Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Walk In The Woods

It has been a cold wintry week here in Southern Ontario. Amanda had the 24 hr stomach flu earlier in the week and Dave and I were fighting colds and the kids were getting lethargic hanging around the house all the time. I decided what we needed was to get out and get some fresh air. Amanda ended up going to a friend's house for the afternoon, so we had just Laura and Daniel. We decided to grab some bird seed, get everybody bundled up, load up in the van with Dalwhinnie and hit FWR Dickson Settlement Conservation Area to feed the Chickadees. I took along my camera with the new zoom lens I got for Christmas, hoping to get some good shots of the birds.

A lot of times we haven't had much luck in getting them to come to us to eat, especially when we have Dalwhinnie. She wants to play so she starts barking at them, which causes them to not come near. Today we were lucky, because it was so cold out there really wasn't anybody on the trails, we had the area pretty much to ourselves, and Dalwhinnie kept her mouth shut!!!! The birds were hungry, they were all around us calling each other. I ended up with some really good shots. I set my camera on the sport setting which allows me to take continuous photos while I hold down the shutter. Worked like a charm, I would focus on one child, be it Daniel or Laura, and waited for bird to land and would press the shutter button and hold it down until the bird left. A few of the shots are shown below.

Here is one that landed on Laura's hand. It's like it is deciding which seed to take.

Laura with one of her Chickadees. Laura lucked out today, she pretty much always had a Chickadee on her hand. Her fingers were frozen after a little while, but she wanted to keep feeding them.

I love this one where the Chickadee is looking at Daniel as if asking permission to take some seed. Daniel was thrilled with today, this is the first time a Chickadee has landed on his hand, all the other times before he didn't have the patience to sit still and wait.

This was an afternoon we all needed. We returned home for some hot chocolate and tea, we were frozen by the time we came home, thawed our fingers and toes out and kicked back and relaxed. We all felt recharged and ready to face a new week.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Week 2 of the Challenge

We have now started week 2 of the X-Weighted Challenge. I did my weigh in yesterday morning and I lost 1 pound. Woohoo!!! I have also joined a couple of community groups: Scraphoppers, a group of friends from the Scrapping Turtle Forum and Twitter Girls, a group of girls that I am starting to form friendships with over on Twitter.

My diet is improving, slowly. My goal this week is to cut as much added sugar out of my diet as possible. When I have my cup of tea, such as my English Breakfast Tea, I will add Stevia instead of sugar. When baking I will not taste test the product before and after baking. And I will focus on eating more fresh fruit and veggies. This weekend will be the real test as it will be Amanda's birthday this weekend and she will be having a couple of friends over for a sleepover on Saturday night. There will be munchies and pop of course and I will be making her favourite; a rich, decadent, triple layer chocolate cake. Heaven help me.

Exercise..... I haven't started my program yet. My fibroids kicked in last week and I was on a Tylenol #3 road trip and I spent most of the week on the couch or in bed. Not fun, can't wait for surgery. My energy levels are getting back up. Right now I am getting ready to do the fitness test, and then some yoga to stretch out my muscles, they are feeling really tight and sore. Tomorrow I hope to start working on my couch to 5k program. I can do this.

I am going to finish off this post with a recipe that I made last night for dinner. It is out of the Epicure Selections "A Healthier You" cookbook.

Mexican Beef and Black Beans

1 lb Extra lean ground beef or veggie ground round
1 each, red and green peppers, chopped
1-2 tbsp VE Taco Seasoning
2 tsp VE Poco Picante Salsa Mix
2 tbsp VE 3 Onion Dip mix
2-14 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
VE Pepper to taste

1. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Drain fat.

2. Lower heat to medium-low. Add all remaining ingredients, and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve with whole grain tortillas or on a bed of whole grain brown rice.

Makes 4 servings

Per serving: Calories 260, Fat 5 g (sat. fat 1.5 g, trans 0g), Cholesterol 60 mg, Sodium 220 mg, Carbohydrate 25 g (fibre 7g, sugars 2 g) Protein 30 g

I ran out of taco seasoning, so I used what I had of Fajita seasoning, which wasn't enough either, so I added some Pueblo Bean Dip Mix, and some Louisiana Hot and Spicy Dip mix instead. The dish had a really nice kick to it. Made this dish with ground beef last night to help get my iron levels up, but I have made it with Veggie ground soy and it was yummy.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Let the Challenge Begin

This weekend was the beginning of the 6 month X-Weighted challenge. Six months to get my act together and literally shape up. Six months to reach my fitness and weight loss goals.

My fitness goal is to run 5K, I have started the couch to 5K program before, but quit about half way through. I am determined to see it through this time. Time to dust off my runners and get moving again.

In terms of diet, this was not a good weekend. Saturday was the day for my Quick Kutz class in St. Jacob's. A day of creativity, making some amazing projects designed by Lori (there are days I would love to be in her head to see how she thinks up these projects) and a day to spend with my friends Marissa, Denise and Heather. We always have lots of laughs, and boy did we laugh this weekend. Unfortunately, these once a month outings are not too good for the diet plan, especially if one has my will power, which is not much. Doesn't help we went to the Stone Crock for dinner. I started out the meal pretty good, some good healthy salads from the salad bar, some samplings of the hot buffet, but then I had seconds of the veggie pasta and the beef stroganoff. But then it was time for pie, you CAN'T say no to pie at the Stone Crock (at least I can't say no), their pies are made fresh in the bakery kitchen two doors down. I LOVE their bakery, you can see right into their massive kitchen and watch the ladies make all the goodies straight from scratch. Did I mention I love their pies. And the selection, lots of choices Last night there was blueberry, cherry, pecan, and of course apple, and more but I can't remember them all, I got stuck at the apple pie. I had some cherry and some apple pie, they tasted soooo good, but not good for my waistline. Today was a better day, I had oatmeal with apples and cinnamon for breakfast, a couple of eggs, some fruit and veggies for lunch with some tortilla spirals, dinner was a couple of slices of veggie pizza with a titch of ground beef and two cups of tea and lots of water.

Let the challenge begin. I KNOW I can do it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

PhotoShop Fun

Yesterday I finally got a chance to sit down and play with my Photoshop Elements. Using tutorials from Jessica Sprague I had a photo of my niece Heather when she was visiting over the Holidays. I changed the hue and saturation to give the picture an "aged" look and then did some tinting on her face with the brush setting and tweaking the foreground color. And then with the star brush with a white foreground color to give the sparkle effect in her hair.

Here is the finished photo.

And here is the original photo that I started out with. Isn't she the cutest?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Maple Baked Beans

I noticed that I posted about the X-Weighted Challenge right above a post with recipes for Guinness Stew and Candy Cane Brownies. Kind of ironic isn't it? I think I will balance things out with a healthy recipe instead.

It is January, Christmas is over and so are all the over indulgences that go with it. Our budget is tight, all those bills are starting to come in, and our pants are tight, all those cookies, cakes, drinks etc, are starting to show themselves in extra poundage and inches.

Right now in the oven, I have some Maple Baked Beans slow cooking for tonight's dinner. Something that is slimming to both your budget and waistline.

It is Monday, and it is stupid night here in the Jenkins household. I have to run carpool today for the high school kids, which means I leave at 1:50 p.m. and get back into town around 3:15, just in time to pick up Daniel and Amanda from their school. Amanda has dance tonight, she needs to be ready to go at 4:45, which means she needs to eat her dinner at 4:00, which is the same time I am on my way out the door with Daniel to take him to his Karate class. Thankfully, Marissa takes Amanda to dance along with her daughter Alexa. I get home from Karate around 5:30 or so, and then have to go pick up the dance girls at 6:30. And who knows when Dave gets home. So in the midst of this madness I need to have dinner ready for the five of us to eat in shifts. And this recipe is a lifesaver. It is from the cookbook Dinner Survival by Sandi Richard. You have to watch Sandi in her show Fixing Dinner on FoodTV. Fabulous show for cooks short on time, love love it.

Here is the recipe:

1 1/4 cups dry white navy beans
5 cups water
1 onion

Sauce for Beans:

1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp Sambal Oelek (crushed chili paste)
add more if you like it hot (we do)
2 tsp vinegar
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup ketchup
1 cup water
4 bacon slices


Rinse beans in a colander, discarding shriveled ones. Place beans and water in a large stove-top pot at high heat. Finely chop onion, adding to pot as you cut. Stir. Bring to a full boil, then reduce heat to medium-low for a low boil. Set timer for 15 minutes.

Combine brown sugar, maple syrup, pepper, mustard, Sambal Oelek, vinegar, molasses, ketchup, and water in a large oven-safe pot or casserole. Trim and discard most of the fat from bacon.

When the time rings for the beans, transfer beans, water and onion into the sauce pot and stir to combine. Lay bacon on top. Cover, let cool, then place in fridge overnight.


Set the oven to 250F (set at 225F if gone more than 10 hours) Place beans in oven.

At the end of the day when you get home, reset oven to 350F. Remove 1 cup of beans with sauce into a bowl. Mash with a fork, return to bean pot and stir. Place beans back in oven, uncovered. Set timer for 20 minutes. When timer rings put some whole grain bread in the oven next to the beans, then turn off oven. Put together a salad while the bread warms and voila you have dinner!!

I am allergic to pork, so instead of real bacon, I use vegetarian bacon, gives the dish the same smoky bacon taste, but without the added fat and for me itchiness.

If you do use real bacon in the beans and you live in the area, I highly recommend you get your bacon from Oakridge Acres. They have the best bacon (at least according to those in my house who can eat bacon) and it is lean!!! No fat to drain when you are finished cooking the bacon and there is very little shrinkage.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

X-Weighted Challenge

Happy New Year everyone!!!!! I hope everyone had a wonderful time over the Holidays. Santa was very good to all of us here in the Jenkins household and it was good to have some time off and spend it with family and friends.

If you were like me, you probably ate and ate and ate and ate over the Holidays. I stepped on the scale yesterday morning after a good New Year's Eve party of food and drink and had a "That can't be a good thing" moment when I saw the number on the scale. All I could think of is that the X-Weighted Challenge can't come soon enough.

What is the X-Weighted Challenge you ask? If you have ever watched the show X-Weighted on Slice, you will know how they go into people's homes and lives and revamp their eating and exercise lifestyle. I have always loved watching the show when I can, seeing people who have struggled with weight loss and the emotional issues that tend to go along with why they are overweight in the first place. Now the experts at X-Weighted are putting together a National Challenge for people to "Get Fit and Lose Weight". I follow X-Weighted on Twitter and found out about the challenge initially through Twitter, and said I would join the challenge, which has now put me on their blog here , and caused me to think, "I can't believe I am doing this"

When I was asked to be featured on their blog I was at first hesitant, "What if I totally fail and at the end of the Challenge I am still at the same weight and fitness level as I was at the beginning." I decided to go for it, that this will force me to focus and stay on track, make me accountable, because a lot of people across Canada have now seen my face splashed on a National Blog......gulp (I still can't believe I did that)

Some people will look at me and think I don't need to lose any weight, but underneath I know I need to get my act together. My muffin top is getting bigger and I have my family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and osteoporosis to think about .

I have always been a skinny girl growing up, I was teased in grade school for being so skinny some times, I can still hear "Skinny Minny Miller". But in my teens and early 20's being the "skinny girl" was advantageous at times, I could eat whatever I want and still wear my size 6 clothes. I was also very active so I burned off the excess calories. But eating whatever I want has caught up with me. I have also had three children and am not as active as I used to be, combined with being 41 years old with a slowing metabolism the pounds have crept up on me. In 2006 I saw myself in the family pic of my sister in law's wedding and was shocked at I how I looked, that is not me. So two girlfriends and I joined a small private gym, I lost a fair bit of weight and was about 15 lbs away from my goal when the gym closed, tried another larger chain gym, but then the recession hit, Dave's company got hit and we had to trim corners financially, so I gave up my gym membership. We purchased a treadmill with some income tax money and got a Bosu ball thrown in. I told myself I could continue the regime on my own. Nope, among other things human laziness has gotten the better of me ,the pounds are starting to creep back on again, I am not as heavy as I was in 2006, but if I don't smarten up I will be soon.

Am I nervous about doing this challenge? You bet I am, since I have made it very public to do this.....there is no turning back. I am also overwhelmed by the prospect, I have a very full life. My oldest daughter Laura is in an International Baccalaureate Program for High School, which means we carpool with other families to and from the school which is about 1/2 hour away from our home, the other two need to get to their school as well. Almost every single weeknight is taken up with at least one child's activity (horseback, dance, karate, swimming, piano), and there is all the other "Life" stuff.

As some of you know, I have uterine fibroids, one of which is quite large and they literally knock me of my feet for a few days to a week each month. Because of the fibroids my hemoglobin is starting to get low, not too bad yet, but enough to make me feel it, which will also affect my exercise program. I am booked for surgery at the end of April to have the fibroids removed, once that is done and my hemoglobin gets back up to normal, I can ramp up my exercise program.

I will have to tweak the challenge to suit my life for now and whatever is thrown at me in the next six months, but I know I can do it!!!! How about you?

The Challenge starts January 9th, who is in?