Health Challenge Tip #10

#10: Relax.

Woo! We made it to the end of the Health Challenge (that doesn't mean we can stop being healthy, though!). I'm gonna miss that cute little girl in the Health Challenge banner, but she'll be back for our next challenge (remember her from the Go Green Challenge?).

When it comes to being healthy and eating healthy, sometimes we can become overwhelmed. Relax. While there are some people who can eat healthy ALL the time, most of us really need some ice cream once in awhile. The funny thing is though, that once you start eating healthier and stop drinking things like soda and coffee, the unhealthy stuff doesn't quite taste like it did before. And I have to be honest that I rarely miss soda.

Healthy foods just taste, well, real. If you made a point to ditch processed food for a week and then tried something a week later, I can almost guarantee you'll be disappointed in the taste.

But this post is about relaxing. Take time to relax, I'm not talking about sleep, I'm talking about allowing yourself to be free of the internet, TV, cell phone, responsibilities and RELAX. Give your brain a rest. You might end up falling asleep, but use the time to take a break and unwind. Most of us go, go, go...never stopping to relax for a bit. When we don't take time to relax, stress tends to build up and run over us when we're not looking.

So find a nice comfy chair or lie on your bed or even the floor. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and relax. It doesn't have to be long. Try 5 minutes. Collect your thoughts, let your mind wander or pray. This is definitely a challenge for me. And I'm gonna go do it right now, while Sweet P's napping. You should, too.

August is Fitness Challenge month. Because boy, oh boy, am I out of shape. See you next month!

Fix-a-Foto Friday

Not exactly farm attire, but here's Sweet P walking on the dirt road in front of the farm. Trying to give Teenie the flower of a wild carrot. I'm not even going to pretend I know what I did to this photo. I just tweaked it by selecting several different options (including Pioneer Woman's Lovely and Ethreal action) until I liked the look of it.

Health Challenge Tip #9

#9: Make gradual changes

The last 2 posts for this challenge kinda go together. And yep, only 2 more...we're running out of July!

Okay, so make gradual changes. If you've ever read about, watched a show about, or been an addict, you know that there are some things that you have to quit cold turkey. There are other things that take time.

Making healthy changes to your lifestyle (especially if you have a family) takes time. Remember that! I know as well as anyone that we want results and we want changes to be made NOW! Right now! And if we don't see what we want, well, it must not be working. Wrong.

Starting a workout regimen takes time. If you're like me, you set your alarm to get up and then hit snooze and wake up later realizing it's too late to work out. But keep trying, because on that 3rd day? You might just wake up and get with it.

So let's make gradual changes as we live a healthier lifestyle. One day you'll look back and say "Wow, I can't believe I used to drink all that soda" or "I can't believe I never ate beans!"

If you've been reading these, I hope you've made a few changes in your lifestyle. I definitely have. And since my post about sleeping, I've gone to bed before 11pm every night. High five for me.

Homemade Bruschetta

Twice in the past week, we've made homemade bruschetta and boy, oh boy, is it good. It's so simple, so fresh, and so yummy. Give it try!

The Recipe: Tomato Bruschetta

What you need:
3-4 medium sized tomatoes
1 small/medium onion
1 clove of garlic, chopped or minced
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1-2 tbsp olive oil
dash of salt
1 regular size baguette or loaf of French bread

Combine all ingredients (except bread) in a medium bowl. Slice the bread into 1/2 inch thick slices. Arrange bread on a cookie sheet and broil on 400˚ for 2-3 minutes (it's quick!). Take bread out of the oven and arrange on a plate. Place a spoonful of the tomato mixture on top of each piece of bread. Enjoy!

See? Quick AND easy! We tried it on French bread the first time and used a baguette the second time. I think I like the French bread a little better, but both ways were delicious. We have a lot of tomatoes and basil, so this was a great way for us to use them in something besides salsa or tomato sauce!

Support your neighborhood entrepreneurs

My college friend, Teenie, visited us over the weekend. We filled our days with fun, summer activities, including visiting a lemonade stand. Here's how it went:

"Hey! Look, they're selling lemonade. Let's stop."

Rolling down the window as we stopped at the lemonade stand being run by what appeared to be 4 little boys.

Me: "Are you guys selling lemonade?"

"Yeah! You've gotta try this, though." As he holds up a half-empty Gatorade bottle.

Me: "What is it?"

"Half lemonade/half Gatorade."

Hmmmm, skeptical.
Me: "Ok! How much is it?


$1!!!!!???? What happened to 25-50cents? Inflation?

Me: "Ok, Give us 2!"

"Ummmm, we don't have enough left."

Me: "Ok, how bout one of those and one regular lemonade."
As I look at the full pitcher of yellow lemonade. Somehow I get handed a glass of pink. Not sure where it came from.

I hand them my 2 dollars and say, "Are you guys all brothers?"


Me: "Friends, then?"


I thank them and we drive away.

Teenie: "Um. I think that one with the long hair was a girl."

Me: "What!? Really?" Gosh, I hope not.

And even though the Gatorade was little more than watered down Gatorade and I said something that may have been extremely embarrassing, I'm still glad we stopped. And hope they made more than our 2$.

Support your neighborhood entrepreneurs!

Health Challenge Tip #8

#8: Get some sleep.

Turn off the computer and go to bed, for pete's sake. Yes. I'm talking to you. And to myself, for that matter. Remember in February when I did the Sleep Challenge? Yeah, about that. I didn't do so well then, and I'm not doing all that well now! But...

Starting yesterday, I decided to make a schedule. I figured if my day was written out for me, I'd be more likely to stick to it. So far, so good. I went to bed at 10pm last night. Got up at 6am. 8 hours.

Don't pretend you didn't know sleep was good for you. Why do you think babies do it so much? It's important for your body to shut down and rest for several (7 or more) hours so you have the energy you need to run around after your kids (or run around after your coworkers). Sleep is pretty much just as important as food and water. So get some!

Remember when your baby was born, everyone said, "Nap when your baby naps!" And you thought, yeah, yeah, I need to clean the house. Turns out they were right! Did you know that sleeping even helps you lose the baby weight? Yep. It's true. Women who sleep for at least 7 hours a night are more likely to lose weight than those who don't! If you think it's impossible to get sleep with a newborn...again, nap when your baby naps! (I didn't do this as much as I should have when Sweet P was born. Kicking myself for that now.)

Sleep is just about the easiest thing you can do to get healthy. Getting enough sleep also helps keep sickness at bay (think about how bleeechhh you feel after a bad night of sleep). So when you tell your kiddos how important sleep is so they'll go to bed, remember that it applies to you too! And get some sleep!

"Let them eat poop"

Or was it cake?

Ugh. Just thinking about my morning yesterday makes me gag a little.

Guess what Sweet P learned just in time for my birthday?

Our sweet, scrumptious (nearly) 15 month old figured out how to take her diaper off. It was a cloth diaper with velcro tabs, so I don't think it was terribly difficult to figure out. And she sleeps sans clothing (No longer, I tell you, NO longer) since the dormer gets H-O-T, hot.

Yep. Took it off. And as I walked upstairs to get her out of bed, I knew. I knew immediately. The smell was terrible.

So I braced myself for the sight that was mere feet in front of me.

And there she was. Happy as a clam. With it on her hands, on her mouth (gag), and all over feet. Staring up at me as if to say, "Happy Birthday, mama."

Health Challenge Tip #7

Post #200!
#7: Exercise.

Oh please. Like you didn't know this was coming. It's practically a given.

I'll be honest. Since I stopped teaching fitness classes, my exercise level had dropped to an extreme low. As embarrassing at that might be, it means I see eye to eye with those who find it hard to carve out time to workout. We no longer have a gym membership so finding time (and means) to workout can be a challenge.

That said, thank goodness for the invention of a stroller. Take your kiddo(s) for a stroll for an arm and cardio workout. And if you have a jogging stroller, you can attempt to run with your child. Let me share a little secret with you, though, about running with a stroller. Hills? Not the same while pushing a stroller. Pretty sure I was running in place trying to get up the hills near our house. I wiped my brow in relief that no one saw me looking like a hamster in a wheel, trying to get up some of those hills. Keep an eye on your kiddo though, mine threw a hat I loved to the wind while I was running and I didn't find it on my back track.

Kids too old to sit in a stroller? Have them ride a bike along with you as you walk/jog/run or pull them behind in a wagon.

Don't like walking alone? Enlist a friend to walk with you. Sweet P and I walked almost 4 miles! around a lake yesterday with our friends K and L. It was sort of on accident, since L lost her hat (do you see a theme here?) and a shoe! and we had to make another lap to find them. But once I got home, I was glad we went around again. Gotta love accidental exercise!

And if all else fails, turn on some music and dance the day away. Your kids will love it (and so will you). Plus, you'll get an ab workout from all the laughter that comes with watching each other dance around.

Seriously, though. Get some exercise. If possible, do it with your kids. Seeing you physically active (and liking it), tells them it's important to get moving (and that it can be fun). Our kids aren't active enough these days (and neither are we). The benefits of physical activity are endless and include having more energy, sleeping better at night, keep sickness at bay and improving your mood! So get your rump moving. Your body, your mind and your well-being (and even your family) will most definitely thank you.

Challenge: I'm aiming for at least 30 minutes a day (which is what is recommended, how many of us really get that?). What are you aiming for?

Health Challenge Tip #6

#6: Eat at home.

This is a tough one for me. I was raised in a family who ate out at least once a week (twice or three times most weeks). Between brunch after church, Peter Piper Pizza Wednesdays and Pizza Hut Fridays, we ate out a lot. The Farmer's family? Did not.

When we moved to Des Moines (only one month after our wedding), eating out seemed like the thing to do. 1) We wanted to explore our new city! Trying new restaurants seemed like a fabulous idea. and 2) We didn't know anyone. Going out to eat gave us the opportunity to be around other people! Even if we didn't know them. But we quickly realized that with neither of us having a job (we didn't get them until after we moved), eating out was not a good idea. So we curbed the habit. Sort of.

I like to eat out (ask Gammie, Auntie Rosita and Auntie Kannon, they do too). I can't help it. If I had it my way, we'd order pizza every night. Just kidding. But it's what's always in the back of my head on Friday nights (so I usually end up making my own). I suppose it's from eating out on the weekends during childhood, but I know it's neither healthy nor good for the wallet.

So want to save money and your health? Stop eating out. This goes along with the fast food post, but eating at home lets you see what's going in your meals (eating at home doesn't mean ordering take out!) and you spend a lot less than you would at a restaurant. I figured out that I can make two large calzones and a small pizza (from one recipe of dough) for less than $5. If we ordered pizza it'd be close to $20 and there's just the two of us! I can't imagine what large families are spending on eating out.

Restaurants usually use way more sodium than you would at home and many meals are full of fat and lacking good foods like whole grains and veggies!

Eat at home and eat together. Your kids will thank you for it (maybe not today, but they will). So my challenge for you is to keep eating out for special occasions or social outing with friends. In a perfect world, I'd like to eat out once a month. So I hope you'll strive with me, to eat out less and eat at home as a family more. It'll be hard, but it'll be worth it.


Can I just tell you how much I Lover (with a capital L) hummus? I do. Very much. And not just as a dip. Hummus makes the perfect filler for a sandwich. Yum-o-yum. I'd be salivating while writing this if I wasn't eating one of these sandwiches at this very moment!

If you don't like hummus, I'm sad for you. But if you do, try out this recipe for homemade hummus (much better than that store bought stuff, and you know what's going in).

I'm not sure what I haven't shared this with you before. It's good stuff.

The Recipe: Hummus

2 cans (or 2 1/2 cups cooked) garbanzo beans
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 c olive oil
1/4 c lemon juice (add more if necessary)
1 tbsp tahini

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Serve!

Sometimes I add the olive oil a little bit at a time until I get the consistency I'm looking for or you can do this with the lemon juice. Sometimes I like it thick, other times I like it creamier. It's perfect for dipping veggies or pita wedges. And sandwiches!

Hummus sandwich
2 slices whole wheat bread
2 tbsp hummus
3-4 pickle slices
2 slices tomato
handful of spinach
1 small mushroom

Chop the mushroom into thin slices. Spread hummus on both sides of the bread, add tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms and pickles. Put it together and let the noshing begin.

This is a great, healthy alternative to peanut butter and jelly or grilled cheese (our options are limited as vegetarians!). Yum. Well, what are you waiting for?

PS. I would have posted a picture, but I finished off the sandwich by the time I finished this post. It was just that good.

Veggie Kabobs

Since we're starting to get more vegetables from the garden, I decided it was time to up the ante in the meal department. I thought and thought about what to make and kept going back to veggie kabobs, so WA-LA! veggie kabobs.

First, I had to locate and dust off our indoor grill. We got it as a wedding gift and I'm embarrassed to say we've never used it (but, hey! we've only been married 2 years. Not bad, right?). I then had to locate the directions (because you know they are NEVER with the item, at least not in my world) and we got it going.

I made a marinade for the veggies to soak in for an hour beforehand. Looking back I wish I'd let them soak longer, like overnight, but they were still fab (because if they weren't I wouldn't be sharing them with you).

Recipe: Veggie Kabobs

What you need (serves 2 peeps):
12 mushrooms
6 shallots (chopped in large chunks)
1 medium zucchini (chopped in chunks)
1 medium summer squash (chopped in chunks)
3 yellow pear tomatoes
3 brown berry cherry tomatoes
1 small eggplant (peel and chopped)

1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp teriyaki soy sauce
2 tbsp Kraft Asian Toasted Sesame dressing/marinade
1 tsp Tastefully Simple garlic pepper seasoning
1 tsp Weber Kick'n Chik'n seasoning

Soak 6 wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes. Prepare marinade in a large, shallow dish with a lid (Pyrex glass cake pans with lids work well). Place vegetables in marinade and toss until well coated.
Place in fridge, for 1-2 hours (or overnight), tossing the veggies every 15 minutes (don't worry about tossing if left overnight). After 1-2 hours, place veggies on a wooden skewer, alternating vegetables so that each skewers has several of each veggie. Place skewers on preheated grill. Cook for 10 minutes, turning skewers every so often and lightly brushing with leftover marinade.
You can also grill any leftover vegetables you have. Remove skewers with tongs and serve with rice (BROWN!).

Yum. Despite waiting for the marinade to soak in, this was really a quick and easy meal. Remember that we used an indoor grill, though. It takes about 10 minutes to preheat.

What I learned: Chop the shallots! As you can see from the pictures, I did not. And they were not done enough to be the kind of onion I eat. I don't eat raw onions, and those were still pretty raw. So chop them! To ensure they get cooked. Ours got thrown back on the grill (chopped) and we gobbled them up later. Make sure to peel your eggplant, if not sometimes the skin gets tough when it's grilled (depending on the type of eggplant).

Play with the marinade. I made mine out of things I had on hand. I was out of lemon juice or would have thrown that in, too.

Serve it with brown rice or whatever other carb you have on hand. We eat a lot of stir fry around here so rice seemed like the obvious choice (and I had it in the leftover section of the fridge).
Since we don't eat meat, we often forget we have a grill. After these, I'll remember and with an indoor grill, you don't have to wait for nice weather to do it!

Health Challenge Tip #5

#5: Eat the real stuff.

Eat real sugar! There. I said it. Now before you say WHAT?! I'm not saying to eat 40 tbsp of it a day (although lots of people do). I'm saying to stop using all that fake stuff and go with real, honest-to-goodness sugar. Use raw if you want to, but stop using Splenda, aspartame, dextrose, any artificial sweetener out there. Aspartame pretty much slipped through the cracks onto the market (from what I've read, a lot of sketchy stuff that went on with that process).

While artificial sweeteners seem like the logical choice because most have zero calories, they are made from chemicals. Yes. Chemicals and because most are relatively new, we have no idea what these chemicals are doing to our insides.

Telling yourself that you're doing your body a favor by eating a sugar-free (artificial sweetened) piece of candy, cake or bowl of ice cream is a lie. Quit lying to yourself. And quit eating stuff that's sugar-free. Our society likes to get on a kick with fad diets so OF COURSE food companies jump on it and say ooooh, everyone's eating sugar-free these days. Let's make sugar-free EVERYTHING. The problem is, it isn't natural or sweet free. You still crave more sweets and don't even get me started on what artificial sweeteners do to the digestive system.

How do I know? I've been there. I was a sugar-free faaah-reak until I got preggos with Sweet P. Then I read Skinny B*tch, Bun in the Oven and tossed all my sugar-free stuff out the window...including my gum! I still don't chew gum like I used to and avoid artificial sweeteners.

Whoa there. I didn't say to run straight for the processed food aisle. There's not much real sugar in those either. Most are loaded with high fructose corn syrup (not to be confused with sucralose...table sugar) and other sweeteners like maltodextrin and dextrose.

So when it comes down to baking, use the real stuff. Raw, powdered, white or brown. Or better yet, substitute NATURAL sweeteners like honey, maple syrup (the real stuff, not that pancake syrup) or agave nectar.

Of course, you're better off eating NEITHER, but if you just can't ignore that sugar craving (and an apple just ain't cutting it). Eat the real stuff. Chances are it'll leave you satisfied and not reaching for more because your body feels gipped. All sugar-filled food should be eaten in moderation and in minimal amounts, choose healthy options like fruit or whole grains instead.

Wave bye bye to fake sugar. Your body and your digestive system will thank you.

Mama Mia

I got to thinking the other night about the kind of mom I wanted to be and how I could be a better mom (I wonder that a lot). And starting thinking about my mom (Gammie). And I suddenly realized that there was one thing I never want Sweet P to question. Because I, myself, have never questioned it.

I look back and look and look and look some more, nope. I never once questioned it. Not through all the fights or guilt-trips or chores or "I told you so's". And knowing that, never having to question it makes me understand why I know I can go to my mom no matter what. I can call her at 3am and she'd answer (no questions asked). I know that even though she threatened to throw us out on the street if we did XYZ, that she wouldn't (mainly because we did XYZ and she still talks to us and we've never been thrown out on the street).

In 30 years, I hope Sweet P looks back and realizes she never questioned it, either. She just knew. Through all our trials and tribulations, I never once questioned whether my mom loved me. I just knew.

Thanks, mom.

cutie patootie

Napping in her tent with her baby at Nana's

Ooh, I love the new things Sweet P is learning daily. Here are a few things that make me smile and make my heart melt:

: If you ask her to throw something away, she will. Just make sure it isn't something important.
: She knows how to say bye bye. Recently, however, she's started to say "Bye Bye Doo Doo!" We've realized she is mimicking the Farmer when he tells her "Bye Bye Boo Boo." So everywhere we go, it's "Bye Bye Doo Doo!" Such a hoot.
: She gives hugs and kisses on demand! (and spontaneously, too!) And just today pursed her lips!
: While blowing bubbles with daddy she learned to say "bubble" like a champ.
: She can point to most animals and tell you the sound they make when she sees them. Her favorite? Elephant.
: Put on music and watch her dance. The kid LOVES music and can't help but move to the beat. Love that.

Where did my baby go?

NOTE: As you can see my banner is under construction. You didn't really think I'd leave it like that did you?

Health Challenge Tip #4

#4: Learn to love beans.

Yes, my dears. If you don't love beans, you should. Because beans are fun and fun is good. (Dr. Seuss if you will).

Beans are such a fabulous food item. And can be put in just about anything. They are full of fiber, protein, vitamins and other goodness that makes your body go "Mmmm." Beans aren't always a "perfect" protein, but pairing them with grains like rice (BROWN!!!) or couscous make a "perfect" combination.

We get the question "What do you eat?" A LOT in our life as vegetarians. Well, we eat a lot of beans. Here's how:

Main dishes:
Lentil soup
Pinto beans (cooked with garlic and jalapenos) with tortillas
Black bean tacos
3 bean chili with kidney beans and chili beans
Chickpea nuggets
Black bean burgers
Vegetable soup w/ garbanzo beans
Lentil tacos
Tostadas w/ mashed pinto beans
Lentils w/ curry

Side dishes:
Pinto beans w/ enchiladas

Garbanzo beans on top of salad
Black beans on top of salad
White beans on top of salad
Black beans on nachos

Rarely do we eat beans as side dishes, because they are usually part of the main meal. I'm not trying to convert you to vegetarianism, but replacing meat every once in awhile is a great way to get other proteins. Beans are a healthy and cheap substitute for meat. Try a meatless Monday and incorporate beans into your diet. And if you don't like beans, try them again!

So what's for lunch today? A hummus sandwich. See? Beans can even replace lunch meat! We don't eat peanut butter and jelly ALL the time.

What do you make with beans?

Health Challenge Tip #3

The Health Challenge logo is, of course, courtesy of Auntie Rosita. Don't you love those pigtails!?

#3: Ditch Fast Food

First of all, gag. That's what I have to say when I think about fast food, how it's prepared and what's in it! It's not good for you OR your kids! (or your wallet for that matter, no matter how cheap it is!).

Upon knowing that we'd be raising Sweet P as a vegetarian, my mom once said, "Oh sad, she'll never get a happy meal." My first thought? Phew!

Ditching this habit is a bit easier as a vegetarian since most fast food joints don't serve much (unless you want to eat fries and a milkshake...on second thought...kidding). Subway and Quizno's are our options and while Subway might serve healthier options, it's still not an ideal meal. And don't go pretending that Quizno's sandwich is healthy (because they have some of the worst!).

Want to talk about what's in those fast food meals? Probably not, but let's do it anyway. Chicken McNuggets are made out of 38 ingredients. Yep. 13 of those ingredients? Corn. Corn-starch, corn-fed chicken, yellow corn flour, partially hydrogenated corn oil, etc. 56% of it is corn! It should be a Corn McNugget, but it still wouldn't be good for you. You probably don't want to know the rest of those ingredients. And just because it says no trans-fat doesn't make it good for you.

Ok, so let's talk convenience here. Really, what needs to happen is planning. If you know you're going to be out and about and might pass meal time, plan ahead and pack a lunch. Trust me, your kiddos will love a packed lunch as much as they do a happy meal (they usually just crave the toy inside anyway..and really? do they need another happy meal toy? I thought not.). So pack your kids and yourself a lunch. If your kids help, it'll be a fun activity for them and they see what's going in so no complaining later ("you packed it!").

Same thing goes for traveling. Pick up a small (or large cooler depending on the size of your family) and pack it full of healthy snacks and small meals for your drive. If you're flying, opt for things that don't need to stay cold like apples, bananas, sandwiches and other items. (More on travel foods in another post).

And for pete's sake, don't get fast food and bring it home for dinner! Throw on some whole wheat pasta and serve it with olive oil and spices. It's just as easy as the drive thru and costs less (I promise).

Again, if this is an every day habit for you, start by leaving one day behind at a time.

The Best Salsa Ever

The Farmer posted on Facebook that this was the best ever, hence the name, so I thought I'd share it with you. We were so excited that all, but one of the veggie ingredients came from our garden! Sadly, avocados don't grow in Iowa. Use fresh tomatoes, do not use canned.

The Best Salsa Ever
2 medium tomatoes OR
10 cherry tomatoes, small yellow tomatoes or other type of tomato
1 avocado
1/2 medium onion
2 slices jalapeno (or more if you're brave!)
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
dash or 2 of salt

Dice tomatoes, avocado and onion. Chop jalapeno into small pieces. Place all veggies in a small bowl, add vinegar, olive oil and salt. Combine until evenly coated. Serve!

Easy, right? Yep. And you don't even need a blender! This chunky salsa is mmm-mmm good. Serve with it your favorite mexican dish or just eat it with corn chips. Make homemade corn chips by cutting corn tortillas into wedges, drizzle with olive oil and bake at 350˚ for 6 minutes. Ta-da!

Note: I used brown berry cherry tomatoes and yellow tomatoes.

Sweet Summer

Our sweet girl at our sweet cousin Anna's wedding.

Health Challenge Tip #2

Note: The Health Challenge is in no way, shape or form a diet of any sort. The first three letters of diet spell "die." Catch my drift? I'm simply trying to eat and live a bit healthier and thought I'd share it with you.

#2: Eat more veggies

This should be a no-brainer, but I think a lot of us are running around with our veggie count on ZERO (and that V8 stuff doesn't count!). Summer is the p-e-r-f-e-c-t time to enjoy fresh veggies. If you don't have a farmer's market at your disposal, look up what should be in season right now in your area and buy those veggies. Chances are they'll come from closer farms in your area and you won't be eating Holland peppers in Iowa.

And if you have the time and the space, plant your own garden! Find out what grows best in your area and plant a small garden. Start small and go from there!

Make sure you're kiddos are getting fresh veggies, too. A few ways to mix it up:
Veggie muffins (just mix them right in with the mix!)
Veggie lasagna (recipe coming soon!)
Eggplant or zucchini parmesan
Veggie wraps (just add hummus!)
Calabacitas: a simple side dish made out of zucchini squash, onions and cheese! (recipe coming soon!)

If you always have a side of veggies, your kids will start to expect it!

Note: Once those recipes have been posted, links will be posted.

Health Challenge Tip #1

Can you guess what it is? I bet if you're a soda drinker you can.

#1: Say bye bye to coke!

Soda, pop, coke, diet coke. Whatever you call it. Put it down and step away from it. I'm from the southwest and down there we call it coke, but in Iowa they call it something else (I can never remember which, soda? or pop?).
I understand that coke can become an addiction. But I don't really care. Stop drinking it! It's empty calories, it makes you crave more sugar AND your brain depends on it...You'll find that out once you stop drinking it. It's hard. It's really hard, but guess why? Yep,'re addicted! You'll have headaches when you stop, you're going through withdrawal!

Now. Don't think I forgot about you diet coke drinkers (mom, that's you!). Just because it's "diet" doesn't mean it's good for you. And really and truly, do you know anyone, ANYONE, who switched to "diet" coke and lost weight? Mmmhmm. I didn't think so. It's because fake sugar still makes you crave sugar and it still has caffeine which is what is happening when you get headaches. And boy howdy, don't even get me started on aspartame, splenda or other fake sugars.

While we're on the subject of caffeine, how about we throw coffee under the bus, too. Because to be honest, coke isn't a problem for me. I might have a Sprite here or there, but can't remember the last time I sat down and had a Dr Pepper or a Diet Coke. So, really this tip is just for you readers.

But coffee. Oh, dear, sweet coffee. How I will miss you. Frappes, frappachinos, lattes, coffee with cream and raw sugar. I love coffee in most forms: frozen, hot, name it. But I made a decision that July would be Health "CHALLENGE" month (it may extend into August since July is a 1/3 over already!) and this is my challenge and what a challenge it will be.

Harsh as it may sound, let's start slowly. If you're a pack a day (that's 6-pack...smoking's another story) kinda gal (or guy), start by knocking off one at a time. Going cold turkey might be tough if you have one periodically throughout the day. Take a look at which one you could toss and go from there. And replace it with, gasp! Water. Remember that? Drink it. Lots of it. Your body needs it and I promise you that coke you're drinking isn't giving your body the water it needs. It's actually making you need MORE water. Same with things like coffee and tea, so drink it up. Put a lime, a lemon or an orange in it if you just can't drink it alone.

If you're a morning coffee drinker like me, cold turkey might not be so hard. But trust me, it'll still be hard. I drive by Starbuck's or Fredrich's and get a tear in my eye (kidding, but only sorta).

So coke coke drinkers...are you with me? Let's do it. I can do it. And I know you can, too.

Home again, home again

jiggity jog.

Remember that rhyme?

Anyway, we're home and helloooo July! Don't you always feel like you need a vacation after your vacation? Especially when you come home sick without a voice? Yeah. Me, too.

I'm always a bit discombobulated for the first couple of days, so excuse me as we get our life back in order.

A few things from our trip:
We visited 3 states.
We drove through 7 states.
Went to a wedding.
Went to a bridal shower.
Wanted to spend the whole vacay swimming.
It rained all 6 days that we were in New Mexico.
The sun came out the day we left.
We went swimming twice.
I got sick on day 7.
The rain didn't ruin 4th of July (phew!).
Sweet P loves fireworks!
We drove through a rainstorm on the way home.
The Farmer wanted to get home for a soccer game.
He left our house key at his mom's house.
Luckily, our friend had a spare!
We got home safely.
The Farmer missed the game.

Pics and more stories to be posted well as Health Challenge Tip #1! Can you guess what it'll be? I bet Gammie can!