Extreme Couponing

Hey guys!  Did you miss me?  Kidding. 

Anyway, did you see that new show that aired last night on TLC?

 

Extreme Couponing goes into the lives of people who go to extreme lengths to get a deal or shall I say steal.  On the show last night, one families’ grocery total amounted to over one thousand dollars.  They paid $30 for the entire bill.  Yes, thirty dollars on a thousand dollars worth of purchases.  That just amazes me!  How does one go about saving $970 on his or her grocery bill?

I have a lot to learn in that department.  I generally pay little to no mind at the cost of items when grocery shopping.  Well, I take that back, I do compare the different prices for tomatoes, for example, and go with the cheaper variety.  However, I do not go with the store brand mustard just because it is cheaper.

Funny how I happened to catch the show this week.  On this coming Saturday, I am actually invited to a brunch hosted by some ladies who are sharing information on “Maximizing Your Grocery $avings.”DSC01177       

After watching the show, I can’t wait to learn more.  I wanted to start clipping coupons immediately–if only I could save a fraction of the money the shoppers saved.  Though I do worry I won’t be able to save all that much because most of the shoppers on the program appeared to be purchasing a lot of boxed goods.  I do have some staples that come in boxes like pasta, rice, cereal, but for the most part my shopping time is spent around the perimeters of the store.  I hope I learn some useful tips on Saturday and if so I’ll definitely share with you.

Now for the regularly scheduled program—the food.

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Breakfast Smoothie in a Bowl:

~1 frozen banana

~handful frozen strawberries

~cup lowfat milk

~scoop vanilla whey protein powder

~teaspoon blueberry flaxseed meal

All blended in the blender.

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My meat free lunch hit the spot.  I had a salad with greens, a roma tomato, a tablespoon of goat cheese, a few sesame almonds, and 2 tbsp. of light raspberry vinaigrette.

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I enjoyed a Chobani Peach Yogurt for some protein and sweetness.

On my way to the gym I had a Cinnamon Roll.  Larabar that is.  My energy bar fueled me through 33 minutes on the elliptical and some strength training that went something like the following with very little resting between sets to keep the heart rate up.

Machine Weight Reps/Sets
Pectoralis 35 lbs. 15/3
Triceps 30 lbs. 12/3
Biceps 15 lbs. 10/3
Crunches Bodyweight 25/1
Torso Twists Bodyweight 25 per side/1
Hamstring Curl 50 lbs. 12/3
Leg Press 60 lbs. 10/3
Low row 40 lbs. 10/3
Lunges Bodyweight 25 per leg/2
Wall Squats Bodyweight 25/1

I ended with a couple minutes of stretching before deciding I was super-hungry.  I called Chris once in the car and we decided to get take-out from Come Back Inn.DSC01169

I ordered a 9” veggie pizza with onions, bells, mushrooms, olives, and jalapenos.  I ate about 1/3 of it plus I had half of an Italian salad and two of the hub’s mozzarella sticks.  Underneath all of that cheese on the salad is an olive salad which has lots of flavor and some oil to coat the entire salad so no extra dressing is needed. 

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I still have not satisfied my cupcake craving, but I did come across this several.month.old. cookie in the back of the pantry cabinet to satisfy my need for something sweet.DSC01172

Big Question of the Night:  How do you pronounce coupon?  Do you say cue-pon or coo-pon?  I say the latter, coo-pon.  My friend from AL says cue-pon.  I’m thinking cue-pon is more of a southern country accent.  If you reply, please let me know where you’re from as well.  Just curious if the phonetics of the word is dependent upon region of the country in which people reside.

Calorie Counting

Back in 2009 I began calorie counting in an effort to lose weight.  I continued counting my daily calories for about a year and a half stopping for about a month at one point, but soon began again.  In the summer of 2011, as I began reading daily food blogs and shortly thereafter starting my own blog I decided that a daily diary of my meals was sufficient enough as I now had a better understanding of portion sizes and a general idea of the calories those portions were worth.  Ultimately, I gave up inputting my meals into the online database hosted by www.411fit.com.

Don’t get me wrong; calorie counting is the “bible” so to speak when it comes to losing weight.  It works if done honestly.  I am just no longer at a point where I want or need to lose weight; however, I do want to maintain my current weight.  Though I could certainly afford to lose some fatty tissue on some areas of my body, in particular my thighs.  At some point in my lifetime, I want to feel comfortable in a swimsuit without covering up with shorts.  I’m just not sure that will ever happen.

Anyway, today started in a rush since I awoke late once again.  I haven’t been sleeping all that well.  My dog and Mom’s dog (I’ve been babysitting since last Friday) keep me up all hours of the night wanting to go outside.   Needless to say, breakfast had to be FAST.

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Muenster cheese and seedless black raspberry preserves on a whole wheat tortilla with a banana and hot earl grey green tea on side.

Lunch consisted of last’s nights leftover steamed chicken and vegetables with light garlic sauce that Chris picked up from the Chinese takeout place.

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I ate jus about all of the vegetables, but left most of the chicken.  I was bothered by its texture from the steaming.  The Chobani Black Cherry was saved for my pre-cardio snack.

Today’s cardio session included 15 minutes on the bike and 6 miles on the elliptical for 30 minutes while watching 5 Ingredient Fix on the Food Channel.  I concluded with stretching and abdominal floor work.

Dinner was super tasty.  I made Gorgonzola Chicken Alfredo over Spaghetti Squash.

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The evening light was going dim as I was trying to get a good photo from real light.  So I had to move indoors.

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I was shooting for a healthier version on this chicken alfredo, so I was curious to figure out how many calories this was.  My mind immediately thought to log onto www.411fit.com to calculate the stats.  So that is just what I did for all of today’s eats.

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A cup of squash, with two tenders, and two tablespoons of the sauce came out to 322 calories.  I did have a third chicken tender with a third tablespoon of sauce so my dinner was about 460 calories.  Still, 500 calories seems reasonable to me for a meal.

My grade on today’s nutrition came out to a B+—Good.  My calories are slightly low and my protein was more than needed, but overall a good day.  Just to be clear, the database does not contain every single thing I ate.  I found compatible items for things like the raspberry preserves and my leftover Chinese chicken and veggies.  For my dinner, I did actually upload the recipes into the site so that is pretty accurate.  And I owe you the recipe.  It’s a keeper. :0)

Question of the Night:  Do you count calories?  Does that seem obsessive to you?

Taste Test Tuesday: Crispy Oven Baked Fries

I do have weaknesses when it comes to eating.  Give me some fries and I will devour them in o.2 seconds.  As a child, my family would head over to the ballpark to watch my sister play on the softball or basketball all-stars team.  I would sit in the bleachers and not five minutes after arriving I would ask Mom if I could have $2.00 to get fries and a coke.  Surely I got my fries topped with lots of ketchup most nights and would sulk when I didn’t.

Still, at times I crave the crispy fried sticks and will eat them occasionally from a fast food joint, but I try to avoid them when eating out by swapping the deep fried salty goodness for a vegetable.

Last night I was on a mission to find the “best” crispy oven baked french fries to go alongside our pork sandwiches.  So I did what any normal foodista would do, and searched the net.  I found three techniques  that had potential, yet I wasn’t sure which method to use.  So I thought, “Why not test them all and see ‘which reigns supreme’?”  Iron Chef anyone!?!

Technique 1: Emeril’s egg white coated fries involve whisking an egg white until foamy, coating the fries in the egg whites, and baking on a greased non-stick pan.  I did not use the Essence seasoning as stated instead a simple salt and pepper shake and also chose to spray my pan with cooking spray instead of using vegetable oil.

Technique 2: Parboiling the fries was required in this method prior to coating with oil, salt, and pepper.  The baking was a bit more technical requiring not only baking, but also broiling.

Technique 3: A preheated oven and a preheated pan is required in the third technique.  The fries are coated with olive oil, salt, and pepper then they are layered on the preheated pan and baked in the oven.

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Fries three ways are shown above in the order of techniques listed previously—1, 2, then 3.  All three techniques took more or less thirty minutes with flipping fries half-way through cooking time.  And for the results:

1. The egg white coated fries had a nice french fry flavor and a crispiness that Chris related to a beer batter coating on the outside.  The coating wasn’t that evident to me.

2. The parboiled fries had me hesitant half-way through cooking time when they appeared limp and soggy as I flipped.  In the end after broiling, they did come out crispy and tender on the inside though not as crispy as #1.  Chris and I both agreed some of the potato flavor was missing with the pre-cooking of the potatoes.

3. The preheated pan did leave the fries super crispy.  Thirty minutes was not necessary as the recipe calls for.  Also, I had my oven set for 425* not 450*.  I was slightly disappointed because these fries were overdone and crisp almost to the point of being burnt.  It may have also been due to the fact that I cooked them on the second to lowest shelf in the oven since my parboiled fries were above.

Outcome: My preference for taste and crispiness were the fries cooked using…[drumroll please]…technique number 1-Emeril’s Oven Crispy Fries.  Chris actually preferred the third technique using the preheated pan which resulted in near charred french fries.

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And to summarize today’s enjoyable eating:

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Whole wheat tortilla topped with peanut butter, banana, and nutmeg + Earl Grey Green Tea

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Next up, lunch.

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Spinach/arugala mix, a roma tomato, a tbsp. gorgonzola cheese, and sesame almonds topped with raspberry vinaigrette + chobani peach greek yogurt.

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Banana Bread Larabar for an after school snack–

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And breakfast again for dinner (x2)–

1st Up

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A veggie sausage patty, laughing cow light swiss, and a fried egg on a wheat bun.

2nd Round–

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Chocolate Almond Oatmeal

1/4 c quick cooking oats

1/4 c water

1/4 c lowfat milk

1 tbsp cocoa powder

1/8 tsp almond extract

pinch of salt

1 tsp brown sugar

10 bittersweet chocolate chips

Directions:  Combine oats, water, milk, cocoa powder, almond extract, and salt in a small pot over medium low heat.  Bring to a simmer and stir continuously until desired thickness is reached.  Top with brown sugar and chocolate chips.  Enjoy the chocolaty almond flavored oatmeal.

Oh yeah, I also exercised prior to eating my 2nd breakfast of the day.  I headed straight home from work since severe weather was on the way.  I took advantage of free Exercise TV On Demand and did three workouts.  The first was the Metabolism Booster which was about 20 minutes of strength training mixed with spurts of cardio.  The second was a 10 Minute Buns and Thighs video, and lastly 12 minutes or so of 6 Pack Abs.  By the end I was hot and sweaty and in dire need of water.  I also came to the realization that I need to invest in some weights that are less than Herculean because I couldn’t do all of the moves with the 10 pounders I have.  Regardless, workout accomplished!

Toilet Talk

Hello there! I hope you do not mind my veering away from food for a second, but I really need to get this off my chest while it’s in my head.  It does have something to do with health.  I’m talking about restroom habits, and not particularly about how regular or irregular one may be.  That is not my business, but I will say eating whole grains, fruits, and veggies can help with that sort of problem.  I’m talking more so in the sense of sanitary habits.

 

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I always use those toilet covers when they are available and they are so much more user friendly than covering the seat with strips of toilet paper as Mom taught me to do at a young age, but I never hear other people pulling them from the box in stalls next to me.  What’s up with that?  Do the majority of people squat or do they just not give a darn?  With squatting there is always the risk of missing which someone might have to sit on later.  No thanks!  Or, as in my case, I freeze up if I squat and I end up not being able to go.  Thank goodness, we don’t have these here in the U.S.—squat toilets.

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Second–really people, wash your nasty hands!  That grosses me out to no end when I see people walk out of the bathroom after using the restroom without washing their hands.  This happens all.the.time. at the gym nonetheless (where people are concerned with health).  I do not want to touch the cardio or weight machines after you just took a p*** or s*** for that matter and failed to wash.  It takes all of 20 seconds or the amount of time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song.  I learned that a while back in a medication training for when I have to administer medication to students at work.  Well, I guess everyone was not as fortunate to have a dad to fuss them if they didn’t wash their hands after using the bathroom.  That guy raised me right!

Done with that!  Let’s talk food now.

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I wasn’t feeling like cooking this a.m. so I had a quick cereal bowl-mixture of Kashi Heart to Heart, Kashi Vanilla Island Squares, Ground Flaxseed, handful of praline pecan granola, banana, and cup of low fat milk.

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Cup A Mango Green Tea

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Lunch was a homemade lunchable with sliced turkey, laughing cow wedges, Triscuits, on the verge to being bad celery stalks, and a nectarine that was traded out for the apple pictured below.

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After work I headed straight to the gym munching on this Almond Joy of a Bar below in the car.

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This honestly felt like I was eating a candy bar—sweet, coconutty texture, almonds, mmmm.  I didn’t miss the chocolate either.

After 45 sweaty minutes on the elliptical and stair climber I stretched, did some abdominals, and headed home with intentions to cook dinner.  To my surprise, I arrived home to a meal cooked by my husband.  Oh, how thankful am I!  I didn’t have to cook.

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Chris baked a maple and brown sugar pre-seasoned pork tenderloin.  These Hormel tenderloins are easy, lean, and delish plus they were buy one get one free so I have another in the freezer!  Sides included boxed mac~n~cheese and steamed peas.  Dinner is always better when I am not the one cooking it!  Thanks again to my hubby—much appreciated!

I’m off to rest!  This time change has got me feeling off the past three mornings, but I do like those lighting effects hitting my dinner plate above.  Night!

Walking and Barking

Have I mentioned how much I really, really loooove weekends? :)  They just seem to always go by super duper fast. :(  This weekend was no exception. 

Well, Friday evening was pretty lackadaisical since my day was spent on a field trip to the Aquarium of the Americas and IMAX 3D Theatre. 

The clip is not completely clear, but there are some massive turtles, sharks, and stingrays in the aquarium.

DSC00537DSC00541 DSC00561 DSC00568  Other than fish, you can see birds, penguins, otters, and white alligators.  The IMAX Deep in the Sea was also fascinating and my 9-11 year old students loved it.

Saturday started with a visit to the park with the dogs.  While Chris played with the dogs, I did my own cardio circuit.  It consisted of lots of jogging, jumping jacks, lunges, high knees running in place, planks, side planks, basic crunches, and girly push-ups.  I did two sets of the circuits and then jogged around the field for a bit.  It was about twenty-five to thirty minutes of exercising and the lunges left me in some serious pain in the rear.  Chris actually joined me on one set of lunges and he is still whining about the pain claiming he will never do lunges again. LOL!

Sunday was a fun filled day which began at church.  Shortly after, hub and I met some friends downtown for a Mardi Gras parade.  We went to the Krewe of Barkus.  It was our first time attending and it was like no other parade I’ve ever been to. 

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As you can see it is not an ordinary float parade with riders that I am accustomed to. It is animals on large floats, homemade floats, grocery baskets as floats with the pet owners walking along side pushing the floats.  It is animals dressed up as people, animals dressed up as animals, people dressed up as animals, and people dressed up as other people.  In the end, this parade in particular is for a good cause in support of helping animals in need of homes.

And here is a few other sites as we were walking through the quarter.

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Mardi Gras Decor on the historic buildings.

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While walking around downtown, you will see street performers standing on streets trying to make a buck.  Here is one of the mimes, but there are also magicians, artists, singers, tappers, and more.

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Crowded streets awaiting the Krewe of Barkus!

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We walked around for about 3 and a half hours downtown and then I headed over to my sister’s house to babysit until 10 o’clock last night.  Needless to say, I am a bit exhausted today.

Well, I did do a small amount of cooking this weekend, but for the most part I ate on the go from fast food type restaurants for dinner both Saturday and Sunday night which was not optimal, but hey I’m not perfect.

If you prefer to bake cakes using a boxed mix, I highly recommend doing what hungry-girl suggests.  I mixed one box of cake mix with one 6 oz. container of greek yogurt and a cup of water.  I then baked the mini-cupcakes according to what the box stated.  The cupcakes came out so moist and satisfied my sweet tooth cutting out much of the fat and calories and adding some protein from the greek yogurt.  I went with a lemon cake mix and used the peach chobani yogurt.  Hungry-girl states that her favorite is devil’s food cake mix with plain greek yogurt, but use what you have or prefer.  She does have some other 2 ingredient cake recipes which can be seen here.

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I sprinkled some powdered sugar on top and they were great—much like a lemon poundcake.  I would probably make a whole cake rather than the mini-cakes next time, but either way would work.

Have a good night!  Have you ever been to Mardi Gras here in New Orleans?

Did You Take a You Day?

This week I have been trying to wake up a few minutes early to ensure I am to work on time.  We’ve started a new program at school called “Breakfast in the Classroom” where all students and teachers get a breakfast meal that is consumed together in class.  I actually do not have a homeroom class so I’ve just been monitoring in the hallway to make sure things are running smoothly.  I have chosen to forego the breakfast offerings after seeing the cherry pastries and granola bars and yogurt cups that the students have been given.  Today it was a pancake wrapped sausage on a stick.  Luckily, I ate prior to “Breakfast in the Classroom.”

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I topped a cup of plain greek yogurt with a 1/2 c. blueberries, a drizzle of maple syrup, a spoonful of almond butter, and an oatmeal chocolate chip muffin was mixed in.

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Instead of the usual Chai, I went with Celestial Seasonings Tension Tamer Tea.   I don’t care for the flavor that much, but was hoping for some stress relief (which hot tea usually has that effect on me anyway).  The past couple of days I have been feeling some tension or stress pains in my chest.  It feels like tightening or pressure near my heart.  I think it could be due to my students’ standardized testing coming up and I am overly-anxious to get it done with.

On my way to lunch just before noon, I was stopped by two coworkers who wanted to know if I had begun to plan for a parent event we have yearly at school.  I went on to explain that my heart is feeling tightness and stressed and I just had not gotten to it yet.  One of the ladies asked, “Did you take a you day?”  My response was no as I don’t generally take off just because I need a break.  But I do like the sound of a “you day” or “me day” for that matter!

I then proceeded to the lounge to eat my scrumptious salad composed of spring mix, romas, pecans, reduced fat feta, blueberries, a few chicken chunks left from Sunday’s grilled chicken, topped with a tbsp. of olive oil, and 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar.  I enjoyed a banana on side.

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Today I made it to the gym to get in some strength training and cardio.  I started with 10 minutes on the stair climber, followed by 30  minutes of weights, and finished up with 20 minutes on the elliptical.

After my workout I followed my Mom to her house to pick up some roast that she cooked in the slow-cooker last night.  It was a great help because I wasn’t left struggling with “what’s for dinner” tonight. I ate the roast on a sandwich thin with lowfat mayo, a reduced fat slice of swiss, and tomato slices.  I added some steamed snap beans for some greenery and veggies.

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I decided I would try a few sips of a white wine I was given for Christmas to try and take the edge off.  I rarely drink alcohol and just can’t seem to acquire a taste for it.

Do you have any tips to relieve tension/stress?

BBQ Turkey Meatloaf Remixed

DSC00414 Breakfast Cereal with 1/2 cup Kashi Heart to Heart, 1/2 cup Kashi Vanilla Wheat Squares, small sprinkle pecan praline granola, a few cinnamon almonds, sliced banana, 1/2 c blueberries, cup of lowfat milk

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I had a meeting away from school today so I got to go to lunch out…a looong lunch out at McAlister’s Deli.  I ordered a cup of veggie soup and a half of the sweet chipotle salad. I also added some crackers to go with the soup.

mcal After dropping a friend at the airport I headed to the gym for 50 minutes of cardio and some light stretching.  I did 22 minutes on the stair climber and 30 minutes on the elliptical.

Then I headed home to make some BBQ Turkey Meatloaf, which was much better than I remembered after making a few changes to the original.  See my changes below.

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I used half red bell and half yellow bell because that’s what I had.  I omitted the onion powder(because I am out), added 2 tsp. of curry powder, added 1 tbsp. garlic minced rather than garlic powder, added 2 tbsp. BBQ sauce to the mixture, and instead of store bought bread crumbs I crumbed my own in the processor from 2 slices whole wheat bread with ends removed.

BBQ Turkey Meatloaf

1-1 1/2 lbs. lean ground turkey breast

1 medium bell pepper, chopped (from our garden)

1 tbsp. minced garlic

2 tsp. curry powder

2 tbsp. hickory smoked mustard (dijon mustard may work too)

10 splashes of worcestershire sauce (more if desired)

1 whole egg

2 slices whole wheat bread, ends removed and processed into crumbs

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 c BBQ sauce (2 tbsp. mixed with meat; 2 tbsp for topping)

Directions:  Preheat oven to 350*.  Spray loaf pan with nonstick spray.  Mix all ingredients  except 2 tbsp. of BBQ sauce; hands work best.   Once mixed, put into loaf pan.  Top the loaf with  2tbsp. BBQ sauce.  Bake in oven for 45 minutes or until thermometer inserted reads 165*.

The result was a flavorful, tender loaf of ground turkey.  I had to go back for a second slice.  On the side, Chris and I split a baked sweet potato topped with a tsp. of Brummel & Brown and an oz. of reduced fat sharp cheddar.  Also, for some veg I blanched some green beans that were on their last leg about to be thrown in the compost pile. This dinner was delicious.

Currently, I am watching American Idol and there are some really great singers this season.  Have I ever mentioned how much I love to sing and when I was little I was often told how well I sang and forced to sing for friends and family.  I can still carry a tune, but due to lack of practice I don’t sing as well as I once did.

Are there any American Idol fans out there?