Friday, January 30, 2015

Unexpected Week

This week did not go as expected in more ways than one.  On Tuesday, the whole state was shut down in anticipation of a great and terrible blizzard.

My youngest developed a cough and runny nose early in the day. "Mommy, my nose coming out," is what she says to me when she needs me to wipe it. Later in the day, she developed a fever.

We kept the fire raging all day Tuesday.  We didn't get anywhere near as much snow as was predicted.

The older girls were healthy, so they begged to play in the backyard for a while.

My oldest has learned how to make hot chocolate and tea for herself and her sisters using the Keurig.  She will often do school work at the table while she sips something, finally old enough to do both things at the same time and keep from spilling anything on her books, just another way that I see she is growing up.

Since my youngest daughter was sick, I had to find coverage for my fitness classes on Wednesday. As the week went on and my daughter wasn't improving and another one of my daughters fell ill, I also needed to find a sub to tutor my class at Classical Conversations and another fitness instructor to cover my fitness classes on Thursday.  

I found myself glad that I hardly ever take off work.  Of course, it is an inconvenience for everyone when I have to miss work, but I felt so much less guilty taking the time I needed this week and it was easier to find someone to cover because I am not always asking.  That is one piece of advice I would give a young person starting their first job.  "Don't take off work unless you absolutely need to."  

Having sick kids means everything slows down to a snails pace. And every other day, I can really tell my immune system is really compromised and fighting the same germs.  For sanity's sake, I decided not to try and keep up our regular schedule at home. I allowed myself time to read Saving Leonardo by Nancy Pearcey and The Maze Runner by James Dashner while I snuggled kids and wiped noses.

When their fevers come down, the girls are quite normal, aside from all the sneezing and sniffling.  (At times like these, it's a good thing I am obsessive about having Kleenex boxes everywhere.)  They are building a new Lego set my family sent it the mail.

I haven't been able to teach my regular classes at the gym, but I really wanted to exercise. But I also don't feel 100%, so I have been taking it easy.

At home this week, I've done an hour of relaxing yoga, Bodycombat 62 using heavy gloves and my bag for punches and kicks, and Bodypump with lighter-than-usual weights.   Using lighter weights helped me rediscovered my love for Bodypump as cardio workout.  Without so much weight on my bar, it was easier to just enjoy moving to the music, getting my heart rate up, and sweating it out. I may try to lighten up more often.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Beef Bone Broth

Making broth from bones, chicken and beef, was one of the very first things I started doing at the beginning of my weight loss journey.   It is not the only thing I do, but combined with a diet of many other nutrient dense foods, it has had a great effect on my health. Read about the health benefits of authentic bone broth here.   

To make bone broth, first, you need bones, obviously.   

We buy half a grass fed cow every year, so we have lots of bone-in cuts that we grill and roast in various ways for dinner. 

Tip: Roasted bones make a delicious broth, but you can use any bones, roasted or not.  I often make broth from beef soup bones that I do not roast first. All you need are bones, any bones.

But, to make broth from roasted bones, I save all our left over bones, big and small, in a gallon-sized freezer-safe zip lock bag.  When dinner is over and it's time to clean up, I just pull the bag out of the freezer, throw in any of the bones, and throw the bag back in the freezer until I've got enough bones to make broth.

Once the bag is one-half to three-quarters of the way full, it's time to make broth.

I open the bag and pour the frozen bones right into my crock pot.

Then I add an onion, carrots, and a piece of celery. I don't even peel the onion or the carrot, because I will strain the broth so none of that stuff matters. I just wash everything, quickly chop or tear it into a few pieces, and throw it in.

Next, I fill the crock pot with water.

Then I put it on the lowest setting and forget about it until the next day.  After ten hours, my crock pot will automatically switch to the warm setting and the broth will continue to simmer for some time on that setting, so I can usually set my bone broth to simmer through the night and I can turn it off sometime the next morning when I get to it.

Once the crock pot has been turned off and the broth has cooled for an hour or two and it isn't so very hot, I strain the broth into a pitcher.  This can be a little messy, so I work in the sink.

I put the warm broth into the fridge to totally cool off. 

A layer of fat will form on the surface of the broth.

This is kind of unpleasant, but I scoop most of the fat off the top and put it on paper towels, so I can throw it away easily.

I don't worry about getting every little bit of fat, but I get most of it.

Now I pour the broth into freezable containers with twist and lock lids.

My crock pot makes approximately 8-10 cups of broth, so I can usually fill two large containers with 3-4 cups of broth and a small container with approximately 2 cups of broth.

I don't stress over using exact amounts of broth in my recipes anymore.  From my experience, most recipes don't have to have an exact amount of broth.  So if a recipe calls for one cup or can, I just use the small, two-cup container of my homemade broth, a little more or less really doesn't matter. If it calls for more than two cups, I use the bigger, three to four cup container.  And if it calls for even more than that, this broth is so rich I can easily add water to any of my recipes and still have a very rich stock.

Since my broth stays frozen, I have to thaw it to before I use it.  I usually run hot water over the container until the broth inside loosens a bit, then I open the container and drop the block of frozen broth into a sauce pan and thaw it on the stove while I prepare other ingredients.  To me, it's worth the extra step and trouble for all the nutrition we receive from this broth.

Note: I make beef and chicken broth.  Sometimes they can look quite similar in color, so to keep them straight, I put a piece of tape, any tape: masking, duct, packing, whatever I have in a kitchen drawer, on top of the containers of beef broth.  If a container doesn't have tape on top, I know it's chicken broth.  If it has tape, I know it's beef, no matter how light or dark it is in color. Once the container is thawed, the tape always comes off quite easily.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Weekend Update

This post will be brief.  We have been busy. We are adjusting back to our normal schedule of home school, housework, Classical Conversations, tutoring, and work at the gym.  I took some pictures this week to capture some of our moments.  

This is a common sight in our home, my middle child and my youngest sitting right next to each other talking or playing.  It always warms my heart to see them together.

We use Math U See in our homeschool, but we will probably be switching over to Saxon in the next few years because that's what Classical Conversations uses in their Challenge levels.

This is the placement test I will give oldest daughter to place her in the right Saxon book when we finally make the switch.  I decided to take it myself to see how much I have retained since my last math class over a decade ago in college...

Let's just say I am glad I took the test so I know where I need to begin again.  I am in the process of acquiring a Saxon math textbook and answer key from a friend so that I can begin working my way through all the things I have forgotten.  I am actually looking forward to the process.  I try and model scholarship for my children as many home school parents do. The next step for me is take a serious interest in improving in mathematics.

I made sushi at home today. I am trying to be more diligent to plan and prepare interesting meals at home so we avoid restaurants and thereby, save money. Sirloin steak and pork tenderloin with vegetable fried rice are two other meals on the menu this week.

This is a photo of my beautiful new mug.  The bright yellow and blue actually serve to cheer me up on these colorless, Connecticut winter days.  The hot coffee doesn't hurt, either.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Weekend Update

That's a kettle fried doughnut.  My husband brought a box of them home from The Bakery of Southbury. (He's the devil.)

Of course, these aren't a part of a healthy diet, technically speaking, but I felt I had to at least have one. So I had two.

We gave some to our kids for breakfast this morning and then I put on a coat and drove the rest over to the Semeraros, an older couple who we love, who live down the street from us and go to our church.

Now all the devilish doughnuts are gone, no longer on the kitchen counter to tempt me and that's a good thing. This weekend, I also had pizza, Chick-fil-a, and pie.  The lesson I learned from the past two days of eating is this - if you don't plan, plan to fail.  Without groceries in the house and every meal planned around them, it's too easy to resort to fast, unhealthy alternatives.  But I've got this week planned and the fridge stocked, so it should be easy to succeed in eating well.

I've been reading The Chronological Bible, God in the Dock and George MacDonald by C.S. Lewis.

In God in the Dock, I discovered this essay called Man or Rabbit? by C.S. Lewis that Lewis wrote in response to the question, "Can a person live a good life without being a Christian?" Here's a video of the essay if you are interested. It's a stunning work of rhetoric that makes my heart soar.

And speaking of stunning rhetoric, this week I also read the article Freedom of Speech Cannot Be Killed by Joe Randazzo, a former editor of The Onion, written in response to the recent Islamic attack on a magazine office in France.  The article brought me to tears, it's so well written.

George MacDonald is complication of MacDonald's quotes that C.S. Lewis put together.  Lewis credits MacDonald for influencing his writing more than anyone.  It's a fun read and having read most of Lewis' books, it is quite easy to see how Macdonald influenced his writings. I have highlighted a hundred quotes already. Here are just three of them.

"We are not bound to say all we think but we are bound not even to look what we do not think."

"The man is a true man who chooses duty: he is a perfect man who at length never thinks of duty, who forgets the name of it."

"In whatever man does without God- He must fail miserably or succeed miserably."

Thursday, January 8, 2015

To The Anvil

I faced a serious disappointment this week.

I didn't get a Bodypump or Bodycombat class on the new schedule at one of my gyms.

I am not surprised. There are only so many class times to go around and all the instructors at that gym are more experienced. And all of them are capable and dedicated.

Never the less, I was still disappointed, no matter how unrealistic it was to hope for a class of my own at this point.

I still have all my freestyle classes. The formats of those classes are even similar to Bodypump and Bodycombat which is some comfort to me.  One of them is a barbell class, the other is a kickboxing class. I choreograph them myself using fitness music I purchase and I enjoy that.

But I pursued the Les Mills certifications in 2014 so that I could teach their classes and use their material.  But until I get a Bodypump or Bodycombat class of my own at a gym with the liscenses, I can't do that.  And I want to teach Les Mills classes because I think they are superior to what I create on my own.    

So now that I am not teaching a Bodypump or Bodycombat class, I go back to merely subbing other instructor's classes until another opportunity comes my way. That probably won't be for at least a few months.

In my free time, I've been reading Tolkein's The Return of the King and I came upon a quote in the book that really inspired me in the midst of my disappointment.

There's a lot of context that I don't have time to share here, but suffice it to say that the dwarves had just won a great victory. They destroyed the powerful Orcs who had taken their old home Moria from them.  But there remained another enemy, Durin's Bane, who was too great and too far removed into the depths of Moria for them to conquer at the present time. So even though the dwarf king, Thorin, had fulfilled what he set out to accomplish, he would not be able to enter his old home again. He would still have no throne to sit upon, no realm to rule over.  Given the choice to live in other kings'  palaces or to work as a simple blacksmith, he said,

"To the anvil. The hammer will at least keep the arms strong, until they can wield sharper tools again!"

When I read that, the quote went right to my heart and I thought of my situation at work.  I have accomplished what I set out to do in becoming a certified Bodypump and Bodycombat instructor.  But I have yet to get a Bodypump or Bodycombat class of my own.  That is beyond my power to change right now.  So, like Thorin, I will return to the anvil and my anvil is my freestyle classes.  Humble though they be, they give me ample opportunities to practice my craft and they keep my arms strong until I am given another chance to do what I really want to do someday, teach a Bodypump or Bodycombat class of my own.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Here's the conclusion to this year's Lego Saga finally.  I couldn't finish until now because some of the pieces were missing. Kids... It's like they think the Legos are for them or something.  

Sherry got all her friends and some friends of her friends together for a big Christmas musical.

The show sold out.  Inexplicably, the most popular number of the entire show was when Zoe sat in the spotlight and sang "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" with a red Solo cup. Even the critics couldn't understand why they had tears in their eyes.


Chloe moved into a house so Buster would have a yard to run around (and hopefully pee in). But alas, the evil squirrels in the trees tormented him, so he never went outside.  

A few more of the girls were accepted into Hogwarts.

The others...

remained Muggles forever.

The End.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Goals for 2015

As I think about the year ahead, I just want to continue doing many of the things I am already doing, but I also want to get back to doing some things I did before that I know will be really good for me.

Continue teaching at least three fitness classes each week

Begin tutoring at Classical Conversations

Track spending in

Read The One Year Chronological Bible

Use My Fitness Pal everyday to track calories and macronutrients

Focus on nutrition, take vitamins, etc.

Improve flexibility by doing at least one yoga/ Pilates type workout a week

Lose body fat

Memorize Classical Conversations grammar

Use resources such as Understanding Mathematics, Classical Music for Dummies, Our Mother Tongue, etc. to grow in my basic knowledge of various subjects

Reading as much as possible without feeling like I am not being productive enough when I am "just reading."

Start with God in the Dock and George MacDonald by C.S. Lewis, then read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, then read Saving Leonardo by Nancy Pearcy, then read...

Go on more dates with my husband

Send encouraging cards, letters, emails, gifts, etc. as often as I think about it. I have missed a lot of opportunities to bless others because I think, "It's just a card.  How much difference can it make?"

Plan and allow myself to be flexible so I can spend more time with friends, including allowing myself to spend some time on the phone during the day

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Daily Bible Reading

This morning, as I lay dreaming, I heard someone speak my name, "Veronica!" right behind me.  I was startled just like I would be in the waking world, so I turned in a quick circle looking for the person who was speaking to me. The dream began spinning around me and it faded away as I heard my name again.

"Veronica!" This time I felt the voice whispering slow and deliberately into my right ear as I lay flat on my bed.  I opened my eyes as the voice and breath faded away.

At first, I was terrified by this, so I prayed. But, as I lay there, I remembered the story of the boy Samuel in the temple. When I thought of that, I got up very quickly.  If God was calling to me like that, I was not going to disappoint Him or miss an opportunity.

As I put on my house shoes to shuffle out to my favorite spot to pray and read the Bible, I looked out the window and it occurred to me that the timing was incredible. It was a few minutes before sunrise on the first day of a new year.

And, that morning, I was set to finish The One Year Bible, my goal for 2014, and I was planning to begin reading The One Year Chronological Bible, a new goal for 2015. It gives me a whole new perspective to this often mundane time of reading.

The Lord calls me by name.

I'm coming, Lord!

Lord, here I am.

Review of Last Year's Goals

At the beginning of 2014, I made a list of goals. I thought I would review the list and see how well I did. (Click here to see that list in full detail.) 

I wanted to Blog Again-
In 2014, I blogged approx. 135 times. In 2013, the year before that, I blogged only eight times, so I think I did alright with that goal. 

I wanted to Complete another professional, fitness certification- 

I earned a Bodypump certification in June and I also earned a Bodycombat certification in December.  

I wanted to Improve on my housework- 

I do Fly Lady's Daily Flight Plan every day, so my house stays basically clean and organized, but my goal in 2014 was to follow Fly Lady's detailed cleaning lists. I would clean as I found it necessary, but my goal was to be more proactive and I did not manage to add this extra housework to my routine everyday.  I plan to try again in 2015.

I wanted to Save Money of Groceries-
I started shopping at regular grocery stores like Aldi and Stop and Shop again in 2014 to save money on groceries. I saved approx. $3,000 on groceries last year,compared to the year before when we were only shopping at speciality grocers like Whole Foods, so I met my goal.  We still spend a lot of money on healthy groceries, but we are saving a lot of money by shopping at less expensive stores as often as possible for the products we can get there. 

I wanted to read The One Year Bible-

I did well with this goal.  I read almost every single morning and whenever I skipped days and I got behind, I would read and catch up quickly.  I just finished The One Year Bible this morning.  

I wanted to complete P90X-

I did not meet this goal.  I did three weeks of the P90X calendar in addition to teaching all my fitness classes. But all that exercise caused an overuse injury to my right shoulder.  I learned a valuable lesson from this injury in 2014. I have to find ways to balance my personal workouts with my group fitness classes so that I don't overdo it.

I wanted to read-

The History of the Medieval World by Susan Wise Bauer
I got through half of this book before giving up. Speaking frankly, I thought it was boring. Maybe I will try again later when I am freakishly smart and I can find mundane details about the waring tribes in China during the Middle Ages relevant and interesting, but right now, I'm just a regular smart person, so I quit.

C.S. Lewis' entire bibliography

I did really well with this goal.  I would list all the titles I read below, but that seems tedious, not to mention pretentious. Suffice it to say that I have read almost all of his well-known works, making 2014 the most fertile year of my intellectual life, without a doubt.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy

I am in the process reading the last portion of the final book, The Return of the King, now.  

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People-

I started this book, but I never finished.  Considering the title, maybe I would have been more successful with some of my other goals if I had finished it.

I wanted to Call and talk to my parents and in-laws once a week.

I didn't call once a week, but I think I called more often than the year before. Next year, I may actually try and make a note on the calendar on the days I call, so I can track it. That sounds cold and calculated, but a self-centered person like me has to do what she must to make sure she is connecting with, loving, and honoring the people in her life who most deserve it.  

I wanted to read and apply Laying Down the Rails-

I read it and I chose to begin by trying to teach my children the habit of "neatness." But I look around me and find that we are still working on that habit, so I haven't moved to another habit.  I may read the book again,because I suspect I am doing something wrong. 

I wanted to Learn the names of people who attend my fitness classes-

Given time restraints, I can only talk to people for a few moments before and after classes, so I find it very difficult to connect with people.  But I am always making a very conscious effort to learn people's names and find out things about them, so I can get to know them.  

I wanted to Send cards, letters, etc.

I sent a birthday and/or anniversary card to everyone in my family this year. Sometimes the cards or gifts were late, but I think this is the first year that I sent something to everyone for every occasion, so that is a real improvement. I am also corresponding with a friend in prison and I have tried to send emails and notes as often as I think about someone. In the past, I have been self-conscious about sending encouraging notes, but since I always appreciate receiving them, I trust people don't mind getting them, either.     

Pray for opportunities to be a mentor to younger women and be mentored by older women.

Dwayne and I started teaching a youth Bible study at our house in 2014. Interestingly, that was not something we were even planning to do at the time I made it a goal to be a mentor to young women, but now I look back and I can see that it is something that God was in the process of working out ahead of time.  There are a few young ladies in the group of teens who come to our house for Bible study and I really enjoy my growing friendships with them so much.     

I have also grown in friendship with at least three older women in 2014. Looking back, I realize that I spent significant time with one or more of them on or around every major holiday or event in 2014. We are becoming like family in many ways.  Many of those occasions were not planned by me, either, I was simply responding to their invitations, so God is very faithful to answer even the most simple prayers.