June 19, 2018

RECIPE: Broccoli Cheese Soup

I realize that tomorrow is the last day of spring, and it's about as far from "soup weather" as it can get; but Eli ordered broccoli cheese soup when we went out to dinner a few weeks ago, and I've been craving it ever since! So, I made this for dinner today.

I made this using a roux, which is super fast and easy. It's not quite as fast as opening a can of soup, but it doesn't take much more time or effort and it tastes absolutely delicious--totally worth it. (See notes at bottom of post)



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Broccoli Cheese Soup

Ingredients:

1/3 cup butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1/3 cup flour
3 cups milk
1-3/4 cups chicken broth
4 cups finely chopped broccoli
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Melt butter over medium-high heat in a soup pot, and add the chopped onion. Cook until onion is soft, just a few minutes. Add the flour and stir it into a thick paste.

Stirring constantly, add the milk a little at a time. Stir until uniform after each addition of milk to avoid clumps of flour. After all the milk is stirred in, add the chicken broth and bring just to a boil. Add the broccoli and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the broccoli is soft, about 7-10 minutes (depending on how small you chop it).

When broccoli is soft, add the cheese and stir until the cheese is melted. Stir in the heavy cream, and heat through until soup is hot.


Notes:

I like the broccoli to be chopped really, really fine (you could run it through a food processor for 10 seconds or so; I just run my knife through it over and over until it's as small as I like it). You can always leave larger pieces of broccoli--just allow for more cooking time to let it get soft.

I use whole milk and heavy cream in this recipe, because it makes the soup really creamy and rich. I haven't tried it with low fat milk, so I can't tell you if it will work as well. (I am always able to eat less and be satisfied with a smaller portion when I use full-fat, rich ingredients).

To get four cups of finely chopped broccoli, I used three small crowns (I removed most of the stems).


Hope you like it! :)

June 17, 2018

Day 17: A Date Night with the Kids

I don't have much time to write a post, but I'll at least share some photos from last night. Jerry and I took the kids out for a fun evening to celebrate Father's Day a little early. First, we met up with Jerry's parents at our favorite Mexican restaurant for dinner. Then, Jerry and I took the kids to a park that we used to go to when we were dating. And after that, we went to an escape room.

Ever since I did the escape room in Kansas City, I am hooked. They are so much fun! I did another a few weeks ago, and then yesterday was my third. I was excited to take the kids to one, because I knew they would really like it. We had leftover money from last month's "family allowance" (money for us to use as a family each month for something fun), so I thought we could combine it with this month's family allowance and it would be perfect to go to dinner and an escape room.

After we ate dinner, we had some time to kill before our escape room reservation, so we walked a loop of the park, which was just down the road from the escape room building. It was nice walking around the park with the family; I can't even remember the last time we all went for a walk together before yesterday.


Jerry used the timer on his phone to take a picture of the four of us. We were all laughing by the time it finally took the picture--a countdown of 10 seconds feels like forever when you're posing for a photo!

The name of the escape room we went to was Escape the Post in Flat Rock. It's inside of the old state police post (hence the jail theme). They actually have six different escape rooms in that building, and the one we did yesterday was the jail cell. It's made for 2-4 people.

(The one I did a few weeks ago was the Sheriff's Office, and I liked that one a lot! It's for 4-6 people. We did not escape that one in time, but we made it to the last clue and had fun trying.)

The escape room was fun, but we finished it really quickly--we were out in 36 minutes! It wasn't easy, and we certainly wouldn't have gotten through it without using our three clues, but I wish it had been longer.


When we were done, we were told to pose in certain ways for photos--I'm not exactly sure what the purpose behind them was, but it was fun! Here, we were told to look bummed that we were stuck in jail.


And in the next photo, we were told to look mad at each other (I think because we were locked in a cell together?). Noah and I fought for the phone, while Jerry and Eli strangled each other. Typical Saturday night for the Foster family.


This next picture cracks me up. I have NO idea what Jerry was looking at! He's off in his own little world, I guess...


It was a fun way to celebrate Father's Day (a day early). If you haven't done an escape room, I highly recommend it--they are super fun and a great way to work as a team!


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June 16, 2018

Day 16: Jerry's 9-Week Insanity Results


Nine weeks ago, I wrote about Jerry's and my plans for fitness after we had trained for the half-marathon. That was the day that the half-marathon didn't happen because of the torrential downpour we had. We'd trained together for 12 weeks to run the half, but never actually ran it.

My plan going forward from there was to run for fitness and fun, without any pressure. I wasn't interested in doing races, and I wanted to keep my distance down under 10K. I didn't want to get burnt out on running again. I wish I could say that I've being running regularly ever since then, but that would be a big fat lie.

Jerry's plan after the half-marathon was to work on his fitness by doing a full round of Insanity workouts (Amazon affiliate link). The program is nine weeks long, and the only way I can describe it is insane. Insanity is the perfect name for it (and not only because it's insanely expensive!).

Unlike his wife, Jerry finishes what he starts (most of the time, anyway). And I can't even describe how impressed by (and how proud I am of) his dedication to this exercise plan over the last couple of months! It's unreal, and super inspiring.

The Insanity program is part of Beachbody, but I want to stress that Jerry is NOT affiliated with them and he did NOT do any other part of their program. He didn't do their diet or supplements or shakes or whatever it is they push. He actually didn't follow a diet at all; the only thing he did was start the Insanity workout program.

(Insanity is a nine-week program of videos that are done at home, using just body weight--you don't need dumbbells or bands or anything like that. And having watched him do some of these videos, I can't describe them as anything other than insane. They are SO challenging. Running seems like a stroll in the park compared to the Insanity videos.)

The program is six days per week, with Sunday being the only rest day. The workouts start at about 45 minutes each, and then, halfway through the program, increase to about 65 minutes.

Jerry maintains his weight loss much better than I do--he started 253 pounds on January 1, 2010, then dropped to 175, and has stayed roughly in a 10-pound range for the last 8 years. However, early this year, his weight was creeping up. He was inching toward 200 pounds again, and that was a big wake up call to him. So, he wanted to get back in shape and bring his weight back down.

His weight on the day he started Insanity (April 15th) was 198 pounds. I took some "before" photos of him. And then his insane workouts started.

Jerry works a swing shift, which means sometimes he works nights and sometimes he works days. Sometimes he works weekends, sometimes he doesn't. He works anywhere from 3-7 days a week, depending on the overtime schedule. Needless to say, his schedule is erratic. Which makes following any sort of plan very challenging!

I can't even begin to tell you how impressed I am at his dedication to these workouts. On days that he would normally get up at a super early 4:15 in the morning for work, he voluntarily started setting his alarm for 3:15 AM in order to get his Insanity workout in before getting ready to go to work.

And over the last nine weeks, he didn't miss a single workout. Not one!

He wasn't dropping much weight, which made him feel discouraged; but he said he was noticing that his body was changing. He said he felt less jiggling when he was doing the workouts, and he was starting to see some muscle definition. Until the last few weeks, he'd only dropped about six pounds, but you could really see a change in his body. (I see him every day, and even I could see a big difference.) Then, over the last few weeks, the weight started dropping off quickly.

Today was his final workout of the program! I was really excited to take an "after" photo to show him the comparison. He had started 198 pounds, and today, he was 176 pounds--so he lost 22 pounds total. And I am amazed at the change in his body (not just his farmer's tan, either)...

Insanity results

I've been bragging about him to everyone, because I'm just so impressed that he finished all nine weeks without missing a single workout--getting up at 3:15 AM, fitting in his exercise while working 12-hour swing shifts, making zero excuses when he just wanted to sleep in a little (or stay up late), listening to the guys at work rag on him for wanting to get in shape.

He says all of that was worth it. He feels much more confident in how he looks now, but he said he also feels much better mentally. The dedication it took to follow through with the nine week plan was huge, and completing it made him feel really good about himself.

When I asked what he's going to do now, he said he wants to continue the workouts, but on a lesser schedule. He thinks that four days a week would be good for maintaining fitness while still giving him a few days off.

I am feeling super inspired by him, and it makes me want to get in shape, too! (Not enough to want to try Insanity, but maybe just to follow a running schedule without making excuses. That would be an improvement.)

Anyway, if you can't tell, I'm super proud of my husband, and I just had to share his results :)


June 15, 2018

Day 15: Strawberry picking!

Well, I didn't end up writing yesterday after all. I was planning to write in the evening, but Jerry and I watched a movie together instead. I'll probably write more about my thoughts and (hopeful) plans on weight maintenance soon.

But first... I knocked a goal off of my 40 Goals by 40 Years Old list today!

My friend Emily (a blog reader that I met up with in person a couple of years ago and who has turned into a close friend) came over and we went strawberry picking. I had never gone berry picking before (at least not that I remember), and it's something I really wanted to do.

This is an odd thing to bring up, but strawberry picking is one of the things that my weight held me back from doing when my kids were little. Whenever I think of stay-at-home moms, one of the things that always pops into my head is taking the kids to go berry picking.

Around here, it's a very common thing to do in the summer. I always used to see other moms posting pictures at the berry farm with their kids, and the MOMS Club that I was in would organize an outing there each year. Going berry picking as a stay-at-home mom is pretty much a given.

Except for me. I hadn't gone before today, but in my mind, I pictured bending over in the hot sun for hours with my clothes sticking to me while I was sweaty and tired and trying to keep the kids on task. There were a lot of things that I hated about being obese, but one of the worst was sitting on the ground in the sun (the only thing that sounded worse to me was sitting on the beach!).

I always felt guilty for not taking the kids berry picking. And I certainly have had plenty of opportunities to take them over the last several years after having lost the weight, but I just couldn't get that image of it out of my head. So, that's why I included "Go fruit picking" on my 40x40 list. Basically, I wanted to get over that negative image in my head of what it would be like.

When Emily said she was going to be in town for the weekend, and wanted to get together Friday morning/afternoon, I wanted to think of something for us to do--I looked at my 40x40 list to see if there was something on there to inspire an idea, and I thought berry picking would be perfect. I looked up nearby farms, and I discovered that strawberry season is super short (less than three weeks)--but that the berries were ripe and ready for picking just a few days ago! The timing couldn't have been more perfect.

Emily had never been berry picking either, and she was really excited to go. We decided to pick the strawberries and then come back to my house and make jam (something else neither of us had done before). I asked my kids if they wanted to go, but they actually weren't interested(!). I think that ship has sailed, and I wish I had just done this years ago.

I still hate sitting in the sun, even at a normal weight, but I was actually really looking forward to this. Thankfully, it wasn't a super hot day--it was 74 degrees, so it was pretty nice out! (I even wore a cardigan). We got to the berry farm at around 10:30, and were given a whole row of berries to ourselves.


Emily sat on one side and I sat on the other so we were facing each other and able to chat while we picked strawberries (and eat one here and there, of course!). As we picked each plant free of the ripe berries, we moved down the row. I couldn't believe how many strawberries were in each plant--it doesn't look like it at first, but once you start picking, there are strawberries everywhere!


I wanted to make sure to get enough to make jam, but also to make a strawberry rhubarb pie and just have berries to eat. Fresh strawberries are the BEST! We were each given a box that holds about 10 pounds of berries--and at $2.09 per pound, I decided to fill it!


We were satisfied with our pickings at around noon, so we headed out. On the way out, they weigh your strawberries. I had picked almost exactly 10 pounds--it cost about $21 for my box.


On the way back to my house, we stopped to get the stuff for jam making--mason jars, pectin, and sugar. We got to work hulling the strawberries, mashing them, sterilizing the jars, and prepping everything to make the jam.

When I read the recipe, I saw that it listed how much of each ingredient you need for each jar of jam; since we were making a large batch, I did the math and we needed 13-1/3 cups of mashed strawberries. It took a while, but we finally got all we needed.

And then when I looked at the recipe again, I discovered that it actually listed the ingredients per TWO jars, not for each jar... so we'd accidentally prepped twice as many strawberries as we needed, bahahaha! If I'd had more jars, I would have just made twice as many (I put the extra prepped berries in the fridge, and I'll go get more jars tomorrow).

I was surprised at how much easier jam-making was than I expected! I followed the recipe that was included with the container of pectin, and it wasn't hard at all. The most difficult part was moving the jars (both empty and full) to and from the boiling water without a good pair of tongs (I'm going to buy better ones before making more jam tomorrow). Emily and I were holding several utensils each to move the jars without getting burned, haha.

BUT, we managed to get everything done without incident, and we were so excited when we heard the jar lids popping as they sealed. The recipe says to let them sit for 24 hours before checking to make sure they are sealed, but right now, the lids seem to have sealed just fine. I'll be thrilled if it actually worked and we were successful at our first jam-making session.

We had a little leftover jam after pouring it into the jars, so we each ate a spoonful and it was delicious! Tomorrow, I want to make a loaf of homemade bread to eat with it. (I'm bummed that I forgot to get a picture of Emily and me with our jam.)

While we were processing the jam, we decided to make good use of some of our strawberries by making strawberry margaritas! Some tequila, triple sec, lime juice, sugar, and fresh strawberries in a blender, and then poured over ice. It was amazing :)


I still have a lot of berries left over (I didn't know how much I'd need, so I picked way too many). Tomorrow, I'll probably have strawberries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And probably the next day, too ;)

I loved strawberry picking, and I am going to make this a yearly thing for sure! It was so fun, and not nearly as uncomfortable as I had pictured it to be all these years. Thankfully, it wasn't very hot or humid.

OH, and later on, I saw that Becky had posted photos of Luke at a strawberry farm. It turns out that she and Luke were at the SAME farm at the SAME time as us--and I didn't even see them! It was her first time berry picking as well. Quite the coincidence that we were both there at the same time. What a fun day!



June 13, 2018

Day 13: How I Jinxed My Weight Maintenance

Yesterday, I was tweaking some things here and there on my blog (mainly, I need to catch up on adding posts to my weight loss and running pages) and I came across the post I wrote on November 1, 2017 called "How I'm (Finally) Maintaining My Goal Weight".

I had gotten back down to my goal of 133 in the beginning of June, and had been maintaining it pretty effortlessly for months--without counting calories and without running! I was just doing what made me happy and what felt good for me at the time.


I love the above photo of me, which is interesting for a couple of reasons: 1) Despite not wearing make-up, not having done my hair, and wearing an unflattering baggy sweatshirt, I actually like the way I look; and 2) I felt genuinely very happy. This photo just reminds me of pure happiness.

It was taken in September 2017, and I was sitting around a bonfire with Jerry and the kids in the backyard. The air was warm but the breeze was cool enough for a sweatshirt. It smelled like freshly cut grass and bonfire. The fire was crackling and my family was laughing. I was watching some bats fly above our heads, eating bugs--I love to see bats at night. I can even remember just how sweet and juicy that plum tasted!

I felt so comfortable in my body and genuinely happy for the first time in what felt like forever. My new bipolar medication had lifted the depressive episode I'd been battling for 10 months, and the happiness I felt at that moment with my body, my weight, and my whole life in general was practically spilling out of me.

I felt like it was going to stay that way forever! And I hoped it would.

It's actually pretty funny, knowing what I know now, when I read this quote from that post I wrote in November:
"I've been reluctant to write about this, because you all know my history with weight loss/gain/maintenance. Remember that Oprah show where she walked onto stage pulling a wagon that held the amount of fat she'd lost? She was at her thinnest, and she did a big "reveal" that day at her goal weight. And then she gained it all back in the critical public eye.
It's been seven years since reaching my goal weight, and while I haven't gained back all (or even half) of the weight I lost, I still struggle with large weight fluctuations (nearly 30 pounds). So I guess I've been concerned that as soon as I write about what I've been doing to maintain my goal weight, all will be undone and you'll watch me gain it all back. Let's hope that's not the case!"
I had been so reluctant to write the post because I knew that as soon as I did, something would happen to totally discredit me. At the time, I had been maintaining my weight for about five months, and I felt pretty confident that I had finally gotten to a place where I was comfortable in maintenance (confident enough to publish the post, anyway).

Two months later, I was up 10 pounds! Did I jinx it?

Haha, I don't really believe in "jinxing" something... but it is quite the coincidence. I really do believe that my weight fluctuates based on my moods, though. When I am hypomanic, I lose weight pretty easily; and when I'm depressed, I gain weight just by looking at food. Since starting my bipolar meds, my moods aren't as "high" or "low" as they used to be, but they still fluctuate more than the average person.

I've been feeling mildly depressed for probably six months (?) now, and my weight has been holding for a while in the high 140's. In the past, when I was going through depression (which was much deeper than what I'm experiencing now on my meds), I would wind up close to 160 pounds. So, I find it interesting that deep depression = 160; mild depression = 150; stability = 135; and hypomania = 130 (or less). (These are rough numbers; it doesn't always match this exactly).

So, I feel like the key to maintaining my weight is to stabilize my mood--which is what my "mood stabilizer" is for. I really don't want to try a different medication, because this one has made a world of difference for me. And each time I've tried to increase the dose (per my psychiatrist), I've gotten acne--within a week or two! As soon as I lower the dose back down, the acne goes away. It's so frustrating!

I've never given it a long enough chance to see if the acne eventually goes away on its own, even at the higher dosage, so I'm thinking about doing that. I'll just have to deal with the acne for a couple of months and hope that once my body gets used to the higher dose of meds, it'll go away. It's vain, I know, but it's a hard decision--a stable mood with acne, or mood shifts and no acne?

I see my psychiatrist soon, so I'll ask him about it then. He had mentioned before that I could try a different medication, but I would hate to do that when this one has been working pretty well for me (with minimal side effects). It's certainly not perfect, but the odds of finding a medication that completely stabilizes my mood while not causing any side effects is pretty much nil.

Anyways, reading the post that I wrote about maintaining my goal weight was kind of eye opening for me, in a good way. I had forgotten about the good habits I'd gotten into. I really liked that I was able to eat anything that I wanted, and I never worried about eating too much because I was totally happy eating small portions. That mindset didn't happen right away; rather, it was a good habit that I'd developed over months of working on trusting my body.

I recently wrote a post called "My Plan to Get Back to My Goal Weight"--and it was just that. A plan. A very reasonable plan that had worked for me really well in the past. Right now, though, it's just not happening. I am just having such a hard time sticking to anything!

I've been trying. I'll follow a simple running plan for a couple of weeks, but then I just stop. I have tried getting back to counting calories, but I'd gotten so used to NOT counting last year that I am just fighting it. And right now, I'm trying to figure out what it is that I really want! (I'm really good at changing my mind a trillion times, as I'm sure you know if you've been reading my blog for any period of time, haha)

I think that, more than anything, I just want to feel in control. I don't like feeling on edge, worrying about whether I am going to keep gaining weight, and I don't like the constant "I'm going to get back on track" that goes on in my head. I want to just get it over with and feel in control again! ("Get It Over With!" remains one of my most popular posts to date, so if you haven't read it, you may want to check it out for a boost of motivation. I just now reread it, and it lit a little fire inside of me--I am going to do this! haha)

This post is getting long, so I think I'll wrap it up; but I may write more about this tomorrow. I'd like to think about what exactly it is that is derailing my efforts and come up with a way to counteract that. I'd really like to see some progress soon!


June 11, 2018

Day 11: The Worst-Kept Secret

You guys. I am finally able to tell you about a huge secret that I’ve been dying to reveal for months now! It’s not my secret to share, so I’ve been waiting for the go-ahead. But it has been killing me, especially because even they admitted it was a terribly kept secret. Most of the people in my life already knew, but I still couldn't be public about it (basically, I just really wanted to share it HERE).


(Yes, I am deliberately dragging this post out a bit because I don't want the secret revealed on the front page of my blog. It kind of ruins the excitement and makes it less dramatic that way!)

When I wrote my post last week about spending a couple of days with Luke, I felt like it would have been a really great time to share this secret. But I still didn't have the go-ahead. It was like torture.

As you know, I have three siblings—my sister, Jeanie; my brother, Brian; then there is me in the birth line-up; and finally, my younger brother, Nathan. Jerry has a sister who has been married for four years.

My own kids are 12 and 13 years old, so you would think that they would have several cousins by now... but when Luke was born in March 2017, he was their first. (Two-fold, actually... their first cousin in relation, but also their first and only cousin in the family).

Anyway, come August, Luke is going to be a BIG BROTHER!! (Is he not the cutest kid you've ever seen? My heart melts every time I see him!)


Yes, Friends, Becky is pregnant :)  Like I said, it would have been so easy to share it last week--remember I said that I offered to keep Luke for a couple of days so that Becky could get some rest? Well, having a 15-month old is exhausting in and of itself, but Becky is also 7 months pregnant. (I learned this news in December, I think--can you believe I had to keep this from you all for this long?!)

Brian made a fun video to announce the news publicly on Facebook (even though they had already shared the news with family and friends in-person), but he hadn't edited the video yet. And that's all that we were waiting on before sharing the secret. Brian and Becky have been crazy-busy getting their property ready to build a house this fall, and Brian works a lot--so, the public announcement was taking much longer than anticipated.

But wait! There is more...

I'm going to have a NIECE!! Brian and Becky revealed the sex (way back in March) so I've been keeping that a secret, too. (Actually, I was VERY good at keeping that secret... Becky told me about a week before she told everyone else, and I didn't even say a word to Jerry about it. The restraint that took from me was astronomical.)

Her due date is August 31, but Luke was born a couple of weeks early, so I'm guessing this baby will be also. Right around Jerry's and my 15th wedding anniversary!

As you can imagine, my whole family is super excited to welcome a little girl to the family. I adore having my boys, but it will be so much fun to have a niece to do girl things with!


June 10, 2018

Day 10: Nostalgic for the 80s and 90s (in photos)



Having been born in 1982 (or, as my kids like to remind me, "the 1900's"), I had the pleasure of growing up in the 80s and 90s. While we clearly have come a LONG way in terms of technology since then, there are so many things that I miss about the days when I was a kid. 

Side note: You know what I miss the most? Privacy. (Yes, I realize the irony of making this statement on the internet! haha) Remember when you could make stupid mistakes and there weren't people there to take pictures and videos with their phones and have them uploaded to social media before you could even bat an eye? Yeah. I miss that. Social media certainly has its place, but I am so thankful that I did most of my growing before the internet!

Here are a few other odd and surprising things that I miss about "the good old days":
  • Taking pictures with 35 mm film and feeling excited to get them developed
  • Having phone numbers memorized
  • Calling a friend, and when there was no answer, you always assumed she wasn't home instead of wondering if she just didn't want to talk to you
  • Watching my parents try to navigate our road trips to Florida with an atlas and a flashlight
  • Trying to remember the name of that one person on that one TV show you used to watch, and then enlisting the help of your friends' minds instead of their smart phones to figure it out
  • Circling all the things I wanted to buy in the Sears catalogue, and then totally forgetting about them in the 8-10 weeks it takes to order and ship
Since there is an app for pretty much everything now, we don't need film, address books, atlases, or catalogues. Life is certainly much more convenient! But here are some fun nostalgic pictures to remind me of my 80s/90s upbringing...































































































I'd love to hear some things that remind you of being a kid--what are some of your favorite things from your generation? 


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