2016 New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year!
Happy New Year!

The last week of December has been great fun! Our family Christmas gathering on Saturday was so nice! I saw cousins, nieces and nephews, my son-in-law, and I especially enjoyed spending some time with my precious daughter. Glenn and I spent Sunday afternoon remembering 2015, a good idea for a year-end tradition! After that, everything has been forward-looking. I put a lot of thought into how I hope next year will unfold, and how I might help my goals succeed. Then I got busy tying up the loose ends of 2015, so that the new year could arrive on a clean plate.

There were just a few things we needed, to clear the way for 2016.  I’d rather not be sitting there when the ball drops, holding my old tired list of things that still need doing.  So we just got busy and cranked out some work. Glenn and I got the flu shots that we forgot in October. He tackled a big computer repair job and fixed everything good as new! I got the house cleaned back up after the holiday; handled important phone calls, mail, filing, online account maintenance, changed out filters, batteries and hard-to-reach light bulbs; laundry; an impromptu doctor’s appointment; cleaned the coffee pot.  I would have put away the Christmas decorations, but Glenn is still enjoying them :) Now we are as ready as we can be!

It required a lot of reflection and consideration, but I narrowed it down to just a few things that I consider to be the most important goals for the new year. These are the things that I will get busy working on.

  • Weight Loss – I got a late start on this in 2015, but I am glad I did it. Because I lost almost 20#, which is that much I will not have to lose this year. I worked out some kinks and developed my rhythm for this task, as well. I’ll keep on calorie counting because it is working for me, and I will add a fitness work-out in the very near future.
  • Financial Stability – I have been dependent on credit cards way too many times in my life.  They are an alluring crutch. I have managed to get myself out of debt numerous times, only to repeat the cycle over and over. We put the cards away, and will do this one more time by postponing every expense that we can possibly live without. Upon reaching our goal, we will open an account to cover unexpected expenses. By the end of this year, everything will be arranged so that we no longer need credit cards.
  • Time Management – According to my Dad, repetition is necessary to train the mind.  I can use that.  I have a real problem with my unruly mind sometimes! I avoid things that are important; things that I desire to be good habits in my life. It’s like sometimes I can only be content to work against myself :( So I am attempting to get on a schedule.  There are things I will do each morning, at mid-day, and in the evening.  I’ll do certain things on certain days of the week. I think someone might have to dangle some kind of carrot in my face.  Some days, this will be very difficult! But if I succeed, it will be such a positive change, full of important rewards.

Not many things can compare to the faith and hope generated with ushering in a sparkling, fresh new year! These are my 3 big goals for 2016.  And each of them can be broken into smaller goals. So there are a lot of great things here, to be accomplished. When it comes to new years resolutions, I generally, always make progress. For that reason, I feel confident that at least some of these goals will make it to my reality over the course of this year.  And once they get there, I will own them :) How exciting! I can’t wait to get started!

:) HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYBODY!!

Christmas Traditions

I don’t know a whole lot of Christmas traditions, just the ones we use in our family. But I’m always interested in learning and sharing ideas for making the most of the holiday season. Listed here are some of the ways we bring tradition into our holiday.

Simple Popcorn Garland
Simple Popcorn Garland

Decorating:  I have always loved Christmas decorating though I try to keep it pretty simple. Many years ago I started making popcorn garland for the Christmas tree. Very delicate, very pretty. It takes about 2 hours to make everything I need for our medium sized tree. So it’s not a big time issue, nor does it require a lot of expense.  A little work and you have something very special, that cannot be easily found in a store . I use a hot air popper and fishing line, and I turn the country Christmas tunes on satellite. Before you know it, I’m putting it on the tree.  You end up with something very, very pretty and unique. Glenn and his sister share this memory from childhood.  They always strung popcorn garland with their mother and other siblings, and they added cranberries here and there. That sounds lovely, I never tried cranberries. But I think I will add them next year. And perhaps my grandchildren can get in on the fun! When the season is past, and it is time to put things away, I cut the line. The popcorn slides right off to feed the birds, out in the  yard.

Cornbread Dressing
Cornbread Dressing

Cooking:  I am always asked to make the dressing for the family Christmas dinner.  I enjoy doing it because I have been trying for 20 years to learn how to make good dressing.  It’s difficult when you only make it once a year. Though dryness can be a problem, mine seemed to always to be a bit on the wet side.  A couple of years ago I stumbled across 2 techniques that have enabled me to make good dressing, reliably. These are very simple tips worth sharing.

  • I used to make up the cornbread several days in advance and let it dry out on the counter, but this presents some problems.  One year it molded before I got the dressing made, so it was a total flop before I could even get started. Also, it is always possible that a little mouse could get in the house or a roach and they would make a beeline for that cornbread. I now prefer to make it the night before, cutting it into 1 inch squares and keeping it overnight in a sealed container. This is safer and more sanitary. On the morning before the meal, I pile it all on a broiler pan and dry it out in a 225 degree oven, along with the white breads, stirring every hour. The white breads (placed on bare oven racks) only take an hour and they are like croutons.  The cornbread takes about 3 hours.  It’s fresher! And since all the moisture which will go back into that bread is made of broth, rather than just water, this method makes a richer, tastier dressing.
  • Estimate the amount of broth you think you will need, add it to the dried out breads and the rest of your recipe, and stir it all up. Allow it to sit for 20 minutes. Afterwards, inspect your raw dressing and use clean paper towels to soak up any excess liquid (puddles), before dumping everything in the dish for baking. This is a fail-proof method for eliminating the problem of heavy, soggy dressing. And since I have been doing this I have been able to produce a much better result. It may also work well to dip out the dressing into the baking dish, using a slotted spoon. This might eliminate any hidden puddles and I am going to try it this year.
Family time at Christmas.
Family time at Christmas.

Family Socializing:  A few years ago, my sister began a really nice tradition for our family Christmas gathering.  Early in the year, she solicited our help through email, asking us to send her our family stories.  When Christmas came, she had compiled them and made a game with them. She presented a sketchy event and we all guessed who it was about. After we found out, that person told the full story and we all learned a lot about each other.  We have played this game several years now and it is a lovely tradition.  The first year was absolutely magical!

Where do I want to be, this time, next year?
Where do I want to be, this time, next year?

New Years Reflection:  I never plan to, but the last 10 days or so, of each year, I find myself thinking a lot about the year to come. What are my hopes for the new year? Where do I want to be, this time, next year? I don’t try to figure out how to make any of it happen at this point, but I spend time thinking about my hopes and dreams.  I may even make a list, so that when the new year does arrive, I have something to look at and start working on.  It helps me decide my direction for the next twelve months; it keeps me in a positive, forward-looking frame of mind; it inspires me toward the coming year.

Have a very merry Christmas!
Have a very merry Christmas!

I am having  fun with my new blog and I want to thank you for reading and commenting.  Wishing you a merry, merry Christmas and a joyous, new year!

The Hen House

Foghorn Leghorn in the in the hen house.
Foghorn Leghorn in the in the hen house.

I ate a cinnamon roll yesterday. It was 450 calories and I counted it. In the end, I actually wound up having a perfect calorie counting day! Enough of that subject!  I would rather talk about this great holiday season.

Though I began this month feeling kind of like Scrooge, December has turned out to be a great month for getting things done. Some of my kids will be here for Christmas, so I want the place to sparkle! After all, why decorate the house if the house is a mess? It got a good cleaning. Yesterday and today we have been cleaning up outside. This evening we were ready to decorate the porch. It looks and sounds very festive :) , with pretty lights and country Christmas tunes piped through the outdoor speakers. I’m sporting a spiffy new hair-do, which I love, thanks to my very talented niece. But my favorite project so far this season, has been the quail room, which our plumber dubbed, “the hen house”.

More of Foghorn.
More of Foghorn.

It was quite the mess, and took about a week to get into shape, but it has really turned out nice. About a year ago, Glenn hung 5 big Boston ferns from the 11 foot ceiling, along the 20 foot expanse of south exposure windows. They let in a lot of light.  So the ferns have done well, as have all the other plants. The roses, hibiscus, and lantana are blooming.  Our new little hens have been moved from brooder to cages and are just starting to lay their first eggs. All but a couple of roosters are in a separate pen.

The tornado from this past spring left some damage, and now, all the broken windows have been replaced.  New plumbing pipes were run to the room so it is super easy to water the plants as well as fill the buckets for the brand new watering system. Now the new little hens and roosters drink from a small, no mess cup, rather than the filthy jars they once used. A rat got in earlier this year, tore open some bags of mushroom compost and left some droppings. That’s all cleaned up now.  As for the potting station, the soil amendments (including our first load of compost made with our new compost tumbler) are in nice, galvanized cans. And I’ve implemented a new system for cleaning cages that cuts way down on the mess and keeps life simple.

The retirees have a special deal. After my quail are one year old, I start a new hatch, and the old ones become members of the elite group who are allowed to live out the rest of their days cage-free, out in the room. I spread Aspen shred everywhere, and brought in piles of fresh cut winter grass for nesting. There is a plastic swimming pool full of sand and logs, for them to clean themselves. They have the water run-off in the plant saucers to drink. They eat very little feed in an arrangement like this, so they are not a drain, economically. The life expectancy of a quail is about 2 years and their egg production drops off drastically after about a year. The meat of an older bird is a bit tough, so I can’t see the point of butchering them. And since I have the luxury of this room, it just makes sense to do it this way.

Foghorn Leghorn.
Foghorn Leghorn.

It’s really a  pleasure to spend time here now. There are still more improvements to come but we got a lot of really good stuff done for the quail, this year. Now that we are at a stopping place, we can move onto the next project.  And we will be busy right up until everyone gets here. The honey room needs cleaning. There are tons of boxes to break down and shred in the hallway. Once that’s done we can start a new load in the compost tumbler. I’m making the dressing, gravy, and carrots for the big family gathering.  And if there is any time left, I want to stock up my cottage kitchen.

Now that the kids are grown and gone, with full lives of their own, Christmas is quite different than it used to be; different, but still really, really good! It’s been a joy getting things looking good and functioning around here, in preparation for our anxiously awaited guests. One last chance to make the most of a good year; the best holiday season I can recall in a long time.

Nutrition

Choosing a Healthy Diet
Choosing a Healthy Diet

I rarely get hungry while counting calories.  One reason is, I don’t just count calories.  I also keep up with various nutrition counts.  This is important to my overall health during this time of weight-loss transition. Staying nutritionally balanced each day probably keeps my body satisfied, too.  There are several nutrients that I monitor:

  • Fiber – I get 25 grams of fiber each day, without  fail.  It promotes a healthy heart and is healthy for the colon. Fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains are good sources.
  • Protein – It’s not hard for me to get in my daily allowance of protein. I usually go over.  It is important for healing and I need 46 grams per day to maintain normal body function.  It is found in meats, fish, beans, eggs, dairy, as well as most vegetables. I use protein to combat the occasional hunger pang, too!
  • Fat – I have a current health issue which requires me to pay attention to my fat intake. I eat no more than 45 grams of fat per day, as suggested by my doctor. I eat as little saturated fat as possible. I switched to 1% milk. Most of the fat I get comes from that which occurs in the foods I am already eating.  For example, I choose the fat content present in a serving of my favorite whole grain crackers over adding butter and sour cream to my potato, most of the time.
  • Calcium – I take a multi-vitamin in the morning, which has 50% of my daily requirement.  But I get the rest of my calcium from the foods I eat. I do keep a bottle of low dose calcium supplements on hand and if I fall short at the end of the day, I take one before bed. This rarely happens though.  When I was drinking whole milk, I wasn’t allowing myself to have that very often.  But a cup of 1% milk has only 110 calories and 30% of my daily requirement. Calcium is also found in vegetables and breads, etc.

At my age, I consider myself to be kind of fragile, especially in my current condition of unfitness.  The fifties seems to be when people start having more health problems.  I do want to lose weight, but I want to be very careful and prevent dangerous imbalances which might occur.  I don’t believe I have the luxury to just jump into the latest fad diet.  I want to be very, very careful!  So I try to cover the nutritional bases as much as I can.

Be Flexible

Flexibilty is a hallmark of calorie counting.
Flexibilty is a hallmark of calorie counting.

It’s been almost 2 weeks since I lost focus. The whole process of getting back to calorie counting has proved harder than I anticipated. I began in serious earnest the day after Thanksgiving. Writing this over the last few days held my attention until I felt relatively certain that I was out of the woods.

Last week’s newsletter focused on my recent difficulties. I posted it on Facebook, and received a lot of wonderful support, which motivated me for the morning.  I wanted to start off on a positive note. So I got all clean and sparkly and made out a plan for my day, not something I always do!  I didn’t want to be crazy busy, I just wanted the day to flow nicely.  And it did go well, but the following day was a struggle.

Lately I have been bouncing between extremes. At times I am on task and fully committed.  At other times, I am hopelessly bankrupt of focus. I asked my Dad, “How do you retrain a mind”?   I thought his overall wisdom, as well as his military experience might lend some light to my situation.  He said, “You need to reward good behavior, punish bad behavior, and then, you need repetition”. So I began mulling that whole idea over, along with some ideas for a working strategy:

  • I have been pretty negligent when it comes to taking care of my personal needs.  I put off going to the doctor, stay up half the night, skip baths, etc; a bad behavior which supplies it’s own built in punishment.  I am resolving to improve this area of my life. Regularly attending to my daily needs, whatever they may be, will reinforce my ability to keep counting calories.  The two ideas have a synergetic relationship, so this needs to be a high priority of each day.  It may be obvious to most, but often escapes me; the final vestiges of my old depression years.  The desire to live at a normal weight, is nothing more than a desire to take better care of oneself. It stands to reason that expanding on the idea will support the mission.
  • Flexibility is a hallmark of calorie counting and that energy should be tapped as needed.  My narrow-minded attitude is not working lately.  I am adding a range to my daily calorie allowance. Instead of a rigid 1500 calories per day; my requirement to maintain a weight of 120, which has worked well for losing weight up to now, I will allow myself to increase my intake up to a maintenance level as needed. The holidays are here, I have many, many irons in the fire, and I just can’t hold onto that narrow focus. My goal is to avoid gaining weight throughout the holidays, and this may allow me to lose some too. I figured out the amount of calories I can increase to, by tinkering around with this healthy weight calculator . This plan will allow another 700 calories per day; the most flexibility I can afford.  I may not need them everyday, but they will be available. Which will make all the difference!

I’m unwilling to miss the holidays in order to lose a few more pounds this season. My passion is in living a rich, full life, and delicious holiday food is part of that. This is a lifestyle change, and I will always need to do what is necessary to succeed through the holidays, or any situation.  Which will call for some flexibility.  Yes, there is some re-training required on my part, but not to the point of being unrealistic. Learning how to maintain during the holidays will be a very valuable skill to acquire.  And when life returns to normal, so will my ability to focus on losing weight. This is something I can live with.