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What is it like to be a Mom for Senior Prom…

It all starts many months before the actual day with Prom dress shopping…. well it does for us Moms of teenage girls. Junior Prom dress shopping turned into a nightmare last year, we could not find the perfect dress for our budget, we spent day after day, month after month visiting dress shops, we ordered and bought 4 dresses in total and then we finally decided on a dress that M had tried on in the very beginning, which by the way was always one of my favorites and ended up being such a bargain with extra discounts. Moving onto this year, with last years experience under my belt, I had a plan and a budget… one giant outlet dress shop and a free afternoon… well my plan was even more successful than I thought it would be… one shop, first dress we saw, 20 minutes later we were off to get lunch with the dress in our hands… so organized and off to a good start this year.

Next on our prom to do list was organizing the hair appointment well in advance, luckily our last minute hair appointment was so successful last year, we decided this was the perfect place for this year. We did leave shoe and bag shopping a little late but that worked out well in more ways than one. To be honest in all the preparation I was not prepared personally for the actual day….

After having 5 boys who I absolutely adore by the way, I got a beautiful dark hair baby girl, I remember touching her after she was born, trying to take in every moment of her being here, she is almost 18 now, she has challenged me in more ways than I thought possible, there have been fights, tears, laughter and so much joy, but I feel like I blinked and she was here going to Prom. I wasn’t prepared for the emotion that went along with Senior Prom before the actual day. I was and am so proud of everything she has achieved, this year has been challenging for her, but not only has she come out of High School on top with fantastic grades, a few Honors societies under her belt, but she has grown so much as a person, to see her smile light up on Friday melted my heart in ways I have never felt, different ways… I am so proud of each one of my children for who they are, who they have become, and each one of their achievements… and Friday afternoon was no different, except this time my baby was wearing a beautiful pink dress that made her sparkle in every way possible.

So what’s it truly like being a Mom of a Senior at Prom… well my day started with collecting the boutonnière for M, it was then my emotions began to go haywire, it was then I realized that today was truly bittersweet, my heart lit up with pride at this beautiful person she has become, but deep down I felt a huge weight, this day really does signify change, time to move on, but as a Mom it’s hard to let go, I’ve tried so hard this weekend not to be the over bearing mother of a daughter partying at Seaside, so many times I wanted to check she was ok, but I didn’t because I know this will be our life moving forward… college awaits this smart beautiful girl and I want her to enjoy every single moment of this new and exciting life… but I can tell you one thing I was so happy when she text me to say she was home yesterday afternoon.

Time please stop moving too fast, please slow down just a little, let me stay a while in this moment before we move on to a new and very different life… being a mother is challenging in so many ways but the rewards are more amazing than we ever imagined… that’s what being a mother of a Senior is all about… boy or girl they challenge us in ways we never expected but when it is time to fly our little nest called home, are we ready, will we ever really be ready… I think the answer to that will always be no, but we know the time has come to let our babies fly away but deep down inside we know they will always want to come home to us… life changes but our love will never change it will just grow and grow and grow.

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The land of the free…

Memorial Day weekend feels a little early this year, I guess because it’s almost a week before May closes out and June begins… despite feeling a little odd that we have celebrated and we have almost a week left in this month, we had an awesome time.

We celebrated an event that happened earlier last week on Saturday, Lewis’ Graduation with a glass or two of Prosecco, followed by an awesome family evening of chatting and laughter. Sunday was a fun day… NOT, we tackled the crowds at Costco in desperate need for some food it was a must… not one that I would have chosen if our cupboards weren’t completely bare.

Memorial Day was so much fun though… it started relatively early for us, Paul was preparing to take F and T to our local town parade, candy bags ready for the big collection and I was getting ready to take M to meet someone she has been chatting to on her college forum. We arrived in Morristown a little early so Century 21 is always a must to look around, for those of you who don’t know what Century 21 is, it’s a shoppers paradise with 3 floors of discounted brand clothes, shoes, homeware , make up, bags… you name it they have it… always so much fun to mooch around.

Later I had a couple of hours to myself, so after my much needed Starbucks I took myself and my new camera off to explore, it felt really weird for it just to be me, normally I have someone with me… but today just for an hour or two it was me, myself and of course my beloved camera… I love to people watch, so combined with awesome buildings Morristown didn’t disappoint, it was totally alive with Memorial Day crowds, sitting, chatting eating and just simply walking around.

Time flies when you are having fun… my final stop for the day was our friends Pool for a swim followed by a delicious BBQ. I met Paul and our children there, by the time I arrived F and T were already in the pool, splashing around with Jill, they had had an awesome time at the parade with their Dad and their candy bags were full, well fuller than they had been when they started the day, the sun was shining but the temperatures were so pleasant… it really was the perfect way to spend Memorial Day afternoon into the evening… friends, good food and beautiful weather.

Back to a normal week… last few weeks of schooling both home and High School… counting down until school is out for Summer Break, finally I will be able to kick back and relax a little… well almost I forgot we are about to enter Birthday Season in our house, and that is always a crazy busy time.

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May…

I love the month of May, I love everything about May, it’s when nature comes back to life after the long Winter, its the Anniversary of the day I married the love of my life, it’s when my excited 7 year old daughter gets another year older and plans every detail of her precious Birthday right down to the last detail, it’s when the days are finally longer and my boots can finally be put in the closet and exchanged for my old but beloved Birkenstock’s… yes indeed May is a beautiful month.

May is usually a busy month for us with Birthdays, our Anniversary and Mother’s Day all within a few days of each other, but this year we added a couple of new things to our schedule for May, this year we began our month in Savannah Georgia on Vacation… and what a vacation it was, the weather was beautiful every single day, the buildings were adorable, windows, doors just rustic and beautiful, my new camera worked so hard snapping away at a new delight every time I blinked, we drank wine with lunch every day, it’s definitely allowed on vacation, we rode the free bus around town and rode the free ferry’s across the river, we ate different new delights at different restaurants all the time… but the best part of this vacation was just having time to be with the ones that I love… and for one little girl the best part was getting to swim in the pool every single day.

We celebrated our Anniversary in the beautiful city of Savannah, but we flew home to celebrate my Birthday, which doubled as Mothers Day this year with all of our children, despite being Zombie like tired from our extremely early alarm and flight home, all of my older children planned a perfect day, brunch turned into lunch, due to flight delays, sushi was ordered and a huge cheese board was created, balloons, napkins and paper plates were perfectly co-ordinated with a banner and a gorgeous chocolate raspberry cake was alight with candles… I couldn’t a planned a better Birthday if I tried… and let’s not forget the presents, oh they were GOOD, what a lucky girl I am.

Florence’s Birthday came next… she planned everything she wanted to eat and do… food was of upmost importance in this day, bagels for breakfast, sushi for lunch, Chinese for dinner and an ice cream cake for dessert… it was a lot to achieve but we did it almost, we just couldn’t fit bagels into the huge day of food. She wanted a girls Spa day, manicure and pedicure followed by an afternoon of mini golf down by the lake… the sun shone bright and everyone had so much fun, especially one very special Birthday girl.

Last but not least this month was a very special day, my second eldest son graduated with his Masters of Science degree in Sustainability and Sustainability Leadership… F and T got to stay with friends for the evening, they even got a late afternoon swim in their pool so they were very happy whilst we got to watch our son get something he has worked so hard for, now you know there were tears, what really made my evening was the fact that everyone at home and my parents who are 3500 miles away got to watch a live stream of the special moment, sometimes I do believe technology is wonderful and this was definitely one of those moments… I am definitely a proud Mother this week, because to add to this wonderful achievement, my Senior daughter received her Arts Honors Society cords ready for her High School graduation… what a week.

Now this weekend is Memorial Day weekend… who doesn’t love a long weekend, it’s that Friday feeling but much much better because the weekend is now 3 days long… we are celebrating my sons Masters Degree today, tomorrow we have no plans and Monday we head to our friends to swim in their pool… I will forever believe that I am truly lucky to have such a wonderful family and such great friends in my life… that is really the only thing you need to be the happiest person alive.

Whatever you are doing on this glorious long weekend in May, have a fantastic one. ♥️

Diet and nutrition, plant based diet, recipes, Uncategorized

Veganuary

IMG_2722It is officially half way through Veganuary, so let me tell you how it is going…

First off let me tell you it is not as hard as I thought, there are actually so many new plant based items coming into our grocery stores, from delicious butter to perfect smelling and delicious tasting sausages from the company Beyond Meat… on our first day of Veganuary we had a rather indulgent sausage sandwich, not only was it completely plant based but it was all gluten free too… so we were off to a flying start and it was not feeling too much like a vegan diet.

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Now when it comes to cooking normally, I am definitely a cook from scratch kind of girl, no additives, natural, organic cooking… but eating a completely plant based diet and finding delicious recipes has been so easy, even Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey are getting in on the act these days. Pinterest has become my best friend, along with Deliciously Ella, Aine Carlin and Bosh to name a few.

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What have we eaten I hear you ask… well I will give you a little food tour of our two week adventure into plant based eating… breakfasts are usually a potato and sweet potato hash with lots of healthy veggies, I have recently purchased a mung bean scrambled egg product called Just Egg, it scrambles just like eggs and tastes almost the same, its big plus is the amount of protein it adds to your diet, if Paul is traveling into the office I make him a fruit filled chia pudding with added beet powder for nutrition and topped with a little granola for crunch. Lunch is a mixture of leftovers from the night before to soup and sandwiches, soups are very easy to make vegan, substitutions are easy, nut or oat milks replace dairy milk, coconut cream or a non dairy yogurt replaces cream or half and half, garbanzo beans are a perfect replacement for chicken and butter is swapped out with a healthy oil or plant based butter. One of my new favorite lunches is Trader Joes new Crabless Jackfruit patties, with a large salad, they are so good. Dinner is where it is at, so many well thought out nutritious and really delicious recipes to chose from, one of my favorites is a skillet lasagne, but to be honest I am also loving the simple baked potato with a little vegan butter and a huge salad too. Buddha bowls have featured in many of our menu plans… simple nutritious bowls of delicious colors like a Winter buddha bowl and a  Chickpea bowl with a spicy peanut sauce. Of course it is always good to have a sweet treat and eating a plant based diet does not mean you cannot do that… like these delicious Fudgy Vegan Brownie Cookies, I did not have the aqua faba, so I substituted it for a flax egg and it worked perfectly, they were so good even my children ate them and did not suspect for even a minute that they were totally vegan.

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Now onto how I am feeling in myself… since the beginning of December when we purchased our treadmill I have lost 10 lbs, I gained 3 lbs over the Christmas period, so I guess in total I have lost 13 lbs because I had to lose that weight again, I think the combination of diet and exercise is the reason, I use the treadmill 6 days a week and have eaten a nutritional plant based diet that I calorie count each day. I have cut down my sugar intake but I am stilling enjoying a glass or two of wine, we found out that our favorite red wine is actually totally vegan and our favorite chocolate sweet treat is vegan too, so win, win when you want a little treat here and there.  Apart from a very bad reaction to some sour dough bread I bought for the first time ever in Trader Joes on Sunday, where on two separate occasions of eating it I became very sick, shaking, heart palpations, difficulty breathing and feeling so cold, I am feeling good, I have no bloating at all, my head feels very clear and very focused, I seem to have more energy than I have had for a long time.  Now Paul will tell anyone that will listen how being a vegetarian for 11 months has helped him feel better too, his health has seemed to improved a great deal. Over these past two weeks Paul has been 98% vegan, he has had no eggs and a very tiny portion of cheese when he grabbed a small slice of pizza and ate it before he realized what he had done, I too had a small slip up with some salted movie popcorn Florrie bought back from her outing with Dom, I was happily munching away when I was informed they had put butter all over it, hopefully not too much had gone on the bottom kernels.

At the moment Veganuary is going strong for Paul and I, I really don’t mind substituting vegan cheese for the odd grilled cheese sandwich to go with a large bowl of creamy broccoli soup or making a beautiful Black Bean Plantain Enchilada Bake from the Minimalist Baker, I am also good at adjusting the odd Jamie Oliver recipe and turning it into a plant based delight.

 

Diet and nutrition, Florence, plant based diet, Uncategorized

Road to getting fit and healthy…

IMG_2035As I get older my weight has spiraled, I have never had weight issues before and I do not like the loss of control over my size, so before I get any older I need to get a grip and get fit and healthy.

Over the past few years I have played around with exercise, the odd phase of Yoga with youtube, a little bit of low impact cardio, damn it I have even considered a few laps in our friends pool or on vacation enough exercise for a week or two… in reality I have never really stuck to any program of exercise since I was in my thirties.

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Diet is exactly the same, I have fluctuated from a vegetarian diet to a vegan diet, I have tried the paleo approach, I have counted calories and I have even tried to starve myself, nothing works and I have not stuck to anything with success.

So what is a girl to do… suddenly it hit me, I really need to get real, whilst on vacation a few weeks ago I decided to try out the treadmill in the hotel gym, I had no sneakers with me so I went barefooted, gross I know, but I promise I cleaned everything down after I used it.  I actually enjoyed using the treadmill each day and it was surprising how I improved even after only a few days, I followed it with a few laps in the pool and then of course some fun time with my children, I felt so much better in myself.

Which brings me to today… we now own our own personal treadmill, a bargain purchase on Black Friday, I have found a low impact cardio video on Youtube and a quick morning Yoga morning session to add to my morning routine.

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It is time to get real people and kick this middle aged body into shape… I started a loose exercise routine on Saturday and as the week has progressed it has developed and shaped its way into something I can do everyday, I can adapt it if I need to.  I have even purchased scales, something I swore I would never do as I was anorexic in my teens and obsessed with my weight… but now I am armed with a lot of research on health and nutrition I am determined to lose weight the sensible healthy way.

Today after completing 6 continuous days of exercise, 99% gluten free and plant based diet I have lost 7lbs, now I know this may not continue at this rate, but I am very happy to have it as a starting point… so how have I done it?

Every morning, I am definitely a morning exerciser, some people prefer afternoon or evenings, I like to have my routine done before I sit down to breakfast… anyway every morning I start my day with a very quick 5 minute wake up yoga session, stretching out my body, then I set an Interval training 30 minutes session on the treadmill, my usual distance is about 1.4 miles going from a slow walking pace to a slow run, believe me I couldn’t even do this when I first started, after I have recovered from my walk/run, I move onto a 20 minute low impact cardio workout to tone my muscles then finish with a 5 to 10 minute, depending on how bored my children are, mediation to focus for my day.

I have been very careful with my diet this week, I think 90% of my shopping cart this week was fresh organic produce, when my kids look in the refrigerator all they see is fruit and vegetables… and you know what this week nearly everything has been used in my nutritious buddha bowls for dinner every night.  I have been 99% plant based and gluten free, I have felt so much better, no bloating, sorry TMI, more energy and I feel much calmer.  Breakfast usually consists of vegan gf whole grain toast and something like avocado or vegan cream cheese with lots of veggies, like tomatoes, arugula or baby kale.  Lunch has been a butternut squash gf based pizza with organic tomato sauce, no cheese but lots and lots of super healthy veggies and for dinner we have eaten the rainbow, both cooked and raw in our variations of buddha bowls, if you have not tried them take a look at all the different recipes out there or create your own bowls of perfectly balanced nutrition… It is a great way to get your children eating healthier too, let them create their own bowls, F and T would fill theirs with cucumber, avocado, apples and pasta, but hey its healthy so I will be happy.

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Now I am not saying I have been perfect, I have drunk a glass or two of wine each night, I even had two pieces of a Terry’s chocolate orange and I am still having sugar in my coffee, but I have improved at one stage I could have drunk the liquor store empty of wine… well not really but you get the idea, I was also having half a bag of mini Kit Kats a night with Paul and I was drinking 3 sugars, 4 if I had a coffee from Dunkin Donuts… everyone has their vice and mine is a little sugar in my coffee each day, and of course that much needed glass of wine to end my busy hectic days.

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New year…

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I’m not sure it really feels like New Year to me yet, for the first time ever I slept right through it, getting stomach flu on vacation was not quite the plan but it happened anyway, hot, cold shivers, violent headaches, stomach pains, nausea and the dreaded run to the bathroom, all led to me wanting to just sleep in bed for three days, but I didn’t, you are only on vacation for such a few days and I wasn’t going to let this thing keep me from getting out and enjoying Arizona, but I did let it allow me to sink into bed early each night and sleep on and off through each evening and night, including New Years Eve… so there were no tears of something lost and happiness of something new this year, just sleep and then more sleep.

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Although I was still kind of out of it on New Year’s Day, feeling a little better but not even 75%, we spent the day in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been privileged to go to… Sedona AZ… if ever you are lucky enough to travel to Arizona make sure Sedona is on your places to visit list, well that’s if you don’t decide to just stay there for a few days… everywhere you look the views are just stunning and surreal, sit in Starbucks sip coffee and the views are phenomenal, grab lunch at one of the many places to eat and the views are out of this world… my only criticism would be that some of the places are a little too touristy and the shops tend to be a little generic, but I wasn’t there to shop, even though we did do a little, obligatory teenage girl Sedona sweatshirt shopping, Mom and Florrie got handmade healing necklaces, oh and an unexpected find of summer Harlem pants… to just sit relax and take in that fantastic scenery that just surrounds you everywhere you look is just amazing and so calming.

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I don’t know why but I always feel a little apprehensive at the New Year… the thought of what a New Year can bring, has had me a little depressed this year. It is silly because really it’s just another day, but it really seems such a big deal… I was reading all these positive New Year posts on social media and I had to stop and give myself a good talking too, although last year was tough with my Mum getting sick there were lots of positives… three of my older sons all have good jobs now, we have had three vacations, one was unplanned to see my Mum, but we still got to see family and friends and see the new regeneration of a town we grew up in and our older children grew up in, our children are all doing well and are happy, Paul and I are in a really good place with our relationship right now and my Mum is through her chemo now and on the other side, she is the bravest person I know and I am very proud of her. So I think I need to start looking at New Year in a new light from now on… how exciting is this year going to be?

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No resolutions from me this year, another first… just intentions to be a healthier more positive me… I want to continue my healthy eating campaign… get back to the cardio and yoga I was doing until I damaged my ankle, no more excuses though, more meditation and learning to relax… and over this winter I want to stay in the warm hibernate by the fire and fuel one of my passions photography, I want to improve my skills, more reading and practicing, I want to be as good if not better than the talented people of the photography Facebook groups I follow.

But for now I am going to enjoy my last two days in Sunny Arizona… relax in the warmth, soak up as many rays as I can because on Saturday when we arrive back home it will be freezing and I need this warmth to last through until Spring… Happy New Year everyone 🎉

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Updated… almost Vegan, but not quite.

I’ve made a lot of vegan meals and experimented with vegan ingredients in old favorite recipes since I’ve been back from vacation… I have to say without a doubt they have all been delicious, using egg substitutes in waffles and baking was easy, and cutting down on oil in cakes using apple sauce has worked well, although I have been doing that for quite a while… I can even say the vegan, soy free provolone cheese is ok as long as it’s melted, but it’s good for that odd craving of something melty over your pasta or in a sandwich.

I plan nutritional breakfasts for Paul to take to work with him every day, this is one of my favorites gluten free, now vegan waffles, of course if you add dairy chocolate it makes it not vegan but as Paul is in no way vegan I treated him to a few chocolate nibbles to go with the unsweetened coconut on top of his waffles. I have made him vegan, dairy and gluten free breakfast every morning for the past two weeks including a vegan omelette and he has not complained once. I try to make my breakfast for the day with enough for two then Paul has it the next day… it’s worked well so far.

I have been almost dairy free for many years now, using nut or plant based milks in everything, but I had never thought to make it myself… until I started researching this Vegan trend, it was a complete surprise just how easy it was, you take your nuts or seeds and soak them for a few hours then you blend them in a blender with water, the amount of water depends on the consistency you require, I was making a cashew nut cream so obviously the liquid was less, but the outcome was delicious and I have used it in all my recipes instead of cream or yogurt. I also made a broccoli cream soup using the same technique, as you cooked your broccoli in broth you had sunflower seeds cooking with it soaking in the broth, once the broccoli was cooked you blended everything together including the sunflower seeds giving a nice creamy soup consistency… just delicious.

Now as any Vegetarian/Vegan knows a plant based diet includes a lot of chopping and prepping and when you have a super large family you need a little helping hand… I was on Facebook one day and this super fast chopping machine was being advertised, well I’m not usually one to watch the shopping channel or get hooked into buying something on screen, but this had me hooked, Paul was trying to tell me he found chopping therapeutic, but I guess when you do it once in a while it could be, but day after day, it really is not so much fun, or indeed therapeutic, so I took the plunge and ordered it… Paul was worried I would slice my finger on the blades and his worries were not unfounded as within the first 24 hours of owning my Veggie Bullet I have sliced my thumb twice, but you learn very quickly from your mistakes. After a shaky start, slicing my thumb, using the wrong lids for slicing and spiralizing, I have finally mastered my veggie bullet and I love it, there is quite a bit to wash up but my plan is to prep my veggies once a week looking at all my recipes… onions sliced thinly in seconds, eggplant sliced in less seconds than it took me to wash it, sweet potatoes spiralized before I could even heat the oil… it’s crazy and I will use it for a weeks worth of chopping preparation each week, with only one wash up required for the whole week.

So far each recipe I have made has been very tasty and nutritious, we have had Vietnamese noodle bowls, roasted veggie bowls, green lentil and spinach curry, roasted tomato soup with roasted rosemary potatoes, creamy broccoli soup, super easy green pasta and tonight we are having black bean taquitos with an enchilada sauce… each meal I make has to be planned with precision, gluten free, dairy free and a meat protein to accompany the dish, as I cannot make everyone give up meat, even though I would secretly love that and my food budget would sigh with relief if I didn’t have to include meat. Even when I made a creamy broccoli pasta no one guessed it did not contain milk or cheese, the roasted tomato soup was full of flavor and the broccoli soup was creamy just by using sunflower seeds, so even the veggie haters in my house have enjoyed the vegan dishes plus a little meat on the side for good measure.

On a final note… I came across this Pumpkin oatmeal cookie recipe when baking with my children the other day, I’ve never used arrowroot in my baking before and I wasn’t sure about it, but these gluten free, dairy free, vegan cookies were so delicious not one person guessed quite how healthy they actually were.

Am I going to declare myself a Vegan? Not quite, my love of sushi and a good cheeseboard occasionally are something I just don’t want to give up… but on the whole, day to day it feels good to eat like this, healthy, nutrition that is plant based, it is definitely much easier than I thought to leave out the dairy, including cheese and eggs, the recipes are delicious and flavorful… so almost a Vegan is just good enough for me.