Clean Chicken & Broccoli Bake

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I wouldn’t really consider myself a “picky” eater. In fact, I’ll try almost anything. There is one food however, that has haunted me since childhood. Its unique odour, almost ominous texture and ever changing appearance has continuously caused me to be leery of this dish. As much as I’ve tried to avoid this dish through the years, there it is, at baby showers, bridal showers, family picnics and holiday gatherings. I often circle the table, trying to avoid looking at it, and just hope no one offers it to me. It is the most vile of all party foods.

My friends, I am talking about the “casserole”.

Whenever someone says the word “casserole” I instantly picture a rectangular glass pyrex dish filled with a mysterious substance covered with cheese. What is beneath that cheesy layer? No one REALLY knows! And therein, lies the great mystery of the “casserole”!

This one dish wonder’s transformation could put any chameleon to shame! No two casseroles look or taste alike! In fact the casserole is the perfect dish to make at the end of the week when you are trying to clean out your fridge!

You see, there are “rules” when it comes to cooking. There are certain ingredients that “go” together and certain ingredients that do not.
Oh.ho..ho…..but when it comes to the “casserole”- it seems that anything goes!

You have some orange Chinese noodles? Throw ’em in! Have a can of Coke lying around? Pour it in! Have some corn flakes in your cupboard? Sprinkle em on! Heck, toss anything in that pyrex dish, pour a can of “cream of whatever” soup over it all, coat it with cheese, and you’ve got yourself a good ole’ fashion casserole!

(excuse me while I try to keep my lunch down…)

Why is it that you can put the most inappropriate ingredients together and as long as it’s called a “casserole”, no one even thinks twice?!

STOP THE MADNESS!

When I was a child my Mother used to make her own famous casserole type dish once in a while. It was called “I don’t know”. As the clock would near five and us kids would ask Mom, “What’s for dinner?” She would coyly reply. “I don’t know”.
The trouble was, we all KNEW perfectly well what “I don’t know” was. It was a “clean out the cupboard” dish. It was typically some sort of noodle, some sort or soup, and then whatever other canned and packaged food was in the cupboard and it was DREADFUL! (sorry Mom)

I’ve spent the better part of the past 32 years avoiding casserole type dishes, but sometimes you’ve just got to stop running.

That day came a few weeks ago. I was at my friend Crystal’s house for a playdate with our boys. We were there over the lunch hour and Crystal offered to feed us. I gratefully accepted. Who would pass up the chance to cook one less meal a day?! Just as I was mentally rejoicing in this welcomed meal preparing break, Crystal uttered the most terrifying of all words.

“I’ve got a broccoli casserole in the oven for us” A what?!!…A who?!…A where?!! “Did she just say “casserole?”
I instantly started to sweat…”keep a smile on your face”. “Act normal.” I thought to myself.
I started to exhale slowly.

Must. Regulate. Breathing.

Casserole. Casserole. Casserole.

Must. Not. Panic.

I started working over a plan in my mind to at least manage 3-4 bites, then proclaim how stuffed I was and push my plate away. “That should be socially acceptable right?”

I started to notice that the entire house was filling with THE MOST delicious aroma.
Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. After all, everything Crystal has ever made has been fantastic! She wouldn’t steer me wrong now…right?

Crystal pulled the casserole out of the oven and served me an exceptionally large piece. “What a shame that most of this will be wasted”, I thought to myself.

I raised a shaky fork to my mouth, concentrated on controlling my gag reflex, and took my first bite. Every hair on the back of my neck stood up…

This tasted AHHHHH-MA-ZING!

Like, seriously, sooooo yummy! I’m not sure what Crystal was even saying when I blurted out “What IS this?!!” It was honestly one of the most delicious dishes I had ever tasted! In no time at all I had completely forgotten my “manage to swallow 3-4 bites” plan and had inhaled the entire thing. At one point I even contemplated licking my plate, but thought that would definitely be inappropriate..(at least not while she was looking..) 🙂

When she gave me a run-down of the ingredients, I realized that it wasn’t exactly “clean”, so I vowed to tinker with her recipe and come up with a cleaner version!
This recipe is the end result! It turned out really yummy as well! It is very easy to pre-pare, has minimal ingredients and has an awesome taste! Even my kids loved it!

Crystal has restored my faith in casseroles. I dare say I am almost a “fan” of them now. 😉
Well done Crystal…Well done. 🙂

Ingredients:

2 Heads of broccoli chopped

1 Cup Shredded goat mozzarella

2 pieces of ezekiel bread cut into cubes (crouton size)

1 White onion diced

1 Cup chicken broth

1/2 Cup Greek yogurt

3 Eggs

2 TBSP Epicure Onion Spice

1/2 Tsp sea salt

1 Clove (large) garlic diced

1-2 Cooked chicken breast diced

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 400F

In a bowl whisk together the broth, eggs, garlic, salt and epicure spice.

In a separate bowl combine bread, cheese, broccoli and chicken. Once all of the dry ingredients are mixed, pour the liquid over top and then transfer to pyrex dish. Sprinkle the top with cheese. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes.

This dish is delicious!

I hope you enjoy it!

XO, Pam

http://www.cleanlifehappywife.com

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Moments That Matter

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I was baking heart shaped valentines cookies for my kids when I thought of him again. Just like the other times before this, my heart felt heavy. Whenever I thought about that day I would actually feel my heart ache. It wasn’t a great alarming pain; it felt more like someone was putting pressure against my heart. I felt the need to slowly exhale to find some relief. As soon as I felt this familiar feeling again, I did what I had been doing every time I felt this way over the past year and a half. I paused what I was doing and started to pray. It was the only thing I could do; well pray and remember that is…

It was a typical Sunday morning for me. The exact same kind of Sunday morning I had almost every week. My children woke up at 6am and I started the process of dressing them, feeding them, brushing teeth, brushing hair, and getting us out the door and to the 9am service at our church. I volunteer in the 4 and 5 year old room at our church which is one of the highlights of my week! I genuinely look forward to that hour spent volunteering with the kids every week! Although I love working with the kids, it can become routine and after a while the reasons “why” it’s important can become buried in the back of my mind.

I was working the sign in desk that particular Sunday morning. I was greeting the kids as they arrived and helping the parents register their children for the class.
As I looked to the next parent in line to sign her child in, I saw a sweet unfamiliar face staring back at me. “This is Jake” his mother introduced. “This is his first time here and he’s a little nervous”. I knelt down and smiled at Jake. “Hi, my name is Miss Pam and I’m going to be your teacher today. “I could really use a special helper.” “Do you think you could be my special helper today?” I asked. He nodded his head and smiled. I took him by the hand and led him into the classroom. “Come with me” I encouraged “ and I’ll show you where the coolest toys are!” For the rest of the morning Jake took his role as “special helper” very seriously. He stayed close to me helping me during the lesson, participating in the game, and setting up the craft table with crayons and paper, and even helping to clean up. We were happily chatting away the entire time. He was such a sweet, smart and charming little guy. Jake seemed to be fascinated with every activity and was asking a steady stream of questions throughout the class time. We had close to 15 minutes left of the class when the children were ushered to the craft centre to work on a project. The children were commissioned to draw a picture of their favorite things. Jake began to draw a beautiful scene and was taking great care with every detail he added. After 10 minutes the other children had completed their artwork and had gone to play with the toys. Jake was the only child who remained coloring in his seat. I pulled up a chair and sat next to him. “I love your picture” I commented. “Thanks!” he said. “It’s a picture of me and my Dad playing together.” “ Playing with my dad is my most favourite thing!” he exclaimed. Jake didn’t make eye contact with me and continued to color as he spoke. “You know…” he ventured “That lady who dropped me off today isn’t my REAL Mom.”
“She’s my foster Mom.”
“ Last night FACS came and took me away from my home.” he said.
My heart sank and a lump instantaneously emerged in my throat.

I had spent the past hour with this sweet little boy having no idea the heavy heart he was carrying.
Jake stopped coloring and sat very still looking down at his picture for a few seconds. He slowly placed the blue crayon down the the table and turned to look me straight in the eyes.
“Miss Pam, Why did they take me away?” he asked.
I suddenly felt as if I had no air in my lungs. I could neither inhale or exhale. I quickly bit down on the inside of my cheek in an effort to control the tears that were now filling my eyes. This sweet, sweet child. His brown eyes held my gaze without looking away. He was waiting for an answer. I reached out and took his pudgy little hand in mine. I started slowly, “You know what Jake…I’m not sure why that happened.” “That must have been very hard for you.” He nodded his head yes and his gaze drifted away.
“Can I tell you something?” I ventured softly. He looked at my again and nodded. “ I am so happy that you came here today!” “I have LOVED spending the morning hanging out with you! “I think that you are VERY VERY special.” “ In fact, I think you are one of the coolest kids I have ever met!” he smiled and sighed
“I just really want to go back home” he whimpered.
He leaned over and hugged me. “I know buddy” I replied. He wrapped his little arms around me and held on tight. I could feel the warm tears streaming down my face. There was no stopping them now. I was overcome by his pain and sadness.

Just then his foster Mom walked into the room. She took one look at the two of us and whispered “I’m guessing he told you.” I nodded my head yes. I was still trying to keep my emotions bottled up and wasn’t even sure what would come out of my mouth if I attempted to speak. “I can’t tell you much” she said “but I will tell you that he’s come from a very bad situation.” “Please pray for him when you think of him”.
I quickly wiped my eyes, put on a smile, and said goodbye to my little friend Jake.

As I drove home from church that day, I was reminded that every moment matters. The big exciting moments matter just as much as the little routine moments. In that moment we needed each other. Jake needed to be reminded that he was not alone, and I needed to be reminded that no moment serving others is insignificant.

I was reminded how important it is to use our time doing things that really matter. We are all so busy and it’s easy to place great importance on, and dedicate significant amounts of time to material, temporal things. We can forget about the real, live, living, breathing people around us who have hearts that need a little TLC.

I’m not sure what happened to Jake and where he is now. But every once in a while I think of that moment again and I stop what I am doing and I pray for him. I know that he may not remember me, but I remember him. Everytime God brings that memory to my heart, Jake is not alone because I remember him and I pray for him.

I recently heard a quote that I love!

“I am not afraid of failure. I’m afraid of succeeding at things that don’t really matter” William Carey

If you would like to read more stories like this, don’t forget to click the link to subscribe! 🙂
XO, Pam

*** “Jake’s” name has been changed to protect his privacy.

http://www.cleanlifehappywife.com

A Tale Of 7 Cities…

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We were nearing the end of my husband’s music tour across Eastern Canada when I received a text from a friend about how jelous she was of my “glamorous” life. When you are traveling to 7 cities in seven days, spending nearly 38 hours in the car with a 3 and 6 year old, “glamorous” is not the first word that comes to my mind! 🙂 We had run out of juice for my son’s cup and he was crying (mostly from exhaustion) and begging for his cup. We decided to pull off the highway and run into the nearest grocery store. We spotted a Zehrs, pulled in front of the door, and I hopped out. My husband asked me to hurry as he was running late for soundcheck in the next city. I ran through the store, grabbed the juice and a few other snacks and headed to the cash. There were only 3 cash lines open and all of them had substantial lines. I chose the one that looked shortest and tried to patiently wait my turn. After what seemed like an eternity it was finally my turn! I dumped the contents of my basket onto the belt and retrieved my debit card from my wallet. I quickly figured out why the lines were moving so slowly. The sweet cashier was a chatty one! She started to tell me a story about her neighbours ex daughter-in-law and the custody battle she was involved in. I was begining to feel like her story was never going to end, when my total popped up and she asked for $24.50. I swiped my card and started gathering my grocery bags. “Sorry Ma’m, but your debit card is declined” she announced. “What?…that’s impossible” I thought, “Greg assured me we had money in our account!”. It must have been a glitch. I swiped the card again and waited..it was still not working! I could feel my cheeks getting hot as the eyes of the impatient man behind me were staring mercilessly at me. I had no cash or credit card with me. I had just waited all this time in line and I knew my three year old was likely still crying in the van. “You could try redeeming points from your PC Plus card” the cashier suggested. I had never done that before but it was worth a try! To my amazement I had just enough to pay for my entire order. Thank you Lord! (apparently the gas station where I had filled up our van had a security breach with their debit cards and all cards used that day were compromised and immediately deactivated.) I grabbed my bags and ran out to the van. “What happened to you in there?” my husband questioned “I thought you were going to be quick?!” We peeled out of the parking lot and within good time arrived at the city where his next concert was being held. My husband dropped us off at the hotel and he hurried over to the venue.

I loaded my shoulders with all of our bags and guided my two children up the elevator and into our hotel room. I set some toys out for my kids and retreated to the bathroom. I was longing to wash my face and flat iron my hair in peace and quiet! 🙂 I was in the bathroom for 15 minutes when my children started calling for me to come out and “see something”. I opened the door of the bathroom to my children shouting “surprise!” “We decorated for your birthday!” They had toilet papered the entire room. I tried not to look upset as I scanned the room. It was not my birthday and this was not the kind of surprise I was hoping for! We cleaned up the “party” mess, and decided to head to the hotel pool for a swim. The kids excitedly put on their bathing suits, grabbed their water wings and took the elevator down to the pool. When we arrived at the pool a lifeguard was sitting at the door and informed us that the pool was closed for a private swimming lesson. My kids started to cry. “I have a fun idea!” I suggested, “Let’s go back to the room and order some room service!” (When you are alone in a hotel with 2 kids and the pool is closed, your idea of “fun” gets pretty creative!) We took the elevator back up to our room, ordered some room service and were settling in for the night when my 6 year old daughter asked if we could go to Daddy’s concert.

We were planning on having a quiet night at the hotel, but when my daughter suggested we venture out, I thought “why not?” After all, the church he was singing at was suppose to be “just across the street”. The automatic doors in the hotel lobby slid open and we stepped outside. It was now quite dark. I looked directly accross the street and didn’t see the church. “It must be just a ways down the road” I thought to myself….but which way? Should I head left out of the hotel parking lot, or right, or straight ahead? I decided to go with my instincts which was to head to the left. Now anyone who knows me well, knows that my “instincts” when it comes to geography are disastrous and to add to the adventure, this night, we were in Montreal! Every sign we read was in French and unfortunately my French is limited to ‘bonjour’ and ‘au revoir”. 🙂 As we walked I told my daughter to keep an eye out for any building that may look like a church. I was wracking my brain trying to think of the name of the church, but I just could not remember. How hard could it be to find a church? We were walking for about 15 minutes when my 3 year old decided that he was too tired and needed to be carried. I slung him onto my back and continued searching for the church. As we neared the end of the street and had travelled further and further from the hotel, I started to feel as if we were going in the wrong direction. “Let’s turn back honey”, I suggested to my daughter. “I think we need to walk back to the hotel and go the other way”. By the time we got back to the hotel, we had been walking for 30 minutes. We started out again and this time in the opposite direction. I saw a large building at the end of the street that I thought must surely be the church. My son was whining about being tired, my arms were numb from carrying him and I was getting really hot and sweaty! After walking for another 15-20 minutes we reached the building at the end of the road. It was not the church. “Ok guys, I’m sorry but we are just going to have to head back to the hotel. Mommy can’t find the church” My daughter was upset and she pleaded, “But Mommy, we’ve walked all this way! We can’t give up now! Can we pleeeaase walk just a little further?” And so we did. We walked…And we walked and we walked some more. We were zigzagging up and down each street with no luck. Finally ahead in the distance we saw an illuminated cross: the church!! We made our way towards it, just praying that it was the right one! My daughter started jumping up and down with excitement! “We found it! We found it!” As we entered the doors, the French speaking ticket collectors asked to see our tickets. I was certain that my lack of French would be my undoing in this moment. “I THINK we should be on the list?” I replied. I gave her my name and she started to scan her list. “Sorry madame, you aren’t on the list” she replied.(thank goodness her english was better than my french!) We cannot allow you to go in. My daughter started to whimper and I, of course did not bring my wallet so I couldn’t even buy tickets. I could hear my husband singing in French from the auditorium! I tried to explain to the girl that we are usually on the list and that there must have been some mistake. “Okay”, she replied. “Have a seat on that bench over there.” A bench? What a glorious sight! My back was throbbing and my arms were numb from carrying my son. I was HAPPY to sit for a bit. It wasn’t long before one of the organizers met me at the door, apologized kindly and brought us in. We had made it! We were guided to a beautiful ‘green room’ and re-united with my husband and the night turned out to be really fun!

This trip was just the begining of a year that will be filled with many roadtrips and adventures! Anyone with young children knows how difficult it can be to travel long distances in the car with your children! I spent quite a bit of time in preparation for this trip! A little bit of preparation and organization can dramatically alter the experience you have when travelling with little ones! My husband and I have travelled with our kids since they were babies and I have learned a few tricks to help make the experience enjoyable for everyone!

Tip #1- Prepare Car Activities

* One of the best purchases we made was a dual screen dvd player for the car. Sometimes everyone just needs a little quiet time in the car. I found some really great children’s DVD’s at the dollarstore!
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* Treat Baskets- I purchase all of my children’s favourite treats and package them in individually portioned packages. That way when they start to get hungry or need a little treat I can easy pass one back to them.

* Lap Desks- I purchased lap desks for each of my kids! They are awesome for the car!! The lap desks help the kids to colour or play with toys without trying to balance it on their lap. Most of the lap desks come with a built in cup holder which is great for crayons or markers so that they don’t roll away and onto the floor.I got mine at Chapters but I think most office supply stores have them as well.
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* Gifts- I also always purchase a few dollarstore items and wrap them for each child. I reserve these for the really kookie moments when the kids have tired of watching movies and are starting to get on each others nerves, and yours! 🙂 I pass a gift back to them which contains some type of “busy work” activity. Of course you can just buy little activities and not wrap them but there is something extra special and exciting for kids when you wrap them! 🙂 Some examples of items I wrap are: colouring books, sticker books, puzzles, dvd’s, simple crafts, glow sticks for when its dark, flashlights, etc.
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* Leap Frog Tag Reader- My sister bought a leap frog tag reading system for my daughter a few years ago and they are awesome! The reading “pens” read stories aloud to your children as they turn the pages of their books. Each page also has learning games where kids have to find certain shapes and colours. The Tag reading system brand new is pretty pricey but I found an additional one for my son at a second hand store for really cheap! You can find them on kijiji and ebay as well.
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The trick to a smooth long car ride is to keep the kids busy with a variety of activities. I rotate between watching a movie, colouring on the lapdesks, using their tag readers, and opening and playing with their little gifts. This system has worked wonders for us!

Tip #2 Orgainze, Organize, Organize!

* One of my favourite travelling tips is to be organized with your packing! I purchased a variety of totes from the company 31 Gifts, and they are amazing! I divided everything into separate totes to keep it organized. It is much easier than piling everything into one large suitcase and having to dig to the bottom, making a mess, every time you need something. I have one tote for car toys, one tote for activities for the kids to use during the concert, one tote for first aid/medicine, one for hotel toys, one for toiletries, make-up, snacks, etc.
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This is one of my favourites! It contains all of my makeup and hangs conveniently on the back of the bathroom door. Everything is displayed so nicely and with easy access. Something about walking into a hotel bathroom with copious bottles of face, hair, and make-up products littered across the counter gives me anxiety! This is the PERFECT solution for that! To make things even easier, I purchased duplicates of all of these products. This is my “travelling” make-up bag. I keep this packed all the time and use different make-up when I am home so that I do not have to continually pack and unpack. It’s always ready to go! Throw it in the suitcase and done!

If you are interested in purchasing organizational gear click on the link below and it will direct you to my wonderful consultant Natalee. She has awesome ideas and helps you to get the best prices possible for your organizational needs! 🙂
https://www.mythirtyone.ca/natalee/

Tip #2- The ZIP AND SHIP method.
This method of packing was introduced to me by watching this link

and has since been perfected by my sister. I love this method for many reasons!

The Method:
– Purchase large Ziploc bags
– Go through your closet and drawers and decide which outfits you will need for your trip and put each outfit into a pile. For example, if you are going on a 7 day trip, make 7 piles on on your floor- one for each day. In each pile you should have the top and bottom you will be wearing, a pair of socks, a pair of underwear and any accessories you will need for the outfit. (jewellery, belt, ect)

-Label each ziploc bag with a sharpie with the date the outfit will be worn.

– Put each outfit into a designated bag.
-Squeeze the air out of the bag and zip it up.

– That’s it! Easy Peasy!
– You will be AMAZED at how much more you can fit in your suitcase this way! I am convinced that this is THE MOST efficient way to pack!
– You don’t have to worry about anything spilling or leaking in your suitcases since everything is individually packaged.
– You don’t waste any space in your suitcase packing things you don’t need or won’t use. Everything you pack has a purpose!
– It makes getting ready once you arrive at your destination completely mindless!
– It’s husband proof!:) On those busy mornings trying to get out of your hotel room, just give your husband a child, the bag marked with that date, and he has everything he needs to fully dress your child! Question and confusion free! :o)

We are blessed to be able to travel as a family! The more fun and enjoyable you can make it for everyone, the more you will WANT to do it! Honk if you see us on the road! 🙂 XO

Pam

cleanlifehappywife.com

A Terrible, Dangerous Mistake…

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I was in twelfth grade the first time it happened.  I was beginning the 15 minute walk from my house to the bus stop at the corner of our main road.  The man in the yellow Jeep slowly pulled up beside me as I was walking.  He looked to be in his early thirties, had spiky orange hair and a pale complexion.  “Hey Honey….” he called out in a soft voice.  I continued to walk,tightening the grip on the straps of my backpack and  looking straight ahead…”Was he talking to me?”.  He continued to slowly drive calling out to me.  I turned towards his car and we made eye contact.  He smiled warmly and rested his left arm on the rolled down window of the car door.  “Are you walking to catch your bus?” he questioned.  “Yeah, it’s just up there I replied”, pointing ahead to the other kids who were already gathering at the corner.  “Why don’t you hop in and I’ll drive you to school” he suggested with a coy smile.  I smiled back, gave him a shaky “no thank you”, and assured him I was fine to walk to the bus stop.  With that, he gave me a quick wink and sped off.  I met my schoolmates at the bus stop and by the end of the school day had forgotten all about the man in the yellow Jeep…that is, until the next morning.  

The next morning I was walking to the bus stop again, when he returned.  Same yellow Jeep. Same orange spiky hair.  Same offer to drive me to school.  I again, declined and assured him I didn’t need to take a ride from him.  This time he didn’t leave quite as easily.  He smiled as he drove beside me as I walked  “Oh come on just hop in the car!  You don’t want to walk ALL that way!  Come on, hop in..I know you want to”,  he teased.  I nervously laughed a little and continued to walk to the bus stop.  Finally he relented, give me a little wink, and sped off.  The visits from the man in the yellow Jeep continued for the next 6 school days.

And then it happened.  I made a terrible, dangerous mistake.  

I’m not sure what exactly made that 6th day different, but when the man in the yellow Jeep returned my guard was down.  Perhaps it was because we had continued our exchange for so many days in a row without incident, or maybe I was just tired and worn down that morning.  Whatever the reason, I finally broke.  We went through our usual routine of him begging me to get in his car and me declining, but this time as he smiled and persisted, I stopped walking and said “okay.”  He stopped the Jeep, I crossed the street in front of him, and he slid across and opened the passenger door.  As the door opened it was as if everything was suddenly in slow motion.  I cautiously climbed into the passenger seat and set my backpack on my lap and closed the door.  As soon as the door closed, alarm bells began to scream in my head.  “What ARE YOU DOING?! This is bad….this is BAD!!”  I instantly felt sick and was panicking.  I began to pray silently apologizing to God for being so stupid and begging Him to help me and protect me from whatever situation I had just gotten myself into.  As we drove to the high school he was staring straight ahead and so was I.  His coy smile was gone. We rode in silence the entire way.  I never stopped praying-well, more like begging for God’s help.  He pulled into the school parking lot and as soon as the car began to slow down I opened the door, mumbled “thanks”, hopped out, and ran into the school.  I walked briskly to the girls bathroom, went into the first stall and cried.  I never saw the man in the yellow Jeep again.    

 The craziest part to this story is what kind of mother I have.  My poor Mother…  She did everything right regarding teaching my siblings and I about “stranger danger and safety. ”  My Mother talked with us numerous times and at length about the dangers of talking to strangers.  We had a family password if anyone other than my parents tried to pick us up from school, we had fire safety plans at home, and a family meeting spot out in our yard.  I knew better.  I knew to NEVER get into a car with a stranger.  So why did I do it that day?   Why do we sometimes do things we KNOW we shouldn’t do? 

One of my least favourite things about our human nature is our desire to sometimes do things we know are not beneficial to us.  This summer has been a tough one for me.  I’m ready to admit that! 🙂 Our family has been very busy and I could list of bunch of other excuses for the lack of care I’ve put into health and fitness the past few months.  Sure, I still consider  us a “clean eating” family, which for most meals I make we are.  But, we’ve been to BBQ’s, family dinners, and picnics with friends where I have not been as prepared as I have been in the past and we’ve been left to eat whatever is served to us. (Can we say hamburger, hotdog, and potato salad overload?) 🙂 I also put the brakes on my gym membership thinking that I wouldn’t possibly have time to get there regularly this summer and would just work out on my own (after-all, the weather is so beautiful out it’ll be easy to go for runs and walks right?) Well, I’m sure you can imagine how “regularly” a good workout has happened on my own! 😦  SIGH…..  

Well, it’s time to PULL IT TOGETHER!  Yes, we all have set backs.  Yes, we do things that we know aren’t what’s best (WHY?!!!)  The important thing is to be self aware enough to recognize when we are slipping and to pull it together again.  Every one of us makes mistakes.  Every one of us makes bad choices.  The amazing thing about our human free will is that we CAN CHOOSE to make changes!  Isn’t that awesome?!  It’s never too late to start making good choices!  So today, I am choosing to pull it together, take more time to prepare healthy meals, and make fitness a priority!  I’m not going to beat myself up.  I’m not going to feel sorry for myself.  I’m just going to make a CHANGE.  Maybe you’ve had a rough summer too and are ready for a change! Let’s DO THIS together!!! 🙂 

http://www.cleanlifehappywife.com

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Thank you!

Pam

Fly Tea anyone?

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I was chatting with a friend the other day about how difficult it can be to do something out of your comfort zone.  The conversation brought me back to the first time I was REALLY pushed outside of my comfort zone.  I was 21 years old and embarked on a one month trip to Africa…  

Part of the trip involved trekking 8 hours in a Land Rover into a remote village of the Maasai tribe.  Once we arrived in the village we were greeted by many curious Maasai people and many Maasai warriors.  Most of the children had never seen a person with “white” skin before so they actually ran from us yelling “Mzungu” which is the Swahili word for “white person”.  As we explored the village that morning, I had no idea that in a few short hours, in the cover of night, I would be catapulted out of my beloved comfort zone and into unfamiliar and uncertain territory.  

 

The sun had set, we had finished dinner and were getting settled in for the night in the comfortable, cottage-type home where we were staying, when there was a knock at the door. It was the Maasai warrior tribe leader.  We could hear him talking urgently at the front door to Bill who was our pastor and group leader on the trip.  Although I couldn’t quite hear exactly what was being said, I could tell that there was some confusion and negotiating going on between the two men.  After speaking for a few minutes the Maasai leader left and Bill announced that there was a change of plans: we would be heading out to stay overnight in the Masaai’s dung hut (yep, a house made out of poop!).  I grabbed my backpack, quickly shoved a few supplies inside and headed outside with the rest of our group.  

There were 8 Maasi warriors waiting outside the house we were staying in.  We were split into 4 groups; each of us travelling into the forest with 2 of the warriors.  Thankfully I was paired with one of my best friends Nicci to travel into the village with “Taiku” and “Krissmas”, our new warrior friends.  Taiku spoke very little english and Krissmas did not speak english at all.  We started following the warriors deep into the forest.  It was pitch black.  There were no streetlights and no flashlights.  I held my hand out in front of me and could barely see it.  When we were initially told were were staying in a Maasai village, I had pictured the huts to be relatively close together.  But, as each group trekked into the forest in opposite directions and dissapeared from sight,  I realized that Nicci and I were very alone with these two warriors.  In preparation for our trip, we all did some research about the customs of the Maasai people.  We learned that in Maasai culture the woman never walked in front of the men and always needed to follow behind them.  As we continued our journey to their village Nicci and I tried to be respectful and stay behind the men but Taiku kept circling back and coming behind us.  When we asked him if we should stay behind him, he said that “Mzungu skin glows in the dark” and that he wanted to make sure one of the ‘hunting animals’ didn’t get us.  I heard a faint whimper and realized it had come from my own mouth.  I reached out and grabbed Nicci’s hand wondering if we were walking into the end of our lives.

The village was far.  It seemed like we were walking for at least an hour when I finally saw the faint glow of a campfire in the distance.  We made it!  The hut was just as I imagined it would be. The walls were made of mud and dung and the roof was covered in straw.  Taiku introduced us to his “Mama” who looked exactly like the photos I had seen in national geographic.  Mama was wearing only a long red skirt and a stack of beaded necklaces as she boiled tea in a pot over a fire.  Nicci and I took a seat on some rocks by the fire and were instanly swarmed with children.  Their little faces were covered with flies.  They were petting our heads, touching our skin and playing with our hair while they spoke excitedly to each other in Swahili.  Mama offered us a Maasai staple: Chai Tea and we gratefully accepted the warm drink. As I took my first sip my mouth was filled with chunks.  I swallowed hard and looked at Nicci who had the same startled/nauseous look on her face.  We tilted the cups towards the glow of the fire and peered inside.  Both of our cups had about 4 or 5 dead flies floating in them.  Seeing us looking at our cups Mama thought we needed a refill and filled them up again.  We sat by the fire sipping on our ‘Fly Tea’, I mean Chai Tea for a little while longer until Taiku announced that it was time for bed.  We grabbed our backpacks and ducked into the doorway of the dung hut.  

There was a small fire burning in the middle of the room and a bed on the right and another on the left side of the room.  The beds appeared to be a group of bamboo looking sticks tied togther with a cow hide skin draped over it.  Taiku and Mama slept in the bed to the left of the fire and ushered Nicci and I to the one on the right.  The children sprawled out on the floor.  When studying the Maasai culture we seemed to have overlooked the fact that Maasai sleep in the nude.  They began to strip down and instructed us to do the same.  Nicci and I rambled on about being cold and needing to sleep in our clothes as we climbed onto the bed.  I was laying on the bed for a few minutes when I felt something nip at my toes!  I sat up and peered over the foot of the bed and realized that there was a pen of goats at the end of the bed.  Nicci and I covered our mouths with both hands trying to hide our laughter.  This was going to be a LONG night!  I’m pretty sure I didn’t sleep at all that night.  Instead the night was filled with Nicci and I whispering to each other “Did you hear that?” “What was that noise?” “Did you feel that?” “They’re biting my feet again?” “What just touched me?” After what seemed like an eternity, I could see the sun poking through the pin size holes in the hut walls.  It was finally morning and we had made it through the night!   

The morning was amazing! We participated in their daily routine of milking their cows (not as easy as it looks), practicing shooting a bow and arrow and making beaded jewellery. We explored the area around their hut and visited their neighbours. Taiku and Krissmas took us for a walk down to the river where they collected water. The river was filled with Masaai woman washing their clothes while the children happily splashed in the water. Observing their daily life was beautiful. What started as an uncomfortable and stretching experience quickly blossomed into life changing moments that I will never forget.

It can be so hard to overcome the initial feeling of being uncomfortable and stretched outside your comfort zone – but usually, there is great reward if you do! It’s hard to push through when there is an unknown outcome at the end, or when you feel like something is too hard, or too scary, or too different. You CAN do it! You are braver and stronger than you think! Let’s challenge ourselves to step outside of our comfort zone and try something new! 🙂
Pam
http://www.cleanlifehappywife.com

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I have a confession. I’ve been cheating…

Do you ever feel like you are totally misunderstood? I’m not talking about the teenage angst type of misunderstood where you lock yourself in your bedroom, listening to sad music, crying about how no-one really “gets” you. I’m talking more about the “oh shoot- I’m not really what you think I am” kind of misunderstood.

I was recently introduced to a friend of a friend and in the introduction process, “old friend” was saying some very nice things to “new friend” about my cooking. After hearing the compliment, “new friend” snorted at me and began saying things like “It must be nice to be a stay at home Mom”, “Yeah, I wish I had all day to cook and make fancy meals”, “Oh just wait until you’re actually working full time. Then we’ll see how “fancy” your cooking is”. I politely smiled as she lamented about how different our lives were and how much harder it was for her to make healthy lifestyle changes because of the many limitations our differences caused. As I was listening to her speak, I was thinking about how many times I have heard similar comments from people, and I started to realize that it is time for a confession. Contrary to popular belief, I do not spend hours in my kitchen wearing a hand sewn apron, sifting flour and making homemade jam. Don’t get me wrong – that sounds amazing!:) The truth is, from the time my three year old wakes me up at 6am I am frantically racing around my house packing last minute school lunches, searching for missing uniform pieces and struggling to get breakfast on the table before it’s time to get out the door to get my daughter to school on time. Once we are finally out the door and in the car the real fun begins as I attempt to complete my “to do list” and actually accomplish everything I’ve overcommitted to. Most days I blink twice and it’s 4:45 PM and I have no idea what I’m making for dinner. I do not spend all day in the kitchen and I do not have it all together – not even close! 🙂 So whats my secret?..I’ve been cheating. That’s right: in order to eat healthy – I cheat. I make the simplest things I can find that require the fewest ingredients and yet they LOOK and TASTE like I’ve spent all day in the kitchen!

Eating clean or eating healthy does not have to be the painful sacrifice that people think it is. You can make foods that are just as EASY as you are making now without compromising on taste! It’s true! 🙂

Here is an example of one of my favourite “cheat” recipes (actually I’m not even sure if this qualifies as a “recipe” because it’s SO easy).

Grilled Pineapple

Ingredients: Pineapple

Directions: Slice pineapple and grill on George Foreman grill or BBQ for 8 minutes.

See what I mean? Total cheat! When I serve this, people go crazy for it and it honestly could not be any easier! 🙂
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YOU CAN do this! You have time to prepare healthy meals. Yes, it will take a little organization initially to find recipes that you and your family like, but you CAN do this! Do not believe the lie that eating clean and healthy is “extreme” and something completely unattainable. It’s so easy to talk ourselves into thinking “we don’t have time” or “I’m not good at cooking”, but it’s just not true! You’ve got this! Why not start cheating with me this week… 😉
Pam
http://www.cleanlifehappywife.com

Tis the season for frazzled cashiers and cranky neighbours…

  I had always dreamed of working in an orphanage overseas. It was on my bucket list and when I was 19, I went on my first trip overseas to Romania.  I remember being really excited to go!  I thought it was going to be so fun to play and work with the kids for a few weeks.  I thought I had a fairly reasonable understanding of what to expect.  Although I had never travelled outside of North America,  I had seen the World Vision commercials and had watched a few documentaries about poverty.  I wasn’t completely unaware of the hurting and need in other parts or the world…or so I thought.  

 
When we stepped inside the first State run orphanage the indescribable stench hit me like a slap in the face.  It was dingy, dark and run down.  My excitement quickly turned to apprehension.  This was not exactly what I had imagined.  As we walked toward the nursery I was curious to see what grandiose and heroic task they would give us to change the children’s lives!

We followed the orphanage staff worker down a dimly lit hallway. As the flourescent lights flickered, she informed us that we would start our work in the nursery.  I was feeling claustrophobic as my eyes scanned the grimy, paint chipped walls.  I was trying to breathe through my mouth as my stomach churned from the unpleasant smell of the place.  What WAS that smell?

 We finally arrived at the last door at the end of the hallway.  The staff lady opened the door and we walked into the nursery.  The room was lined with what looked like 20 grey metal cribs.  The cribs were lined up side by side and back to back.  There was a small narrow path in between the rows of cribs with just enough room for you to sidestep around them.  It looked like something I had seen at a chicken farm once. There was not a bright colour, toy or stuffed animal in sight. Each crib had a baby in it, some had two babies in them.  I was stunned.  This was unnatural.  There were so many babies just lying in cribs, all alone. The room was eerily quiet.  In a room with 20 or so babies, I expected to hear crying.  I asked the worker why it was so quiet in the room. She responded, “The babies learn quickly that there is no point to crying…no one is coming.  They just give up”.
 I swallowed hard.

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 I was in way over my head. I was sure I could actually physically feel my heart breaking.  The staff lady began to explain that they needed us to feed all of the babies.  She said that there were so many babies and so few workers that the babies were rarely held or touched.  These children lay alone in their cribs all day.  She then showed us the feeding system they used for the babies; There was a long piece of milk stained cloth tied to the side of each crib.  She showed us how they would fasten the bottle to the piece of cloth and then slide the baby’s head under the bottle.  The system reminded me of the water bottle attached to my hamster cage when I was a child.  She explained that what the babies needed the most, was for us to pick them up and hold them as they drank their bottles.  Some of the babies would go days without being held.  She gave us a bin of prepared bottles and left the 6 of us in the room.  It felt as if my feet were glued to the floor.  How do you choose which baby you will hold?  I walked over to the first crib, reached in and picked up the precious bundle.  The baby immediately grabbed onto my shirt with both hands.  Tears poured down my cheeks as I gently rocked the baby looking into his big blue eyes. His eyes looked dark and desperate- as soon as we locked eyes, he didn’t look away once. He was saying so much, without actually saying anything at all.  “I love you” I whispered over and over.  When he finished his bottle I felt torn.   I didn’t want to put him down, but I could see the sweet baby in the next crib looking longingly at me.  I bent over the crib and tried to gently lay him down. His grip on my shirt tightened.  He wouldn’t let go.  I cried harder as I gently pried his little fingers from my shirt.  I felt horrible.  I stepped over to the next crib and reached in.  This baby immediately grabbed me as well. My hands were trembling. I was desperately trying to maintain my composure. I shakily raised the bottle to her mouth and began rocking her back and forth whispering the same message to her: “I love you”.  We went from crib to crib, picking up and rocking each baby until all of the babies had been fed.

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When we were finished, we climbed into the taxis that were outside waiting for us.  I slumped in my seat, put my head in my lap, and cried the whole way back to the place we were staying.  It had not been the exhilarating, rewarding experience I had expected.  It was absolutely devastating- the worst thing I had ever experienced.  The reality of my privileged, sheltered upbringing confronted me like a megaphone.  I was changed that day.  I have never seen the world the same way since.  

 

With the Christmas season in full swing there are so many people all around us who are hurting and in need. Let’s be aware of our spiritual health! 🙂

 It’s so easy to get caught up with what we want, comparing over-selves with others, and getting stressed over little things that don’t actually matter. Is there someone in your life who needs to be shown a little kindness and love?  It’s so easy to get pulled into stress mode and act more like the Grinch than Mother Theresa.  Let’s be extra kind to the frazzled cashiers in the stores, your cranky neighbour, and that annoying kid at your child’s school. 🙂

 Let’s commit to sticking to our goals to be healthy body AND spirit this year!  

Merry Christmas!
Pam

Cleanlifehappywife.com    

A Belly Full of Christmas Jelly!

Tonight I was wrapping a few Christmas gifts that I have for my kids.  I am wrapping them now because I don’t have very good hiding spots for them and if they happen to stumble upon them, at least they won’t know what they are.  As I was wrapping I was remembering times as a child when I snooped at the gifts.  Believe it or not, I didn’t actually even think about peaking at our gifts until I was in high school, around grade 9.  My mother and father worked until 5:30 everyday so my older sister, younger brother and I were home by ourselves from 3:30-5:30 everyday after school.  My mother always took a lot of time and care beautifully wrapping the gifts.  Because of this, she would display them under the tree weeks before Christmas.  One afternoon after school my siblings and I were getting bored, and on that particular day the shiny packages were calling our names.  The three of us kneeled in front of the tree, reading the gift tags, seeing which ones were for us.  We were counting to see if we had an equal amount of gifts and trying to guess what was in each package based on it’s shape and size.  Then my older sister Corrina had an uncharacteristically sneaky idea.  “I bet I can neatly slice through the tape on the back of these with a steak knife”, she suggested.  The three of us grinned at each other as if saying “should we?” Before any of us could answer Corrina was running upstairs to the kitchen to get a knife and I was going through the desk drawer to find the roll of clear tape.  We all returned to the tree, supplies in hand.  We first opened one of Corrina’s.  I remember being nervous that one of my parents would burst through the door.  The risk was exhilarating!  One by one, my brother and I passed the gifts to my sister and she neatly sliced the tape on the back.  We peaked at every single gift and then carefully re-taped them and placed them back under the tree.  Our secret was safe- until Christmas morning.  After we had each opened a few gifts my Mother quickly figured out what we had done as our reactions or rather lack of reactions to the gifts was a dead give away.  My poor Mother! How anti-climatic that Christmas morning must have been for her.  The following year my Mother was determined to outsmart her mischievous children.  She still wrapped the gifts and placed them under the tree weeks before Christmas, but this year, she didn’t put ANY tags on ANY of the gifts and she was heavy handed with the tape.  Each day after school we would look at the gifts under the tree, with no clue as to who’s was who’s.  How would my parents know Christmas morning what was in each package? One afternoon as we were watching television by the Christmas tree my sister shot straight up in her seat, “I’ve got it!” She shouted out loud.  She ran to the tree grinning from ear to ear.  “I’ve figured out how Mom coded the gifts!  My brother and I rushed to her side ready to hear her theory.  “Look” she said as she pointed at the gifts. “There are only 3 different coloured bows on all of the gifts.  I bet the red ones are for me, the gold ones are for Pammie and the green ones are for Steven!”  It was actually a good theory.  Up to the kitchen we ran again, after all, we HAD to test her theory and see if she was right!  Once again we sat in front of the tree carefully slicing the gifts and sure enough my sister was right.  All of the red bows were hers, the gold were mine and the green were my brothers. (This is why we call my sister Nancy Drew)  Needless to say, that was the last year my mother put the gifts under the tree prior to Christmas morning! 🙂 

As I’ve shared in previous posts I’ve had some frustration lately with the slow down in progress I am making in restoring my body to health! I’ve finally reached the 70lb mark, which is an awesome goal reached.  I’m finally out of the 200’s! (for some reason, that was a big goal for me) And, I re-took a health physical that was required for insurance.  I failed that test last June and was denied insurance because according to my blood work, my blood pressure and weight put me in an “at risk” category for stroke or heart attack.  (terrible- I know!) I re-took the test last month and passed! All of my numbers were good and out of the “at risk” category.  Still, I have about 30lbs more to lose and have been feeling a little frustrated.  This last 30lbs is really hanging on! After I was complaining to my Mother, (Mom’s are the best for that right?) she told me she thought I needed a little perspective.  She sent me these two pics side by side.  

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The top picture is of me last year at my birthday and the bottom picture is from a wedding we were at this past weekend.  

I know I am a person who places high expectations on things.  I can hold especially high expectations of myself.  I’m trying to re-focus to where I’ve come from instead of focussing so much on where I still need to be.  I know I will reach my final goal, but i just need to be patient and not forget what’s already been accomplished.  

Any positive change you are making is beneficial!  You don’t have to be instantly perfect in your journey! It’s ok to have little set backs, or get stuck here and there.  Just keep at it! Don’t give up!  Force those thoughts of frustration out of your head and encourage yourself with the progress you’ve made!
Pam
 

cleanlifehappywife

The dreaded “P” word….

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My husband and I took a family trip with our 2 children to Europe last month.  While we were in France we surprised our kids with a day trip to Euro Disney in Paris. We were having a blast with the kids going from ride to ride.  My kids wanted to go to the Disney Cars ride which is sort of like a bumper car ride.  As we excitedly approached the line, a Disney ride attendant pulled me aside and said “excuse me ma’m, but you can’t go on this ride”. I stopped abruptly and looked at the attendant with confusion “Oh… why not” I replied.  “Well, you are pregnant right?  Women who are pregnant can’t ride this specific ride”.  I stood there stunned.   I’m not sure what kind of sour contortion appeared on my face, but he seemed to realize his mistake right away.  “Oh, are you not pregnant?” he questioned. I shook my head “no”. “I’m so sorry!” He replied as he waved me toward the line. “Go ahead”.  I tried to just shake it off and enjoy the ride, but I felt slightly humiliated.  

Sometimes being in the middle of your ultimate goal can be a frustrating place to be.  On one hand, you feel good about the progress that has been made, but you’re also not exactly where you want to be either.  As soon as we arrived home from our trip I messaged my trainer Keith.  I told him that I would up my workouts to private sessions or alter my diet, or do whatever you told me to do to focus on my middle section and burn that faux baby belly right off! He responded to me promptly with 3 words:

“Just be patient”

Be patient?  That is NOT what I wanted to hear.  He then reminded me that I have been working hard, eating right and making healthy changes.  The extra weight WILL come off. Your body WILL continue to change.  Keep making one healthy choice after the next and be PATIENT!    

We are back home and it feels so great to be back into routine of going to the gym and enjoying healthy meals.  If you are like me and are somewhere in the middle of your journey, I just want to encourage you today to just be patient! Keep going!  Keep doing what has worked for you and has brought positive change!  Remember that there is no real quick fix.  The best results will come from making one good choice after the next each day!
XO, Pam

http://www.cleanlifehappywife.com

Public humiliation and the changes it brings

Public humiliation and the changes it brings…
 
The first time I tried a group exercise class was when I was 20. My friend Shannon had a membership at a gym in town and had started attending some of the exercise classes.  She asked me to go to one of the classes with her one night and I agreed; it sounded like fun.  When we arrived, it was just like I had imagined it would be.  The instructor was young, looked like exercise barbie and was really “peppy”.  Most of the other ladies were pretty fit and decked out in the latest workout gear.  I was relieved when Shannon suggested we find a spot in the back of the room as I was beginning to feel nervous.  The dance remix music started and the instructor began quickly calling out moves.  Right from the start, I was consistently 2-3 steps behind everyone else.   I then realized that there was actually no advantage to standing in the back of the class because the wall we were facing was a giant mirror.  Everyone else in the class could see every clumsy, un-cordinated step I took. Shannon and I couldn’t help but giggle- I was struggling and looked ridiculous.  The instructor brought out weighted poles and handed one to each of us.  She then demonstrated how we were to place the bar at the back of our neck and weave our arms around the bar. Once we were all in position, she instructed us to squat holding the bar.  In my haste to wrap my arms around the bar, I didn’t realize that it was lopsided.  As I attempted my first squat, the lopsided weighted bar caused me to lose my balance.  I toppled backwards onto the hardwood floor, the bar making a loud crashing noise!  The instructor quickly stopped the music and rushed over to see if I was “okay”. I was on my back, flailing around on the floor like a fish out of water, trying to unpin my arms from around the metal bar.  With the instructors help, I was able to free myself and stand up.  As soon as I looked at Shannon we both burst into hysterical laughing; the kind where you laugh so hard you don’t make a sound and your shoulders just shake.  The other woman in the class did not look impressed.  We decided to call it a night and skip out on the class a few minutes early.  We could not stop laughing!  The class had been a complete disaster!  It would be 11 years before I would attempt a group exercise class again!  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I go to classes at the “U can B fit” gym and I love it! (I’m still clumsy and un-coordinated, but I’m slowly getting the hang of it!)  

The great thing about taking classes is that you learn exercises that you can do at home too!  My 2 year old son asks me every night to lay with him as he is falling asleep.  Because he is in a toddler bed, there isn’t room to lay in the bed with him so I use to just lay on the floor beside him.  Now, instead of just laying there for 15-20 minutes, I use that time to do some core strengthening exercises.  Last night I did sit ups, push ups, plank, and leg raises all while helping my son fall asleep.  Life can be busy!  Sometimes you have to be creative in how you can fit in time for a little workout!  Can you think of a time during the day when you could do double duty and squeeze in a little exercise at the same time? 🙂 Could you do some leg raises at your desk, or some sit ups during a TV show?   

I truly believe that making positive changes one small step at a time is the best way to achieve success!!

U Can B Fit Gym

XO, Pam

http://www.cleanlifehappywife.com