Friday, August 31, 2012

Spaghetti Squash

This was my first spaghetti squash to buy. It sat on the counter for about a week before I got the courage to crack into it and figure out what to do with it.  The squash seemed small, so my big question was how much is it going to make.  There was a lot of squash in that little guy, enough for 4 servings at least.

The first thing you do is cut it down the center.  Use your sharpest knife for this part and be careful. 

Then you want to scoop out the center part with the seeds and pulp. This was the part I was unsure about.  I thought the strands in the middle were the actual squash, but they are not.  It is like cutting a canteloupe.  You know how you take a spoon and scoop the middle part out, seeds and all?  Same concept here.  The part of the squash you'll be eating is that smooth looking outer layer.

Then place the halves in a 9x13 pan, cut sides facing up (like in the above picture). Pour about an inch of water in the bottom of the pan and cover tightly with foil. You can put a little butter, salt and pepper on the squash before you bake it if you want to, I did not do that step because of my diet lifestyle change and what not.  Bake at 375 for 30-45 minutes (I cooked mine 45 minutes).

Then the magic happens.  You take a fork and scoop the spaghetti like strands out onto your plate.  It is so stinkin' cool!  And unlike pasta which is 5 WW points, this is 0 points!

Top with your favorite pasta sauce and you have yourself a fantastic dinner.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Homeschool Room

We do school at our kitchen table. It is convenient since it is so central in our home.  I can work in the kitchen and keep an eye on them (just one).  They can move to the bar for a little change of scenery.  The kitchen timer on the microwave is within reach.  It's just the best spot we've found. 

Each day we have been dragging our school supplies from the closet in the playroom and plopping them on the kitchen table. 

(The schoolroom after a $32 make-over)
(The schoolroom before the $32 make-over)

Each day we'd line the middle of the table with our supplies.  When we were done, we'd tote them back to the closet where they belong.  I got to thinking how nice it would be to have everything all in one space.  But you know me, there was one criteria, if it was in the kitchen it had to look cute.  When you come over for game night and dinner, I didn't want you feeling like you were at school, ya hear?

If you have a space in your home that is not working functionally or maybe you just have the itch to redecorate, always shop your house first.  This little bookcase has been in our room and was just the right size to fit my space.  Cost:  Free

Next we headed over to Staples and spent $38 on 3 Martha Stewart magazine holders.  When we got to Target, these brown one's were on sale for $3.50 each.  After doing the math, we returned the Martha Stewart one's at Staples and were very happy with our $14 purchase.  I wanted a burlap type look and that's exactly what I got.

The labels are on the front and the back.  When company comes (if I remember) we'll flip them around so it's a very uniform, clean look.  This is what you'll see.

On an everyday basis, I'll keep them facing forward so I can have easy access.

What's that?  Oh, heck yeah that's chevron on the lining.  I know, I'm excited about it too.  Who needs an apple on their desk when they have all this other cheery action going on, right?

Do you pray before you shop?  If not you should, it works.  I have seen God lead me to the perfect place many times.  Like wheeling into Fred's last minute on this trip.  And finding this lamp for $16 with the clear, glass pineapple center.  The base is a kind of greenish color and it is all kinds of cute.  Do you know our first Christmas tree was decorated with dried citrus fruits (lemons, limes, and oranges) and topped with a pineapple?  Citrus makes the world go round and lights up school rooms.

There you have it.  Our $32 homeschool room make-over.  Our everyday things we use are on the bookshelf.  The other things not used on a daily basis are in a closet in our playroom.

The interesting thing is how much the lamps warmed up this space.  Adding a lamp to a room always makes is feel more cozy. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Noodle Free Lasagna

This lasagna is so good! It is hearty and the meat sauce and cheese topping are delicious.  I thought it was easier to assemble than regular lasagna because you do not have to deal with hot lasagna noodles which can be hard to deal with.  The noodle part is actually thinly sliced vegetables.  I used zucchini and eggplant.  You will see the recipe actually calls for mushrooms.  We don't like mushrooms so I changed it up.  Next time I will use all zucchini for the noodle layer.  Sliced thinly they almost disappear.  Almost

The first step is thinly slicing the vegetables, sprinkling them with salt and broiling them.  Set broil on high and let them roast.  The salt is to draw out any water in them.

4 zucchini, sliced (I only used 2)
2 portabella mushrooms, sliced in strips (I did not use)
8 oz. lean beef (94% lean)
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
28 oz. can diced tomato
5 garlic cloves, minced
15 oz. fat-free ricotta
1/4 c. egg beaters (I used liquid egg whites)
1/2 c. reduced fat Parmesan
2 T. chopped fresh basil (I used dried)
1 t. tried oregano
1 c. part skim mozzarella (do not use fat free on this part!)

-Sprinkle veggies with salt and broil.

- Preheat oven to 350.  Spray skillet with Pam.  Saute' onion and 3 of the minced garlic cloves, 3-5 minutes.  Add in ground beef and brown.  Add in diced tomatoes, oregano, basil, salt and pepper.  Stir well and cook until thick.  (Check on your veggies, are they looking good?  I like mine a little brown on top.)

-Mix ricotta, Parmesan, remaining two minced garlic cloves, egg, salt and pepper.

-Pam a 9x13 pan.  Spoon meat sauce in dish.  Layer veggies, ricotta, sauce, veggie, ricotta, sauce.  Top with mozzarella (my favorite part!).  Cover with foil.  Poke 3 holes in foil (to allow steam to escape).

-Bake 45 minutes.  Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes. (I usually go a little longer because I want my cheese browned)

-Let stand 10 minutes before serving.  This step really does make a difference.  It allows the lasagna to set up properly.  Cut into 6 portions.

6 servings-6 points each

One of the trickiest parts of lasagna is figuring out when to start it to have it ready in time.  The easiest thing I do is work backwards.  If we want to eat at 5pm, this is how I figure it.

4:50 lasagna out of oven to rest
4:30 foil off top of lasagna (bake another 20 min. to brown cheese)
3:45 lasagna in oven to cook for 45 minutes covered with foil
3:15 start dinner prep

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Little Worried

This picture doesn't have anything to do with the fact that I'm so happy my blog friends are back from the summer.  It is so much fun to see new posts on my sidebar, don't you agree?  But if I did have a smile for good blog posts it would look like his.

Fail.  When it's time for me to leave a comment, I usually fail the decoding process on the first try.  It's tricky you know, the figuring out what the heck I'm supposed to be typing in so I can leave my comment love.

I might be getting old.  Last night the phone rang at 9:13pm.  Shane and I both looked at each other like, "Who could be calling, we just have no idea.  Something must be wrong for the phone to be ringing at this hour."  It was some excitement and it was only 9:13 but it might as well have been 2am for the way we got all excited when the phone rang.

And we're also getting overly excited and talking a little too much about the rain or lack thereof.  At some point you just have to look at your precipitation conversations and own it.  Yeah, this may not be normal.

I feel it's only a matter of time before we openly start discussing our bathroom habits among friends.  I may need an intervention.

In other news, we had a perfect night last night.  Homemade Spaghetti (the recipe that simmers for 3 hours), kids in bed by 7:30., dishwasher humming, Sugar Cookie candle lit (if I can't eat 'em I might as well have the house smell like 'em), house perfectly tidy. We went into our little front room and just relaxed.  That is code for Shane listened to some Fox News and sermons and I blog hopped and searched for new recipes. 

I'm also trying out hot teas.  Last night was Tazo Calm and I put a Stevia packet in it.  It was nice.  So nice I'll probably have another cup tonight.

How about you, how's your little corner of the world?  Are you getting into some new routines with the new school year?  Are you talking about precipitation too much?

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Donut Shop (and a weigh in)

Have I ever shared with you how much I LOVE the donut shop. Oh how I love the donut shop.  We only go on special occasions and every single thing about the experience sings joy.  The sheer fact that you can walk in with bed head and pajama bottoms on says a lot right there. 

You open the door and see that steaming pot of coffee on the burner keeping warm only for your eyes to be diverted to the rows and rows of sweet cakes. 

Which leads me to my current weight loss. 

Today I am officially at 10 pounds gone.

One thing that drives me nuts is when someone has lost weight and you ask what they've done.  They act like its no big deal that they've, ya know, dropped 30 pounds and just say, "Well, I've been eating some fruits and vegetables and I don't know."  It is not a casual, flippant, accidental thing to drop the pounds.

I joined Weight Watchers because I needed some help.  Today I want to share some changes I've been making because apparently it is working.  Did I tell you that I never, ever loose weight?  I am amazed that this is really working.

So for starters I cut out my coffee and cream.  It's not something I had to do, it is something I chose to do.  Each day I get 28 WW Points.  Every morning I was using up around 8 of those points on coffee.  Then I wouldn't be hungry for breakfast, then around 10:00am I'd head to the kitchen starving and would grab the first thing (usually some chips, stellar choice, I know).

It was an entire meal I was using in calories on coffee and cream.  I'm pretty much a go big or go home kind of girl so having a little coffee everyday was not an option for me.  If I made a pot I was having 2-3 cups.  Maybe you have more self-control than that and can handle a little serving.

One of my goals 5 weeks ago when I started was to try new things every week at the grocery store.  So far we've tried almond milk, liquid egg whites, eggplant, spaghetti squash and this week I bought a rutabaga and organic beets.  (recipes to come because I know you're dying for them, lol)

For someone who used to hate sandwiches, I've pretty much settled on a bowl of cereal and skim milk topped with sliced strawberries or bananas for breakfast.  Some days we whip up some fruit and yogurt smoothies.  Snacks are fruit like an apple, orange, cantaloupe or watermelon. 

Lunch most days is a sandwich on toasted bread.  I put on Oscar Meyer rotisserie chicken, ham or turkey and WW sliced cheese.  Then I add lettuce, tomato, banana peppers, salt and pepper.  You know those good pickles in the refrigerated section?  One or two of those.  Some days I'll have a cup of soup on the side (like tomato or vegetable).  Other days I'll have some Baked Lays.

I save most of my points for dinner.  Some things we've had for dinner are baked potatoes topped with chili and cheese and a salad, chicken, rice and broccoli, stir-fry, lasagna, spaghetti, BBQ, and chili-relleno bake.

One big thing I've noticed about my plate and snacks are the lack of bread.  You can have bread, but it's a big point sucker upper.  One dinner roll is 4 points.  Most days, like every day so far, that has not been worth it for me.  But spending 4 points on chips, totally worth it for me.

Now let's talk about Starbucks.  Tall Skinny Caramel Macchiato.  3 points and my new best friend.  And since I'm not having coffee in the mornings it tastes soooooo gooooooood. 

And for the record, one donut is 14 points.  So, for the meantime I am kissing them good-bye.

Today I held a 10 pound bag of potatoes.  In the last 5 weeks, these little different choices have added up to 10 pounds of weight loss for me.

I'd like to thank Jared, Subway and the Academy.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ninja Money

The Tooth Fairy has been very generous to our top teeth recipients lately.  It all started about three weeks ago when our oldest lost both of his top teeth due to an unfortunate run in with a dressing room door on a back to school shopping trip.  He earned five dollars due to pain and suffering and what not.

This little fella had a run in with a knee during a wrestling match Tuesday night.  The tooth came out during the night.  We thought he swallowed it but ended up finding it in his bed.  Last night the Tooth Fairy brought him $2.50 for his tooth. 

He came in my bathroom this morning and laid the loot on my counter and unveiled his big plans.  We're going to go get frozen yogurt and then I want to go to the pizza place and get me and my brothers 11 Ninja's from the toy machine.  Melt.  He wants to spend his tooth money on toys for him and his brother.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Targe' And A Coffee

I'm always amazed at how two hours at T.J. Maxx and Targe' paired with a Caramel Macchiato can make the world go round.  It can turn even the most mundane day into sparkling happiness.  Even walking by the Pampers aisle makes you smile as you smell the faintest baby powder smell.

This cute little denim shirt found its way into my buggy.  I just couldn't leave without it.  It is adorable.  You can roll the sleeves up a little, wear a white tank underneath, pop up the collar, add some silver jewelry and wear it with khaki or black pants. 

This purple dress was equally swoony.  The color is gorgeous.  Anything boatneck makes me extra happy.  Does it you?  This little dress is only $19.99 and would look amazing with silver.
I ended my two hour shopping trip with a little magazine reading.  Coastal Homes, Country Decor, Romantic's my version of playing with toys in the package and then not buying them.  Anyway, who has enough money to buy magazines these days?  $14.99 a pop-are you kidding me?  Haven't the editors heard of a little thing called Pinterest where you can browse for free?  Eh, no matter, it was great, great fun to be out in the wide open world! 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012



It's what the woman in our story was called today.

Goodwife kept a fire burning in her home for two solid years.  There were no matches in her day, so it was very important that she kept the fire lit.  Other women would carelessly let their fires burn out.  When they needed hot coals to rekindle the fires, they'd go to Goodwife for help.

Something about that story makes me happy.  The picture of a woman keeping her home in such a way that the fire stays lit.  Goodwife needed the fire to cook.  Don't you know the family found comfort in the crackle of the fire day in and day out.  Provision.  Comfort.  The familiar.

Two things I like to do in the evening, around 5:00pm are,

~light a candle in the main room

~turn the lamps on

It signals that dinner is almost ready.  As you get busy with homework, dinner, dishes, baths, stories, the sun goes down and your living room has a nice ambiance.

Last night I ran by a friend's house to borrow something around 8:00pm.  Her house was so peaceful.  Dinner was over, the dishwasher was humming, counters wiped, the kids were in bed and the lamps were on.  It was a place of peace.  Everything was neat and tidy and her house was cozy.  It made me want to stay for hours visiting because it was so inviting.

Your home have the exact same feel.


Candles.  Lamps.  Two simple things you might want to try tonight.  See if it makes your home cozy and blesses your family.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Drum Roll Please

Even in the midst of mansion parties, dinner meetings, cupcakes, BBQ, and pizza...

I have lost...


I can't believe it.  I really didn't think I could loose weight.  I've read Dr. Phil's book, Greater Health God's Way (Omartian), The Weigh Down Workshop and The Maker's Diet.  All great books but I never lost good weight with them.

We've eaten real food the last three weeks and lost weight doing it.  Here is an example of what a typical day looks like foodwise.

Breakfast:  Special K (high fiber and protein) cereal, skim milk topped with strawberries

Snack:  Orange

Lunch:  Sandwich and 1 cup soup or Baked Lay's

Snack:  My left arm...and on some days a banana or apple

Dinner: Nacho Salad (with a lettuce bed vs. chip bed) and I crumble a few tortilla chips on top

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Mansion Parties

We attended two birthday parties today.  When I came out of my room after getting ready, with hair, make-up, real clothes and jewelry on, my middle boy said,

"Mom, this is not a mansion party, you don't have to look your best!"

That boy, I'm telling you what.  Apparently I've been taking the yoga pants deal a little too far.

Tonight I had a cupcake at the Dinosaur Oden party.  Came home, calculated it and found out it was a 10 point cupcake. 


It's OK though because I've done good on my Weight Watcher Points this week.

Every week you get an extra 49 points to spend.  I hoard those babies till the weekend.  Oh, and guess what else I found out.  Each week, I enjoy a 4 day weekend.  Realized it Thursday night when I kicked my weekend off.  Isn't that nice, only to have a 3 day week.  I just like to party and celebrate and have fun I guess.

Tuesday night we had a $13 date.  Our sweet friends from church came over and watched the boys and we went to the movies to see a VIP showing of Unconditional, the movie.  Yeah, that's right, the screen said VIP.  How do you like me now?  Technically Shane got the invite so I guess really he's the famous one.  He does have 1800 Facebook friends so that would make sense.  We ate Subs at Subway where you can have it your way but don't go crazy.

Speaking of sandwiches, I've always hated sandwiches.  Do you like them?  One of my best friends is a sandwich aficionado.  Me, not so much.  Only, wait for it...wait for it...I am changing my ways.  The secret is toasting your bread first.  It makes it less sandwichy somehow.  Try it, I know you'll like it.

I've got some good recipes coming down the hopper for ya' so get ready.  And Monday I'll let you know how much weight I have lost in the last 3 weeks.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Happy School Days

Getting into the denim jumper this year was challenging.  It kept getting stuck and was experiencing some technical difficulty.  But where there's a will there's a way and I won the fight. 

We are 2 weeks into school and it has been sweet.  The past two years we used Abeka Academy DVD's.  Great teaching!  This year, however, we changed over to My Father's World.  That means I am the main teacher. 

It is going really, really good and I am thankful for that.  Our time around the kitchen table has been sweet.  Seeing the boys faces as we learn is adorable.  They listen wide eyed as I read to them.

I just like this because it looks like an old fashioned Little House On The Prairie Primer.

Life has been in full swing at our house.  School, church stuff, Olympics, getting in the last days of swimming before the water gets too cool, and me trying out new recipes. 

This is one of my favorite times of the year.  School supply shopping, summer coming to an end, sharpened pencils, seasonal sweater vests, football just around the corner, the list just goes on and on.

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go."
-Dr. Seuss

Monday, August 13, 2012

Weight Watchers I

Our goals meeting did not go well last night.  The kids were in bed and we sat with glasses of sparkling cider discussing our vision for the next 3 months.

Getting healthy.

At the top of the list.

He asked if I'd stop buying chips and cookies.

I exploded.

What I heard was, "You are buying horrible foods and bringing them in the house and that is why we can't loose weight".  Poor guy.  It was bad.  The fact that I'm Pms-ing, on steroids for an ear infection and that we're dealing with re-transitioning to life together after a summer apart, did nothing to help the situation.

That little blow up landed me at my very first Weight Watchers meeting.  If I can go to North Carolina by myself for 4 days I figured I could walk into a Weight Watchers meeting.  It was last minute and I ate a huge bowl of ice cream before I went.

I signed up for the next 14 weeks.  Paid.  Weighed.  Took my seat.  On the very back row.  Sitting smug and a little irritated about my Size 14 shorts fitting tightly.  The youngest person in the room.  The women talked and I judged.  Thoughts like, "This is going to be a waste of time and money" filled my mind.

The leader shared a recipe.  Sounds awful to me.  A diet pie?  No thank you.  I'd rather have a helping of good old fashioned air.  Then she said the whole pie was only 2 points.

Smug little me perked up a bit then.  You know, I did just sign myself up to come here and weigh every week for the next 3 1/2 months and I might be getting hungry and the idea of an entire pie only being 2 points is something homegirl should be taking notes about.

I'll be sharing what I'm learning about getting healthy here at Bugs & Sunshine over the next weeks.  What I really wanted to do was take a diet pill to loose the weight.  I've never done that but it sure sounded easy.  The problem is, the minute you stop the pill the weight comes back on.

I could stop buying chips and cookies but we'd still probably be overweight.  We'll see what happens over the next weeks.  I hope you'll join me on my journey!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Goin' and Blowin'

We've been goin' and blowin' this week.  There is lots to talk about but honestly, I haven't been on the computer.

I like it best when my days are like that.  Ya know, spent living life instead of reading about other peoples livin' theirs.  Last Friday, some of our best friends watched the boys so we could have a date night.

We went to Cantina Laredo and ate the best enchiladas money can buy.  The local news anchor was at the table next to us (or were we at the table next to her?) and I swear, I get so star struck.  It's terrible.  Terribly awesome that is.  heh heh heh

After Cantina we did what any romantic couple would do and headed over to Sam's.  Nothing says I love you like a buggy full of fresh produce in obscene amounts.

"We gonna eat all that before it goes bad?" is always the question I get.

"Yep" is my response along with the thought that Hater's gon' hate.

Life just feels more complete when you have a kitchen stocked with strawberries, blueberries, apples, bananas, grape tomatoes, orange snacking tomatoes, Campari tomatoes and the prettiest greens for salad in the fridge.

We went for toilet paper and wouldn't you know I walked right out and forgot the toilet paper.  It's a shame because nothing says I love you like plenty of toilet paper.

Did I ever tell you about the time Shane went for toilet paper and bought 1 ply?  I thought we'd never run out of that stuff because it just kept going and going and going.  Felt like I was at Hobby Lobby every time I went to use my very own toilet.

Good memories.  Good times.  Thin times but good times.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Take A Vacation

When I was growing up my folks always took us on a vacation.  We did not have a lot of money but it did not matter.  My parents took us to cabins in Oklahoma.  We'd walk in, Mom would Pine Sol the place down so it was clean, we'd eat Little Debbie's and other fun foods and play at the lake all day.

One year we went to the Dollar Store and got new night gowns.  We came back to the cabin, Mom washed them up and hung them to dry outside so we could wear them.  Such fun memories.

Last Fall, we wanted to take a vacation.  We didn't have a ton of money but we still wanted to get away.  Have you ever booked a hotel room on Priceline?  We do "Name Your Own Price" all the time!  We selected a 3 star hotel nearby, got the room for $50 a night and headed to vacation 30 minutes away.

We took in a $1 movie (Smurf's).  Ate at On The Border.  Headed to the hotel to stay in our fun room.  The memory of the boys walking into that fancy lobby was precious.  At the sight of the Grand Ballroom sign, my 6 year old replied, "Oh no Mom, we didn't bring any balls!"  They ran down the halls in excitement as we searched for our room number.

Everything is more fun on vacation.  Bring some drinks, snacks, magazines and books.

The big thing we did was spend the day at a Pizza & Game place.  The boys played Lasertag and we had all sorts of fun.

This was the day the Duggar's were filming an episode of their show.  It was basically our family and their family that day. 

If you are wanting to take a family vacation, spend some time praying asking God to give you wisdom on where to go and what to do.   He will honor your desire to invest in your family.  Don't be afraid to think outside the box and even stay at a nice hotel (purchased cheap on Priceline) nearby.

"A Happy Memory Never Wears Out"
-Amish Proverb