Category Archives: Health

A New Era of Health and Happiness

Strangely enough, I have entered an era in my life where my happiness seems directly related to something that I am purchasing on a regular basis. Now we all know that happiness can’t be purchased. But health? Health is largely dependent on the food we eat.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

In the last couple months, I have been using Instacart religiously. I have been waiting for it to come to our area for quite some time now. You see, I had all of these hopes and dreams of what my life would be like – how it would improve – if only I had access to Instacart.

Usually, the fantasy versions of our lives never quite match up with reality. The grass is always greener and all of that. However, I was actually right this time.

Here’s how Instacart has benefited our lives (and no, they aren’t sponsoring me or anything like that – life really has improved, and I’m wanting to share the reasons with you, in case you want to try it out for yourself.)

  1. We are healthier. The minimum order in my area is $35, so I order fresh food two times a week. This is twice the frequency that I used to do my shopping, so we eat a lot more fresh fruits and vegetables. I only order 3 or 4 days worth at any given time, and we make sure to eat it all up before I place another order (or plan the next day’s meals around what’s left). Therefore, I’ve barely thrown any food away since using this service.
  2. We are happier. Health = happiness in a lot of ways. When we eat better, we feel better. Our minds are sharper, we don’t need as much sleep, we don’t have as many sugar cravings (because we’re meeting our nutritional needs), we feel better about ourselves because we aren’t as wasteful as we once were, and we look forward to each and every meal because we aren’t eating out of boxes as often. Oh, and the kitchen usually smells like a restaurant. Happiness! 🙂
  3. We are spending quality time together. It’s been way more fun to cook together lately. There really is something to be said about using fresh ingredients – it just seems…right…somehow – authentic. (I once read that when boxed cakes first came out, they contained powdered eggs, etc. All a person had to do was add water and bake. However, after a while, companies caught onto the fact that people like to be more involved in their food – we want to feel like we are actually responsible for what’s on the table. We want to be able to say, “I baked a cake!” Not, “I added water.”)
  4. We are more adventurous. We’ve been trying a lot of ethnic dishes – at least one or two new ones each week. Turns out, it’s a whole lot easier to rely on someone else to find the more obscure items in a store. I think that’s what had been preventing a lot of experimentation in my kitchen.
  5. We are more productive. I can get my shopping done at 6am, at the very beginning of my day. The Instacart shopper is the one that has to wait for ALDI to open, by which time I’m usually already teaching. Also, I don’t have the excuse of procrastinating until the weather warms up or until I have other things marked off my to-do list. I can shop first and just forget about it until the delivery person shows up at my front door.
  6. We are coming out ahead financially. On the surface, the extra costs of Instacart service (driver tip, price differences, and either delivery fees or yearly membership) seem extravagant. However, I really do believe we are spending less money on food nowadays. Maybe that requires some explanation:
    1. We almost never eat out anymore because I plan out my meals in advance. And because we’re incorporating so many fresh meats and vegetables into our meals, we can’t really skip a meal that I’ve planned without worrying about food going bad. (Last time my parents invited us to dinner, I took what I had been planning to make, and cooked it at their house. We had a feast because they made food too!)
    2. We are also eating our leftovers for lunch the next day, every day. That way, I can have an empty fridge before I begin cooking the next meal. Since we are so careful to do this on a daily basis, almost nothing goes bad.
    3. Since our health is improving, we’ll also see a reduced cost of doctor’s visits and medicine in the future. In fact, we have already had better luck staving off sore throats and the common cold.
    4. And last, but definitely not least – no more impulse purchases. This is the one benefit that I had been looking forward to all along – the one I needed in my life. I had actually hired my sister to shop for me a few times for that reason alone – which worked out until she got too busy. She wasn’t going to see a box of cookies and put them in the cart thinking, “Amy would really want these!” Guess what! My Instacart shoppers don’t do that either! If I wanted to, I could totally plan out my weekly calories in advance too, and have a better chance of sticking with it.

Okay, so that’s just a run-down of the benefits that I’m seeing. Does anyone have anything to add? Have you tried Instacart or Walmart Pickup? What do you think?

Lazy Vegan Chili Recipe

Vegan Chili IngredientsA couple years ago, I posted a chili recipe that Jesse invented. Well, with much use (and laziness on my part), it has evolved over the years to become simpler and faster than ever, and here is the updated version:

3 cans of beans (for example, chili beans, red kidney beans, black beans)

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon parsley

1 teaspoon basil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Do not drain the beans, but dump everything into a pot and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t burn. And that’s it! If you want more heat, you can add a jalapeño or some hot sauce to the mix. But, hey, that’s an extra step…

The Me I Want to Be

Ok, tomorrow I’m intend to do the following three things, and I want you all to help make me accountable:

1. Get up at 6:30am and stay up for the rest of the day.

2. Go for a run up to the high school and back.

3. Avoid sugar and food additives like The Plague.

PhilippiansThere are so many changes I’d like to make in my life, but I just can’t find the will-power. I keep thinking “I can do all things through Christ which strentheneth me (Philippians 4:13),” but I’m just so used to caving into my own desires that I never make it very far.

The me I want to be is the following woman: healthy, fully in charge of her eating habits, active, productive. I don’t want to be a slave to food, sleep, television, social media, etc. I just want to be me! Is that too much to ask of myself?

Would you all benefit from an accountability partner? If you had one, what challenges would you make yourselves?

photo credit: <a href=”″>week five – austin m. d.</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;

Apple Fasting

Has anyone ever tried an apple fast?Apples

I believe fasting is good for clearing the line of communication between myself and God, but even if you aren’t religious, it is widely known for being good for us mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I say spiritually because, even if you don’t believe in a higher power, I assume everyone reading this believes they are more than just a mere cloud of atoms (a phrase borrowed from C.S. Lewis). The greatest benefit in my own life has been two-fold: clarity and self-discipline. I believe it is a powerful tool that Christians (or dieters, lol) can use to overcome fleshly temptations, and it is so powerful that I don’t understand why it is so often overlooked and rarely spoken about, even in Christian circles. I am assuming it’s because we aren’t supposed to brag about it? Or to make ourselves look hungry, etc? But is this any excuse not to teach our children and mentor others who have the same needs? I don’t think so.

I am asking about the apple fast because Ian is interested in fasting. (He is 10.) However, everything I have read says that children should not fast. The apple fast is a happy medium in which you can consume as many apples as you want for 1-3 days, but nothing else (except water and apple juice). It is supposed to have many of the same physical benefits as regular fasting. I don’t know if the discipline benefits will be all that much though, but I figure it’s a start.

Ideas or comments?

Awesome Hummus Recipe!

Jesse and I recently watched Forks Over Knives (you can stream it on Netflix), and we decided to try the Esselstyn diet. …Well, now, that’s the wrong choice of words. Yoda would get on to me. We’re not going to try it; we’re going to do it. By the way, I mean diet in the following sense: “The kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.” Not: “Restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.” I think the second definition is the one most people generally think of when they hear the word “diet.” (I used the Google search to find these definitions, but I didn’t see a page to give them credit. The definitions just showed up in the search screen. So my apologies to Mr. Webster, or whoever coined the definitions.)

e2book-MAnyway, for those of you who would like to try some nice and easy vegan meals, I would recommend the Engine 2 cookbook. We’ve had it for 10 days, and we’ve already tried seven recipes. I think that’s a world record for me. (I usually get a cookbook and try one or two recipes.) :/ I had two more picked out to try today, but we decided that we need to eat some of our leftovers before trying anything new. Honestly, I’m running out of storage containers!

So far, all of the recipes have been fantastic! (They have reheated well too, but since we got rid of our microwave, we’ve been reheating in a skillet, so take that into account.) Unless you count my ineptitude at chopping vegetables, nothing has been difficult or less-than-tasty. In fact, we have found ourselves asking the same question over and over again this last week-and-a-half: If it’s so easy and yummy to eat healthy, why in the world would we want to eat any other way? We did have to buy some of the ingredients at Whole Foods Market, but we’ve been buying the bulk of our food there anyway, so this wasn’t really a problem for us.

My advice: take $200 of your tax refund and invest in some shelf-stable health foods. Look at some recipes to get an idea of what you’ll want to purchase. It’s not that much more expensive to eat healthy, especially considering the facts that we rarely eat out any more, we buy zero convenience foods, and our stomachs are shrinking so we consume less than we used to. Even if it is a bit more expensive, money shouldn’t be an issue here anyway because it is cheaper BY FAR to maintain a healthy body than it is to have your symptoms treated by a doctor. (We just found this out the hard way last month, which is what prompted the paradigm shift in our thinking and lifestyle.)

Here’s my favorite recipe so far. (Actually, it’s between this one and the Raise-the-Roof Sweet-Potato Vegetable Lasagna, but that one has too many ingredients to type out!)

Healthy Homemade Hummus, The Engine 2 Diet, pg. 236Screen-shot-2012-10-18-at-6.10.00-PM

This is the most basic of the spreads. You can find a variation of this recipe in almost any grocery store, but 95 percent of them are made with either olive oil or tahini (sesame paste), which pushes up the fat content. Your best bet is to take three minutes and make a batch on Sunday that will last you for the week.

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon Bragg Liquid Aminos or low-sodium tamari

3 tablespoons water or vegetable broth.

Blend all the ingredients into a thick past, using a small amount of water as necessary to achieve desired consistency.

The book also goes on to list several hummus variations, such as roasted red pepper.

I used dried, cooked beans instead of canned beans, vegetable broth instead of water, itty-bitty whole lemon pieces (rind and all – I just dropped the whole thing in my blender, and I’ve been using bits of it in different recipes all week. I just guessed at the amount to use – maybe 1.5 teapoons – and it turned out great!), and Bragg Liquid Aminos instead of tamari (both of which can be found near the soy sauce at your local health food store, such as Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods Market. You can also order them from Amazon. Make sure you get non-GMO soy products.) I also took out a piece of pita bread and tore it into chunks and popped it into my toaster oven at 350° for about four minutes. Actually, that’s what I’m munching on as I type this up – hummus and pita chips!


Healthy Grocery List

I’ve been trying to eat healthier this year, and so far, so good. Now I’m trying to help my sister. I just finished typing out a long email to her, and thought I’d share it with you all! Here it is:

Kimmy, here is our grocery list: Healthy Grocery Checklist

Don’t eat anything with MSG or high fructose corn syrup in it, and I’d suggest not eating anything with artificial colors, preservatives, etc. Buy bread, yogurt, and other processed foods with the least amount of ingredients. The best brands I’ve found are Earthgrains for bread and Dannon all-natural yogurt (I buy the big containers). If you buy dark chocolate, the darker the better (more cocao, less sugar). I usually buy 70% or even 85%. The Lindt brand is my favorite chocolate. Try not to eat any white sugars or flours. (If you get white sugar out of your system altogether, then natural sugars begin to taste sweeter.) Use honey or agave nectar to sweeten your hot drinks. For oral and digestive health, I try to eat a serving of yogurt, a serving of cranberry juice (I like Northland –but any 100% juice would be okay), and a serving of prunes (they actually became one of my favorite things to eat, once I got used to the taste). Annie’s makes some all-natural cookies, graham crackers, etc. in the shape of little bunnies. They’re actually pretty good, but you have to look on the bottom shelf to find them, I think. The granola I buy is expensive, but it’s really good! I can’t remember the brand name, but it’s in the cereal aisle all the way toward the refrigerated section. There are a bunch of expensive cereals all in one spot. It’s eye-level, and they have four or five different flavors, like dark chocolate/almond, and cinnamon/raisin. Try to only eat a serving of any one thing in one day. That way, you’ll get a better variety of fruits/vegetables, and it will keep you from going overboard on chocolate and cookies and such. Instead of buying salad dressing, use kidney beans (the juice gets everywhere, and it’s really yummy) or 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar and 1 Tbsp. olive oil. It’s good, and super-cheap! (You can also add basil, oregano, garlic, or whatever spices you like, but I never do anymore; it’s an extra step, and I’m lazy). Try to use real meat on your sandwiches instead of deli meat. Cut it into strips and cook a bunch at once (just add a bit of garlic and olive oil), and then you’ll have steak, chicken, or fish to add to salads, burritos, stir-fries, sandwiches, etc. Don’t buy ground beef at all – it’s incredibly gross! Watch Jamie Oliver’s demonstration, and you’ll be forever convinced! Instead of using unhealthy sauces, spice things up with garlic or lemon juice. If you want me to go shopping with you once or twice, to help you find stuff, I will, gladly! Seems complicated, but once you do it for a couple of weeks, it gets easier.

Treasures of Healthy Living

Tuesday I finished Treasures of Healthy Living, written by Annette Reeder and Dr. Richard Couey, and I am so pleased to review it for you. When I received this book, I expected it to tell me all about healthy foods and how to improve my diet. Well, it did all of those things, but it is so much more than a book about food; it is a manual for living a well-balanced, all-‘round godly lifestyle.

Even though the book contains a twelve-week course intended for study groups, I read it in just a few days. Because I am already trying to eat better and exercise, the faster pace didn’t overwhelm me. Instead, I made notes to myself for later and implemented several changes immediately, such as: excluding unclean meats from my diet, making a conscious effort to purchase healthier animal products, laying down a plan for fasting, implementing scripture memory into my exercise routine, purchasing plants for home and office, taking greater care in food preparation and storage, becoming aware of the ingredients in topical lotions, cosmetics, etc, and intentionally increasing the happiness factor in my relationships. From this list, I don’t want you to get the idea that the book doesn’t cover food in-depth. It does! In fact, the first half contains information and ideas for eating food in the way it was designed to be eaten.

– I only had two issues with the book. First: references. I wish there had been more (mostly because I’m a newbie, and although many of the statements made in the text may be common knowledge for those who have been studying healthy living for a while, I would prefer to see more proof). I also would have liked for those references to be listed at the bottom of each page, instead of at the end of the book. Secondly, I wish that all of the scriptures had been printed in-full within the text. One non-issue: I expected the book to have recipes in it, but I discovered that it is basically a text-book/study-guide, and that recipes are included in a companion book that I will be ordering very soon. This was not an issue because the book was already long enough, and I am more than happy to order a separate recipe book, but I just thought I would throw that out there for those of you who may have had the same expectations.

If you want to find out more, check out the product page for this book. Or you can preview it here.

Note: In exchange for an honest review, the publisher provided a complimentary copy of this book through Glass Road Public Relations.

Approaching Healthy

This is my year for getting healthy. Admittedly, I think that every year, but I really mean it this time! I decided to quite buying anything unhealthy, so at this point, almost everything in the house is good for us. If I don’t buy it, I can’t eat it, right? Anyway, it’s a little more expensive to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthier meats, but in the long run, I figure it should be worth it. It’ll mean fewer trips to the doctor, and hopefully it’ll keep us from dying of heart disease and possibly even cancer. Eating better combined with exercising is helping me to keep my cold at bay (I’ve been able to keep working and moving in spite of my cold), helping me lose unwanted inches (3 in my waistline since the new year!), and helping me feel better about myself overall. At the very least, I can rest knowing that I’m doing my part to get God’s temple in good shape and keep it there. Anyway, to help me achieve “good shape” again, I researched “What to Eat When You’re Expecting.” I’m not expecting (let’s make that abundantly clear), but when we were trying to conceive Ian, back in 2003, I was following the diet guidelines in that book; it was the healthiest summer of my entire life. Basically, instead of counting calories, I made sure I ate foods from all of the right categories every day. By the time I had done that, I barely had room for anything too sweet or fattening. So this time, I researched what I should be eating since I’m not trying to conceive (there are guidelines in the book for non-pregnant women), and this is what I came up with (all of the files are Word documents):

Weekly Best Odds Food Chart

The file contains a week’s worth of check-boxes to make sure I am getting what I need each day. I’ve also included a place to keep track of calories on the opposite side of the page.  I just write the foods in the margin, and record the calories for each appropriate day. The calorie counter is for my husband, but I’m mostly just concerned about types of food for myself.

I also typed up a list of foods that I personally like to eat that fall within each category. Here it is:

Best Odds Food Categories

Of course, there are more foods in these categories, but either they didn’t show up in the book, or I figured I wouldn’t eat them in a million years.

To aid in shopping, I also typed up a healthy shopping list. I haven’t researched all the prices yet, but I’m sure they’re different in your area anyway, so I will go ahead and post it, just in case you want to get started:

Healthy Grocery Checklist

Here’s to our health!

Tasty Salmon on Rice

Lately (aka, this year), we’ve been trying to eat super healthy. It’s been relatively easy so far, since I’ve stopped buying pasta, simple carbohydrates, candy, etc. If it’s not in our pantry, we can’t very well eat it, now can we? Let’s hope my method works.

Here’s a little something I threw together. We just had the salmon concoction on Wednesday, but yesterday we tried it over rice. My husband approves! He likes it so much, I thought I would throw the recipe your way. Feel free to use any kind of beans or vegetables depending on taste and what you have on hand. Those were the only reasons I chose the things I did. You could also try adding nuts, if you like, but my husband is allergic to them.

Tasty Salmon on Rice:

1 lb. pkg. Brown rice

1 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic

1 cup diced onions

1 cup diced tomatoes

1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas

1 – 14.75 oz. can of pink salmon (with bones)

Generous dose of Mrs. Dash’s fiesta lime seasoning.

I didn’t use salt or pepper, but feel free. It tasted salty enough for me – probably because of the canned salmon.


Rice takes almost an hour, so put it on early. Follow the directions on the packaging. (I cooked mine up the day before.)

Heat olive oil in a large skillet and add garlic.

Brown onions and tomatoes.

Throw in your chickpeas and salmon.


Heat to desired temperature.

Remove from heat and add seasoning.

Serve over rice!

Calories per serving, as close as I can figure: 234

Serves 7

Thanks to Grace and Space!

Earlier this month, much earlier (17 days ago), I received the Versatile Blogger Award from Sheila over at Grace and Space. I have been following her blog since reading this post way back in September. Her blog is like a breath of fresh air, and I have enjoyed many a relaxing morning reading her posts. Thank you, Sheila, for your nomination and also for your lovely blog!

As one of the recipients, it is my job to tell you seven things about myself that you perhaps do not know. In addition, I am supposed to nominate new reciepients of the award. Well, I will begin with the nominations:

1. Becoming Martha. This wonderful blog just so happens to be hosted by my brother-in-law’s sister-in-law! It is a great place to find DIY stuff for your kids’ rooms and other great projects. You will not believe the quality of this site. Jen gives us great ideas, and awesome tutorials complete with fabulous pictures. And I’m not just giving you my inflated opinion. The numbers speak for themselves. She has hundreds of followers, and has had over 100,000 page views. Considering that her blog will only be six months old tomorrow, I’m sure you can see why I’m so excited to tell you all about her!

2. Until the Day Dawn. Kimbery inspires me so very much, and I find that the more I read from her, the more I agree with her. Her blog covers just about everything the Christian woman needs. She talks about marriage, children, faith, and homeschooling. She also writes some really nice reviews to keep us abreast of some of the greatest new Christian products on the market. On top of that, she has written several fantastic books herself; they are available on her blog. Check her out – you will love her!

Sorry for the short list. I read a lot of blogs, but don’t want to recommend any that I don’t just absolutely adore!

Of course, I am still reading the blogs I nominated back in October. They are still some of my favorites, so check them out if you have the chance!

Now, for the little-known stuff about me:

1. I love, love, love my homeschool choir. If my employer suddenly ran out of money, I’d beg her to allow me to teach for free! This past semester has been one of the best, and I’m really looking forward to working on new music in January! This has been one of the most balanced classes I’ve ever taught, with 6 young men and 6 young women, and everyone pulling their own weight. Of course, I love my littles too, but my heart is really with the high school choir.

2. Someday, I want to travel the world. Slowly. Maybe spend a year in each country that we decide to visit. But I don’t want to take an extended vacation; I want to actually live in the countries that I visit. Work where the common people work, develop hobbies based on the culture of the place, eat their food, listen to their music, etc. I’d like to actually live on the income that I would make in any given place. Thankfully, my husband agrees that it would be fun, so maybe – someday?

3. I think about eternity a lot. I think about it every time I have to dust or get a hangnail or pick up a hairball (because the day will come when I will no longer have to deal with these things). I think about it when someone hurts my feelings or when I hurt someone else’s (because the day will come when we will understand each other, and we won’t be affected by sin). I think of it every time I meet new Christians or wonder whether someone knows Christ (because we will be together forever and get to know one another more).

4. I am my own worst enemy. I have so many things that I would like to accomplish in my life, but I have trouble finding the motivation to get anything done. Thankfully, I don’t have a problem homeschooling or going to the studio to teach, but anything optional becomes very difficult for me. Sometimes, I will spend an entire month being driven, only to burn myself out, spending the next month doing practically nothing with my life.

5. Someday, I’d like to find the time to volunteer for a hospice organization. Maybe once Ian is a more independent learner and can stay home by himself. I’d like to be there for people at the ends of their lives, to give them someone to talk to about their life experiences or anything else that may be on their minds as they approach that final frontier.

6. I’d like to learn another language. Can you see how this is beginning to turn into a list of New Year’s Resolutions? I can see that I’m wracking my brain too close to January 1st.

7. I’m beginning to wonder how long this body is going to hold out. We are trying so hard to get out of debt, but without any insurance, I wonder how we will handle future medical bills? Or should I just forego doctors and meet our Creator sooner rather than later? So my plan for now, while I am still relatively healthy, is to eat as properly as I can and begin to exercise to stay as healthy for as long as possible.