Thursday, October 30, 2014

Good Eats: The Best White Bean Chicken Chili, ready in 30 minutes or an easy Crock Pot Option

I love fall...for the leaves, the football, the slight nip in the air and especially because it starts soup season! 



This White Bean Chicken Chili recipe has given me first prize at a handful of chili cook offs, but more importantly, it's a healthy recipe my entire family loves! This recipe feeds a TON...so invite a few families over and eat together, take it to someone who is under the weather, or freeze half for a day when life is too busy to cook (it is also very easy to cut in 1/6 for very small families or 1/3 for an average group)! This recipe is so easy and incredibly economical! 

INGREDIENTS

6 T Olive Oil
6-8 lbs. of cooked, shredded chicken (can use 2 rotisseries, bake it, or cook it in the crock pot)
2 large onions, chopped
6 cups of chicken broth
6 (4 oz) cans of chopped green chilies (I like to add 1/2 can of chopped jalapenos for a little kick)
6 cans of white beans, drained 
2 cans of butter beans, drained (optional, but I love them in it)
4-6 tsp. garlic powder (start with 4, add more to taste)
3-4 Tbsp. cumin (start with 3, work up to 4 if needed)
2 bunches of cilantro, chopped finely
Salt and pepper to taste

TOPPINGS

Chopped fresh tomatoes
Shredded cheese
Avocados (my favorite)
Tortilla Strips
Sour Cream
Green Onions
Lime

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil and saute onions until translucent. Add cooked and shredded chicken. Stir in broth, chilies and spices and let simmer 15 minutes. Stir in beans, simmer 5 minutes. (You can also leave this on very low for a few hours if you need to prep it early. It is also even better the day after if you want to prep it a day ahead). Top with tomatoes, avocados, cheese, chips and green onions. A friend also loves this recipe on top of a salad, inside a tortilla or over rice. It really is a great one!

CROCK POT ALTERNATIVE
(need a 6 quart crock pot or shrink the recipe)
Saute onions in oil. Place all ingredients, except beans, in the crock pot. Let cook until chicken is fully cooked (mine takes about 5 hours on high from frozen). Shred chicken, add beans. Taste test...sometimes I will need to add an extra bullion cube or some salt and pepper when I do this recipe in the crock pot. You also may need to go  on the higher end of the spices. Simmer on high for one more hour to be sure everything is heated through. Serve with toppings! Yum!



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bookworm Wednesday: The End (Almost)

My boys think this book is HILARIOUS. I must admit, I didn't totally get the humor, but it had them all in stitches as they read it together. My 2nd grader took took it to school for a read aloud and they all loved it just as much. So, if your kids are looking for a book that makes them giggle, this is just perfect! (Shout out to Jim Benton, a Michigan author!)

The End (Almost)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Halloween Ghost Suckers!

This last weekend we did our annual ghost suckers with Grandma! Such a fun and easy Halloween tradition!


For the step by steps, click here! 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Eating My Words



Can I take you back 7 years?

Seven years ago, my children were ages 4, 2, and 1. Seven years ago, I had things all figured out for  "older" children. See, once diapers and whining and incredibly long bedtime routines were over, it was going to be smooth sailing for me and my kiddos.

And here is my confession: I judged the crap out of parents of "last children" or 3rd, 4th and 5th kids with older siblings. I had a few bones to pick with all of you. I was appalled by many things, including but not limited to:

  • Your children's access to inappropriate shows like Sponge Bob Square Pants, iCarly, and Spiderman. 
  • Your complete disregard for bedtime, especially during the summer. 
  • Your refusal to baby and toddler proof homes by placing important items in unreachable places.
  • Your family's ridiculous habit of giving in to that youngest child when he or she needed or wanted anything.
  • Your choice not to make a train with your child on the large twirly slide or play duck, duck goose when they asked at the park.
  • Your quick, "I am having a conversation right now. Please don't interrupt," when your child obviously wanted something.
  • Your decision to not pack 6 different, healthy snacks just in case of hunger or boredom.
  • The way you dismissed the newest parenting techniques and studies.
  • The words you allowed young children (or any children, for that matter) to say like stupid, butt, crap, and heck.

My list could probably go on, but I will stop there; you get the gist. And so, here it is:

I FORMALLY APOLOGIZE FOR EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS.

You see, I am now THAT mom; the one I wondered about; the one I quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) critiqued; the one I tried to give pointers to.  My boys are 11, 9, 8 and my little straggler just turned 3. So, I wanted to take a moment to share a few thoughts with my former, incredibly young, immature self.

My 3 year old rarely watches TV, but when he does it is not PBS. He watches with his brothers who are pretty into Star Wars, Chopped, and action movies, like Spiderman. While you may find these shows "too mature" they are what we are watching together. He is a part of family movie nights and rainy Saturdays on the couch. We don't have different televisions going to suit each person's fancy, so he bends on this one, plays trains when he is bored, and tunes in for the action.

He also goes to bed at about 10. I know, jaw droppingly late...you are correct. But, it works for us. Lots of nights we are at sports or school events until 9 pm, so by the time we get home, read scriptures and say prayers, it is 10 o' clock. He wakes up around 7:30 and still takes a nap every day, clocking between 12 and 13 hours of sleep most days. He is happy, silly, and easy to be around and we love our crazy nights with each other. Do I sometimes wish he were in bed at 8? Of course! But, it just doesn't work for our family.

I never baby proofed or toddler proofed anything with him, besides the stairs. He learned early what was touchable and what needed to be left alone. To be honest, it was rather incredible.

I swore I would never give into the youngest child...but I do. It's not the best habit and I often try to change my ways, but when he is throwing a public fit about something, it is natural to ask your 9 year old to "Stop," or "Give him what he is asking for." Not saying it is right, just saying that it is what happens.

I used to go to the park to play with my kids, but now, I go to the park to give us both some social time. My toddler is absolutely capable of playing without me hovering over him and I love time chatting with other moms. He and I get plenty of one on one quality time together, an hour or so without constant connection is perfectly okay with me and with him!

My kids used to interrupt and pull me away from what I was doing all of the time. I was at their beck and call at all hours. I thought that made me a great mother. It took years to realize that it actually made me an exhausted mother with very needy children. My youngest knows that sometimes he has to wait. He doesn't love it, but after some practice, he handles it just fine. It is good for both of us.

I no longer carry a diaper bag. I don't usually fill up bags of snacks before we head out. No one has withered away yet.

I don't put toys in time out. I don't read Parent's magazine. I don't carry hand sanitizer. I don't have a strategy for every obstacle we encounter. My 3 year old still drinks a bottle before bed and sucks a binky during nap time. I don't talk to him like I am a therapist. Sometimes I say only 2 books and read 6 and sometimes I don't notice when he has eaten 5 sticks of gum out of my purse until it is in his hair. I don't drill him on his letters and sounds and have not even considered any Pinterest toddler crafts or learning activities. This is my 4th rodeo, and I have a decent idea of what works for my children. I don't mind suggestions or new ideas, and at times, I need them, but don't feel badly if you don't see me put your well intentioned research into practice.

And, my last one. I know certain words are really "bad" at your house. When you have only littles "Stupid" is the "S word" and "Potty Talk" is strictly forbidden. Hours and days are spent reforming speech and having conversations about "kind" words. I appreciate all your efforts; they are important, but in our home, things have changed. You see, my 11 year old knows and hears the real "S word," so if he wants to say, "Ugh, practice today was so stupid!" I let it fly. This at times results in a frustrated 3 year old exclaiming, "Ugh, this train track is so stupid!" Maybe I should correct it, but I usually giggle. The same goes for potty talk, which I try to regulate, but listening to my 3 year old's extensive bathroom vocabulary, I am pretty sure my boys tutor him in secret on exactly how to pronounce diarrhea. And, I must be honest, when the youngest member of the family exclaims, "What the CRAP!" We all dissolve into giggles, which adds fuel to his comedic fire. It is now his favorite phrase.

So, I am on the other side now and I am eating my words...funny how often that happens in parenting. Those women I judged and worried so much about now have productive teenagers, selfless missionaries, and college graduates. They are fabulous mothers who are in tune with their children, kind, loving and supportive. Their youngest children seem to be navigating the world just swimmingly. And here I am, in their spot hoping you don't decide to cancel a play date after all the potty talk or hearing that your son had 4 packs of fruit snacks under my watchful care. I wish I would have climbed off my high horse. I should have looked for the good, appreciated the differences, seen the fun you were having with that little one, learned from your example and anticipated the need for a few extra snacks at the park.

I would much rather chomp on Goldfish than old, ugly words.

(Note: I am in no way demeaning the way I used to do things or the way newer moms or younger moms raise their children. It was all just right for the season I was in. Now that our family has such a different dynamic and new needs, things have changed. I am okay with that and absolutely enjoy it. I just wish I would have been more understanding and willing to recognize how different each family and mother is and refrained from judgement early on.)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Bookworm Wednesday: Edenbrooke

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Have you ever read a book that is just so lovely and enjoyable you find yourself smiling every time you pick it up? That is how Edenbrooke was for me. It was such a joy to read, it is hard to be much of a critic. In 2 days I devoured the English countryside, likable characters, and quick story which was just what I needed after a lot of heavy reads. The ending was rather predictable, there were a few hokey moments, and I think it could have been so much more complex but the sweet love story allowed me to look past the book's minor flaws. It was squeaky clean and would make a great gift to any woman in your life who loves to read!

Goodreads.com summary: Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she'll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best laid plans can go awry. From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will Marianne be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

We Broke Up: How I Ditched the Scale and Gained a Life

Eatsmart Precision Plus Digital Bathroom Scale with Ultra Wide Platform and Step-on Technology, 440-Pounds

I've had an almost 20 year love/hate relationship with my scale.

It all started in 8th grade when we were "weighed in" for the first time. I got my blue slip of paper that said, "113 pounds." I still remember. It was more than everyone else, even though I was plenty thin and fit. I was embarrassed, so I lied about it. It was the first time I felt ashamed of my body.

As a dancer, during my "awkward" years, I was told to "suck in," while others were praised for their girlish figures. My body was changing and I hated it all. I noticed rolls where I barely had any and invented cellulite when I looked at myself from behind. I started "watching" what I ate but knew too little about nutrition to realize that "low fat" often meant "high calorie" and along with natural body changes at my age, I ended up gaining weight instead of losing it.

Then came high school. As a dancer it was easy to be self-conscious and compare. The summer before my junior year I ended up loosing about 7 pounds...on accident. My body finally settled in to itself and all the dance practice and conditioning was having a nice effect. I got lots of positive attention that year and it felt incredible. If losing 7 pounds was good, then losing more had to be better.

I started  weighing myself every day, sometimes twice a day. I found a book about calories and memorized every entry of every food I ate. I exaggerated my own caloric intake and stopped eating everything I liked: pizza, bagels, cheese, chocolate, dessert, salad dressing. I talked myself into the idea that I didn't like any of those things anyway....I was oh so in control and getting oh so skinny. The scale was my very best friend. My happiest time of the day was when I watched the numbers go down. Really, truly, nothing tasted as good as skinny felt. I often wondered why everyone didn't live like I did--I was on top of the world.

The college years got worse. There were no home cooked meals and no healthy food in the fridge, so I subsisted on a ridiculous amount of bubble gum, tic tacs and Diet Coke. I ran at least 5 miles a day and took exercise classes to supplement my calorie burn. Looking back, I can't believe I functioned at all.

I brought my scale to college and remember weighing sometimes 6 times a day. I would weigh with my boots and coat on, then peel each article of clothing off until I was left with nothing on and the smallest number the scale could find for my body. I'd step on it 3 or 4 times just to make sure it was as low as it would go. After not eating all day, walking campus and attending classes, it was my favorite afternoon ritual.

I remember mornings after I'd allowed myself to eat dessert with my roommates and the scale showing a bigger number than the day before. It was a bad day. As punishment, I would try and fast or eat only cabbage and mixed vegetables or just the skin of an apple. I'd vow to never eat treats again. I thought about food all of the time. I always felt hungry.

There were some really bad times. The summer after my freshman year my body shut down and said, "Enough." My hair started falling out in clumps in the shower and my period stopped; I felt like I had to lie to everyone. I knew it wasn't okay, and I was scared. After that, I tried to at least be a little smarter about my addiction. I started eating a little more and munched on low calorie foods that were high in nutrients. I put on 2.5 pounds and it killed me. But, my period came back and my hair stopped coming out in clumps. 

Looking back, I feel extremely blessed to have been able to always consume just enough to not permanently ruin myself. I feel so grateful that I was able to still get good grades and feel friendly, happy and confident most of the time. I am in awe of my loving and supportive friends and family. I'm so thankful that I was never able to make myself throw up...because I would have tried that too, I am sure of it.

After marriage, at the urging of Mike, I let go a bit, and I could not control anything. If I started eating, I couldn't stop. My body was in a feast or famine mode because it didn't know when it would be fed again. I had lost the natural "full" trigger and usually ate until I felt sick. Still weighing multiple times a day, most of the time it ruined my day. I'd go the whole day without eating anything, then binge from the time I got home from work. Mike's love sustained me and made me feel thin and beautiful even when I wasn't. Boy, am I grateful for him.

Luckily, having babies reset my metabolism, mind, and view on health. I was better than I had been in ages, but I was still fighting my former self. There is nothing more exhilarating for a scale addict than watching the numbers go down after having a baby. I would weigh myself every morning with my scale set 4 pounds heavy...just so I would never be surprised by the number on any other scale. If mine was 4 pounds heavy, I'd always be pleasantly pleased by another. I knew enough about myself to avoid that type of tailspin.

My weight in the morning decided lots of things: if I should feel happy, if I should smile, if I should think about others, if I should eat breakfast or lunch or just wait until dinner, if I could have dessert, if I should wear a fitted shirt, if I should cuddle up with my husband. I still did these things, but it took work. I could be feeling great, feeling like I looked great, then step on the scale and it could change everything.

I would even bring my scale on vacation in my suitcase...after all, how could I enjoy a trip without knowing my weight?

Then we moved. I left my scale in Arizona and my cheap grad school self didn't want to spend our money on a new one. So, for the first time in 18 years, I was scale-less! It was frightening and empowering at the same time. I checked in with the scale once a week at the gym, and that's it. It was truly shocking to see that my weight stayed basically the same from week to week. I didn't think I'd ever be able to self-regulate without seeing the numbers on the scale, but I found out, I could.

In the beginning I didn't know if I should feel like I was having a "fat" day or a "skinny" day. I realized I'd never really looked at myself or been in tune enough with my body to be a very good judge. I just trusted the scale to decide for me. In the past it had dictated my whole life, so it was quite the adventure to be personally in control. It was up to me to decide if my body needed another helping or if was okay to have some chocolate or if it was time to turn up the exercise, but it was really, really great to let go.

Three years later, I feel healthier physically and mentally than I ever have. There are no more "off limit" foods. I eat when I am hungry and try to make mostly healthy choices the majority of the time because I feel better when I do. I eat dinner with my family. I love dessert. I stay away from fads. I started yoga, dance classes and Zumba which have all made me look forward to exercising. I still have rough days, still pinch my love handles and still wish for a 6 pack, but I am also pretty okay with reality. I do my best not to compare (though sometimes my best is not awesome). I try to spend more time being grateful for a body that is physically healthy and can do almost everything I ask it to do, even after having 4 kids.

I always wished I could be the girl that could order pasta, eat dessert, use salad dressing and butter, and just be normal. Now I am. I have a scale again, but only step on once or twice a week (It doesn't rule my world any more, just keeps me honest).  I feel grateful Every. Single. Day. for a fresh start. 

So, if you are struggling, please know that it can and will get better but you have to want it. Life is so much more than your weight, your exercise and your food. It is hard, so you will need help. Please get it. It is so worth it. If you know someone struggling, help them get help. They will need you to love them through it all. A book that is great for both those with an eating disorder and those struggling to understand it is  Life Without Ed, I highly recommend reading it!

Moms and dads, watch your daughters carefully. Help them understand what being healthy and treating their body well means. Offer nutritious ways to fuel up and encourage physical activity. You both must tell them they are beautiful, because they are, not incessantly but sincerely and not just when she is all dolled up. Vocally appreciate beauty in all shapes and sizes...it is not one size fits all, be sure they understand that. Mothers, be your daughter's best example of someone who loves her body and treats it well; she hears everything you say and those words turn into a soundtrack she will have on repeat every time she looks in the mirror or steps on the scale. If you have only boys, you are not off the hook! Raise them to be men who value women first for the inside but who can appreciate physical beauty in all varieties. They hear what you say, how you critique, and what you value. They internalize it and mimic it, make sure it is worth repeating.

There is nothing like the freedom that comes from letting go of what brings you down and pushes those you love away. It is possible to have a loving, satisfying relationship with your body, food, and even your scale. Believe  it or not, it can all be laid-back, casual, and not one bit toxic.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Mom Friendly Forever 21 Fall Finds


Forever 21 can be a little intimidating for most shoppers...store windows full of booty shorts and crop tops don't really scream "Mom Style!" but they do have some awesome, inexpensive finds for trendier pieces if you are willing to look. I recently purchased these 4 shirts for fall, and I love them! They are all flattering, easy to wear and care for, and completely mom appropriate :).



 

Woven Peach Blouse $15.90: This one is my favorite purchase. I love it with jeans or a skirt, worn more casually or dressed up and the color is so fun. It is pretty sheer, but it still looks great with a cami underneath. True to size. I wore it here


Floral Print Chiffon Blouse $17.90: This one is a great transition piece from summer to fall. Really flattering and easy to wear and great for layering too. Looks great tucked in or left out, pants or skirts. True to size.




Tartan Plaid Shirt $19.90: I love a good button up! This plaid shirt fits casually and loosely but doesn't look frumpy. It's thin enough to layer under a sweater but warm enough for fall. The one I got in the store was a coral/teal combo and I loved the colors, looks like it is not an option online. Love it tucked in to jeans or with a denim pencil skirt. Fits true to size.



Polka Dot Western Shirt $22.80 Another button up but a little more structured with western snaps and details. I bought mine in a cream floral that is not available online, but I love this denim dot option, talk about versatile! I love wearing it with jeans or tied in the front with a long maxi skirt. Great for layering over or under and looks great tucked in or out.