Author: The Mom

It’s Okay to Do Things a Little Different

It’s Okay to Do Things a Little Different

I give you permission to do things a little different – a little different from the way you do them, a little different from the way others do them, or a little different from the directions. When you dare to try new things, you never know what you might discover.

While cleaning out some of the final boxes of items from storage, I found my mom’s spiced tea infuser – at least that’s what I remember her using it for when I was growing up. It was always exciting for me to see the container come out because I knew the treat that would be around the corner.

I love sipping on warm drinks while I write. Coffee is great for the early mornings, but when my husband gets up and the pot is empty then he begins to worry. I don’t worry . . . although I do hit a speed of going that often ends up in a collision.

Coffee all day will make me nauseous no matter how good the coffee.

An alternative became a necessity if I was going to work beyond lunch (and it turns out I’m supposed to do that).

Brewing one cup of tea at a time was not an option. I want to take a break, walk into the kitchen, and refresh my cup without an hassle. I tried brewing a pot of hot tea after the coffee ran out, but I forgot to tell my husband. It turns out if you are expecting coffee and get tea, it’s a shock to the system.

We received a second coffee maker from a family member. It was white. It was perfect. I know could brew tea to my heart’s content.

I then found my mom’s infuser and everything changed. The tea bags I had were quickly put to work and it was time to find a better way to brew the tea.

Did you know they make loose leaf teas? I didn’t. I found a new world of flavors when I discovered these wonderful delights.

Recently, I ordered two blends from Tiesta (through Amazon) and the Blueberry Wild Child Blueberry Hibiscus Fruit Tea – which is a lot of words for WOW!

The first time I brewed a pot, I used about a half a cup of blend. I put the infuser in the pot and then ran the water through the coffee maker and let the hot water steep with the tea. The result was a dark purple – almost black – liquid with magical properties. I drank a few cups, added some more water to the pot and brewed some more.

It was still thick and when I finished the pot I left the infuser to brew a second pot the next day.

Today I used only ¼ of a cup and it was the perfect amount.

How I Do It Different

  • Add a little hot tea to the sweet tea for a tasty blend.
  • Add a little cayenne pepper when you are feeling rough. It’s a great healer.
  • Change it up. Follow the directions the first time (if you must) but be willing to change it up until you find the perfect level of flavor for you.
  • Mix it up. You can blend blends with blends to blend the perfect blend for you need. You can also add spices to existing blends.

If you have been trying to find a good alternative to coffee then I recommend checking out the different flavors from Tiesta.

The Mom

How to Spend ONLY $40 at the Grocery Store Each Week

How to Spend ONLY $40 at the Grocery Store Each Week

The first thing you think of when it comes to cutting the budget probably doesn’t have to do with food. After all, you have to have food – especially if you have kids. If you do have kids, you probably have already figured out that you need lots of food.

But when you have cut everywhere you think you can cut, you have to start cutting in places you didn’t think you could.

It started with a new way of budgeting – which is actually an old way.

Many years ago, when I had first started my freelance writing career, I put the envelope method into practice. Every time I got paid, a percentage went into each envelope (based on a outflow budget we set up). I only used the money in the envelope to pay for what was intended.

It worked. Our finances got back in balance, and I could focus on the writing and not worry about how to pay the next bill.

That’s a good feeling.

Flash forward to a new business and a new direction and new financial issues, and it was time for me to implement the envelope plan once again.

The first week, there was only $40 in the grocery envelope, so instead of cheating – which you know I wanted to do – I determined to make it work.

It helped that I had a freezer partway filled with veggies and meats. The pantry also had odds and ends I could piece together. I took cash to the grocery store and got what I could get based on the $40.

Hint: Prioritize the list. Instead of putting the list together by aisle, I put it in order from “must have” to the “would be nice.”

The first week, there was nothing left for pre-packaged snacks. I knew I had zip lock bags back at the house, so I purchased two large containers of snacks and then put them in the baggies when I got home – ½ cup per bag.

The next week was a little tougher. I got sick, and I didn’t want to say the word “food,” much less cook anything. I knew I needed to boost my immune system, so I used what was in the pantry to come up with some soup ideas.

    Do you have a can of diced tomatoes? Sautee some onion, garlic, and those tomatoes – add a dash or two of cayenne pepper and then some cumin, and top off with chicken broth. Call it spicy soup, tortilla soup, or tomato broth – as a matter of fact, you can name your meals whatever you want. No matter what you call it, the entire dish will only cost around $5 to cook – even less if you make your own broth (which is what I do every holiday with the turkey carcass).

Weeks four and five are a little bit of a blur. I was still sick (and tired from being sick). My husband did most of the shopping, so we edged over the $40 a little – but only a little. Still, most of the meals were made from the freezer stash.

By the sixth week, I was back to myself. Even though the freezer was not quite as full as I had last seen it, it still had a few surprises for me. I went back to working off the $40 because that was guaranteed (and because I now challenged myself to keep it up – and I can’t resist a good challenge). I broke down and got some chicken breasts, which I then slowed cooked in the crockpot for a day (add some diced onion, garlic and butter and you can use the cooked chicken in a variety of dishes).

I used the first breast – shredded – in a chicken salad. The second one – again shredded – went into a stir-fry dish. The last went into the freezer.

Hint: Freeze your extras. It will make fixing a quick meal easier if the main component is already cooked.

Last week was week seven. I made my list by priority, but there was way more left than there was purchased. It’s about time for a “once a month” shopping trip and cooking day – I totaled up what that would cost and was shocked it would only be around $220.

After I got home, my husband asked me about sandwich bread. Bread had not been on the grocery list, and if it’s not on the list, then odds are it’s not coming home with me. Instead of trying to figure out how to buy bread from a budget I had already spent, I made bread.

I was blessed to have been given a Kitchen Aide blender as a gift shortly after I got married. I set it up, attached the dough hook, and then added the ingredients:

    2 cups warm water, 1 packet of dry yeast, 2/3 cup sugar, and 1 tsp salt and ¼ cup vegetable oil (I took this recipe from https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/6788/amish-white-bread/ although I did make it a bit of my own). I dissolved the yeast in the water and topped it with the sugar and salt. I poured the oil in the mixing bowl and then added the yeast mixture. I turned the mixer on low and let those blend together. I then added one cup of flour at a time until I had six cups of flour blended in. Then I just walked away. I came back a few hours later and mixed it again before pulling out the dough, splitting it, and putting it into two greased bread pans. I covered those with a damp cloth and left them sitting while I went for car line. About two hours later, I put them in the oven at 350. It takes about 30 minutes for the loaves to cook, but air on the side of toasty. You don’t want the slices to be mushy.

I will continue to get creative with both my cooking and with my purchasing. My grocery budget has shifted from $250 per week to only $40 per week plus $220 once a month. That is a lot of savings.

It Takes a Plan

I always plan my meals by the week. When I was planning for a picky eater, I rotated the menu so that the main entrée never repeated more than twice in a week, and never within a couple of days of each other.

Here is that template.

This is the template filled out with rotating entrees

When I don’t have to plan for a picky eater, I give myself an idea of what I want to do, but I allow myself grace if something else gets done. Also, be okay with “fend for yourself leftovers” day.

You can see by the picture from my Focus Folder that I don’t fill out all days and I don’t always cook what I do fill out. That’s okay. Move the idea to a blank place in the week or to a different week completely.

Here is that template.

Having a plan – even an outline of a plan – will make it easier to cook your meals quickly so that you don’t find yourself falling into the habit of “it’s quicker to pick something up.”

No matter what you do, there will be an investment. Either it will take more time and less money or less time and more money. You have to choose what is right for you and what works for you and your family.

The Struggles – They Are Real

I always plan my meals by the week. When I was planning for a picky eater, I rotated the menu so that the main entrée never repeated more than twice in a week, and never within a couple of days of each other.

The hardest expense to cover is the snacks. If a bag of chips gets opened around my house, it gets eater. It doesn’t matter if the bag is a single serve or a family sized bag. The same goes for most snack foods. The best bet for me is to buy the large containers and divide them up separately.

OR . . . and this can be more fun than it sounds . . . make the snacks yourself.

Cheese crisps – one tablespoon of shredded cheese topped with a dash of seasoning. Bake on parchment paper or a Silpat for 5 – 10 minutes at a375 degrees. Not only are these a great snack, but they also work as toppers for salads and baked potatoes.

Boiled eggs – my boys love these for meals and for snacks. They even come in their own container. 😀

Granola bars – all you need is some rolled oats, chopped nuts, honey, butter, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla extract – plus anything you want to add in to spice up or dress up your bars. There are literally hundreds of recipes out there, so try some or make up your own.

The next hardest thing is meat . . . and I have a house full of meat eaters. In the past, we have gone in with a group of folks to purchase a locally raised, grass-fed cow. That meat usually lasts us about a year. When I break down the budget, it fits into my new plan. The key will be to save up for the big buy like I need to save up for the “once a month” buys.

I’ll keep you up to date with the progress.

So, what are your top grocery budget tips?

The Mom

Holiday Inn Express Offered The Mom a Rare Weekend Alone

Holiday Inn Express Offered The Mom a Rare Weekend Alone

You can always find a reason to complain – or you can find a reason to praise. The difference is not just in your experience but in the experience you leave with those you encounter.

find positives
The Mom had a treat this past weekend. I had the opportunity to spend two whole nights in a hotel . . . ALONE!

I had to work the days at WordCamp Birmingham 2018, but I had the hotel room all to myself.

The Holiday Inn Express in Pelham, Alabama was one of the sponsors for the conference and that was the hotel of choice for many of the attendees, speakers, or organizers. Not only did HIE provide a great group rate AND amazing amenities, but it was also within walking distance of the Pelham Civic Complex.

I checked in after we met to get set up for the weekend event, and was immediately impressed with the ease of the process. The staff welcomed me and had me checked in within a couple of minutes – even though I didn’t have my confirmation code available.

I LOVED the room!

Room at Holiday Inn Express

The next morning, the breakfast offerings caught me off guard. The omelets were tasty and just what I needed to get my morning started, but I’m fairly certain I could have eaten the cinnamon buns all day. If you can make a cinnamon bun delicious without having to drip it in icing then you have my attention.

I tried to say relatively “smart” in my breakfast choices, so I did complete the meal with some yogurt.

The hotel was packed full for the weekend, as was the parking lot, but even with folks having a party in the indoor pool area (or maybe it was the meeting room – I didn’t bother to investigate), my space was quiet and I had a second peaceful night’s sleep.

Breakfast on the second morning was even more of a surprise – because I came in expecting the same offerings. Sunday morning featured bacon . . . do I really need to say any more?

Great Parts of My HIE Stay

  • The room was fresh and clean – but not overly scented. I have stayed in hotels that used air fresheners to “present” clean, but that much scent only gave me a headache – NEVER fun when you are on a trip.
  • The staff was amazing! Everyone greeted me with a smile and was helpful (and even eager) to answer my questions. Sometimes you can run into crowded weekends that wear out the staff, but these folks never seemed to slow down.
  • Coffee

  • Coffee! The breakfast was spot on, but the never-ending coffee was even better. I was only a few doors from the lobby coffee, so it was easier to walk down and get fresh coffee than it was to make coffee in my room. *BONUS* The lobby cups were much larger than the room cups.
  • The location was perfect for WordCamp Birmingham 2018. It was easy to get to all the different after events, the conference, and even local stores.

All in all, I can say that HEI met and exceeded my expectations.

The Down Parts of My HIE Stay

  • The in-room refrigerator was small – not normally an issue, but with all the left-overs from the event, I could have fed my army of men for a few days if I could have kept it all cold.
  • COFFEE! Okay, so the lobby coffee wasn’t exactly never-ending. Day two of the conference left us without afternoon coffee and me without afternoon energy. I slipped away from the event to grab some lobby coffee from the hotel and was sad to find that at 3 pm there was not coffee to be had.
  • Ground floor room – which was great for getting in and out of the room but not so great for opening my curtains. I like to sleep with the curtains open so the morning light pours in and wakes me. Being on the ground floor meant I had to keep my curtains closed the whole time. *NOTE* I believe the staff would have moved me if I had asked – and a room had been available – but I knew I wasn’t going to be in my room that much so I adjusted.

The down parts of my stay at Holiday Inn Express Pelham were easy to adjust around and not really things I expected (as much as wanted). I could have found things to complain about – like the fact that the parking lot stayed crowded and there was always one 18-wheeler in the lot at night – or I could focus on the praise – did I mention the cinnamon buns to you yet? Often the place where I put my focus determines my experience – and also affects the experience of the people around me.

Thanks to the HEI. It was a wonderful stay and I appreciated that they were willing to join WordCamp Birmingham 2018 as a Community Sponsor.

Share your stays

Share your stories of “nights away” in the comments below. Share your favorite parts and how you think it could be better (or what others should watch for).

Blue Tropic Smoothie

Blue Tropic Smoothie

(makes approx.. 16 ounces of drink)

1 cup blueberries (frozen or fresh)
¼ cup almonds
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp coconut oil (not necessary but adds to the health value)
1 cup liquid (or until you reach your desired consistency)

The first time I made this smoothie I used my regular blender. It doesn’t have as much power as I would prefer, but it does the job. Pouring it into my glass caused some uncertainity. I had to remind myself that I like blueberries and I like almonds and I like cinnamon so it HAD to be okay.

It was okay – not anything that would make me jump up and shout, but it was something different from the same ole green smoothie I had been drinking. The blender didn’t break up the almonds, so it was a bit gritty, but drinking it through a straw helped.

Improving the Blue Tropic Smoothie

    1. I recommend soaking the almonds overnight in something. It should help to soften them and make them easier to blend.

    2. I would use a cranberry juice or other beneficial juice to kick up the flavor some.

    3. Definitely use frozen blueberries. It helps create a better “smoothie” consistency”

I suspect there are benefits to eating certain foods in certain ways and at certain times. Someday I might bet to the place where I invest in that knowledge. For now, I am invested in finding foods that I enjoy so that I will continue to make the most of those foods.

Try out the Blue Tropic Smoothie and let me know what you think.

How to Change a Habit of Being Messy

How to Change a Habit of Being Messy

Messy is a habit formed by consistent practice the same as clean or organized are habits. It is the day to day practice that will create the difference.

break messy habits
The squirrel scampered up the tree with a dead limb three times its size. I watched it as it went up the tree knowing it was in the process of building a nest and curious where it had decided to create its home.

We have some very tall trees, and I’m always amazed when the squirrels perch so high that it seems like sheer will holds the nests in place.

This squirrel did not go very high. It stopped on a limb and went to work, right next to a limb that already had a nest built.

I thought it was odd the squirrel would build so close to another squirrel. “Maybe it’s starting a squirrely neighborhood.” I was raised in a rather squirrely neighborhood myself so I understood the appeal.

The actions of the squirrel drove me to do some research. Did you know when a squirrel’s nest becomes too messy the squirrel abandons the nest and builds another one?

I guess that is one way to deal with a habit of being messy, but it’s probably not the most cost-effective – especially for us human parents of boys!

Messy habits are learned behaviors. If I want to avoid having to abandon the house for a new abode then I need to develop the actions and behaviors to change my messy habits (as well as those of my children if I don’t want to be cleaning up after them for the rest of my life).

control the squirrels

Change a Habit of Messy

  1. Keep the table cleaned off. Over the years I’ve discovered any location near the door becomes a dropping place for random stuff. There are two ways you can avoid letting tables becomes storage locations. One, clear the table every meal. That is not only a way to get the table cleared but also a way to encourage family mealtime. Two, remove the temptation. If you don’t need the table then get rid of it.
  2. Put clothes away when you change. It is an easy habit to drop your pajamas in the floor because you know you are going to put them back on later. Instead, create a home for your rewearables. Have a space in your bathroom drawer or a hanger in your closet that holds your rewearables until it is time for them to be reworn.
  3. Put clothes away when they come out of the dryer. I have to remind myself that “in your room” is not put away. The clothes need to go into their home before that task can be marked off.

  4. Put the dishes away when they are clean. The longer you wait to put away the plastic drying in the rack or the dishes in the dishwasher, the more likely you are to create a backlog in the sink. Once dishes start piling up in the sink they magically multiply. The last thing you want is to wake up in the morning to have to face down a sink full of dirty dishes. Put the dishes away and you have space to clean as you go.
  5. Take out the trash when you get out of the car. If the small trash bag if full, take the whole thing. If there is one piece in it, then just take out that one piece. Again, this is the “clean as you” process that makes changing a habit of messy easier.
  6. Get rid of the boxes. Stacks of boxes might look better than piles of stuff, but you need to conquer the stuff instead of hiding it away. Take one large empty box and set it next to the door. Once a week, go through one of the boxes you have stacked up and determine if you want to keep, repurpose, or release what has been hiding in there. The key is you have to find a permanent home for anything you keep. Put all release items in the box by the door. When it is full take it to a thrift store or charity.

Messy is a habit. If you want to change the habit of messy then you have to make the choice to do things different. Don’t invest the time and energy you have into putting things off (which allows things to pile up). Clean as you go. Take one step at a time. And just keep going. You will get to the place where messy is no more.

What are your habit changing tips? Share your ideas in the comments below.



Need some help finding your change?

Time to Focus

Choose from the best option for your and then begin the procuses of gaining ground on making the messy habits.
Click HERE to Learn More

Green Tropics Smoothie

Green Tropics Smoothie

(makes approx. 16 oz.)

1 cup pineapple (fresh or frozen)
2 cups kale (one cup at a time)
1 tsp fresh ginger (ground if possible)
1 tbsp. coconut oil
1 cup liquid (water or 100% juice)

I confess that I DO NOT like kale. I do not like it on a boat. I do not like it with a goat. I barely tolerate it my mixed green salads. I have never been a fan in smoothies. Kale is thick and fibrous. It challenges my palette and it challenges my blender as well.

I ended up putting more kale than my blender could handle the first time I made this smoothie. I had to split it, add more liquid, and then blend again. It was okay, but only okay. It would not be my first go to smoothie as is.

Tips to Improve the Green Tropics Smoothie

    1. Get a better blender. I need something that can take on the kale challenge without flinching.

    2. Use frozen pineapple.

    3. Freeze the fresh ginger. It makes it easier to get the ginger chopped fine. Freezing also helps to make the ginger last longer.

    4. A high flavor juice (like a tropical fruit or an orange juice) could be a good pairing with the stark flavor of kale.

    5. Chop the kale before adding it to the blender.

Some people like the taste of kale and I have found that different kale has a different flavor. It is important to try out some and see what you like. The best place to testing flavors is the local Farmer’s Market. The key to making your smoothies a success is to choose those flavors that you prefer.

Simple Ideas for Easy Holiday Meals

Simple Ideas for Easy Holiday Meals

This year things were different for our Thanksgiving because of all the changes that have occurred in recent weeks. I was still determined to make the holiday great. I wanted the boys to have a positive memory from this holiday time AND it will be the last Thanksgiving where they will all be living under one roof.

We had the opportunity to visit with family for the holiday, but we opted to stay closer to home. With that in mind, I was determined that they would have the same cornucopia of options they would find at any large family gathering.

Thanksgiving Plan 2017

Main Event

  • Turkey
  • Ham

Sides

  • Green bean casserole
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Green salad
  • Spinach balls
  • Smashed potatoes
  • Yeast rolls
  • Stuffed mushrooms
  • Dressing
  • Gravy

Desserts

  • Chocolate pie
  • Peanut butter pie
  • Egg nog cheese cake
  • Pumpkin cake


  • Cooking this much is not as much of a challenge as it would have been before I started doing once a month cooking. I just go into it with a plan based on the length of time each item needs to cook (and I start developing a plan for what to do with the leftovers – or, as I prefer to call them, PLANNED overs).

    My biggest mistake was waiting too long to get started on the prep work. Had I been more prepared, then I would have only had to make one trip to the grocery store. Well, technically I did only make one trip. I sent my husband and my oldest for round two and three.

    What I would normally have done was look at all of my dishes, pull out all non-perishable ingredients, and add any missing items to my grocery list.

    I didn’t do that this time. I know better, but I chose not better. That is a perfect metaphor for how I often end up in trouble in my life journey as well.

    I saw all the social media posts that others were sharing about the food they were making and I felt guilty. Not guilty enough to get up and get started myself, but guilty enough to keep adding items to my list.

    On Thursday morning, I woke up a little late, but still early enough to hit the ground running just before 6 am (which was my designated start time). I prepped the turkey and got it started, then began working down my check list.

    Prep, cook, and clean time was less than six hours.


    Complete Thanksgiving Lunch for 2017

    Main Event

    • Turkey
    • Ham

    Sides

    • Green bean casserole
    • Dijon Brussel sprouts
    • Tossed Green salad
    • Spinach pie
    • Smashed potatoes
    • Refrigerated yeast rolls
    • Dressing
    • Homemade Cranberry Dressing
    • Gravy

    Desserts

  • No bake Peanut butter pie
  • No bake Reese’s pie
  • Apple Crisp
  • Egg nog cheese cake
  • Pumpkin cake


  • What Changed and Why

    I have never been great at following recipes, so I often just do what I need to do to get done. Since I knew I was cooking for the long term and not just for one meal, I made some adjustments.

    1. Out with the mushrooms. I LOVE stuffed mushrooms, but I am about the only one in my immediate family that does love them. I had time and space to do the mushrooms, but just made the call to let them go this year. NOTE: Next time, go ahead and make a full batch of mushrooms then cook up a few but freeze the rest for future meals.
    2. From Spinach Balls to Spinach Pie. As I contemplated my game plan for the next day, I determined that the spinach balls – which are designed to be a finger food/appetizer – could easily be turned into a pie instead. I already knew the pie crusts I had for the baked pies were not going to be used. It worked out great and my spinach lover declared it to be the best spinach he ever had. NOTE: Next time, use the filling to make TWO pies instead of one – that way the filling will get firmer and crisp up on the top without worrying about overcooking the crust.
    3. The chocolate pie and peanut butter pie became no bake versions. My family LOVES the no-bake version, so why mess with a good thing.
    4. Apple crisp was added to the mix. We had a large number of apples and my middle son wanted to do something with them. A crisp was chosen over a pie because originally it was going to be cooked in a crockpot.

    The meal was a complete success. The boys filled up on the sides and dessert was something we were able to enjoy at a later time during the day.

    Making the Holidays Simple

    • Crockpots. I cooked three of my side dishes in the crockpot which left plenty of room for the other items that had to go into the oven. The green bean casserole, Brussel sprouts, and potatoes cooked wonderfully. Just be sure that you plan in the time the crockpots will need to cook (usually around 4 to 5 hours on low for many items).
    • Do make a schedule. Look over the recipes and determine what needs to go into the oven and when. Be sure to take into account any “sitting times.” Things like cranberry sauce and cheesecake need time to settle or set up. The meats should be allowed to rest before they are carved. Also think about PREcook times – like how long the dough needs to rise before you can make the rolls. Write down the schedule so you can keep up with what you are doing and what you need to be doing next.
    • Clean as you go. Do as much of the washing, drying, and putting away as you possibly can. You might even want to add that time into your schedule. You will be able to enjoy the holiday more if you know there isn’t a sink full of dishes taunting you from the other room.
    • Make it a team sport. I started letting my sons cook the sides when they were big enough to see the stovetop and reach it safely. They would choose the sides and we would find recipes together. They also helped with desserts. Now, we are able to work together (safely even) in the kitchen. Cooking and cleaning goes so much easier when we do it together.
    • Think about tomorrow. There are always leftovers after a big holiday. There were years when we had turkey and dressing until either the dressing or the gravy ran out (somehow there was always plenty of turkey). Now I plan dishes around the leftovers and I will even precook or prepackage the PLANNED OVER dishes so they will be easy fixes down the road.
      1. Turkey Pot Pie – perfect way to reuse veggies
        Turkey broth – I use the HUGE pot we had for deep frying the turkey to boil up some broth for the days ahead.
        Turkey soup – just add noodles to your turkey broth.
        Ham and cheese strudel – chopped ham with some shredded cheese rolled up in puff pastry . . . perfect for a relaxed morning meal (or for an easy dinner as well).
        Ham hash – another great morning treat.



    The key to enjoying the holidays is to plan to enjoy it and then work the plan so you can enjoy it. It is not about the food, or even about the day of the month. This holiday, like all days, is about the people around us. Invest in those relationships first – make them the priority – and no matter how the turkey turns our (or even if it gets away) you will still have a blessed holiday to remember.

    Time for Planned-Overs

    • Thanksgiving Pot Pie – normally I would have made turkey pot pie, but I completely forgot to set aside some potatoes to cube for this dish. So, I improvised. I layered a deep dish pie crust with turkey, made another layer of green bean casserole, added in some carrots (saved and frozen from a previous meal), stirred in some raw garlic (because . . . garlic!), smothered in all in gravy, and then topped it off with a mashed potato crust. Turned out good and was a nice change from just repeating the meal from before.

      Confession Time: I really only made this because I had a leftover pie crust that I had to use because I forgot to put it away. It was still good though and will definitely be a repeat in the holidays to come.

    • Ham and Cheese Strudel – all you need is some puff pastry sheets (found in the freezer section usually above or around the pie crusts). Let the pastry sheet thaw over-night in the frig. Roll it out until it’s thin. Spread out a layer of diced ham to within an inch of the sides. Spread out a layer of shredded cheese on top of that. Dampen the edges of the dough (this will help seal the strudel shut) and then begin to roll it up like a log. Put the strudel on a baking sheet – seam side down and then puncture the top with a fork (about 12 holes should be plenty – you are just giving steam from the cooking a place to escape). Cook at 375 F until golden brown.
    • Green Eggs and Ham

      My son came up with this little gem. He started by scrambling some eggs and before they were done he threw in some of the chopped up spinach pie. Fry up a couple of pieces of ham and you have a great breakfast to start the day after Thanksgiving.

    • Chefs Salad. Save a few of your boiled eggs from the Deviled Egg line and you can throw a healthy lunch together in a flash. Make it a T-day special by layering green salad, chopped turkey, chopped ham, chopped boiled egg, and then use home-made cranberry sauce as a tart dressing for your salad (you can even create an actual salad dressing with it as your base).



    Enjoy the holidays but also let the day or two of holiday cooking be a time that you can use to prepare for the weeks ahead. Things can get crazy this time of year, but if you are prepared and have a plan you can find a way to keep it simple.



    Now it’s your turn. What are your favorite holiday time savers?

    Review of The Raw Food Detox by Ani Phyo

    Review of The Raw Food Detox by Ani Phyo

    I was walking through Mike’s Merchandise when “The Raw Food Detox” by Ani Phyo practically jumped into my cart – which was quite a feat since I didn’t even have a cart. It was in that moment that I remembered WHY I had avoided going into Mike’s for so long. The book aisles are too tempting.

    The book had made such an effort, I decided to bring it home with me.

    I confess the concept made me nervous. The idea of eating nothing but raw foods was not new to me. I did a Green Smoothie Challenge several years back and went almost all raw for that. It was 28 days. There was something about the cover of the book and the idea that there was a set plan that set my nerves on end.

    *Those of you who know me, or have met me, or have read anything by me already have a clue that I am not good at following rules*

    Ani Phyo did not expect me to jump in blind. I appreciated that before she expected me to dive into the process, she took the time to explain the benefits. She also invested more than a few pages to explain WHY the choices were beneficial.

    RAw Food Detox Book Review

    Because I wanted to reap the most from the experience, I determined I would follow the recipes. If nothing else had caused my nerves to fire then trying to follow a recipe would have done the trick. I don’t think I’ve followed an actual recipe since I was in the 4th Grade 4-H competition and I HAD to follow the recipe. Most of the time I guestimate my measurements and hope for the best.

    I made it for the first three days before I started changing the recipes. I tried to stay true to them, and I did try them all first, but I made modifications so that I would enjoy them more and so that I would continue the process.

    It is not a hard read and it is a great introduction to eating raw. The recipes were diverse enough to provide a wide range of flavors sure to please any palate. I will not be moving to a raw lifestyle anytime soon, but it did remind me that fresh and raw are tasty and filling.

    What are your experiences with raw food options? Share your links and comments below!

    How to Power Boost Your System with a Red Smoothie

    How to Power Boost Your System with a Red Smoothie

    Eating healthy sometimes means drinking healthy. Adding foods that you won’t normally eat to a smoothie can give you the nutrients you seek without having to “learn to like” the food that is not at all appealing.

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    I have never been fond of beets. My disdain for the vegetable probably goes back to my first diet at 14. It involved lots of beets – and was one of those eat this for three days and you will lose weight fad diets.

    It may have caused me to lose weight because I struggled to choke down the beets required.

    Since that time, I have not done anything with beets. The canned cranberry sauce even caused me to look away because it reminded me of those beets from the fad days.

    Today, I made a change, and I believe it will be for the better.

    I tried a red smoothie for the first time.

    Green smoothies and I go way back, and my whole family will delight in the green smoothies. Granted, the smoothies are rarely green, but they do include a high dose of a green veggie.

    I read about red smoothies when I was looking for something to sooth my son’s stomach. The red smoothies include a raw beet. That alone was enough to cause me to pause. But beets are supposed to be a super food (they contain lots of vitamins and minerals including carotenoids, lutein/zeaxanthin, glycine, betaine, dietary fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, copper, and phosphorus, while also being a source of beneficial flavonoids called anthocyanins) so I decided to give it a go.

    I started out with a recipe from the Food Network – because rarely has the Food Network steered me wrong.

    If you have known me for very long, you know I say “started out with” because I have trouble following a recipe. And since I was trying to pack this red smoothie with as much immune building and distestion soothing punch as I possibly could, I pretty much ignored most of what the recipe suggested and just tossed lots of things into a blender.

    NOTE: if you have never tried something before, you might want to follow the recipe first – just trust me on this.

    So, roughly this is what I did:

    1 med beet, peeled and then cubed
    1 med apple, cored and cubed
    Two lemons, juiced
    2 cups Northland Blueberry Pomegranate juice
    4 pitted dates
    1 cup frozen cherries
    1 cup frozen strawberries
    1 cup of Stoneyfield Vanilla Yogurt
    3 tbls Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar
    ¼ cup raw (local) honey

    I blended it well and then had a heaping cup with breakfast. My breakfast also included grits (with raw garlic added) so I should be wired to kill any bad guys that may approach or that may be roaming through my body.

    The red smoothie was not what I would call a shouting success, but it was tolerable. The whole time I was drinking I couldn’t decide if it was too tart (from the ACV) or two sweet. In I think it was too many flavors all at once.

    Do you have a favorite red smoothie recipe? Share in the comments below because I still have five more beets I need to do something with!

    Writing Our Story of Adventure

    Writing Our Story of Adventure

    I had never finished a #NaNoWriMo. I usually started with some gusto but faltered as soon as the “you should be here” line towered above where I actually was.

    I didn’t give up. Every year I started . . . determined to make it through.

    In 2014, I had an idea sparked by a story about a shipwreck being uncovered by a hurricane along the Alabama Gulf Coast.

    “Mystery Rock” follows three brothers as they tried to unlock the mystery that they had discovered after a hurricane. The best part about the book was it was inspired by real events and real people – the conversations were often word for word what my sons were saying in the other room (adjusted only for context). Is that cheating?

    I already knew I wanted to incorporate letterboxing into the book design. It was important for you to see the locations and to experience them for yourself.

    Book 2 of the Scouting out Adventure series is “Secret of the Mounds.” It continues the pursuit of the mystery uncovered that day on the beach. This time the brothers discover the mounds of Alabama.

    Book 3 will be “Shadow in the Caves.” If my family stays on me, then it will be ready for a full launch by the Summer of 2017

    The thing I learned most when creating these books was to write what inspires and entertains you and others will be inspired and entertained as well.

    The Mom
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    About the Books

    Family fun and Alabama adventures – join three brothers as they uncover a secret long hidden and follow the clues around the State of Alabama to the amazing end. Mystery Rock, Secret of the Mounds, and (coming soon) Riddle in the Cave.

    Mystery Rock from the Scouting Out Adventure series

    About Kathryn


    Kathryn offers phrases of hope in order to shine the Light on the moment. She works through her columns, articles, books and workshops. Her personal hope is that every person who encounters her words will feel as if those words were written (or spoken) just for her or him.

    “In my fiction, I tell a story that provides an uplifting message entrenched in hope. In my non-fiction and columns, I offer words that will point to hope. In my talks, I tell stories that inspire hope. Helping others discover their path to hope is my focus.”

    Twitter: @Kathrynclang
    Facebook: theKathrynCLang
    Website: KathrynLang.com