Week 25: I Have Taken A Trip...

To ONEDERLAND!!! Woo Hoo!! Oh yea... before the end of July even. BOOYA. I will never go back into TWO-land again! It feels so good to finally reach this goal. I totally feel like crying! So I lost 2 pounds last week and my man lost 3 pounds.

We have really hit with some adversity, yet I think we’ve been handling it SO much better than we would have last year with all our weight on. We would have both slipped in a depression, I'm sure. But this time, it doesn’t seem as hard to overcome and we’ve been overwhelmed with blessings and seeing the Lord's hand in helping us. Since both vehicles were down, my man rides the bus and then the train to work 1.5 hours each way and it’s not that bad. He actually enjoys it. And a friend offered for us to use her van so that we could take our family on a day trip with my brother on his boat. How nice was that? We had a wonderful time that makes up for not being able to go on our week long vacation to Utah.

I even attempted the boogie board - which I would never have even attempted before. I didn’t get up on it, BUT I tried! Next year..... watch out!

My Man, on the other hand, ROCKED the boogie board for his first time!! He is such a natural athlete.

I have some other great news: I am now a Health Coach for “Take Shape For Life”. I’m SO excited to help others who want to lose weight and get into better health using this program. It has really changed our lives. I am totally sold on eating smaller meals every 3 hours or so (6 meals a day) and we plan on doing that the rest of our lives. I am excited knowing that there is a transition plan and maintenance plan for when we reach our goal... it’s just so unlike all the other lifestyle changes we’ve ever attempted. This time it is working and there is NO TURNING BACK.

Last week I had cottage cheese as one half of my “lean” along with a chicken patty, and my salad for a meal. Oh, how I loved having that cottage cheese. I've been having it for my lean a few times this week. Great for summer, too.

Also, I finally got the new Medifast Chocolate Chip Pancake mix. The first pancakes were thin but still tasted so good to me. Then, tonight we made it again and I thought we should try it as a waffle. So we added 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 cup egg beaters along with the 1/4 cup water and put it in my waffle iron... and voila! A fluffy, yummy WAFFLE with walden farms sugar free syrup on it. Oh was good! I felt like I was cheating. :)

My goals for this next week are my Freedom Challenge goals I’ve been working on which are: Get to bed at a good time (before 11pm), get up at a good time (by 8 am), drink 100 ounces of water a day, and lastly Keep a POSITIVE attitude - even in the face of adversity. That last one is a kicker but it really does help. I can feel the Lord helping me stay positive too, as I focus on taking care of my family and serving those around me. It’s like, if I take care of those who need me, the Lord takes care of me (emotionally)... that’s what I’m learning! Even when times are hard: SIEZE THE DAY!!! It will all turn out for our best. Have a great week. XOX

Box Construction

As I mentioned in my last post, one of the activities we did over the recent school holidays was Box Construction. I usually donate all our cardboard boxes, plastic bottle tops, plastic containers and cardboard cylinders to the pre-school because they do this activity every week. But just a few weeks before the end of last term I had repeated requests from Mousie, Teddy and Kitcat to keep these items at home so they could use them during the holidays.

So by the end of the second week of holidays we had a decent pile of boxes. I added some plastic drinking straws, coloured matchsticks, styrofoam packing pieces, paddlepop sticks, crepe paper and various lengths of yarn to the stash and gave them brushes and tubs of PVA glue, scissors, as well as free access to the "stippy take" (that's Mousie-talk for sticky tape.) Here they are near the beginning of the construction process. (This was taken before it got too messy!)They were all very particular about what went where and there were some tears when things didn't stick they way they wanted, as well as a few squabbles over who was going to use which item, but overall it turned out to be a very harmonious undertaking.I took a photo of all their various constructions when they were finished. There were a lot! Lots of boats and houses, as well as a few crocodiles and the odd person too.Then I asked them to each choose one of their constructions and explain it to everyone else. Mousie made a submarine - the Good Ship Vitamin C - which, I am afraid, did not look very buoyant at all. Teddy built a glass-bottom boat, with seats around the sides, so people could see what was under the water.Ducky made a boat which she needed to demonstrate as it had a hole in the deck which led down to the cabin. She had sumptuously decorated the interior of the cabin. I think it was a luxury yacht! Kitcat's construction needed little explaining. She simply said, "These are by-nock-yolars."

Now I have to admit that I was surprised that the construction process took as long as it did (more than half a day) because Kitcat gets to do this every week at pre-school, and I know Teddy and Mousie have this kind of craft at least once a month at school. I didn't think they would be as interested as they turned out to be. I honestly thought it would be one of those activities where it took me longer to prepare beforehand, and clean up afterwards, than the girls would actually spend doing it.

Well, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised when they not only spent half a day the first day, but most of the next day as well, making things out of boxes. Here they are constructing outside the following day, because it had stopped raining. The 'doing' time definitely outlasted the preparation time. The cleaning-up, however, is still a work in process .... two weeks later! (Tip - if you do this at home, leave out the styrofoam packing pieces. Especially if you have a child who, like Teddy, enjoys breaking things like that into the tiniest particles possible.)

The Brook Lee Catastrophe

Last night a friend and I checked out the Brook Lee Catastrophe at a local pub. They were terrific. They're sort of an indie rock/folk/alternative outfit, with a fiddle and, sometimes, a psychedelic vibe. If you'd like to hear some music/see some videos/check out tour dates, visit their MySpace page.

This is my favorite song by them. The video appears to be fan-made (and not that great, IMO).

Banana Walnut Muffins

Here I am, posting from sunny California ... just kidding.  It's my blog, posting all by itself.  I thought perhaps you'd miss me while I'm gone.

We're out of muffins again, which are a good go-to breakfast, both for me and for Ian (I've been trying to eat mostly fruit or yogurt, but sometimes I just want carb).  A few weeks ago a friend mentioned that she makes muffins every Saturday with her boys, and recommended Mark Bittman's recipe.  The wonderful thing about Bittman is that he gives you lots of ideas for tinkering, so that you can end up with something that suits your tastes without risking the potential disaster of a complete baking experiment.  I wanted whole grain, or at least mostly whole grain, and fruit.

I had some bananas in the freezer (for those of you who don't know this, something magical seems to happen to the chemical structure of frozen ripe bananas--skin on--that turns them into pure sugar, and defrosted slightly, they become a breeze to mash or whir into a smoothie ... just run them under warm water to slip them out of their skins), and I like the fact that if I use bananas in a recipe, I don't need to use as much sweetener or oil. 

We came up with these, which have just the right balance of sweetness and whole grain heartiness.  I tossed in some nuts for extra protein, and they were a nice complement to the wheat bran.  I think next time I use this recipe I might also add 1/4 c. or so of Greek yogurt, just to increase the moistness and size of the crumb a little bit.  If you try this, let me know how it works.

Bittman recommends that you serve these warm, and so do I.

Banana Walnut Muffins

3/4 c. all purpose flour1 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. wheat bran
1/2 t. salt3 t. baking powder
1/4 c. honey or maple syrup
3 T. light olive oil
1 egg (vegans can use EnerG egg replacer or 1 T. flax seeds ground, mixed with 3 T. water)
1 c. very ripe banana, mashed
1/4 c milk of your choice (rice, soy, etc ... plus more if needed)
1/2 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 375.

Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl; separately, in a medium bowl, mix together wet ingredients.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients.  Combine the ingredients so that the dry ones are just moistened; the batter should be lumpy and somewhat thick, but you can add a little milk if you need to.

Spoon into muffin cups or a greased/oiled muffin pan and bake 20-30 minutes, until the tops are just beginning to brown and toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool 5 minutes and remove from the pan.

Got Zucchini?

Wolf Holler Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Now..you might think chocolate and zucchini? EEWWW!!  BUT..It is amazingly Delicious! So if you have extra zucchini..as anyone who plants the stuff USUALLY has..then here is a recipe for YOU!!

Wet Ingredients:

1/2 pound butter
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup dark brown sugar packed
4 fresh eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup plain yogurt ( or sour cream or sour milk)

4 cups shredded zucchini set aside til end

Dry Ingredients:

3 Cups unbleached flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup cocoa ( I use dark red cocoa)
1 tsp Baking soda
1 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Beat together butter oil and sugar.
Add eggs and beat well.
Add Yogurt  and and vanilla, beat well.

Mix and sift dry ingredients ..adding to wet mix gradually until well blended.
Stir in chocolate chips..then fold in zucchini mixing well...Spoon into two buttered loaf pans and bake at 325 for 60 minutes. This will fast replace your old zucchini bread recipe , and is a healthy and yummy alternative to chocolate cake!


Second Week of School Holidays

Mousie and Teddy stayed behind at Tanilba Bay to have some special time with their grandparents. Possum, Dragon, Ducky, Kitcat and I came home from Nano and Grandpap's house on Wednesday of the first week of the school holidays. We wanted to get home in time to say 'goodbye' to HB before he had to go away to work in Sydney.

Initially, Kitcat was excited at the thought of not having to put up with anyone else in her bedroom. (She shares with Mousie and Teddy.) She often hangs blankets from the base of the top bunk to enclose her bed and make her own 'bedroom' because she says her two sisters are "....so, so, sooooo noisy."

However when it was time for bed, not long after arriving home that evening, Kitcat was upset that she was by herself.

"Don't worry Kitcat," I told her, "You have all your cat toys to keep you company."

"But I still need someone to sleep in this room with me," she insisted in a wavering, upset voice.

Possum allowed Kitcat to choose one of her soft toys to take to bed, and she decided on the Saint Bernard wearing a Santa hat.

So she went to bed after a few false starts, but when I went to check on her a few hours later I found that she had not gone straight to sleep. Maybe she really needs that noisiness of her sisters to help her doze off? (Don't let anyone from an animal shelter see this photo. Cats hanging by their tails just look wrong - unless they are trying to evolve into bats ... or opossums?)

The day before HB had to leave he helped me remove Dragon's top bunk and place it beside the bottom one, because Nano and Grandpap were going to stay in Dragon's room when they came down a few days later. Kitcat saw the chance to end her nightly solitude and asked to have a 'sleepover'. Ducky, not wanting to be left out, also had a 'sleepover' in Possum's room. And the following night Kitcat swapped with Ducky and they had lots of 'sleepover' fun. (Seeing as this is the only kind of sleepover they are allowed, until they are about 10 years old, I can understand their excitement.)

As I mentioned, in a recent post, it was rather wet and extremely cold during the school holidays. I think we had about two sunny days. Possum spent most of her time sitting in front of the computer switching between Facebook and Farmville.And Dragon spent all of the time playing with his new ipod. While Nano and Grandpap were visiting he had a nice, cosy bedroom behind the sofa out in the living room (which is where I took this photo) and he said he liked it there because it was much quieter than the other end of the house.Nano and Grandpap brought Mousie and Teddy home at the beginning of the second week of school holidays. Since HB was away in Sydney, Nano and Grandpap had timed this trip to be here to watch the children while I took Ducky to a specialist appointment.We all went to the National Museum one afternoon. Here are some of my Half-dozen with a barbed wire sculpture of an emu.One of the other reasons Nano and Grandpap timed their visit for this particular week was because Ducky had to go to ballet class every day to practice for her 2nd Grade exam next month. On the last day of the week the parents are allowed to watch, and are usually allowed to take photos and video. Unfortunately, the new teacher this year wouldn't allow any kind of photography in the studio, so we took photos outside in the hall. Can you guess which one is Ducky?While we were at the Botanic Gardens Children's Discovery Day the previous week the girls had made grassheads. Nano had kept these at her house and got them started, and by the end of the week they were looking rather grassy/hairy.Ducky's was doing particularly well.Nano and Grandpap left us on Friday (thank you for coming!!) and we had three more days of holidays to fill. Teddy spent one morning doing her hair, and then persuaded Kitcat to let her do her hair as well. Mousie had raided Nano's lemon tree before coming home to Canberra, because her teacher had said he wanted them to all have a go at making lemonade. Mousie made some while Nano and Grandpap were still at our house, and here she is making her second batch to take to school and share with the class.When the girls had a chance to play outside, Mousie 'found' a piece of hose and made a trumpet and proceeded to play it very loudly ... much to the dismay of the neighbours, I'm sure!And we took advantage of the little sunny weather that came our way. One afternoon the four younger girls and I went walking in the bush. The girls insisted on bringing their dolls and, because it was very cold despite the bright sunshine, they also had to bring blankets to keep their dolls warm.At back is Ducky and Baby Amy, in front of her is Teddy and Baby Jo, to the left is Kitcat and Baby Beth and on the right is Mousie and Baby Sarah. They found out pretty soon that dolls can get rather heavy when you are on a long-ish walk through the bush. Particularly those Baby Born dolls. But, being the mean mummy that I am, I refused to carry any dolls. (Besides, I warned them before we left.) I've had more than my fair share of lugging babies around over the last few years.

One of the 'events' of the past school holidays was Box Construction ... which I'll save for the next post.

(PS. Ducky is in the middle.)

He ran a 5K and won a pie!

My man rocks! Last Saturday was our "Pioneer Day" celebration and he got up and ran/walked a 5K that was actually closer to a 7K! Then, right afterwards, at the Pioneer Day Fair, he won this huge apple pie on the cake walk. Plus he volunteered ALL of his time at the fair handling the mixer for the performances. How could I not love this man to pieces?
The other day, he had to go through his clothes again and pulled these out and showed me. I had to snap a picture of his old size 48 jeans. He wears size 38 right now! Yaw!!!

I tried doing something different with asparagus this week. I broiled them in the oven with a little olive oil drizzled on it and some sea salt. I broiled it for about 3 minutes, then turned them over and broiled them for another few minutes until they were tender.
Then I made a kind of sauce with a couple T. red wine vinegar, a little mustard, freshly ground black pepper, chopped green onion, basil, and 1 garlic clove minced and then put it on top of the broiled asparagus. Yum.. My man even liked them.

Life is SWEET with all these changes BUT we've been having our share of set backs too.

For instance, BOTH our cars have died on us, the 2nd one just yesterday! We've had to cancel our Vacation to Utah next week :( It is a total bummer and our kids are very disappointed (as are we) but, better than having our van break down during our trip!

Our van was only working in one gear (tranny going out) and we were using it yesterday to go pick up our car that was majorly overheating, and just after we got our car dropped off at a shop - the van stopped driving in any gear except reverse in the middle of an intersection! So my man, amazingly drove BACKWARDS down the street - going the right way but just backwards, and into a turning lane and a parking lot. And there we were completely stranded! Thankfully, a good friend came and rescued us! Yay... we didn't have to sit in that heat.

Not only that, but we had a BBQ invite that night and our host friends came and picked our whole family up! How cool is that? We enjoyed a nice evening relaxing after all that car drama with good friends, an incredible view of the country, a dip in a little pool, petting some chickens & ducks, and some great eats!

I even beat my man at tether ball (with a little cheating).
My yummy BBQ meal: Chicken skewers dipped in orange sauce, shrimp skewers and salad. SO delish! We brought the pie that my man won and he even treated himself to a piece... but I stayed right OP and did not. He deserved it, though, and I think he has more "room" in his plan for a tiny little bit of "treating" off plan than I do. And I'm okay with that (for now at least).

My man admitted to me the other day, that he was concerned because in our past when we'd diet, he would always lose like twice as much as me and I'd always get so discouraged. So he has been PURPOSELY trying to keep his loses more even with me so I would feel better. (He could be losing faster) I was AMAZED to learn that that's what he's been doing. I am sometimes blown away at how much he loves me!! Anyway... thanks for reading, my blogger friends... I love you ALL!!! Ta ta for now. :)

Finally milked the Cow......Egret!

With news of a Cattle Egret roosting at Doxey Marshes for the last two nights, I, along with The Marquis, made the short 50 mile trip over to Staffs. After missing this species twice this year in Somerset, it was pleasing to eventually be able to connect so close to home! Initially pretty elusive in amongst the udders of some distant cattle, the bird, presumably hoofed up the arse by one of the bovines, flew a short distance and settled in pool side bush and showed sweetly until we got bored (and pissed off with doddering old c*nts standing in front of me) and did one home (251).

Cow Egret

Mad Cow 'Egret' Disease affects Staffs birders more than most!

Random Thoughts on CSAs, Superfood, and Travel: Bolivian Cabbage and Potatoes

I'm trying to decide what I think about our CSA experiment this summer.  On the one hand, it's been lovely to have a box of organic veggies delivered to me each week.  On the other hand, I'm realizing just how nice it is to decide what I want to have for breakfast and lunch and dinner, rather than having someone else decide for me.  And while I like being really in touch with the growing season (something that I have done anyway over the past few years because of our of garden), trying to make use of great quantities of the same vegetable for three weeks running gets to be a challenge.  This week we got more cabbage in our share, but this time, also an entire box of tomatoes, and another three pounds of potatoes. The potatoes will keep, but everything else won't.  Since we're leaving for vacation this week, I decided that we needed to use all of these things simultaneously, and this is what came up when I asked Google what to do.

It's not terribly beautiful, and I probably wouldn't serve it to company, but it's a good way to use up cabbage, and it tastes a little less like cabbage than cabbage usually does.  Thank you, Bolivia.  Turns out that as we look for cultures with fewer chronic health problems, South America is attractive for its vast biodiversity and native foods with impressive health benefits (think quinoa and acai).  Chile peppers are native to the Amazon jungle in Bolivia, and capsaicin, the compound that gives peppers their heat, also has anti-inflammatory properties. Capsaicin is used in creams and ointments to alleviate arthritis symptoms and chronic pain, and any anti-inflammatory will prevent clots from forming, and in turn help prevent strokes and heart disease.  Pretty cool, eh?  So the lesson here: don't omit the peppers.

I miss international travel (as you can probably tell from the kinds of things I cook, I'm an adventurous eater, and I love experiencing culture through food), but I'm looking forward to this trip; we're headed to San Francisco and Carmel for a few days (any bloggers out there who want to meet up for coffee?).  Ian spontaneously told us one night that he wanted to see the Golden Gate Bridge, and it so happens that I went to graduate school in southern California, and haven't been back there since ... so it seemed like a good excuse to see some friends on that coast, too, before I get too large to travel (OK, here I go, adding the obligatory "if" ... because I still can't hold on to certainty).  Ian also wants to go to Russia, and Japan, and Greece, and Thailand, and Australia.  Those places, unfortunately, will have to wait.

Here's hoping that if you can't indulge in a little getaway this summer, that you will at least explore the flavors of some place you've never been before, and imagine yourself there.

Bolivian Cabbage and Potatoes

8 c. shredded cabbage (1 small head)
1 1/2 lb.Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1" chunks
2 T. tomato paste
1 t. sugar (or honey or other unprocessed sugar)
2 T. virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 yellow, orange or red bell pepper, chopped
5 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1-2 jalapeños , finely diced
2 T. lime juice
1 c. coarsely chopped cilantro or parsley
sliced vegan sausage, if you have some

Cook potatoes in boiling water 5-7 minutes or until tender. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water. Dissolve tomato paste and sugar in cooking water and set aside.

Heat oil in large pan, dutch oven or wok. Add onion, bell pepper and sauté 5 minutes. (We added some sliced, homemade vegan sausage.) Stir in tomatoes, jalapeño and tomato paste mixture. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cabbage and potatoes. Cook 5-6 minutes or until cabbage is wilted and potatoes are heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with lime juice and cilantro and serve.

Green Sand' = 250th yeartick!!

Yep, the title is correct! After 207 days of 2010, my elusive quarry has fallen! Now, this may sound a little OTT but up until today, I had genuinely resorted to believing that I had more chance of seeing Slender billed Curlew/Liz Hurley taking a soapy plunge in my tub/Liz Hurley waking me up with a coffee and pack of Embassy No.1 dressed as a naughty schoolgirl etc, than I had of bagging Green Sand for the year! Anyhow, this is how it went - Leaving work at 5pm, I noticed a pager message reporting a Common Scoter at Ogston Res' and tagged onto that message was this bit of juicey news - '' + Green Sand<''. Now, even tho I desperately needed to see this species for the year, I HAD said there was no way I was going chasing one BUT Ogston Res is a decent place (let down by it's county of residence!), I f*ckin' love inland seabirds and if I caned it from home, I could get there in 9 minutes! The twitch was on! I arrived home in Tibshelf at 5.25pm, grabbed my scope and jumped back in the motor (engine foolishly left running!) and arrived at Ogston at 5.37pm! Now, I wouldn't normally be writing so much shite regarding times etc but this was the one, the holy grail of 2010, the chance to hit 250 for the year with.....................a proper w*nk species! Viewing from the car park on the west bank, I quickly located the imm drk Common Scoter loafing just offshore. I then moved to the public hide and noted 8 imm Mandarins, Oystercatchers, a few juv' Ringed Plovers, a twat with a sco-pac, a couple of typically miserable derbyshire birding bastards but no Tringa. A few more sweeps of the far bank from the car park revealed 3 Common Sands and very little else! Time was now ticking by and with a phonecall from the other half demanding that if I wasn't back within 15 minutes my tea would be inside the next door neighbours dogs, I 'threw' the scope and bins into the car and quite angrily started heading home. However, a decision to make one final stop to scan the Wooley Moor bay of the reservoir proved to be the highlight of the year(?) as stood on the spit here was the bird I had been dreaming of (I haven't really) for the last 6 months.....Green Sand (250)!
And that was it, a true anti-climax to a pretty annoying quest but with a wry smirk to myself, I did one and thoroughly enjoyed a (still warm) sausage hotpot!


Blackish duck

The location of the Holy Grail...some f*cker tell Tom Hanks!!

I 'ATE Fishermen too,

A Walk in the Neighborhood

I know I chronicle our neighborhood a lot, but I just love it here and I want to document the everyday.

Also, I am not one of those with the oppotunity (read: funds) to  travel the country, so closer to home is where I find my adventures.

On Sat., they were doing some digging to put in new telephone lines. It was interesting to me how they did it, with spaced-out trenches, like rabbit tunnels. Also, construction zones and even the tools seem so much more rudimentary here than in the States. I actually ended up stepping right in the freshly poured cement over one of these trenches on my walk back home because there was no sign whatsoever and nothing blocking the area off.

I took this picture on my way out to run errands, and on the walk back -- when I stepped in the cement -- the worker who came over to smooth the cement asked me why I was taking pictures, and why I took a picture of the bricks earlier. I said they just looked interesting, and he told me that they had unearthed them from under the current sidewalk, and that they are at least 100 years old!

One of the work trucks. The construction worker said it was a modified bus (obviously) -- an old bus in the front to carry the workers to the site, and a dump truck thing in the back. Just not what you'd see in the U.S.

A library near our house.

Traditional Argentine/gaucho items for sale. I am actually kind of getting in to that style. More on that in a future post.

Nice. Fake money. US$ dollars, no less ...

(What I think is a) fake $10 peso bill ...

I just love the architecture here.

Yes, Curves is international. I like how this picture turned out, because right as I snapped it, a bus went by. If you know BsAs, you know that Olivos is where the Presidential compound is, and Boca is the famous port neighborhood where the tango originated, and where the pictures of the colorful corrugated metal houses are taken.

A colorful bouquet on a cold, bleak day.