Sunday, December 30, 2012

Back on Track

Well the holidays are nearly over and a young lady's fancy turns toward New Year's resolutions. I gained a whopping 2.6 lbs over the holidays. Okay, that's not a lot but I spent the last 10 weeks or so losing 16 lbs so gaining feels like going backwards.

So, even though I made the most awesome Red Velvet Brownies with White Chocolate Icing just yesterday, I am getting back on track tomorrow. No, not today because it is after 8 pm right now. I brought the brownies with me to church and shared them with my fellow worshipers. I received wonderful accolades (no, not acolytes) and no longer have all those calories in my house. I also, brought my mother-in-laws rum balls (I didn't know what they were, just that we weren't eating them and figured I would share the wealth), which went over like booze infused hotcakes.

I don't tend to make New Year's resolutions because like most people I just break them and it makes me feel bad, generally before February. Although I do think about what I want to change each year. Reflection is one of the first steps to change. What I have done for the last few years is a Word of the Year project. I am still trying to decide between two words (to be revealed at a later date). Previous words of the year have included: Joy, Relationships, and Humble Servant.

What I know I want to do is lose weight. I joined Weight Watchers in October. My mantra since then has been "Eat Less, Move More, No Excuses". I was doing well too, until December hit. Then, I stopped exercising, stopped logging my food, and stopped losing weight. That is officially over.

Starting tomorrow, I will write down (online) everything I eat. "If you bite it, write it." I will figure out a way to exercise each day, and I will reach my goal of 4 activity points per day. If you are not familiar with the Weight Watchers Points Plus program, I highly recommend getting yourself to a Weight Watchers meeting. It makes a lot of sense. Unless of course you don't struggle with your weight in which case Yay You!

Incentive Jars
Starting tomorrow I am going to get 2 jars and 101 pennies (or marbles if I can find them) and put my 13 pennies in my lost jar and the rest in my left to go jar. Then for each pound I lose, another penny is moved. I have been posting a picture of myself on my Facebook page each week on weigh in day so that I can have a visual representation of my weight loss journey.

Here I am last week
So, wish me luck or join me on my journey. 2013 will see a thinner me!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Red Velvet Brownies

I have always said that boxed brownies are so good that no one could make a scratch one that was better enough to make it worth my time to make it... I was SO wrong.

My church had an auction in September 2011. I donated my services of baking a dessert a month for a year and our interim pastor Marti won the auction. Unfortunately an illness kept her from taking advantage of it right away. So, next week I am making these Red Velvet Brownies for her. I figured I would make them this week for 2 reasons.

OMG Freakin' YUM!

  1.  I have a new mixer that I wanted to test. (Thank you, Bumbly. It is an awesome Christmas present.)
  2. I like brownies
I got the recipe from

So first, my new, red Sunbeam mixer rocks! Okay, it is not a high end mixer but I am a chef, not a baker. So, I don't use mixers much. The biggest reason my Bumbly bought it for me was for the bread hooks. I have never made fresh bread but I am looking forward to trying that too.

Oh, and I am not a chef by trade, just by passion. I am a geek by day.

Anyway, back to the brownies. 

Ignore the mess in the background. I am a chef not a maid.

Cream room temperature butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Okay, too much flash on this picture.

Better but that shadow there is the camera.

Much better. The batter will be dry and crumbly.

Add the eggs 
One at a time

Then the vanilla

Mix cocoa powder, red food color (a whole bottle a.k.a. 1 ounce) and vanilla.

Add it to the mixer. (Look at that great color!)

Add flour and salt

Mix until just combined

Spread in pan

Bake for about 25 minutes

Bake until a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean. (Important tip: don't use a red toothpick.)

Cool completely

Here is where things went badly.

Melt white chocolate and set it aside. Cream butter with mixer until fluffy. Add vanilla. SLOWLY (this is VERY important.) mix in powdered sugar (might even want to sift it first). Then mix in white chocolate. Add enough milk to reach desired consistency. Mine was very lumpy. Until my hubbie pressed it through a fine strainer.

Then it was perfect!

Ice the brownies once they are cool. (We couldn't wait so the icing got a little melty.)

And eat.
I will be making these again.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pain and Gratefulness

After 8 weeks of excruciating back pain, my doctor gave up. I had x-rays and an MRI that showed nothing unusual. I had prayed for healing and my church family had even laid hands on me. My doctor was referring me to something called “pain management”.  And when I asked what they would do, he said they might give me injections to reduce swelling, give me a “nerve block” or maybe even kill some nerves. Unfortunately, their next available appointment wasn’t for 5 more weeks. Also, I was going to physical therapy twice a week where I got some relief.

The day the doctor gave up, I was dejected and desperate. Again I prayed for relief but this time I looked up bible verses about God and healing. Specifically:

Jeremiah 17:14
Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, For You are my praise.

Psalm 103:2-5
Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercies
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Jeremiah 30:17
‘For I will restore health to you And heal you of your wounds,’ says the Lord, ‘Because they called you an outcast saying: “This is Zion; No one seeks her.”’

And especially,
Psalm 30:2
O Lord my God, I cried out to You, And You healed me.

That last one I repeated over and over all day.

That same day I read something from Kirk Weisler. If you don’t know him, you should look him up at, he is a VERY wise and authentic man. He said:

When or if we let one of the toxic or unhappy 7 billion (people in the world) ruin our day by distracting us from all that we have to be grateful for …then we simultaneously may be allowing ourselves to be blocked from experiencing the transcendent moments that are latent in each and every day.   I know that when I am distracted by frustration over real or perceived injustice… my mind can begin racing with “what is needed to make it right” or “what I should have said”…or what “I would like to have said”… and I can get all worked up and YUCK!  

On the other hand … with discipline and deliberateness we can learn to quickly “let things go”…or better yet “never pick things up that can hurt us”… instead focus our thoughts and our energies on being our best…doing our best and being grateful for the peace that accompanies such thinking.  It is in those moments of peace and gratitude that creative and constructive juices flow…and exciting encounters with everyday epiphanies occur.

So, I decided that I am still very blessed and I was going to be thankful for all of the things going right in my life. I even wrote “Thankfulness” on an index card and put it right in front of my computer keyboard to remind me throughout the day to be thankful. I got down to some pretty basic things like I am grateful for the electricity that runs the furnace that heats the water for my shower and I am grateful for the use of all my fingers so that I can work on a computer and tie my shoes.

That evening I had a physical therapy appointment. I told the therapist what the doctor said and she said that she was going to give me more exercises to do and spend more time and effort working on my back (since my scans showed nothing wrong). When I walked in I was not moving well and when I left, I wasn’t much better. However, I woke up the next morning in significantly less pain and my back pain is lessening noticeably each day since. In fact, I am only taking Advil for my pain at this point. I thank God for hearing my cries and giving me relief. God has been faithful to me and so I am being faithful to him by giving him praise and spreading the news of his goodness for all to see.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Another Defining Quote

This blog is defined by the quote at the top of the page by Martha Washington. I found one today by Wilhelm Von Humboldt that is along the same lines.

"Our happiness or our unhappiness depends far more on the way we meet the events of life than on the nature of those events themselves."

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Power of the Right Medication

I visited my doctor yesterday and told him about the problems I have been having with fatigue and depression. He spent about 20 minutes talking to me and we decided on a course of action that included a new medication. He said if I am not feeling better in a couple of days to let him know but to come back in 2 weeks otherwise.

I had a very “bad” day yesterday in that I seemed to have reached a new low in my depression. I dropped off my prescription at the pharmacy on the way home from work and picked it up a couple of hours later. I took my first dose immediately and will start taking it at bedtime starting today. I didn’t sleep well but when I woke up this morning I felt like I could breathe again.

It was as if this sadness weighed down so heavily on me that I could only take shallow breaths for the past year and now I can finally take slow, deep breaths again. I don’t know if I will continue to have issues but I am so happy right now to just not be sad. Thank you Chris, so much, for taking the time to get me on the right medication.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Pollyanna is Not a Bad Word

Disclaimer: This is a post that I did on my previous blog Joyful Service a couple of years back.

I have always been called an optimist and Pollyana. I have always tried to find the good in life and in people. Some people get frustrated with me because when my car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, I think "Good, my AAA membership just paid for itself."

While many people may believe that I am this way naturally and effortlessly, it is sometimes work. For example...

This winter, the first in my new house, the ceiling in my living room started to leak. The snow on the roof froze and then there was more snow and more freezing. My dear husband explained to me that the snow was pushing under the eaves, and when the ice started to melt, it soaked into the roof and then the ceiling. My beautiful house was getting water stains and the ceiling began to flake off. I started to get depressed.

However, I decided a couple of years ago not to allow my circumstances determine my happiness. In all things I try to find the silver lining. Or as Polly would say, "something to be glad for." So, I racked my brain. My husband and his 70+ year old father went on the roof and shovelled and broke the ice into chunks that they threw down to the ground. So where was the lining?

Well, it isn't a really bright lining but I found it. The part of the ceiling that was damaged is not visible unless you are almost directly under it. My beautiful house is still beautiful and can be repaired in the Spring. My wonderfully talented and handy husband and his father who taught him to be handy, were not only able to fix the problem but willing to do it.

There is always something to be glad about. If you lose your job, it might be that it is the trigger that takes you out of a rut you have been in. In this economy, losing a job is cause for fear and anxiety but it can teach you how to be more thrifty and make you appreciate the problems of people who are homeless or people in third world countries who have almost nothing.

Just living in the United States is something to be thankful for every day. There are places to go if by some chance you do need assistance getting food, or shelter. Our children get a free education no matter where you live.

By finding something good about any situation I find that I am a happier person. What situation are you facing that yoou need to find the good in?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Why I Started This Blog

"I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances." 

It is my nature to look on the "bright side" of things, to give the benefit of the doubt, and to think the best of people. Unfortunately, sometime in 2010 I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, the symptoms of which include weight gain, fatigue and depression. Every couple of months I go and get blood-work done and my doctor tells me it is not under control yet (I could have told him that) and he increases the dosage of my medication. The end result is that I spent the majority of 2011 in a bad mood doing nothing. 

Okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration. I work during the day as a computer tech/support person, I am a Pampered Chef consultant by night, I am married, I have 2 teenage children (one of each sex) and am active in both my community and my church. What I really mean is that I don't feel like I accomplished anything.
This is me!

I've read that people who journal tend to be happier people so I tried journaling but, knowing that I would not be accountable for what I wrote, I tended to complain or brood instead of writing why I was grateful.

By starting this blog I will accomplish three things.
1.     Knowing that others will read my blog, I will be on my best behavior, considering my words carefully and using them to build up rather than tear down.
2.     I will have a place to write down my thoughts, beliefs and the interesting thoughts of others in a location that I can access from anywhere.
3.     I will be able to look back at my life and see what I have accomplished and my “inspirational” words for those times when I am in the grip of despair.

Please help to keep me honest and feel free to gently call me out when I do not stay true to these core beliefs:
1.     It is far better to give than to receive.
One thing that you will receive from me is recipes. I love to cook but I love to find recipes even more so I will be posting my favorites right here.
2.     Anything worth doing is worth doing well and joyfully.
Before the hypothyroidism this one was not a problem for me but I hate the person I have become and I am going to change that by changing my disposition and hopefully my circumstances will eventually change back so that it is no longer a conscious effort.
3.     To Him be the glory
All that I am, all that I do, all that I’ll ever have, I owe to Jesus Christ, my savior.

Now, before you go running off! This is not going to be a {finger quotes} Christian {finger quotes} blog, but by the same token Christian is what I am so I am also not going to hide it. If this offends you then feel free to leave and never come back. You probably won’t hurt my feelings.

Everyone who stays… welcome to my blog.
All my thanks to seanbjack for the use of his flickr image