Back on the Workout Bandwagon

Wow, it’s been almost 3 years since the last time I actually did a workout (aside from a few hikes and the occasional evening walk with friends). Since the last time I posted (back in June 2011) about starting a new routine with my Mobile mom friends, I’ve quit that (I didn’t like working out in the oppressively humid summer heat in Mobile), had another baby (she’s now creeping up on her second birthday), and moved across the country from southern Alabama to southeast Alaska. A lot has happened, but that is no excuse for neglecting my body.

I’m going to be real here, I weigh 170 pounds. Now, just like I mentioned in that 3-year old post, I kept 10 pounds after giving birth the first time, another 10 after the second baby, and yes, another 10 after the third baby. I have no trouble losing the baby weight with breastfeeding and carrying my babies around, but the “little extra” that I seem to gain along with baby weight is my absolute nemesis. Now, I’m not humongous, but I am larger and jigglier than I’d like to be.

Over the past year or so I’ve scoured Pinterest and saved workouts that I thought would be helpful for the time that I’d be alone and can have uninterrupted exercise time. *cue uncontrollable laughter from all the stay-at-home homeschooling moms with small children* Yeah, these lovely, wonderful, goobers are with me all day and all night. There is no Alone Time. So, the only solution is to make these kiddos my workout buddies.

As I was eating breakfast this morning and pinning still more workout ideas, I thought about our daily routine and what pockets of free time we have. Usually we don’t start doing homeschool work until after lunch when Julie goes down for her nap, and the afternoons are spent doing school/housework/playing outside, then it’s dinner, bath, and bed. So the only time we could squeeze in a workout is in the morning between breakfast and lunch. That seems like a big chunk of time for most people, but for us it’s not really. By the time we finish breakfast it’s almost 9 am and we have lunch around 11:30. It is the perfect time though because we can exercise in our jammies, then shower, and get dressed for the day. That doesn’t contribute any extra “workout clothes” to my already massive laundry piles. Always a bonus.

We started this morning. My biggest kid (Jeremy – 7 years old) did almost all the workouts with me. He didn’t do all the reps, but he did his best. Jesse and Julie (4 years and almost-2 years old) tried to copy my movements and did really well for their ages and were totally adorable at it. I’m happy with the effort I gave and will keep the routine as-is for this week until my body gets used to it, then next week I’ll up the ante a bit.

Today we turned on some music and did 2 minutes of stretching, then we settled into the plan: 10 push-ups, 1-minute bridge (kids did crab walks), 15 tricep dips, 50 arm circles (each arm), 15 bicep curls (each arm, 16 oz. water bottles for Jeremy, 5 lb. weights for me), 20 squats, 20 lunges, 20 calf raises, 20 leg lifts (each leg, inner), 20 leg lifts (each leg, outer), 20 releve plie, 30 jumping jacks, 30 crunches, 20 donkey kicks (each leg), 10 grand battement (each leg), 50 flutterkicks. Then we did the arms again (push-ups – biceps) and 2 more minutes of cool-down stretching. This afternoon I’m hoping to add 30 minutes of cardio (hopefully a 5-mile bike ride) or at least a good brisk walk.

I’ve also started keeping track of my food and exercise with the Lose It website and phone app to make sure I don’t eat more calories than I need in comparison to the exercise that I do in a day. Today I am on track so far: I plotted the breakfast and lunch that I already ate and after adding the exercise from this morning, my cardio plans for later and our dinner plans, I’m left with a whopping 95 calories to have an afternoon snack. (Actually, the afternoon snack is the second half of lunch. I am a grazer by habit and tend to have small meal/snacks all day with a good dinner at the end.)

It’s only the first day, but I’m really hoping that I start building good habits. I’m not really changing our food. I’m eating the same things all day and making the same dinner as I would have before, the only thing I’m adding is exercise and I am really needing that to work for me. My Lose It plan has me on a 1244 net calories (intake minus those burned) per day budget which it says will get me to lose 2 pounds per week and be rid of this nagging 30 pounds by August 20. I’ll update this post later with my beginning measurements and clothing sizes as well. I am really dedicated this time to drop it and be at not only a healthier weight (the number on the scale isn’t a big deal to me, the clothing sizes and overall make-up of my body is my focus) but become a better example to my kiddos. We are a family of bookworms and we love our computers/tablets/electronics, we need to make a commitment to get outside more often to take advantage of the incredibly beautiful place we are so lucky to live in. Sitka is breathtaking and now that spring has settled in and our seasonal allergies have subsided, we need to get out and love it!


Herbed Chicken Stew

This is an excellent hearty meal that tastes like it took all day but really is less than an hour. I like to do the chopping and such throughout the day when I have a few minutes here and there. That way when I’m ready to throw it all in the pan, everything is waiting and ready to go.

herbed chicken stew










You’ll need:
2 Tbl. flour
2 tsp. chili powder (or you can use paprika for a milder spice level)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried crushed rosemary (or about 2 tsp. fresh chopped)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic (or 2 cloves, minced)
2 lbs. chicken
2 tsp. olive oil
5 medium carrots, cut into 2″ pieces
2 medium onions, chunked
3 cups chicken broth
2 lbs. potatoes (small reds can be scrubbed and quartered, russets either scrubbed or peeled and chunked)
1 pinch of dried dill

1) Combine the first 6 ingredients (flour through garlic) in a large ziploc or a big bowl. Slice the chicken into serving size pieces. I normally cut each breast into 6-8 pieces. Add to the bag/bowl and toss to coat.

2) Heat the oil in a deep skillet or a dutch oven. Add the chicken and any remaining flour mixture. Lightly brown both sides of chicken pieces.

3) Add carrots and onions. Pour chicken broth over everything and arrange the potatoes on top. Sprinkle potatoes with the pinch of dill. Bring the skillet to a boil, reduce to simmer. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes or so until the chicken is done and veggies are tender.

4) During the last 15 minutes of cooking time, make a roux in a small pan by melting 2 Tbl. of butter over medium heat and whisking in 2 Tbl. of flour. Season with a pinch of each salt and pepper. Stir and let it brown a little. Scoop a ladle or two of pan juices into the roux and whisk until combined. You want this to be the consistency of a loose gravy, not too thick but not too liquidy. Do one ladle of juice, whisk it in, and then do another if you need to. When you’re happy with the roux, pour it into the stew and stir to thicken the sauce.

I made a version of this a year or so ago and though the flavor was almost right, there wasn’t enough juice and everything dried out just a bit. I tweaked the seasonings, added more broth, and decided that the roux would help bring it all together. The chicken stays at the bottom of the skillet under the veggies and stays nice and moist. Carrots and onions get so sweet and the potatoes sit mostly on top of the broth and basically steam, that way they don’t boil and more or less keep their shape. When I served this to my family last night, my nearly-7-year-old gave it a glowing review: “Delicious + excellent times a thousand!” All bowls were scraped clean, all tummies were full, and Mama is really happy to add another family favorite to the recipe box.

** Fair warning: This recipe makes a LOT of stew. It was enough to feed my family of 5 and leave enough for everyone’s lunch the next day. Feel free to cut this in half for a smaller family or if you’re not a leftover lover.

The 30-Day Trailer Renovation

So, I have abandoned my blog since February, and before that posts had been quite sparse as well. I am vowing to rectify this and post more often once we get moved and settled again.

About that moving thing… Yep, we are on our way to Sitka, Alaska. Our four years in Mobile, Alabama were up and Jason got orders to Sitka. We’re very excited, have been for months since we got the news, but have been super craril we spent most of our tax refund zy busy renovating a travel trailer in which to make this epic trip. Back in April we spent a decent chunk of our tax refund to purchase a used 26-foot long 2000 Coachmen Futura bunckhouse travel trailer. At first look it appeared in good enough shape and in need of a good deep cleaning and some sprucing up (I was thinking a little paint on the walls and new curtains).

We let it sit in the driveway for a couple of months and then one day in June I went out there with my bucket full of heavy duty cleaning supplies and realized that our trailer needed much more than that. After closer inspection we saw that this thing had been lived in for a while and was not in as good of shape as we had thought. Initially we thought about trading it in for a newer model but the trade-in value wasn’t good enough and we couldn’t afford a huge payment on something we aren’t going to be using frequently. We put together a budget, made a plan, went to the home improvement stores, and embarked on a renovation that could only take 30 days so that it would be done before we were due to leave town. Let me just spoil this story a little bit and tell you that we were not finished in our allotted 30 days. Jason brought a bunch of his tools and we were still working on it after we arrived in California for our 10-day rest stop.

Smokey Chicken Baked Pasta

There is this really great locally-owed restaurant here in Mobile called The Hungry Owl. They make this great pasta dish with shredded chicken and smoked sausage in a spicy cream sauce. I ordered it our first time there and while I liked it very much, I wasn’t aware that green chiles were going to be an ingredient. There were a lot of them and it was just too much for me, but Jason *loved* it. However, the few bites I was able to get without the chiles were absolutely delicious. I kept thinking about it for weeks but since it is a single restaurant and not a chain, there are absolutely no copy-cat recipes for their yummy creative dishes on the internet (at least not anywhere I could find), so I gave up looking.

Almost a year ago I went to a cooking party at my friend Brittney’s house during which we purchased and used Wildtree seasonings to make lots of freezer meals. Over the last several months my family has been enjoying the meals and the other night we used our last one, the Chipotle Lime Chicken Fajitas. Problem was, the recipe had six chicken breast halves and since we are down one child (Jeremy is in California), we only ate three of the portions. What to do with the other three?

The next day I wasn’t really feeling a simple chicken quesadilla and I felt like this really yummy marinated chicken had great flavor to lend to a dish instead of just nuking it in the microwave. So I applied my new favorite kitchen activity… throw a bunch of things into a casserole dish and hope for the best! In this case, it was a tremendous hit!!


You’ll need:
1 1/2 cups chicken, cooked & chopped (that was about three chicken breast halves)
1/2 pound penne pasta, cooked and drained
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cups shredded cheese (divided 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup)
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
2-3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
salt & pepper to taste

1) Marinate the chicken in Wildtree’s Chipotle Lime Rub (or seasoning of your choice – just make sure it’s very flavorful). Heat a little olive oil in a skillet and cook the chicken. Let the chicken rest on a cutting board for ten minutes or so then chop it up into bite sized pieces.

* This is a great dish to use up leftover chicken. Keep this recipe in mind for when you have some extra chicken from a meal earlier in the week. If you just have one chicken breast, use that and maybe throw in some chopped veggies like onions/celery/mushrooms.

2) In a bowl, combine the cream of chicken soup, milk, 1/2 cup shredded cheese, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Stir in the chicken and cooked pasta.

3) Pour the mixture into a medium casserole dish (mine was an 8×11″) and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese over the top. Now that I think about it, a little bread crumb added to the cheesy topping would be an incredible crunchy boost to the creamy texture. I’m going to try that next time. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

I went in just wanting to make something yummy with some leftover stuff I had in the fridge. We loved it and you know what Jason said? “It tastes familiar. Smokey and just a little bit spicy.” Just then we knew I had somehow thrown together an almost exact replica of the yummy dish at The Hungry Owl that we’d both liked. Theirs had smoked sausage in it, which would be tasty, or you could put some bacon, but we liked it just with the chicken. That’s the best thing about casseroles, they are so versatile!

Special Occasion Potatoes

I got this recipe from my good friend Ericka and it was called “Funeral Potatoes”. My family loves them and they are always a hit at potlucks, so I just can’t call them Funeral Potatoes anymore. I’ve found similar recipes that call them Duchess Potatoes but I just call them Special Occasion (even though I make them for parties as well as an average Wednesday dinner).

7 medium russet potatoes (or 4 of the monster size baking potatoes)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream (I often swap low fat cottage cheese and it’s delicious)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup butter (salted or unsalted, doesn’t matter)
2 tsp. dried chives
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. granulated garlic

1) Scrub the potatoes and place in a large stock pot. Cover with water and boil them whole with the skins on. When a knife slides easily into the potatoes, drain and remove them to a cutting board and let them cool to room temperature. I do this in the morning and then leave them out for a few hours.

2) Heat the remaining ingredients in the stock pot that you cooked the potatoes in. Once everything is combined and the cheese is melted, turn it off and leave the sauce in the pot.

3) The original recipe said to shred the potatoes, but I prefer more texture, so I take the easy method and just slice the potatoes into rounds, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Add them into the stock pot and stir until everything is mixed together.

4) Dump everything into a 9×13″ pan or similar 3-quart casserole dish and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Or, this is a great dish to make up ahead of time and keep in the fridge (covered) unbaked for a few hours until you’re ready to pop it in. If you bake it from refrigerated, it will take about 45 minutes. I usually up the oven temp to 400 and bake it covered for 20 minutes and then uncovered for 20-25, that way the top doesn’t burn before it’s heated through.

5) If it’s even possible, these are better as leftovers. I don’t know why, they just are. I usually put a serving on some foil in the toaster oven pan and heat it up in there instead of the microwave or turning my oven on just for that. Since the heating element is closer to the food it only takes about 15 minutes or so and it gets the edges a little more browned and crispy. I love it!

Lastly, since this makes a huge dish full and is meant to be potluck size to feed a crowd, I have adjusted the recipe by about half and baked it in my 7×11″ dish to make just enough for a family dinner.

3-4 medium potatoes (or 2 huge baking size)
1 cup sour cream or cottage cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 butter
1 tsp. dried chives
1/2 tsp. each salt, pepper, and granulated garlic
no cream of chicken soup (it’s kind of hard to use just half a can – you could and then just put the other half in a tupperware to use later, but I’d forget about it)

Follow directions as above, but bake it for just about 20 minutes (or 30 from refrigerated). Cooking time depends on how big a dish you use and whether it’s a glass Pyrex or metal. When the cheesy sauce is bubbling around the edges, it’s done.

Beef Stew

Tonight we had the best beef stew that I’ve ever made. I’ve made several over the years using various methods: stock pot, slow cooker, packaged seasoning mix, and more homemade seasoning recipes than I can remember. I finally did it though, I worked up my own mixture and it is shockingly simple. 🙂


1 large onion, large chunks
4 medium russet potatoes (or 12 small red potatoes), chunked
4 carrots, peeled and cut in 2-inch lengths
1 pound stew meat, cubed

1 tbl. ground cumin
1 tbl. paprika
1 tbl. dried basil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1-2 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, minced
5-6 cups of beef broth

1) Melt a tab of butter in a skillet and cook the onions just until there is a little color on them. Just for a few minutes. Dump them into a large slow cooker.

2) Add a bit of oil to the skillet and toss in the meat. Salt and pepper to taste and sear the meat on all sides. Dump it into the slow cooker on top of the onions.

3) Add the potatoes and top with the carrots.

4) Sprinkle the seasonings on top and pour in enough beef broth to almost cover everything (sometimes it takes 5 cups, sometimes 6).

5) Cook on high for 5 hours.

I love this recipe because it doesn’t use any flour or cornstarch to thicken the broth, it stays the consistency of a soup (the packaged seasoning mixes always turn the broth almost to gravy, not what I want) and the meat and veggies are in nice large pieces which definitely makes it eat like a meal. The cumin gives it a really nice well-rounded warmth in the background and the paprika adds a little heat that isn’t at all overwhelming. Of course, if you want more heat, you can always add some cayenne or red pepper flake. I hope you enjoy this recipe for all it’s delicious simplicity.

And THIS is Why We Homeschool

I’m going to be honest and say that our first day of our 2012-2013 school year was rough, with a capital R. We completed the work he needed to get done that day, but 2-year old Jesse needed a lot of attention and 3-month old Julie kept waking up at the most inconvenient times. We had a tough time keeping Jeremy focused and I was constantly going back-and-forth between all three kids. Jeremy and I each had mini-meltdowns, then realized that we’d forgotten lunch. The afternoon was really hard. By the time we finished with school, Jason came home from work and took us out for dinner because I just couldn’t bring myself to cook. That evening Jeremy and I talked about it and said that we did a pretty good job, but we have some kinks to work out in our schedule. We were going to try again tomorrow.

Tuesday, day 2: Our first field trip. We met up with some other mom and kids friends from our MOPS group at 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center. We sat in a nice theater-style room for storytime, made a nice puppet craft, walked around and looked at their exhibits of local wild animals. Then we walked out to the waterfront, had a lovely picnic and let the kids run around. It was really nice to not be at a regular park full of climbing things and swings and such. The kids actually had to use their imagination and come up with games to play with each other. They had so much fun! We finished up our day at home with a couple of quick lessons, a dip in the pool, had a fast dinner, and rounded it all out with a trip to Chill (our favorite serve-yourself frozen yogurt place) to redeem our 2 free yogurt coupons.

Today, our third day of homeschooling Kindergarten/First Grade, Jeremy and I are taking a break after lunch. We’re watching Money Saving Meals while I rock Jesse to sleep for his nap, Sandra is explaining how her semi-homemade tamales are less expensive than store-bought frozen tamales and Jeremy exclaims “She’s doing math! It’s like her kitchen is her school room!” *Happy sigh* (in my head) “Yes, this is why we homeschool. Remember this.” Before I can even let out a breath, Jeremy tells me that cooking is like science and asks if we can bake cookies. I smile and respond “You betcha kiddo, cookies will be our science project this afternoon.”

Sure, we’re only half way through our first week of this school year, and we’ve already weathered some bumps, but I’m optimistic that we’ll do just fine.