A Winter Harvest

The weather here in Michigan has been crazy this winter. In fact, beginning in November of 2015, it’s been unlike ever before.

Mild temperatures and very little snow is not really characteristic of Michigan, but definitely not something I’m going to complain about. At least as long as we don’t pay for this with a cold and snowy spring/summer.

One wonderful thing that we have been able to enjoy because of this change in the weather is an extended harvest from the garden. For one I was able to harvest peppers all the way through November and second, yesterday I was able to pick some kale which is still growing strong.

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Kale — the plant that just keeps giving. Thanks to the wonderfully hearty nature of this plant, I was able to make a batch of Italian wedding soup (check out my recipe at Simply Grateful Cooking – https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/deluxe-italian-wedding-soup/.

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What a gift, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Love Is In The Small Things

I had finished cleaning up the kitchen from dinner, packed Hubby’s lunch/dinner to take with him back to work, and was sitting on a stool at the kitchen island skinning chickpeas. Hubby came in and we chatted while he put his shoes on and got his coat. We’d spent maybe two hours together in the past 24 and he was leaving again for another 18 hours. We talked about nothing really, just catching up, filling each other in, trying to hold on to some time, dragging it out before he had to leave again.

Picking up his lunch to leave he finally noticed I was doing something. “What are you doing?” he asked.

“Skinning chickpeas for hummus.” I told him.

“Why?”

“Well, I read that if you leave the skins on the chickpeas when making hummus it can have a gritty texture. Removing the skins should give it a creamy, smooth texture and I thought you might like that better.”

He put his lunch down, came over and put his arms around me. “This is what makes you such a special wife.”

That really caught me off guard. There are so many things, little things I do every day that go unnoticed, yet I continue to do them because I know my family likes them. I don’t do them for recognition. I don’t do them so they’ll feel obligated to be grateful. I do it because that’s who I am and how I want to be. Having Hubby notice, but even more surprising actually appreciate my efforts and not scoff at them as pointless, was truly special. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that he doesn’t appreciate me, but when he sees me doing little things like this, he will usually tell me that I shouldn’t waste my time because my time is valuable too. Maybe so, but making the time to do these little things is what I do.

I don’t know that I’ll always have the time to skin chickpeas when making hummus, but doing things like this for my family is how I express my love for them every day. Slipping a slice of banana bread in Grace’s book bag as she runs out the door to her night class; giving Zeb a thermos full of hot soup in his lunch on a bitter-cold day; driving across town to buy Hubby’s favorite headcheese to make sandwiches for him to eat at work during his 4-day long stint he has every Monday thru Thursday; this is how I tell them I love them and I wouldn’t change this for the world, even if they never noticed.

This sudden appreciation was a bit out of character for Hubby. Perhaps it’s all the time we’ve been spending apart. It doesn’t really matter. All I know is this moment we spent together made spending the next hour alone in the kitchen after he left far more bearable. I finished the chickpeas, made my first recipe of hummus, and packed it away in the fridge so he could have some as a snack when he finally comes home again.

Hubby will be home tomorrow around 5 p.m. and doesn’t have to go back to work until the following morning at 7 — finally home for more than a couple of hours. He’ll catch up on his sleep and then we’ll catch up on spending some time together. Then, when he leaves for work again I’ll do my best to find a little thing that will remind him how much he’s missed, how much he’s appreciated, and how much I love him, and with any luck he won’t notice — he’ll just know, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Oh, by the way, if you’d like to try my first recipe of hummus, check out my post at Simply Grateful Cooking — https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/roasted-garlic-parmesan-hummus/.

Stocking The Pantry – Banana Bread in Jars

The time has finally come to begin restocking the pantry. Throughout the past three months tons of canned goods have been flying off the shelves. Boxes are filling up in the garage with empty canning jars and there are definitely some major gaps forming in various areas of the pantry.

Although I won’t be able to do anything about goods I can during the summer months from home-grown or locally grown produce for quite a few months, I can definitely work on canning projects that aren’t contingent on seasonal foods. There are a lot of these sort of projects.

This morning seeing as I had some bananas that were well past their prime, too ripe for freezing even, I decided to whip up a batch of canned banana breads. Check out my post at Simply Grateful Canning – Canning Banana Bread.

Only six of the seven made it to the pantry. I had to test one you know — it’s the law! Even so, six jars more in the pantry, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Technically This Wouldn’t Be Cheating, Would It?

Okay, so here I am firmly set in my resolve to lose a few pounds (something like 15) and sitting on the kitchen counter are piles of baking supplies that I never found time to use back during the holidays. I have them sitting there as a reminder that any time is a good time for baking, not just the holidays. Well, that was before I walked that lonely mile to the bathroom scale.

Still, being that all these ingredients were bought prior to my epiphany that I needed to lose this weight, and being that all these ingredients were bought for holiday baking and treats, technically I don’t think it would be cheating if I were to indulge myself. Yep, any excuse and I’ll run with it.

Regardless, I am not going to just freeze or store all these ingredients until next year or wait eleven months to try all the recipes I wanted this past holiday season. What I am going to do is try to control myself and bake/create in moderation. What’s the saying? Everything in moderation, including moderation. So today I caught up on a holiday chocolate that although a bit pricey because of the macadamia nuts, is well worth it. Check out my post at Simply Grateful Cooking for https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/01/26/chocolate-covered-macadamia-nuts/.

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The one saving grace with this particular recipe is I didn’t make them with my normal combination of chocolates. I love chocolate, but have far more restraint when it comes to milk chocolate than dark chocolate. This meant I ate one cluster and that pretty much satisfied me for another year, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

The Bathroom Incident

I sat on the edge of my unmade bed staring into the bathroom knowing what I had to do. For months I’d been avoiding it, many months, too many months. Excuses had been made time after time until finally there were no more excuses, no more getting around it, no more denying the inevitable.

Already my day had been full and it was only 8:00 a.m. I’d made breakfast for the kids, gotten them both off to school, done a 45 minute workout, put in a second load of laundry in the washing machine, and had one drying in the dryer, put the breakfast dishes in the dishwasher, taken out some meat for dinner and set it on the counter to defrost, and wrote three things on my daily to do list in the hopes it would motivate me to actually do them. Surely such a productive morning could be rewarded, surely this would warrant the governors reprieve from what I knew was waiting for me in the bathroom.

A new excuse — Hooray!

But alas, I knew this lame excuse would not be enough to thwart the guilt I would carry with me, as I had been for months, if I didn’t just bite the bullet and do what had to be done. It wasn’t like it was going to take me any time. In fact it would all be over in just seconds. The trouble was I didn’t want to face the ugly truth. It was far too easy to ignore the situation than to walk that lonely mile, or ten or so feet in this case, and deal with what was absolutely necessary if anything I did the rest of the day, week, or month was going to make any difference.

Yes, the time had come and as much as I really wanted to just shut the bathroom door, walk away, forget all about it, and go on living in blissful ignorance, I knew I just could not do it. Not and be able to look at myself in the mirror again.

Mirrors! That was all part of the problem. Every morning when I look in the mirror I see what I want to see. I have gotten very good at fooling myself, brainwashing almost, into believing that everything was fine and there was no reason to do it. No reason to rock the boat. But there were tell-tale signs everywhere beyond the fun-house mirrors I’d convinced myself were real that even if I wanted to ignore them, I couldn’t.

No, there was nothing I could do, nothing I could say, nothing I could dream up as a reasonable excuse to delay walking into the black hole that surely would destroy the false sense of complacency I’d spent months building, designing, engineering to justify my actions.

Slowly I slid my feet onto the cold floor and with my hands firmly on the bed, pushed myself to a standing position. Halfway there. Not really. Standing was surely not half the battle here. Actually it was just the first step to the many it was going to take to actually do this deed.

Sucking in a deep breath I closed my eyes and took a step. My feet felt like lead. The natural spring in my step was now nothing more than a mere dragging of cinder blocks across the floor. My heart began to race.

“Maybe I’ll have a heart attack before I get there,” I thought to myself. “Then I’d really have an excuse worthy of listening to.”

The cinder blocks dragged on, slowly closing the distance between me and my nemesis. Sweat began to stream down the back of my neck and drip into my eyes from my forehead. Why was this so darn stressful? People do it all the time. In fact, some people do it everyday and think nothing of it. Why oh why had I put this off so long? Why had I spent so much time trying to avoid this when I knew it would only make matters worse? Ignorance is a wonderful thing, until reality smacks you upside the head and tells you “You’re only hurting yourself.”

I crossed the threshold into hell — I mean the bathroom, and the cold ceramic tile made me wince. A mere pat on the back compared to the slap in the face I knew was waiting for me just a few feet away. Reaching the end of the road I stood staring aimlessly at the wall in front of me, refusing to look anywhere else.

Closing my eyes I sucked in one last breath of air and stepped up with one foot and then the other. Firmly positioned at my destination I squeezed my eyes tighter, willing them to glue themselves shut. No luck. I opened my eyes and looked up, then to the right, then to the left. I looked everywhere and anywhere I could except where I needed to look — down.

For hours (actually minutes, but it sure felt like hours) I stood there, enjoying every last-minute of life as I knew it, as I had convinced myself it was okay to be, before I finally let out the breath I’d been holding and looked at my feet. There it was. I could no longer go on telling myself nothing had changed. It was right there in front of me, in black and white — literally.

How could this have happened? How could I possibly have let things get this far out of hand? Panic began to set in. How was I ever going to fix this? It was worse than thought, worse than I imagined, although to be honest my alternate reality had really convinced nothing was wrong so thinking and imagining were rarely, if ever, done.

I jumped back onto the hard floor and quickly retreated back to the bed. It was done! I’d finally done that which I hate doing the most. That which causes me more stress and anxiety than it should because I put it off rather than deal with it. That which in order for any changes I make to mean anything needs to be faced and addressed. It was over and now I could move on, make plans, deal with it. None of this gave me any comfort. No, the writing was right there on the wall, well not exactly the wall but close, and it was time to face the music.

Yep — 155! That’s what the scale said. ONE FIVE FIVE! ONE HUNDRED FIFTY-FIVE.  ONE WITH TWO FIVES AFTER IT. FIFTY PLUS FIVE PLUS ONE HUNDRED. TWO HUNDRED LESS FORTY-FIVE. ONE HUNDRED, FIVE TENS, AND FIVE ONES.

My heart was in my throat. Sure the holidays had been full of wonderful food and lots and lots of sweets, but that’s what the holidays are for. But this has started long before the holidays were even a line on my to do list. I’d been ignoring the ever tightening jeans, the rolls that formed on my back between my bra straps, and the ever-increasing chins that formed when I lowered my head toward my chest (actually lately I’m not sure I even have to lower my head for this to happen!).

Yes, I’d finally gotten myself back down to the gym and was making great strides at maintaining a regiment, adding more reps, increasing the weight, and getting my heart rate going three or four times a week — but this was almost too much to bear. How was I possibly ever going to get back into shape, lose the weight, have the will power not to eat chocolate, sweets, sugar — basically everything I love to eat and cook with. No, this was just too much for any one person to deal with.

So without looking back into that horrid place that houses that tortuous contraption called “a scale,” I threw on some clothes, grabbed my coat and keys, opened the garage door, and got in the car. There was only one thing that was going to change my mood, give me hope, make that ugly memory of what will be forever referred to as “the bathroom incident” forgotten. I tore out of the driveway, flew down the street (stopping only when absolutely necessary), and headed to the hairdresser.

Yep, nothing like cutting off 8 inches of hair to bring that scale down an ounce or two. Hey, and if your hair is really thick like mine, you might actually be looking at nearly a whole half pound. Then, on my way home I stopped off and bought myself a candy bar to celebrate. No point in letting my well-intentioned efforts go unrewarded now, is there?

So, that was my morning. How’s yours been? I’m home now, planning on how to continue making all the sweet concoctions I want to share with the family and somehow be able to show restraint and not eat them myself, and working on menus of salads, yogurt, cottage cheese, and fresh vegetables for myself while the family still gets to enjoy loads of mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables in cream sauce, and other gazillion calorie entrees that can no longer be on my plate. But I’m not bitter. No, I got myself in this mess and it’s up to me to do the time and get myself out of it.

I sure am hungry though. What I wouldn’t give for a fresh slice of garlic cheese bread right about now — but instead I’m going to go make a fresh salad for lunch, and for this I am (sort of) — Simply Grateful.

Farewell To The Holidays – The Twelfth Day of Christmas

On the twelfth day of Christmas, the last until next year,

I reflected on the season filled with hope and holiday cheer.

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A bit late, but still relevant — the holidays are finally over and the transformation of the house from festive and bright back to our normal comfort zone has begun. Every Christmas season is filled with ups and down, successes and failures, joy and even sometimes sorrow as we try to make each holiday better than the last. This struggle to keep up and surpass what we experience every year can be overwhelming and add more stress to an already stressful situation. That being said and knowing this to be absolutely true, doesn’t stop me from falling into the Christmas trap every November and December.

This year I nearly gave up and in to the pressures of the holidays, threatening to ruin what can be and should be the most wonderful time of year for the entire family. Sure I’d love to believe that all year we should carry the love and magic of Christmas in our hearts and demonstrate this in our actions, but it is not something I believe can be done. Some people hold the magic longer, some manage to keep it strong inside of them, but there is only one time of year when people are a little kinder, a little more giving, and full of more hope openly without inhibition. In a perfect world this could be maintained 24/7 – 365, but alas perfect the world is not. Life is demanding and that is why I think it is so important not to lose focus during the holidays, although I can’t say that I am always successful.

Still, now that the holidays are over, there is a certain air about the house that continues to be refreshing and comforting. The holidays enter with a bang filling us with expectation and anticipation and then leave us quietly as wrapping paper is discarded, presents are put away, decorations are stored, leftovers are consumed, and family and friends fall back into their “normal” routines. We spend two months preparing for and enjoying the holidays and then the next ten months recovering. This recovery period is when I like to reflect on the holidays. It is this time that gives us the opportunity to really appreciate what we have and relish in the memories of moments that will help to keep Christmas alive in us until next year.

It takes me several weeks to untransform the house from “The Christmas House,” back to our home, and some years I find myself literally throwing decorations into boxes just to get the job over with. The minute I clean an area and clear away every sign of Christmas, leaving it refreshingly bare, I am filled with a certain excitement to have every inch of the house as clean. It takes a lot to contain the excitement I feel as ornaments are wrapped, trees are disassembled, and lights are unplugged and boxed. Saying farewell to all these symbols and reminders of Christmas for another year, allows me to miss them so that next year when they are pulled out, I appreciate them and once again am filled with their magic.

The next couple weeks I will be working on putting the decorations away, catching up on cleaning that kept being put off, and dreaming of what next year’s holidays will hold. After that, it will be time to start thinking of spring, planting the garden, and summer canning, but that is still months away. Winter has firmly made its mark here in Michigan, with bitter cold temperatures, fierce wind-chills, and snow piling up on the ground and roof tops.

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Today is a day for snuggling under a comfy quilt, sipping a steaming hot cup of cocoa, and counting my blessings, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

The Eleventh Day of Christmas

On the eleventh day of Christmas, poppy seeds were on my mind

So a recipe for bread I had to find.

When I was 18, I moved out of the comfort of my parents home and into my first apartment. I had no roommate, no boyfriend, no one to share the bills or the chores. Every responsibility rested solely on my shoulders, including the cooking.

Growing up my mother made dinner nearly every night, but my time in the kitchen was quite limited. There were no cooking lessons from mom or afternoons spent learning the basics of cooking from either of my parents. Any cooking lessons I received came from my home economics teacher, Ms. Mazzola, when I was in seventh grade. I remember learning to make zucchini bread, blueberry muffins, and learning the basics of how to use a measuring cup, oven, and reading a recipe. Beyond that, I was self-taught.

Moving out on my own I thought I knew everything, but learned very quickly, I truly knew nothing at all. Beyond budgeting money, keeping my apartment clean, and laundry, there was also the new responsibility of being solely responsible for feeding myself. Money was tight, very tight, with more than half my yearly income going to rent, utilities, and insurance, so eating out was not an option. That first year I ate a lot of toast, eggs, and jelly sandwiches.

By my first anniversary of being on my own, I had changed jobs, increasing my salary substantially, moved into a new apartment where more utilities were included in the rent, and began teaching myself how to cook. During the first year I did learn how to cook a roast, can applesauce, and make cheesecake, but still my cooking skills were in great need of improvement. So, with a little more money to play with, I began collecting cook books.

Four years later I had more than 100 cookbooks, had learned how to cook many exotic dishes along with tons of home-style meals, and had taught myself how to can. It was an exciting and enlightening journey, one I reflect on warmly.

It’s been 28+ years since I moved out on my own and started cooking and a good portion of the cookbooks are gone (I copied the recipes I liked from most) and now I utilize the tried and true books I love and kept. I still have a soft spot for cookbooks, in fact, I think I truly like them better than researching recipes on the internet. Although there are some awesome recipes on the internet, it is terribly frustrating when I try a recipe that has obviously not been tested.  I ran into this when I first started playing around with mixes-in-jars and tried filling mason jars only to find that unless I had a jar that held 6+ cups of dry ingredients, it wasn’t going to work. News Flash! A quart jar only holds 4 cups packed dry ingredients.

There are definitely those recipe sites where all the recipes are tested, but sometimes I like to go rogue and try something that maybe can’t be find on one of those. This is when I really need to be careful and often need to rely on the experience and lessons I’ve learned throughout my years of cooking. I am certainly no expert and have had my share of failures — more than my share probably — but with failure comes a lesson and with a lesson comes knowledge and that knowledge can be far more beneficial than when everything turns out as written.

During the holidays Hubby’s mother used to make an Eastern European rolled poppy-seed bread that Hubby really enjoyed. Now that she is older and not able to really make these types of things anymore I decided to see if I could make something similar for him that he would enjoy just as much. None of my cookbooks had anything like this, so to the internet I went. I found several recipes, all basically the same and set to work.

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After I’d mixed the dough for the bread portion, I found I had something just slightly thicker than soup — nothing like the dough that was described. Rather than throw it out and start from scratch, I increased the amount of flour and after 3+ more cups of flour, had a dough that was ready for proofing. From that point everything went good and in the end, I had a poppy-seed bread that Hubby said was perfect. If you’d like the recipe, check it out on Simply Grateful Cooking, Poppy Seed Bread.

Honestly, having the recipe not work out worked out for the best in the end. Seeing as I had a ton of dough to work with, I decided to try making some fruit, cinnamon, and poppy-seed sticky buns with it. These were even better than the bread and something I could call my own. At first I thought I would cut the recipe in half so I wouldn’t end up with so much dough, but now that I have more than one thing I can use this dough for, I think I’ll keep it as is.

Whether it’s preparer error or creator error, some recipes are just not going to turn out no matter what you do. Being able to salvage a recipe and even expand on it is one of my favorite aspects of cooking, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

The Tenth Day of Christmas

On the tenth day of Christmas there was freezer space I found

And lots of pork and chicken that needed to be ground.

Remembering ‘not to sweat the small stuff’ is really important when something unexpected happens. This was really put to the test when I decided to grind some meat to fill our freezer.

Since we bought our meat grinder last summer I have enjoyed grinding all sorts of meat and filling our freezers with it. So when I noticed that the freezers were looking a bit empty, I knew it was time to pull out the old meat grinder and set to work.

The meat grinder we selected is a manual, heavy-duty one and quite heavy. Because of this, Hubby told me to attach it to our marble dining room table when I used it so it was at a height that was comfortable and where it could be attached to the end easily with clamps.

All summer and fall I did this without incident. I admit though that cranking the handle on our grinder certainly wasn’t easy. In order to get the meat to go through the blades easily, it had to be partially frozen, which certainly made the turning hard. The end result however made it well worth the effort.

Ground pork at the store goes for nothing less than $3.00 per pound but more often $4.00 per pound. I can buy boneless pork butts for $.99 a pound and grind it myself. I think a little bit of work is worth saving $2 to $3 per pound, especially when we use more ground pork than ground beef.

Well, the saying ‘All good things come to an end…’ took a shot at us on the tenth day of Christmas. As I was cranking away at the meat grinder yesterday the unthinkable happened – CRACK! Yep, I broke the corner right off our dining room table. And it wasn’t a clean break. Basically the corner crumbled into pieces, leaving me holding the meat grinder by the handle and shards of marble all over the dining room floor.

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I suppose most people would probably freak out if their table were to break as they were grinding meat, but after the initial shock, I just shrugged and moved my grinder to another corner of the table. What else could I do?

Before you start thinking “Wow, this girl really knows how to keep her cool” I should tell you, this isn’t the first break we’ve had in our marble table. When we tried moving it about 10 years ago to change the carpet in the dining room, the table broke in half. At that break I went into hysterics. Hubby assured me he could fix it and did. He attached a large sheet of plywood to the marble base and then placed the two pieces of marble on top of it and somehow cemented them together. Viola! It was fixed. This time however, I seriously doubted this table was salvageable.

Marble is not the best material for tables. We had a coffee, two end, and a couch table made of marble and every table cracked after just a few years. The cracks did not go all the way through, but they were cracked none the less. And this wasn’t from abuse or misuse. You might argue that perhaps this was from wear and tear, but if that were the case, then how can you explain the cracks in the bases as well. There certainly wasn’t any wear and tear on those. They just sat there, undisturbed, never being moved, never being touched. Nope, marble is definitely off my list of materials I will ever buy furniture made from again.

Hubby wasn’t upset at all when I told him about the break. In fact, he right away asked me if I wanted to get a new table. I flatly told him NO. We rarely entertain anymore so why spend money on something we don’t need. I’m more concerned with where I’m going to attach my grinder.

He broke up the rest of the table, which basically crumbled when he tried to pick it up, and we are left with the board he had put on the base years ago. Good enough!

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I threw a table-cloth over it and no one is the wiser. It’s slightly narrower than I’d like, so Hubby said he’d get a bigger sheet of wood and attach it to the top and we’ll be all set.

Even though my meat grinding didn’t go as smooth as I would have liked this time, I still have ten packs of ground pork in the freezer, and for this I am – Simply Grateful.

The Ninth Day of Christmas

On the ninth day of Christmas no more excuses, no more debate

The time has come to get back in shape.

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Working out is definitely not one of my favorite things to do, but I know that it is the only way to actually stay healthy. Eating right is part of it, but without physical exertion, your body cannot maintain.  A sedentary life opens the door for all sorts of terrible things including being over-weight, diabetes, depression, muscle deterioration, and aging. Granted you cannot reverse the aging process, but you can certainly slow it down.

Last year I stopped working out because of injury. Honestly though, I was looking for any excuse. I truly hate working out. I’ll go for a walk, work in the garden, or do housework, but none of that is enough. It takes weight training and really getting your pulse up for more than 20 minutes to make any difference.

So, my knee isn’t completely healed from the torn meniscus and my lower back is still weak (which it has been all my life), but I can no longer keep dwelling on this. It is time to get back down in the basement and push myself. No time, too many other things on my to do list, or promising to do it tomorrow are just excuses that I am no longer going to accept.

The ninth day of Christmas seemed like as good a day as any to make it happen. I put on my sweatpants, pulled my hair into a ponytail, put on my tennis shoes, and walked that lonely mile down the stairs into the cold basement. Thirty minutes later I crawled back up the stairs.

Thirty minutes isn’t bad for the first time in more than nine months to actually do a pull down or tricep extension or bicep curl or shoulder press. In fact, coming back up the stairs I could already feel my muscles aching. That’s a good sign — another reason I hate working out. How can pain be a good sign! I know, I know, there’s no other way to actually get back in shape other than to shock the muscles and make them do things they have never done before (or at least not done in too long a time).

The ninth day of Christmas and I’m on my way to getting back in shape. I’m not fooling myself into believing that in 30 days I’ll have that killer bod I always wanted or look and feel 20 again, but it sure would be nice to get a little more tone in my arms, improve my stamina, and really start getting some strength back into my knee. And hey, if I can lose a few pounds and stop having to squeeze into my clothes on a daily basis and have them actually fit me they way they should, I won’t complain.

Getting back on track to be healthy and fit, it feels good (emotionally at least, let’s not even think about how my body is going to feel for the next couple days), and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

The Eighth Day of Christmas

On the eighth day of Christmas to start the New Year right

I caught up on dirty laundry and made everything clean & bright!

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Starting the New Year off on the right foot is a good thing, at least it feels that way. For weeks as the push for getting everything done for the holidays closed in, everything around the house seemed to be put on the back burner. And I do mean everything.

Nothing got cleaned, nothing got washed, nothing got put away. If people were coming over, I threw clutter in things, under things, or buried them under a stack of presents for camouflage. Dishes were only done when there wasn’t one dish left in the cupboards. Laundry got done only after Hubby threatened to start wearing my underwear if he didn’t get some clean ones of his own. Waste baskets overflowed making it easy to shoot baskets with wadded up tissues because the basket was buried under a mound of already wadded up tissues so the target was three times its original size. And the dust was so thick on the end tables and floor that I dared not put on a ceiling fan for fear of reducing visibility in the great room to zero.

Yep, the house was trashed and I couldn’t stand it, but what could I do. Running away sounded good, but if I ran away, Hubby and the kids would just want to come with me, and then what would I be accomplishing. Ignoring the situation certainly wasn’t an option, not when you’re tripping over piles of papers, wading through baskets full of dirty clothes, and constantly moving stacks of dishes from one spot to another just to find an inch of counter space to pour a glass of milk.

So, what better way to start off a new year than to spend it trying to get caught up on some long overdue house cleaning and laundry that I seriously think could have walked itself to the washing machine. Obviously not everything could get done in one day, but even finishing one load of wash, running the dishwasher one time, and clearing a couch off so we could comfortably sit and enjoy a movie as a family is success in my book.

I’ve got the rest of the year to get caught up and catch my breath, and with any luck maybe I’ll be more organized and prepared for the holidays in 2016 — or not. I don’t think I’ll hold my breath on that one.

Anyway, HAPPY NEW YEAR to all, even if it is a day late — but heck it is still the new year and when exactly will it become the old one? For now, I’m going to enjoy the smell of a freshly dried towel from the dryer, eat off a clean plate with a clean fork, and yes, put my feet up on my still cluttered coffee table while sitting on my uncluttered couch — and for this I am, Simply Grateful.