Motivation

Motivation.  I always try to find different ways to keep myself inspired.  One thing that really gets me going, not just for fitness, but life in general, has been listening to various motivational videos on YouTube.

Over the past few weeks, I have logged hours of listening time to this type of video.  One of the speakers that really stands out to me is Les Brown.  Les Brown is a man who came from the direst of circumstances.  According www.browsebiography.com, Mr. Brown was born on the floor of an abandoned building in Miami.  Three weeks later, his mother would give he and his twin brother away.  At six weeks old, they were adopted by Mamie Brown, an unmarried cook and maid.

When Les Brown was younger, he was labeled as having learning disabilities, to the point he was put into special education classes.  Today, Les Brown has overcome the odds and insecurities his past had birthed.  He is now a motivational speaker worth millions upon millions.  Just listen to him for a few seconds, and you will see why he is so successful.

I mentioned wanting to do better with health and fitness, but I also listen to the motivational videos for other areas in my life where I am not fulfilling my full potential, which truthfully is just about everywhere!  I want greatness for me and my family.  These videos are a great reminder that if we can believe it, we can achieve it.  Easier said than done, but you have to think it and say it first.

To quote one of those YouTube videos, “I can.  I will.  I must.”

I need to show this to the teenagers!

*Update:  at the time of this posting, I am down to 224 after getting to my highest weight of 232.

New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions.  Many of us use the New Year to resolve to change or improve something about ourselves.  I don’t really like to use the term New Year’s Resolution when deciding to make changes because any time is a good time for self-improvement.  However, I can’t deny that the New Year does provide a good excuse for a new beginning.

Being less than perfect (big surprise, huh?), I always can do better with life.  Well, I have a myriad of areas where I need improvement.  One of those is health and fitness.

I come from an athletic background.  I played football in high school, and have always enjoyed the fitness and competition.  That said, a healthy lifestyle has always been important to me.  The problem is…I usually don’t want to go to the gym, and eating healthy is no fun.

Now, I have been going consistently to the gym about three times a week for about four years straight.  The problem is, I haven’t been training nearly as hard as I could be, and most certainly have not eaten as healthy as I could.  I don’t expect perfection in these areas, but vast improvement, fewer excuses, and more determination I do expect.

I enjoyed our holiday cookies, appetizers, and just generally “letting it all hang out” for a couple weeks.  However, as we know, there are consequences to that lifestyle.  Now it is time to get back on the saddle, so to speak.

This year, as I near the big 4-0, I will strive to get what is mine.  I don’t want to sell myself short.

Originally, I was searching for trendy 2018 diet/fitness plans because I thought that might be more interesting for the purposes of the blog, but I had to be real with myself.  Whatever I do, I want it to be sustainable.  I want it to become me.  I think some of the trendier diet and fitness strategies aren’t sustainable for most of us.

My first order of business is more cardio at a faster pace than I may have been going at consistently over the past couple years; taking fewer shortcuts while weight training; and healthier eating to include less late-night eating.  I started at 230 pounds after New Year’s, and I’m now at 228.  Keep me accountable!  I want to get down to about 210; a point I haven’t been at for about three years at least.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.  Go get it!

 

Family road trip to see the Lake Effect snow!

After hearing about the record amounts of snow falling in Northwest Pennsylvania and Northeast Ohio, we did a crazy thing.  We took a road trip up to Northeast Ohio to visit my hometown.  With our current home location in Florida, this consisted of over 35 hours of driving!  The result was that we had a great time in Northeast Ohio playing in the snow and visiting family over the weekend.  Heck, I even enjoyed shoveling snow!

Image courtesy of GOES-R/NASA

Growing up in Northeast Ohio, I learned to embrace a life surrounded by cold and snow during the winter months.  Many people know all about cold and snow, but unless you lived, or have lived, in an area prone to Lake Effect snow, you may not know about this type of weather phenomenon.

Regarding lake effect snow, location is key.  For example, a western Cleveland suburb may get little to no snow, while an eastern suburb of Cleveland could get blasted with over a foot of snow.  This past week was a perfect example of this.

For those of you who don’t know what Lake Effect snow is, let’s go to science class just for fun. According to the National Weather Service. “Lake Effect snow occurs when cold air, often originating from Canada, moves across the open waters of the Great Lakes. As the cold air passes over the unfrozen and relatively warm waters of the Great Lakes, warmth and moisture are transferred into the lowest portion of the atmosphere. The air rises, clouds form and grow into narrow band that produces 2 to 3 inches of snow per hour or more.”  Wind direction determines which regions will get impacted by Lake Effect snow.  The downwind onshore areas are the regions that will get dumped on by the Lake Effect snow.

One other important thing to know about Lake Effect snow is that it will not occur after the body of water (Lake Erie in our case) is iced over.  Currently, Lake Erie still has lots of open water; therefore, the Lake Erie snow machine is still in full effect.  However, the temperatures have been brutally cold lately.  If the temperatures continue to be this cold, Lake Erie will likely freeze over, thereby eliminating the threat of Lake Effect snow.  Some years, the winter is milder, and Lake Erie does not freeze over.  In this case, the threat of Lake Effect snow could remain through May.

Well, I hope you enjoyed science class as much as I did today.  The bottom line for me is Lake Effect snow provides an abundance of opportunities for a true winter wonderland, and we REALLY enjoyed experiencing it last weekend! The area we were in had between two and three feet of the white stuff on the ground!

Time Management in a Big Family

As one might imagine, life in home of nine can be chaotic at times.  This is where time management is key.  Time management doesn’t necessarily come naturally to me.  Rather, it is a means of survival.  I know that if I’m not on point in this area, disorganization is to follow.  Disorganization, in turn, leads to chaos.

If I had my way, I would live a life full of spontaneity and adventure.  The adventure part, I still have lots of with This Big House, but the spontaneous side of life sometimes lacks.  With so many different schedules to juggle, Esther and I have been forced to become planners.  About once a month, we get together and come up with a schedule to include chores for the kids, extra-curricular activities for the kids, date night for mommy and daddy, family time, and much more.  With so much to do, and so little time to do it, our calendar fills up quickly!

With so much going on in This Big House, it can be difficult to remember all of the little things that need to get done.  This Big House errands and home maintenance tasks pile up so quickly and continuously that it sometimes gets overwhelming.  It can be easy to do nothing because we don’t know where to start.  Of course, this isn’t an option as it would just lead to more disorganization and chaos.  This is where writing a to-do list comes in handy for me.  First, it helps me to not forget anything I need to get done.  Second, I get a sense of accomplishment as I complete an item on the to-do list.  Checking each item off they are completed gives me something tangible to see my progress.

The third thing we find ourselves doing to improve our time management in This Big House is as simple as constantly maximizing our time wherever possible.  In other words, “killing two birds with one stone”.  For example, if I need something from the local home improvement store, I will try to go at a time when I am already making a trip to the gym.  With our time so limited, I try not to have an idle moment when I could be doing something to be productive.

blended family

While all of the above is good for time management, I believe there has to be a positive end goal.  For us, that is leisure time.  Leisure, also known as quality time, is what life is all about for This Big House.  Proper time management allows has to have this time!

Holiday (or anytime) Appetizers

Keeping with the Holiday theme, I wanted to tell a little about some scrumptious appetizers we shared at our Christmas party at This Big House this year.  We feel blessed to have had the opportunity to entertain a few friends for an evening of good ol’ Christmas cheer and wanted to express our gratitude by offering some delicious party food.  I mean, what is a Christmas party without some fine comfort foods included?

The Cheese Ball

One of these foods is a favorite that originated from the kitchen of my mother.  It is aptly referred to as a “cheese ball”.  My mom would make this for different get-togethers, and it was always a “delicacy” for me.  Now, it is a tradition for me to make this every year around Christmas.

This is a picture of a cheese ball we donated to some friends for their family Christmas party.

Cheese Ball Recipe (makes about two balls, or one large one):

Ingredients:

  • Two 8-ounce packages of cream cheese (I substitute one of the packages with Neufchatel cheese which has less fat)
  • 6 ounces of cheddar cheese
  • 3 ounces of grated blue cheese
  • One small onion, grated
  • A pinch of salt and pepper

Put the ingredients in a mixing bowl and let stand until soft.  When soft, mix them all together.  Separate the cheese mixture into two or three balls.  You may want to chill before shaping into balls.  Roll each ball in a mixture of chopped nuts (walnuts or other) and parsley.  Note: I usually forego the nuts out of convenience, and it is still delicious.

Outrageous Warm Chicken Nacho Dip

In addition to the cheese ball, we wanted to add another good party food.  Not wanting to get into anything too involved, I scoured the internet for some easy slow cooker ideas.  I finally settled on a dish called the Outrageous Warm Chicken Nacho Dip .  This slow cooker dish was very easy to prepare, and was a huge hit with our guests!  We went a little overboard in quadrupling the recipe, but this just meant we would have more leftovers to enjoy later!

Christmas Tree Time in Florida

Growing up in semi-rural Northeast Ohio, I kind of took it for granted that we could go and cut our own Christmas tree down each year. As a matter-of-fact, we never owned an artificial tree back then. However, when the time came to have my own place, things changed.  All of the trees I have had since moving out, up until this year, have been artificial.

Christmas tree
This is definitely NOT a Florida Christmas tree farm, but kind of farm I dream about nonetheless!

Longing for a real, live Christmas tree this year, we took a trip to a nearby Christmas tree farm here in Florida. Granted, it is still not quite the same as a northern Christmas tree farm, but you do what you can while living in the warmer climates this time of year. At the Christmas tree farm, you may cut down your tree yourself, adding to the experience. However, the Florida climate just isn’t conducive to growing your traditional spruce or fir Christmas trees. This being the case, we decided to buy a nice pre-cut eight-foot fraser fir tree while at the farm.

                                                                  Fraser Fir

We loaded up our tree onto “The Beast”,  and began our journey home.  Once home, it was time for another one of our favorite This Big House family traditions, which is the trimming of the tree! Now I love Thanksgiving – what with all the turkey eating and football watching – but there is just something about pulling out all of those Christmas decorations that we haven’t seen in nearly a year. After they are put up, the house is  transformed into a house full of Christmas cheer!

                                                                          This is a picture of some of our dining room Christmas decorations
                                                                                     Anyone else have a thing for bubble lights?

 

Tree Trimming Time!

Ever since I was a child, it always seemed that it was Dad’s responsibility to get the tree set for trimming.  This year, Micah and Kai are my helpers for setting the tree in the stand and getting all of  the lights placed evenly on the tree. While I am doing that with Micah and Kai, Momma and the bigger kids are decorating the house. Finally, the lights are on the tree, and together we all hang our Christmas ornaments that we have accumulated over the years. Another tradition we have carried over from my childhood, is to get each child an ornament each year and write their name and the year on it. When it is time to venture out on their own, these ornaments will be theirs to add to their own tree. Hopefully it will be a real one, but I understand if not!

                          Not our tree, but a great example of a beautifully trimmed tree!
cathedral window cookie

Family Christmas Cookie Baking Time!

One of our favorite traditions in This Big House around the holiday season is baking Christmas cookies together as a family.  I get all warm and fuzzy inside just thinking about it.  About 10 days before Christmas, with the house all decorated to illustrate Christmas cheer, we turn on our favorite holiday music and get out the colored marshmallows, chocolate chips, sugar, flour, cinnamon candies, etc., for an evening of decadent family time!

cookies

We have adopted our favorite kinds of Christmas cookies over the years.  Some of them, you may familiar with yourself.  Our all-time favorite list includes buckeyes, holly cookies, good old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies with red and green colored morsels, and cathedral window cookies.

Cathedral window cookies have long been my personal favorite.  Although these cookies likely originated from somewhere else.  For me, their roots can be traced back to Ohio, during the eighties and nineties when I would help my mom bake Christmas cookies back home.  Today, our daughter Annabelle, counts cathedral window cookies as her favorite Christmas cookie, just like her dad.

Years ago, mom gave me a handmade cookbook with a lot of her recipes included.  Anyone reading this should feel special because I am about to share something that is very dear to my heart:  the cathedral window cookie recipe from Mom!

cathedral window cookies

We are still working on perfecting many of the other cookies we bake in This Big House, but I like to thing we finally have this one down!

So here is the recipe straight from Mom’s cookbook:

Cathedral Window Cookie Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 12-ounce package of chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • One cup chopped nuts (Mom only uses ½ cup)
  • 5-ounces mini colored marshmallows
  • Flaked coconuts (to roll cookie roll in)

In double broiler, slowly melt the margarine and chips.  Remove from heat and cool some.  Add nuts and marshmallows; gently fold in the marshmallows and nuts – do not beat.  Important:  wait until the melted margarine and chocolate chips are cool enough as to not melt the marshmallows. 

Form into one or two rolls on wax paper.  Then roll in coconut flakes.  Wrap the roll in wax paper and chill about two hours before slicing.

And…Voila!  There you have it, cathedral window cookies, This Big House style!  Does it look like a cathedral window to you?

cathedral window cookie