Monday, December 12, 2011

My New Life in WA State - Long, Overdue!

 The Evergreen State
 Ever since moving to Washington State this summer (with its sickeningly green vegetation, impossibly tall evergreens, and other disgusting [not] qualities), I have been too unorganized to blog. It's really embarrassing, coming from someone who loves to organize, whether it's my time or my things. But...this is new territory! BEAUTIFUL territory!!!!

I thought once we moved here, and my kids started public school for the first time (and after exclusively homeschooling for 15 years), I would easily settle into my new lifestyle, and have PLENTY of time to blog and whatnot!

Welllll, that's not quite how it has happened! I am busier - with all of my kids at home now in public schools (grades 11, 8, and 5) - than I EVER imagined!  First of all, I can't get over all the school activities - BUT am loving it! I appreciate all the parents meetings, concerts, fund-raisers, etc.! Soon after school started, we had a birthday party to throw...

I get so enthused to just go inside each of my children's schools, see the hallways they walk and the classrooms they sit in and learn in, to see the teachers and meet the people they learn from and are a part of their lives every day. I am loving it!

I am still a stay-at-home mom, and I have about a 4-hour window of "free" time every day from the time my last student (Sky) leaves for school until my first student (AJ) arrives home. That time period is the four quietest hours of my day, unless I stay up late like I am doing tonight. (Which is actually not a good thing, since I will be exhausted tomorrow.)

We've had our sick days....

But those are few and far between!

Can you believe I have found a new love - packing lunches! LOL! This is nothing I expected or saw coming. Yes, I think it is fun to pack lunches. Maybe it's because it helps me feel more involved in Emma's day while she's gone. I really miss having my kids around during the day, but public school is the best choice for us now.

Here I have some turkey lunch meat rolled up on an acorn food-pick, some veggie chips, strawberries, a pumpkin-shaped olive and cream cheese sandwich (one of her favorites!), some red and yellow bell peppers cut in leaf shapes, and a small piece of cherry pie. Can you tell this was close to Thanksgiving? One of the fun I've had with packing lunches is having "themes", and of course, making it cute.

Our street - that's my little black Malibu parked in our driveway.

 A pretty sidewalk by our home that I many times run down...

Once my kiddos start arriving home from school, it is nonstop busyness. I spend about 15 minutes talking and listening to each kid about his/her day. This is such an important time for the both of us! After that, they each get onto their homework, and many times I am running all three to different after-school meetings or practices. We have established a rule that homework is started upon within 10/15 minutes of arriving home. They can get a snack and have some time to talk, but homework is a priority. No waiting until the last minute.

And, oh I should mention our braggy, proud...ahem, days, too!

Yep, that's my Skybaby, Miss Student of the Month!

This is our living room:

Sometimes we have practices, lessons, presentations, etc., to attend in the evenings - depending on the day. And sometimes all of the above in one day. I am still trying to get the hang of things!

Oh, some of the best news, my daughter and son-in-law and their two babies (my grandbabies!) decided to move here too! They are 3 miles away now, instead of 2,000 miles away, and I'm loving every minute of it!

On a good day, Andy will be home and can help me with the shuffling. Many days I have to figure it out on my own. There have been evenings I have spent three hours on the road driving back and forth - all within a five-mile radius. CRAZINESS!!! And yeah, we do our share of "packed dinners." I should make a blog post about that one! OK, when I get it all figured out I will! ;)

OK, so I am sure any parent who has several kids in public school and has always done this would just shake their head and think I am naive and just need some experience - and they are completely right. That is EXACTLY what I need! But if you would like to share any tips or give advice, I am ALL EARS!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

At Home in Washington

We are all settled in Washington State! Our new home is located in Lacey, which is a suburb of Olympia. I am really loving it here. While most of the United States have been suffering through a ruthless heat wave this summer, we have enjoyed temperatures no higher than 78 degrees. We  are able to leave our windows open all day, and it's cool enough at night that we need a sweater.  Everything in this area is lush and green, and there are beautiful, impossibly tall evergreens surrounding us. Only a few yards down the sidewalk, we have a picturesque view of snow-capped Mount Rainier. We moved in exactly three weeks from the day we left Pittsburgh. I am so happy we were able to find a house that the whole family loves, and to move in so quickly.

Our cross-country drive was fun and interesting - and exhausting! We took ten days to actually drive to McChord AFB, stopping at Cedar Point, a friend's house in Michigan, Wall Drug (South Dakota), Mount Rushmore, a cousin's house in the mountains of Montana, and finally, Yellowstone Park. The kids and I all saw parts of the United States that we had never seen before, so it was very exciting to us. The plains of South Dakota were indescribable. From the hotel we stayed at,  were just endless miles of tall prairie grass, with nary a tree in sight. I took a walk one morning, and felt like we were at the beach - it just "seemed" to me that if I continued walking, I would eventually cross the horizon, the grass would clear and I would find sand and sea. But of course, the grass was endless, and the land amazingly flat! The Badlands were like nothing I've ever seen, either. I can't imagine being a westward-bound pioneer of the 19th century, crossing over the plains and then coming upon that!

The Rocky Mountains were incredible! We even saw snow along the sides of the road.  Snow in July! One of the prettiest drives I experienced was the day we drove across I-90 through northern Idaho. It was so gorgeous, I had a hard time driving because I just wanted to look at the scenery.

The day after we arrived at McChord, we had appointments lined up for househunting. We found our house the first day. Our 13yo daughter, Sky, accompanied us, while the 16yo and 9yo stayed at the hotel. She was in love with this house as soon as we walked in. It is a spacious, 2-story, 4-bedroom, pastel  yellow house with white trim, and a charming front porch. After looking at this house, she would say, "But I like Yellow House" after looking at anything else.  So two days later, we brought the other two with us to look at Yellow House, and that was the end of the house-hunting. The kids unanimously voted on Yellow House. The moving truck arrived in the driveway less than a week later!

I have spent the past twelve days since moving in unpacking and organizing our new home. I've bought a few decorating items too, but I have a long ways to go. The kids are all registered at their new schools, which starts September 7. It will be nice having the month of August for the kids to get acclimated to their new environment, and explore the area. Oh, and one thing I am very excited about: only 1/2 mile from my front door is a 30-mile, tree-lined biking and running trail! Could life be any more grand? :-)

I will try to get some of our vacation/move pictures posted soon!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Moving West

Only two more days in Pittsburgh, and we will be on our way to the state of Washington! The past few days have been spent with packers and movers in and out of our house, and now the moving truck is on its way to Washington with all our belongings. We stayed in Gettysburg this weekend to say good-bye to my husband's huge, extended family who lives out there. Then we came back to Pittsburgh to clean our empty house and get it ready for our new renters, who will be moving in on Friday.

My workout today was not miles of running, but was hours of scrubbing every single floor in that house - on my hands and knees! My mom used to call that the German way, after my great-grandmother who came to the United States  from Germany and insisted the only way to properly clean a floor was to get on your hands and knees and scrub it - mops were for lazy people! Well, I can say, I missed running today, but I'm actually sore like I did an insane Jillian Michaels workout or something. This is ridiculous! But you should see my sparkling floors.

My suitcase is bulging with summer clothes that I will need before we get settled in our new home, and tons and tons of running clothes in every color imaginable! I think I actually have more running outfits than I do regular clothes. And honestly, my running clothes are nicer than my regular clothes. I love buying running clothes. I go to Target or Kohl's and walk right past the cute t-shirts, sundresses, and capri pants, and head to the exercise clothes. I'm a bit obsessed.

My husband and I will be driving two vehicles to Washington, splitting the kids up between us.  We will also be taking our sweet time, turning this task into a fun road trip/vacation. Some places we'll be stopping are Cedar Point, Mount Rushmore, Wall Drug, and Yellowstone Park, plus we'll be seeing some friends and family along the way. My plan is to get a run in every evening before dark. I think it will be fun to experience running in different places during the trip - and it will also be a relief to get out and move after sitting in a car all day.

Well, I am going to relax in my comfy hotel room and nurse my achy arms with a Coors Light....

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The heat is on!

Some day, I am going to learn to go out for an early morning run instead of waiting until the sun is beating down. It's nice to finally get this kind of weather, after such a long, cold, drab winter and spring here in Pittsburgh, but it is not fun to run in 85 degree sun. Nope. I also need to remember to wear one of my Sweaty Bands, because after my run today, I was literally dripping with sweat and it was rolling down my forehead and stinging my eyes my entire run. I looked like I had been sprayed with a garden hose, and when I walked in the door, my girls cringed and backed away like I had a contagious disease. Wow, I must have looked pretty bad!

Now on another note, I am really enjoying running with my iPod, but it has one flaw: it makes me run too fast. Combine iPod running with a brutally hot sun, and you've got some serious butt-kicking going on. So much that I had to stop running after 1.5 miles this morning because: 1) I am not an 8-minute-a-miler in mild weather, and 2) I am not an 8-minute-a-miler, ever. Well, except today. Because Ke$ha and Taio Cruz and others make me want to run faster than my body can handle! Kinda exciting to this old 10.5-minute-a-miler, because I am wondering if maybe, just maybe, someday I will learn how to run just a little faster. At this point, I can't keep up an 8-minute-a-mile pace for more than one full mile, but maybe someday...I have a little glimmer of hope!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Homemade Hummus & Pita Chips

Yesterday, while I sat in the hair salon waiting for my 13yo to get blue streaks in her hair, I picked up a copy of Family Fun magazine, and found a recipe for homemade hummus and pita chips. I copied the main parts of it into a memo on my cell phone, and my mouth has been watering ever since.

I did a surprisingly good job interpreting my phone memo, because I tried it today and it turned out very tasty! Basically, it was just a can of chickpeas (drained & rinsed), juice from a lemon, tahini, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, a little olive oil, some water, cumin, and a sprinkling of salt - all whirred together in the food processer. Then, I guess because it looked pretty, a very small amount of olive oil drizzled on the final product.

The pita chips were made from cut up whole-wheat pita bread, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with garlic powder, salt, and Italian seasonings - and then baked in a 400 oven for about 6 minutes. They turned out very light and crispy and tasted perfect with the hummus!

Edit: I found the actual Family Fun recipe online here.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

How to Eat Mexican Food in Pittsburgh

It is hard to find really good Mexican, or Tex-Mex, food when you live in Pittsburgh, but I'm a Texas girl and I have my ways. It's also hard to keep Mexican food low-cal, but it is possible! How's this for today's lunch...

 Two Chicken Tacos: 335 calories

1. Go to the Strip District downtown and buy freshly made corn tortillas and a small block of chihuahua cheese at the Mexican grocery store.


2. Shred some boiled chicken and chop a very small onion. Grate just a little bit of the chihuahua cheese and set aside. Fry 1/3 cup shredded chicken and 2 tablespoons chopped onion in 1 teaspoon of olive oil for a few minutes. Set aside and keep warm.

3. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a small pan. Fry 2 tortillas until they start to bubble and are soft (just a few seconds).

4. Fill tortillas with the shredded chicken and onion, 2 tablespoons grated cheese, 2 tablespoons chopped tomatoes, and as much cilantro as you like. Roll up and eat.

Yummy! These two tacos are only 335 calories. Believe it or not! No extra seasoning required, either - they are delicious because of the chihuahua cheese and cilantro - which means, very low sodium content also! See calorie breakdown at the bottom of the page.

5. If you have a glass of non-Mexican cabernet sauvignon with your meal, add 100 calories to the total. :)

Calorie Breakdown:

2 corn tortillas: 100
2 teaspoons olive oil: 80
1/3 cup shredded chicken breast (skinless, boiled in water): 90
2 tablespoons chopped onion: 10
2 tablespoons grated chihuahua cheese: 50
2 tablespoons chopped tomatoes: 5
Cilantro: 0

Total: 335 calories

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Runner Girl

It was a beautiful spring day today.

 Emma had a ton of pent-up energy and wanted to GET OUT. This was just her warm-up before we went running together this afternoon.

She ran up and down the street a few times...

I don't know if her feet ever touched the ground. I love the look of pure joy when a child runs.
Gotta love the running outfit I bought her at Target last fall. This was the first time she was actually able to wear it.  Check out the little girls' size running skirt! Well, it's actually a "skort," so she was able to climb the monkey bars when we stopped at the school track.  I didn't take my camera on our run, so no pix of that.

Go, Emma, go!

Then, before we left, she got excited because she noticed our tulips have bloomed!

Notice she still has the jingle bells and race chip in her shoe from the Jingle Bell 5K?

Monday, April 11, 2011

No "Easy Run" For Me

Getting back in shape after the flu (or whatever it was) has really been a challenge!! I have struggled to just run for 2 straight miles without stopping to walk for a minute. I know I can get back, but it is really hard for me, and is going slow. I'm in my 40's, I'm a new runner, and there is no such thing as quickly bouncing back.

I'm already a slow runner as it is, and even when I am in shape, it can be frustrating to read about a runner going for a "4-mile easy" run, or to read a training schedule and see that you are supposed to do an "easy 3-miler" on Mondays. There is no "easy" run for me! Not even a 12-minute mile is easy. A hard run for me is at a 10-minute mile pace - and that's when I'm in good shape. There's been a few times that I've been able to run a mile in 8 minutes, but never 2 in a row. Walking is easy. Not running. Not jogging. Every run is a challenge. Every mile is a challenge. But I just make up my mind to do it, and like Nike says, "just do it." That's the only way I ever managed to run the half-marathon (13.1 miles) without walking last year. I did it then, and I'll do it again.

Some runners say that all people are born to run. I disagree. There's no way I was born to run - but I really do enjoy it. That said, I am proof that even someone who has not been born with any talent or natural inclination for running can still fall in love with it, and be a runner. Put your mind to it, and if you want it badly enough (and are physically able), you can be a runner too. I will run as long as I am able - even if it means I slow down to a 4mph pace when I get older!

Friday, April 08, 2011

Time for Some Catch-up!

I can't believe I haven't blogged since New Year's Day - and four months into the year, it's not even "new" anymore. Here's what's been going on...


My sweet daughter and cutie pie grandson
- My oldest daughter Whitney and her little family came up from Texas for a week-long visit. Since they couldn't make it for Christmas, we had a second Christmas with them, opening gifts and enjoying a another huge Christmas dinner.  We also had some friends over so they would get a chance to see them. Had a great time, and it was hard to say good-bye!

- My 15yo son started public school for the first time, after being homeschooled all his life. He loves it, has made a ton of new friends, and is doing great. He's making straight A's so far - and I've threatened him that he better keep it up!

- Found out I am going to be a grandma - again! Whitney and John are expecting a new little one in October.

- We have two January birthdays in our family - Andy and Whitney, so we celebrated!

Yep, the candles say "44"! Old man!


- Pittsburgh went to the Superbowl - how many times is that now? We wore big ugly Steelers jerseys to church, but apparently that didn't bring them good luck since they didn't win.

- Celebrated my husband's promotion to Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force at a special promotion ceremony in San Antonio. Whitney flew in again so she could stay with the younger kids for us, while Andy & I flew down to Texas.
It took me 45 minutes to curl my hair for that evening! 45 minutes!!!!!
- We found out we will be transferred to Tacoma/Seattle area of Washington State in July. I've never even visited the Pacific Northwest, so it will be an experience.

- I got sick the morning of the ceremony! Sore throat, cough, aches, terrible chest congestion, and fever. I drugged myself up and attended the ceremony; as soon as it was over I went straight to my hotel room, swigged down a dose of Nyquil and went to bed. The plane ride home the next day was horrid. And then...

EVERYONE got sick! Yes, our entire family, including poor, pregnant Whitney. Not only that, but morning sickness kicked in - all-day sickness in her case. She was in no shape to fly home. We made some phone calls and extended her stay, changing her plane ticket home to April 1, with the hopes that morning sickness would be gone by then. The illness hit me the hardest - I was unable to run because of my chest congestion and cough for several weeks.


- My 12 year old turned 13. I now have TWO teenagers in the same house. Lord, help me!

That's my Sky-Baby with a Texas Sheet Cake - the yummiest and easiest cake ever!
- Finally started to get well toward the end of the month. This illness really put me behind on my training. I officially changed my registration for the Pittsburgh marathon to the half-marathon, since I missed about 6 weeks of running. Getting back out there at the end of March was almost like starting over. It was terrible and is still a challenge.


- Whitney made it back safe and sound to Texas. Her morning sickness is much better now, but she did have a difficult month in March. I'm glad we were able to be here for her, and it was great having River here for so long! He loved the attention from his doting grandparents and aunts and uncle! Hopefully, we didn't spoil him too much. :)

Pretty boy!!
- Finally, I'm back to running and training! It's taking some hard work to get back in shape. I've gained a few pounds and it's depressing. But, I'm glad my cough is almost completely gone, and I'm able to run again. The weather is getting nicer too! I actually ran in short sleeves yesterday!

- And that said, I hope to be back to blogging again.

Saturday, January 01, 2011


Last night, we celebrated the last hours of 2010 as a family.  First we went out to eat at TGIF. I had the Sizzling Chicken and Shrimp, and oh my gosh, it was soooo good.

I nearly cleared my plate, and I don't even want to think about how many calories I consumed!! At least I had skipped oh-so-clever game plan for eating dinner out. After coming home, the girls and I made chocolate chip cookies - only instead of just chocolate chips, we also added chopped up Reese's peanut butter cups, Hershey's bars, and M&M's.

 And some chopped pecans for added protein, of course.

 Hey, if I'm going to make high-calorie, butter-laden baked goods, I'm going all out. These were the best cookies ever.

Then we set up the basement (our "Texas Room") with the essential snack foods for celebrating.

 We got our party supplies ready...

We spent the evening playing games with the kids...

watching Times Square on TV by the fire...

playing with laptops...(I think the kids were actually chatting w/each other online...probably saying things they didn't want us to hear...)

That Emma's got some dance moves.
and eating too much junk food.

How do you like my pajama pants?

We counted down the last seconds wearing top hats, and when the 2011 arrived, we blew noise makers

and toasted each other with champagne.

I really need to buy some champagne flutes.

Yes, the kids had tiny little shot glasses with sips of champagne, because their mother forgot to buy sparkling grape juice for them.

"And I thought communion wine was nasty!"
 They did not like the champagne at all. But we did!

Then after lots of hugs and kisses, the kids went to bed, and Andy and I went outside to smoke our annual New Years cigar. My brothers started this tradition about 18 years ago, and even when we're unable to spend New Years together, we all still have our cigars.

I ended up chosing the Swisher Sweet. It's yucky but cigars are yuckier.
This morning we woke up and had a sausage-egg casserole for breakfast that I had prepared last night.

It's unbelievably warm today for Pittsburgh...I can't believe it's January and I actually have the windows open! Weirdness.

Well, there is supposed to be a cold front moving in later this evening, so I better enjoy the warmth while I can. Hubs and I are getting ready to go for our first run of 2011, and then I've got to fix our New Years Day dinner, which must include collard greens, black eyed peas, and cornbread. HAPPY NEW YEAR!