Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sick Days Suck

I'm sure you've all had a time where you've had to take sick days from work or school, and when you returned people say "Oh you should be caught up on everything, you got a sick day!"

Do people realize that when you're really sick, it's hard to do anything?! Seriously, it took me ten minutes this morning just to get dressed. And I only have a fever and upset tummy...I can't imagine what it's like for people who have it worse.

So, to take my mind off of the aches and being hot and freezing at the same time, I thought it'd be neat to figure out what the heck a fever is anyway and why it does what it does. Maybe, if I make it scientific, it'll be less terrible? It's worth a shot at least.

Ok so...

What causes a fever? It looks like fevers are caused by a little thing called a pyrogen, which in various ways tells your hypothalamus in the brain that your internal body temperature needs to be higher. Kind of like increasing the thermostat and then having the heat kick on. The hypothalamus then sends signals out to the body telling it to do anything possible to increase internal temperature, including increasing muscle tone and shivering. Your blood vessels may also constrict to prevent heat loss, which is why you often get headaches with the fever.

What does fever do anyway? From what I've been reading (and I'm sure my nursing friends could correct or affirm this), the body's immune system functions much better at an increased body temperature, thus getting rid of infections much more efficiently. The higher temperatures supposedly allow different anti-bodies to be released more quickly and can also kill infections that have picky temperature preferences.

Why is my stomach upset? This one was pretty easy to understand. When we're sick, our stomachs get upset because they are trying to get rid of anything we ate or drank that may have been the cause of our fever in the first place (think food poisoning here). You also have a tendency to only be able to process bland, simple carbs such as rice, toast, and crackers because the body is not able to focus on digesting more complex proteins and fats since it's resources are tied up elsewhere defending the body.

Why do I ache? This is one I really wanted to learn the answer to, as it is possibly more annoying than the hot/cold feeling or the stomach upset. Whenever I get sick, my weakest points hurt the most: my back, hips, and knees. It drives me crazy! I'm not 100% positive on the information I've found on this one, but here's what I found: when our immune response is activated, we use a chemical called a cytokine to "coordinate the army" so to speak. They do several jobs when fighting infection, but one of them is to cause us to produce an enzyme. The enzyme produces chemicals called prostaglandins, which do many things including increasing inflammation and causing the spinal nerves to become more sensitive. This increased inflammation and increased pain sensitivity causes aching joints, making what might normally be mild pain/discomfort in areas of the body that are already weak feel much, much worse. So that explains why my lower back, hips, and knees always hurt the most, since I have a lot of problems with them. 

Well, I'm more informed but no less I guess I'll just continue eating my toast, drinking sprite, taking NSAIDs, and trying not to move.

Good thing I have a textbook from graduate school nearby that needs to be read (NOT).

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Life with Louie...Getting Used to the New Kittie

Our family is growing so fast! Our newest family member is Louie, a 4 month old Russian Blue kitten. He has proven to be a joy and a challenge so far, but is finally getting along for the most part with the cat and dog. There are some minor kinks, but since it hasn't even been a week yet we're ok with it.

We've learned so much in the few days that we've had our new kitten Louie so far that I thought I'd share them with you! Some things are obvious, some are serious, and some are just plain funny. Many cute pictures to enjoy as well. :)

 1. Kitten-proofing the house is harder than we thought. Kittens can fit in a lot of places, jump onto a lot of things, and aren't shy about chewing whatever they can get in their little mouths. We've had to change a lot of things that we didn't think about before hand such as where we burn candles, closing toilet lids and closets, leaving things out that he can chew on like garbage, paper, plastic...I could go on and on. Also, we've had to close doors to rooms like the laundry room that we just can't kitten proof because of the appliances.

**Funny Story: We have bathroom doors that aren't level, so they close if they're even nudged. Louie must've bumped the door, because it shut on him. Oblivious to him being trapped in the bathroom, we walked past and smelled....a smell. A terrible, terrible smell, like baby diapers. Uh....we don't have babies! We open the bathroom door to find the cat ready to run out, and look in the sink to find...a cat poop. In the sink. He pooped in our sink. We were so disgusted and laughing so hard we couldn't even be mad at him.
Louie in the Dryer

2. Move anything that jingles as far away from the bedroom as possible. The first 2 nights, we lost a lot of sleep. Half of it was the cats singing the song of their people at 3am, and the other half was the slew of jingly toys scattered upstairs. We learned really fast to move all the noisy toys downstairs and keep only the most quiet ones upstairs.

3. Sometimes dogs are just idiots. Louie was perfectly fine with Bandit. He actually slept with him the first or second day we had him. Then Bandit showed (about 100 times in the past few days) how much of an idiot he is by constantly trying to stand over him, sit on him, and knock him over or squish him with his giant head. We seriously have no idea if his motive is to eat Louie, play with him like a puppy (or chew toy), or if he is jealous, but we're constantly keeping an eye out just in case.

Bandit and Louie Napping
4. You can never just have a normal vet visit.  Sometimes I'm pretty sure that the vet is there to make money more than it's there to take care of animals. Every time we go we are being upsold by some sort of mandatory test or product that makes that $35 exam fee skyrocket to hundreds of dollars in the blink of an eye. And we're catching on to the fact that a lot of it is unnecessary...we try not to get mad about this one but for me right now it's not working at all.
Louie's First Vet Visit. He slept the whole time!
5. The more cat purrs, the better. There is nothing more relaxing than holding a purring kitten on your lap until he falls asleep in a little ball of fuzz. And with two cats instead of one, we get twice as many purrs! Something about those kittie purrs is so soothing and relaxing, I may just do an entire post on them soon.
Keeping Warm in James' Jacket

and a really big issue we had and thought we couldn't overcome...

How We Got our Two Cats to Get Along

1. Introduce Them Slowly. We didn't force the two cats to get together...let them get acquainted on their own terms at their own pace. It could take days like with us or months (like with my mom's cats).
2. Give Them Space to Retreat. We always made sure the cats had all they needed in separate rooms, so that when things got tense they could retreat and cool off.
3. Give the Resident Kitty Plenty of Lovin'. One thing that helped the hissing subside more quickly was making sure Reese, our older cat, got plenty of love and attention while the new kitten was around.
4. Feed Them Near Each Other. We started with feeding them their wet food in different rooms but nearby, and have slowly brought them closer together so that when we set them down to eat they're about a foot from each other. When they realize they can eat together, a lot of tension seems to drop.
5. Above All, Be Patient. The first day we brought Louie home, Reese sat under the bed and pouted for two days. She hissed, and growled, and ran away. But we just let her be and stayed calm and soothing, and eventually she got more curious than upset and decided to check him out. And, literally overnight, they were playing together. Granted she still growls at him occasionally and won't let him cuddle with her yet, but they'll get there eventually.

Louie and Reese Beginning to Play on their new Cat Condo.

Lots more funny stories and cute photos to come! What have you learned from your kitties? Feel free to comment below!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

One Year Older, and a New Family Member

Well, I'm one year older as of yesterday...that puts me at 24. Not really an age that means anything, except I'm too old to be young but not old enough to rent a car without being charged a huge "young driver insurance fee". But there were a few good things about the weekend that really rocked, so I'm grateful.

First off...we got rid of our old fireplace insert. And let me tell you, it was u-g-l-y! Black and brass, dirty, outdated, took 3 men heaving and pushing to get all 600lbs of it up the stairs and outside for the lucky winner that bought it.

Hey, whatever floats his boat I guess.

Second, and I won't even pretend I don't love this part...cake. Friday was Linda's Fudge Cake from Cheesecake Factory, and today I get a piece of my mom's childhood tradition for us: butter cake in a bunt pan, with chocolate icing and rainbow sprinkles. There's just something wonderful and nostalgic about that cake, the same cake mom would make for us for almost every birthday growing up. It's like a little bite of comfort in a big, complicated world.

And the third thing to be thankful about this weekend...we added to the family!! No, we're not pregnant...even better. We got a new kitty! He is a Russian Blue, 4 months old, and so stinkin' cute. We decided to name him Louie. No reason, really, it just sounded right when we looked at him and called him that.

Just look at that wittle face!
It's been interesting integrating him into the rest of the family. He is very affectionate, purring if you even so much as look at him, and doesn't mind people or other animals. In fact, him and the dog took a nap together today...

 Pardon me while I have a fit over how cute it was.

Reese, on the other hand, is a different story. If Louie gets close enough, she hisses and growls at him until he goes away. She's been sulking since we brought him home yesterday...I feel super guilty. He's supposed to be her little buddy, not her enemy. But then I remember all the blogs and websites I've read saying that that's perfectly normal at this stage in the game. We will see in a month or so if that's true or not...if anyone has tips on introducing cats, please let me know!

I'm a nervous mommy. I'll probably be worse when we actually have kids. 

But anyway, like I said, I had a wonderful birthday weekend, and have a lot to be grateful for. Life is sweet indeed :)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

This One's For the Girls

Warning: If you are a man, you may want to skip this post. 

Unless you're brave, and want to learn as much as you can to help you're honey every month when she goes from being a strong, radiant woman to a moody, hungry, wounded, all-around scary and unrecognizable creature. In that case, I should send you a medal. Or a bullet-proof vest.

That's right, I'm talking about periods folks. No use in hiding it, we all know about 'em. Just watch the commercials, where skinny, made-up women act like they have tummy ache's and can't squeeze into their jeans in their perfectly clean houses with sunshine beaming through the windows. If only those commercials showed the truth, it'd look more like one of the games my husband plays on xbox, where the main character turns from a human into a monster and back again, and eats people. The whole city is a war zone, people run from you, there's blood everywhere, there are hazmat teams and military standing by waiting to take you down...

Of course most people fall somewhere between those two extremes. Lucky for society, really.

Anyway, I've done some research on what I think are some of the most helpful things to know when the inevitable happens: cravings, exercises to do (and avoid), and popular ways to relieve the most common symptoms.

Let's Talk Cravings
You're on a diet, and doing great, until the end of your cycle. Then all of a sudden cake is your best friend and 2 oreos no longer seem satisfying enough. No matter how much you eat you don't feel fulfilled, you just go from starving straight to sick and then eventually back again. It's good to know that you're not just going crazy turning into an ice-cream-ivore, and that your body really is trying to deal with things.

Estrogen and Cortisol are two of the many hormones that are very active during your period. When these hormone levels are too high in the body, it tries to compensate by being metabolically active. This gives you a big appetite boost in general. A lack of energy from having increased demands on the body makes you want to binge on sweets and other easy-to-process, high calorie foods.

One more hormone responsible for this increase in cravings is serotonin. This chemical, produced in the brain, is dependent on carbohydrates for its production. Hence, a drop in serotonin levels during premenstrual period increases the demand for sugar in the body. This lack of serotonin explains why we can get so moody as well.

Some Solutions
1. Get enough sleep. I know, I know, this is obvious. We all could use more sleep. But during your period it's even more important to give your body enough rest to tackle the whole situation. And naps are perfectly acceptable during this time too. You could treat the rest idea almost like you have the flu - the more rest, the better.
2. Go for Complex Carbs instead of Refined Sugars. It's fine if you give in a little, but lessen the impact by eating complex carbs like pasta, whole grain toast, cereals (not kiddo versions like lucky charms...), etc, to help you not have the crazy cravings reoccur so often. And, while protein may not be so appetizing at this time, trying to get enough will help stabilize your blood sugar as well.
3. Drink Water or Tea. Getting enough fluids can help your body rid itself of menstration-related toxins and reduce obnoxious bloating.
4. Avoid too much salt. Don't dig into that bag of salty potato chips, it'll only make bloating worse!

Exercises to Do (and Avoid)
1. Walking - If you're feeling up to it, a walk at any pace can help your body stay productive and release some endorphins to help with cramps. Plus, moving around helps you not feel so stiff. And if you are up for a jog or even run, go for it! Just count me out.
2. Yoga - Gentle poses can really help ease stiffness, aches, and pains and get your body's circulation going better than laying on the couch (or floor...). Just avoid inverted poses, as you don't want to hang on to what your body's trying so hard to get rid of.
3. Gentle Stretching - The idea of going for a walk or twisting your body make you cringe? Take it back to basics with gentle stretches for your back, hips, hamstrings, and quads, the areas most affected during your period.
4. Avoid rigorous exercises or exercises that require good motor control - Believe it or not, women are more succeptable to injury during their periods because they have an increase in motor skills. So try to avoid activities that require it to lessen chances of injuring yourself.

Common Symptoms and How to Help Them

Fatigue - This one's pretty straightforward...get enough rest, take naps, don't binge on sugar, limit caffeine, and don't overexert yourself/
Stomach Aches/Bloating - Avoid caffeine as much as you can (it irritates your stomach lining), try drinking peppermint tea or eating something with peppermint to soothe your stomach, replace sugar/salt binging with complex carbs and light proteins, and if it gets really bad use an ice pack or heating pad placed over your tummy (trust me, this one really works well).
Cramps - There's only so much you can do about this one...take pain relievers and anti-inflammatories, do gentle stretches or gentle walking, sit somewhere comfortable (avoid the wooden chairs and the floor as they're hard on your hips), use a heating pad or ice pack, and wear comfortable clothing. Try distracting yourself with things you love like your favorite book or movie, pinterest, writing, etc.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I will be doing a separate post on this in the future, but I wanted to make mention of it mamaw, mother, and I all have endometriosis, a reproductive disease where uterine tissue is found outside of the uterus. This condition causes irregular periods, intense pain, and many, many other symptoms. If you talk to family and your OBGYN and they say it's all just a part of being a woman or is in your head, THAT IS FALSE. If this is the case, you NEED to do your own homework, and rule out any other conditions such as endometriosis, cysts, fibroids, etc! Don't ever let someone tell you to just deal with it!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Omega 3's, L-Glutamine, and a 30 Day Experiment

My husband thinks that supplements are a scam...That's why, when I told him I wanted to buy 2 of them to try, he just shook his head.

I don't remember where he read that at least 20% of vitamins and supplements are scams, but I kind of see where that could be believable. People are looking for easy ways out in terms of weight loss, mental focus, etc that the health industry would be dumb to not make money satisfying their "need" for an easy to swallow solution.

I am half with him, and the other half of me is one of those people. Sort of.

I'm not looking for a pill that will fix everything while I sit on my butt and watch tv, but I am looking for some different nutrients that could help give me a boost, so that I can more successfully carry out my own plans to achieve my goals. Nothing crazy, just the basics.

I've been looking at a lot of different resources that could help me start feeling more healthy and deal with my crazy sugar cravings, and there's two that I've come across that seem legitimate enough for me to try: Omega-3's, and L-Glutamine. Here's a rundown on what I've been able to find on each of them (what they do, how much to take, all that jazz). I'll also post updates later on whether or not I got any positive results or if they're just money-making placebos like hubby says.

Up first...


Q: What are they?
A: Omega-3 Fatty Acids are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are found in fatty fish (think salmon or tuna) and some vegetable oils. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for several types of body functions, including muscle activity, blood clotting, digestion, fertility, and cell division and growth. They are considered essential fatty acids, which means we need them for our bodies to work normally. Our bodies don't make them, so we need to get them from our diet.

Q: What are Supposed Health Benefits of Taking Omega-3's?
A: Extensive research indicates that omega-3 fats reduce inflammation, helping to prevent inflammatory diseases like heart disease and arthritis. In addition to warding off inflammation, omega-3’s are also essential to the brain, impacting behavior and cognitive function, and are especially necessary during fetal development. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMM), omega-3’s may also:
  • Improve artery health by helping to reduce plaque buildup and blood clots in arteries that lead to the brain.
  • Improve cholesterol by lowering triglycerides and elevating HDL (good cholesterol) levels. These benefits come primarily from DHA and EPA.
  • Improve joint health by reducing joint tenderness and stiffness associated with arthritis
  • Improve bone health by positively impacting the body's calcium levels, reducing the incidence of bone loss.
  • Improve mental health by helping to insulate nerve cells in the brain, allowing these nerve cells to better communicate with one another. People who are deficient in omega-3’s may suffer from depression bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and ADHD.
  • Improve skin health by helping to alleviate symptoms related to skin disorders like acne and psoriasis.
  • Improve bowel health by reducing inflammation of the bowels, helping alleviate symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
  • Improve lung health by reducing inflammation in diseases like asthma.
  • Improve menstrual health by reducing the pain associated with PMS and menstruation.
  • Help prevent cancer. Colon, breast, and prostate cancers have all been correlated with low intakes of omega-3's
Q: How Much to Take per Day?
A: The average daily dosage for Omega-3 supplements is 600 to 1000 mg

And our second supplement of choice...


Q: What is it?
A: L-Glutamine is an amino acid, which is a building block for proteins that make our bodies function. The body is able to make it, but when sick or under stress it often doesn't make enough. Body builders often use it, but it has many other health benefits besides building muscle.

Q: What are Supposed Health Benefits of Taking Omega-3's?
  • Glutamine is the primary source of energy for the cells lining the intestinal tract. Supplementation has been proven in studies to help with overall gut healthy, including the healing of IBS and ulcers. 
  • L-glutamine is also beneficial for your brain. Not only does it help with memory function but also seems to help elevate your mood. 
  • L-glutamine helps increase protein production, which helps to heal and strengthen muscles more quickly after working out.
  • It can also help your immune system get stronger which means your body will be better at fighting infections.
  • L- glutamine reduces sugar cravings. When your blood sugar level drops, Glutamine tells your body to stop producing insulin so that blood sugar levels stop decreasing. It also tells your body to product more glycogen (a stored form of glucose) to bring your body's blood sugar level to normal. Glutamine is also a glycogenic amino acid, which means it can convert sugar to energy production.
 Q: How Much to Take per Day?
A: The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends taking 500 mg three times a day.

I'm going to give these two supplements a try for one month, and then check back in here to let you know what improvements I'm seeing (if any!). The good news is, I only wasted about $10 if this does nothing!


Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Funniest Cat and Dog You Ever Did See!

There's something about being a pet owner that can't be described.

It's just so rewarding, especially when you rescue animals from a shelter. People claim that animals don't really have the ability to be thankful, but I beg to differ when I look at my rescued cat and puppy who are two of the most loyal animals a girl could have.

Oh! I haven't introduced them yet!

Let's fix this...

This is Reese. She is a beautiful calico, rescued from a Petsmart when she was 2.5yrs old. She's now almost 4, but you wouldn't guess it by how rambunctious and playful she is! She loves tuna, and when you talk on the phone or yell she gets in your face until you stop and pay attention to her. She's my baby, and boy do I love her like crazy.

And just today we found out she has a boyfriend...kitty prints in the snow going up to the window where she sits were the proof! They are window lovers...ha! Cute.

My other fur baby is Bandit. He is also a Petsmart rescue that we got when he was around 11 weeks old. He's a boxer doxie mix (don't ask, because we have no idea how that happened), and because of that is just short enough but muscular enough to be very comical.

He burps after he drinks, chases his tail, runs into things, loves to wrestle, is kind of an idiot...I'd say he's daddy's dog for sure. 

I'll probably rant about this later, but at just 8 months old he had to have surgery on both his front legs in order to fix some major bone irregularities. Poor baby! He's almost completely healed at this point, but every day presents some new challenge or another with the healing process.

To match his goofy body, he has a really goofy personality. He is very smart, hilarious, and loyal, and we couldn't ask for a cooler pup.


You can see why I say they are something that makes my life a little sweeter!

I really wish they would be best friends, but Bandit is way too "forceful" (aka he thinks he's a tiny dog when he's really quite large) and she always ends up smacking him. But at least they coexist!

Unlike these two, Ruth and Idgie, who are the best of friends. This story was so touching! Check it out, courtesy of The Blaze.

To read about Ruth and Igie, click here! Be prepared for cuteness overload though!

How Monthly Grocery Shopping is Changing Our Lives

I wrote a post recently about how for awhile now we've been embracing weekly menu planning and grocery shopping, and how it's really made things easier for us (read all about it here). While it was a great idea, I still found that meal planning and shopping every Sunday was eating up a lot of our day, and we would buy a lot of items we didn't need just because they were on sale that week. And for newlyweds and new homeowners on a budget, that wasn't a good idea.

I remembered something I had seen online before about living on a budget, and how going shopping only once a month helped a lot. At the time I thought these women were crazy, but I was finally beginning to see the light...

But how in the world did I manage to plan for, and shop for, all our groceries for the entire month? It was a challenge, but here's how I was able to do it:

1. Make a list (or print out a calendar) of every day of that month to write meals on. This way there's no memory required! It's nice if life is hectic enough without trying to remember 30 ish meals and what order you want to eat them in.

2. Plan to Repeat Some Meals. When planning your meals, be sure to choose some your family could stand having more than once that month. I generally like to have 2-3 meals per week that'll repeat throughout the month (that's 4-6 recipes total), and space them out as evenly as I can. This makes planning (and buying) much more simple than if every meal was different!

3. Utilize make-ahead (freezer) meals. If you know a certain night of the week is always busy, it's a great idea to plan to have meals ready that you can just pop into the oven or crock pot with little to no prep (I'll post some of my favorites soon!).

4. Know Your Numbers. I can't emphasize how important it is to know what prices are good and bad before going to the store. For most products it's best to know the price per ounce, or for meat the price per pound. That way you'll know if you're getting a good deal or if you should wait on the item.

*A perfect example: We shop at Costco and Meijer. At Costco, a lot of their prices are great. Their chicken was priced when we went at $2.59/lb. However, the Meijer sale price of chicken is only $1.99/lb. For a month's worth of chicken, that's almost a $10 savings! Luckily I knew that ahead of time, or I would have bought the chicken at the higher price without blinking an eye.

5. Set Aside a Whole Day for Shopping and Prepping. Make sure the kitchen is cleared out and cleaned, have a good breakfast, and wear some comfy clothes, because you'll be cooking and prepping a lot of the day! Shopping normally takes us a few hours, and cooking takes most of the evening. Make sure to have some great music or an audiobook on hand to entertain you as you go.

6. Gather your Recipes Ahead of Time. I made the mistake of not keeping my recipes organized, and wasted a lot of time in the past looking for them whenever I went to cook. Print them all out, or have a note on your computer with all the links and what they are, and you'll have a much smoother time.

7. Find Recipes with Common Ingredients. The more meals you have that use the same ingredients (spices, sauces, veggies, meats, etc), the easier it will be to buy in bulk and get the most out of your dollar. For example, if you have a recipe that requires whole milk, try finding a second recipe that will use the rest of the milk so it doesn't go to waste.

8. Set a Budget and Stick to it...with Cash. To stick to a budget, it really works to have that dollar  amount in your wallet in the form of cash. Once it's gone it's gone, so you'll be more aware of how much you're spending. It really helps curb impulse spending!

Note: While we did buy many of our groceries in one day, we did set aside some money for things we knew we would need to restock on throughout the month, such as some veggies, milk, eggs, and lunch meat.

And the conclusion...was it worth it? Will we be trying this again?

Heck Yes!

One day of shopping and cooking at the beginning of the month, and now we have a relatively easy month. No need to plan each weekend or worry about sales or going to the store in horrible winter weather, and hubby and I get some great meals without having gone overboard on our spending. It really has been a wonderful decision, and I'm sure we'll be tweaking it in the coming months to make it an even better one!

So what do you think? Is monthly grocery shopping and planning for you? Give it a try, or post your experiences. I'd love to hear all about it!

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Perfect Cold Weather Soup

I hate the cold.

Actually, I can't decide which I hate more between humid heat (think Florida in July/August) and frigid cold (come on Ohio, knock it off). I think, until summer, the cold is going to be the most hated. One dislike at a time I guess!

To get over my Ohio winter blues, I love making hearty, comforting meals for dinner. There's nothing like spending the rest of the night relaxing with some Everybody Loves Raymond reruns (don't judge) with a full, warm tummy and flannel pj's.

Not to mention a cute puppy dog sleeping next to me (why yes, he IS in a red fleece hoodie...he gets cold). What a cutie!

I'm slowly building my arsenal of "cozy" recipes, and thought I'd share this one with you guys since the hubby and I loved it so much. I got this little gem from Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman. Boy can that woman cook! And always looks gorgeous, and relaxed, and just really knows her stuff. And cooks really good, manly food for her hard-working family.

No, I'm not obsessed.

So on to the deliciousness that is Broccoli Cheese Soup. I copied the recipe from Ree's site, but added my own changes and additions into it. If you'd like to see the original, please click here.

We really enjoyed this recipe because it was comforting, very filling (even the husband, who is near impossible to fill, was stuffed), and easy to make. Not to mention low-carb (IF you don't serve bread with it...but where's the fun in that?).

  • 1 whole small Onion, Diced
  • 1 clove Garlic, Minced
  • 1 stick (1/2 Cup) Butter
  • ⅓ cups Flour
  • 4 cups Whole Milk
  • 2 cups Half-and-half
  • 4 heads Broccoli Cut Into Florets
  • 1 pinch Nutmeg
  • 3 cups Grated Cheese (we used a 3 cheese blend but I would go with sharp cheddar next time)
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 4 tablespoons Tabasco (your Favorite Variety, we like Chipotle)
  • 2 tablespoons Red Pepper Flakes
  • Chicken Broth If Needed For Thinning

Preparation Instructions (Modified from the Pioneer Woman)

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat, then add the onions and garlic. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until softened and browning, then sprinkle the flour over the top. Stir to combine and cook for 1 minute or so, then pour in the milk and half-and-half. Add nutmeg, then add broccoli, a small dash of salt, and plenty of black pepper. Add Tabasco and red pepper flakes to taste.

Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender. Stir in the cheese and allow to melt.

Either serve as is, or mash it with a potato masher to break up the broccoli a bit, or transfer to a blender in two batches and puree completely. (If you puree it in a blender, return it to the heat and allow to heat up). Add chicken broth if you want a thinner consistency.

Serve with (or in) warm, toasty bread and Enjoy!

*Note: Next time we make this we're going to try to add shredded chicken to get more protein and flavor in. Should be even more yummy!

Weekly Meal Planning Benefits (and Tips!)

When the hubby and I first started living together, we went grocery shopping every week. We would check the ads every Sunday and head out to get whatever stuff we saw or whatever was on sale. It was stressful, mainly because I hate making decisions, and I was making them every night on what we were going to eat. And, to make matters worse, we didn't plan ahead so whenever we found a recipe we wanted to try we would have to run to the store for "a few things".

We all do dumb things when we're first starting out, right? I'm sure there are worse stories out there.

Add some kiddos into that hectic mix, and I can see why some women just go crazy after awhile. I'm looking forward to it.

Then one day I came across a brilliant idea...planning meals one week at a time. Thank God for the internet!

Talk about an improvement...we would look at the ads, come up with a week's worth of meals based on what meats were on sale (since they're always the most expensive items), and then go shopping. It's proven to be a great money, time, and sanity saver! I would 100% suggest you try it. It has been a positive change for us for sure.

Check out some benefits and tips of weekly menu planning, all from personal experience. Feel free to comment below with any tips or experiences of your own!

5 Benefits of Weekly Menu Planning:
1. It Saves you Time: Running to the store every time you need a handful of ingredients can get pretty tiring and flat out annoying.
2. It Saves you Money: Planning your meals out based on what's on sale is a super easy way to save a few dollars each month on groceries.
3. It Helps you not Buy "Impulse Items": the fewer times you're walking past the cookies on display or whatever else catches your eye on your way through the store, the less opportunities you have to give in and buy them.
4. Less Stress: It's pretty easy to see that already knowing what you need to make each day that week and already having all the ingredients can cut down on a ton of stress.
5. Better Food: When you put time, effort, and planning into your meals, the results will show with tastier, heartier foods that will leave your family much more satisfied than take out or prepackaged foods.

5 Tips for Weekly Menu Planning:
1. Keep it Simple, Silly: If you pick 5 hard or new recipes to try in one week, you're going to get to Wednesday and wonder what the heck you were thinking, and possibly cry. Don't do that. Throw in one or two easier meals to help keep your sanity in tact and still have delicious meals.
2. Save Receipts: If you're on a tighter budget, it can really help when starting out to save your receipts to see how much of an item you'd buy, and what the prices are. After awhile you'll be able to see a sale price at the store and already know if it's good or not.
3. Buy Ingredients that Can be Used in Multiple Recipes: The more diverse your groceries, the more you can stretch your imagination, dollar, and taste buds at the same time.
4. Put Up the Menu Where Everyone can See It: True, you can keep the list on your phone or computer, but then every time your family wants to know what's on it they'll come to you. It's much easier to have a cute picture frame with a dry erase marker, a list on the fridge, a chalkboard, etc up so it's clear to everyone in the house what's on the menu and when.
5. Compile a List of Favorites: Tried a recipe you really liked, but can't remember where you found it? Keeping a list of recipes you enjoyed (and didn't!) can help future meal-planning go more quickly, as you'll already have a database built up from personal experience. There are a million ways to do this, from pinterest to bookmarks, printing them out, or writing them down. Come up with your own unique way to keep a record of the foods you love!

Coming soon:
I'll be talking about our shift from once a week meal planning to once a month meal planning, and how/why we're making the switch. I'm really excited about it, and can't wait to share it with you!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

How to Conquer Carb Cravings Like a Pro

 I see you oggling at that chocolate cake.

Tempting, isn't it?

Don't worry, if Cheesecake factory wasn't a 40 minute drive  in major interstate traffic I'd be on my way right now, all attempts at resistance thrown out the door with me into the snow.

 But seriously, the level of temptation here is crazy wrong. Why do I do this to myself?

In my last post I talked about some of the signs of being addicted to carbs (you can read about them here). So now we know how serious the problem can be, but how in the heck do we fix it? I don't know about you, but when I'm thinking of something sweet and delicious there's about 2% chance that I can sit there and resist it without going crazy. So really this list of ways to avoid giving in to cravings is half for me, half for you (but you have no problem with that I'm sure).

Let's jump right into it then, shall we?

1. If you HAVE to Indulge, Pick the Lesser of Two Evils.
If there's no way you can avoid your sweet craving, try to go the rout of a small or natural sweet, such as a small square of chocolate or a serving of fruit. If you need some ideas on snacks that aren't as guilt-laden as that pint of ice cream calling your name, visit my blog post with 25 different ideas here.

2. Keep Your Blood Sugar Up.
A lot of us reach for carbs when we are feeling hungry or tired from not eating frequently enough. Eating smaller meals higher in protein and fat throughout the day can help keep your blood sugar levels stable and keep you from grabbing a sugary pick-me-up.

3. Don't Initially Focus on Losing Weight.
While your ultimate goal behind cutting the sugar could be to lose weight, don't make it the highest priority on your list when you first start up. The goal here should be getting the cravings under control and no longer feeling crummy from any possible withdrawal symptoms, and then you can start focusing on seriously getting that weight off. If you try to focus on both, it can get pretty overwhelming.

4. Surroundings are Key to Success.
If you have a candy dish on your coffee table, or a bag of cookies in your kitchen cabinet, chances are you're going to give in when faced with temptation. Take all those sweets and carb-laden items and put them somewhere inconvenient. Up high, in a box inside of a box, on a shelf behind a bunch of other stuff...anywhere that makes it inconvenient to try to "grab and go" when a craving strikes. In the empty spots left where the carbs used to be, put easy to eat or pre made snacks and treats instead. You'll have a much higher chance of eating them that way!

5. Surrounds are Key, Still.
I can't emphasize how important surroundings are to success, and your friends and family are included in that. Friends always wanting to go out for drinks? Hubby can't survive without pasta or that weekly baked good? It can be hard, but telling your friends and family about your goals and asking them to help you by going somewhere with low carb options or trying to do an activity without food is a great alternative. And if you can't ditch the carbs at home because the hubby can and will eat anything he wants, try having him hide them or keep them somewhere only he can get to. When mealtimes come make only enough of the carb dish for him so you're not tempted to take some too.

6. Make it Minty.
Everyone knows that orange juice + mint = YUCK, and that rings true for a lot of other foods too. Brushing your teeth after meals, chewing mint gum, sucking on peppermints, or even drinking a mug of mint tea can help curb cravings. It's scent is a natural appetite suppressant, and chewing/sipping on something can satisfy that urge to "munch".

7. Indulge in Other Ways.
Do you use sweets to spoil yourself? Comfort yourself? Reward yourself? Try to find alternate ways to treat yourself, such as watching your favorite reruns or movie, reading a good book, giving yourself a foot massage, or treating yourself to a little shopping trip. There are a million options here, just depending on your personality and what you consider to be indulging/treating yourself. 

8. Find out What the Real Issue is.
Ok, it's starting to get deep. Grab your floaties folks...Now think, why are you really itching for that cookie or bag of chips? Some common reasons for emotional carb-eating include being tired, hungry, stressed, and sad/upset, to name a few. Instead of reaching for something to eat, find other ways to deal with the actual problem instead of masking it. There are hundreds of ways to do this (I'll post about some of my favorite ways some other day), so get as creative as you'd like. As long as you get down to the root of the problem, this one is pretty open-ended.

9. Start Taking Care of Yourself. 
The better your mind, body, and spirit feel, the less likely you'll be dependent on a substance of any sort to fill a void or solve a problem. And it's really pretty easy to take care of yourself, even though most of us neglect to with today's hectic and demanding lifestyles. Here are a few ideas to get you started: get enough sleep, stay hydrated, take a multivitamin, get at least SOME activity each day (even just walking to get the mail...come on people it's easy peasy), take time to relax once and awhile, and nourish the relationships that bring you happiness and fulfillment.

10. If You Slip Up, Accept it and Move On.
Trust me, I've been through this dangerous cycle hundreds of times. You get a craving. It overwhelms you. Next thing you know, there's an empty icing container in your lap and you have no idea how it got there. I guarantee, the worst thing you could do for yourself is go on the rest of the day thinking how big of a failure you are. Drop the negative self talk! If you have to be a little schizophrenic and talk to yourself, it's ok. Just remind yourself that you're only human, and that mistakes are all just a part of the growing and healing process. And don't forget to remind yourself of your successes, big or small! You really have to love yourself before you can let go of your love for carbs.

I hope you find some success in implementing these methods in your own life to help yourself beat those cravings and get your sugar under control! If you have any other ideas, feel free to add them in the comments section! I know some of us can use as many techniques as possible.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

So What's Behind a Sugar Addiction Anyway?

I woke up this morning ready to go. I was going to do it! I was going to stay under my recommended carb levels and everything was going to be ok. And I made it...about halfway through the day. And then I had a wild craving for something sweet. I resisted for an hour or so. I distracted myself with my favorite tv rerun, doing homework, ate a protein-filled snack...I even ate some fruit to try to help, but...3 oreos and the bottom of the bag of cheesy puffs was pretty hard evidence that I had failed.


I definitely felt worse after I caved than before! I felt like I was weak. Like I had failed myself (and the charts...I hate those red numbers yelling at me!). Guilt, guilt, guilt...make it stop!

Obviously willpower was not a strong enough weapon to defeat the carb addiction demons. So I enlisted the help of the internet to try to find some explanations. Here is some of what I came up with...

The following is a video from TED, about the science behind sugar addiction. It was pretty interesting! And not too long or dense either.

And an excerpt from this Psychology Today article says about the same thing (click here to read the rest of the article):
 "But what if you decide you want to resist the temptation of the sweets? Then the drop of blood sugar comes with two very unwanted side effects: cravings to eat, and decreased energy to resist. The result? It's much harder to say no, and you may even need to eat to feel normal. Much like the cigarette addict who needs to smoke, or the pain medication addict who needs to take a pill, just to feel normal."

Several Signs you might be addicted to sugar...

Increased Tolerance. As the TED video above explained, the more sugar we eat, the more we crave. Take my horrible iced tea habit, for example. I wasn't able to enjoy iced tea without dumping in 5 or more sugar/sweetener packets, which my husband pointed out was ludicrous. 
Experiencing Withdrawal. That candy bar calling from the kitchen? Feeling tired and irritable without a bite of something sweet? Yupp, that's withdrawal alright.
Loss of Control. That withdrawal feeling putting you on edge? Can't seem to say no to the ice cream in the freezer? Succumbing to your cravings and binging on carb-laden foods despite your best intentions is a sign of a lack of control, which is a sure sign of addiction.
Obtaining a "fix" at any cost. Waiting in a long line for a treat? Going all the way to the grocery store just to get something sweet? Searching the house for anything you can put in your mouth? People addicted to sugar are willing to pay a high price to get it.
Over Prioritization. Ever been late to an appointment or meeting so that you could get your hands on something sweet? Going over budget, forgetting to complete other tasks, just to grab a bite?
Ignoring Negative Consequences. Sugar is the cause of many different medical diagnoses, we all know that. But to excessively consume sugar and carbs knowing that you may have a family history (or are even currently diagnosed with) one of them is a sign of being addicted.

Some people might see this article as an excuse for giving in to cravings, but really it's just a testament to how seriously the issue of a sugar addiction needs to be taken. To succeed, looks like we'll have to bring out the big guns.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

25 Sweet Treats that Won't Break the Bank

I don't know about you, but I enjoy being able to eat sweets. They're comforting, delicious, and are definitely a part of our culture. The problem isn't that we include these sweets in our diet, but that we make an entire batch of cookies, or a cake or pie, or dig a little too much out of that ice cream container, and then our beloved sweets start sabotaging (or completely derailing) our efforts to be healthier or lose weight. Trust me, I know!

In an effort to find some healthier options to satisfy inevitable cravings without overindulging, I've come up with a list of 25 dessert ideas that won't break the bank when you just can't say no to that sweet tooth.

1. Berries.
Top them with a little Truvia or whipped cream, or put them in greek yogurt for added protein. Berries are a good choice because they are low in sugar and great sources of fiber.

2. Other fruits.
While other fruits contain more sugar than berries, they are still a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. And there are so many to choose from!

3. Chocolate Covered Strawberries.
Need to fix that craving for chocolate? Dress up your strawberries in some rich dark chocolate to satisfy that urge while also getting in some extra antioxidants.You could also try bananas here, or raspberries.

4. Smoothies.
Hot outside? Need a to-go breakfast? Put down those poptarts and mix up a smoothie. There are a million different combinations of flavors, and you can sneak in veggies and even protein powder if you wish. Here is one site that lists 54 smoothie recipes to get you started:

5. Chocolate Milk or Hot Cocoa.
In moderation, chocolate milk hot or cold can be just enough of a sweet to satisfy cravings. Try going light on the powder/syrup, or using a reduced sugar version. For added flavor, add a dash of cinnamon to make mexican hot cocoa! Just keep serving size in mind with this treat and you'll be set.

6. Frozen Greek Yogurt Drops.
Simple and delicious. Put your favorite flavor of greek yogurt in a bag, cut a small hole in the tip, drop onto a wax-paper lined cookie sheet and freeze. Just pop them off once frozen and enjoy!

7. Cinnamon Toast.
This one is simple enough. Butter your favorite toast and sprinkle cinnamon sugar over top for a crunch, salty-sweet treat. Be careful though! It's easy to overindulge in if you put too much sugar or eat more than one or two pieces.

8. Pudding or Jell-O.
Either make your own or buy it in the pre-made containers to satisfy your craving for something sweet and creamy. Freeze a portion of it to make a homemade pudding pop!

9. Apple Slices Topped with Nut Butter.
A small to medium apple is the perfect size for this treat. Dip in or spread on nut butter of your choice for an added protein punch.

10. Frozen Yoplait Whips Yogurt.
This brand and type of yogurt makes for a really delicious frozen treat!

Frozen Yoplait Whips Yogurt (these seriously taste like ice cream when they are frozen!)
Frozen Yoplait Whips Yogurt (these seriously taste like ice cream when they are frozen!)
11. Baked Apple.
Either hollow out, slice, or cube an apple. Top with brown sugar and cinnamon and bake (or microwave) until tender.

12. Sugar Coated Almonds or Pecans.
They sell several flavors of these at grocery stores, from chocolate to cinnamon sugar to butterscotch. Portion control with these are important, as they are pretty high in fat. 

13. Kettle Corn.
A bag of Kettle Corn still has less calories and sugar than a fat slice of cake, and satisfies that need for crunch too. Try topping with cinnamon or drizzling with dark chocolate for added flavor and sweetness.

14. S'mores.
This is another one of those treats where portion control is important. One graham cracker sheet split in half, with a marshmallow and a square of your favorite dark chocolate, baked or microwaved until warm and melty. Yum!

15. Fun Size Candy Bar.
These little guys are harmless until you eat 5 of them in a row! Pick one and leave the rest somewhere out of reach to reduce the chance of going back for more.

16. Chocolate Covered Nuts.
As mentioned with the sugar coated almonds above, portion control with this one is very important, as it's easy to keep munching on these guys until they're gone!

17. Banana with Cinnamon and Honey.
Slice up a banana, drizzle with honey, and sprinkle with cinnamon for a rich, indulgent treat without the guilt.

18. Applesauce.
Choose an unsweetened or all-natural applesauce, and sprinkle with Truvia and cinnamon for flavor without being too sweet. Try heating it up in the microwave for added comfort!

19. Cereal
Either with milk or plain, one serving of cereal can satisfy a sweet and crunchy craving all in one go. Just make sure to stick to one portion size, and try to avoid high-sugar cereals like lucky charms. Some good choices include Chex cereals, Special K, Kashi, Life, and Mini Wheats.

20. Low Carb Peanut butter Cookies.
These cookies sound rich and look easy to make. I would use Truvia instead of Splenda or Sugar (Ihate the aftertaste of Splenda!). You could also add a mini chocolate piece or hershey's kiss to the center of each cookie to kill two cravings with one cookie. Click here to see the recipe, courtesy of Heart of a Country Home.

21. No Bake Raspberry Lemon Cheesecakes.
This recipe from My Baking Addiction's Blog looks delicious and light! I would use Truvia sweetener instead of the sugar to make it a little lighter, and would also try it with strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries! Making these in smaller jars ensures that you won't take too big of a slice of this delicious cheesecake. Take a look at her recipe here.

22. Vanilla Cupcakes for Two.
Thank goodness I stumbled across Bakergirl's blog, because now I can get a cake fix without eating an entire cake in two days. These little guys have so many variations...add frosting on top, put chocolate/caramel/peanutbutter chips in them and dust with powdered sugar, drizzle with melted chocolate, add 2 tablespoos of cocoa powder for chocolate cakes...the possibilities are endless! See her recipe for these babies here.

23. One Bowl Chocolate Chip Cookies for Two.
This recipe, also from Bakergirl's blog, is my saving grace. Because when I make a batch of cookies, I usually eat half the dough and then wonder why I feel like crap. Hey, everyone has their weaknesses. Anyway, check out her wonderful recipe here.

24. Rice Crispy Treats for Two.
This small batch of Rice Crispy Treats, as featured on Dessert for Two's blog, is a great way to get a sweet, gluten free treat without eating an entire batch. Check out her recipe here.

25. Microwave Brownie in a Mug.
This easy brownie in a mug was featured on No. 2 Pencil's blog. You can see the recipe by clicking here

I hope you enjoy these tasty sweet treats! I know I will :)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

How Many Carbs Should I really be Eating?

Sorry in advance for the long post, but there's a lot of research on carbs out there!! 

Before I even tried to get my carb intake under control, I needed to figure out just how much was ok to eat each day. And there are SO many opinions out there!! I did a little research on three of them that seemed legit, and decided to compare them here so you could see them all in one place. The sources I compared included the USDA's website, The Primal Blueprint, and the Atkin's/South Beach Diet. Now, on to the first opinion...

The Government (USDA and CDC):

The government website,, was extremely tough to navigate. But after looking through almost all of it, I found these recommendations:

"45% to 65% of daily caloric intake should be from carbohydrates. If following a 1,500-calorie diet then 675 to 975 of those calories should be from carbs. On a 2,000-calorie diet, it would be between 900 and 1,300 calories. When choosing carbs, the focus should be on healthy simple carbohydrate sources, such as fruits and vegetables, along with healthier complex carbs like whole grains."

Here is their "poster" that you could print out, with their recommendations summed up for you:
 If you notice on here, they have 5 main food groups: fruit (carbs), veggies (carbs), grains (carbs), dairy (carbs, not much fat because they recommend low fat products) and protein. Protein takes up less than 1/4 of the plate. They suggest that you only need to eat 5-6 ounces per day, or around 20%. This leaves fats to fill the last 30% of your daily calorie intake. 


While the USDA and CDC recommend mostly carbs, diets like Atkins and South Beach recommend the complete opposite. They recommend, during the induction phase (lasting 2 weeks), to eat only 18-22g of carbs, which calculates out to be about 5% carbs, 65% fat, and 30% protein each day. During this induction phase of the diet, your body enters ketosis, which is supposed to accelerate fat loss. However, it's unhealthy to stay in long term and for awhile will make you feel like crap.

The Primal Blueprint:

The last website I looked up was from the author of "The Primal Blueprint", a book that talks a lot about macronutrients and food groups and what we should be eating based on what a caveman would normally eat (how they know this is a mystery to me, as there are none left to interview...). Here is a chart that sums up his views pretty nicely. There's a TON of resources on his website that you could read for hours if you are that interested in how to do this sugar/carb thing right. Anyway, here is the chart, followed by his explanation of each part of the curve:

0-50 grams per day: Ketosis and I.F. (Intermittent Fasting) zone. Excellent catalyst for rapid fat loss through I.F. Not recommended for prolonged periods (except in medically supervised programs for obese or Type 2 diabetics) due to unnecessary deprivation of plant foods. 
 50-100 grams per day: Sweet Spot for Weight Loss. Steadily drop excess body fat by minimizing insulin production. Enables 1-2 pounds per week of fat loss with satisfying, minimally restrictive meals. 
100-150 grams per day: Primal Maintenance zone. Once you’ve arrived at your goal or ideal body composition, you can maintain it quite easily here while enjoying abundant vegetables, fruits and other Primal foods. 
150-300 grams a day: Insidious Weight Gain zone. Most health conscious eaters and unsuccessful dieters end up here, due to frequent intake of sugar and grain products (breads, pastas, cereals, rice, potatoes – even whole grains). Despite trying to “do the right thing” (minimize fat, cut calories), people can still gain an average of 1.5 pounds of fat every year for decades. 
300+ grams a day: Danger Zone of average American diet. All but the most extreme exercisers will tend to produce excessive insulin and store excessive fat over the years at this intake level. Increases risk for obesity, Metabolic Syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

After reading through all of these and comparing them, I think that the Primal Blueprint may be the most doable and well-balanced choice for me personally. Some people can get away with the extremely low carb stuff, but with graduate school on the line I can't afford to go brain-dead while experimenting with nutrients! Do more research if you feel the need, and choose which option you think is right for you depending on your goals and lifestyle. Everyone is different!

Whew! What a long, dense post! I promise, they won't all be this bad. But hey, have to start somewhere, right?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Why This Blog?

Dear Reader,

If you've made it this far, you're probably wondering what this blog is all about. Is it just another baking blog? Another weight loss blog that will be discontinued after a week when everyone's new year's resolutions die off? And the answer to that! This blog is going to be a combination of a lot of things - weight loss rants and research, sweet and savory recipes, life stories, and anything that relates to or combines all of the three. This blog is something I am doing for myself, to hold myself accountable. Even if I only have one reader, I feel like that one reader could be enough to hold myself accountable to my REAL new year's resolution. Yes, it includes losing some weight, but it is much more than that.

I am 24 years old, and am a graduate student for Speech Pathology. I am also a happy wife and mother of two little furballs (granted, one of them is 50lbs of pure muscle and so hardly counts as little). I love photography, crafts, animals, nature, reading, cooking, baking, and a million other little things.  I am a firm believer in God and His word, and believe that things in life happen for a reason even if we don't know what that reason is yet. I try to be as real and honest as I can, as I feel like straight-forwardness is one of the most important character traits someone can possess. Movies and books easily make me cry. And, most importantly, the word of choice to sum up my personality is: dork. I am not ashamed.

Now to the character flaws...there are two biggies. One, I am addicted to sugar. I love to bake, and then I love to eat what I bake. Candy, cookies, cake, chocolate anything, bread, pasta, it's all delicious and definitely controls my life. I haven't been able to admit until very recently that I am flat out addicted to the stuff, and can actually get pretty cranky when I can't have it. It's a little depressing, really. This leads to the second flaw...I like to complain. It can be as big an issue as global politics and as small an issue as hating the dishwasher because the dry cycle never actually dries the dishes. I know, first world problems right?

This leads me to my new year's resolution, and the purpose of making this blog. My goal for this year (and hopefully years to come) is two-fold: to cut my addiction to sugars and carbs, and to take the empty hole left where all that sweetness was and fill it with other kinds of more fulfilling (and less fattening) sweetness. To thank more and complain less. To recognize the blessings that make life sweet in ways that sugar can never come close to doing.

I hope you'll follow me as I find ways to be healthier and make life more fullfilling, one day and one blessing at a time.

Much Love,

Mrs G