Weight Loss and Baby Beans

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This has been our first week of summer break! Yeah! That has meant more sewing for me. We have also had some warmer and drier weather so the children have been enjoying playing outside. It has also been the week that I have finally lost more than half of what I’m hoping to lose – only 12 more pounds to go.

So let me say a few more words about the Trim Healthy Mama plan of eating. I have mentioned before that this is what I’m using for a diet. Let me just say that I’m absolutely blown away with how I have been able to lose this weight even though I would say that I have only followed the plan about 70-80% of the time. For instance, when my husband takes me out for our weekly date I don’t worry about dieting and even have dessert. However, this diet has taught me how to properly fuel my body so that I’m not giving my body extra fuel that it stores as fat but rather uses fat already stored to fuel my body hence causing weight loss. (That sentence was a bit too long. I hope it at least made sense.) If you are sitting on the fence as to whether or not to buy the book and use the Trim Healthy Mama plan for eating, go for it. Not only  have I lost weight I’ve also lost my headaches, depression and out-of-control sugar cravings. It has been wonderful and overall has been simple. I have not felt starved or deprived except for the few times I’ve eyed my children eating their fresh-out-of-the -oven bread, but then there has always been a chocolate shake, lemon curd tart, fudge or a strawberry whip to fall back on.

On the garden front our beans are up. This morning when I hung up our laundry there were a few poking up. Some were maybe and inch or inch and a half tall. When I went to get our laundry tonight we counted 26 baby bean plants! Several were 3-4 inches tall. It was exciting. The children had to come have a look. I think beans are one of the easiest and most fun plants for children to grow because they are easy and fast.

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checking out the new babies in our family

baby beans - yeah

baby beans – yeah

We’ve been having fun travelling around the world. So far we’ve visited New Zealand, Australia, Papau New Guinea, Japan and China. I’m learning my geography better and so are my children. It’s been fun. Did you know that for every person in New Zealand there are seven sheep?

How was your week? If you have a garden, how is it doing?

Vitamin E

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Vitamin E could be called the “Warrior Vitamin”! It protects our bodies in so many ways. It is an antioxidant that helps to protect us from toxins, pollution and premature aging. It also protects other nutrients from being damaged. Our immune system, nerves and muscles all need vitamin E to function properly. It helps to heal injured tissue and prevent scarring. It also has some anticoagulant properties to keep our blood from clotting. We store it in our liver, but if we have excess our body eliminates it through our urine. This is one powerful vitamin.

Since vitamin C and selenium are also antioxidants they are good to take with vitamin E to help fight toxins in our bodies. Vitamin E helps our bodies to absorb vitamin A, but iron absorption is hindered by vitamin E so take them at separate times.

So how can we get Vitamin A into our diet? According to http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/vitamin-E.php here are the top ten sources: sunflower seeds, paprika and chili powder, almonds, pine nuts, peanuts, dried herbs (basil and oregano), dried apricots, pickled green olives, cooked spinach and cooked taro root. No doubt you already eat many of these foods. Obviously adding vitamin E to your diet is simply and delicious. I do wonder though if anyone has ever cooked and/or eaten taro root. What is it like?

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The information about Vitamin E comes from the Encyclopedia of Natural Healing, Alive Publishing Group, 1997.

Natural Body Products

Body BeautifulThis is going to be a short post. Maybe it’s just an excuse for me to see if anyone is really reading this blog. 😉

I wrote a post a while ago about using oil for a facial cleanser. I have been accumulating recipes for various body products – shampoo, conditioner, deodarant, hand lotion, lip balm/gloss, shaving lotion, skin salve, etc. I’m hoping to try a lot of these this summer and get back with you as to whether or not I like them. If I do like them I will definitely share how-to’s. Our skin is our body’s biggest organ. We sometimes forget that what we put ON our skin can affect us as much as what we put IN our body.

Here’s what I’m wondering – have I missed anything? Is there a body product that you’ve really been wanting a natural alternative for? If so, I’ll try to find one for you. Let me know in the comments.

Starting Our Garden

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This has been a cool, overcast and sometimes rainy week for us. It’s been so cool, in fact, that I was glad I hadn’t planted my garden yet. However, today seemed like a good day to get started. We didn’t plant anything today, but we cleared out our garden box and the plants that were overtaking it. I couldn’t believe how many weeds had started to take over. My oldest son chopped out numerous branches of a bush that was trying to take over that particular corner of our yard. We tossed weeds out of our garden box, and two of our middle children took our wagon around to the other side of the fence to gather up all the weeds and toss them in the deep bush in the ravine behind our house.

Then we set up our fence. Every summer we unroll a length of snow fence and attach it to stakes with tie wraps. We initially did this to protect our garden from the labrador we had. If any of you have ever owned a lab you know why our garden needed protecting. 🙂 We no longer have our dog, but we do have toddlers and little ones who don’t understand that plants grow best when you don’t dig around them.

Every year I struggle to come up with some way to create a simple “door” in the fence so I can get to the garden and my clothesline. I think I have something workable this year as you will see in the picture. I’ll let you know how it holds up over the summer.

Tomorrow my husband and oldest son are going to build another garden box for me. We’re also hoping to set up a compost pile. I really want to stop giving my compost scraps to the city and use them myself for my garden.

Sometime in the next few days we’ll be putting in our plants – tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, mint, carrots, pumpkin and I really want to try a watermelon again. I love square foot gardening, and I love the excitement our children have in planting, watering, watching and harvesting. Gardening really doesn’t feel like a chore, but that could be because space constraints keep our garden fairly small. We buy from local farmers to get the bulk of the vegetables we need for preserving in the fall.

I hope you had a good week and that if you have a garden it is going well.

a very sad "before" picture

a very sad “before” picture

my hockey stick "gate"

my hockey stick “gate”

a close-up of the "latch"

a close-up of the “latch”

a much improved "after" picture

a much improved “after” picture

…We All Scream for Ice Cream

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This has been a momentous week for our family. Our second oldest child became a teenager. He’s a wonderful boy. I love to watch him playing with his toddler and baby brothers…makes my heart melt. It has also been a wonderful week weather-wise. We’ve been enjoying hanging the laundry out, having our windows open, lots of walks and playing outside. The Vitamin D is great, right? We’re all sleeping better with all the fresh air.

Last year I started making homemade ice cream for our children’s birthdays. I was constantly searching for a way to do this without eggs and without an ice cream maker. Then several months ago we found an old-fashioned hand-crank ice cream maker at our local flea market. It’s a bit beat up but it does the job. I’ve finally found a recipe for ice cream that doesn’t use eggs. You can see the recipe here.  This is not a cheap recipe, but we only have ice cream on birthdays so we don’t mind spending a little more for these special occasions.

Noah has discovered that leftover homemade ice cream is much better than fresh so tonight he and his brother made the ice cream for his birthday party tomorrow night. It takes a good thirty minutes of cranking to get ice cream. It is soft serve style but after “curing” in the freezer for several hours it becomes harder. I didn’t think of it soon enough, but next time I will use unflavoured gelatin to try and thicken it a little more. One tweak I did make to the recipe was changing the sugar to honey. In order to make the honey mix properly we had to heat the honey with the cream and then cool it before we started cranking.

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We’ve had a little taste of the ice cream tonight – you know, just to make sure it was okay. 😉 I’ll let you know next Friday how it tasted. Making our own ice cream is a lot of work but very satisfying. It’s great to know all the ingredients that are in our ice cream – all readable and all edible.

How was your week?

Healthy, Frugal AND Tasty!

You probably already know that beans are a frugal way to extend your grocery budget. Many people also know that they are healthy – they provide protein and fiber, are low on the glycemic index, improve disgestion to list just a few of their benefits. However, many people – especially children do not enjoy them.

We have been eating more beans lately for all of the above reasons. I was fairly skeptical at first but I am quickly becoming a believer in the tastiness and versatility of beans. I have found one way to make them more palatable to my children is if they are mashed. Recently I made white beans and mashed them up like potatoes, and they were a big hit. My children enjoy refried beans in tortillas. Of course, the cheese and sour cream probably doesn’t hurt either. 🙂

Tonight we had one of our new favourites – Black Bean and Quinoa Burgers. Basically you use cooked black beans and then mix them with whatever you would normally mix with meat for making burgers. We also add quinoa – about a quarter to half a cup for every two cups of beans. You can use canned beans, but I prefer to cook ours.

Cooking beans used to scare me. I thought I had to soak them overnight which is a bit too much pre-planning for me. I have learned that I can measure out what I need cover them with at least one to two inches of water and boil them. After they simmer for a couple of minutes I turn them off for an hour. Then I drain the water, add more and cook them until soft. I used to do it in my slow cooker, but it recently broke so I’ve found that I can cook them almost as easily on the stove.

These burgers are so delicious. My children love them especially when I pair them with homemade baked fries. We don’t often use hamburger buns. I consider them extra carbs we don’t necessarily need, but we have eaten them buns. They are every bit as good as their meaty cousins.

a yummy, child-approved suppe

a yummy, child-approved suppe

As I try new bean recipes I’ll let you know how they go down with our children. What is your favourite way of fixing beans?

Reading Again

We love reading in our family.

We love reading in our family.

So, I told you I was addicted to reading. Being a busy mom (what mom isn’t busy?), I look for ways to work reading into my day. My oldest daughter introduced me to a way I have used off and on over the last few months.

There is a website called DailyLit. They have taken thousands of books of every genre and broken them down into bite-size pieces. You set up an account and pick a book(s). They then email you a segment every day. You can have a short, medium or long selection.

So far I have read two books this way. Well, truthfully, I started Bleak House, but when I reached about the 80% mark I kept pushing the button to get the next segment right away. Then I started “North and South” by Elizabeth Gaskell. I only made it about 20% before I gave up and borrowed the book from the library. As an aside, Elizabeth Gaskell is becoming one of my favourite authors. I have quite a few of her books on my Kindle (that I got for free). She writes about all different social stratas in the Victorian era.

Anyway, I have enjoyed using this system. It helped me take a book – “Bleak House” – which seemed daunting and make it readable. I’m thinking about going for “War and Peace” next. I could never read this in time borrowing it from the library, but a portion a day even if it takes more than a year is doable. I just signed up. It will take me almost two years. The good news is is that if I want to read it faster I can ask for longer segments or keep clicking the “send next segment” button. I know that process well.

The shortest segment they send only takes about five minutes to read. Anyone can spare five minutes – even a busy mom. Check it out. I’m sure they will have something that would interest you.