Saturday, December 31, 2016

December 2016 Highlights

December came so quickly in 2016 that I couldn't believe it. Where has the year gone?

Early December was my student focusing on finishing his to college courses for the semester (Dual Enrollment program). There were also Boy Scout meetings, Civil Air Patrol meetings, and getting ready for Christmas.

In December, both of my CAP family members got promoted on the same night.

The Cadet got promoted to Staff Sgt.

The Senior member got promoted to 1st Leutenant.

The Boy Scout troop met each week and went camping. Our Scout missed some of the meetings because college studies taking up a lot of his time. Our troop was honored by a visit from five of our former Scouts, all Eagles, visiting while on break from college.

My husband and I got new cell phones. We didn't get all the most expensive bells and whistles, but I'm thrilled to have some newer technology and some faster speed for the things I use my cell for. The photos are better quality, too, and I'm glad about that.

We got a silly little Christmas tree this year. Sorry for the washed out photo...

We enjoyed our giving of gifts this year. I won't list gifts here, mostly. I'm not even sure what people's favorite gifts were (I'm meaning the gifts they received). I'll post more about some of the received gifts in future blog entries.

After Christmas we visited some family we don't often see. Didn't photograph everyone, but here are photos of some of our close family. The first is my nephew Jared and his mom and dad, my husband's brother Mike and wife Deanna:

The next is my husband Rick visiting with Deanna's mom Dixie:

We also saw Rick's other brother, Larry; Larry's son-in-law, Lee; as well as Rick's dad, Jerry -- but at the time I wasn't thinking and didn't take photos of them.

We were visiting them in North Carolina from 12/26 to 12/28. We came home to piles of laundry and some post-Christmas shopping 12/29. Then 12/30 was my birthday. We went out to dinner, which we don't normally do on my birthday, so that was special. I made my own cake, but doing so was a stretch time-wise. The cake was lopsided, and the icing wasn't warm because of how cold the house is in December. Then I kinda ran out of icing before the sides got iced all the way down. I photographed a better looking side. I requested, "No candles, please!"

12/31 was menu-planning and shopping, and not much else. We're leaving the tree up an extra few days because we're celebrating late-Christmas tomorrow at my house.

Student has been on break from college since 12/18 and has been focusing some time on his Geometry. He did a smashingly marvelous job on his courses during the fall semester (English 102 and History of the 20th century). He has also been making bull whips out of paracord. (Google it!) 


We're going to try to get him to buckle down and work on his Eagle project as well during his college break.

That's about it. Coming soon: results of 2016 year goals!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Menu Monday for 2016-12-26

Holiday hectic ensues, so I am posting this late.

So, as I expected, I lost my momentum for weight loss during the holidays and I didn’t lose weight. So on “weigh in” day I opted to skip weighing in.

Lots of family togetherness this week – less cooking involved. Here’s this week’s menu plan:

Saturday (12/24): chili, salad, corn bread (bumped from earlier in the week)

Sunday (12/25): standing rib roast, green beans, mashed potatoes

Monday (12/26): eating elsewhere

Tuesday (12/27):  eating elsewhere

Wednesday (12/28):  eating elsewhere

Thursday (12/29):  leftovers from earlier in the week, probably chili

Friday (12/30):  rib-eye steak, baked potatoes, salad, carrot cake (meal plan may change based on what we end up eating for dinner Tuesday night...)

Saturday (12/31): honey-glazed chicken, rice, broccoli

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Recipe Share: Nana's Carrot Cake

Bar none, this is currently my favorite cake! (And I'm a chocoholic!)


1½ cup oil                                                                              1 tsp. salt
2 cups sugar                                                                         2 tsp. cinnamon
4 large eggs                                                                          2 cups finely grated carrots
2 cups all purpose flour                                                   8¾ ounce can crushed pineapple
2 tsp. baking powder                                                        ½ cup chopped walnuts
1½ tsp. baking soda                                                           cream cheese frosting (recipe below)

Grease bottom and sides of three 9-inch round cake pans and dust with flour. Set aside..
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat first three ingredients together at medium speed with electric mixer until blended.

Combine dry ingredients together on a sheet of waxed paper.  Add gradually to wet mixture, in three or four portions, mixing after each addition until well blended. Scrape sides of bowl between additions to catch the flour that may stick to sides. Stir in carrot, pineapple and nuts. (Hard to find crushed pineapple in a small can anymore, so buy larger can. Drain of pineapple juice and measure out about 1 cup or less to use in this recipe.)

Pour batter evenly into the three cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Test cakes for doneness and add time if needed by 5 minute increments, testing again for doneness. Cool in pans on wire racks for ten minutes, then turn out of pans onto wire racks to cool completely before icing.

Spread cream cheese frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Yield: 1 3-layer cake. Prep time 20 minutes (not including time to shred carrots); bake time 25 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
16 ounces (about 3 cups) powdered sugar (sift if necessary)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended. Gradually add powdered sugar and vanilla, beating well. Yield: 4 cups. Covers 3-layer cake.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Letter from Carole

In the genealogy of things, the "Letters from Esther" were letters from my grandmother to her sister(s) and brother(s), my great aunt(s) and great uncle(s). Initially the letters were also to Esther's father, my great grandfather Alfred Efraimson. He passed away in 1970.

Esther Efraimson married Theodore Norman Holien, my grandfather. Together they parented (in this order) Wayne, Carole, Ida and Larry.

Ida and Carole married in the early 1950s (my mom - Ida - married 8/29/52). The following is a letter Carole wrote to her aunt(s) and uncle(s) after the birth of her fourth son, David (my cousin) in November 1958.

Brooke Grove Rd.
Olney, Md.

Nov. 30, '58

Dear Jen & All,

We've been blessed with another dear little boy! Early, as you probably know, by 3 weeks, but seemingly fine, strong & healthy. He was probably early because Ricky is so heavy & still needs to be lifted from here to there, etc. He was 5 lbs. 7 oz to, which is not too light & was born at 5:04 a.m. 11/28. He looks like Bob, as they all do, with the possible exception of Brian.

I sure came to the hospital unprepared. The Dr. & I both felt it was probably false labor, but it turned out not to be (obviously!) so all I brought was my housecoat. And husbands just naturally lose their minds I think, when wives go into the hosp. since I still have no toothbrush, bobby pins, etc. that I've asked him to bring. We're all really glad he's arrived tho, since he is okay, since I should be feeling good for Christmas. The Dr. was just in for my checkup & says the baby is perfectly fine & so am I.

I better close for now. Just wanted to let you know about it.



Menu Monday for 12/19/16

Another week down; 12 days left in 2016! At my weigh in this week I had lost 1.2 pounds! I will weigh in again on 12/23 and on 12/30. On 1/1 I will post total weight lost in 2016 and before and after photos!

Here are this week's meal plans:

Sunday (12/18): Spaghetti with meat sauce (spaghetti squash for mom), salad, TX Toast for the non-paleo

Monday (12/19)(Boy Scouts):  ham and bean soup (bumped from Saturday when we ended up eating out)

Tuesday (12/20):  chicken stroganoff, noodles, Brussels sprouts

Wednesday (12/21):  chili, salad, corn bread

Thursday (12/22):  honey mustard pork chops, baby potatoes, steamed zucchini

Friday (12/23):  honey glazed chicken, rice, broccoli

Saturday (12/24): lasagna, salad, TX Toast

Nature Notes - Birdfeeder

I'm having so much fun watching my bird feeder I just wanted to share!

Right now there's a white-breasted nuthatch on my feeder - I haven't seen any red-breasted nuthatches this year.

We have at least a pair of tufted titmouses ("titmice"?).


We have at least a pair of North Carolina or black-capped chickadees (or both).
The chickadees and titmouses move so constantly it's hard to ever see more than two at once. There are probably more nuthatch, too, but we only see one at a time. There were blue jays... 

There are, of course, lots of house sparrows, and then a song sparrow!

Surprisingly, though, I also had a visit from an Eastern Bluebird (no photo) and some goldfinch  sporting winter colors!

I have had visits from downy woodpecker(no photo) and hairy woodpecker (below): 

I saw red again and thought the woodpecker was back again, and then realized it was a Northern Flicker!

Wish I could have gotten a photo of that Eastern blue bird! I seldom see them in my yard, and I didn't think they winter here! I thought they went south!

So that's what's been hopping at my birdfeeder this week. What's going on in your back yard?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Menu Monday for 12/12/16

I'm running late to post this this week. Such a busy time of year! Got our tree; had visitors. Student finished his semester at community college today!

First, the weight loss update. I had lost one pound on my weigh in date at Jenny Craig. That is 10.8 pounds since I started with them in October, and 20 pounds lost in 2016! Woot! Woot! Not sure how much more I'll lose in December. Feel like I'm losing momentum, and I am not getting to the gym. So busy, and I hate going out when it is so COLD!

Here's my plan for this week, albeit late:

Sunday (12/11): Pizza (chicken salad for mom)

Monday (12/12)(Boy Scouts):  salmon, sweet potatoes, spinach

Tuesday (12/13):  rotisserie chicken, leftover stuffing, leftover veggies

Wednesday (12/14):  honey-mustard pork chops, noodles, green beans

Thursday (12/15) (CAP):  Greek-style meatballs, Brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes

Friday (12/16):  lemon garlic chicken, broccoli, rice

Saturday (12/17): Slow cooker ham and white bean soup, salad, bread

Monday, December 5, 2016

Menu Monday for 12/5/16

Another week gone by! They seem to go so quickly!

First my weight-loss update. So... last week there was a special birthday in the family. I made carrot cake. The birthday-ee requested wings for dinner. I went off plan. I had 4 wings in addition to my on-plan dinner. I had a slice of carrot cake.

Next day I shared a venti peppermint mocha from Starbuck's with my daughter.

Mid-week I indulged in a tall caramel hot chocolate on my own. I won't do that again... too sweet for me!

I went to the gym Monday and Wednesday (and Friday, after I weighed in).

I weighed in at Jenny Craig Friday morning. I had LOST TWO POUNDS! Since starting with them I've lost 9.8 pounds in seven weeks.

I remind, as a personal disclaimer, that the benefit I receive is in the accountability. I don't like their food -- too processed for me -- and at this point I am only buying "Anytime Bars" and S'Mores as morning and bedtime snacks. These are still too processed for me long-term, but they're chocolate, I can sink my teeth into them, and they help me to stay on track.
I'm so close to having lost 20 pounds this year! I'm looking forward to showing you before and after photos in an upcoming post, hopefully on 1/1/17!

In the meantime, here's my menu plan for this week:

Saturday (12/03):  Dinner Out

Sunday (12/04): Pot roast with potatoes, carrots, celery and onion, rolls

Monday (12/05)(Boy Scouts PLC):  Italian chicken, rice broccoli

Tuesday (12/06):  sizzle burgers, carrots, noodles

Wednesday (12/07): oven-stuffer roaster chicken, stuffing, California medley vegetables

Thursday (12/08) (CAP): grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup, carrot sticks

Friday (12/09): Chinese food (out)(Jenny Craig Meal?)

Saturday (12/10): salmon, sweet potatoes, spinach

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Somebody had a birthday!

So I mentioned in my last post that someone had a birthday. When I can, I like to use birthdays for a photo review.

One year, on Thanksgiving Day, a son was born!

He was the youngest of three, and we love our little guy!

You can see there is quite a gap between #1 and #3 - thirteen years!

The years rolled by so quickly, it seems.

#1 graduated from homeschool and left home to attend college. #2 was almost finished with homeschool when #3 started home kindergarten.

#2 attended a private school for senior year, so when #3 was in 1st Grade I was homeschooling a "Lonely only"!






So #3 had a birthday! One more year of "childhood". He'll be 18 most of his senior year. On Thursday we did one more family photo - only mom, dad and #3.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Menu Monday for 11/28/16

We had Thanksgiving Dinner at my adult daughter's this year (first time ever!), and she and her hubby did a great job! 

We took stuffing and sweet potatoes to contribute to the meal. The downside is that we have no leftover turkey to eat now, so hubby went out and bought a small turkey, which I cooked Sunday. Here's a new family photo including daughter and son-in-law:

I've completed six weeks with Jenny Craig. I'm eating mostly my own paleo meals now, but am still eating some Jenny Craig stuff (mostly mid-morning "Anytime Bars" and evening snacks) and daily milk-based protein shakes (which protein powder I already bought, so I'm going to use it before I transfer to a non-milk-based protein powder). So my menu plan is primarily paleo (for me) with non-paleo items added for my non-paleo family members.

So far I've lost 7.8 pounds since I started Jenny Craig. Their main benefit to me now is the accountability, since I'll be better "behaved" each week when I know I'll be weighing in and checking in with someone each week on Friday. I went off plan this week for someone's birthday! First time since I started. So I'll have to see Friday if I still manage to lose weight this week.

Here's this week's plan:

Saturday (11/26):  Pizza (Jenny Craig meal)

Sunday (11/27): Turkey, leftover stuffing and sweet potatoes, gravy, green beans

Monday (11/28)(Boy Scouts PLC):  Hot Dogs on buns, baked beans, mixed vegs (meat or JC meal and carrots)

Tuesday (11/29):  pan seared scallops, asparagus, rice pilaf

Wednesday (11/30): hot turkey sandwiches, broccoli florets

Thursday (12/1): chicken Caesar salad, TX toast

Friday (12/2) (Care Group): boneless pork chops, steamed zucchini, macaroni & cheese

Saturday (12/3): Pot roast with potatoes, carrots, celery and onion, rolls

Monday, November 21, 2016

Menu Monday for 11/21/16

I am finally catching up and posting my "Menu Monday" on Monday!

I have now completed five weeks of Jenny Craig. Not liking how processed their food is, I have been working to gradually substitute my own foods for their processed selections. I have lost six pounds since I started.

My standard breakfast is a spinach scramble -- about 1 cup of organic spinach sauteed in scant coconut oil, then two eggs added and scrambled. For lunch I always start with a big bowl (think of a serving bowl at the dinner table). I add to that a main dish, maybe a can of tuna or chicken, or a scoop of leftover dinner like chili over the salad, or a bowl of soup on the side. Dinners I eat a large amount of salad with 2-4 ounces of meat on the side.

Anyway, here's my main family plan for this week. On a night like Monday night, when I planned grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, I eat leftovers of a Jenny Craig meal.

Saturday (11/19):  leftovers

Sunday (11/20): rotisserie chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans

Monday (11/21)(Boy Scouts):  grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup

Tuesday (11/22):  crock macaroni beef bake, carrots

Wednesday (11/23): ravioli, salad, TX toast

Thursday (11/24)(Thanksgiving): turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, salad.

Friday (11/25):  ribs, cole slaw, rolls