Happy New Year!

I went shopping yesterday, and walking into the store, the signs of an impending New Year were in full force! Displayed prominently near the entrance were party favors AND digital scales. Throughout the store, speakers droned on about Slim Fast and treadmills. Apparently a New Year equals a renewed attention to one’s weight.

I think goals are great! I love the feeling of accomplishment when I have met a goal. I love the satisfaction of crossing items off my to-do list. I enjoy trying out a new hobby. However, I am a little perplexed by the plans for drastic diet or exercise changes at the start of a new year. I feel much better about committing to smaller goals, and building on them. I think, for me at least, it is more sustainable and more enjoyable.

For instance, when I decided I would like to start running (see post about how that came about), if I had tried to run a marathon that first summer, I can only imagine I would have crashed and burned. I probably would have hated it and quit long ago.

Instead, I took the summer to build up to a 5K. It felt great to go from zero to 3.1 miles! Since then, I have participated in relays with distances up to 10K, and I have run a bit farther than that in training. It’s incredible to look back and realize that three years ago, I probably couldn’t have run around a block.

On that note, I am pleased to say that I registered for the Fargo Half-Marathon this coming May. This is a distance I have never run, so it will be a challenge. Yes, I am a little nervous. My goal is to train well and to finish. 🙂

Other things I want to do in 2011:

* Finish The Chronicles of Narnia series with my family. We have just started the second book, and we are all enjoying it so much!

* Travel! My husband and I both got passports for the first time (shocking, I know), and I would love to use them!

* Continue trying out new recipes with an emphasis on healthful foods.

* Go on lots of bicycle rides with my children this summer. Last summer marked the end of training wheels at our house, and it makes such a difference. We can really move now!

* Plant an herb garden and make good use of it!!

* Consistently get enough sleep. This means making sure I go to bed at a decent time!

I suppose none of these are what you’d call earth shattering, but they are valuable to me. I think there is great value in reading (more on this some other time), so I am thrilled to be reading the Narnia books aloud as a family and am committed to finishing the entire series. I think that if I train for the half-marathon, spend time being active with my children, and focus on eating fresh and healthful foods, that these small things will contribute to maintaining, or perhaps improving, my health. Adequate sleep is so important, and something I sacrifice too easily. As for travel, well, that’s for fun! Nothing wrong with fun! 🙂

What are your goals for 2011? Wishing you all a safe and happy new year!

Baking With Abandon

Yesterday we invited the neighborhood children to come over and decorate cookies, while everyone is on break from school. I think creating these memories with our neighborhood friends is well worth the sugar that comes along with it. Besides, who doesn’t like a good cookie once in a while? 🙂

Everyone left with a little box of cookies they had decorated.

On to dinner. I was hungry for sweet potato fries, so I thought it would be a good time to make burgers. I also decided it would be fun to attempt homemade hamburger buns, so I did. I tend to improvise when cooking, but this was my first time doing so with baking. I am pretty sure it was my first time EVER baking something without following a recipe.

Melissa’s Improvised Hamburger Buns

Ingredients:
2 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup milk

Mix dry ingredients before adding milk. Stir together to form a sticky dough. Knead on a floured surface. It doesn’t require a lot of kneading, but my children sure enjoy helping with this part!

Roll out the dough and cut out circles. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.

Bake at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until golden.

Sliced the buns in half when cool.

I made the hamburgers from ground beef, but it would be just as good with turkey burgers or veggie burgers. Paired with the sweet potato fries, it was a tasty treat!

Caribbean Pineapple Chicken

Last night I went looking online for a recipe that called for pineapple and chicken. I asked, and the internet provided a good recipe to try out: Caribbean Pineapple Chicken.

My search turned up this recipe at Out of the Frying Pan, a site I had never seen before. I love that there are so many recipes out there!

Here are some of the ingredients. I had gotten out the flake coconut, thinking I’d incorporate them, but I never did.

I mixed up the sauce, and I sautéed the pineapple. (Is there anything more delicious than fresh pineapple? Yum!)

Then I coated the chicken in flour and browned it for two minutes on each side.

I finished by cooking the chicken in the sauce. Meanwhile, I had rice going in my rice cooker. I don’t have a lot of kitchen gadgets, but I do like my rice cooker. I can get it started and let it be. It switches to a warmer when the rice has finished cooking.

The recipe suggested a particular recipe for a coconut rice. I didn’t look at that recipe. Instead, I decided to make my own version of a coconut rice with things I had on hand. I had a little bit of coconut cream left from a breakfast recipe, so I mixed that into the cooked rice. It was about 3 T of coconut cream. I also mixed in 1 T of ground ginger and 1 t of cinnamon.

We added a salad to the meal, and we were pleased with the result.

My husband asked me if this was a Jamaican recipe. I told him it was called ‘Caribbean,’ and our daughter asked what that meant. My husband broke out the globe and showed her the Caribbean Sea and various islands located there. Dinner turned into a bit of a geography lesson. Then we started dreaming about a Caribbean vacation. Ahhh. 🙂

Christmas 2010

Well, now that I’ve gotten the Fargo Marathon issue off my chest, I’d like to share a little bit about our Christmas. I still haven’t decided about Fargo, but I will let you know. Thanks to those who have offered opinions, both here and on Facebook. I appreciate it. 🙂

Looking back on our Christmas holiday, we had a very nice Christmas Eve…

We started the day with Carrot Cake Oatmeal (you can find the recipe at Oh She Glows). Seriously delicious. And I got to use up a few carrots. Bonus!

We had gotten a few more inches of snow (most snow on record for December!), so my husband and I got to work. As usual, he used the snowblower on the driveway, and I did some shoveling on steps and walkways. My husband also showed me how to do operate the snowblower, and I did a couple rows of the driveway. (Up until Christmas Eve, I had never touched it! He thought I should get acquainted with it, and I suppose he’s right…)

While I was shoveling the stairway that leads from our driveway down to the backyard, a red fox darted out and headed for the hills. Or, more accurately, he followed my daughter’s “snow princess expressway,” then ran down the street. Why don’t I keep a camera on me while shoveling? I would have liked to get a picture of the fox!

Before heading in, I went on a guided tour of the aforementioned expressway. It’s pretty hard work for a child to trudge through all that snow. My daughter worked hard to tramp down paths throughout the yard, and she made little snow chairs and benches here and there. Very cute. And practical. It will be much easier for the kids to get around now.

While my husband finished up, the kids and I made a pizza for lunch: whole wheat crust, three-fourths pepperoni and one-fourth cheese. We had a cucumber salad with our pizza. Yum!

During the afternoon, we read a couple chapters of “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,” watched “The Grinch,” went sledding, and set up our luminaries.

I made our Christmas dinner of roast beef, carrots, parsnips, and scalloped turnips. (Sadly lacking in leafy greens, I know, but I want to use what we have, and how much food do we really need for four people?) No time to linger…

We headed to church for our candlelight Christmas Eve service. It was lovely.

Came home and opened presents. We stayed up too late playing Operation and Legos. My husband and I attempted to watch a new movie I had given him after putting the kids to bed but couldn’t stay awake. Is that old age setting in? 😉

It was a very good Christmas Eve. I actually used the word “perfect” when thinking back over the day.

Sadly, Christmas Day wasn’t so good for us. My son was sick. We stayed home and I spent the rest of the weekend diligently washing and disinfecting everything in sight. I was SO GLAD that we had celebrated on Christmas Eve. Thankfully, it was a one day sickness for him, and no one else in the family got sick. Yay! We still have more fun times ahead this week before diving back into the normal routine next week. Still looking forward to another Christmas celebration with extended family in January as well!

I hope everyone had a nice Christmas weekend!

How Far Will You Go?

This is a catch-phrase of the Fargo Marathon. Get it? 😉

That is exactly the question I am trying to answer for myself. How far will I go? I have two major questions answered: Do I have somewhere to sleep for the marathon weekend? Yes. (Thanks to my sister-in-law and brother-in-law!) Is my husband willing and able to be with our children if I go? Yes. (Thanks, honey!)

That only leaves, “How far will you go?”

I am debating between the 10K and the half-marathon. You see, I have never run more than ten miles at a stretch, so the 10K feels like a safer distance. Perhaps even more notable is that twice now, while following a training schedule, I have hurt something right about when I reached the ten mile long run, once a knee and once an ankle. I worry that I just can’t do longer distances.

I am trying to make my decision now, so that I can register before December 31st. The price is about to go up, and I’m trying to watch out for our budget while I’m at it.

Any thoughts? What would you do?

I’ll just add, this marathon is only a few years old, and it has already become HUGE! The atmosphere is great! People come out in droves to cheer on the runners, and there are bands playing here and there along the route. Good times! Check it out if you’re in the area. 🙂

Christmas Traditions, Old and New

Christmas, for many, is a time of family traditions. These traditions may provide an opportunity for an older generation to pass on a sense of family history or heritage to a younger generation. They may bring family members closer to each other. They may simply create fun memories.

Many young families strive to incorporate traditions they grew up with, while introducing new traditions as well. There have even been studies suggesting the importance of tradition in family connection and child development. **See sources below.

    Here are some of my old and new traditions:

* Reading the Christmas story in Luke, chapter 2 – this is the oldest tradition I can recall. I remember anxiously waiting, as a child, for the dinner dishes to be done on Christmas Eve. Only after dinner was eaten and the dishes done would we sit down to hear the Christmas story, and then we would open our gifts.

* Watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” – I have seen this movie more times than I could count, and I love it every single time. Both my mom and I can and do quote much of the movie. Watching it together with my mom is the best.

* Candlelight church service on Christmas Eve – this has been a tradition for me for the past ten years or so. I believe my husband grew up with this as a tradition.

* Singing at church for Christmas Eve, Christmas morning, and a Christmas Program – this one has also been about ten years for me.

* Neighborhood luminary display – each year, our entire neighborhood sets out luminaries along the edge of our properties. It is a beautiful sight, and people come to the neighborhood to see it. We have lived here, and been part of this tradition, for eight years.

* Reading storybooks about Christmas with my children – we’ve been collecting Christmas storybooks for about five years. We also have a few that belonged to my husband or me when we were children. It’s fun to read these books together.

* Decorating Cookies – again, this is something that my husband grew up with. It is something we like doing with our children, and this is our second year to gather with other families in our neighborhood to decorate cookies together.

What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?

**Sources:

Dickstein, S. (2002) Family routines and rituals: The importance of family functioning. Journal of Family Psychology, 6(4), 441-444.

Eaker, D.G. & Walters, L.H. (2002). Adolescent satisfaction in family rituals and psychosocial development: A developmental systems theory perspective. Journal of Family Psychology, 16 (4), 441-444

Good Business

Chances are, calling the plumber isn’t part of your ideal day. Mine either. Actually, this was the first time I’ve had to call a plumber in eight years of owning a home, so maybe I should count myself lucky.

I found myself needing the assistance of a plumber (the shower leaked into the basement – yikes), and as luck would have it, I got a nifty little postcard in the mail advertising a plumbing service. It just so happened, it was from one of the plumbers recommended by a friend, so it was especially welcome.

Check out the postcard:

How great is that? I was happy to give my business to a company that’s making an effort to help our community. I packed up a bag of non-perishables for their food drive, our shower is fixed, and I got a discount to boot. If my shower had to break, this was a pretty good experience.

Have you seen anything like this? Would something like this make you more likely to patronize a business?