New site

I have stopped using this site and am posting to kmcheney.wordpress.com if you want to follow me there. So far, it’s mostly my old stuff that I imported but I have a couple of recent posts. Thanks for following me and for all the support for my writing.

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Apple Cider Vinegar

I first learned about apple cider vinegar and its’ benefits a couple of years ago after having an allergic reaction to a bee sting. Sounds confusing, right? After the sting, my arm swelled up so I ended up going to the ER. After refusing the steroid treatment, they suggested a stronger combo of benadryl than I had been using and pepcid. I questioned the combo especially since pepcid is known as a an antacid. Apparently pepcid is also a histamine blocker and it works on different histamines than benadryl. I didn’t really understand the science but since I didn’t want to take the steroids and I needed to do something, I figured it was a better option. The drug combo made me tired but it worked on the swelling almost immediately. A side effect of the pepcid was that I got heartburn. How did I get heartburn from an antacid you wonder? My Chiropractor friend explained that the pepcid stopped my natural stomach acid so my body responded by producing more. He suggested taking a shot of apple cider vinegar to help. Wow! It worked almost instantly. It is now my “medicine” of choice for heartburn.

I heard more about the vinegar when I saw a recipe for coughs which include 1 tablespoon each of raw honey, fresh lemon juice and raw apple cider vinegar. RAW apple cider vinegar? I had no idea what that even meant. At the time I was making homemade raw sauerkraut and reading a lot about fermented foods so it wasn’t much of a stretch when I learned the raw vinegar is just not heated or pasteurized so it has beneficial probiotics in it naturally.  I am all about natural and probiotics. I found a recipe online and made my first batch. The downside is that it takes 3 plus months in the beginning. The plus side is you just need apple scraps, sugar and water. That time goes fast and once you have made your own, you will never want the processed vinegar again.

The first batch I made called for cutting up pieces of apple including the core and then making a simple syrup. I use raw sugar and make a one to one ratio for the syrup. One cup of boiling water to one cup of syrup. I use a quart mason jar and fill it with apple pieces. I have used scraps from pie making, whole fresh apples, and apples that are starting to go past their prime, that my kids don’t really want to eat. My son’s teacher used cider making scraps. Pour the cooled syrup over the the apples and fill the jar with filtered water. You need the sugar to aid in the fermenting. The fermenting process needs air to aid it so I use a coffee filter held in place with the jar lid. You can use cheesecloth, a thin paper towel and a rubber band to hold it in place. You want to keep bugs out but let the air in.

Keep the apples in a cool dark place that will get good air flow and check on them regularly. At first I kept my apples in a kitchen cabinet, but now I have a pantry so I keep them in there. The first batch I made, I checked ever day constantly pushing the apples below the liquid to prevent mold. Now, I tend to neglect them for days sometimes and it is fine. After about two weeks, strain the liquid, dispose of the apples and return the vinegar to the jar. You have the beginnings of vinegar and now all you need is time.

Check the vinegar regularly. Again, with my first batch I did it daily, now I do it weekly. Stir the vinegar to help the air flow. You can start tasting it after a couple of months and it is “done” when you are happy with the flavor. You can then put your vinegar in an air tight container. It will continue to age but at a slower process since it isn’t exposed to the air. Now every time I make the vinegar I add a little of my previous batch to the apples as it helps them ferment faster. My current batch even has a good sized “mother” which is similar to a scoby used for kombuchu tea.

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You can use any kind of apples you like and you can even mix and match them. It will change the flavor slightly of your vinegar. Apple cider vinegar has been touted for everything from stomach problems, to reducing inflammation, to aiding in wait loss, to helping with preventing illness and more. Good luck and happy fermenting!

The First Month

Tomorrow marks 30 days in our new state and our new temporary house. It has been a month of challenges, changes and new beginnings. We have had our ups and our downs, but mostly ups as we tend to be a family who makes the best of things. It isn’t always easy to do and there have been many days when one or more of us wonders why we did this big move and are missing our old home and our old friends a our old life. One of the boys refers to moving day as “the saddest day of his life”. He hated seeing our things loaded onto a big truck.

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A few days before we arrived, the heat in our rental wasn’t working and the heat at our home in MD wasn’t working either. Both have been fixed, luckily but those were hiccups we would have preferred to avoid.

I should have looked at directions to the rental rather than relying on Marge, my GPS. Marge thought it would be fun to take us the scenic, narrow, hilly and icy path, but my loaded van did not agree. Thankfully, we have local friends and one of them owns a big truck with a tow rope. It was also a good thing to figure out that our moving truck was not going to make it up the road. We scrambled to make plans to do a shuttle from a nearby road with a smaller truck.

It took about a week to unpack the things we needed at the house and flatten the boxes to store and save for the next move. Now we just need to find a house, but that is another story. In the meantime, I continue to rearrange, clean and try to manage the clutter.

The boys are settling in at school. All three are continuing in Spanish Immersion and we are grateful that was an option here. We are also grateful for the families that have reached out to make us feel welcome. The staff at the school has been incredibly warm and the boys are happy there when they aren’t missing their BFFs. At least once a week, one of the boys is demanding we move back. For the most part it is the two youngest.

The winter here has been colder and more snowy, but that is a plus in the boys eyes. Even Jack, our 11 year old dog loves playing in it. The boys have outdoor recess if it is above zero so they go to school bundled head to toe. We walk the 1/3 mile to the am bus, most days. Some of those days, we are ice skating down the road.

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All three boys are swimming, and of course they are in different practice groups and sometimes different locations at the same time. Matt has joined in on the taxiing back and forth. His work commute has been cut in half so we see him more and most nights we have a family dinner. That is one of the big reasons for the change, to have more family time while the boys are still young.

We still have much to do and more challenges to face, but we are together and have many blessings. Everyone is healthy and we are all adjusting well to our move. We are looking forward to see what is next.

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The Drive

After our moving day, we had a restless night in a Sprinhill Suites. The children slept ok, but Matt and I had trouble shutting off our minds even though we were physically exhausted. We got up the next morning to begin the better part of our ten hour drive.

In the future, I will try not to begin a move halfway across the country on the morning of a winter storm which brings us through Pittsburgh the day of a post-season Steelers vs. Ravens game. Icy rain was our companion for a good part of the morning. I70 was closed due to trucks de-icing and spreading sand on the road. There was also a three car pile up. Seeing a minivan fully loaded with belongings, missing doors and hauled on a flatbed gave me pause. That could easily have been us.

Despite the poor driving conditions, the ice made for a pretty backdrop to our drive. The trees and grass were glistening and the freezing rain made the otherwise brown vegetation a pretty mauve color. The soundtrack of the 80’s helped keep me awake and alert as the highway passed me by.

We took our time and made it as far as Toldeo, OH (Maumee, really) on the second night. The traffic, weather, and loaded vehicles did not make for an easy drive. We checked in to another Marriott property and headed to the Outback just through the parking lot. It was the only restaurant that did not require driving. We waited for quite a while on “date night” but enjoyed our dinner.

We found a better position for Goldie on this leg of the trip. Buffered by a prized bottle of homemade smokey jalapeño sauce, the bowl didn’t leak at all. Goldie even got to see the inside of several rest areas due to the frigid temperatures in the parked car.

Back at the hotel after dinner, the kids swam with a bunch of other kids staying in town for a hockey tournament. The exercise was great after being cramped in the cars all day. I thought I would sleep better the second night, but my mind was still whirring. I ended up in the small roll away and got a few hours of sleep in the wee hours.

We were all excited to be on our way Sunday and made it to Michigan in good time. Unfortunately my GPS took us on the scenic narrow route to our rental home and my van and lapsed winter driving skills did not quite make it up the narrow winding hilly road. Thank goodness for a good friend with a Ram truck and a tow rope.

We finally and happily made it to our new temporary home. The setting on the lake is lovely and the house is cozy and warm. Even both of our cars have a space inside the garage. We are adjusting to cold and snowy weather, but are happy to be among old friends.

The moving truck is due tomorrow and because of the narrow road, adjustments were made for a shuttle truck rather than the semi. The boys begin school and all three will be in full-time Spanish Immersion. We have enjoyed “camping out” on air mattresses but are all excited to get furniture and belongings tomorrow. We will also get to reclaim out dog who has been living at friends since Thanksgiving.

Henry has plans to move back to Maryland soon and he surely speaks for us all when he says he misses our old life and house and friends. Change isn’t easy but we are all doing well with the challenge.

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Thanks to another Pinner, I have dinner

Aside

I have been using Pinterest for a couple of years now. At first I didn’t really know how to use it or what it was. There was a lot of buzz about it and I would see things my Facebook friends had “pinned”. I joined but still didn’t really use it much.

Now, I do spend a few minutes once or twice a week going through my favorite categories which are food (any kind), health and fitness and organizational tips. I have gotten many new recipes to try and last night I made a variation of one that I first saw on Pinterest a year or so ago. That is cheese steak stuffed peppers. I love cheese steaks having lived in Philadelphia for ten years and I like stuffed peppers too. This recipe is a big hit with my husband, but I usually just give my kids a roll to have their cheese steaks in because up to this point they haven’t cared for stuffed peppers. Last night, my eight year old asked if he could have a pepper too when he saw what they looked like!

I got thin sliced steak at Trader Joe’s and fried it in my cast iron skillet with some sliced onion, olive oil and salt and pepper. Once it was cooked, I cut the tops off some green peppers and de-seeded them. I lined the bottoms of the peppers with a slice of provolone and added three ounces of he steak and onion mix. The peppers weren’t full and I was wishing that I had some quinoa cooked to fill the peppers. Instead I finely chopped some cauliflower and filled them with it. I added about 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese and put the tops back on. I baked it in the oven at 350 for about twenty minutes. The peppers were really good, but I probably should have cooked them for about ten minutes longer so the the cauliflower and peppers were not quite so crunchy.

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I will continue to search Pinterest to find more recipes and ideas about what to make for dinner.

Back to Basics

Day 1 – I realized over the weekend that I was almost 130 miles away from my goal of doubling my 2012 bike mileage so this morning after the school drop off, I rode my bike on my trainer to close the gap. I rode 12 miles and did it pretty easily even though I have not ridden my bike in weeks. Apparently it is just like riding a bike as long as you are doing some form of cardio.

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After the ride, Jack and I went on our hiking trail. It was a nice day and we encountered a few others with the same idea. On our way to the woods, I ran the quarter mile down hill and also did some running along the trail. At one point in the not too distant past, it was all I could do just to hike down and back up the trail so I really have made progress.  I spent some time thinking about my friend’s mom and the one year anniversary of my brother’s death which is coming up this week. Walking always centers me and brings my spirituality to the surface.
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Day 2 – I took the boys to school and made a quick trip to my favorite grocery store, Trader Joe’s. Matt was working from home so we could go to the funeral later in the morning. Since we were going to be gone a long time that day, I made the decision to take Jack for a walk in the woods before getting ready. I also made the decision on this walk to focus on my bike and these long walks for a bit, since getting any exercise at all during this season is difficult for me. I have never been diagnosed but I suspect that I suffer from some form of seasonal depression. I am more likely get out and do things that I really love. I will continue to do some running, but it is much easier to get on my bike in the house during the cold weather than go out for a run that I am still struggling with. I have not quit running and still plan to do it, but I will walk and bike regularly through the cold dark days.
Day 3 – I volunteered in the kindergarten class today and went my my quarterly hair cut. When I got home, I took Jack for a short walk.
Day 4 – This  morning I met up with a friend and that headed home for a walk in the woods before getting the boys.
Day 5 – Even though my twelve miles of riding earlier in the week was pretty effortless, I did pay for the lack of biking with a sore rear for a few days. Today I got back on my bike and rode another twelve miles. I will make it to my goal by the end of the year. After today’s ride, I have 102 miles to go.
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After the ride, Jack and I did our hike. The walk in the woods that I regularly do, used to take nearly an hour one way several years ago and has since been cut in half. It is a true measure of my fitness progress over the years. I still have a long way to go, but I have come a long way. I have made it a habit not to try to get the closest parking spaces. Instead, I park farther away from entrances to avoid the crowd of traffic and to get a longer walk in.
Day 6  and Day 7 – We had a busy weekend filled with activities for the kids and get-togethers with friends so I did not get any formal workouts in. I did some laundry and cleaning which counts as activity in my book. I also ran some errands which I typically avoid on a weekend. I had planned to do a hike by put the cold weather was a deterrent.  I am doing well staying away from holiday treats so we will see how the year ends up.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all! I have much to be thankful for and hope that you do as well.
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Week Nine – Intervals Beat Injuries

Day 1 – My dog and I walked for an hour or so in the neighborhood and did about four miles. I love walking especially in the Fall. The air is brisk and the foliage is amazing. I wish I had time to walk for hours.

Day 2 – I do not love running. I thought I would be further in my conditioning than I am. I still can not run continuously for a mile and I was feeling discouraged today. I focused on form and breathing and used the poles as markers. I am still running/walking 2.25 miles in just under 30 minutes. The cool air goes right to my lungs but I am still out there. I will keep running.

Day 3 – Today was my big volunteer day but I got some stretching in. Any activity helps.

Day 4 – Another running day, groan. I got out there even though I just wanted to hibernate and eat. I made myself productive by doing laundry and stretching while watching a little tv. Then I got out and did my 2.25 miles. I ran a little better/faster than Tuesday. I felt good getting out especially since I really did not want too.

Day 5 – Jack and I went out for a good hike in the woods near our house. I am still on the alert for squirrels especially since My kids tease me that squirrels hate me. The other day I got hit on the head with some acorns and they said it was squirrels throwing them at me.

Day 6 – We were gone all day at my nephew’s confirmation so I did not get any exercise in. We had a nice day with family and good food grilled by my brother.

Day 7 – We ended up with a rare Sunday at home so I got my run in. I pushed myself and ran several lengths to every one walked but at various points had to take long walks. I know from my treadmill run last week that I am doing a good job at hitting my target heart rate for my age. I still felt somewhat discouraged by my progress until I read an article and had a conversation with a friend. The friend, thanks Shawna, pointed out that I am not as young as I once was and it is better to do the interval training than to get hurt. I am out there trying, which is more than some 45 year olds. The premise of the article was that it takes longer to form exercise habits than previously thought. Exercising three times a week may take as long as six month to form the habit! So my new mantra is “Intervals beat injuries” and I am still getting out there. I have been running three times a week for nine solid weeks and walking or doing other exercise as much as possible besides the running.

It isn’t easy getting out and running and I don’t know if I will ever love it, but I am going to give myself a year to create what I hope will be a lifelong habit of interval training at MY pace.