does Bravest Warriors (her favorite) and Adventure Time comics.  He signed a comic for her with a special note and drawing that said Happy Birthday.  She was super excited and now that comic has been put in a protective case to keep.

The girls were probably most excited about the vendors.  These girls love all the toys, jewelry, clothing, and art that the vendors have.  Tori got some Dr. Who earrings that are made from recycled comic books.  Penny was a bit spoiled by Grandma and she got some Totoro earrings and matching necklace. She also got a Dr. Who Adipose necklace.  Their cousin, Regina, was into all the Kawaii stuff (my kind of kid) and got herself a new fancy phone case for her iPhone.

The husband was able to geek out a little bit as the Dukes of Hazzard guys were there as well as Nichelle Nichols from Star Trek.

I really liked MegaCon but it felt overwhelming and crazy.  Kansas City Comic Con was definitely more relaxed and enjoyable.  We spent about 3 hours there and definitely saw everything.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

First Day Back to School

The last two days have had us learning new routines and settling into how life will be now that both girls are back in school and at different schools this year.  Tori started 6th grade at a new middle school and Penny started 4th grade at her old school.

Tori started with a half day of only 6th graders to get comfortable with walking class to class and using a locker before going a full day with 7th and 8th graders.  She did well but would really like to have the locker combination nailed by now.  She's definitely making that move into wanting to dress a certain way and caring more about her appearance with less help from mom.

Penny was back to the same routine meeting up with her besties from last year before the bell rang.  I'm sure they were deep in discussion over Totoro and Pokémon before the teacher started class.

It has been a loaded summer of fun and staying active.  The girls managed to travel to: Orlando, FL; Guanacaste, Costa Rica; and Denver, CO.  Tori did a week at Lego Robotics Camp and they both did a week at Horseback Riding Camp.  They also made two trips up to KC to hangout with my sister's family and swim which included going to KC Comic Con which I will post on separately.

I also managed to work from home a few days to allow the girls to spend time just vegging out with electronics.  I'm not a big fan of the amount of overuse of electronics with kids but I indulged them in a few days of just doing nothing.

We definitely made the most of the summer and took advantage of mom's increased energy and desire to get out and live life more.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Keto Meal: Hatch Chile Pork

This weekend the Midwest was hit with a cold front which dipped our highs into the 70's creating all the feelings of fall in my household.  I love to make crockpot meals in the fall and winter and while at the grocery store this weekend, I decided to make some Hatch Green Chile Pork in the crockpot when I came across a new kit I had never seen before by Stubbs. The kit is actually for chicken but the husband and I prefer our green chile with pork so we swapped the meats.  The kit comes with a dry rub, a cooking sauce, and a finishing sauce. You can use it to cook on the stovetop or in the crockpot but we opted for the crockpot method.  We cooked our pork roast about 7 hours and it was very tender to shred.  It would be great to serve the meat on sandwiches or a salad but we opted for soft tacos.  Using Mission Low Carb Tortillas, I stuffed mine with pork, pepper jack cheese, sour cream, and salsa.  If I had some avocado, I definitely would have made some guac to go along with it.  The flavor was excellent.  We were a little worried because our roast was bigger than what the seasoning kit called for but no worries, very well flavored and even had a little heat.  We noticed there were a few other flavor kits that we may have to check out next time.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Stranger Things

I discovered the Netflix Original show, Stranger Things, that has now been all the rage online recently and watched the entire season in a few days. In case you are living under a rock and haven't heard of it, I thought I would post about how wonderfully nostalgic it is.

Stranger Things is set in the early 80's and is a throwback to my childhood.  The story revolves around a group of boys who are friends that play Dungeon and Dragons in the basement, ride their bikes around the neighborhood for hours, and crush on friend's older sisters.  When one of the boys disappears, it is clear that something strange is going on.  It has the feel of The Goonies, The Last Starfighter and E.T.; very much like a Spielberg film.  (Remember the film Super 8 where they tried to do this but failed horribly.  This one doesn't fail!)

Winona Ryder plays the missing boys mother and even though I am a die hard Winona Ryder fan, (Mermaids! Welcome Home Rocky Charmichael! Reality Bites!  Beetlejuice!  Edward Scissorhands!) I have to say, she does an excellent job portraying a confused and grieving parent. Just her being in the show was incentive enough for me to watch it.  And on another note, I think she was badly misunderstood for that little shoplifting incident years ago....

The boys are your typical geek squad that are absorbed in their little world of after school shenanigans and nerding out over the cool things a favorite teacher exposes them too.

I won't include any spoilers but let's just say that there are creatures and darkness that play into the show which has it's frightening moments at times.  There is also a couple of awkward love stories that are introduced which have all the cheesiness of a proper 80's film.  If you haven't checked it out, I suggest you do.  And if Netflix could put up another season for me to binge watch, that would be awesome, k, thanks.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Davids Tea : Summer Sale

Just thought I would mention to all the tea lovers out there or  those who have been curious to try the tea I'm always blogging about that Davids Tea is having their Summer Sale with 40% off right now!  I'm trying to restrain myself... we'll see how that goes.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

9 Years Old

My youngest, Penny, is turning 9 tomorrow and I'm in so much denial that the baby of family is growing up. While looking at family photos from our recent vacation I really started to notice, she's now a big girl...sniff, sniff. 

I am also realizing now that it has been over 8 years since I met this independent toddler who lived life on her own terms.  I met Penny for the first time when she just under a year old.  She didn't know what to think of me and kept her distance, all in her own time and on her own terms.  The next time I met her, she walked for the very first time!  I was so excited to see this spunky and fearless little girl take off and she literally did take off!  No fear, just excitement.  Thankfully she accepted me and loved to have me hold and love on her.

Now at 9 years old, she's even more set in her ways.  She is my kid who has all the interests and desire to create just like me.  She loves drawing with me while we sit and watch shows and movies like Adventure Time, Labyrinth, Studio Ghibli stuff, and everything kawaii!  She loves Dr. Who as well but shares that one with her dad.

She still loves her toys and I think if she could stay at the age she is for life, it wouldn't bother her a bit. She's a collector of all things small and has boxes and cases of blind bag prizes that she cherishes. She LOVES her stuffed animals and carries her Piggy or Totoro most places she goes. She has really started to get into reading more these days, going so far as to ask for a Kindle for her birthday.  She loves the Hobbit and Harry Potter most recently.

She's my articulate and strong willed kid who is the center of attention at school and always lets people know what is on her mind.  I love her spunk and sensitivity towards others, especially her protectiveness and love for her grandmother. She always makes sure she apologizes for her bad behaviors and goes to bed with a clear head.

She's a little mini-me and if I were to have had a baby from my body, I would guess he or she would turn out about much like Penny.  People often tell me how obvious it is that she is MY daughter.

We will be celebrating her birthday with a Shopkins themed pool party next weekend and expect to have loads and loads of fun.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Back from Vacation to Guanacaste, Costa Rica

I just returned from an 8 day vacation to Guanacaste, Costa Rica with my family and am starting to get caught back up!  I thought I would cover our trip in a few posts about the different aspects of our trip and how it all went.

We left out of Wichita, KS and flew into Liberia, Costa Rica. I've been to Central America several times now but wasn't sure what to expect of the airport in Liberia.  I've always dreaded the airports in Mexico because there are police and military in vests with large rifles standing around and everyone is trying to sell you something when you walk out of customs.  The Liberia airport wasn't like that at all.  Our flight got in pretty late so it was dark when we arrived.  The airport was very small but very modern.  Going through customs was very simple and took maybe 10 minutes total.  One we picked up our luggage we walked out of the airport to look for our ride.  I expected to be approached by drivers offering rides but everyone stood their distance and waited for people to ask for help.  I found our pre-booked driver pretty quickly and we got in our van to head to our resort.

We had a driver and a tour guide in our van so he was able to tell us about the country. He was full of facts and stories -- I didn't know that cashews grew from a fruit and have quite a bit of processing that has to be done before they are eaten, this is why cashews are so much more expensive than most other nuts.

We arrived at our hotel the RIU Guanacaste which is an all-inclusive resort set between the rain forest and the beach.  The hotel is very remote with only it's sister property, the RIU Palace, next door.  We checked in and quickly grabbed dinner before the restaurant closed.  The RIU Guanacaste had a buffet restaurant that was open for all meals and then additional sit down restaurants -- Italian, Asian, Steak, and Gourmet restaurants.  There were many bars including a sports bar that my family liked to hang out at.  Our meals and drinks were included with the hotel which makes it so much easier in my opinion; it almost always comes out cheaper this way.

Our room was on the 5th floor overlooking the ocean.  The ocean is a pretty turquoise color but the first 10 feet or so is very murky water.  Costa Rica has volcanoes and the sand is made of lava rock which is much darker than the white sands you find in the Caribbean.  As the tide stirs up the sand, it causes the water to be murky.  This didn't bother us at all.  The sand itself can be a lot hotter on the feet though because it is darker. The beaches also have many vendors that walk around or have booths offering handcrafts and massages.

I had expected the food in Costa Rica to be similar to what we have had in Mexico but was actually quite a bit different.  First, beans and rice  and rice and beans are the two main dishes.  For breakfast, they have rice and beans (black beans) combined together and are often eaten with eggs.  For lunch and as a dinner side they have beans and rice which is the two as separate sides. I loved the rice and beans and had them with nearly every meal.  The fruit was also amazing.  Some of the best pineapple I have ever eaten.  We also noticed that the people of Costa Rica seem pretty serious about Chinese food, we saw more Chinese restaurants than any others.  Fresh avocado and pico de gallo were staples nearly every day.

The pool is where we spent most of our time.  There is one large pool with several different tiers and corners.  Plenty of lounge chairs for everyone and lots of games poolside.  We enjoyed the drinks, I had my share of Pina Coladas, Blue Hawaii's and Mudslides.  I didn't drink as much as I normally would I think due to the fact that the sugar flavor was so strong, it got old quickly.  My girls loved their virgin strawberry daiquiris.

We did have a few outings while on the trip -- visiting the Monkey Bar, going down the river in Palo Verde, visiting the Catarata Llanos del Cortés waterfall, and going into the city of Liberia to explore.  The roads in Costa Rica are very narrow and we went through a travel agency so we had drivers the entire time.  I was very nervous at how fast the drivers went up and down the steep hills and mountains on such narrow roads with traffic coming the opposite direction.  I'll be posting separately on our outings.

We also hired a photographer to our family photos done in Costa Rica this year and I wasn't disappointed.  Our photographer, Marco, was excellent.  He captured perfectly what we were looking for... some family shots, some couple shots, and of course plenty of the girls playing.  The scenery in Costa Rica is so beautiful and vibrant the photos pop. 

We did a few outings but we spent a lot of time relaxing as a family.  The girls really enjoyed playing Foosball and Ping Pong in the Sports Bar, especially during afternoon rains (which were typically under and our).  We swam every day and am happy to report that no one was badly burned.  I did a good amount of reading and finally finished Fatal Vision by Joe McGinniss (I think I am done with crime novels for awhile and ready to switch gears back to my favorite genres). I might have managed to squeeze in some nice naps as well!

Stay tuned for my next post on the wildlife adventures we had while in Costa Rica!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Lip Product Junkie

I have always been a fan of lip products.  I would say that they are my favorite makeup item.  You would think that I would then be into crazy, wild colors.  Not me.  I'm as Plain Jane as they come when it comes to lipsticks and gloss.  I have just about every variation of nude possible with a few berry colors intermingled.  And mostly, I just like clear stuff with the slightest tinge of pink that not only smells good but tastes good too.

I attribute this addiction to lip products going back to child hood.  We had the best lip products on the planet in the 80's and 90's.  I occasionally find cool things today but as usual the 80's were always better.

My gateway drug was by Bonne Bell.  The Bonne Bell line was full of beauty products but known for it's soda flavored chapsticks and colorful tins shaped like hearts called Lip Smackers.  I was a complete sucker for the Dr. Pepper flavor. Lip Smackers is one of the few brands that has managed to keep up and the line has expanded into kooky flavors like Double Cheeseburger, Cookie Dough, Maple Bacon, and Funnel Cake.  Santa left some Lip Smackers in stockings and I recall seeing Dill Pickle, French Fries, and Pizza as well!  They also have a line that is pots in the shapes of Disney Tsum Tsum characters that my daughters have been collecting.  For those who still love Lip Smackers, you can actually find them all online at the Lip Smackers website.  There is even a Smoochie Club you can join for free to get the latest updates. I might be a member....

After Bonne Bell, I moved onto Village Lip Lickers.  These were little tins that slid side to side to reveal one or two flavored lip glosses.  Growing up, my mom used to do scavenger hunts for my sister and I.  I always loved finding Lip Lickers as my prize at the end of the hunt!  Cherry Cola was a favorite and has been sorely missed over the years.  I recently learned that Vintage Lip Lickers is back!  Tine Cosmetics has brought back a clear gloss line and a tinted gloss line called Vintage Lip Lickers with many of the old flavors, Strawberry, Grape, Cream Soda, and Miss Pepper.  I couldn't resist this one and had to order a few for myself, you can check out the site here.  You may also remember this line as they also did Kissing Sticks which were similar to Lip Smackers with a variety of flavors.  Original packaging from back in the day is used which makes these so retro and fun.

Next I moved onto Kissing Koolers and Kissing Potion, both by Maybelline. Kissing Koolers were short little fat marbled lipsticks that were flavorful but had a cooling effect as well.  Kissing Potion was in a roller ball style container that tasted great (kind of like oily candy) but was incredibly sticky. By this time in my life, I had a caboodle filled to the brim with this stuff and treated it like a prized possession.  I now remember how frequently my friends and I would trade... I must admit it now grosses me out.

As I have gotten older, my love for lip products has slow down a bit.  I've also moved onto using cruelty-free products which has led me to try new brands as well.  Tarte is great line and I love the nudes that they offer. 

I recently discovered the line of lip balms called Hurraw!  My mom found them at a local tea store and always looking out for me and the hydration of my lips, picked me up a Chai Spice flavored one to try, I will definitely re-purchase in the future.  One thing that was surpising to me as I started looking for new lip products that were cruelty free, brands that I figured were easily cruelty-free weren't.  I was always a fan of Burt's Bees and thought I could easily keep buying their products...wrong.  EOS, the little egg shaped balms that come in pastel colors and are flavored...not cruelty free either.  I believe Lip Lickers is cruelty free so I am pretty excited to add these into my day to day... and enjoy the envious looks of other 80's brats like myself!

Friday, July 15, 2016

One Year Keto Anniversary - Progress in Pictures

This last week, I celebrated my one year anniversary on Keto. I have managed to lose 88 pounds in one year.  I can't believe I have stuck with it this long.  It has been a far easier journey than I ever thought it could be and I wouldn't change this last year for anything.  I am now far healthier and happier than I have been in a long time.  I have a bit still to go but even if I don't lose another pound, I am still so thankful for the progress I have made. 

Something that I think a lot of people struggle with when starting a diet like this when they have so far to go is just how daunting it feels to lose 50 - 100 - 150 pounds.  I think what people fail to realize is how much of a difference even 10 pounds makes.  I remember just starting last year and noticing within two weeks that I was already feeling better.  I hadn't lost much in those two weeks but I wasn't so sluggish or sleepy; my energy was way up.  I attribute a lot of gaining my life back to this lifestyle. I am far more active and want to get out and do things. I even attribute my desires to start side businesses and having success to it because I'm not tired all the time.  I now know a way that I can live and not be so dependent on sugars and carbs and that is a really freeing feeling.

I thought I would share some progress pics over the last year to show how far I have come. These early pics aren't so easy to share but this is real life.

July 2015
September 2015
October 2015
November 2015
December 2015
 January 2016
February 2016
 March 2016
May 2016
July 2016 
So what's next?  I'm going to continue to live a ketogenic lifestyle and continue to benefit from the weight loss. I'd like to lose another 40 pounds or so.  I actually revised my goal weight after I figured out how achievable it was and realizing how much better I feel. 
 A few things have changed in the last couple of months --
I have stopped tracking every thing I eat in MyFitnessPal.  I loved this app when I first started but as I got better at knowing how many carbs I was eating, I found it was tedious to keep tracking it.  I do recommend using an app to track if you are new to keto or any low-carb diet. 
I've allowed myself to be more lax with my carbs.  Now I'm not talking going crazy but I sometimes go over 20 net carbs a day and I'm ok with that. 
I've allowed myself to "cheat" when I plan for it. So far this has only been on vacation which is fine with me.  I don't need to "cheat" once a week, or month, or year.  All in moderation, if I want something bad enough, I can figure out a way to have it ... low-carb.