Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Working On Great - Getting there...

We are starting to see some progress now. Tonight is Rudy's last day at work. And then it is just moving forward. We will spend the next few weeks getting ready to leave. We still need to buy an RV, but we hope to have one lined up.
Then, when all is ready, hopefully no later than November 1st, we will take off. We hope to spend the winter in California, then head up to WA next spring when it gets warmer. Of course if Rudy gets a job offer from WA Dept. of Corrections before, then we will move accordingly. We have so many plans for when we finally get to WA, but we will be talking more about those when they become reality. But hopefully it will include living off the grid or at least as close to self-sufficient as we can. We will just have to wait and see what kind of life will present itself. It all depends on location, funds, etc. But we are hopeful!

Who would have thought a year ago when we started this blog that we would actually be getting closer to "Working On Great". To me it was just a dream. Something I didn't think would ever happen. But here we are today, only weeks from actually leaving AZ and this life behind.

If you are interested in following our adventure, be sure to follow this blog, or you can 'friend' me on Facebook. We will be sharing stories, photos and much more. Telling you all about our ups and downs of living in an RV, travelling, cooking, health and whatever else we can think of that might interest someone else.

And please feel free to leave comments. I would love to hear from you, and answer any of your questions (if I can).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Art Journal Travel Kit (small)

After looking around on the web and deciding I needed a travel kit for my art journaling I have put 2 kits together. One is a small one for day trips. I can fit it in my purse or backpack, or just in my "box" in the car. The large kit is huge, and I will share the content of that one in another post. It is meant for long road trips.

So this small kit only has what one need for doing a little watercoloring, drawing, and writing. If I want to add more, like collage pieces, tape, etc, I can do so when I get home. I keep the kit in 2 separate zip-lock bags. One for the journal itself and one for all the other content.

This is what the full kit looks like.

The journal is a small 7x5 inches handmade journal that I bought from Tangie Baxter & Co on Etsy. Check out their products here: Tangie's Etsy shop. I really like their journals. Good quality work, and the paper is just wonderful. Great for everything I do.

The content of my little bag:
1. A small selection of my favorite colors of cheap Loew-Cornell watercolor pencils. They are not great, but good enough for this purpose.
2. A few Prismacolor coloring pencils. Awesome pencils really.
3. A 12-pack of Inktense pencils. I absolutely love these. I could not have a kit that doesn't include at least a few Inktense pencils.
4. These are new. 8 Crayola shimmering glittery coloring pencils. I can't really tell you much about those yet.
5. Several different pens. A cheap fountain pen, a couple of Sakura Glaze pens (white and black), a couple of fine tip Sharpies.
6. A tiny watercolor pan.
7. Watercolor brushes. Preloaded with water. One is from Sakura, and the other is a Speedball. So much easier than having to bring a water container and several brushes.
8. Selection of regular pens.

These are the watercolors I use for this small kit. It has 12 colors and comes with 1 small brush. It is about $7 at Walmart.

I also always have some paper towels and wipes (Wet Ones). But that is mostly just want I would have in the car, purse, or backpack anyway.

Hope you found this post informative and maybe it can help you put together your own little kit and take art journaling on the road with you.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Road Trip Pt. 1

We are going on a road trip in March to Washington State. It is the next step in Working On Great. Get out of Arizona and to a place that will be our forever home. The trip will be a way for us to check out job opportunities, locations, etc. And of course a couple of weeks to just enjoy each others company.

We have begun slowly to prepare for the trip. Stuff like writing up shopping lists, adding caches to the GPS, planning a route (not that we will stick with it), getting the travel journal ready, go through our gear, and so on.

We are a tough bunch so we are actually planning on doing a little camping in the van. It is really not bad even with snow and freezing temperatures. We find a suitable campground, make up a bed in the back of the van, and huddle. With our sleeping bags, lots of blankets, three people, and a couple of dogs, it actually gets pretty darn hot back there. This of course mean that we have to bring blankets, sleeping bags, pillows, and towels.

I am sure we will spend more nights in hotels than we will camping, which is ok too. I just have a hard time justifying paying too much for a place to sleep and take a shower. With that in mind I am hoping to try out some ma & pa motels instead of the large chain hotels where we usually stay. Rudy and I have talked about doing some motel reviews along the way. Maybe that would come in handy for others.

This is probably my biggest concern. Again, I am not keen on spending a lot of money on restaurant food only to get tummy issues and gain several pounds. Fast food is really out of the question, but then what? We are bringing our camp cooking gear and hope to be able to at least cook some meals ourselves. I have 4 large plastic tubs for camp gear. One for cooking gear, one for food items, one for survival kinda stuff, and one designated as "catch all". The survival stuff is pretty much anything you could imagine you would need in case of an emergency (like being stuck in the snow for a week in the middle of nowhere), in the "Food" tub we have MRE's (in case of emergency), snacks, and other dry goods. And the cooking gear is mostly just utencils, a pot, a pan, and a griddle. A camp stove, and a few other cooking related items. A lot of campgrounds, picnic areas and rest areas will have bbq's that one can use, so I am thinking we can cook some of our own easy meals. We will see how that turns out. And we dont mind cooking in the cold. I have actually cooked Jambalaya outside in the middle of a blizzard, in Colorado, a couple of years ago. We can handle the cold and the wet ;)

We are bringing 2 of our 4 dogs on this trip. Cadence and Heidi. Cadence, because he is a brat, and he doesn't do well without his mommy. Heidi, because she is new to our family and we are not comfortable leaving her at home while she is still so young.
Nicky and Nappy will have to stay home. Nicky gets car sick ALL the time, and Nappy is just so old that we feel it is better that he is staying home. So they both get to stay home and keep the cats company. A good friend will be taking care of both dogs, cats, and fish while we are gone.

Can't go on a trip without doing some geocaching. I don't think we will do too many this time. Mostly, because a lot of the caches will probably be covered in snow, or be inaccessible because of mud. But we will try to get a few done though.

Travel Journal and Videos
This time we will be trying to keep a journal with photos, and other fun items we find on our trip. Mostly just a way to keep track of all the fun we will have.
We were also talking about maybe posting some short videos daily just to show what we are doing, where we are doing it, and if we liked it or not. Maybe sights, maybe cooking, maybe motels. We will see what we come up with.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Go Shopping!

Happy December everyone. I know that all of you who swear by diets are just going crazy this month. Cookies, chocolate, cake, great foods, hot cocoa, etc. But that's why I don't believe in diets. If you are not on a diet, you can not feel bad about falling off the diet.
We are enjoying the season with cakes and other good eats. I wont say we are going crazy and pigging out every day, but we are certainly not holding back. If the mood calls for cake, we eat cake. I have been baking a couple of sheet cakes, and instead of using white sugar I have used Demerara Sugar from Florida Crystals. And instead of a thick layer of frosting I just sprinkled a light dusting of powdered sugar on top.

Quite a few people have asked me what I shop, what I keep on hand at all times and what we shop for on a running bases.

To me it is important to have some good spices on hand. Something to add flavor. We like spicy foods so I have a few really nice spices that we use a lot. I will just list a few that we have on hand at all times:
Curry - I like a really good curry, but sometimes find it hard to find. I use a couple of different brands depending on the need. I like Curry by Simply Organic. I also use one called Hot Madras Curry Powder by Rajah. That one is imported, so you might not be able to find it in the US. If I need a really really hot curry I just add a little Cayenne.
Cayenne - Also from Simply Organic.
I also use paprika, salt and pepper. And I always keep an assortment of McCormicks 'Perfect Pinch' mixes on hand.
When it comes to spices it is important you use what you like, and not be afraid of trying something new.
I don't feel you have to go all organic unless you want to. You can start with a few different spices from the grocery store and then with time switch over to 100% organic if you like. Just be mindful of the ingredients. If it contains anything you can not pronounce or know what is, don't buy it!

I also keep an assortment of oils and vinegars on hand:
Pompeian EVOO - I use that one for cooking in.
Bertolli Extra Light tasting Olive Oil - I used that one for dressings, vinaigrettes, etc.
Eden Selected Red Wine Vinegar
Regina Fine White Wine Vinegar
Bionaturae Organic Balsamic Vinegar
Great Value Aged Balsamic Vinegar
Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce

I also buy a few other items that we always have on hand:
Demerara Sugar from Florida Crystals
Log Cabin All Natural Table Syrup
Fresh Uncooked tortillas from Tortilla Land
Greek Gods Yogurt (it is as good as ice cream)
Jasmine Rice from Imperial Dragon
Mozzarella cheese

Beef: We buy very little red meat, but we always do have some in the freezer to satisfy Rudy and Ben's cravings.
Chicken: Boneless skinless chicken breast. Find your own favorite brand. I like one that is not too fatty. I do cut away all fat from the meat prior to cooking. We buy the large value packs and divide them up in packs of 3 breasts in each pack.
Pork: We buy a few different items. Chops, tenderloins, shoulder, etc. As long as the meat is lean.
Sea food: We buy a lot of tilapia. And some shrimp, when they are on sale. We do love salmon, but that is just too expensive up here right now. I never buy the big value packs of frozen fish. We always buy the "fresh" packs.
Other: We have a few items in the freezer that we only buy when on sale. Such as ground turkey.
Shopping for meat is really all about what you and your family likes. Just make sure to cut back a little on the red meat, make sure everything you get are the leanest cuts you can find, and be sure to include some fish.

Unfortunately we live in an area where fresh veggies is hard to come by, and when we do find something great it is expensive. Here in town we have a Safeway and a Bashas. Both are crazy expensive. Then say because they add the price of fuel to get it here. Personally I think it is price gauging, due to us not having a real easy time growing our own veggies.
We have a Walmart about 50 miles away and we go there once every 2 weeks to do our shopping. We get some fresh veggies, but for the rest we have to resort to frozen.

Fresh Veggies:
Bell Peppers (when we can get some that look good)
Hot Peppers

Frozen Veggies:
Stir-Fry mixes
Brussels sprouts
Bell Peppers

As you can see, some veggies are on both lists, that is because fresh veggies sometimes only last a week for us due to them already being 'half gone' by the time we get them. I guess I shouldn't use the word fresh for veggies bought around here.


In the summer time we eat a lot more fruit. Because we can get some at the "Fruit Stand" which unfortunately is closed in the winter. Most fruits we buy are for cooking and baking.

Nuts (peanuts, almonds, pistachios, any raw nut that we like and can get at a reasonable price).
Peanut M&M's
Celery and Carrot sticks

For baking I just go with all the regulars. I do use organic flour and of course the Demerara Sugar.
Also have some sunflower kernels and dark rye flour on hand for bread making.

If you have all these items in the house and nothing else, you will be able to cook a large variety of meals. And because your eat a lot of lean meat, vegetables, cheese, and eggs, you will feel full quicker and for a longer period of time. Meaning you have no need for snacking. But if you do need to snack, snack on raw nuts, and a small handful of peanut M&M's.

I am sure a lot of people will say that we need to buy more organic etc. But we do what we can and what we can afford. And for right now, this is working. We are losing weight. We feel great. And that is ALL that counts.

I am also sure that I will be making changes to our shopping list along the way. Depending on what we feel like eating and what we can get on sale. But as you can see, once you have your basic spices, oils, vinegars, etc. all you really need to shop for are your meat, veggies, and dairy. As you get used to this way of life (it is NOT a diet), you will notice that your portions will be getting smaller too, so in the long run you will be saving quite a bit of money.

Breakfast and Lunch:
For breakfast we either eat homemade bread with PB or jam, or we cook up some scrambled eggs with tortilla.
We eat our warm meal at noon, so our light meal is at dinner time, and it is usually just Ben and I so we either have left overs, a light meal like stir-fry, or we just have some Greek Gods Yogurt. Neither Ben nor I are big eaters, so we get away with just something light.

I think it is important that you have a good breakfast, and eggs are really wonderful at filling you up and keeping you full until your next meal.

We haven't really made the big switch there. I still have to have my Coke, Ben has his apple juice, and Rudy drinks Country Time powdered lemonade.
I also like to drink hot tea, and we also drink whole milk (most times with ovaltine).

As you can see you don't have to go crazy (or go hungry) to live a good life. And you can do the change gradually. We are still changing. We add more organic items each time we shop, and the grocery bill is getting smaller each time too. We also try to avoid most corn products. Like high fructose corn syrup (that's a bad word in our house). And that has helped us felling better too. And you know when you feel better, you move around more, ergo, you lose more weight.

Stay away from things in cans or boxes, if it has words you dont know or can't pronounce, and if it has corn products in it.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask :)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pepper Chicken w/ Tortillas

I made this dish the other day and the boys loved it. So thought I would share it here. Please keep in mind that this recipe is not exact science. It is how I made it and it worked. Adjust it to what you have on hand or what you like.

1 yellow bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
1/2 red bell pepper
3 boneless skinless chicken breast
A little EVOO, cayenne pepper and cajun spice from McCormick

This is how I did, but you can do it in any order you like. I cut the veggies first so I didnt have to clean the cutting board again before I started cutting the chicken.

1: Cut the bell pepper in tiny little pieces and put aside.
2: Cut all the fat and yuckiness off the chicken and dice it in small pieces.
3: Heat the oil on a skillet and add the chicken.
4: When the chicken is golden add a pinch of cayenne pepper and some cajun spice (however much you like).
5: Stir it around and then add the bell peppers and cook until chicken is done and the bell peppers have the consistency you like. I like them soft with a little crunch.
6: Done. Now place on plates.

6 uncooked tortillas from Tortilla Land (cook according to package instructions).

Serves 3 fairly hungry people :)

6, 8.5, and 10

That is how much we lost the first 12 days of our new life. I don't want to call it a diet because no matter how hard you try, you will eventually fall off. So it is a new life. A life style change if you like.
We really lived fairly healthy before. We watched what we were eating and drinking and we exercised regularly. Our blood pressure was OK, and so was the cholesterol. But we were all seriously overweight. We were still doing something wrong.
On  October 17th we were at the doctor with Ben for a check-up and asked the doctor what we should do to help Ben with his weight. The doctor told us to get the book for the South Beach diet. Not to go on the diet but use it as a reference. Especially the part about the glycemic index. We already have that book (along with several other diet books that were not going to be read, ever). The doctor also said to eat more protein. Especially meat and cheese. When you eat enough protein you stay full longer. You don't get those horrible carb cravings.
So we went home, told Ben to read the book and tell us what it said (just easier and faster that way LOL). He read the book that afternoon, explained it all to us and we looked up a few more references.
So what exactly did we change?
We have completely eliminated rice, pasta, and potatoes. (Well we have had pasta once the past 2 weeks). Instead of the starch and carbs we eat a lot of veggies. A dinner plate will consist of a meat (chicken, pork, or fish), and a couple of large portions of veggies. We like peas, broccoli, peppers, cauliflower, etc. Root veggies tend to not be so good for you according to the glycemic index, so we have stayed away from carrots, potatoes, etc. We have also limited our intake of tomatoes (pasta sauce, fresh tomatoes, salsa, ketchup, etc.)
As for cheese, you really should stay away from anything orange. It is BAD for you. Instead use mozzarella cheese. It is wonderful on top of broccoli, your meat, and you can even munch on some cheese sticks if you like.
We eat our 'large meal' at noon, because of Rudy's work schedule, which of course is also healthier to do, because you get a chance to burn this large meal before you sit down to watch TV or whatever you do in the evening.

So for Ben a days food intake would be something like:

1 cup of shredded wheat (lightly frosted) with 1/2 cup of whole milk.

1 boneless skinless chicken breast, with 1 large side of broccoli with mozzarella cheese.

This one is tough with him, because he is actually still full from lunch and snacks. So usually he will eat an apple or two, or have some Greek yogurt.

Greek yogurt, apples, or mozzarella cheese sticks.

It seems like he isn't eating a whole lot and that is the good thing. He gets so full from the breakfast and lunch than he doesn't get hungry again the rest of the day. At all.

Some of our favorite meals that you can do really easily, cheap, and they are so very filling:
Naan Pizza, Pepper Chicken with Tortillas, Pan fried (in EVOO) Pork Chops with veggies, etc.

So basically what we are doing is limit sugar and carbs and increasing protein. We are not eating rice, pasta, or potatoes. We are eating more lean meats, cheese and veggies.

I try to buy stuff that are not already processed. NO boxed meals, etc. All the veggies we eat are fresh, except for peas which we buy frozen. Meat we eat are just meat from Safeway. Not the best choice, but the best we can do here at the moment. If you must have bread, make it yourself. If you must have sugar (me), get real sugar, not artificial sweeteners. I use Demerara Sugar, which you can get at Walmart. It is SO good. Take a little extra time shopping. Check the ingredients list, if it has words you don't know how to pronounce or know what are, then don't buy it! Rice is over processed and they do use forms of bleach to do that. You don't drink bleach, so why eat? You can get rice that has not been proceed or 'enriched' by shopping at the Asian food aisle at your supermarket or going to an international food store.
You don't really have to go extreme, just be aware of what you buy. Pay attention to additives.

Our basics for the fridge and freezer:
Boneless skinless chicken breast, pork in various cuts, fish, shrimp, and we do have some beef to satisfy the boys (once a week is enough). Of veggies we have some fresh spinach, broccoli, asparagus, lots of bell peppers, sweet mini peppers, cauliflower, mushrooms, radishes, onions. Cheese, we have a big chunk of mozzarella, and some mozzarella cheese sticks. Beverages, we have apple juice, lemonade, whole milk, other juices that we like, and Coke (I still drink several cokes each day, but Ben is only allowed one).
Also have a lot of spices. And some fresh herb plants that I haven't killed yet. We also have some uncooked tortillas from Tortilla Land. They are very good, but I also know it would be better if I made them from scratch myself. Oh well, I am lazy. And they really are very good LOL. And of course we have Greek yogurt in the fridge too.

I think that is really what there is to it. It is very easy to change to this. You can start slowly with just a few changes, or you can do the big change at once.

Oh one more thing I want to mention... if at the grocery store and you have to choose between two items, one is regular and the other is low fat, be sure to check the ingredients, and the nutrition facts. When a products is processed from regular to low fat the fat is converted to sugar. Sugar is not good. But there are still fats that are OK. Poly- and Mono-unsaturated are still OK. They are not great, but they are better than the alternative.

I know a lot of people will disagree with all this, but it is working for us. And we are happy and doing better. And the 3 of us lost a total of 24.5 lbs the first 12 days. Yes it is going slower now, but we are still losing weight. But the main thing is really not losing weight, but rather the fact that Ben is not gaining any more, and we are feeling better without having to snack all the time.

I will try to share some recipes as I make them up. I usually do not use cookbooks for other reasons than getting ideas. So everything I cook I make up on the spot. I will try to get some of the meals put in writing, but I wont promise it will be right away.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dinner 10/26

Just a simple salad with some radishes. Ben had a little dressing on his, but I chose to just go with a bit of Perfect Pinch Salad Supreme Seasoning. It was very yummy!