2017 – The Year of Me (otherwise known as the year I make my health a priority)

Today I want to get a little more persona and share why I decided to make my health a priority.  It’s not always easy for me to open up about deeply personal issues, especially when I feel like it highlights a weakness or a failure,  but I feel it’s time to share some of what’s been going on in my life.  For me, part of the Wonder Woman complex, trying to be all things to all people, has resulted in me not taking care of myself the way that I should.  For probably the last 27 years, I’ve been last on the priority list.  The kids, Mike, my job, the list of things that I prioritized before myself was endless. Putting myself last for so many years resulted in me being completely wore out and \never feeling good.  Exhaustion, migraines, heartburn and generally feel ill followed me from day to day.  Every.  Single. Day.

Make my health a priority

The picture above is one from our last vacation and when I look at it I see someone who is completely wore out.  I wasn’t feeling well, I was exhausted and quite frankly, a shell of the person I want to be.  When I look at it,  I see a person who needed to make some serious changes in her life to start living the life she wants.  The picture actually makes me a little sad when I look at it because it reminds me of how awful I felt.

Maybe by sharing my story,  what’s been going on and what I’ve been doing it will help someone who is feeling the same way.

2016 – a life changing year for me

Last year was a pretty tough year for my family.  In April 2016 my mom had a surgery that went horribly wrong.  From almost the beginning, her recovery went very poorly.  She was unable to keep food or liquid down, she was exhausted and felt terrible all the time. The surgeon who did the surgery at one point suggested it was in her head and maybe she needed to be committed to a psychiatric hospital.  He unknowingly released the Kraken (that would be me) with that statement.  Knowing my mother, we knew it wasn’t in her head and to hear a doctor say that, angered me immensely.  We were determined to get to the bottom of the issue and get it resolved.  Over the course of 5 months, many hospital stays, weight loss of over 100 lbs and generally getting to the point where we didn’t think she would survive, she was diagnosed with a surgical complication that her original surgeon assured me wasn’t the case when I asked him at the very beginning of the ordeal if that could be the problem.

The only way to fix the issue was to perform another major surgery but she was to weak for them to do so.  To get her well enough for the surgery, she needed to go into a nursing home where she could receive nutrition through her PICC line (she was unable to keep food or liquids down).  The type of nutrition she was receiving had a lot of risks so the next four months were filled with a lot of drama.  Two staph infections, an Ecoli infection that sent her into septic shock and a blood clot.  Needless to say, 2016 was an incredibly stressful and scary year for my family.

The good news is that there is a happy ending.  Between Christmas and New Year my mom was well enough to have the corrective surgery and she’s made (almost) a full recovery.  Six months later she’s doing fabulous, my dad was finally able to retire (he was going to retire last year but couldn’t because they didn’t want to change insurance during my mom’s illness) and they’re planning a trip to Alaska next year to celebrate their 50th anniversary.

Watching my mom go through this struggle and seeing the affect that lack of nutrition had on her made me realize that I needed to make myself a top priority.  By not making myself a priority all these years, I found that it was even harder to step in and be the support I needed to be when a family member was going through a crisis.  To live the life I wanted and to be strong for those who need me, I knew that I needed to make some significant changes in my life and make my health a priority

Weekly Menu

Weekly Menu Plan

It was a scorcher this past weekend in Wisconsin.  Although I don’t like the air conditioner on (Wisconsin summers are to short to have the house closed up), I welcomed the fact that we could turn it on and get some relief from the heat.

Yesterday we had a party to celebrate my dad’s retirement.  He had planned on retiring last year but with my mom being so sick, he needed to keep working so that their insurance wasn’t disrupted.  Now that she’s all better, he’s finally able to retire and rumor is, he’s loving it!  Although quite warm, it was a beautiful day in spite of the forecast and we enjoyed being together with our extended family.  I thought I’d share a few pictures from the day

Fun was had by all ages.  We had bubbles and hula hoops for everyone to play with

Bubble Blowing

Mom playing with bubbles

Michael manned the grill for us

Michael GrillingThere was a ton of food

Chicken Shishkabobs

Hamburgers on the Grill

Brats on the Grill

Do you know how you know you’re from Wisconsin?  There’s always brats!

Plenty of desserts

Chocolate Cupcake

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Tomato and Black Bean Salad

Oh yeah, we threw in some healthy food too.  This is my mom’s Tomato and Black Bean Salad

me and my dad

So – Happy Retirement pop!  I hope it’s long and filled with much happiness and joy!

After such an exciting weekend, I’ll be laying relatively low this week.  As of now, I don’t have a lot of plans so I’m going to just try to spend some time on my patio in the evening and relax.

I did accidently have a box of Plated sent to me so this week’s menu is a bit more amped up than the last couple of weeks where we pretty much had only brats and hamburgers.


Weekly Menu

Fontina-Stuffed Chicken

Fontina Stuffed Chicken

Lamb Kebabs

Lamb Kebobs

Persian Chicken

Persian Chicken

Steak on the Grill

Steaks on the Grill

Plus the cook-out and my parents and I’ll throw brats and hamburgers on the grill as well one night.

That’s it for me, what are you serving this week?

I’ll be linking up at I’m an Organizing Junkie.


Weekly Menu

Weekly Menu Plan

Welcome to another week! For being a short week, last week seemed so long….  You’ll notice last week I didn’t do a menu plan; I even debated not doing one for this week.  Here’s the thing, sometimes I feel like a fraud.  Life gets busy and my menu plan is kind of sad.  But it’s during those times when I think it’s even more important to share what I’m doing so that others who may be in the same boat know they aren’t alone and we can maybe glean some ideas from each other.

My summer menus typically tend to be easier than my winter menus. Grilling outside is something I love to do.  Days are longer and I want to take advantage of the sunshine after being locked up inside all day.  Life tends to get a bit busier too with more things going on than in the winter months.

With that being said, you can bet that the majority of my menu includes brats, hamburgers, brat patties and chicken. Not very exciting.  Or, to be honest, healthy.  However, I do have a few things up my sleeve that are super easy and add a bit of healthy stuff to the table.

Here are a few tips for making dinner a bit healthier in addition to easy.

  1. Take advantage of the supermarket salad bar/deli. Our local grocery store has a kick butt deli with roasted asparagus, tomato salads and couscous in addition to the less healthy potato salads. I’ve also been known to make a big salad or two from the salad bar to serve the family along with some cold chicken.
  2. A big bucket of lettuce is your friend. We have a lot of salads at our house. While I like to keep my salad separate from my meat (most of the time) Mike usually piles meat on top of his salad. I usually buy a big box of lettuce, cherry tomatoes and any other goodies I like in our salads.
  3. Frozen vegetables are a great go to. Although I love fresh veggies, sometimes we just have to keep it simple. I always keep bags of frozen veggies in the freezer that I can whip out and stick in the microwave while I have the grill going.
  4. Think outside of the box when it comes to grilling. In addition to meats, we like to use our grill for other things like pizza.

Weekly Menu


Weekly Menu Plan

Life has been a little crazy the last week.  Crazy and a little tough.  As you may have noticed, I didn’t get a chance to post a menu last week.  Quite frankly, it wouldn’t have mattered even if I did because my menu plan has pretty much been going out the window the last couple of weeks.

You want to know something even crazier?  I didn’t do my formal menu plan and shopping list this week.  I know – crazy, isn’t it?  I’m a true believer that having a menu plan and a shopping list allows you to save money and keep things a bit saner around the household.  Unfortunately, this week we are just winging it.  Sort of.

Now that summer is pretty much here (although it’s a cold dreary day here in Wisconsin), it’s time to bring out our grilling menu.  For Mother’s Day I got a brand new grill.  We grill a lot here so I typically need to replace our grill every 3 – 4 years, if we’re lucky 🙂  My summer meals tend to be a lot simpler which makes me happy as summer is so short I want to enjoy as much of it as I can.

Another reason I’m trying to keep it simpler is that this week I start an exercise program with a trainer and small group at work.  I may not talk about it much, but I despise working out!  I mean, I think I’d rather go head to head with a snake than do a sit-up.  Okay, that may be a bit of a stretch but I just really don’t like working out.  However, earlier this year I declared 2017 the “Year of Me” so establishing some kind of work out routine is a must as I make this journey to a healthier me.

You guys, I’m pretty proud of the strides I’ve made health wise.  Although I’ve got a long ways to go, I’ve seen a decrease in my amount of migraines, my energy level has increased and I’ve cut out a couple of bad habits I’ve struggled to break over the last few years.  Achieving this hasn’t been super easy but I’ve been taking it slow and focusing on why I’m doing it.  Namely feeling good and having lots of energy versus doing it to lose weight.  One of these days I’ll get around to sharing with you what changes I’ve been making and the effect it has had.


Before I get to the menu I thought I’d share one last thing with you.  For the last few weeks I’ve been seeing this at the grocery store with no idea what it was.  Then, last night as I was shopping I noticed an Indian family picking one up and putting it in their cart.  They most likely thought I was a nut, but I hightailed it over to them and asked what it was.   Turns out it’s a Jackfruit.  According to the woman, this one is for cooking (she uses it in curry dishes like you would a vegetable) but she said that there are sweet ones out there too that are eaten like a fruit.  One of these days I’m going to pick one up and try it myself.  Just not this week 🙂

Weekly Menu


Weekly Menu Plan

So, after 8 weeks off work, I started back last week.  Wow – all I can say is working is exhausting!  You know that “simple” menu plan I put together?  #menuplanfail.  I would have to say that my Wonder Woman mentality was definitely showing it’s ugly  head.  Although I “thought” I had it all under control I certainly didn’t.

The week started off with two unexpected events.  Monday we had some out of town family visiting (it was a last minute decision) so I expectantly spent the evening with them (not complaining – it was just a long day for my first day back.)  I also found out on Monday that a supplier was coming in on Tuesday and wanted to go out for dinner.  Again, not complaining since it’s a supplier whose company I enjoy and he took us to a super swanky restaurant.  Once again, it was a really long day.

After Monday and Tuesday, I ended up going to bed at 6 or 7 the rest of the week.  Yep, I certainly lead the exciting life!  By Friday I was so tired I left work at 3:30 because I just couldn’t do any more.

Do you want to take a guess on how many meals I ended up making?  Two.  That’s it.  The rest of the nights we either picked something up or had left overs/fend for yourself.  Oh well, stuff happens and it certainly made for easier menu planning for this week 🙂

Saturday I attended a baby shower, taking my camera so that I could shoot some pictures.  I’ll also be doing a gender reveal, maternity shoot and newborn shoot  for the new mother so I thought it would be fun to capture the baby shower as well.  It was so nice spending the afternoon with the ladies in my family.

Baby Shower - Cake

Baby Shower - Bingo Card

Baby Shower

This week I’m hoping will be a little less exhausting and I’ll be able to actually make everything on my menu plan.  As of right now, I only have one evening activity planned and I took it easy on Sunday so I’m crossing my fingers that this week will be easier.

Chicken Caprese over Spinach Salad

It’s a well known fact that we are chicken lovers around here and this Chicken Caprese is one of our absolute favorites!  We received this recipe in one of our Plated.com boxes last year and it immediately made it into our weekly menu planner.

Chicken Caprese

When I’m planning our menu, I need at least one meal that keeps well and travels well for Mike to take to work.  This Chicken Caprese recipe does just that.  I usually add in a couple more chicken breasts (the cheese mixture usually makes more than the four breasts the recipe calls for) so that Mike has left overs for a couple of days.  Although I originally serve this with a salad, for leftovers Mike likes to put it on a onion bagel.

If I can offer one bit of advice, it would be to splurge on some high quality Parmesan cheese.  For years, my go to was the old stand-by in the green shaker but oh my goodness, there is nothing like a high quality Parmesan cheese to amp up the taste.

When you are cooking this on the stovetop, be sure that the pan is hot, but not to hot.  I usually put the heat on about a 6 – 6.5 so that it gets a golden brown without burning.  Don’t be afraid to turn the chicken multiple times if you need to, that helps me not to burn it!  If you need to, add more olive oil to help the chicken cook evenly.

Also, while pounding the chicken out is a bit of a pain, it helps the chicken to cook evenly and acts as a tenderizer.  It is definitely worth taking the time to do it.  It you’re like me and don’t have a meat mallet, just pull the heaviest kitchen utensil you have out.  Trust me, that will work too!

I hope your family enjoys this meal as much as mine does!

Weekly Menu


Weekly Menu Plan

Well, my six weeks are up.  This is the week that I go back to work.  Fortunately my recuperation went well I’m hopeful that I won’t be to exhausted when I get home from work!

To help ease myself into the transition I’ve made sure that the house is clean, laundry is done (thanks to Mike!) and that I have my clothes ready for the week.  I’ve also kept our menu this week fairly easy and have a box coming from Plated.com

Last week was pretty quiet with not a lot getting done around the house.  I did spend some time taking pictures and went out a few times with friends (my last hoorah!) but I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get more done.  I’m going to blame my allergies (I had a headache all week), my finding a new author that I LOVE and my desire to take it easy knowing that I was going back to work for my inability to finish my storage room. Overall I did get a lot accomplished over my time off so I can’t complain to much.

This week is going to be pretty quiet.  Given that I’m expecting to be exhausted, I haven’t made any plans to go out this week.  I’ll be pretty pleased with myself if I can continue my No McDonald’s streak (8 weeks) and my No Caffeine or Sugared Beverages streak (6 weeks) as well as get out and walk a bit at lunch.  I’ve been doing really well with my water intact so I want to continue that as well.

Manchego and Fig Jam Burger

We have our son Michael to than for our love affair with this Manchego and Fig Jam Burger.  He, along with his girlfriend, bought a copy of Bob’s Burgers Burger Book (affiliate link)and shared this recipe with us.  They have been having a lot of fun with trying all the different recipes in the book.  It only took us making the Manchego and Fig Jam Burger once and we were hooked!

Manchego and Fig Jam Burger

Before you start looking for the ingredients to make this burger, I do need to warn you that it tends to be a tad bit expensive.  Manchego cheese at our grocery store runs about $20/lb.  I usually look for the smallest block of cheese which I can normally pick up for $5 – 7.  Depending upon how many burgers we make, this will allow us to have these burgers 1 or 2 times.  Fig jam can be expensive as well.

I do have to admit, not all fig jam is created equal so be careful with what you buy  There has been fig jam that I bought and needed to get rid of because I just didn’t like the taste.  Given that it’s a bit expensive I now stick with the tried and true.  I personally LOVE Davina’s Orange Fig Spread (affiliate link) which I find at Festival Foods by the gourmet cheeses.  In the store I am usually able to get it for about $6 which is cheaper than I found it on Amazon.

To make this recipe even easier, I like to buy pre-formed hamburger patties that I can pull out of the freezer and cook as needed.  I usually cook a few more burgers than needed so that Mike and Belle have left-overs to eat for lunch.

Weekly Menu

Weekly Menu Plan

Boy oh boy, did I blow it last week!  I didn’t realize until AFTER I made my menu plan and went grocery shopping that I had a box from Plated.com coming.  Ugh! Talk about a ton of food in my fridge.

The real problem was that I had pulled most of the menu from meat that was in the freezer and had already thawed the meat in the freezer.  Yeah, no refreezing for me.  Fortunately we made it work by eating at home when we weren’t planning to plus browning the beef I was going to use for the sliders and sticking that back in the freezer for tacos at some point.

The good side of getting my Plated.com box was we absolutely LOVED the chicken stir-fry that was in it.  I held it over to this week’s menu since I wasn’t able to make it until Sunday but it’s definitely a keeper and will be going into my Menu Planning Book as a regular addition.

Do you want to try a week of Plated.com for free?  The box is 100% free but you will need to sign up with a credit card, just be sure to cancel or put on hold future boxes so that you don’t get charged for anything else unless you want to.  The only thing I ask is that if you ask for a free box you actually use it.  I’ve had a number of people request a box and not use the code which kind of irks me since that box can’t then be used by someone else.  Drop me a note here if you’d like a code sent to you.

I’m down to my last week of leave and will be reporting back to work on Monday.  I have absolutely loved being off and got so much done but it will be nice to get back into my regular routine.  Although, if there was any way I could stay home I would definitely be willing to develop a new routine 🙂

This weekend was beautiful here in Wisconsin.  I sat outside quite a bit and we even enjoyed a cook-out yesterday with friends.  The bummer is I’ve had three migraines within the past week.  Since I’ve had only one since my surgery, I’m guessing that it’s the pollen in the air causing some issues.  None of my other allergy symptoms have started (maybe I won’t have any of those this year) but poor Michael is suffering and these migraines are being caused by something.

I mentioned last week that I was looking forward to David Baldacci’s latest book, The Fix (affiliate link).  It was worth the wait!  I love David Baldacci’s Amos Decker character, of course I’m going to have to wait quite a bit for a new book.  Fortunately I found a book by Brad Meltzer (affiliate link) that was released last year that I somehow missed so I have another new book that I’m reading this week.  Yay!

Weekly Menu


weekly menu planning

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter!  We had a very nice day, the weather was absolutely beautiful and we sat outside quite a bit.  My mother-in-law decided to shake things up this year with a brunch which turned out well and everyone enjoyed.  At my mom’s we still did the traditional dinner.  Given that we have two dinners, it was nice to have two very different meals.

My contribution to the brunch was a Paula Deen Baked French Toast Casserole.  It was delicious!  Consensus from everyone (at least those who ate it) was that it’s a keeper.  I did make a bit of a mistake with the praline.  I put everything in the food processor and ended up with “frosting” instead of crumbles.  It wasn’t a huge deal (still tasted good) but my advice would be to hand mix it.

French Toast Bake

During my time off work, I’ve been doing a lot of reading.  I splurged and bought the Kindle Unlimited at Amazon.  Normally I don’t read enough to make it worth my money but given how many books I’ve gone through it more than paid for itself.  Tomorrow the new Amos Decker  (affiliate link) book comes out and I’m beside myself with excitement!  David Baldacci is one of my favorite authors and his Amos Decker series is really good.

The menu this week was built around meat that I had in the freezer and items from my pantry.  By planning around items I had on hand I was able to cut our grocery bill by 30%.  If only I could do this every week 🙂  However, even if once a month I could save a significant portion of my grocery bill I’d be pretty happy.