Personal Encouragement

Am I "On a Diet"?!

Veggies and dip
Veggies and greek yogurt dip

One of the questions people ask when they see (or hear) about my weight loss is:

"Are you on a certain type of diet? And what is it??!!"

No. I am not "on a diet".

From a health perspective (and considering that I was/am breastfeeding), slower weight loss is preferable. And I knew that with the amount of weight I wanted to lose, going at it 1 pound per week was going to take, well, what seemed like forever at the time. Ten months? Or longer? I could not imagine "dieting" for 10 months. (Remember, I really loooove food!!)

I knew that losing weight had to be done in a way that I could continue to do it, without giving up, for a long time. Preferably never, since I don't want to gain it back. ;)

Egg pizza
One day, I was craving pizza so I made a quick "egg pizza" for lunch with 2 scrambled eggs, pizza sauce, a serving of mozzarella cheese, and some turkey pepperoni. I made ones for the kids, too. They loved them!

So, I didn't cut out any foods or food groups altogether. Instead, I started counting calories to make sure I wasn't overeating (which I had been doing). I already knew what foods were good for me and what foods weren't so good. I'm a firm believer in variety and balance in eating. :)

I eat fewer potato wedges and more grilled fish at dinner. I stopped making most desserts except for special occasions -- which still ends up being 1-3 times per month. I love chocolate, but switched from lighter chocolates to dark chocolate only. Chai tea lattes are a treat/dessert, not a snack. Honestly, most desserts or junk food don't make it into my daily calorie allowance.

There is one "diet food" I've used: Greek yogurt. I probably won't continue to rely on it as a snack now that I don't need to lose weight; homemade yogurt is much cheaper.

My birthday spread!
My birthday meal earlier this month: Homemade pizza (a smaller "healthified" one for me!), fresh veggies, apple slices with cream cheese apple dip, tea, and an amazing chocolate birthday cake that Joshua and I made together!

Being aware of #1 What I am eating and #2 How many calories I am eating has been key to helping me make the right choices.

I also determined from the beginning that I was not going to "give up". I knew that in 10 months' time I'd feel discouraged and guilty and like a failure many times, but that if I were to succeed I would need to re-start as many times as necessary. I've "re-started" on probably every day of the week at some point. I think that having to "begin again" so many times actually has given me confidence. I know that one "bad day" won't ruin all my efforts. "Failure" is not when we mess up; failure is when we stop trying!

Channah in Ergo

My Ergo gets lots of use! Currently, it's how I get housework done when Channah (age 1) is fussy. After Yehoshua snapped this picture, I put my hair in a bun and we went on a 40-minute cleaning spree... which counts as exercise in My Fitness Pal, of course. ;)

I should probably do a separate post about how I manage to work in exercise and what my favorite activities are... :)

Sleep, Breakfast, and Calorie Counting

Salmon, eggs, and coffee for breakfast
Three fried eggs (240 cal.), 4 oz. salmon (169 cal.) and a cup of black coffee
= 409 calorie breakfast (20 g fat and 47 g protein)

Last year when I decided to get serious about losing weight again, I had a handful of healthful practices in mind that I tried to prioritize (or continue to prioritize). Ten months later, and 40+ pounds lighter, I'm ready to blog about it.

Top of my list: Sleep and breakfast.

We all know how important a good night's sleep is; study after study confirms just how much our bodies need sleep for us to be at our best and feel well. I used to skip sleep, get naps when possible, and just be tired most of the time. How did you think I managed to start this blog with 2 kids two-and-under? ;)

A few years ago, I really changed my sleep habits for the better. I stopped blogging late at night after everyone was in bed, and instead started going to bed on time or early. With two of our children being especially early risers (4:30 is nothing to them!), getting up "before the kids" has been impossible. This partially explains why, after cutting out the late nights, my blogging dwindled to basically nothing -- not to mention my email inbox and anything else computer-related.

As a result, I have felt healthier. I'm positive the full nights of sleep have boosted my weight loss and mood, as well. And now? I'm a big baby if my night involves less than 8 hours of sleep. I fight to make my early bedtime happen, because I want to feel rested in the morning! Do you know how much easier it is to be "a morning person" after 8 hours of sleep? It's a lot easier than after 5-6.

After sleep comes breakfast! I do not skip breakfast. Aside from the studies showing how important a good breakfast is for health and weight loss, I've learned something from my own weight loss efforts:

I have to "start over" a lot. A ton. I don't even know how many times I have gone to bed telling myself "I will start over tomorrow. I can do this!!"

Which brings me to... breakfast! I'm pretty sure if I were "graded" on how healthy my meals were overall, breakfast would rank at the top. My motivation and willpower is strong with a fresh day ahead.

Salmon, eggs, and coffee for breakfast
My salmon and eggs for breakfast -- a delicious combo!

I do vary my diet based on what we have on hand or were able to purchase affordably (for the most part). I know I've mentioned that one of the perks of Joshua's employment at a seafood company is discounted fish. I've been so spoiled!

One of the cases of fish we got last fall was 4-ounce salmon fillets, individually vacuum sealed, with a chili pepper-type sauce/marinade. The rest of my family didn't care for the sauce, but I found I loved this salmon. Since each piece was individually sealed, I could thaw out one for myself whenever I wished (I use the microwave to cook it).

For some reason I had one for breakfast one day (hey, like I said, my healthy-eating desires are strongest in the morning...) with some eggs. It was a delicious combo and filled me up until lunchtime!

So, I ditched my morning oatmeal for a while. We had 20# of this salmon, and that's a lot of 4-ounce breakfasts! I'm not tired of it yet, but I'm down to the last 6 pieces. I haven't decided what I'll do when it's gone. I may go back to oatmeal, or maybe I'll start doing veggie omelets. I'll probably try something and see how I feel.

How I feel is a good barometer for what to eat. With trying to lose weight, I was paying close attention to what I was eating. When I finished a day and felt energized and alert and just generally good that day, I took note of what I had eaten.

My coffee mug from Joshua
My cute coffee mug from Joshua with breakfast

I keep a food diary at My Fitness Pal, which makes it easy to keep track of what I am eating. It was like a light bulb moment when I realized that when I had a "perfect" day of good foods that made me feel great -- I could eat the same things the next day, too. Whether it was the specific foods or the times of day I was eating them, keeping a food log (which includes statistics about protein, fat, carbs, fiber, and sugar as well as calories) has been immensely helpful.

So, that is one of the reasons I've continued to have the same things for breakfast every day. Aside from, you know, having 20 pounds of salmon in the freezer. ;) I'm a big proponent of variety in my diet, but while trying to lose weight I tried to figure out what "worked" and then keep doing it.

I have lots more to write! I'll be back. :)

Find me on My Fitness Pal! If you're a member there (it's free), you can view my detailed food logs.

How to make perfect fried eggs -- I do this daily, 1 egg for Joshua and 3 eggs for me, with a dab of coconut oil. The eggs are perfect and my stainless steel skillet is a breeze to clean!

Willpower -- a book I got from the library. The chapter on dieting was enlightening! Check your library for it! (Disclaimer: I only skimmed the rest of the book. Read Catherine's review here.)

My breakfast oatmeal add-ins

My morning oatmeal
Oatmeal with coconut oil, cinnamon, and flaxseed

I've been mulling over the idea of blogging. More than once a week, I mean.

For months now, I've thought about doing shorter posts more often and just... writing. With pictures.

But weeks keep passing and I keep not blogging. Which is not all bad, since it means I've been sleeping 8-9 hours a night (I'm co-sleeping with Channah), I get to play outside all day when it's sunny, and the kitchen gets cleaned every night.

In the last 3 months I've also organized the whole house, kept the laundry caught up, went thrift shopping so all the kids are again in nice, non-stained clothes, made 3 dozen homemade birthday cards and a whole bunch of thank-yous, knocked out my mending pile, organized the whole house again, played piano just for fun, checked out 60 books from the library (not all for me, of course), lost 15 pounds, and did fun and educational stuff with the kids for hours on end (stopping only to throw a freezer meal into the oven for dinner!).

It's amazing how much I get to do when I don't blog about any of it and dinner's in the freezer. ;)

Anyway, on to the point of this post, which is: telling you about my current favorite breakfast.

I love oatmeal (and it's cheap). I've been making a pot of it every morning for our breakfast. Joshua eats his oatmeal (plus a hard boiled egg) before he leaves for work, and the children and I eat ours a couple hours later. I cook 4 cups of rolled oats for the 4 children and myself, and it's the perfect amount.

Oatmeal by itself isn't enough for me, so I've been adding in some yummy stuff and I must say, a bowl of this oatmeal is very satisfying!

I cook my oats with some salt added (very important since I haven't been adding sugar or honey to mine!), and then stir in ground flaxseed, cinnamon, and coconut oil. A full bowl of oatmeal served like this is about 500 calories and keeps me full for several hours.

Having the same things on hand for breakfast (and snacks and lunches) is one of the things that has helped me keep losing about a pound a week. Remember when I said I had some weight to lose? Well, I'm about half way there! Somehow it helps me control my love of food when I have a list of good choices for snacks (plus not buying junk or baking sweets!). :)

A post about basically nothing...

Pinto beans with all the trimmings
Pinto beans, with all my favorite toppings

It's a gorgeous sunny day today. Really, this whole week is turning out to be one perfect day after another. Mid 70's with bright sunshine... THIS is what I love about the Pacific Northwest. :)

We're having cooked pinto beans for lunch, and dinner will be grilled chicken tacos (chicken, beans, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, sour cream, and avocado on corn tortillas). I've been a little unmotivated in the cooking department lately... so instead of desperately trying to make nicer meals, I've been hanging out reading stories and doing crafts with the kids and Joshua comes home to grill for dinner. Or we eat something simple and cool. :)

My morning coffee setup...
My morning coffee, a birthday gift from Joshua

I'm supposed to be sharing a new recipe today... or writing about my schedule... or telling you about my dentist appointment. "Supposed to" -- meaning according to my schedule. I think I'll have to wait until the kids are all in bed for something that requires that much concentration, though!

We have a lot of things yet to do this week... hair cuts, doctor visits, yard work, cleaning, laundry. When did life become so full of... work?! At any rate, I need to go do some... I'll be back later tonight. :)

Kitchen cleaning inspiration (before and after videos)

Clean kitchen

I hate mornings when the kitchen is a disaster and I'm feeling 100% unmotivated to put forth the effort required to get things in order! (How is it possible for a home to require so much maintenance?!)

So if you watched my "kitchen tour" video and wished your kitchen was neat and tidy... this post is for you. :)

I took these videos a week ago, and today I'm feeling this same way. I don't know if it's the cold, drizzly weather, or just feeling worn out, but it sure would be nice to have an uninterrupted hour to clean the house... and then have it stay that way for a couple days. Just for once. :) I love my messy kids and busy life, but sometimes I feel like I'm spinning in circles! :)

So, to motivate myself... I took a video. And then worked really hard for a while... and took another video. :) Consider this your weekly off-topic post! ;)

Are you doing Spring Cleaning this year? (Or maybe Spring has already arrived where you live, and you've already done it!) I'm making note of things that need done and doing little bits here and there.

Shark vacuum

One thing I've done is washed the filters and parts for our vacuum cleaner. If I didn't already love this vacuum, I liked it even more after I washed the screens/filters, let them dry, and put it all back together. It's like brand new! Having a nice vacuum makes it easier to keep the floors clean, for sure. :) (We got our vacuum at Costco last year, and it includes extra hose/pipe/attachments for hard floors and upholstery. LOVE the hard floor attachment for the kitchen!)

Sunshine in my kitchen: Apple Walnut Oatmeal

Oatmeal with apples and walnuts

The non-baked version of baked apple oatmeal: freshly cooked cinnamon oatmeal drizzled with maple syrup and a splash of milk, topped with apple chunks and walnuts.

Oatmeal with apples and walnuts

The sun was shining so brightly, I had to take some pictures. Even though it was just oatmeal.

Yehoshua's drawing

Yehoshua (6) drew this little guy for me. I love it, because it reminds me of him.

It's not all sunshine and rainbows. Or homemade bread.

Moshe looks out the window...
Moshe looks out the window...

So, a sweet reader emailed me a chatty note this afternoon, and one of her comments was:

I noticed you bought bread. Your photos of your homemade bread look so yummy, I could not believe you bought bread.

I'm glad she noticed. :) I do love homemade whole wheat bread! I like most from-scratch things a lot better than the store versions. And many of these things -- from bagels to pita chips and everything in between -- are not hard to do.

But there are times... many times... when I have to make compromises. Needy children, an ill husband, or a needy ME, trying to balance home education, opening our home to others, and meeting all the "deadlines" life throws our way -- from doctor's appointments to filing taxes to paying bills. And more.

So much more than can be put into words on a screen.

It's never easy to balance it all. Not for me, not for anyone else.

I fight that battle of knowing that I can't "do it all", but still wanting to do more than I should.

I really have been trying to think of my time as a budget, just like our finances and my weight (ugh!).

Some weeks (many weeks, even most weeks) my "time budget" helps our household budget by doing things like making bread and using cloth diapers. Other weeks, I pull a few dollars from the food budget and buy something that helps my time stretch... for other purposes.

And that's completely okay. (My family doesn't even complain!) Because some days the kitchen looks like this:

And that's called Life at Home with Four Kids right now. Especially on dreary days. I have been doing better, a lot better (thank you all for your prayers these past months!). But that sun! It keeps hiding from me, and I wish it wouldn't. :)

Yehoshua (6) has been my sunshine this week. Yesterday he cleaned up the living room in an amazing fashion, calling himself "The Yehoshua Sweeper" when he showed me his finished work. ;)

Then, he decorated the kitchen with banners, got out the UNO cards, and made tea for us. Green tea for me, Sleepytime for himself. We played UNO with Eliyahu (5) while the two little ones napped. What a fun party! :)

Today, we're muddling through math and music practice, sweeping the kitchen floor (again... and again) and clearing dishes. I budgeted time for blogging, but not time for a shower. Yet.

There will never be enough time for me to do all my favorite stuff all the time. (Even including homemade bread, which only takes minutes and is so yummy. Truly.)

...but when I do? I love the chance to share about it here! :)

Helpful reading:

Routines to help the weary mom from Keeper of the Home (Stephanie)

Panel discussion on burnout and fatigue

Time management series from Money Saving Mom (Crystal)

New Year's Inspirations

Ferry ride from Seattle to Bremerton, WA
Ferry ride from Seattle to Bremerton, WA

I'm not sure how much resolve I have right now, but I am feeling inspired and I'll take that for sure! :) The sun really is shining brightly today, and I have a couple more "sunshine in my kitchen" posts planned for this week. :) I feel a LOT better than I did just 4-6 weeks ago. HalleluYAH!! :)

My younger sister Bonnie came to visit us for 10 days in December, and we enjoyed every minute with her! She flew from cold and snowy Ohio to a cold and rainy Seattle, but the sun did peek out a few times during her visit... and she has a very "sunny" personality so it was as if she had brought sunshine with her! ;)

Bonnie and Moshe
Bonnie and Moshe (11 months)

Having Bonnie here was like having an extra set of hands! We had dinner guests a couple evenings, took a couple days off to go out and do fun stuff (like thrift store shopping and actually going into Seattle), and had a number of days where we just stayed home and hung out. With Bonnie's help, the homeschooling, meals, cleaning, and basically everything went super smoothly and we had a blast. :)

Eliyahu and Ruth drinking kefir

Here is Eliyahu (4) and Ruth (2) drinking some kefir for breakfast, taken the first day Bonnie was here. Since Bonnie arrived late at night, we kept her arrival date a secret from the children (they just knew if was sometime "soon"), and they were surprised and delighted to wake up and find her at our house! :)

Yehoshua with his new violin

Knowing that Yehoshua (6) had wanted a violin for several years, Bonnie and Joshua and I pooled money together to get a 1/4 size violin for Yehoshua to start learning. We got the Franz Hoffmann Prelude violin outfit from Shar Music and it is a really nice Romanian-made violin for the price. I am a big believer in using quality instruments that can and will produce beautiful music, since the point of investing time and money into learning an instrument is to actually make beautiful music. :) Bonnie gave Yehoshua a number of violin lessons during her visit, and I am continuing his lessons now that she's gone.

Moshe during a ferry ride

Bonnie came here thinking that Ruth (2) would be the sweetest thing around, but little Moshe stole her heart! This was the second time Moshe got to meet/spend time with Bonnie, and they really hit it off! It probably helps that Moshe is napping better and generally in a pleasant mood... oh, and the toothy grins and kissable cheeks help too. ;)

Ferry ride!

We took a bus down to Seattle and then did some sightseeing, meeting up with Joshua when he got off work to get a ride back home. Bonnie had never been on a ferry, so we took the Seattle-Bremerton ferry for a fun adventure. It was a beautiful, sunny morning, and not too cold for December!

Pike Place Market

We enjoyed exploring at Pike Place Market, listening to live music, eating freshly-cooked doughnuts, sampling apples and pears, and generally just walking, walking, walking and taking in all the sights! :)

More "Seattle" posts (all with photos!):

Pike Place Market (and a whole lot more!)

Fun adventures in the Seattle area

Fun and frugal things to do in the Seattle-Tacoma area

Tips for frugal west coast living

Coming this week: (Yes, for real! I will be blogging!)

Berkey water filter giveaway! (Monday) Thanks to for hosting the giveaway of a Berkey Water Filter to a reader here!

Spiced Cranberry Apple Sauce recipe (finally!)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: TBA

Roasted Carrots and Potatoes recipe

Sunshine in my kitchen: TBA

Sunshine in my kitchen: A clean floor and busy helpers

A clean floor!

I am really enjoying having a washable floor under our kitchen table! Joshua bought me some Lemon Pine Sol which I have been using to clean the floors and bathrooms. It had been years since I'd used Pine Sol, and I didn't even know there were different scents, but I love this lemon one!

A freshly mopped floor always makes me feel glad. The boys are old enough to fold up the chairs for me so that vacuuming and mopping is quick and easy. When we all work together, things start looking better quickly!

Busy appliances

I'm also thankful for my kitchen appliances -- like the dishwasher and bread machine! When I took this picture, the dishwasher was cleaning our dishes and the bread machine was kneading some whole wheat bread.

Being able to take just a few minutes to load and/or start something and then have the machine finish the task is truly a blessing! My day and week goes so much better when I utilize appliances, like the bread machine, crock pot, and dishwasher, to their fullest extent. I've even tried a couple new crock pot recipes recently that we loved! I just have to remember to plan to DO THESE THINGS.

Smiley Ruth (2) has transformed this year from being a baby to being a little girl. When I call for kitchen helpers, she's the first to come running to clear the table or wash it!

When possible, Joshua's been providing me with several hours each week "to myself". Some of this time I've used for blogging (like right now!)... some has been for finally getting to some long-neglected task... and some has been used for planning. Planning what needs done for the week. Planning what meals we'll be eating. Mapping out on paper a routine, goals, and blessings.

I'm more productive in the mornings, but if I wake up without a "to do" list, I can end up wandering around aimlessly for hours. A list -- even an impossibly long one -- helps give me direction amid the craziness of energetic children. :)

What helps get your day off to a running start? :)

Sunshine in my kitchen: Apple slices with cream cheese dip

We got some organic Honeycrisp apples on sale at QFC for $0.99/lb! Joshua advised me to store them in the fridge. The fridge here is about 30% larger than our apartment's fridge was, so I have been enjoying getting to refrigerate "extra" stuff like that!

The super-cold, crisp, sweet apples were just amazing. I definitely should have bought more than 10 pounds. (What was I thinking? My children are little piggies!)

The easiest way to dress up fresh apple slices? Serve them with cream cheese apple dip. A quick 5 minutes is all it takes to make this dip, and it transforms regular old apples into a luxurious snack or dessert.

Cream cheese apple dip

Thank you all for the sweet comments on my last post! I am so blessed by your encouraging words and prayers on my behalf. I wish I could reply to each one, but, time will not allow that at the moment. Please KNOW that your words are a blessing to me, regardless!

Some of you have suggested I may be dealing with postpartum depression, SAD, or some other underlying issue. I hesitate to self-diagnose, but I also hesitate going to a medical doctor for a diagnosis. I have not been stuck in deep, deep despair, but feel more like I'm just... losing the struggle to fight against the current -- "the current" being my expectations PLUS the constant interruptions that children bring.

When I mentioned my perfectionist tendencies regarding blogging, I didn't mean that I want to try to be (or look like) a perfect person in my blog. My struggle is with feeling like a "good" blogger updates regularly with good content, and thus if I can scarcely manage one meager post each week, I am a failure as a blogger and if I'm going to fail then I may as well just quit! I know that's not right, and I know that attitude won't help me accomplish more OR feel better!

Sunshine, exercise, omega 3's, B-vitamin and iron supplements, fresh bananas and avocados, quality (and quantity!) time with my husband daily, and regular time in God's Word are some of the things helping to pull me along.

Cream cheese apple dip

And the blogging thing? Well! I truly have tons of photos and new recipes to share... but I think instead of expecting myself to have a perfectly-run blog where recipes are posted in-season and everything's just right, I'm giving myself permission to do things like... finally sharing my mom's pumpkin pie recipe even though Thanksgiving is over. :)

So... I'll be back tomorrow with the pumpkin pie recipe! :)


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