Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Finding the WHOLE me...

If we're friends on facebook, or happen to do life together here in the midwest, you already know that I am well on my way to doing the Whole30 "detox".

 It's something my doctor actually recommended a few months back, and the timing just never seemed right...translated, "I didn't feel like giving up the comforts of my coffee the way I like it, the occasional pizza indulgence or glass of wine, and for goodness sake chocolate."  But here I am, on day 8, and feeling great.  It's basically eating whole foods - proteins, fruits & veggies.  I prefer to focus on what I CAN have, than what is "not allowed"....(dairy, grains, legumes, alcohol & all sugar/sweeteners).  The other thing that is not allowed is weighing yourself.  I was much relieved to break up with my arch nemesis "the scale" for the next 30 days.  Somehow between the last 8 months, among various other things I've adopted 10 pounds for temporary housing on my mid-section and high blood pressure.  Neither of which I am a fan of, but given the circumstances of the past 8 months (caring for & losing my mom to pancreatic cancer), my doctor said it was not concerning, but alas, recommended a resetting of diet & exercise.  I am happy to report my last visit showed I had EXCELLENT blood pressure, so I have conquered one milestone.  Praise Jesus!  Hopefully my new food habits will take care of the other, and I will be back to the "old" me...on the outside at least.

I'll be honest, on the inside I have struggled immeasurably the past 225 days.  My heart is still healing from the loss of my mom, and best friend.  I miss her voice, her smile, her touch, her encouragement, her unconditional love, the way she smelled, her hugs, her laugh, even the way she answered the phone.  Every single time it was exactly the same.  My brother & I used to imitate her, right down to the length of the pause..."Hello.  Uh-huh..(2.5 second pause) OH Hi!!" and then she would laugh, 3 times to be exact.  The first few months were a blur.  It was a combination of disbelief and wading through all the "must do" things, paperwork, and phone calls.  Then the next few months were me trying to put my grief in an emotional box and forcing myself to get back to "normalcy".  My three kids, husband, and our busy schedule did a great job of providing a distraction, but then the nightmares started.  Every night for months I would have the same dream.  It was reliving the night she passed over & OVER again.  It was so real, I didn't realize it was a dream until I woke up in a full sweat.  I am blessed and thankful that stage has now passed too, and the box that I tried desperately to close and shove away is back and I am finally finding time to open it, and accept and deal with the reality that she is gone.  I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that school is back in session and the amount of time I have to sit in quiet reflection has grown exponentially.  I want to be at peace, but getting there is a rocky road that I have had to travel. I am grateful for the grace and patience of others willing to walk beside me.  I could never do this alone, and thankfully I don't have to.  I was given a ring from a sweet friend with my mom's favorite verse engraved on it.  I wear it around my neck all the time.  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  Philippians 4:13  Mom clung to that verse daily after we lost my dad almost 7 years ago.  She drew her strength from her faith.

My faith too is what carried me through the months of caring for her, and immediately after we lost her.  I literally felt wrapped in His arms and held together by His strength.  And yet, it is the one thing I am struggling to return to.  We go to what you might call a "mega church" where thousands attend on any given weekend.  I love it, I love the pastor (who happens to be from Texas), I love the praise & worship time, and I love that my kiddos feel Jesus when they are there, and they WANT to go.  I thought it would have been the first place I would have wanted to run to as soon as the dust settled. Honestly, when the time came, it was the last place I wanted to be.  I wasn't mad at God, I was just totally terrified of not being able to hold myself together in such a large public setting.  I have never been good at putting up a front, or faking, especially at church.  I cry at every wedding, funeral, and every church service.  There is something that just overwhelms my spirit.  But this was different.  There's a huge variance from shedding a few soft tears, to ugly crying on your knees in pain.   I was quivering with the latter the first time we set foot back in church just a few weeks after we returned home.  I knew at any moment that "box" was going to fly open like a jack-in-the-box.  So, we took a break.  I am embarrassed to say that last Sunday was the first time we have been to church in months (6 to be exact) for all the aforementioned reasons.    

Some people hold memories in smells, like my granny's cinnamon rolls, or in pictures.  I tend to hold memories in clothes.  Not materialistically, but it's just visual I guess.  I can still remember what I was wearing the first time I met my husband (red & white stripped shirt, denim skort & brand new white keds - hey! it was the 90's LOL!)  and the first time we kissed (black outfit with red roses), and I had just turned 16!  Sunday morning we were a little rushed so I grabbed an outfit that I knew I could quickly pull together.  Ironically it was what I wore to my mom's visitation.  It did not hit me immediately, but on the car ride to church, it was like an elephant on my chest.  By the grace of God, I did not completely loose it during the service, but there were definitely tears.  One of the other benefits of large churches is the "special effects" during worship, so thankfully I was able to collect myself without too much of a scene.  Then the sermon came... God is always so good and gracious in His timing.  The church started a new 5 week series on "Finding your way back to God" this past Sunday.

It was amazing!!   I think any one anywhere on their journey of faith would benefit from it.  If I can figure it out, I will post a link to it here.  In his closing comments, Pastor Dan extended a 30 day challenge (do you see a theme here??) to the congregation, by simply praying this prayer: "If you are real God, be real to me."  or if you are already firm in your faith, "I know you are real God, be more real to me."  You see, we were created with a hole in our hearts that only He can fill.  He wants us to want him, to seek him.  Some of us try to fill the hole with selfish desires, umm personal confession time... "retail therapy".  Others of us try to fill it with pleasing others...umm been there done that too, can you say "busy mom card, or over-extending the volunteer role in school, church & work activities".  Only one thing can fill that is a relationship with Him.  So along with the Whole30 food challenge, I am committed to a Whole 30 soul challenge.  It just fits together like an intricate jigsaw puzzle.  What a beautiful testimony of how He never lets go, and how He faithfully pursues me (& you too).


Looking forward to the healing of my body, mind & spirit over these next few weeks.  I'm always looking for accountability partners, so feel free to join me.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Mexican Food Make-Over (Spanish Cauli-Rice Recipe)

I am a born & raised, Texas-loving girl to the core.  If there is one thing I miss about living in Texas, besides being close to family, it's Tex-Mex food!!  The husband & I are still going strong on an 80/20 grain-free life-style, and up to this point Mexican food has been a bit tricky.  We have adjusted to substituting lettuce leaf for tortillas.  However, I was still missing & craving spanish rice.  Insert cauliflower to the rescue!!!  I know I say this a lot, but this recipe has been tested, kid-approved, and this past weekend I served it at a dinner party and everyone was complimenting the "rice".  I loved seeing all the facial reactions & disbelief when I told them it was actually all vegetables.  I promise this is a sure win-win for your family!  It's super easy to throw together, lots of veggies, and tastes even better than that old bland Spanish rice from the box or bag.

Spanish Cauli-Rice
1 head of cauliflower, grated*
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup bell pepper, chopped (can use any color, for a more authentic taste, use green.  I like to use a little of yellow & green for more pops of color)
1 jalapeño, seeded, deveined & chopped
1 & 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 & 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 cup water
Trim the florets of cauliflower from the stem & leaves.  Place the florets in a food processor fitted with the grating attachment.  Process until all the florets have been turned into "rice"  You can also use a box cheese grater & do this by hand.

Heat the oil in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the tomatoes, onion, bell & jalapeño peppers, and garlic.  Saute for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions start to look translucent.  Add in cauliflower and continue cooking for 5-7 more minutes.
Add in cumin, salt, and water.  Stir to combine, and then cover for 5 minutes to let the cauli-rice steam.  Remove lid and continue cooking until all the water has absorbed, stirring every few minutes. 


Friday, May 2, 2014

Frugal Friday....a few tips and tricks to stretch those dollars

"A penny saved is a penny earned."  I am a stay-at-home mom, so I try to do what I can to be "fiscally responsible".  I am no where near the "extreme couponer" stage, although I have dabbled in that some and it is pretty impressive.  I would definitely encourage you to give it a go if you've got the time & energy to devote to it.  At one point I was so on my game that I had our weekly expenses (including household items, groceries, birthday presents, hygiene items, etc) down to a mere $100 a week...and that is for a family of FIVE!!!  In today's world, I would say that is pretty impressive - especially since we were not eating ramen noodles every night.  The Mr. is very much a steak & potatoes kind of guy.  Alas, I have let things slide over the years, but I would love to pass along a few tips & tricks for any beginners out there that I still use today.

First and foremost is the concept of price-matching.  This one is so simple, and I honestly still do it on a weekly basis.  It takes minimal time and saves LOTS of money.  I saved about $15 yesterday, which happened to be about 33% of my total bill.  A lot of stores are doing it now, and most cashiers are trained on it, so I think the "taboo" nature that it may have carried in the past is over and done with.  My favorite store for this is Wal-Mart.  Besides the bagged caser salad (which I blogged about a few weeks ago), it's the main reason I go there.  You can get all of your groceries at the best possible price without wasting days and gas driving all over town.

Price Matching

It's as simple as making your grocery list and then pulling the weekly grocery circulars out and looking to see if anything is on sale.  You don't even have to take the ads with you!  Just simply write where the sale is and the price and Wal-Mart will adjust it.  It is their policy to believe the customer.  I love that, especially if  I forget my ads at home.  I just hope people don't abuse it and make them change it.  These are actual ads that came to my house Wednesday.  So yesterday I bought 3 pounds of strawberries for 99 cents a pound, I paid 33 cents for avacados (we will be having avocado mousse for dessert this week & guacamole for Cino de Mayo!!), 49 cents for a mango (that I bought to make some fresh mango salsa to go on some mahi mahi fillets we are grilling tomorrow, YUM!!).  We go through shredded cheese like mice around here, and it keeps for up to a YEAR in the freezer, so you better believe I bought several bags of that.  You can get mozzarella, cheddar, parmesan, all for 99 cents a bag!  Even the Wal-Mart store brand cheese is $2.19 a bag so that is more than half-off!  I also bought several capri-sun boxes at $1.49.  Not because I love them, but summer is just around the corner, and when you have a backyard full of kids, they get thirsty.  I could just go on forever, but I'll stop now.

A couple of quick notes, most grocery stores send out their ads on Tuesday in a mailer, but they also come in the Wednesday paper if you get that. 

I put all of my price-match items in the back of my cart and have the cashier ring them up last so I can watch him/her do it.  I also usually set the ads on top of the items so they know to expect it and we don't have to back-track and void a lot of items.  You may take a few trips/transactions to figure out a system that works for you, but I literally watched a sweet 70+ year old lady do it yesterday in front of me, so if she can do it, you can too! 

Target also price-matches, but it is less convenient because you have to check out with your non-matched items in the regular line, and then go to customer service with your items you want to price-match.  Consequently they do not have a scale there so if you're buying produce it drags on to be quite a lengthy and less beneficial process.  The one thing I do love to price match at Target though is movies when they are first released.  Target always seems to have extra discounts, bonus packages, coupons, or the beloved Cartwheel discounts, that you can add on top to get movies dirt cheap. 

Here are some other money-saving tips & tricks you might be interested in knowing.


They accept competitor's coupons! (so go ahead and pull up that 40% off Hobby Lobby one!)

Bed, Bath & Beyond

Coupons never expire, I mean NEVER!  I have an entire file in my office full of these.  Supposedly some stores will not honor the full discount if they are expired, but I talked to the manager at the store closest to my house and she said they changed the company policy on that.  You might check with your store first to be sure, but the ones in Kansas honor the printed value of the coupon. 

You can use one coupon for each and every item in your transaction!

If you forget your coupon, you can go back in with your receipt and your coupon at a later date, and they will refund you the difference.


Online coupons

Just go to and then click on "more".  It will drop down a menu and you can select "coupons".  Simply click and print the ones you like and voila!  You can also combine Target coupons with manufacturer coupons you find in the Sunday paper, online, etc.  For instance, right now there is a 50 cents off Clorox wipes coupon on  There was also a 25 cent coupon off Clorox wipes in the Sunday paper a few weeks ago.  So together you get 75 cents off.  Be sure to check when you print out the Target coupons if they say "Target Coupon" or "Manufacturer Coupon" at the top.  I know, lots of details, but after you do it once, it becomes second nature.

Price Matching

As I said earlier, Target does price match, you just have to go to the customer service desk and have it adjusted.

Text Messages

Target also offers great discounts/digital coupons via text messaging.  You can just text OFFERS to 827438 and you will instantly get coupons sent to your phone.  Right now they have a $5 off $25 shoe purchase, or a $2 off a $5 bakery item, along with lots of other great deals!  Again, you can combine these deals with cartwheel, so always scan those items before putting them in your cart just to see.  Who knows!  What have you got to loose except money!?!?


I have already mentioned this a few times, but this app saves me tons of money!  It actually keeps a running total and up to today I have saved $178.87 with it.  I have only been using it for a little over a year!!!  It's free to download and you just scan items with your phone as you put them in your cart to see if they have an additional discount.  Almost everything in the store is 5% off.  Sometimes as high as 25% off.  Be sure to have them scan your cartwheel bar code last, after you have applied all other discounts.


The most convenient place you will ever price match!!! 

Happy Saving Friends!


It also happens to be Frappuccino Happy Hour May 1st-May 10th.  From 3-5pm all Frappuccinos are 50% off at Starbucks!  I think I know where I'm headed after work today. :) 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Boredom Buster - The Most Boring Bathroom EVER gets a much needed Make Over!

Welcome to the saddest little room in my whole house.  The main floor bathroom.  I have never understood the thought process of what possessed the previous owners of our home to paint the absolute tiniest bathroom the darkest color possible, with the exception of actually painting it black.  This picture really does not do it justice.  It's like 70% cocoa dark chocolate brown, (somehow I can always relate things to chocolate, I consider it a talent. LOL!) and the room probably measures 5' x 5' if I'm being generous.   
I am actually in the process of refinishing our kitchen table & chairs, so the last thing I needed to be doing was starting another "project".  BUT.....  last week I woke up in the middle of the night with a brilliant idea...I was going to stencil the bathroom walls!!!  Now I don't know about you, but when something comes to me in the middle of the night, I become completely consumed by it and well, I make it work.  Literally, the next day I headed out to get the necessary supplies.  After all, the Mr. was away on a business trip, so the timing was perfect.  I would "surprise" him.  Isn't that what every husband wants to come home to --- a fabulous bathroom makeover. LOL! 
My original plan was to repaint the bathroom a more tranquil color, like a pastel grey-blue, but my excitement got the best of me and I literally found myself taping up the stencil, climbing a ladder and stippling on my first square while still in my heels and skinny jeans.  (So glad I don't have a picture of that for was quite a sight. LOL!)   
I came across this fabulous metallic paint to help brighten up and embrace that boring, basic, dark brown.  This stuff is so super cool.  It's perfect for stenciling because it's so thick, almost lotion like.   

And in case you were wondering, this is the company that makes the stencil I used.  It took everything in my power to keep me from buying the zebra you'll soon discover, I have a tiny crush on anything animal print.

And here is the big reveal!!! 

Isn't it FUN!?!?!  Because the paint is metallic, it really shines when light hits it, otherwise it is very subtle.  My kids now call it "The Fancy Bathroom".    How cool is that???  My 10 year old daughter even brings her clothes downstairs, changes in it, and has practically claimed it as "hers" despite the fact that she has her very own bathroom attached to her room.  I assured her we will stencil something equally as fabulous in hers this summer, and rest assured she will hold me to it.

If you are interested in trying this for yourself, DO IT!!!  I am seriously the most craft-challenged person, and if I can do it, anyone can!  I learned a few tips & tricks along the way so please take the liberty to learn from my mistakes. :)

**  Change into appropriate painting attire before starting. LOL! 

**  Attach stencil to wall using painter's tape.  Do not use the stencil spray.  It leaves a film on the wall, and can effect the paint as well.

**  Use a Styrofoam or a coated paper plate to pour a small amount of paint on.  I used about a tablespoon "glob" at a time.  It dries fast, and this amount is manageable and about how much you need for one square, so you can stop at any time without wasting paint. 

**  Buy an actual stippling stencil brush.  It helps contain the bleeding under the stencil and it goes much quicker. 

**  Dip the tip of the stippling brush in the paint and dab a few times on the plate to help evenly distribute the paint in/on the brush before starting on the actual wall.

**  Buy a stencil that has guides on it to make even spacing easy & quick.

**  Remember that walls are not all "square",  so make sure the stencil is level with a tool before starting.

**  Start in the middle of your wall and work to the sides.  Something I learned after-the-fact, and will have to cope with.  LOL!

Have a fabulous "fancy" day!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Mama Want a Cracker????

I feel the need to apologize.  I have had a bad case of spring fever and have let all my "some day projects" take over my life.  I feel the proverbial clock ticking as summer approaches and my free/me time will be drastically reduced with all the kiddos around.  So I am attempting to get as much done as possible in what little time I have left.  Rest assured I have been busy in the kitchen too creating more delicious (& healthy) recipes, but alas there are only so many hours in the day and thus the blog has suffered great neglect.  The plus side is that I have a stack full of posts just ready & waiting to share with you.  Everything from chalk painting & stenciling walls (my newest obsession) to tofu & graham crackers.  Nothing like a little variety right?!?! 

So let's get crackin'....

I am not a big bread eater.  I've never been a fan of sandwiches, toast, buns, etc.  But crackers are a whole different category.  My absolute favorite snack is peanut butter & graham crackers.  Can you say "healthy nutter butter cookie knock off".  LOL!   I have been determined to recreate a somewhat simple, grain-free version to satisfy this childhood indulgence and I can finally say (in the words of Professor Higgins from My Fair Lady)  "By George, She's got it!"

Grain-Free Graham Crackers
(these are gluten-free, and dairy-free)
1/4 cup coconut flour
3/4 cup almond flour
2 Tablespoons coconut sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon honey
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon coconut oil, melted
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine coconut flour, almond flour, coconut sugar, salt, baking soda, & cinnamon.  Stir to combine.
In a separate small bowl mix together honey, egg, and vanilla.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until moistened.  Stir in melted coconut oil.  Dough should form a stiff ball.  Chill in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes.
Roll the dough out to 1/8" thickness (i.e. super thin) between 2 sheets of parchment paper.

Remove top sheet of parchment paper and cut dough into desired shape using small cookie cutters or a pizza wheel.

Bake for 6-7 minutes, or until edges are starting to brown. 
Remove from oven, cool for 1-2 minutes & break into crackers. 
Store in an air-tight container.
I prefer to slather mine with some fresh-ground peanut butter and a slice of banana, but to each their own.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The ONE thing I Only Buy From Wal-Mart....

First things first, I have nothing against Wally-world...after all, they carry everything from bicycle helmets and hot glue guns to milk and bacon, (talk about one-stop shopping) PLUS they price match, so in all honesty I love Wal-Mart for that.  However, grocery shopping is my "thing".  I know it may sound weird, but it's what makes my heart go pitter-patter.  Some people go for long runs, others like a cup of coffee and a juicy magazine, but for me, it's a grocery store with a beautiful produce section and more cheese and meat than the eye can count.  It is truly my happy place!  For that reason, I tend to shop where there is a higher variety of foods versus a higher variety of merchandise.  I can hardly control my excitement when I think about the fact that all the local famer's markets open in just 4 short days!  Seriously, I would compare it to a 4 year-old anticipating Christmas morning.   The fresh flowers, the home-grown produce, and all the homemade goodies....I am pretty sure I will give myself new wrinkles from smiling so much thinking about it this week. LOL!

All that being said, there is one thing in my mind Wal-Mart has mastered and will always keep me coming back.  The bagged Caesar Salad. 

I am pretty sure you are laughing at me right now.   Seriously though, it IS delicious!  And I'm going to confess, if I am going to "cheat" and eat wheat/grains, those butter-flavored croutons in this kit are on my Top 10 list.  Every single time I make this for guests they ask for the recipe.  It still cracks me up when I write "trip to Walmart" on a card and give it to them.  That one never gets old. Lol!
Now that my big secret is out of the bag, you better believe it's on the menu for dinner tonight, maybe I'll have it for lunch too.   

Friday, April 4, 2014

Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies

Aaah, the "all-American" quintessential dessert.  As a peace-offering to my husband for having to endure watching the children consume each and every girl scout cookie in the house, I made certain to finish tweaking my grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free chocolate chip cookie this week.  I can assure you I have the most proficient panel of palettes for my taste-testers in the dessert department, and they have all awarded this version the blue-ribbon seal of approval.

Chocolate Chip Cookies (Paleo)

(grain-free, gluten-free, and can be dairy-free with your choice of chocolate chip)


1 & 1/2 cups almond flour
2 Tablespoons coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons coconut sugar
1 egg
1 Tablespoon almond milk (unsweetened)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted (I prefer unrefined)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (can be dairy free)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium mixing bowl add almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, salt, and coconut sugar.  Stir to combine.

In a small mixing bowl combine egg, milk, vanilla, and maple syrup.  Mix wet ingredients until thoroughly blended.  Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, and stir to combine.  Pour in melted coconut oil and stir to create a smooth, stiff dough.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Scoop dough on to parchment paper by rounded tablespoon mounds approximately 2 inches apart. 

Bake for 10-11 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges. 

Cool on wire rack, or enjoy fresh from the oven!



* Chill dough in the refrigerator between batches to create optimal results. 
* Baked cookies can be frozen to help maintain the crispy outer texture. 
* Store in an air-tight container to maintain freshness.  Cookies will take on a soft, chewy cookie texture.