Favorite "Meditation of My Heart"

Call unto me,

and I will answer thee,

and shew thee great and mighty things,

which thou knowest not. --Jeremiah 33:3 KJV

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

When the scales won't drop...

Hubby and I on a recent (and rare)
date night.
I have been stuck for 4 weeks.  I have had what TOPS calls "turtles".  No change in my weight and no progress.  It is the pinnacle of frustration.  Especially when I haven't splurged, indulged or even sniffed a food that I shouldn't! Sacrifice equals results...right?!  Well, not so much here lately.

I tried a number of "tricks" to try to end this plateau including eating more raw, increasing my water consumption and avoiding all except the leanest proteins.  However, I had to admit that it might be time to apply some of that nasty "E" word.  You know the one.  Exercise.  I went to two water aerobics class and did some crutch-walking (1/4 mile).  I am pleased to say that yesterday I weighed in, and I had a 1 1/4 pound loss.  It wasn't the 3 pounds that I was dreaming of...but I am happy to see the scales moving down again.  Considering the results, I guess I will be scheduling some more of that E word this coming week.

For those of you who don't know, this brings my weight loss to 157 pounds.  Just 2 1/2 more pounds and I will be half the woman that I was in January 2013.  (Now if only, I hadn't let myself get to be 3xs the woman that I was on my wedding day!) 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

July Review #4: KitchenAid Dishwasher

We purchased a KitchenAid dishwasher with ALL the bells and whistles (on clearance from Best Buy) in the Fall of 2012 and it has been a huge disappointment.  We picked it over a Bosch because it had a built in disposal and a third tier flatware rack.  It was also energy star approved and well rated by Consumer Reports.

However, almost exactly a year after we bought it, the (3rd tier) silverware rack that we thought was so neat, broke and fell out.  Then at Christmas time 2013, the latch on the soap dispenser broke and it would no longer stay closed, which meant the soap did not dissolve at the right time for the dishes to get clean.  In January 2014, a pan got against the rinse agent stopper during the wash cycle and melted the stopper enough that it no longer holds rinse agent.  Then in February 2014 the front started separating and no matter how we put it back together the screws strip out and it separates! 

When I contacted Kitchen Aid the customer service representative said this was not typical, but it only had a year warranty.  His only advice was to let the parent company which turns out to be Whirlpool know about the problem.  He also suggested than an extra extended warranty may have been a good option at purchase.  Of course, I am on the phone thinking, "I shouldn't NEED an extended warranty!"  We do not plan to buy a KitchenAid when we replace this "new" KitchenAid dishwasher...and I am very leery of Whirlpool now too.

The broken third tier flatware track.

The separating front panel with stripped screw.

The broken soap dispenser and melted rinse agent stopper
that now leaks.

Monday, July 14, 2014

July Review #3: Riccar Vacuum

This product is made in the USA!  That is rare these days and this vacuum is even made right here in Missouri.

Our vacuum cleaner is a Riccar that we got used.  It has been very durable and is affordable to get repaired.  In 7 years, the only repairs have been to replace a filter and the power cord.  With my wheelchair, I am tough on power cords because they catch under my wheels and before I realize it, I yanked on the cord until it pulls loose while I am vacuuming.

Previously we have had a Singer, a Kenmore, and a Hoover.  Each of these lasted less than 5 years and eventually had poor suction. 

The Riccar picks up dirt on carpet exceptionally well.  However, it does not do well on solid surfaces like hardwood.  There are lots of attachments and the only design problem is that the hose to connect the attachments is 2" off the ground so it requires being able to reach the ground to use the attachments.  However, it you need exercise, this vacuum keeps you caught up on toe touches!  It is not a lightweight design and it is not fun to use on stairs, but it can be done.

Once again my reviews are not paid reviews.  They are just based on our family's use of the product.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Traveling Home From IRD

We made it home tonight around 7pm.  There was a lot of driving today and only a few stops.  However, I had my one and only diet splurge of the trip.  Of course, it was Imo's Chicken Pizza!  And having stopped at a St. Louis Imo's, I was able to buy a bottle of their O calorie Red Wine Vinaigrette Salad Dressing, which our grocery store no longer carries!
Add caption

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Day 5 & Day 4's Secrets

Today Grace, Corrine and I were all awarded International First Place Awards for our weight loss with the help of TOPS in 2013.  I don't have the official photos yet, but here are some snap shots that we took in our room on Day 4 before we went to a wonderful dinner to honor the winners.  (We couldn't tell you yesterday because it was still a SECRET until the ceremony today.) 


Now you know that I am not a complete wimp that I went to bed early last night!  We all had to do our makeup and get dressed up for the dinner and then we started today (Day 5) at 5am so we could be at the  Milwaukee Theatre in the green room by 8:30am.

To review what we achieved, Grace lost 49.25 pounds in 2013.  Corrine lost 23 pounds, and I lost 131 pounds.  We are each in different categories of weight and age so we did not compete against each other.  However, since we were all involved in the awards ceremony, we have very few pictures since it was hard to carry things like a purse and camera.  The TOPS official photographer took lots of photos, but it will be a few weeks before we receive copies of the photos.

Today wrapped up our time in Milwaukee at the conference.  Before we left, we got in a visit to the Bastille Days Festival, and we made it to Springfield, IL before we had to get a hotel for the night.  After some swimming, a visit to the fitness room and a hot bubble bath, I am headed to bed and plan to sleep in a bit in the morning before driving the rest of the way home.  I am anxious to get home and see my husband and kids!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Day 4: THAT Call from Home & Being Sore

The first session today started at 9am and went until almost 12:30pm.  It was a great session with a wonderful before and after parade called Lost Baggage.  People showed their old clothes and their new healthier size and everyone looked great!!!  The Century awards were so inspiring.  Jo who has lost over 300 pounds is my hero!  I cannot wait until I qualify for the Century award.

Then this afternoon, I got THAT call from home.  The "when will you be home...I am exhausted" call.  I actually thought that I would get THAT call Tuesday, but hubby is tougher than I thought!  However, I was able to give him some encouragement and tips on bribes, deals and food choices that should improve his last two days on solo.  (Come to find out, he was giving the boys Kool-aid as a treat for good behavior which is kind of like shooting yourself in the foot with our boys...red dye does not improve behavior and the sugar just makes them hyper.) 

I am so proud of my husband for taking this on alone! No one call Family Services...Angela (our house hero) is helping him during the day...but even with Angela our crew is a 24/7 job and it works best with two parents on duty.  Trust me, I know when hubby is away on debate team trips; it is a BIG job AND without Grace and Corrine to lend a hand, it is even a BIGGER job!  I am so proud that he is willing to do this to help us stay motivated and on our journey to better health.

The long sit during the morning session left my hips sore...VERY sore so I confess that I had to skip this evening's long session.  My morning will start very early in the morning so we can be packed and ready to check out of the hotel.  I took a LONG soak in a VERY HOT bath and went to bed early!  Tomorrow afternoon I start the long drive home and my hips are probably not going to like that sitting either.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Day 3: IRD is in Full Swing!

Today was the first full day of IRD events and sessions including the opening session.  We are learning a lot.  The section by Dr. Joseph Skelton , MD was our favorite so far.  He had great information and ideas for new "diet rules".  He suggested some rules of three including three meals a day and snack only when it has been three hours since a meal and three hours will pass before the next meal.  His advice and ideas were practical and do-able.

The beautiful stage backdrop.

The theme displayed on the BIG monitor.

Corrine with the program booklet.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Day 2: Taste of Chicago

At the Jelly Belly Factory
Our morning was busy, but then we had free time at the TOPS International Recognition Days so we headed into Chicago!  Along the way, we visited the Jelly Belly Factory.  Then we got our nails done.  Next we took a train into Chicago to Union Station and a cab to Millennium Park.  Grant Park was our next stop for the Taste of Chicago Festival where we had the BEST Jerk Chicken that we had ever ate!  Then we walked by Willis Tower (aka Sears Tower) and took the train back out of Chicago.  We finished the evening with dinner at Taste of Tokyo where they bring sushi to you by floating boats.  At the restaurant, we enjoyed amazing food and service!  Reviews online were mixed about the service, but we are pleased to report that our server was TOP notch!  We got back to our hotel very exhausted, but it was a great outing!
Showing off their nails while waiting for the train.
Grant Park
Millennium Park

Garden at the Chicago Art Institute
Corrine discovers why taxis and wheelchairs are not
a good mix...cramped travel!

On the train we discovered that our T-Shirt meant it
when it said EXTRA large...oh well, Daddy gets a
new T-Shirt.

Taste of Tokyo

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Arriving in Milwaukee

Grace, Corrine and I have arrived in Milwaukee for the International Recognition Days of TOPS.  We drove over 8 hours to Holcomb, IL yesterday and then on to Milwaukee today after spending the night at Aunt Treva's and Uncle Bill's house.  Here are some pictures from our adventures today.

Cousins:  Grace & Corrine with their Cousin Jake

We rented a bike for 2-4 people with a surry top!

One of the nice views of the city on our bike ride.

Corrine riding in the basket while Grace peddled.
"We" peddled around Lake Michigan near the Art Museum.
One of us peddled more than the others....

At South Park Beach

The Beach was pretty much empty...and it was beautiful.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

July Review #2: Cuisinart Waffle Iron vs Snoopy

Many years ago while in college, I bought a "fun" Salton Snoopy waffle iron for less than $10.  I used it until 2007, when I was given an expensive Cuisinart Waffle Iron. 

The Cuisinart worked as expected for the first 5 years, but during year 6, some plastic trim came off.  Then this year, the handle
came off.  I had to open it with a butter knife and close it with an oven mitt.  Recently, the back hinge has broken, but it still works so now I use oven mitts to open and close the waffle maker...yes, I am still using it in this condition.  The plates are still wonderfully non-stick and look like new.  The outside looks terrible, but it cooks.  I think Cuisinart has done okay for our family, but I did not pay over $70 for it.  Remember it was a gift and a truly great gift is one that you would never splurge on for yourself!  So this was a great gift!  I have appreciated the convenience of making waffles faster, but I had hoped that with a name and price like Cuisinart that it would last forever, like Snoopy who is still with us in the farm kitchen to make our visits special! (But as you can imagine, it takes a long time to make enough Snoopy waffles for my crew!)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

July Review #1: Skillets

In the past 25 years, I have probably had 8 to 10 skillets come, get worn out and go.  Some were cheap sets and some were expensive brands.  However, I have one skillet that has lasted for over 20 years and if you read my blog, you can already guess what brand it is...Lodge Cast Iron.
The crack:  After 20 years of heavy use, and Lodge
replaced this griddle free of charge.
To be fair, I must explain that my Lodge Cast Iron flat skillet 90G recently developed a crack after 20 years, but the outcome has me even more impressed with Lodge.  I contacted the company and they explained that they do not have a written warranty, but they stand behind all their products.  A week later a new 90G griddle arrived at my house!  (I am pretty sure that Lodge paid more to ship it to me than I paid for the skillet over 20 years ago.)

Some of you may be saying, I hate cast iron because it sticks and when cooking eggs, I agree!  (I have never gotten eggs done to my satisfaction without using a lot of oil.)  However, with the exception of eggs, I have found that keeping my skillet seasoned is the secret to great non-stick cooking in cast iron skillets. I oil the skillet after each wash and complete a full heated seasoning about once a month. Here is a link to how I keep my cast iron seasoned.

By the way, for the best pizza crust ever, make a pizza in a cast iron griddle or skillet, but you may never use your pizza pan again!!!  There are even cast iron pizza pans. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July Reviews

During the month of July, I am going to do a series of reviews of household appliances and products that we use and abuse as only a large family can.  These are not sponsored endorsements nor are they meant to be vendictive rants. Instead they are to be informational about our experiences.  Often people ask me about what products we use and how we make life easier in such a big family. 

Personally, I almost always consult Consumer Reports before buying, but as I have discovered, their testers may not be as tough on things as 10 kids!