Archives for October 2011

Ways to eat less

I am far from an expert on weight loss. But since I began running last fall I’ve lost 21 pounds. The last time I weighed this little I was in my 20’s. I’m officially at the top end of ‘normal’ for my height which is a huge victory. Running was a part of my success. But learning how to handle food differently was just as crucial. I ran for two months without losing a pound, and started losing weight only when I made changes in diet. I thought I’d share some of the thoughts and actions that have led to wiser decision-making with food. Keep in mind this is just what worked for me. Anyone on a quest to lose weight needs to think through this aspect with their own needs, weaknesses, and tendencies in mind.

  • Cut out most drinks with calories. For me that means juice and coffee at breakfast, and water the rest of the day, with very rare exceptions. In the evening, a hot cup of tea makes me feel like I am pampering myself without overdoing calories. It is super easy to stack on lots of calories just with drinks. I’ve decided to save most of my calories for food, not drinks.  Also keep in mind that thirst sometimes feels like hunger.  Getting a big drink of water before eating makes you less prone to overeating.
  • Make a one-serving rule at mealtimes. At meals I take a medium sized serving and if when the urge for seconds comes, I remind myself I can eat more later on in the day. For some reason, I have better luck telling myself to delay rather than trying to tell myself I can’t have something at all. Sometimes I’ll very deliberately get up from the table after firsts, telling myself that I will get more in ten minutes if I still want it.  Nine times out of ten I find I am already satisfied and don’t need to go back.  And here’s the truth:  ten minutes after dinner I feel just as physically satisfied whether I’ve eaten a single serving or a double.  Except — this is huge– when I stop after one serving, I can feel good about my choices instead of feeling guilty that I overindulged.  If it is a goodie we don’t have very often, I’ll sometimes stash a single serving in foil in the freezer as a promise that I will be able to eat it later.  I don’t NEED that second cookie, or that second serving of mac and cheese.  It’s better to save it til later when I am truly hungry, instead of eating just because it is yummy.
  • Count calories.  I know, it’s a lot of work.   But really knowing the calories in various foods has been a huge help for me in staying accountable and facing what I am really doing to myself when I pick up a fork.  I use  For the first 9 months or so of counting, I literally did it every day.  These days I do it 5 or 6 days a week.  I aim for 1500 calories, divided into approximately 300 calories at breakfast, 400 at lunch, 500 at dinner, and 300 at bedtime. I allow myself a little more on Tuesdays and Thursdays when my schedule allows me 90 minutes of exercise time at the rec.
  • Save some calories for bedtime. I know that lots of folks recommend not eating after 7PM.  But I decided I’m not willing to give up my bedtime snacks.  This is why I deliberately ‘save’ 300 calories or so for bedtime nibbles.  Sometimes when I am tempted towards seconds at dinner, I’ll remind myself that I’m saving those calories for bedtime.
  • How many miles is this? When I am looking at something yummy, I’ve gotten into the obnoxious habit of guessing how many miles I’d have to run to burn it off.  A medium-sized person can burn a hundred or so calories by running (or walking) a mile.  So that yummy chocolate chip cookie?  A mile.  A second serving of mac and cheese?  Three miles.   Are you groaning yet?  I know, me too sometimes.  But that type of thinking is at the core of accountability and good decision-making.  I had to get honest with myself before I could start making wiser decisions about food.

Things I don’t do:

  • I don’t skip butter.  Love the stuff.  I also love olive oil and coconut oil.  What I eat tastes good.
  • I don’t eat low-fat or diet versions of anything.  No fake sugar.  It just tastes wrong in my mouth.
  • I don’t eat differently than my family.  I just eat less now.

OK, I’d better quit before I start sounding like a know-it-all, which I am so NOT.  Remember, the point is not to adopt someone else’s plan whole-hog, but to figure out where your weaknesses and strengths are.  I make bad food choices every week, but I just keep chipping away, aiming for more good choices than bad. The more your plan fits you, the more it can address your own little mental weaknesses, the more likely you are to be able to sustain those choices over a lifetime. That’s my aim.

What about you?  If you’ve had some success at weight loss, what has worked for you?  I’d love to hear your ideas.


All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong

Bacon Chickpea Potpies with Cornbread Crust

Adapted from this recipe at Eats Well With Others

Serves 8

I made this recipe yesterday in individual ramekins for a really fun presentation.  Doubled, it made 20 adorable little pot pies that bake up in the oven in 10 minutes flat!  Kids will probably only need one, but a hearty eater may want two.  I’m delighted to have leftovers stashed in the fridge for lunch today.  Yum!  If you prefer not to fuss with the individual pies, just bake in 2-quart casserole dish.

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  • 4 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 pound bacon, diced
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • one 15 ounce can (about 2 cups) cooked chickpeas, drained
  • 1 sweet green pepper, diced  (OR 1/2 cup frozen baby peas)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups vegetable or beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • dash of Tabasco sauce


  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten


Grease 10-12 ramekins  (or use a 2-quart casserole dish).  For the filling, boil the potatoes and carrots until tender but not mushy, draining and setting aside when done.  While veggies are cooking, fry the chopped bacon in a large skillet. (I used my cast iron skillet.) When crispy, remove bacon from skillet and set aside.  Without cleaning the skillet, add chopped onion, chopped green pepper and garlic and cook in bacon grease on medium heat until onion is soft.  (If you are using green peas, wait to add them until you add in the potatoes and carrots.)

Whisk together cornstarch and veggie or beef broth. Add to onions in the skillet and cook over medium heat until thickened and bubbly, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chickpeas, green peas if using, cooked potatoes and carrots, salt, pepper, and Tabasco. Cook on medium heat until the mixture is heated through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add bacon back into the filling mixture. Divide mixture into 10-12 individual ramekins or into a prepared casserole dish, spreading evenly. Preheat the oven to 400.

For the crust, in a bowl combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In a small bowl, combine the milk, oil and egg yolk. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until uniform but a bit lumpy. Spoon the batter evenly over the filling.  Bake until the top is golden brown, about 22 to 25 minutes for the casserole or 10 to 12 minutes for the ramekins.

Movie Review: Mighty Macs

Last week I got an email offering me an at-home streaming view of the just-released movie “The Mighty Macs” in hopes that I might like the movie enough to mention it. Since it was a G-rated movie and had the look of something that would interest our family, we took a chance and watched it when our kids and our folks were here on Sunday for family movie night.

The story centers around a Catholic all-girls school whose basketball program needed a serious revamp. A coach with a vision arrives, sweeps away the cobwebs, and in the end even has the nuns cheering.  The movie was clean, funny, and entertaining to our whole group. I’d love to see more movies like this in the theaters, and I hope if you get the chance that you’ll go see it.



Other sports films we’d enjoyed:


~Beyond getting to watch this movie at home for free, I was not compensated for this review.  (My review policy)~

My ‘barefoot’ shoes

I wrote a few days ago about deciding to buy some ‘barefoot’ shoes, specifically the Merrell Barefoot Pace Glove.  After so much enjoying a couple of cautious runs sock-foot, I was really hoping that the barefoot shoes would feel that good.  I loved the look of them straight out of the box.  They are incredibly light, and I think much more stylish and less clunky-looking than most running shoes.  Maybe I’m just vain, but I always feel vaguely frumpy doing errands in my tennis shoes, whereas I’d be delighted to be seen out and about in these shoes.

The standard advice regarding running shoes is to buy a half size larger than usual, so per that advice I’ve been buying an 8.5 in other running shoes.  But I took a chance and bought these in an 8 and they fit perfectly.  Plenty of room in the toe box, with good flexibility, and just enough ease in the elastic at the heel to feel comfortable and secure

As I first walked in the shoe, it felt like the sole under the front half of my foot was thicker than the heel, but I realized it felt that way simply because almost all my other shoes have a heel lift. After a few hours of wearing the shoes, I got used to the feeling.

My first run in the shoes felt good– not quite as free feeling as running in my socks, I admit.  (I may still take an occasional short run sock-foot just for the fun of it.)  But these new shoes are light-years more flexible and quick than large stiff ‘normal’ shoes.  And I loved the sturdy protection of the Vibram soles.  No worrying about puncture weed when running in these.

Since I got the shoes a couple weeks ago, I’ve mostly been limiting myself to runs of a mile or less. I’m concentrating on quick light small steps, upright posture, bent knees and quick foot-lifts.   When I start to get tired, it gets harder to run with good form (my feet start wanting to slap the ground) so I’m just taking it slow.  I have had only mild sore muscles in my calves and tops of feet with these new shoes, and my plantar fasciitis is improving week by week.  Once it is gone all the way, I’ll see if I can gradually up my miles.

What’s most amazing to me is that I am markedly faster in these shoes.  I can run a 10-minute mile pretty easily.  And the other day I did 3 quarter-mile intervals (with walks in between) at around an 8:30 pace.  A personal best.  Running is just plain easier with less shoe.  I’ll try to remember to update you in a month or so, but so far I am feeling very optimistic that these shoes are a move in the right direction for me.



When sarcasm doesn’t serve us

The other day on Pinterest I saw a toddler’s t-shirt proclaiming, “I am why we can’t have nice things.”  As a mom of ten, I’ve experienced enough kid-related breakage to laugh and nod and appreciate the morsel of truth in the shirt. But when I got to thinking about the attitude behind the shirt, I didn’t love it so much.

In our case, having ten kids was part choice, part lavishly undeserved gift from God.  Yes, our large family drains our budget in a way that doesn’t leave much money for extras.  I’d love a new kitchen floor some day, but we have other priorities right now.  I could feel miffed that my wished-for wood floor hasn’t yet rolled up to my front door on a flatbed from the lumber yard.  Or I can remember how blessed we are to be allowed to live this life of great privilege, ripped vinyl and all.

How about a different t-shirt on that cute little kid? “I’m the reason Mom and Dad are thankful.”  Just a few words, bringing the heart and mind back in line with truth, back to the reason we pull ourselves out of bed each morning, ready to do battle with another day.  These kids of ours are worth much sacrifice.  Now there’s truth worth celebrating.

Grape harvest!

Today we are up to our elbows in Concord grapes, making grape juice some of which will eventually be turned into jelly. I thought I’d share my grape jelly video from a couple years ago in case anyone else would like to know how to make jelly.


Recipes I want to try

The winner of The Secondhand Wardrobe is Emily of The Sassy Lime. Congrats, Emily!


Happy Train

Something about coming back from a trip  (and maybe from a good visit with a sister) leaves me all revved up, appreciating my kids more and freshly determined to be that good momma, the one who smiles and sings and keeps her perspective and is not so easily frayed around the edges.  So this week I’ve been smiling more, and hugging more, and when the kids push, just to see how much they can ruffle my mood, I’ve been creatively consequencing.

Today when I asked a kid to work on a writing assignment and he/she gave me a stink-face,  instead of growling I raised my eyebrows playfully and issued the consequence of planting 5 good kisses right on my cheeks– alternating sides, of course.  (We are a cosmopolitan family, after all.)  And as I got kissed, both our eyes were soon twinkling at the silliness and we both laughed, and then I kissed the kid on the forehead.  And while the child still didn’t feel like writing, he/she was smiling while going off to do it, and the mood was a darned sight better than it would have been with me growling.

The trick is to keep that cheery vibe, because, oh boy, whenever I get determined to be Mrs. Awesomesauce Mom, it seems like there are some who prefer to see me with steam coming out my ears.  (Not sure if that is actually true or if it is just my perception some days.) Anyhow, I would love to hear your best, most creatively playful responses on days when kids seem determined to derail your Happy Train.