Friday Night Light … of the photographic kind

Looked out the front window earlier this evening and saw this …

Thunderhead… and that should give you some idea of how far away Lake Michigan is from my house because I’m guessing that cloud formed right out over the lake.

I went out to take the above picture and became distracted by these, which are growing by our front porch.

Rudbeckia

Those  made me so happy that I had to take this …

Rudbeckia

… and this …

Rudbeckia

And then this came running across the yard:

So fast, as a matter of fact, that she’s a bit blurry.

Finally, I wandered around the corner of the house only to find one last little bit of light shining right here …

Hydrangea

The End.

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Stuck

I’m stuck.

Several months ago while I was apparently pretending to be someone else, I resolved to exercise my creative side more this year.   Clearly that other more-motivated me has left the building, because lately I’ve been everything BUT creative.  I’ve been bored, distracted, overwhelmed and disorganized with  little bursts of productivity stuck in there for good measure.

I did manage to work my way through volumes of paperwork, more laundry than you can shake a stick at, and some pesky, weedy flower beds only to find that the rest of the house was falling apart while I wasn’t looking.

Perhaps it was the distraction of the new puppy we adopted in March, her broken leg in June, or my broken foot in July.  Maybe it was the change in schedule when the kids got out of school.  Maybe my husband’s return to work?

Whatever it is, I’ve been off balance for a while now, and I’m searching for that little something that will help me to right myself.

I’ve been trying to shoot some photos over the past few weeks, but I’ve made no progress on the photography class I was taking.

I have two “craft” projects that have been largely ignored for months now — a window treatment for our dining room and a window-seat cushion for the lovely window seat/bookshelves my husband built for our daughter’s room. Completing those seems like a pipe dream.

I have a number of the supplies I need to re-do the kids’/guest bathroom.  It needs a new floor, too, and some paint.  The living room also needs to be painted and the office.

All of the carpets need to be cleaned.

To top it all, I decided back in November it was time to shed these 30 or so pounds I’ve been lugging around for a few years now. I’m a little more than 1/2-way there now. I was 2/3 of the way there, but I slid backwards.  I don’t think it’s any secret that I eat when I’m stressed.

I have no idea which one of these to tackle next.  I’m just stuck.

I think I’ll go do some more laundry. When all else fails, there’s always laundry.

Posted in Family, Learning | 2 Comments

“Energy” Bars by the Numbers

Lisa over at Snack Girl got me thinking today when she posted an article comparing Snickers to Clif Bars.

I started playing around with the numbers to see how they compared as a percentage of the whole.  The results weren’t too terribly surprising to me, but I was wondering if anyone else has obsessed thought about this like me.

I don’t eat snack/candy/energy bars very often.  If I do, it’s usually in a BIG pinch when I find myself starving while in a grocery store and wishing I hadn’t put lunch off for so long.  Usually, I can talk myself out of it because I’d much rather have a real meal.  I just don’t find a snack bar to be very  psychologically satisfying — probably because I’m usually not paying a great deal of attention to it while I’m eating.  Mindless snacking always gets me in trouble.

Anyway, I thought I’d share my comparisons.  I highlighted the “best” and “worst” numbers.  Tell me what you think!

Clif vs Snickers vs Newton’s Fruit Thins vs Larabars

Head-to-Head comparison of Clif Bars vs Larabars (since they’re the most similar)

Posted in Food | Tagged | 2 Comments

The Cost of Convenience

I was walking through the grocery store with my husband the other day.  We were walking down the aisle with all the pretty drinks, and I said, “I can’t believe people buy those big jugs of iced tea.  How hard is it to make a jug of tea?!”  Then I started thinking about how much people pay for something they could make at home with a minimum amount of effort and no special equipment.

Let’s just use, for example, a jug of Arizona Iced Tea with Lemon.  Peapod sells them for $3.79 per gallon.

If you splurge and buy “expensive” Lipton Cold-Brew tea bags, you will use 4 bags to make a gallon of tea.  The cost?  $.20.  That’s right: Twenty Cents.

Let’s say a family of four drinks 2 gallons of iced tea every week.  That would be almost $400 for the year if they bought the prepared tea in a jug.  If they slave over a pot of boiling water, they will spend just under $19 for the year.

The hard-working family who boils water gets to keep $381 more than the family who drives to the store to get their tea.  That’s about $30/month.  Cut out your ready-made tea consumption, and you can afford that data plan you wish you had on your phone.

This same principle applies to a multitude of other convenience items.  When I’m in a hurry, I am just as guilty of grabbing things on a whim without giving it much thought.  The Number One convenience item I’m most likely to buy?  Bagged salads.  I’m not especially proud of this, and I don’t buy them as much as I used to.  When I’m feeling rushed, though, I don’t even hesitate.  I wonder what I’ve sacrificed for what seemed like a big convenience at the time (prices are again from Peapod) …

Dole Hearts of Romaine All Natural (10-oz bag) = $3.79

A Head of Romaine Lettuce = $1.99

The bag of lettuce says it contains 3.5 2-cup servings.  For every full head of romaine that you buy, you get almost twice that at 6.5 2-cup servings!  So, a family of four who is willing to buckle down and chop some lettuce will save a whopping $562.35 per year if they eat salad three times every week.

Seriously?!  That’s a car payment!

Think about it:  Spending 15 minutes per week cutting up lettuce instead of buying the processed equivalent is kind of like making $43/hour.  I bet you feel pretty important now, don’t you?!

I don’t mean to sound all self-righteous about this.  I buy convenience foods, too, but when I look at it like this, it really makes me take pause.  Everybody has those days when it’s almost impossible to find the time to put together a meal, and certainly, convenience foods are going to be cheaper than eating take-out.  I just wonder if it’s really worth it.  Generally, convenience foods are going to involve a lot more packaging, and usually there will be more preservatives involved.  If you want to think globally, you have to consider the additional energy costs, too.  Somewhere there’s a machine that chops up the lettuce and washes it.

On top of all that, if we’re not preparing our meals together, then we’re missing another valuable opportunity:  Time with our families.  I love it when my kids come and help me in the kitchen.  We always end up having fun, and they feel pretty good about contributing even if they do start out complaining.

Most importantly, let’s not forget about the benefit this will have in the long run.  If you teach your kids how to handle themselves in the kitchen, they won’t be as likely to perpetuate the purchase of convenience foods when they’re off on their own.  Chopping lettuce or  making a tasty sauce to go on the chicken won’t seem like such a big deal.  They’ll be eating healthier foods, and they won’t be wasting their hard-earned money!

What sorts of convenience foods do you indulge in?  Have you ever taken the time to figure out whether or not it’s really worth it?  What would you rather spend that money on?  What do you do to avoid buying convenience foods?

Posted in Family, Learning | 4 Comments

Keep the Change

So, apparently blogging isn’t my forte. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, or even that I don’t want to do it. It’s just at the bottom of my list of important things to do.

We’ve really been pretty boring here. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that; we’ve had a pretty tumultuous past 10 years, so we relish boring. Unfortunately, that doesn’t leave me much to write about.

At the front of the line are the changes I’m trying to make to my physical state. I think I’m falling into that middle-aged crisis cliche state of mind, which makes me cringe. But I’m finally getting it. The whole diet and exercise thing really does work. Eat sensibly and exercise. Who knew it could be that simple? (Note sarcasm, please.)

I’m not sure what clicked with me recently. Maybe it was the fact that my cholesterol was beginning to creep up along with the circumference of my waistline. I’m not ready to consider myself middle-aged, and I’m not ready to buy the next bigger size of jeans, either. So, this past week I took a big plunge and added Jillian Michaels – 30 Day Shredto my daily “regimen.” I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how quickly things have begun to change. I really like feeling like my muscles are being revived.

Pair the new exercise routine with the help of the new and improved Weight Watchers PointsPlus plan, and I’ve manage to shed about 10 pounds since Thanksgiving. I’m pretty proud of that. I’ve been making feeble attempts for the past couple of years to get rid of this extra weight I’ve gained, but I’d become convinced that I couldn’t do it. A couple of friends finally convinced me to go back to Weight Watchers. That’s when I discovered that everything I hated about Weight Watchers has been replaced by common sense! I was ecstatic!

Weight Watchers now actually encourages people to eat real food! It’s amazing. I wonder if they’ve been reading the same books I’ve been reading.   In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan is the one that got my attention first. Then I discovered How to Cook Everything and Food Matters by Mark Bittman.  Both of them made me realize how dependent our collective diets have become on convenience foods and how simple it is to get back to making those “convenience” foods for ourselves.  Not only can we reduce the number of additives in our diets, but we can reduce the amount of waste that leaves our house on garbage day.  I need to get into Quicken to verify this, but I’m pretty sure I’m spending less on groceries, too, not to mention fewer dollars on restaurant outings.

We still have a long way to go here, but change is a journey not a destination.

Which brings me back to Weight Watchers.  Some of the long-standing Weight Watcher members are finding it difficult to wrap their heads around the changes being thrown their way. They’re so used to buying food loaded with artificial sweeteners and no fat that they can’t believe the new program can actually help them lose weight.  I’ve even heard some of them say they’re still following the old plan “behind their leaders’ backs” because it works for them and they’re afraid to change.  I understand the fear of change; I hope what they’re hearing in the meetings sinks in and they change their minds anyway.

And so change is what I’m focused on right now.  I need to keep the changes I’m making:  eating right and exercising.   The creative outlets will fall into place as time passes, but I think my blogging effort is going to be much more hit and miss than I had anticipated.  So, all 10 of you who are sitting on the edge of your seats waiting for me to post again can be free.  Go out and do something important in the world.  I’ll be back later.  I’ll try to bring pictures.

Posted in Family | 4 Comments

Monday. Already?

Wow … it’s 10 o’clock on Monday night.  This is the first time today I’ve had a chance to sit down and write something, and now I’m completely out of brain power.  It’s Word of the Week day, too.

What’s a blogger to do?

Go to bed.  That’s what this blogger is going to do.

Instead of inventing stress, I’m going to go to bed.  I bet the sun will rise again tomorrow  and perhaps it will bring some inspiration with it.

Good night!

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Word of the Week: Descry

I love words.  I love learning new words, and I especially love learning how they came to be.  In honor of my love of words, I’m going to attempt to be very disciplined and post a Word of the Week.  Since today is Monday, and since I’m holed up here on the couch with some post-holiday illness, here is this week’s word:

descry

\ dih-SKRY \ , transitive verb;
1. To catch sight of, especially something distant or obscure; to discern.
2. To discover by observation; to detect.

Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 03 Jan. 2011. <Dictionary.comhttp://dictionary.reference.com/browse/descry>.

I thought it might be helpful to illustrate the meaning of this word.  So, please indulge me while I tell you a little story.

We have cats.  We did not choose to have cats, nor do these cats actually belong to us. Who knows where the first one came from.  It doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that there was a first one, and clearly, somewhere along the way, there was a second one, too.  Because in the past several years, there has been an explosion of cats.  I’ve counted upwards of eight cats lounging on the deck of the house across the street, which is where these cats originated. I’m guessing that since we are the only house within a 1/2-mile radius without a dog in the yard, our back deck has become a welcome oasis when the cats are out doing what cats do.

It all began a couple of years ago on New Year’s Eve. One of those cats decided to go exploring.  Whether or not that cat was encouraged into our yard by one of the neighboring dogs is inconsequential.  The fact of the matter is that she found her way into our yard and onto our back deck.  That this happened during our annual New Year’s Eve party served her very well.  She showed up when I was at my weakest.  My children spied her, fed her, and now I have about a thousand pictures of kittens in an album in iPhoto …

Luna and her kittens

Luna (mom), Oliver, Adelaide, Callie and Willow

Some wonderful friends ultimately adopted all four kittens.  My children would have loved to keep lovely Luna (the mom), and she was a most wonderful housecat; however, all members of a household must want a cat in order for the household to remain at peace.  Therefore, lovely Luna had to find a new home.  Long story shortened:  I found a wonderful cat rescuer who took her in, fell in love with her and is now keeping her as a permanent resident.  Luna is living a luxurious life, and I guess she knew what she was doing when she showed up on our back deck that New Year’s Eve.

Back to the Word of the Week.

We have more cats.  Apparently, Luna has been corresponding with the cats across the street, because a number of them (six at last count) have been regularly visiting our back deck.  My children, thinking we’ve started a new tradition, set up a cozy little box for them.

What does this have to do with the word “descry?”  Well, the Cats on the Deck have made it their personal mission to always know where I am in the house.  But if I’m sneaky, I can catch a glimpse of them without them noticing.  You might even say that if I cleverly peer through the rail of the deck, I might descry the cats without being detected!

Then again, if the floor should happen to creak, or if I should accidentally knock into the window while trying to adjust the tripod …

… this happens.

Through the glare of the window, and the murky depths of the kitchen, I have been descried.

Then again, perhaps it wasn’t me they were looking for.  It could be that as they press their little noses up to the window, they detect movement in the shadows.  Perhaps it is this they descry …

… a tasty morsel, should they have their way.  Another reason why lovely Luna had to move on.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the Word of the Week.  Check back next Monday to see if I’ve managed to stick to my plan.  In the meantime, here’s a little extra cuteness to hold you over:

Sunny & Kat

Posted in Learning, Word of the Week | 8 Comments