Friday, July 08, 2016

How Going #almostpaleo Saved My Health. And My Sanity.


Well, it finally happened. I have officially lost 21 pounds since January! This is truly a sweet victory for me. Other weight loss attempts in the past 13 years have been defeating and frustrating as I would lose about 17 pounds and then plateau.  While I know that this often happens, I would eventually lose motivation and start cheating as the plateau would go not just weeks, but months. 
However, this time when I hit that plateau, I was able to maintain what I was doing for three long months and finally! another 4 pounds have finally come off.  I am on my way once again.  
The reason I was able to persevere through this long plateau is because our family made a commitment together to make permanent changes in our relationship with food. We did the research and made radical changes to our diet -- I like to say we are #almostpaleo --  and the improvements in our health have been amazing.  
We love our food. Who doesn't?  We have to eat to survive, and living on those specialty shakes and bars alone isn't going to cut it on a long term basis. 
We were shocked to learn about what was actually going into our bodies.  But we did learn many more excellent ways in which to make healthy, delicious improvements.  
To start, we gave up all the white menaces: sugar, flour, pasta, and rice. They are no longer in the house. I cleaned out the pantry of processed foods including vegetable and canola oils. No sodas, juices or yogurt. Everything I buy is thoroughly checked for hidden sugars (you'd be AMAZED how it's hidden in all kinds of foods!). I basically have had to learn to cook all over again -- but I have to say, the food has gotten tastier and we have found many new things we love to eat. I even started growing my own vegetables and herbs, and have been doing a lot of experimenting with baking (hey - I still love sweets!). 
And most importantly -- my grocery bill has not increased - even while buying organic and ‪#‎paleo‬ items (nut flour, oils, etc.)
When I had my physical in March, just two months after starting our new lifestyle, I got encouraging results from my doctor. My blood work showed that my cholesterol dropped 30 points!  I will finally be free from taking statins after 10 years without worry.
After six months, I have forgotten how much I liked Diet Coke. My constant cravings for breads and sugar are gone. Interestingly, my hot flashes have also disappeared. I sleep better. I have more energy.
My Hubs and The Youngest have also had very positive results.  
It does take some detoxing to restart your system. While it was difficult at first, we made it through the detox and eating well is a way of life. Oh - and I'm not perfect:  I still hate to exercise. I am still indulging in some ice cream this summer. I probably drink too much coffee and ice tea. I may never have a completely toned physique. I am still too cheap to buy a gym membership or join a yoga class (Trust me on this one - I don't think yoga pants for me is appropriate in public!).  
What we are doing is possible for anyone. I am as phlegmatic as they come, and I have found that it is achievable, even for me.  I am still sane. Maybe even more so.  
If you'd like more details on what we're accomplishing, I'm going to do a series of #almostpaleo posts soon here on the blog.  This is no way a sales pitch -- I'm not selling anything. I'm just willing to share for free what I've learned with others who have been discouraged at maintaining such a plan, unmotivated to exercise or unwilling to spend lots of money on living healthy.
I hope you will join me.  And spread the word.  (Yoga pants -- you're safe.  For now.)
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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Book Review: The Armageddon Code - Billy Hallowell

In today's world, there is a piqued interest about "the end of days."  There are TV documentaries in addition to movie dramas about what is supposed transpire during the Rapture and the Tribulation. People make comments about leaders being like the "antichrist."  Many have a strong superstition of avoiding the number 666.  In the Christian community, we seem to have differing arguments on exactly how, and possibly when, the end is going to happen.  

The Armageddon Code by Billy Hallowell isn't just another book discussing end-time doctrine. It is the author's thorough reporting as a result of interviews with well known bible teachers and scholars relating to bible prophecies in the book of  Revelation, in addition to Daniel, Isaiah and Ezekiel.  There is discussion on the Rapture (is it even biblical?), the Tribulation (why there are the views of "pre, post and mid-trib"?), the Millenial period and other issues.  Israel's role, along with more in depth discussion of past church history as it relates to Revelation is also discussed.  The main topics of the end-times are debated, not in as much detail as some readers may want, but even the author states in the book's conclusion of the "limited lens through which I present each chapter of the book.  After all, some of the topics warrant - or at least invite - the potential for volumes of exploration."  

In my opinion, it is important when studying bible prophecy not to continually pursue the path through which is most comfortable, but to inspect and dissect the theories of both sides, even if you return to the viewpoint that you deem is correct.  Readers of this book will receive a good perspective of the main end time prophecy topics, along with the different arguments, in order to make informed decisions. 

After reading the book, have my current views of the end times changed?  I would have to say no. While I can understand the thought processes from those with opposing views, especially in regards to the events of Revelation having already occurring in the first century, I personally believe that we can expect to see events from Revelation coming to fruition in the near future.  

Why do I believe that?  Here is my "two-cents":    

1. First, we are taught that ALL Scripture is applicable for Christ followers TODAY.  For instance, although we no longer literally follow the laws given to Moses in the Old Testament because of Christ's sacrifice for us, it does not mean that we should no longer read, study and apply the Old Testament lessons to our lives. 

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and
training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be
thoroughly equipped for every good work."
(2 Timothy 3:16-17)

"For the word of God is alive and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit,
joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."
(Hebrews 4:12)

2. There is no "due date" on Scripture.  It is a forever, absolute document of God's Word.  

"Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever."
(Hebrews 13:8)

"the plans of the Lord stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations." (Psalm 33:11) 

With hundreds of prophecies already fulfilled (300 fulfilled with Jesus' first coming alone), why would we assume that God has stopped fulfilling prophecy when we are instructed to study prophecy?  

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, 
and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it,
because the time is near.
(Revelation 1:3)

Even if Revelation was only written to a specific seven churches that related prophetic events that have already been fulfilled, this book was certainly included in the Bible for a specific purpose. At the beginning of Revelation, God says:

"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God,
"who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."  
(Revelation 1:8)

And as we know, Jesus has not yet come.  

Knowing and understanding Bible prophecy is not something that should be discouraging -- it gives us hope for the future. "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. (Romans 15:4) God has not yet completed his master plan.  We know from Scripture that Jesus is coming again - the interviewed bible teachers and scholars with conflicting views all agreed that He is indeed coming back.  The important thing, aside from reading prophecy, is to live with readiness "because the Son of Man will come at an hour when yo do not expect him." (Matthew 24:44)  

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This book can be purchased from Amazon.  

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Book Review: Fearless by Max Lucado

The last few times I have visited my local Lifeway book store, this title has called to me from the shelf.  After reading the subtitle, "Imagine Your Life Without Fear," I did not think that this book would pertain to me.

This last month while I again visited Lifeway, the book was displayed on one of the front sale tables, and I decided to purchase.  I began reading the book the same day, and couldn't put it down over the next couple days.

We all have worries and fear about something.  Max covers many of these in the book: from the fear of not mattering, to the fear of disappointing God.  From being afraid of the world's worst case scenarios to what is next on the horizon.  For me, it was the chapter on fear of not protecting my kids.

Discussing the story of Jarius, the father of the sick girl who later died and Jesus brought to life (Mark 5), Max writes that Jesus saw then and still sees all the concerns of a parent's heart.  And this statement was a good reminder to me: "After all, our kids were his kids first.  'Don't you see that children are God's best gift? The fruit of the womb his generous legacy?' (Ps. 127:3 MSG) Before they were ours, they were his.  Even as they are ours, they are still his."

This book had so many good points, from the beginning all the way to the end.  I never fail to learn something precious from Max Lucado's books.  This is another one that cannot be missed.

You can purchase this book from Amazon.

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Monday, June 13, 2016

#musesofamom: My Ideal Bible. It's not what you think.

If you are a crafter or an artist, you are no doubt aware of the new "coloring" trends today: copic coloring, coloring books, and now  -- journaling bibles. You know the ones -- the bibles with the large margins that allow your creative genius to flow in word or illustration as you write prayers, praises, an journaling on each page.

While I absolutely adore the new journaling bibles, I have seen too many Instagram and Pinterest photos of beautifully illustrated, colorful, original artistic pages that will cause me #PinterestFail anxiety if I would try to embark on such a project.

For me, I find that illustrating my bible happens in a very different way.

It was quite awhile ago, but I came across this meme on Facebook and had to save it.


Currently, I have a New King James bible that I've had for almost 30 years. For the first 20 years, I only highlighted special verses with traditional yellow highlighter.  In the last ten years, however, I have highlighted, underscored, red-marked, captioned, commentated, numerated and defined so many areas of my bible that it has become the most precious of items that will not easily be replaced!

While is it not on the verge of falling apart - just yet - this quote from Spurgeon is something that I want to continually strive toward each day as I read and study my little red bonded leather letter of Love.

Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all
who hear the word of God and put it into practice."
Luke 11:28 (NLT)

If you love the the journaling bibles as I do, you may like these lovely ones through Amazon that have illustrations already in them -- all you have to do is color!  Take a look at them HERE.

How do you study your bible?  Are you an illustrator or journaler? Underliner or highlighter? I'd love to hear of your ways of digesting God's Word in the comments below!  

Saturday, May 14, 2016

#almostpaleo: 3 Easy and Fast Ways to Add More Veggies to Your Diet

Three Cheers for the Mighty Vegetable!

video

Since implementing The Daniel Plan, and sticking to their allotment of veggies as half of the dinner plate, we are eating three times as many vegetables then we used to.  And a much larger variety.  

A quick dinner meal for us is often grilled chicken breasts and 2-3 different veggies.

Although there is more cooking, it doesn't take really much more time to add multiple veggies to a meal. Here are three fast and easy ways for adding vegetables into your meal to meet this requirement:

1.  Stir Fry

I have become much more creative with our stir-fry.  Normally I start with sesame oil and a type of onion (red, yellow, green or even something like fennel) and then add what I have on hand in the refrigerator.  I've used mushrooms, carrots (julienned) broccoli (or brocollini) brussel sprouts, snap peas, zucchini, squash, bok choy (or red cabbage) edamame or red pepper.  There are also the cans of baby corn or water chestnuts to keep on hand for stir fry.

We often use brown rice, (hence #almostpaleo), but another "rice" I've tried is Cauliflower Rice.   

My favorite stir fry helper right now is the Calphalon Nonstick All Purpose Pan. It is a hard-anodized 12-inch pan that pretty much stays on my stove top. It works great for stir fry, even though it doesn't have as narrow of a bottom as a wok. It is recommended to be hand washed only, but since I use it nearly every day, I am hand washing it anyway.   

2.  Tomato Sauce

While maybe not as versatile as a stir fry, I have added different things to our standard tomato sauces  to make them more robust and veggie-ful.  I make my own sauce instead of using spaghetti sauce from a can so that I can stay away from added sugars.  

Besides onions and diced tomatoes, other veggies to add in different combinations are mushrooms (canned or fresh), green, yellow or red peppers, spinach, carrots (julienned) zucchini, or celery (diced/sliced very thin), 

If cooking for little ones who don't want chunky sauce, you can also puree carrots, zucchini, squash to hide in the sauce.  

3.  Steamer Bags

If you haven't tried Ziploc Steamer Bags, they are a must-have for quick and easy veggies!  Trust me on this one.

These easy-to-use bags are my little miracle workers, perfectly steaming hard vegetables such as carrots, broccoli and sweet potatoes in just a couple minutes via the microwave.  They will also precisely cook frozen bags of vegetables. Instructions and times to microwave are on one side of the bag for reference: 


The Hubs hated sweet potatoes, since the only ones he had been exposed to in the past was the squishy, marshmallow topped casserole at Thanksgiving.  Now he asks for them all the time.  And our dog Zoey loves them too.  I'm still trying to persuade the Youngest to get on board, however!

So All Hail the Mighty Vegetable! 

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

#almostpaleo - The Best Zucchini Bread Ever! (Really!)


There is dancing in my kitchen right now.  A serious happy dance.

For the third time, I have succeeded with a healthy zucchini bread recipe is that is scrumptuous, delicious and oh so moist.  Cloves in this recipe add to the tastiness of this bread.

And since I have had success with it, I will now share it with you all.

I tweaked a recipe I found on the Betty Crocker website to make it "sugar-free" and using no vegetable oil. If you are following The Daniel Plan or cutting back on the White Menaces, than this recipe is for you.

Healthier Zucchini Bread
(Click here to Print)

Ingredients:
3 cups shredded zucchini (2-3 medium)
2/3 melted coconut oil
2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
3 cups whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur Flour)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts, if desired
1/2 cup raisins, if desired

Directions
1.   Move oven rack to low position so that tops of pans will be in the center of the oven.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.  
2.   Grease bottoms of two 8" x 4" pans (which I did) or one 9" x 5" loaf pan with cooking spray.
3.   Shred zucchini with grater or chop in a food processor.  
4.   In large bowl or in the food processor, mix zucchini, Truvia, melted coconut oil, vanilla and eggs. Stir or pulse until well mixed.  
5.   Stir in remaining dry ingredients.  
6.   Finally, add any nuts or raisins and mix in by hand.
7.   Divide batter evenly between the two 8-inch loaf pans or pour all into 9-inch loaf pan.
8.   Bake 8-inch loaves 50-60 minutes; 9-inch loaf 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
9.   Cool in pans for 10 - 15 minutes.  Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans and place top side up on cooling rack.
10. 
Cool loaves completely, about two hours before slicing.  Wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 4 days, or refrigerate up to 10 days - if it lasts that long! 

This recipe works perfectly for two 8" x 3-3/4" aluminum loaf pans.  When loaves are cool, I remove one from the pan and slice to eat; the other loaf I leave in the pan, wrap, then freeze in a freezer bag for later.  Enjoy!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Homeschooling: How to Save Money on Next Year's Curriculum

It's hard to believe we are in the month of April!  Like many homeschooling families, we are trying to get a handle on getting things wrapped up by the end of May.  We have had some unexpected things happen this month, and unfortunately, I haven't been able to coach The Youngest as much as I would have liked.  And now that it is half way through the month, I feel the added stress of deciding what to do for next year, along with knowing how much money to spend.

We haven't been homeschooling for too long, but I have learned that April appears to be the month for curriculum planning. To try to stay ahead of the game, I designated a day last week to get my plan in gear, mostly to take advantage of sales and auctions.  

Here are some ways that may help you as you do your curriculum planning:  

1.  Look for sales from the major companies. For instance, this month Alpha Omega that has a 20% off sale until April 30th. Order direct from their website or purchase through Christianbook.com where you may be able to qualify for free shipping. (And they accept Paypal, which is helpful!)

2.  Look for textbooks on eBay.  Many homeschool textbooks are beginning to appear on eBay.  Now would be the time to get in on auctions for needed items before it gets crazy!  I was able to get our Saxon math set for half the price of retail through a Buy It Now option.  Last year I didn't start looking until June, just to lose many auctions and pay too much for a book that we planned to use.  

3.  Look for offers through group buys.  The best place to look into for specials on curriculum is at Homeschool Buyers Co-op.  They also offer Smart Points, which are redeemable towards other subscriptions, etc. for your homeschool. 

4.  Don't forget to check Amazon. If you cannot find your choices through the main store, keep checking since more and more items are showing up through the participating booksellers. 

How do you save money on your homeschool curriculum?  Share in the comments below!

Monday, April 04, 2016

Saving Money: Use this App to Save the Most Money on Groceries!

Many of us moms use couponing to save what we can on our weekly grocery bill.  I have two, constantly hungry teenage boys, so I will deliberately set aside time planning my grocery trips, looking at the ads and matching what coupons I can for items we need, or what I can add to the pantry that will keep these guys fed.  And like you, I will clip coupons from the Sunday paper inserts and visit websites such as Coupons.com to print coupons. 

READ MORE TO SEE HOW YOU CAN GET A FREE $10 REBATE!

However, there are times when there are not any coupons for available items (produce is a good example).  Or -- I  just don't have the time for couponing.  Life is hectic.

However, if you haven't yet tried Ibotta, you need to download this app as soon as possible!  Ibotta gives cash back on many grocery items at the most popular grocery stores, including Target, Whole Foods and even gas stations!  Ibotta is extremely helpful because they offer rebates on items and brands that we use every day -- not obscure or expensive products.  Savings can accumulate quickly if you use it on a regular basis.

For instance: this week you can get a $.25 rebate on produce if you need bananas or onions, and a $5 rebate on Luvs Ultra Leakguard diapers at Target.*  Easy savings without using coupons.

And of course, using coupons with the app can help you save even more. You can get a rebate of $.50 this week on Honey Nut Cheerios, so if you also have a coupon to use at the store, you can probably double your savings. There have been times when a good coupon and a rebate hit at the same time that allows me to get an item free or almost free.

Download the app and try it. There are many grocery saving apps out there that are pretty good as well, but I have found that Ibotta is the easiest and the most used savings app I currently have on my smartphone.

And lucky you!  if you use this link for Ibotta, you will receive FREE a $10 bonus when you redeem your first rebate!  Don't wait!


*Savings change on a weekly basis, and receipts need to be submitted when offer is active.  See website for details.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Book Review: The Photograph by Beverly Lewis

Click on the photo for more info!
It is hard to pass up a new release by Beverly Lewis.  All of her series include sweet, relatable stories that are true to the Amish culture.

This novel, the third in her latest series, centers around a photograph a young Amish man finds by happenstance while on a train trip. He isn't sure why, but he keeps the photograph, along with the book where it was slipped inside. The Amish girl in the photograph never seems to leave his mind, and he is more than surprised when he actually comes upon this very girl during his visit to Eden Valley. Not only does he find the girl, but falls for her during his visit.  

It isn't until later that he learns who the girl actually is from the photograph, and that he has a very important part in finally bringing her home.

If you are a Beverly Lewis fan, or just love Amish novels, you will want to make sure this book is added to your reading list, whether or not you have read the other two books in the series.

Want more good books to read?  Clock on the "Book Reviews" tab and see the list of all my reviews by subject.  Also, please subscribe by email or follow via one (or more!) of the social media outlets for updates!

Affiliate links included in this post.  Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House book review program. I was not required to write a positive review; the opinions I have expressed are my own.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Homeschooling: Today in American History - Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation

On October 3, 1789, our first president proclaimed November 26, 1789 a day of "public thanksgiving and prayer," recommended by both Houses of Congress.

In their request, they asked Washington "to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

The Thanksgiving holiday we celebrate on the last Thursday of November was established by Abraham Lincoln, and formally made into law by Congress in 1941.

To read George Washington's proclamation in PDF form to save or print, visit this link.

This history is from The Heritage Foundation's First Principles series.