Friday, November 27, 2009

The Best Thanksgiving EVER!

Since moving to Colorado, we’ve spent Thanksgiving at my brother’s home in Parker, Colorado. It’s a wonderful new tradition and this year was no different. I spent Wednesday preparing our food contributions—wild rice (which is not very plentiful here in CO, at least not like in MN), orange fluff salad, artichoke dip and chips, and Thanksgiving cut out sugar cookies. Daughter #2 went down on Wednesday to hang with her cousins and Jim and I headed down after the turkey buster H2O class Thursday morning.

We were gathered in my brother’s kitchen, I’d just taken care of the food I’d brought, putting the wild rice and artichoke dip in the oven, the salad in the fridge and the cookies on the counter. Suddenly, a voice behind me said, “Happy Thanksgiving, Mom.” It took me a moment to realize that Haley was in front of me, not behind me. I turned to find Daughter #1 smiling. My brother and sister-in-law had flown her in from MN for Thanksgiving to surprise Jim and me (and Haley too, but of course since Haley went down a day early, she knew Eden was already here. Eden arrived Wednesday night).

Joyful tears and hugs ensued.

Eden is here until Saturday evening, when she’ll catch a flight back to MN. She’ll be back for two weeks over Christmas break.

It was the best gift ever! Christmas came early for the McKees! Who knew my brother was so sentimental.  And I just can't stop smiling...

Eden & John

Nobody wanted to carve the I did!

Jim eyeing the food...

Better Than Sex Cake...made Friday at Eden's request.
It was oozing goo!

Friday, November 20, 2009

All Grown Up. Almost.

It has been a tradition since my girls were old enough to hold a crayon that they receive a coloring book and a new box of crayons from Santa every year in their Christmas stocking. Every Christmas Eve, after the girls were tucked in bed and fast asleep, Santa and his reindeer would arrive and the jolly man in red would faithfully fill their red and white stockings with among other things a big coloring book and new box of 64 crayons (Santa was no slacker). This tradition continued until a few years ago when daughter #1 went off to college and daughter #2 to high school. It seemed Santa decided they were too old for this ritual and it was time to move on. Even though it squeezed my heart a little to acknowledge that my girls were outgrowing a wonderful tradition, I agreed with Santa's decision, as each daughter had the last few years' worth of coloring books stacked in their closet with only a few pages in each filled with color.

Fast forward to yesterday.

I received a text message from daughter #1, now a junior in college, saying she wanted a coloring book in her stocking for Christmas--seems she thinks I have some kind of pull with the big man in red--anyhoo, she then communicated via Facebook (gotta love all these communication vehicles we have today) that she just bought the Disney princess coloring book, wanting to ensure there were no duplicates, no doubt. Then she told her sister (that would be daughter #2) via Facebook to tell me she wanted a coloring book. Obviously, this is very important to her and she doesn't want to leave getting one in her Christmas stocking to chance.

It seems she and her roommates color quite regularly--it's a destresser, a throwback to a time when their lives were simpler, a time when they didn't have midterms and finals, jobs and bills to pay. Ah, the trials and tribulations of entering the grown up world. Should I tell them that someday they'll look back on their college days and wish things could be that simple?

It's a fact that coloring is used in a variety of therapeutic settings, from eye-hand coordination to helping heal victims of trauma. For me, it's a sign that my daughter hasn't forgotten, and has indeed embraced the many traditions she grew up with and hopefully will someday pass down to her children (but not for quite a few years!) After all, who doesn't have a happy memory of lying on their tummy on the floor, coloring book open to their favorite page, crayon in hand with the rest of the crayons spilling out of the box?

My heart is not so tight anymore.

Mom has received the message loud and clear, now I just have to get a hold of the big man in red...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Weight Loss Journey – Month 1

A month ago I shared that I joined Weight Watchers for the last time-- I say the last time since I'm determined to get to my goal! I thought about posting weekly updates to help me with accountability, but decided to wait and post a monthly update instead. After all, I’m in this for the long haul. Weekly updates could get old real fast.

Just a brief tutorial on Weight Watchers for those of you not familiar with the program: Each individual is assigned a daily point total of food they can eat. The point total is based on your current weight and your activity level. Each food is assigned a point value which is calculated using calories, fat and fiber. As you lose weight, your daily total points decrease. Along with eating a certain amount of points each day, you need to eat a defined number of foods from certain food groups—liquids, milk, vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils etc. I have to say, I’ve always been a fruit/vegetable eater, and eating the 5 servings a day every few days is no big deal, but trying to get them all in everyday can be a challenge! I track what I eat on WW e-tools. For me tracking is the key to continued success, that and measuring everything.

I’m happy to report that I’m very pleased with my determination, resolve and results for the first month. Make no mistake, I understand I’m in the ‘honeymoon’ phase of this journey, but I’ll take it anywhere and everywhere I can get it!

I would have to say the first week had its challenges—not in my dedication or determination, but in the fact that I was hungry on some days when I’d already eaten all my points worth of food. I certainly learned quickly that my portion sizes were out of control – which I already knew but chose to ignore. Denial—not a good thing. Luckily, there were only a few days of feeling hungry. By week four, there were three days I was significantly below my daily points total at the end of the day and couldn’t eat any more- which isn’t good either. Not eating your full points value can slow your metabolism and put your body into survival mode.

Foods that got me through-- Ore Ida Country Style Hashbrowns (1 1/2 points for 2 cups and it's very filling), and Fiber One bars (2 pts each and they gave me the sweet taste when I needed it).

So, without further ado, here are my month 1 results:

                    Weekly        Total
Week 1      -2.4 lbs      -2.4 lbs
Week 2      -3.2 lbs      -5.6 lbs
Week 3      -1.8 lbs      -7.4 lbs
Week 4      -1.0 lbs      -8.4 lbs

I’m also tracking my lost inches. My original measurements were taken in the spring prior to starting H2O aerobics, so the results are not just from the last month.

Neck     - ¼ inch
Bicep    - 1 ¼ inch
Chest    - 1 inch
Waist    - 2 ½ inches
Hips      - 2 ¼ inches
Thigh     - ½ inch
Calves   - ¾ inch


All I can say for my first month is WOOHOO!!!!!!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mini Shrimp Calzones

I tried a new recipe today from Giada De Laurentiis (Food Network), although I did modify it slightly.  It was very very good and I'll definitely make it again.  Next time, however, I'll prepare the shrimp mixture and put it on a whole wheat tortilla and bake for 10 minutes or so.  As prepared, they were 11 weight watcher points per calzone.  With whole wheat tortillas it will only be 6 points per serving.  No worries though, I had plenty of points to use today!

  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup canned chopped tomatoes in juice (I used Rotel w/green chilis - gave it a little bite)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves (I used dried parsley)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 pound uncooked large shrimp , peeled and deveined (I used 1 lb of salad shrimp I had on hand)
  • 1 cup fresh sliced mushrooms **this was not in the original recipe but very good addition
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green onions **this was not in the original recipe but very good addition
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 (4-ounce) pieces of purchased or homemade pizza dough , recipe follows
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella (I used 1/4 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese per calzone)
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend (for egg wash) (I used Eggbeaters)

Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant and tender, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, thyme, parsley, and wine. Increase the heat to medium and simmer until most of the liquid evaporates, about 8 minutes. In a small bowl, season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Add the shrimp to the skillet and saute until just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool in a small bowl.  **I added the mushrooms and shrimp along with the tomatoes- shrimp was frozen.

Position 1 oven rack in the center and the second rack on the bottom of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F (400 degrees F if using non-stick coated pan).

Line 2 heavy large baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out each piece of pizza dough into a 7-inch-diameter floured round. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella over the lower half of each pizza dough, dividing equally and leaving a 1-inch border. Spoon the shrimp mixture over the cheese. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the shrimp mixture. Brush the edge of the dough with egg wash. Fold the plain dough halves over the filling, forming half circles. Pinch the edges of dough firmly together and crimp to seal.


Transfer the calzones to the 2 prepared sheets. Bake until the calzones puff and become golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Brush extra-virgin olive oil over calzones and serve. (I sprayed each calzone with canola spray before I put in the oven to help make golden brown.)

Pizza Dough  **I used 2 Pillsbury Pizza Crust, each cut into 4 squares.
  • 1/2 cup warm water (105 to 110 degrees F)
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for bowl

Mix the warm water and yeast in a small bowl to blend. Let stand until the yeast dissolves, about 5 minutes. Mix the flour and salt in a food processor to blend. Blend in the oil. With the machine running, add the yeast mixture and blend just until the dough forms. Turn the dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl and turn the dough to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm draft-free area until the dough doubles in volume, about 1 hour. Punch the down dough and form into ball. The dough can be used immediately or stored airtight in the refrigerator for 1 day.

Happy Birthday Babe!

I'm a bit behind on my posts-- last week was my hubby's 47th birthday.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the man who, after 24 years, still makes my heart go pitter patter when he walks into a room. 

We celebrated with beef stroganoff (an old family recipe) and red velvet cake (from The Pioneer Woman's new cookbook).  Sorry, I wasn't organized enough to take pictures and post the recipes.  Both were heavenly delicious!

Dad & Daughter #2 (and Libby's eye)

Gentle Snow

You can certainly tell it's the beginning of the snowy season as I can't help but take pictures of the fluffy white stuff and share them.

My fear is that we'll get these early season snowstorms and then not have any snow for Christmas. We are two for two on having snow on Christmas since we've moved to Colorado.  Gotta keep the streak going!  Here's a picture from last night.