Archive for February, 2009


This is the exterior of a little cottage where my husband and I will spend the greater part of our vacation to England this summer…a trip that has been a far-off dream in my mind for many years, and one that I still can hardly believe has been not only planned but booked and partially paid for.

Our plan had been to go for our tenth anniversary, to celebrate a milestone in our marriage…a chance for me to walk in all the places where my favorite books are set, duck into little shops on cobblestone streets, sip tea and nibble on flaky pastries filled with way too much cream…even a walk in the rain would be exciting because it would, after all, be English rain.

Our anniversary is in early Spring (9 years this March) and summer is preferable for traveling in England, especially in the Lakes District where our little cottage lies nestled in a sleepy village. We also took into account our schedules for the next year, and found that there was a short stretch of time this summer that we could, with certainty, slip away and make this trip a reality.

We decided to jump on this opportunity, and within a week’s time I had done all the required research on accomodations, flights, transportation, and projected costs, and had everything booked. You would think I would be elated.

I was totally and completely sick to my stomach.

What about the cost? What about leaving the children for such a long stretch of time? What if it rains every day for twelve days? What if the food is bad, the bed is hard, the people unfriendly? What if my husband wrecks the rental car just trying to get out of Heathrow? (Come on, you have to admit, that is a legitimate concern!)

It took nearly three days for the fear and anxiety to subside. After all, where’s my sense of adventure? A long break with my fabulous husband (who happens to be my very best friend), tucked away in a sweet little cottage, roaming the English countryside. A day spent in Ambleside to see Charlotte Mason’s book collection and Beatrix Potter’s watercolour paintings…a day in Bath strolling down streets lined with breathtaking Roman architecture…a day in London riding red buses and taking in some of the greatest art of the Western world and doing…you know…London stuff.

So I will take courage and not worry about how things could possibly go wrong. This is not the kind of thing that we normally do…it’s more like a “once in a lifetime” event, and I hope that each day, each moment will be savored and enjoyed and that we can glory in God’s creative majesty as we climb the fells and row on the water and take in a different culture (albeit one not too dissimilar from our own).

Feel free to chime in with “you must do” or “you must see” if you happen to have taken such a magical trip yourselves!


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afternoon(Afternoon On The Hill, allposters.com)

Further Up and Further In

I had a rare fifteen minutes free this morning before loading the children in the van to go to church. The dishes in the sink beckoned me, the floor was littered here and there with toys that could have been (probably should have been!) picked up and put away, or I could have folded the laundry that is sitting in my dryer.

Instead, we pulled out our Narnia book (the great big hardback collection of all seven books) to read a chapter of The Last Battle. How delightful to read the descriptions of “the real Narnia”, of course a peek into Lewis’s idea of heaven. The same mountains, trees, flowers and streams, but more colorful and “deeper” somehow. Running fast without getting hot or tired. Going “further up and further in.”

We then threw our coats on and stepped out the front door. Though stepping carefully through muddy, slushy, melting ice, we saw beams of sunlight peeking through gauzy white clouds. A breeze tinged with warmth tickled our faces. “Mommy, it smells like spring!” my daughter cried out. Indeed it did!

By this afternoon I could see a patch of deep blue sky and the sun is shining brightly. Hope that winter is drawing to a close, whatever the next several weeks may bring. Hope that the delights of spring are imminent…green grass, delicate and fragrant flowers, the merry trill of a bird, warm sunshine, leafy trees.

My “New” Favorite Foods

I have many favorite recipes that I’d like to one day post, but very few of them are low-calorie (though all are made with wholesome ingredients!). Instead, I will share some of my current favorites from these several weeks of restricted calories.


I have been especially enjoying a hot bowl of oatmeal in the mornings, with half of a banana, sliced, and brown sugar, pecans, and milk. I only sprinkle a few pecans on there, about 8 halves. Total calories: 400.

My other breakfast mainstay has been Banana Berry Smoothies. In a blender, combine 6 ounces of orange juice, 4 ounces of plain nonfat yogurt, one half of a ripe banana, five or six frozen strawberries, and some frozen blueberries (about 1/4 cup). Fills a 16 oz. glass. Total calories: 275.


My new favorite is a crackers and cheese plate with fruit. I have about 12 Wheat Thins Toasted Chips with 1 1/2 ounces of Cabot 50% cheese and two cups of fruit, anything from grapes and strawberries to apples and pears. Watch out for grapes and bananas, they have a high glycemic index and the calories from the natural sugar add up fast. Cantaloupe, strawberries, and bing cherries are lower in calories and loaded with fiber and vitamins. I also add about 15 baby carrots with a teaspoon or two of veggie dip. Total calories: 350.

I use a lighter version of my “famous” salad for another lunch option. I put on more tomatoes, more green onion, perhaps some sliced mushrooms, and I go very easy on the cheese, pecans, and dried cranberries. Use all the dark, leafy green lettuce you like, and top off with a light salad dressing (I select those made with light olive oil that don’t contain a laundry list of chemicals). My favorite is Newman’s Own Salad Mist. Total calories: 325.


I have had to get really creative with our dinner options. My family loves to eat healthy foods, but not necessarily a meal under 500 calories. I have found a few “tricks” that leave everyone well satisfied.

We can’t use tomato sauce in our house due to some dietary restrictions, so when I make a pasta dish I generally have to top it with a homemade alfredo sauce. As you can imagine, this does not help to lower my caloric intake. So what I have done instead is to boil up the pasta, make the sauce as I usually do in all of it’s butter-and-heavy-cream-and-parmesan-cheese glory, and reserve a small portion of plain pasta with about three tablespoons of sauce. The rest of the pasta is tossed together with the sauce and served to my family. I take my bowl and add about a half of a package of frozen broccoli florets that I quickly sautee, along with some chopped tomato. The “juice” from the tomato helps to water the sauce down and enables me to mix it evenly with the pasta and broccoli. This is a delicious dinner and I can do it all for about 450 calories.

Another meal that I’ve changed up a bit is Roast Beef and Mashed Potatoes. Gone are the days when I could load my plate with two thick slabs of beef and a huge pile of mashed potatoes (I simply love potatoes!). Instead, I prepare the roast, potatoes, and a vegetable, including the butter and sour cream for the mashed potatoes, and serve everyone as I normally would. For myself, I take a thin slice of beef, 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes (put about five cloves of garlic in the water as the potatoes boil, then mash with butter, sour cream, milk, salt and pepper…yum!!), and whatever vegetable we are having. However, I also sautee a package of baby bella mushrooms with 1 tsp. of butter, and take most of them for myself. Mushrooms have next to no calories and I find them a delicious addition to just about any meal, but they are an especially lovely compliment to a beef roast! Total calories: 375


Dove Promises Chocolate Pieces. The dark and the 63% are my husband’s, the milk and the caramel are mine. Just one and I’m happy! 42 calories each.

4 oz. containers of yogurt, 100 calories each.

With a diet of 1500 calories per day, 8 glasses of water, and 45-60 minutes of aerobic excercise six days a week, I’ve been able to drop 12 pounds in 6 weeks. Most people could probably drop more, it’s just extremely difficult for me to lose weight.

Walk At Home

I’ve been asked which walking videos I use…I was told by a friend a few years ago to check out Leslie Sansone’s Walk At Home products, but it sounded boring to me. This past December I saw one at our library and brought it home…I was hooked after the first workout! Although I couldn’t even do two miles, it was fun and gentle but still challenging. And I can do it at home, even with the kids running around my feet! (Although I confess to stepping on them once in awhile…). Yesterday morning, I did five miles!! At my height and weight, this burns nearly 450 calories. My favorites are the Five Day Slim Down, Walk Slim Fast and Firm 4 Really Big Miles, and the Walk Strong Super Challenge.

Charlie’s Soap

I apologize for not responding to the comments way back when, asking me how to purchase Charlie’s Soap…instead of yet again rambling on and on about my infatuation with a laundry detergent, I will simply provide you with the link to the website, which offers descriptions of products and an easy ordering process. I get the 5 gallon bucket of laundry powder.

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