Eating Through the Winter Blahs

Like many, if not most people, I’ve made a loose resolution to “eat healthier” in the new year. Also like many I’ve resolved to be “better” with my finances, whatever that means.

One area where both these things can get out of control fast is groceries and food in general. With a relatively large household to feed (myself, four teenagers, an eight year old, and whatever friends wander in) it seems like I’m always making meals and constantly need groceries. It gets old fast. I tend to make a lot of the same meals again and again. And again. And again.

The redundant meal rut is especially depressing this time of year. Here in Michigan it’s cold and dark; the holidays are over and we’re just trudging through dingy slush day in and day out. Working third shift tends to accentuate the winter blahs.

In an effort to combat all that seasonal crappiness (don’t get me wrong I love winter but it definitely lends itself to some serious doldrums) I’ve taken (re-taken?) to meal planning and being better at using leftovers. Don’t get too excited, meal planning here literally just means making a list of meals I might make in the upcoming week or two and then trying to grocery shop accordingly. But so far it has helped. I spend more on groceries in one trip but then I don’t have to make those “quick” stops at the store which means fewer impulse buys. I’ve been tracking my spending this month so I should be able to tell if I’m actually spending less on food overall. Fingers crossed! Regardless, we’ve been eating better and more creative (for my less than adventurous bunch) dinners.

Here are some of the cheap, easy, & hopefully somewhat healthy meals we’ve been having…

Chicken stir-fry

This one has a few red & yellow peppers, sugar snap peas, matchstick carrots, those little baby corns that come in a cab, & some weird “Mexican potato” tuber. That last ingredient is what I get for taking a kid and my boyfriend grocery shopping with me.

Ham & potato soup

I know this picture is crap but the soup was the bomb dot com! (Yes I know no one says that anymore, that’s why it’s funny now.) This soup has a little dairy & cheese which gives it ax great cheese flavor without making it overly creamy & heavy. Here’s the recipe I used but I left out the peas. I think I just didn’t have any on hand.

Ham Risotto with Bulgar

This one was something totally different for us but I had leftover ham to use up and really didn’t want a boring egg based meal. I’ve only had risotto once & have never made it. When I searched for recipes I was discouraged to learn that you need a specific rice for risotto which, of course, I did not have. (Something about the starch level of the different eucre and how v that absorb moisture) Oddly enough I did have a bag of bulgar that had been sitting in my cupboard for a long time, possibly years.

A quick search uncovered this bulgar risotto recipe. And I had grabbed asparagus at the store just because it looked good. I think this meal was meant to be. Peas were left out again though because I still had not gotten any. I also used cheddar cheese instead of Parmesan… because that’s what I already had. Plus cheddar and ham is such a great flavor combination. It was not a bad move. This was delicious! It was reminiscent of a good creamy macaroni and cheese but with a healthier grain. I will definitely make this risotto again!

The classics…

It hasn’t been all new and different though. I definitely fall back on some hearty classics like the chicken drumsticks and oven roasted potatoes pictured below. Or meatloaf and baked (leftover) mashed potatoes.

Being more conscientious about what we’re eating has lead to some tasty, hearty winter dinners.


What I’ve been making: the holiday edition

After I finished those five viking hats a friend had requested (a paid gig. Woot woot!) I had just enough time to make a few Christmas presents, small ones.

First there’s the basic eat flap hat for a preschool aged girl:

I varied the pattern slightly by doing taller stitches (triple crochet I believe) in the back loop only on the east flaps. Honestly, I didn’t plan or record what exactly I did here, I just messed around a little until I liked the results.

I made another small hat out of the remainder of this skein of yarn but forgot to snap a pic. That one had no ear flaps, a couple bright turquoise stripes, and a cute picot stitch edging also in turquoise.

My next project, and one I was particularly excited about, is this crocodile stitch pixie hat:

It’s for the daughter of a good friend (who happens to be my Goddaughter); she (the mom not the one-year-old daughter) knits. And not just regular once in a while knitting but really cool, fancy stuff like entire sweaters. She’s been knitting since we were in high school almost twenty years ago (Yikes! How did that happen?!?!) so I wanted to make something very distinctly crochet for her daughter. Plus I’ve long admired that crocodile stitch and this was the perfect time to give it a try.

While I do love this little winter bonnet it’s something only a small child could pull off. It’s quite whimsical!

I used a medium weight (4) yarn for the pixie hat instead of the fine the pattern recommended; the hat is thick but not overly bulky. Because of that I followed instructions for a smaller size but used the measurements for the larger toddler size.

I also made a V-stitch scarf for my boyfriend’s family gift exchange. Each person brings a generic gift in the ten dollar price range and they do a thieves exchange where once you open a gift it can be stolen. In which case you’d then either steel someone else’s gift or choose another.

The scarf was my generic female gift and it was a big hit. Buuuut of course I forgot to take a picture of that too (I finished it later on Christmas Eve) but this is the yarn I used.

Last but not least is the “So Good you’ll borrow it” beanie I found on Elk Crochet’s blog.

I made it for my boyfriend’s stocking but there was so much yarn leftover and I liked his hat so much that I made a baggier version for myself the first week of the year. I have to say, I loved this yarn. It’s so light & soft and it showed the texture of the special stitches on this pattern quite nicely.

I feel like I’m forgetting about something but that’s probably everything I got done before the holidays. Currently I’m working on an obnoxiously bright scarf for one of my daughter’s friends.

It’s a fairly straightforward scarf pattern. The cool X-stitch that makes this pattern unique was getting lost in the busyness of the yarn so I stepped up the double stitch legs of the X & Made them triples instead. This definitely helped but they still don’t stand out much. I do like the fun, colorful yarn though (it’s Caron Simply Soft in Rainbow Bright).

I’m also planning on pulling out and hopefully finishing my daughter’s blanket this week… It’s been almost done for a couple months now so it’s probably about time. We’ll see how that goes though. If I do finish it that’ll deserve a major celebration post.

A year in review (and what a year it was!)

While my co-blogger thoroughly enjoys looking ahead into the fresh New year & making resolutions I like to sit back at the start of the new year and reflect on everything that happened during the year. So that’s what I’ve been doing… For the past week and a half.

But 2017 was quite a year!!! It deserves some reflection even if it’s coming a bit late.

Change and chaos have been two constants of my life the past five or six years. Between 2012 & 2016 I bought a house all on my own, went through a pretty rough & long divorce (and somehow survived), adapted to a custody arrangement that’s less than ideal (or really even functional), tried real hard to change said custody crap, went back to school, ran a handful of half marathons, applied to dental school and got rejected, & delved into the world of online dating.

And then 2017 came and kicked some ass.

I’ll stop burying the lede here and just tell you: I GOT ACCEPTED to DENTAL SCHOOL!

That was the most exciting change/accomplishment of the year but it’s far from the only one. 2017 was a year of big leaps forward; it was a year of transitional achievements.

In April I finished my bachelor’s degree and graduated from college. As a former teen Mom (way before it was glamorized by MTV) and someone who struggled through my twenties, this was a huge deal for me. I’m super proud of myself!

My oldest son graduated from high school. His junior and senior years were a mix of opportunity followed by frustration and, to be honest, disappointment. He did not go out in a blaze of glory but he did successfully go out. And while he struggles to find direction in life (or even get off my couch some days) I am proud of the kind, decent person he is despite some shit that life has thrown at him. I’m hopeful for his future; I know that once something lights a spark of interest he’ll take off.

Early in 2017 I waded back into the murky waters of online dating this time with in hopes of finding a potentially “regular person”…an actual sustainable relationship (whatever that might look like). In February I met & started dating this guy, my boyfriend. He’s great. It’s been fantastic. And almost a year. I’m super impressed with that. Part of me was not sure I had it in me to sustain a relationship after the mess of my marriage and divorce. I really questioned my ability to trust at the necessary level.

And, of course, there was the usual making and renovating and carrying on of wrangling my monkeys and managing my circus.

When I look back at my adult life there are years that, in retrospect, stand out as pivotal. Years of fundamental shifts; they changed life and created a new direction. (2012 & 2014 for example) 2017 is among those years and life will be drastically different because of it.

Did I mention that I’m going to dental school in 2018?!?!?!

New Camera = New Hobby

As I mentioned, I’m looking to pick up some new hobbies this year. I purchased a really fancy camera…well, fancy for me. In the great realm of cameras it is on the “beginners” side but I still find it pretty darn fancy. Later this month I’m taking a class at a local community college to learn how to use it. In the meantime I’ve been playing with it and thought I’d show off some results. You’ll have to excuse the multiple cat photos. They are the most willing available subjects.

Checking out the new things

My Dad's dog during Christmas. There's bacon cooking in the background. She's a happy puppy!

My Dad’s dog during Christmas. There’s bacon cooking in the background.

Out on Belle Isle Conservatory in Detroit



My sister’s dog. Also during Christmas. Also, quite happy. There were treats.

Also, at the Belle Isle Conservatory

A park behind my house. I was playing with different lens. 

I’m excited for the class to learn about all the functions of the camera. There are so many options that I don’t know how to use yet. I’d like to get outside some more but it’s been so cold around here that there’s just no way I’m torturing myself like that. Brrr.


I think of myself as a relatively patient person. I worked with kids for years then I moved on to traumatic brain injury patients. Both jobs relied on keeping cool and being patient with whatever situation arises. Even now, on a regular nursing floor, I understand the importance of being patient even though there are ten million other tasks to complete.


I rarely have road rage. (Unless someone cuts me off.) I can make a (usually) unbroken cheesecake which requires so much waiting and patience for a properly finished product. I just don’t get riled up easily.

BUT, then there are times when I’m extremely impatient. Waiting in long busy noisy lines gets me. I’m impatient when other people are running late and I’m meeting them. It drives me crazy.  And once I’ve made a decision, I just want it to happen.

This is also the case with New Year’s Resolutions. I just want them to happen. Unfortunately they are all things that take time. As I mentioned, I’m job hunting, and, probably, driving everyone crazy because I’m talking about it so much. I just want to know what that next step is going to be. Now. I want to know now and I want to begin down that path now! However, everything moves slowly in the healthcare world. So I just have to be patient and wait.

I’m a whole 2 days into trying to lose weight…with no results yet. Obviously.

when-you-dont-eat-for-5-hours-but-youre-still-29859597 (2)

I’m realistic. Really. But it still tests my patience. I’m trying, so what do you mean I have to wait for results?! How many times do I have to go to the gym and not eat fries before I start seeing results?!?! (I do understand the reality of it all, honestly.)

I’ve got some long roads to go down, I get that. And I’m trying really hard to be patient.




Falling Off the Wagon

Sometime between running an “Iron Turkey doubler” (a 5k followed by a 10k) at a somewhat local Turkey Trot in mid November and late December I fell off the running wagon. Hard!

Just before the end of the month my running miles for December totaled a mere 24 miles. I’m pretty sure that’s a new low in my past seven years of regular running. I did manage to pull it up to 32 miles by the end of the year but that’s still pretty weak.

On top of that I’ve somehow gained ten pounds over the past couple months. TEN POUNDS! (I’m a short person, ten pounds are not well hidden on me.) Really it’s not shocking considering this lack of running was matched by a complete lack of attention to what I was eating and an excessive amount of night shift work hours. Really I fell off the self-care train, not just the running wagon. And I was never super great at self-care to begin with.

Last year around this time I was setting a running goal for 2017: run 1000 miles over the course of the year. Yeah…. That didn’t happen. I fell about 300 miles short with a total of 710 miles logged in 2017.

A slower than expected start to the year combined with a stressful, very low mileage, June and this most recent dip in mileage are mostly to blame. But, despite the less than desired mileage, this year wasn’t a complete failure on the running front.

For one, I ran more races than previous years. I also ran in some new locations. And tried new distances. For me running is about stress relief, fun, and adventure. 2017 was a running success on those important fronts.

A brief synopsis of those ten races follows.

April: A local glow-run 5k with three of my kids including my then seven year old. (His first 5k. Definitely a proud parenting moment for me.)

May: a Cinco de Mayo beer run (5k) in Detroit, a muddy obstacle 5k at the local ski hill, and a Memorial Day 10k in Northern Michigan

June: very little running and no racing…same for July.

August: 15k Viking trail run (on some seriously brutal trails) & a local 10k Melon Run (my 4th consecutive year doing this one)

September: Labor Day run accross the super cool and impressive Mackinaw Bridge (around 4 miles).

October: the Detroit (half) marathon for the second consecutive year & my kids’ school sponsored trail 10k

November: the aforementioned Turkey trot Iron Turkey doubler which fell on one of the first cold days of the season.

Neither of us was feeling especially enthusiastic about running two races that morning but we still managed a couple of our best times and we both got 4th in our age division for the Iron Turkey. The two medals that click together and two shirts each were effective motivation.

And after that race I rolled off the wagon. And stayed off it until the last week of the year. Like my friend & co-blogger, I like the fresh start of a new year and the opportunity for reflection and goal setting. So now, as 2018 opens, I’m starting the slow climb back onto the wagon. Thank goodness I got a treadmill this fall. (It’s been below ten degrees Fahrenheit for a couple weeks now.)

It’s that time again….I love a good New Year’s Resolution

I say it every year (2014, 2015, 2016 & 2017) and I’ll say it again, I love a new year’s resolution. I love the fresh start even if it’s just because the calendar is turning over.

Last year, 2016, was a maintaining year with no big changes. That was not the case for 2017. In April I graduated from nursing school and in July I left my job of seven years and started a new nursing job.


It was so exciting to graduate and pass the NCLEX. However, I took a hospital job and I really don’t like it. I never enjoyed the hospital during clinical and I really dislike it on a regular basis.

Resolution #1: Get a new nursing job. Preferably one without a midnight shift and not in a hospital. After years of a messed up schedule- night shifts, weekends and everything in between, I’m really looking for something consistent and normal.

shift work

Along with the change in jobs and the end of school I now have time. It was pretty elusive in 2016 but all of sudden I actually have downtime. I haven’t really made good use of it either. It’s time to get some other areas of my life together. Especially if, as a nurse, I’m going to be preaching self-care and healthy living, it’s time to take my own advice.

Resolution #2: Lose 50 pounds. With diet and exercise, of course.


You know, the normal ones that everyone makes.

#3: Try some new hobbies. – I’m taking a photography class in January for six weeks with a DSLR camera. I’m interested to try my hand at something new. New hobbies might including cooking too. I’ve been watching a lot of Top Chef lately. Those meals and ingredients are amazing. It’d be interesting to learn just a little of that.


I think those are it. They seem big enough to tackle for the year.