In the Spirit of Christmas

Christmas is less than two weeks away.  And in the spirit of the holiday, Chris and I purchased our very first Christmas tree yesterday.  In the five years of living at our house and the four years of being married, this is our first family tree.  So I am super excited about it.  Not only does it make the house smell fresh and piney, but waking up to the vibrant reds and greens puts me in a happy mood looking at all of my Christmas decor knowing the holidays are here.  I mean, my husband actually hopped out of bed this morning singing “Silver Bells” in his deepest manly voice.  🙂

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I always admire trees that have a coordinating color scheme rather than a mish mosh of random ornaments collected throughout the years.  Although I have a collection of ornaments that I’ve been given as gifts from students, coworkers, friends, and family; I opted to decorate the tree without them.  Perhaps when I have children of my own that may change because I couldn’t possibly leave off my child’s handmade picture wreath or popsicle stick snowflake, but only the future will tell.

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As for the husband’s and my method of decorating the tree, we first trimmed the trunk and got the tree into some water—about a gallon.  I put on the tree skirt, which I purchased for half off at Michael’s craft store, and the St. Nick tree topper, which was a gift from Mom several years ago.

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Chris added a poinsettia to his hand for an added touch.  We then strung 600 lights around the tree for that traditional Christmas tree glow.  Artificial poinsettias were added in what I would like to think was a thoughtfully placed pattern.  Next, thirty green, gold, and red ornaments were added to the eight foot tall tree.  Lastly, I wanted to add some cascading ribbon for the final touch.  I purchased some red velvet ribbon; however, I decided it just wasn’t the look I was going for.  So I asked Mom to take a ride with me back to Michael’s to help pick out a ribbon for my tree.  We decided on the red and green plaid, which I think adds the perfect touch of casual sophistication.

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You may be wondering why this is our first Christmas tree.  Well, having two dogs and a cat I always feared they would knock the tree over, eat the ornaments, lights, etc.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that doesn’t happen now that the dogs are out of the puppy stages hopefully.  The cashier at Michael’s suggested tying the tree to a 3M hook on the wall to prevent the cat from tipping it; Chris said he would tie it today to prepare for the animals being left home tomorrow while we are at work.  I keep telling them no when they walk over by the tree.  Maybe they’ll get the message (because we are convinced the two dogs understand English) and stay off my tree!

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My tree came out just as I envisioned and does just what I hoped it would—put me in the Christmas Spirit.

No Chore Monday

Yesterday when my husband got home from work he found me sluggishly laying on the couch.  I think I am getting sick once again.  It never fails; each year I get sick three or four times per year working with children.  My throat started bothering me on Sunday night and I am not yet feeling better.  Due to my not feeling well, when Chris got home he said, “Since Monday is so tiring from the weekend, why don’t we just relax and have No Chore Monday,”  meaning no dishes, clothes, cooking, etc.  Though I fully appreciate that and think it may have also been due to the fact that he was feeling tired and did not care to do anything, I am not sure I can go with “No Chore Monday.”  I did last night because I was not feeling well, but hopefully normalcy will soon resume. 

On an added note, last week hub switched from the evening shift to the day shift so he now gets home around 3:30-4:00 p.m. as opposed to 10:00 p.m.  So last week he got to see what all I do once I get home from work, grocery shopping, and/or the gym.  I guess he realizes all that I do in the evening and felt bad since I was not feeling my best.

Yesterday morning I slept in so I opted for a quick breakfast of Kashi Island Vanilla Wheat Puffs, sliced banana, and lowfat milk with some hot chai tea on the side hoping to soothe my sore throat.

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Chris made my sandwich for Monday lunch on Sunday night.  He made turkey and laughing cow light mozzarella and sun dried tomato and basil cheese wedge on whole wheat bread.  On Monday morning I added some romaine and tomato slices.

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I had some Triple Berry Torte yogurt on the side for some added sweetness.  Initially I did not like that flavored laughing cow cheese, but my sandwich was cold and satisfying at lunch time.

After work I wasn’t feeling up to par as stated earlier, so I had a snack and then lounged on the sofa watching Oprah and Food Network. My snack included Bosc pear slices and Peanut Butter and Co. Dark Chocolate Dreams Peanut Butter.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter for Dipping~Yum!

For dinner, Chris suggested sushi from the Cherry Blossom at the corner.  All I wanted was some comfort for my throat so I chose the tempura udon soup.  It came with two tempura shrimp and tempura sweet potato, broccoli, and zucchini.

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I ate one of the shrimp, all of the veggies which I actually thought would be in the soup, and about 2/3 of the soup. 

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The Japanese noodles were so thick and chewy I really enjoyed the texture though they were a bit difficult to pick up with a spoon so I had to alternate between the spoon for the hot, salty broth and chopsticks for the onion and noodles mixture.  The soup/tempura combo was filling and soothed my throat for a short while.  Hub enjoyed the soup as well and said it would definitely be on his order if he felt like having soup at some point in the future.

After dinner and a bath I got in my pjs (t-shirt and shorts), took some meds, and climbed right back on the sofa to call it a night.

At the moment I am home from work today.  I requested a substitute yesterday because we are having all of our cable, phone, and Internet services switched to a new company and my husband scheduled them to set it up today.  Since he just started a new position, he did not want to miss work and have about 40 sick days accumulated so I told him I would miss.  As it turns out I am actually sick and not just playing hooky though I would likely have been at work today if I hadn’t needed to be home for the cable guy. 🙂

This morning I tidied up a bit since I went with “No Chore Monday” then had some pumpkin oats with pumpkin spice coffee.

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Old Fashioned Oats were cooked on the stovetop including the following in the mix:

~1/3 c oats

~1/3 c water

~1/3 c lowfat milk

~pinch of salt

~mashed banana

~generous sprinkling of cinnamon

~dash of ginger and nutmeg

~1/4 c pumpkin, canned (stirred in at end)

~cinnamon almonds for topping

Now I’m sitting at the table waiting for the two cable guys to be done.  It looks like this could take a while because so far my cables are bad and the cable guy said he has to do some rewiring, uuugghhh!  So I may do some dishes, clothes, read since my TVs and Internet are currently out of service, and drink coffee or tea for the throat of course!

Do you have any home remedies for healing sore throats? 

A Taste of the Holidays

The cool weather this weekend has put me in the holiday spirit and reminded me that in two short weeks I’ll be off of work an entire week for the Thanksgiving holidays.  I.Can’t.Wait!  The winter holidays are my favorite time of year with the aromas of wood burning fireplaces and Christmas trees filling the air, festive decorations, comforting home-cooking, and spending time with loved ones.  On Saturday, Mom and I attended the Pontchartrain Holiday Arts and Craft Show.  We go just about every year to see mostly the same types of jellies, dip mixes, wooden yard signs, wreaths, jewelry, and much more. 

At the show I sampled way too much of these and did not buy one of them.

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All Kinds of Pepper Jellies including Crawfish Pepper Jelly and Mayhaw Pepper Jelly of The Ole Homestead out of Gilbert, LA.  Plus all sorts of mayonnaise/ sour cream based dips with pretzel sticks from spinach dip to garlic dip to Mardi Gras dip, which is a Cajun flavored spicy dip.  They were all tasty, but what I enjoyed the most and had to have (because I knew I would actually use it and not store it in the cabinet for years like some of the dip and soup mixes purchased two years ago) to top on my oatmeal was Sweet Potato Pecan Butter.

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I actually baked a homemade Sweet Potato Pie with Maple Pecan topping on Friday and topped my oatmeal this morning with it.

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Sunday breakfast—steel cut oats made with banana, cinnamon, milk, and water.  I guess sweet potatoes are on my brain since we still have a bunch to use up, so fittingly I purchased the sweet potato butter which tastes a lot like this pie.  More on the pie in another post.

The arts and craft show was not just about food, though it seemed many people just go for the sample tastings.  There was also tons of jewelry for sale at the show as well.

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Saints and Fleur de Lis paraphernalia out the Ying-Yang!

Handmade Wooden Yard Signage

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Christmas Decor, the Door Wreath I Purchased

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As always, Mom and I shared some freshly roasted New Orleans Praline Pecans.  They were sweet and hot right out the pan.

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To recap the rest of my Saturday eats:

Breakfast was a hunk of Sweet Potato Pie with a cup of Pumpkin Spice Coffee.

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Lunch was sandwiches for two—one for Chris and one for me. 

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Whole Wheat Toast topped with Greek Olive Hummus, Reduced Fat Feta Cheese, Grape Tomatoes, Spring Mix, Sliced Cucumbers, Sliced Bell Peppers, Salt & Pepper

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Chris said this very well could be his favorite sandwich of all times and he wants me to make it “everyday.”  I agree it was scrumptious though I am sure he and I would both tire of it if eaten every day.

Later in the day I tried my first pomegranate.  Julie was right when she warned her readers that there will be ruby red pomegranate juice all over the place when dissecting a pom to get to the beautiful, crunchy, juicy little arils.  I was worried, though, about the staining power, but the juice easily wiped up from my white countertops with water.

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Wish I had this hunk of jewels as a ring; the arils look like beautiful, glistening gemstones.

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My pomegranate provided me with hundreds of the juice bursting arils.  When you bite down on one of them a burst of juice explodes in your mouth.  They are a fun, little snack to chomp on.

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Shortly after dark, husband and I decided to head out to try Prime Time Seafood and Steak House down the street from our house.  It has been there for a while, but we were hesitant to try it since they hardly ever look packed.

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The outside looks a bit old-fashioned, but the inside has been freshly renovated to a modern sophistication with dim lights.  The hostess greeted us kindly and proceeded to seat us at a white linen covered table.  The dining tables were very close together, so Chris asked if we could sit in a booth where our request was welcomed.

To start, we had the stuffed mushrooms, which our waitress claimed she ate them everyday because they are that good.

IMG_0184  They were deep fried and served with ranch dressing, although the menu stated they came with hollandaise sauce.  When asked about the substitution, Angie, our waitress, stated most people do not eat the hollandaise and that they go better with the in-house made ranch dressing anyway.  I’m not a fan of hollandaise, so it was no problem for me.  And Chris couldn’t get enough of the ranch.  I had two of the fried mushroom stuffed balls with a couple slices of crusty, hot French bread as well.  The mushroom pieces seemed to be sliced on the inside of the fried breading, so being called stuffed mushrooms was somewhat deceptive, but the flavor was delicious.  I think it is difficult to mess up a “stuffed mushroom.”  I can’t recall ever having a bad one.

For my meal, I ordered the chopped salad and crabcake appetizer.

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Pile of chopped lettuce, tomato, onion, olives, cheese, egg, bacon, mushrooms, croutons topped with crispy, fried onion rings.  Initially, I requested Italian dressing for my salad, but it was certainly not needed or used because the salad had so many flavors already.  I ate all of this with two of my crabcakes mixed in.  Chris ate the third along with his T-bone steak.

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The crabcakes were chock full of lumps of meat.  Very little breading was used unlike most restaurants who serve more breading than crabmeat.  These were the perfect accompaniment to my chopped salad. 

As for Chris’s steak ordered from the steak house, we both agreed that it was way too over-seasoned.  For a $40 cut of meat, you should be able to actually taste the flavor of the meat and not the seasoning that it was dredged in.

We finished up our meal sharing a cup of coffee and New Orleans Style Bread Pudding with a Sweet Rum Sauce.

IMG_0194    Pudding for Two—Decadent and Delicious

Sip for Him & Sip for Her

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We both agreed that the steak was overpriced, but would perhaps come back for the other food offerings at another time.  Another couple actually came in, were seated, looked at the menu, and got up and left without ordering a thing.  I think it may have been due to the pricing.  The cheapest steak is 30 bucks, which maybe they are trying to become one of the better steak restaurants in the area; however, the place does not stand up to the top notch steak houses for two reasons. 1.) The location is next to a not so nice hotel, so the people staying there may not want to fork out that kind of money for the food.  2.) If the flavor of the steak needs to be hidden with that much extra seasoning, then perhaps they do not know how to cook a good steak.  Maybe they should stick to seafood.  Lastly, I think the name says something about a place.  Prime Time sounds more like the name of a sports bar rather than a fancy dining eatery.

Finally, the day ended with Chris lighting our fireplace for the first time this season.

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Just a taste of the holidays because it did not last too long, because we are short on firewood.  All we had were some twigs and branches that were gathered up a couple weeks ago from the yard.

As for now, this time change has made me feel like I need to go to sleep with it being so dark so early, but I need to get some laundry done instead and see if any good shows are on.  I may just have to pop a handful of pom arils in my mouth for a burst of energy even though I just had some froyo not long ago.  Have a good night!

Do you like the time change for the winter or do you dislike it?

I am not a fan of setting the clocks back for winter because once I get home from work between five or six, I feel like my whole day is lost/gone.  Not to mention it puts me to sleep when I have things to get done around my house.  And I thoroughly dislike driving in the dark (I’ve been in glasses since I was 2 years old and can’t see very well during the day much less at night) which I’m forced to do if I need to run any errands.

Emphasize the Positive

Breakfast this morning was filling and easy to prepare. I satisfied my hunger with a peanut butter and seedless black raspberry preserve sandwich. I ate a sliced honeycrisp apple on the side.

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I also had some mango black tea on the side for sipping.

Lunch was provided by the school system. Last week were able to order a salad if we preferred to have one, so after three Tuesday lunches composed of sandwiches I went with a chef salad.

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The salad had lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, celery, bell pepper, broccoli, cauliflower, turkey, ham, cheese, egg, and croutons with fat free ranch dressing. I also ate the grapes and cookie for snacks.

Later on I had way too many bite sized candies that were poured on our table. After the in-service, I headed over to my sister’s house to find more sweet treats brought over by my mom.

I had a slice of pound cake and some more (Halloween) candy.

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Mom and I took my nephew, Jett, to the park to feed the ducks and walk the track. We walked 2 miles pushing Jett along in his jogger stroller. It was a bit tough because the tires were flat, but we managed.

Finally, we arrived back at my sister’s house to enjoy her home cooked dinner. She made baked tilapia marinated with lemons, butter, and artichoke hearts in individual foil packets. Side dishes included sautéed spinach with almonds, cucumber salad, and macaroni-n-cheese. I passed on the mac and cheese, but lapped up the fish and veggies.

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Dinner was so tasty! The tilapia, lemon, artichoke combination went very well together. All too often I forget how simple and tasteful fish can be to cook and eat; I need to cook it more.

And for dessert—

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On another note–At my in-service today a point was made as it relates to a teacher’s focus on students and their behaviors. As I was listening to the presenter, my mind went slightly on a tangent and her words reminded me of something women (I) do so often to themselves. Too much emphasis is put on the negative!

I AM GUILTY AS CHARGED!! I so often point out my flaws as I look at my reflection in the mirror getting ready in the morning. “My hips look big, my thighs look big, that dimple is disgusting, what is with that crinkle in the middle of my nose, my eye looks lazy!?!” I could go on and on about things I dislike about myself and I have been doing it since I was a kid. I cannot fully pinpoint when or why it started, but I know I have suffered with low self-esteem for quite some time.

This negative behavior of mine is something I am trying to work on, to be more accepting of myself and to be appreciative of what God has given me. But in the back of my mind I wonder if I will truly ever be fully satisfied with myself. I have started to accept myself more since becoming more fit and comfortable in my own skin, but the negatives are still prevalent in my mind.

I have read many other blog posts among the healthy living community that all send a message to counteract those negative thoughts or fat talk as one puts it. I agree that we so often bash ourselves and pick out our flaws; however, like those blogs strive to do, WE NEED TO EMPHASIZE THE POSITIVES!

Here are some blogs that strive for acceptance of oneself. They help me to focus on positivity rather than dwelling on the negatives.

· Caitlin with Operation Beautiful

· Heather with Faces of Beauty

· Tina with Faith, Fitness, Fun

And for your viewing pleasure, my new hairstyle by Mom…

Ignore my outdated (woops, positive) Look at my antique? kitchen. 😉

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In Different Lighting and Angle

Oh wait, that crinkle in my nose is characteristic of my French nationality. Well in that case, I like it! 🙂

Please share one positive comment about yourself to emphasize the positive!

What a Wonderful World

Wooooo hoooo!  It’s Friday and it’s a three day weekend! 🙂 That definitely puts a smile on my face.

In preparation for this morning’s breakfast, I added overnight oats to the remnants of a peanut butter jar as recommended by Kath:

Who is the Oat Queen

Eating them hot, cold

Plain or bold

As her page declares

She always shares

She eats them with fruit, spice

And whatever sounds nice

She scrapes her jars clean

Oh she is the Oat Queen

I had to pay tribute to Kath for her inclusion of oats in her world of food.  Due to her I am now a fan of oatmeal, never having enjoyed it in my prior 20+ years of life.  Without further ado I introduce you to my breakfast, Overnight Oats in a Jar (OOIAJ).

Overnight Oats in a Jar

They began last night when I took this jar out of the fridge.

As you can see, there is really not much peanut butter left in the jar–maybe a teaspoon.

To the jar I added:

1/4 cup of 0% greek yogurt

1/4 cup of rolled oats

Splash of 1% milk

Drizzle of honey

1/2 banana

1/3 of peach chooped

Dash of cinnamon

I’m seriously fallin’ for these oats; they are so creamy, cold, and fulfilling.

<3ing My Oats

Mango Green Tea + OIAJ

The oats kept me full until lunch time 6 hours later.  That seems to be a long time without food, but I eat breakfast at quarter to 5 which usually holds me over until my lunch break at school, which is at 11:50.  By that time, my stomach is calling out, “Feed me!”  Today’s lunch consisted of leftover Greek Pasta from last night.  Sticking with the Greek theme, I had some hummus and carrots on side.

Plain Hummus + "Good for Your Eyes" Veggies

I’ve worn glasses since I was 2, so my parents have always told me, “Eat your carrots; they’re good for your eyes.”

After work today I arrived home to find some surprises awaiting me.  First, something that is also good for ya’–a sample case of Pom Wonderful Juice arrived today.

I want to extend a warm thank you to Ryan @ Pom Wonderful for contacting me.  I generally prefer consuming my calories from solid foods, not liquids.  But when he offered I graciously accepted.  I did try some of the juice and it definitely captivated my taste buds.  The tart flavor of the juice is much like that of a cranberry juice, which I enjoy drinking when just waking in the morning feeling thirsty.  I appreciate the powerful antioxidants provided by the juice and look forward to trying it with some different recipes.  Perhaps a smoothie, cocktail, or maybe pork loin with a pomegranate reduction.

After sharing a bottle of POM with the hubby, I snacked on some blue corn chips and wholy guacamole.

You may have noticed the past two photos were shot on a windowsill.  That is because when I arrived home I also found my house with completely new windows.  The hub stayed home from work today so our new windows could be installed.  I cannot even begin to tell you how wonderful this makes me feel!  Gone are the 70s crank style windows which keep my house so warm during the summer and cold during the winter and welcome energy efficient windows that will hopefully fix that problem and save me a couple of bucks in the meantime.

After playing and learning about the windows, I made some dinner.  Bean Enciladas.

First preheat oven to 350* and spray glass casserole dish with nonstick spray.  I started by sauteing half a chopped onion in a tbsp. of olive oil.  Then I added a can of drained and rinsed pinto beans along with a splash of water, ground cumin, chile powder, oregano, and garlic salt.  Using a potato masher, I mashed the beans.  Next, I added one Queso Chipotle Laughing Cow Light Cheese Wedge and one Sargento Reduced Fat Colby Jack Stick.  Using three whole wheat tortillas, I divided the bean mixture equally and folded them before topping with 3 tbsp of salsa and a Babybel Light Cheese Round broken into pieces.

Fold the enchiladas and place them in the baking dish.  Heat in oven for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Meanwhile, I steamed some corn niblets and made a greek yogurt topping.  In place of sour cream I used 3 tbsp. plain 0% greek yogurt and added cumin, chile powder, and hot sauce to get this delicious concoction.  Who needs Taco Bell when you can make your own that tastes much better?  Actually, my hubby did eat Taco Bell tonight.  I picked his dinner up and I figured I’d eat Mexican as well, but a healthified version.  For about 350 calories I had a delicious, fulfilling protein and carb combo.  After topping with one heaping tbsp. of the yogurt mixture and some corn it was time to devour!

Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm

Cheesy, Beany Goodness

After Dinner Snack Leftover from A.M. B-Fast

*Addition*  Ok, ok.  I was up pretty late and also had a PB + Jelly Sammie, but was too tired to snap a picture.

Questions of the Night:  Do you drink juices or use them in cooking?  Do you have any recipes to share that incorporate Pomegranate juice?