Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

These turned out to be the best version of these cookies I have made yet. And I make them a few different ways every year, but from now on, I am sticking with these. They were big, soft, and super fluffy. I am getting tons of requests for the recipe so here it is!

1 Cup of Canned Pumpkin (or one 15oz can)

1 Cup white sugar

1/2 Cup vegetable oil

1 egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp milk

1 tbsp vanilla extract

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, ground and salt. Dissolve the baking soda with the milk and stir in. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Add vanilla, chocolate chips and even nuts if you want to!

Drop by spoonful on to cookie sheet lined with wax paper or parchment paper, and bake at 350 degrees for about 10-15 minutes or until lightly brown and firm.

Happy Birthday Truett!!

My little man turned 1 on Friday, the 26th, so his birthday party was on Saturday. We just did a fall theme, and it turned out super cute! Wanted to share the pictures with you, and I’ll post all the recipes as I get a chance. The food turned out perfectly, as did the craft. We had so much fun, thanks to all our friends who came! And to my mother in law, who was a huge help preparing for the party!

At the dessert table, we just did snacks and desserts with pumpkins, gourds, and flowers for decoration. And some hanging pumpkin lanterns that I found at Party Galaxy! We also had balloons, which Truett loved more than anything else. The cupcakes were Caramel Apple with a Caramel Cream Cheese Buttercream frosting. Also on the table was Fall Trail Mix, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies, and S’mores on a Stick. Candy corn, Reeses Pieces, and dried cranberries were also in little bowls to snack on. We made all of the food ourselves on Friday night, and frosted the cupcakes right before the party. Our craft was an Owl Paper Bag Puppet, which I put treats in and a s’mores kit (graham crackers, hershey bar, and pumpkin shaped marshmallows) to go home with them.

We had a great time, and after everyone left we snuggled up and watched Tinkerbell: Secret of the Wings. I’m pretty sure, Brent, his mom, and I all enjoyed it just as much if not more, than Hadley. We were all exhausted and slept great. Even Truett who slept until 9:30 the next morning!! Sunday I got to make Hadley’s halloween costume, grocery shop, and clean the house. Whew! It was a very busy, but crazy fun weekend. Now to the work week!

A Little More on Weight Loss

After I re-read yesterdays post I realized I didn’t say all that I had intended on saying. What I’ve found over the last decade is the cliche that everyone always tells you ‘it’s a lifestyle change’. Totally 100% correct. But you don’t have to miss out on anything!

I tried dieting without ever being totally committed, and it never worked. When I would really try, I would see results, and then get lazy I’m what I was doing and either not lose any more, or gain some back. And this isn’t counting the pregnancies. But obviously for me, weight had something to do with my fertility. I have never been on birth control, but as soon as I got under 200 lbs both times, I got pregnant immediately. Just like some people who are underweight have trouble with fertility, so can people who are overweight. Everyone loses weight differently and each body needs different things. For mine, I was eating way too many carbs so that’s what I keep in check, but my husband is much better at monitoring his calorie intake. You have to figure out what’s right for you, but there are ways to just eat better in general,

Once I really dedicated myself to becoming healthy, no matter what my weight was, it became so easy to lose weight. I know that where I was, my life expectancy was not what I wanted. My quality of life was not what I wanted. I cut out all sugar and flour. Hard at first because I definitely had cravings, but I use Splenda instead of sugar and I still eat what my family eats. For example, if I am making them spaghetti, I will make it as usual and then also cook a spaghetti squash for myself. Pour the sauce and meat over my squash – delicious. And to be totally honest, I prefer to eat sauce over veggies instead of pasta. The veggies have flavor and are so good with tomato sauce and sausage on top. Sometimes I julienne a zucchini instead of squash, or roast brocolli or cauliflower, it’s awesome.

My family also loves pizza. Like I said last week, we went to this pizza place in Dallas that is totally worth cheating for. But if we are home, I make a cauliflower crust pizza. And of course now, I prefer it. I don’t feel like I’m in a coma after eating two slices, and with my homemade pizza, I cut out 2/3 of the calories, which means I can eat half of a 9″ pizza and not feel guilty at all. Because in reality, half of a cauliflower pizza is about the same amount of carbs as one slice of cheese pizza from your favorite delivery place. Instead of a sandwich for lunch, I will put all my sandwich fixings between two halves of a bell pepper, or in a lettuce wrap. For something sweet I sometimes have an Adkins bar or shake, or strawberries, or even sugar free cheesecake pudding. There are alway substitutions you can make in your food where you don’t have to miss out. And I still have a yummy dessert if we are out somewhere, i just make changes to my diet the next day.

And like I said before, now that I’ve been eating this way, I prefer this food. When we go out to dinner or to a friends house, I try to still eat well, but sometimes I’m not able to depending on what they have. And I always feel gross the next day, bloated, my skin is more oily, I’m lethargic. And it’s not because that food was so bad for me, it is just because my body isn’t used to having it anymore, and doesn’t respond well to it. I used to live like that thinking something was wrong with me, when really, it was all in what I was eating. I’m not preaching ‘no carbs’ because you need good carbs for energy. Get them from vegetables like zucchini and tomatoes and carrots, not bread and pasta. Or have that in moderation. Measure out what an actual portion size is and you’ll be amazed.

What I’m trying to say is, eating can change your life. Eating bad can change it for the worse, or eating clean and healthy food can help you become a healthier person. And you don’t lose flavor or amount. I have lost 65 pounds just by eating better. I have only been working out in the gym for the last 2 months, and because of work I haven’t been as consistent as I want to. You can at least start your journey to getting healthy by eating better and making good decisions about your food, even if you can get to the gym yet.

Just start. Change something. No matter how slow you’re going, your already lapping everyone who’s still sitting on the couch.

Losing weight

Quite a few people have asked me about what I have been doing to lose weight, so I thought now would be a good time to share.

I remember being bigger than all my friends growing up, but it was never really an issue for me until middle school, when I started seeing who was becoming the popular crowd or listening to who the boys were talking about. I was kind of a tomboy, so I just thrived in that for awhile, not needing any extra attention to how big I was getting. I remember going to my pediatricians office right around my 14th birthday and my mom had mentioned to him that I would be going to a different school the next fall. And he very gently encouraged me to be healthier, lose some weight and start fresh the next year. For some reason, that’s all it took, and I really hit hard into the portion control and eating better. This was also when the Adkins diet was new, so I did it and went from 180 to 135 in about 6 months. High School was great, I loved it, I never got teased, boys didn’t I think I was one of them, and I definitely felt more like a girls girl after losing it all.

Jump forward to college, I gained about 10 pounds the first year, and then my dad passed away. Suddenly, unexpectedly, and devastating doesn’t even come close to the impact it had on my life or my family. I spiraled into depression and anxiety, and started drinking more with my “friends”. Never even noticing the effect it was having on me physically. Maybe I noticed, but I didn’t care. When I was 21, a year and a half after my dad had died, my mom put me in Discovery, which brought me out of my depression and I haven’t looked back. I really think it saved my life. However, I didn’t stop eating. Then I met my future husband, and we went out to eat all the time, out to bars, and I just gained and gained more weight. I remember weighing myself at 240 once and thinking that was the last time I was getting on the scale. So I don’t know exactly what my highest weight was, I just go by 240.

It was when Brent and I were getting serious and talking about getting married that I snapped out of it and thought, “I don’t want to look like this at my wedding!” I decided to cut everything in half. I would fix my meals as usual, and then cut each item in half and put it in a Tupperware and in the fridge before I even sat down. That way I wasn’t as tempted to eat ‘just a little more’. I got down to 195 and got pregnant with Hadley. We were so excited, so we got married and when I delivered I weighed 230. We moved to Oklahoma and I was a new mom to a 5 week old, staying at home, and 3 hours away from anyone I knew. Did I mention we were going in to winter? Talk about post pardum depression. I didn’t lose a pound of baby weight until Hadley was 17 months old. My friend and I started a boot camp, and I lost about 25 pounds. Brent and I had been discussing having another baby, and decided that we would just try but not expect anything for about a year. A month later I found out I was pregnant. There went my weight loss. I didn’t gain as much the second time, but I was disappointed that I had to stop trying to lose weight. When I delivered with Truett I was 220 again. Ugh.

That was one year ago. I kicked it into high gear and really got serious about getting healthy. There were times when it was hard to play on the floor with Hadley because I was so heavy, and I was determined not to be that mom who had to sit down to play or was always watching, never participating. I really started watching what I ate and counting calories after Truett was born, and dropped about 25 pounds in 3 months. Then I hit a plateau so I started doing the Jillian Michaels DVDs, 30 day shred mostly. I loved it. I lost another 10-15, and then I hurt my back. I went to the chiropractor to find out that I have a bulging disc, and have probably had it for some time. I probably picked Truett up wrong (he is a huge baby) and really hurt it. I knew I couldn’t let that’s top me from losing more weight, so I started cutting out flour, sugar, starches, and eating only carbs in vegetables. Not even counting the carbs like on the Adkins diet, just only eating good carbs. Not totally cutting out carbs, or anything like it. But eating clean, healthy food. I definitely have more energy, and since April I have lost almost another 25 pounds. I am still eating the same way, but now that my back is better I have also started going to the gym. I was much better about it before I was working, but I try to go as often as I can. As soon as I’m done working at Thanksgiving ill be back in the gym every day. My chiropractor recommended Pilates, which I really enjoy. I also do the elliptical for 30-60 minutes to begin with, because it is lower impact than running on the treadmill. I find that I can go much longer at the same pace on the elliptical than running. Yesterday I did almost 6 miles and burned 650 calories. I don’t know if I’ve ever done that on the treadmill. I also do circuit training in the weight room, based on what my trainer showed me. I can’t wait to get back into regular training sessions.

I have about 15 pounds to go to reach the goal I set last October. I am trying to do this last part slowly and with exercise so that my skin doesnt lose its elasticity more than it already has. I will be trying to post more recipes, working as really thrown me for a loop as far as making interesting meals. Lately we have just been eating a lot of grilled meats and veggies. Last night I baked chicken breasts and broiled veggies since Brent wasn’t home. Turned out awesome and he ate all the leftovers when he finally did get home at 11.

Here are some pictures from 2007 til now.

Summer 2007                February 2009                          December 2009

December 2010                   December 2011                       Current

A long weekend never seems long…

I think I mentioned before that I am from North Texas, and my whole family lives there. So this weekend was spent in Prosper (north of Dallas) celebrating all the October birthdays. My husband, my niece Madison (15), and Truett, who is turning 1 on Friday. My niece Gracen was also included but couldn’t make it, she will be 17 next week.

Let me just say first, that I can’t believe my nieces are 17 and 15. That to me is insane. They were just 5 and 3, playing in the play room at my parents house and trying on everything in the dress up box. Now they are in high school and have boyfriends and are driving (or about to be). It is so hard to see how fast it all goes by. A perfect example is that Truett is turning one, and I feel like he should only be a few months old. In the middle of it it seems like time is dragging, but now to be preparing for his birthday party…it’s just hard to believe its all happening.

The party on Saturday was a success, we had friends and family over to eat amazing chili and have an ice cream bar for dessert.

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My sister-in-law was in charge of dessert, and she rocked the ice cream bar. Had every topping you could think of, including chunks of waffle cones. Genius. Brent made Elk Chili, which was a hit. And Mom made White Bean Chicken Chili, which is one of my favorites, as an option for anyone who isn’t a huge game meat fan. Lets just say there were almost no leftovers of either one.

My week ahead is already overwhelming and it has barely started. I’m going to need more than bottle of wine to make it through, that’s for sure. On top of work, I have to get everything together for Truett’s party on Saturday, clean the house, and help Brent write a 3-5 page paper for His mythology class. I have been doing the class for him since it’s online, and until this paper, it has been super easy to keep up with. His mom comes in on Tuesday, so I know she’ll be able to help me entertain the kids while I do all the other stuff.

I’m already looking forward to going to my brothers house in 3 weeks to relax and get some more family time in. Can’t get enough!

Just my opinion…

Yesterday was more than chaotic, trying to get packed for the kids and I, loaded up with the dogs, and then to work and drop the kids with my friend Alicia. Tried to leave early, which didn’t really work because I still hit traffic, picked up the kids and headed to Dallas. Three and a half hours in the car alone with two kids is almost enough to make you drive off a bridge, but we made it. Nothing too exciting going on, but we do get to go to our favorite pizza place tonight: Grimaldi’s! This is like the most amazing pizza you’ve ever had. We don’t have one in Oklahoma, so every time we come to Dallas we go there. I’ll post pics tomorrow. But for today, I just wanted to share my opinion on the election.

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Why I do What I do

I’m going to step up on my soap box for a minute and talk about something that bothers me, and probably anyone else who works in Veterinary medicine. I had a phone call yesterday from a guy who told me he found a kitten, but its leg was dislocated and it looked like it had been in a fight or hit by a car because it was scraped up. So I told him he needed to have it seen by someone as soon as possible, the kitten was probably in pain, and the longer its leg stayed out of joint the harder it would be to get it back in. He then started telling me about how he watched a you tube video that a vet had posted of him getting a cat’s leg back in its socket, and he started asking me about it! Like if we were going to do it that way, how we would do it, all kinds of things. I told him I was really uncomfortable because I felt like he was trying to get tips on doing it himself. I explained to him that that was inhumane, and also inhumane to let the kitten stay as is. I also told him the leg may have to be amputated, if it had been out of socket too long, or if there was any infection in it, as he said it was very swollen. Then of course the inevitable, “Well, I don’t have any money.” I told him he needed to relenquish the animal to a rescue group or animal shelter, and he asked me if after they fixed it, if he could have it back. You just told me you didn’t have money to take care of it, why would they let you have it back? I didn’t say that to him, but I wanted to. But the answer is no, their policy is that they will not give it back to you. And to be totally honest, it may be more humane to put the animal down rather than fix it, depending on how long it has been injured. I offered to let him come in and have a consult with our doctor, to at least asses the situation, I told him I wouldn’t charge him for a full exam, just a consult, and he didn’t want to do it. He kept asking me what to do for the cat, and I told him, I have given him every option I know of, and none of them were what he wanted to do, I couldn’t help him any further. When I hung up, I felt bad for the kitten, but I was pretty angry at the guy. Not because he didn’t have any money, I totally understand that that is an issue for anyone, but that he was letting this poor animal suffer because he didn’t want to give it up.

Listen, I am all for rescuing animals. Anyone in my family can vouch for me on that. Including my husband, who also will pick up any stray he sees. But we have the resources to care for a stray, injured or not. And not necessarily financially, but because I work for a vet. I also know what is in the realm of possiblity as far as saving an animal verses what cannot be saved. But if you are going to pick up an injured animal (or any animal for that matter) you need to be prepared to take on financial responsibility. Otherwise leave it, or take it to an animal shelter. We can’t save every single animal. That’s why there is over population of dogs and cats in our country. Not only because people don’t take the time to spay or neuter, but also because so many people want to save every animal they see.

I obviously work in veterinary medicine because I love animals, and I love helping them. I have wanted to work with animals for as long as I can remember. I love being able to see people with their new animals, and helping them with their older pets to keep them healthy as long as possible. I have an older dog, she will be 16 in December. She has just started having seizures, and the reasoning side of me says she is old, it isn’t fair to let her go through violent seizures just because I’m not ready to let her go, but at the same time, I’m not ready to let her go! The more likely problem is that it is a lesion on her brain rather than epilepsy, so unfortunately, we need to make our decision sooner rather than later. But thats me, I see people who let their pets go way too long, where the pet is clearly miserable, just because they are not ready to be without them. It is more fair for us to be sad sooner, than to let your animal suffer for a long time. But that is only my opinion.

So know what you are getting into before you do so. Pets are a huge responsibility, and not to be taken lightly. An injury or illness is serious, and if you choose not to treat them for whatever reason, make sure the animal isn’t suffering. Think about what you would like someone to do for you if you were going through the exact same thing. We are their caretakers, and they love us unconditionally. They depend soley on us for everything; food, clean water, shelter, medical attention. As their doctors and nurses, we in veterinary medicine are their advocates. We aren’t just trying to sell you something. We genuinely care about the health of your animal. I saw this once and loved it. It goes for all pets. I think everyone should have to live by these.

Who are you not to be?

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” -Marianne Williamson from “Return to Love”

This is a quote I have carried with me for years. When I am searching for motivation in almost any part of my life, a part, if not all of it, has meaning. Reading it ten times in a row, a different part will stand out each time. I read it slowly, and let each phrase sink in. Sometimes when I read it or think it to myself, I hear my grandmother’s voice, because this is something she would say to me. In fact, she wrote this in a card to me when I was in college, and that was the first time I remember hearing it.

When I found out I was pregnant with Hadley, I was so excited. And I knew the whole time that it was a girl. When I was very early along, my mom and grandmother (Memaw) gave me a picture for Christmas that had hung in my nursery when I was a baby. The story goes that my great-grandmother gave the picture to my grandmother when she was pregnant with her first (it is a baby in a pink blanket), and my grandmother had a girl, my aunt Lollie. Then my Memaw gave it to my mom when she was pregnant with me (there were 5 boy grandchildren before me, they were desperate for a girl), and my mom had a girl. So when they presented me with the picture at Christmas, I had no doubt I was having a girl. I also knew that I wanted to name her after Memaw, so her middle name is Jean. We wanted her to have a strong tie with Memaw, and a model for how to live her life. Memaw was always sending me cards with verses and I would call her when I was lonely or frustrated and we would pray. Those are the things I miss most about her. She gave the best advice and was always so genuine. I never doubted that she was just saying something I wanted to hear. It was always crazy when she would come visit for the weekends, but those times we would hear her and Hadley reading books and laughing in Hadley’s bedroom are priceless. They would play baby dolls and talk, and Hadley was always so happy when she was spending time with Memaw.

It has been hard to explain where Memaw has gone and why we haven’t been able to see her, but I just keep telling her that she lives with God now, and when it’s our turn, we will get to see her again. Last week this was not a sufficient answer, and she wanted me to find an airplane or helicopter that could take us there.

In raising my daughter, I am always trying to build her confidence and self-worth. I can see that even at three years old sometimes she gets discouraged or shy. I’m sure my son will do the same things, and I refer back to this quote to try and encourage her. Not that I recite it to her, but I tell her she is a child of God, and she is meant to shine. I tell Hadley that she is brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous, because that is how we were created. So that other people would see her being amazing and think they could be amazing too. As a relatively newer mom, I haven’t dealt with school issues or body image issues yet with her, but I hope that if I can build her confidence now, not conceit, but confidence and pride in herself and her morals, then maybe whatever problems arise she will at least be able to forge through rather than back down. Same goes for boys, like I said, I just haven’t been there yet. I try to think of things Memaw would say, she was always such a great teacher to younger kids, and they adored her. I can imagine her telling Hadley, you’re playing small does not serve the world. The glory of God is in everyone, and when you let other people see it, they will let be more confident to let theirs show too. When you smile, they smile.

If we can make this so a three year old can understand it, then we as women, wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends should be inspired by this too. We should not live minimally, but in a way where others say, if she can, I can. Who are you not to be an amazing wife, talented mother, supportive sister, fabulous friend? If we can live up to or surpass our potential, someone else might be encouraged to do the same.

What a Weekend!

This weekend was a whirlwind, as most of them are. Saturday was the TX/OU game, so we went to our neighbors house and watched the game and let all the kids play, and then we just relaxed at the house that evening. Sunday morning we got up and went to the Pumpkin patch in Norman with some friends, which was a blast. The kids had so much fun, and so did we. Plus we got some pretty good looking pumpkins. When we got home Brent got started on some Elk Chili and I did laundry in preparation for our insanely busy week. So Brent left for the gym, and while he was gone, Truett walked for the first time!!! It was so amazing! I got it on video, thank goodness, but I was sad that he missed it. Especially because he wouldn’t do it again all day!!

First steps are so bittersweet. It’s such an amazing milestone, but it is also the beginning of the end of baby-hood. To see my sweet baby standing in the middle of the living room is almost enough to make me cry, but I can’t tell if it is happy or sad. I’m happy, because I hate dirty hands and I finally have a reason to put adorable shoes on him. But of course I want him to stay little! He is my second baby, maybe my last? I’m trying to squeeze every last drop out of his baby years.

Our amazing photographer took these pictures of us last weekend, I thought I would post some of my favorites.

Claire also had baby Greyson last night!! She said he came so fast she didn’t even have time for an epidural! That is one tough girl, I’ll tell you what. Amazing. Congratulations to the Creecy’s!

The 5-years-ago Me vs. Mommy Me

So last night we went to dinner for Brent’s birthday with 2 other couples and all of our kids. Six kids total. We went to a hibachi grill which the kids loved, of course, and the food is always delicious. We started with some sushi rolls, and I made sure they were as spicy as possible in hopes that Claire would go into labor. You know how the tables at the hibachi restaurants are, where like 10 people sit at one, 10 at another and you all make a big square? Well the table across from us sat down right after we did and immediately we all looked at each other like, “that was us 5 years ago”. The girls were dressed up and had their hair fixed, make up on and heels, the guys were all in ironed shirts and they all had fancy drinks. They were talking and laughing, and they could actually hear each other. Not that I can’t hear, but when you go to a restaurant with 6 kids, you don’t get to sit next to each other, and you especially don’t get to have a conversation unless it involves “sit on your bottom, use the fork, both hands on your cup” and so on. Unless you want to talk really loudly, which is pretty much what we did.
I remember what it’s like to be able to take as long as I wanted to get ready before we went out. Trying on different outfits to see what looks best, doing fun makeup and making sure my hair looked perfect. Now I try on different things to see what at least matches and is clean, and can be washed easily since inevitably it will be covered in something by the end of the night. I fix my hair to look good enough to not be embarrassed when I leave the house, and when I put my makeup on, I have to share with Hadley. And all of that has to be done at nap time, so then I just say a prayer that I will stay clean enough in the three hours before dinner. Am I making you want to have kids yet?
Then we went to a great frozen yogurt place, with all the kids running around and filling up their cups with goodies. There was a couple there with a little boy who was probably two, and he ended up playing with all of our kids too. When we were leaving, his mom said, “He is mesmerized by all these kids!” And I said “We tried to bring as many as we could.” Then she complimented us on how well behaved they were, which I totally appreciated. 6 kids under 6 can get crazy if you let it, but I know we all try very hard to keep them to a moderate level of craziness.
In all seriousness, I don’t miss that life one bit. Maybe getting to sleep in every once and a while would be nice, but other than that I can’t think of one thing I was jealous of those other couples. Even last night, Truett had a tummy ache as far as we could tell, and it took him about 3 hours to settle and go to sleep. Which was almost midnight, so I snuggled with him in my bed and we both slept all night. It was so nice just to cuddle my little man, because I know before long, he won’t want to do that any more. Then this morning he broke a big glass jar and I spilled the coffee grounds when I missed the trash can. He screamed through breakfast when i tried to feed him oatmeal, which he threw at the wall. He ate grapes and dry cereal, which he was thrilled about because he could do it himself. All in all, it has been a little out of control, but I was never this happy waking up before I had kids. Even on their worst days, it is better than any day without them.