Third times a charm

Jaysen and Julia set up our skinny tree the other day and I realized that all of the ornaments and trim that we had for it was previously sold at one of our yard sales. I would have loved to buy all new ornaments, although it would have been really hard to narrow down a style (gosh I just love it all!!).

I remembered my box of dried (read: dead) hydrangeas that were still sitting in the garage and thought I’d use them on/in the tree. I mean, why not? It still doesn’t feel right to just toss them out into the compost - so I might as well get as much use out of them as I can.

On Small Business Saturday, the mister and I visited some of our local shops and I grabbed a few bags of vintage ornaments for $3.00 per bag. I had spotted them a few weeks ago and had talked myself out of buying them then. Do you do that? Of course, I couldn’t stop thinking about them afterwards and I was certain that someone would have grabbed them up at this point. But, there they sat, waiting just for me!!

I love the colors and the age spots, they add so much character and is such a beautiful reminder of days gone by. I wonder, how old are they, how many places did they call home, were they handled by little hands? Did they sit in their box waiting until Christmas Eve to make their debut or were they a part of the entire holiday season? I will never know their history, but I do know that they are cherished right now.

As a little girl, my family and I would wait until Christmas Eve before decorating our tree. Before bed, I was allowed to put the first ornament on the tree and had to leave the rest for Santa. I’m sure as I got older that tradition changed a bit.

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Merry Christmas from little Lorraine

I feel like the tree could still use a little something, but I don’t quite know what that is yet. We also need a topper but I have a feeling it’s going to stay exactly the way it is right now - and I’m okay with that.

I am loving the reflections that are bouncing off of the ornaments, from the sun streaming in or the twinkle lights, it’s just beautiful!! Oh let me share one word of caution on using dried flowers on your tree. If you have large dogs with big, wagging tails, you may not want to use dried flowers, unless of course, you’re okay with this happening ….I guess I should have thought that through a little more.

What were your childhood traditions? I’d love to hear them!!
























Fall Centerpiece 2.0

One of the great things about using these hydrangeas when they’re past their prime, is that they don’t need water because they’re already dead, so as long as you are gentle with them, they’re good for as long as you need them!!

After gathering with family to celebrate my parents birthdays I couldn’t bear to toss the flowers out into the compost but because we only need six seats for daily meals, we needed to put the table back to its smaller size.

I had been thinking about what I wanted to do next with the flowers so I got to work dismantling the flowers and table. I have a thing for old wooden boxes, especially long ones. I just find them both functional and beautiful. I grabbed my favorite, okay I grabbed the only one that hasn’t been attached to a wall, and got to work. I lined the box with part of the packing paper from the table runner and started to fill the box until it was nice and full. Then I needed to dismantle the table and put the leaves away.

We purchased our table through Wayfair {they’ve got just what you need}. Our kitchen/dining space is long and narrow, and our previous farm table was extra wide so I never felt that it really fit well in this space. I knew that I wanted something a bit narrower but also longer. You can find the listing for the table here. It’s actually on sale at the moment at a great price! It’s sturdy, yet lightweight, and has self-storage for three leaves and is a easy to change up when needed. I was able to dismantle it on my own. This is not an affiliate post, I just wanted to share the information with you in case any one was interested.

Currently this arrangement is living on top of a shelf in the kitchen because we tend to do everything at this table; school, work, eat, play, puzzles, crafts, etc. Due to the constant activity, centerpieces don’t tend to stay on the table for very long. Although beautiful and fun, centerpieces on the table aren’t very functional for us.

Typically you’ll find our table looking more like this

I had wanted to post this last week, as of now, the box of dried hydrangeas is sitting on the floor in the garage. I still can’t bear to toss them and am thinking that tucking them into a Christmas tree may be the next step! I’ll keep you posted!!!



S I G H.......

On Wednesday I went to the doctor for my post diagnosis check up, which was supposed to happen back in November.  Thankfully I got a good report!  My numbers are going down, I've lost 20 pounds and aside from not implementing an exercise plan, I'm on the right track!  But as the nurse was going over my information she asked me a few questions.  One of them was "Do you ever have feelings of depression or hopelessness?"  I know I've been asked that question before, but this time was different. 

artwork by Jaysen

artwork by Jaysen

I answered yes.  I don't ever talk about it and honestly I've never thought much about it until recently.  I've never really thought it was much of an issue.  You see, a few years ago I experienced some strange sensations in my chest, neck, head, and arms.  I had no idea what brought them on because it happened while I was either reading to my children or spending time with friends.  I eventually went to the Emergency Room during one episode and was told after some testing, that it was due to stress.  I was so thankful that it wasn't something more......serious.  If you had asked me back then if I had felt stressed, my answer would have definitely been No. 

But one thing I didn't realize back then was that you don't necessarily have to be in a current state of stress for your body to feel it and to react in a stressed way and that stress was serious.  I was perfectly calm or seriously enjoying myself when my body reacted in these strange ways.  Years have passed since then, I eventually spoke with my doctor and agreed to start taking an anti-anxiety medicine.  I would rather not have needed to take the medicine but I knew that I needed something more to help with the stress.  Also, my dear friend Melissa, would not let me leave the doctor without acknowledging just how stressful my life actually was and without getting some sort of "help".  Thank you Miss!!

Fast forward to just a few hours ago.  As I was working around the kitchen, I let out a nice, deep sigh.  My son asked me what the sigh was for.  I'm not sure that he was prepared for the answer.  You see, packed inside that one solitary sigh, was a minefield of emotion, struggle and stress.  Ready to dive in?  Okay.......I'm in the middle of baking 6 dozen cookies, I'm trying to clean up from a lunch that I didn't have to make (holla), which led me to the sink that was getting quite full of the day's dishes, which led me to the fact that the dishwasher needs to be unloaded.  I should stop and unload it, re-load it and then wash the extra dishes, but......I need to get this baking done.  Oliver doesn't seem very happy at the moment, I should be out there with him and Maggie so that Joe can get his work done.  Jaysen (the one who asked me the loaded question) was busy working on a paper and Jessica was upstairs, but also has a work load that needs attention.  From there I thought, Joe should take the kids outside, they would love that, but I know that he won't want to do that, no one ever wants to go outside.  Why don't I ever want to take the kids outside?  Somehow, I jumped from that to wondering if I will ever open an actual bake shop, if we will ever move from NJ to AL.  Maybe I'm just letting my OCD get the best of me.  Why can't I just be content where I'm at?   Maybe something really is wrong with me......... 

I struggle with anxiety, daily.  Anxiety coupled with hormones, coupled with a new diabetic diagnosis can and does lead to thoughts and feelings of depression.  If you add to that the wonderful fullness of my life (read stress) at any given moment, I could actually be considered a ticking time bomb.  Okay, maybe not quite, but lately it seems like just about anything can set me off into an anxiety ridden tizzy. 

Take today for instance.  I had to force myself out of bed.  I forced myself to get dressed today.  I forced myself to write in my gratitude journal that I haven't touched in a year.  I forced myself to read the Word.  I felt good after that.  The day was going fine.  Once I started to bake I could feel the annoyance coming on because there was no room to put anything.  But I talked myself down and just moved things out of my way.  I was still good.  Then, all of a sudden, it was too late.  I was on a downward spiral.  Now, it didn't stop me, or render me useless.  I was still working and baking, but I think that if Jaysen hadn't asked me what the sigh was about, that negative feeling would have continued and grown.

Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric illnesses affecting children and adults. An estimated 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety disorders. Only about one-third of those suffering from an anxiety disorder receive treatment, even though the disorders are highly treatable.
— https://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety

My point in sharing this today is that you never know who is dealing with anxiety or depression.  Many of us hide it well. Some may actually be afraid of admitting their disorder, or may not even know that it is a disorder and not just normal stress.  Some are embarrassed and/or ashamed, therefore they would never even think about asking for help.   It seems that learning to listen to my body because of the diabetes is also causing me to focus on my emotional health as well.  I am trying to be more aware of my thoughts and feelings and I'm also trying to let those closest to me know how I'm feeling and what I'm thinking.  Recognizing those things that could be causing those feelings is essential to getting healthy.

artwork by Jaysen

artwork by Jaysen

If you think that you may suffer from anxiety disorders, do some research, talk to someone, get help.  I believe that if we can be more open and honest about our humanity, we can help one another.  We need to create an environment in our lives and online where we feel safe to express a struggle or a fear.  We all need to know that we are not alone in this or anything else that we may be struggling with.  The world is so full of hatred and judgement, let's make sure that we are not contributing to that by putting on blinders and pretending not to notice the suffering or by putting on a mask and pretending that we are not suffering. 

Please know, that this is a safe place.  How Sweet it will be to come together, share in our struggles and our joys and to be united.

Turkey Taco Quinoa Skillet

I wanted to pop in and share a recipe with you that I am loving!  It's taken us a few tries to get it just right (mainly because we had never cooked Quinoa before) but now that we have, I believe this will be in our regular rotation.  My daughter, Jessica, found it here at Spoonful of Flavor, which is packed with tons of delicious recipes!  

We had this meal 3 different ways last night; a few of us had it in a wrap, others had it in a bowl and someone else had it over Tostito's Scoops.  I love how we can have one dish and serve it three different ways.

Today, I decided to heat up the leftovers for lunch and added baby spinach to the wrap.  It was even better the second time.  I feel like this is such a tasty and versatile dish that you could easily have it for lunch, dinner or even as a dip at a party!  Plus you can freeze the leftovers and save them for a rainy day!

For the wraps we use whole wheat and the brand depends on what's on sale.  We've also exchanged sour cream for plain Greek yogurt.  There are so many little ways to help make a meal healthy or healthier.  The sour cream swap is just one of many!

If you decide to give it a try, let me know what you think!!  Also, feel free to share your favorite, healthy one pot meals with me here!!

Eating and diabetes

One of the very first things we did after I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, was revamp our meal planning.  Suddenly things like Four Cheese Chicken Pasta Bake were replaced with more natural, wholesome choices like Pan-Seared Cod in White Wine Tomato Basil Sauce and mashed potatoes made with olive oil and not whole milk and a stick of butter.  Pasta has turned to whole grain or vegetable and 12 grain bread has made it's way into the bread drawer.  Smoothies were already a regular breakfast item but I used milk (whole milk for a long time) and I only used fruit.  I began adding fresh greens to the fruit and no longer used milk, but a small amount of water instead.  My typical smoothie is baby spinach, a banana, strawberries, mangoes, about a tablespoon of peanut butter and a squeeze of honey.  I've tried a few different recipes from this smoothie recipe book but haven't found any that I totally love yet.  I am still trying to expand my palate and learn to try and like new things. 

You can find it here on Amazon

It's got a ton of different smoothie recipes and a lot of good information on how to make a healthy lifestyle change instead of jumping on the next diet fad to hit the shelves.  Although we haven't tried very many recipes from the book, I would still recommend it if you are wanting to make a change or, like me, are stuck in a rut with the same smoothie ingredients. 

Another thing that I've changed is how often I have coffee.  I would typically have a cup or two every morning, usually before I would even have breakfast, which meant that I didn't eat until mid morning, if I had breakfast at all.  Skipping meals is a big no-no for diabetics.  Now I only have coffee on the weekends and am finding that I typically can't even finish one cup.  While I love the taste and the feel of a good mug in my hand, I'm not loving the affect the coffee is having on my body.  I still struggle with the old routine from life before Type 2.  I have to make sure that I eat or drink a healthy breakfast before I get my cuppa joe!   I'm definitely learning to listen to my body.  If we slow down enough and pay a bit of attention, I believe our bodies will tell us everything that we need to know about what it wants and needs and what it doesn't.

As far as other foods, we've added a good variety of nuts to our snack list.  A mix of almonds, pistachios, peanuts and dark chocolate chips are a quick and easy snack to assemble and grab on the go!  Fruit and nut bars are always on the shopping list as well.

I think that these are my favorite!  Their Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip are the two that we typically buy.  They are gluten free, vegan, dairy free and kosher, made with 100% real food.  1 bar is the equivalent to 1/4 cup of fruit and they are a great source of fiber.  I linked you to the official website for LaraBar but you can find them on Amazon, Target, and Shop Rite.  Another snack bar that I like is made by Curate.  There are no artificial flavors or colors, they're non-gmo, gluten free and have a 4 grams of protein.  To be honest though, we've really only been buying the Lara Bars.

I think that I'll save dinners for another post!  Just know that we eat more chicken and fish.  Avocado's are a staple.  Salads full of fresh, dark, leafy greens happen often and usually include chicken, peppers, feta cheese (which I adore now), fresh rosemary, sometimes fresh dill, avocado or even cooked sweet potatoes.  I used to only eat iceburg lettuce, what a fool!  I had no idea that there were such delicious healthy choices out there!  I mean, I knew they were there, I saw them, I just had no interest in trying them.  Instead of regular salad dressing, we've been using greek yogurt dip.  Usually a creamy ranch flavor but it only has 60 calories per serving, which is 2 tablespoons, and I don't even think we use that much. 

We typically have ice cream on Friday nights and I've not been very good at keeping my portions low.  I told Jessica the other day that I think I'm going to go down to having it only once a month and on the nights that they all have ice cream, I'll blend up some frozen fruit for a sorbet type dish.  Then, as I was looking around on Pinterest, I came across a pin for Healthy Chocolate Nice Cream.  I decided to give it a try the other day and I think it's going to be a hit!!  In the blog post the author shares a link to 10 other Nice Cream recipes!  I can't wait to give them a try!

Tell me, what are your favorite healthy go to snacks?  I'm always looking for something new to try these days!!