Thursday, February 19, 2015

To Sleep or Not to Sleep

For the past four years I have had an issue with insomnia, primarily during the winter months and if I am going to be honest, it is mostly self-induced...brain overload, hot flashes, quiet "me" name it, I can rationalize why I wake up to use the bathroom & end up staying awake for an hour or two, four out seven nights per week.

I never thought it was a real problem...until this past holiday break when my insomnia had reached an all-time peak...I'd stay up late, at least until 11pm, and then wake up an hour or two later, only to force myself back to sleep around 4am.  While this was okay during a break, it was not going to work once we went back to school and I needed a solution.  So, without over analyzing or searching the internet, I came up with my own solution.  

Nighttime Routine's Aren't Just for Kids

It was apparent that I needed a positive, mind clearing, body relaxing routine, so I created these four steps that I attempt to follow, Sunday thru Thursday.

1.  Take a hot, relaxing shower approximately 45 minutes before my proposed bed time - sometimes sooner, depending upon the day I have had (example: craptastic day = 6pm, good day = 8:30pm).  I use this absolutely delicious shower gel made by Bath & Body Works Sleepy Time Tea, followed up by the matching lotion when I get out and towel off.   I smell yummy & feel like I have washed away the day - good or bad, it's like a fresh start for a great night's sleep. 

2.*  Brew a yummy mug of **Celestial Seasonings brand of "Sleepy Time Tea" and drink about 30 minutes before I actually want to fall asleep - I usually drink it while I am reading a book.

3. All electronics are turned off approximately 30 minutes prior to be going to the bedroom.  My cell phone now charges in the kitchen because I do not have enough self-control to NOT check FB when I wake up in the middle of the night.  Plus I read somewhere that it is bad feng shui to have electronic devices in your bedroom - thus the reason we no longer have a TV in our bedroom.

4. Read a good book for a 15-30 minutes.  This and saying my prayers before bed has always been a part of my nightly routine - the difference is that now I am physically relaxed & ready to let my mind relax too, making the process all the more enjoyable.

Results: Holy Wah, It Works!

The crazy thing is that the results were almost instantaneous - the first night I did all three steps I slept through the night, not even waking up to use the bathroom (that is dependent upon how much water I've drank during the day).  When I follow this routine I get a good 7-8 hours of sleep and I awake well-rested.  

*Note:  If I skip a step it is the tea - but not for more than one day because the next night I end up have restless leg issues and can't relax.  

**Celestial Seasoning's "Sleepy Time Tea" can be found in just about any grocery store or drug store - I bought  mine at a local Walgreens, less than $4 a box.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Soup it Is!

Being the devoted wife & mother that I am (stop laughing, it sounds good), I decided to start the week off right with a tasty new soup recipe I had found on Pinterest.  Recipes have to have a few specific criteria in order for me to be interested in pursuing them in my kitchen:

1.  Minimal ingredients that can be found in any local supermarket

2.  Spices that are (normally) found in my cabinet (again, nothing that would force me to shop at a specialty store - I'm too lazy for that nonsense)

3. At least 3 out of 4 of my family members will consider it edible and delicious...I do not have to be one of them, but it helps.

My family & I love Olive Garden but we don't go often --- too expensive for four people & we always over indulge, feeling like we need to be rolled out, rather than walk out on our own.  So when I found this recipe, originally titled "Knockin' Off the OG - Pasta Figioli, I was intrigued.  Even better was when I realized that it was a crockpot the dump & go recipes that don't taste like a hodge podge of nonsense and I LOVE OG's soup.

Here it is: Nicole's Version of Pasta Fagioli (because I broke rule number two and did not have all of the spices in my cupboard for the recipe found below)


1 cup of diced onion
1 cup of chopped carrots
1 cup of chopped celery 
2 cloves of garlic, (sliced in small pieces because I haven't replaced my mincer)
1 lb. of lean ground beef
2 1/2 cups of V-8 (I used the low sodium version)
1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes (I used the Italian seasoned blend)
1 can of light red kidney beans 
1 can of northern beans
Salt & pepper (to season)
1/2 box of ditalini noodles


First, I placed two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan, heating to a medium heat.  Once warm I added the chopped veggies & garlic, sauteing until soft; adding diced tomato & ground beef to this mixture; turn up the heat and brown the burger.

Note:  After the meat mixture is brown I put it into a strainer and rinse with warm water to get the grease off.  Not sure how much this helps but it makes me feel like I'm doing something good and helps with that unappetizing oil sheen found on meals with meat.

Now the fun part:  dump the meat mixture and ALL of the other ingredients into the crockpot and cook on low for 4 hours. Cook the pasta according to directions, add to the crockpot mixture and cook for another 30 minutes.  Make sure that you leave the pasta a bit firm otherwise it will get mushy & we all know that would be gross, right?

Dish up in cute bowls, sprinkle parmesan  cheese on top & serve with your favorite tasty bread - we chose to have toasted garlic bread and it was delicious...with plenty left over for lunches.

Here is the link to the original recipe:
Knockin' Off the OG - Original Recipe

Monday, February 9, 2015

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

Determined to start the week off on the right foot, I forced myself to get a crockpot meal going this I quick grabbed my phone & found a recently pinned recipe: Not-Chicken-Pot-Pie Slow Cooker Meal (original link at the bottom of this post).  Basically this would be a chicken pot pie, without the pie crust.  

Is it easy?  Oh yes - all of this was prepped and tossed into the crockpot in less than 15 minutes; peeling & dicing the potatoes was the most time consuming part of the process.

Ingredients Needed

4 - boneless, skinless breasts
1 can low-fat cream of chicken soup 
1 can low-fact cream of celery soup 
1 bag of frozen peas & carrots
4 medium potatoes, peeled & diced into bite size pieces
2 cups vegetable broth
Salt & pepper to taste

2 cans of biscuits (or make them from scratch, if you prefer)
1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese (to add after you put it on the plate)


Pour your vegetable broth into the crockpot; place the potatoes in the broth, laying the chicken breasts on top of the potatoes; pour soup & veggies on top, add the cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Take the chicken out of the crockpot and cut into bite size pieces or shred - my family likes it shredded so that's what we did.

Bake your biscuits as directed; I put two baked biscuits on each plate, poured the chicken mixture over the biscuits and topped with a handful of cheddar cheese - not necessary but my family loves cheese and we loved it.

Note: When I got  home from work the crock pot had turned itself off - thankfully the chicken was cooked but the potatoes were a bit firm.  I poured everything into a large pan & heated it to boiling, adding 2 tbsp. of flour to thicken up the sauce.

Here is the link to the original recipe - note how orangy/cheesy it looks and how pale/beige ours turned out.  I was a bit nervous but once we started eating it we were sold and forgot all about the color issues.  

Yay - another new meal that was quick, easy & super tasty...and we had plenty for leftovers!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Let's Get this Party Started

The first week of February has already passed and I'm sitting here thinking "what the hell happened to January?"  Just like every other well-intentioned knuckle head in the free world, I decided to set some goals.  Yes, you read that correctly, goals, not resolutions because that (in my honest opinion) has a negative connotation to it...a problem that you resolve to fix because you are a failure...and you will be again when you don't make it through January. So, goals they are:

Goals for the New Year &  a More Effective Me...notice I didn't say "new me" because that is impossible...hells bells, I'm 45, there isn't a whole lot of "new" happening over here, unless you count the work of gravity & the lovely side effects of perimenopause (the precursor to the real deal, menopause): night sweats, hot flashes, more stubborn than normal belly fat, and a serious lack of short term memory, just to name a few.

Goal Numero Uno

Keep work at work.  I am a teacher and everybody knows that we have a buttload of papers to grade and creative lessons to plan, lessons that will not only educate young minds but keep them entertained for hours at a time.  Well, by the second day of the holiday break, just when I felt like I was starting to relax, I fell sick with bacterial pneumonia...lasting 10 of the 14 days I had off.  So much for time off...coughing my lungs up (peeing my pants every damn time) and unable to sleep more than two hours at a time.  What does this have to do with work?  The stress (self-induced) & strain of having to get it all done kept me going through the school week(s) but as soon as I had time to chill, my body & immune system rebelled.  I have not been that sick in a long time and it was enough to make me say to myself (and later my family) "something has to give" and it was all of the working during non-work hours.  Note:  I am required to be at work 7:15-3:15pm every day.  Some days I may go in a bit early or stay until 4pm, but NO work is coming home with me.

Goal Number Two (yeah, my Spanish is limited)

Get healthy, mentally and physically.  Just like hundreds, hell thousands, of other women out there, I have been a yo-yo dieter.  I have lost & gained the same thirty pounds at least twice in the past ten years.  Again, I am 45 and I have no grand illusions of becoming a middle-aged Sports Illustrated model.  But I do want to be comfortable in my own skins.  I do want less body aches and I do want to look & feel good - even if "good" is my own definition and not something imposed upon me by the media.  This goal is a bit more labor intensive as it requires something that I have very little of...patience and willpower.  

Healthy - physical: drink a minimum of 64 ounces of water per day and walk a minimum of 10,000 steps (at least 30 minutes of steady activity) - I use my Fitbit to keep track of this.  It can also track my food intake but I haven't tackled that, yet.  Note:  I need to get my water intake up to 95 ounces but I'm a work in progress.

Healthy - mentally:  make more time for me...reading what I want, when I want; doodling & crafting like I did before kids & teaching; walking outdoors at least once a day - the fresh air is killer (yep, I just showed my age) for getting my head straight AND it helps with the physical portion of this goal.

That's it folks, two goals...simply because I want to succeed this time.  Any more than two and I'd be overwhelmed and ditch it all for a lovely bowl of Wavy Lays Potato Chips and Dean's Sour Cream & Onion dip or spending my Sunday's planning & stressing over school work.

So now you are wondering if I have made any progress?  Hell yeah I have - cuz I don't have the balls to write all of this only to tell you that I am failing miserably, ha!

Progress on Goal 1: I am learning to make use of every free moment I have at school.  My students are not suffering and neither am I.  I also forgot to mention that I am not staying after school past 4pm, and some days I leave by 3pm so I can pick up the teens from school.  My stress level is waaaaayyy down & I am really learning not to sweat the small stuff...okay, so I am a slow learner.

Progress on Goal 2: Intaking 64 ounces of  water & walking 10,000 steps on a daily basis - check!  I find myself craving water & I get irritated and antsy if I don't walk.  Going to start tracking my food to really get to the next level...and cooking more, which leads me to this:  creating and implementing a new goal....

Goal Number Three

Creating a budget that we can stick to and get out of debt.  This morning I wrote up the basics of our income & expenses and I was completely mortified by how much money we earn AND waste.  Where does it go?  Why are we unable to keep & grow a savings account?  Simple answer: we eat out too damn much and that has to stop.  Which means thoughtful grocery shopping and all hands on deck with cooking dinner.  Since I just created this goal today, I do not have any progress to report except that we grocery shopped & I forgot the list at home (filled with ingredients for my Pinterest inspired dishes) but we did okay...lots of green stuff, lean meats & healthy grains.  It's a start, right?

If you have any positive, healthy suggestions to assist me that would be fabulous...because I need all of the good ju-ju I can get.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Dreams of Being Fly

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday (she says in her stock car racing announcer voice)!  I was awake early, much to my dismay and not ready to commit to anything productive, so I grabbed the remote and started flipping through the channels...

I'm cruising through the ridiculousness we call cable TV, with nothing but infomercials and Super Bowl crap filling the screen, when I feel like I have hit the television jackpot...the early 90's Fox sitcom, "Living Single", starring Queen Latifah and Kim Fields.  Hells bells, it was a blast from the past! I was so freaking thrilled, it was like I had literally stepped back in time: big hair, bright colors & snarky one-liners delivered by authentically humorous characters...and none of that ridiculous canned laughter that often accompanies sitcoms.  Much to Big Daddy's chagrin, I was in early 90's television heaven and I was not turning the channel.

There I was, cozy on the sofa, reminiscing about the good ol' days, recalling, out loud to a very disinterested Big Daddy, reminding him that this was when Fox TV was the home to all of the fun & flavorful TV that made us laugh out loud...I mean, who didn't love "Martin" or "In Living Color"? Aww hell, I was getting all misty eyed and shit, and he was mentally counting down the minutes until he was in control of the damn remote.  But since when did I care if he was actually listening?  I had a captive audience and I was making the most of it.

Big Daddy's inattentiveness aside, this accidental stumble upon an old television favorite had me happily dancing (because that's what I did in the early 90's, danced like a fiend) down memory lane, clearly recalling when my dream was to be "fly" and all of that other nonsense.  I could clearly visualize the rayon baby doll dresses worn over capri leggings, accessorized with obnoxious hoop earrings and the bright red lipstick that Big Daddy despised.  My sharp stacked bob haircut was admired and replicated by many...true story, since I was a hairstylist and my hair was always on point. Hell, I even suffered through those high waisted jeans (giving me approximately four inches between my bra & my waist band - thank goodness breathing wasn't important, right?) and the perpetual wedgie they gave you, just to pull off some of those awesome looks.

Isn't it crazy how the memory works?  I cannot recall what I was going to do five minutes ago, yet I can clearly recall what I wore 20+ years ago when I was at the club dancing to Deee-lite.  Now that I am in my mid-40's  and fashionably challenged (my style is comfort...yes, I just made that up) and I have been through quite a few fashion trends/mishaps, I can hands down say that the styles of the early 90's were by far the best.  Maybe it was because I was at least 60 pounds thinner and did not have the body image issues accompanied with weight gain & age.  Or maybe it was because we were all that & a bag of chips - damn skippy, yo.  It's my story and I'm sticking to it.

BTW:  I don't get free reign of the remote often...I can't imagine why, can you?