Category Archives: Cool Stuff I Recommend

Why I Almost Walked Out of American Sniper

American Sniper

You might have clicked on this post expecting to find some anti-American, leftist liberal rant on the military and how America is a bully, based on the title I posted. But you’re not going to find that here. Ever.

And it’s pretty rare for me to post a movie review, and this isn’t really that, either.

But I did almost walk out of this movie. Twice, actually.

But before we get to that, let me tell you the reasons why I think you (and everyone else) should see this movie. In the process of doing that, I think I can better explain why I almost walked out.

You need to see this movie because, as everyone who sees it will agree, Chris Kyle (the American Navy SEAL & sniper whom the movie depicts) did some amazing stuff for America.

Hero? Yes. Expert skills? Definitely. And the fact that he survived some incredible horrors of war only to be taken from this earth in such an unexplainable way (no spoiler alert– this was news in 2013), well, it’s one of those great mysteries. He served his country bravely and to honor his memory, you need to know his story. You need to know that he was willing, like so many, to give his life in service to protect you; protect me.

Bradley Cooper as Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle.

Bradley Cooper as Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle.

You need to see this movie because you need to give a face to all those soldiers you are grateful for and realize the horrors they face.

They fight and die every single day. All over the world. They are willing to give what many are not– their lives. We thank them, we honor them, we post statuses about how grateful we are on Facebook, but do we really realize what they are going/have gone through? This movie gives you a glimpse of the realities of war. Other movies have done it, but for some reason, this movie makes you feel like you’re in it. It puts you there, and I promise, that gratitude you felt for our soldiers and sailors before this movie will only be multiplied after. Perhaps you’ll even decide you want to do more to honor our brave and our fallen. Perhaps you’ll finally understand what war PTSD is and why it is a very, very real thing. Perhaps you’ll honor the memory of not only Chris Kyle, but all of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for these United States.

You need to see this movie because you live in a bubble.

Stated plainly, we complain about dumb things most of the time. We live in comfort and freedom, and for the most part, we’re blessed beyond measure. We complain about bad hair days and people who get on our nerves and when we run out of coffee or get cut off in traffic and the fact that we hate Mondays. And yet we have the opportunity to live in peace. Meanwhile, all over the globe, children are born into war zones and suffer unimaginable torment at the hands of Evil.

This is why I almost left during the movie. As a Social Studies teacher and a student of the world, I’m well aware of the atrocities committed throughout the world historically and in present day. But I’ve only read about them. I’ve only heard about them. I’ve never had to witness them with my own eyes. Sure, American Sniper is a movie and it’s a dramatization of events, but it’s realistic. It’s horrible. And it truly shows how Evil is alive and working in our world.

Not only was I sobbing at various points throughout this movie, I found myself praying, “Come, Jesus. Come.” I almost couldn’t take it– this realistic depiction of evil. I don’t want to believe that people are capable of doing such horrible things to each other, but they are. Oh, they are.

The bubble around me popped. You can’t watch a movie like this, see the horrible things that man is willing to do to another man (or woman or child), not just in the name of a god or of an organization, but in the name of hatred, and go back to your cushy life and pretend the horror doesn’t exist.

Our soldiers face this evil every day on the battlefield and they persevere. They press on. They fight it and try to protect freedom because that’s one of our basic rights as humans. And they make split-second decisions that we pray we never, ever have to make. This is why we are grateful– because they have to make the decisions and carry out the actions we never, ever want to have to face.

Our nation and our world face this evil– those who torture and murder and kill for no good reason at all. It manifests itself in many ways, but people all over the world are suffering.

This world so desperately needs love. It so desperately needs joy. People so desperately need rescuing. They so desperately need the Savior.

American Sniper is not a “Christian” movie. While there are mentions of God, it’s not a theological movie in any sense. But if you can walk away from it and not be moved just by seeing how good we’ve got it and how horrendous daily life is for others across the globe, I fear your heart is too far gone.

When the movie ended, our theater was silent. People filed out without speaking. The weight was heavy. I cried my way to the car.

This is an emotional film, packed with violence, foul language, and the realization that we have so, so much to be grateful for, and so, so much work to do in the world combating Evil, not just on the other side of the globe, but within our own neighborhoods; within our own hearts.

See this movie. Honor the memory of Chris Kyle. Honor the memory of every fallen soldier who has ever stared Evil in the eye and said, “bring it.” Honor those who have stared Evil in the eye and lived to tell– those still haunted by their memories.

See this movie so that you can get out of your bubble and realize just how good you’ve got it and how much work there is to do.

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Filed under Cool Stuff I Recommend, The Christian Walk

How I Lost The Baby Weight– Fast

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6 months.

That was the amount of time I had between the birth of my son and my sister’s wedding.

6 months.

It’s not like I ate really well and exercised during my pregnancy– nope. I was a lazy bum. This was my third pregnancy and I’d had gestational diabetes with the first two and since I didn’t have it with the third, I kind of allowed myself to eat whatever I wanted. In moderation, of course. I did draw the line somewhere.

So, my total weight gain during pregnancy was 38 pounds.

That does not include, of course, the 5 pounds I wanted to lose before I even got pregnant.

So, being squeezed by that 6 month window of time from giving birth to fitting into a bridesmaid’s dress to be my sister’s matron-of-honor, I needed to lose a significant amount of weight—more weight than I’ve ever lost at any given time in my life.

The weight I’d gained with my first two pregnancies came off pretty naturally with extended time. I exercised, I ate fairly well, and within a year or so, it dropped off…mostly. Those last 5 stubborn pounds were still with me.

But time was not my friend this go-around. Time was my motivation. Make it your motivation, too.

So here are my secrets to losing this weight: Hard work, dedication, self-control. Boom.

I hit my goal weight after 5 months.

It has now been 8 months since my son’s birth and I have lost additional weight.  At last weigh-in, I’m 47 pounds down, total.

47 pounds. That seems insane.

Of course, I lost almost 8 pounds the moment my son was born, so that doesn’t really count. And another 10 pounds or so drops off in the few weeks after the birth, as it would for any woman. But the rest of it? I celebrate that it’s gone—as the result of hard work.

Losing weight is not easy. It’s probably one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my life. It’s hard to be dedicated to it. It’s difficult to train yourself to a new lifestyle.

But it CAN be done.

Here’s what I did:

1.      Pray.

Call me crazy if you like, but losing weight is a challenge, and I like to include God in all of the challenges of my life. So yes, I prayed about weight loss. I prayed that God would help me to discern the best things to do to make my body healthy. I prayed that He would help me build discipline and self-control. I prayed that He would build my resolve as I began to see results, and strengthen me when I wasn’t seeing results. I prayed because He cares about me and every aspect of my life, so He wanted to be in this, too. If you are trying to lose weight, don’t leave God out.

2.      Learn about balance.

One of the keys to losing weight is maintaining proper blood sugar levels. When your sugar fluctuates to highs and lows, it can cause you to feel hungrier and crave foods you don’t need. Keep your sugar level steady and your body can better process the foods you are eating. I suffer from insulin related hormone issues (I am not diabetic) and I learned a lot about this from reading The Insulin-Resistance Diet.

3.      No denial.

Don’t diet to the point of denial. If you deny yourself the foods you love, you’ll be miserable. Instead operate by balance and allow yourself to eat the things you really love every so often. I allowed myself one daily piece of chocolate and savored it.

4.      Go au naturale.

Bye-bye processed foods. Yes, I went organic, and it’s something I should have done a long time ago. Processed foods are made up of chemicals, GMOs, and other things that can, quite literally, poison our bodies. I’m not a hippy, I swear, but I do believe in natural health as much as possible. So I’ve weaned my family off of as many processed foods as I can, replacing them with fresh organic, homemade recipes, or organic store versions. Yes, it is more expensive to eat organic food. I can’t always afford organic, but I do the best that I can. And I now choose natural over processed. Organic butter over heart-healthy, chemically processed alternatives. Organic Greek yogurt over processed, artificial-sweetener infused alternatives.

To help you go natural, read labels. The fewer ingredients, the better. No artificial sweeteners (opt for stevia or actual sugar) and if the product contains ingredients you can’t pronounce, don’t buy it.

5.      Count calories.

In order to lose weight, your body must burn more calories than it takes in. It’s simple math. Discover what your ideal daily caloric intake should be and keep track of your daily calories while you are trying to lose weight. You can get an idea of what your caloric intake should be here. It doesn’t matter what other diet plans or exercise gurus have taught you—you have to eat less and burn more if you want to lose weight. Period.

6.      Cut carbs.

I would have been a great peasant. Bread and cheese—those are like their own food groups to me. Pasta. Bread. Chocolate. I can live on these alone, truly. But not if I want to lose weight. So, I cut carbs. It’s easy to do, really. No more bread with an Italian meal. Smaller portions of pasta (notice I didn’t say no pasta). Swapping high-carb cereal for lower carb alternatives. Giving up empty foods and replacing them with power foods—those full of vitamins, minerals, and good stuff for your body.

7.      Meatless Monday.

Actually, I went to meatless every-other-day in our house. I introduced meals that incorporate protein from other sources. I cut back on our intake of red meat to almost none, and in many recipes that call for red meat, I now use turkey. We eat red meat maybe once a week or so (if that often). We get a lot of protein from beans and such. There are some great meatless dinner recipes out there that are delicious.

8.      Get moving.

This is part of that burn-more-than-you-take-in math. Zumba, Insanity, Cross-fit—find what works for you. I’m not a runner. At. All. But I love aerobic dance, so Zumba was my go-to. I have three kids, so exercise isn’t always a scheduled part of my day. When I can’t exercise, I keep a closer eye on my calorie intake and do simple things like park farther away at the grocery store so that I have to walk more in the parking lot. Staying on your feet more is the secret to burning calories. Find ways to keep yourself busy, even if it means you walk circles around your house. Dancing with your kids is always a fun way to exercise.

9.      Eat breakfast.

I used to believe that skipping breakfast saved calories. Dumb. Eating breakfast jump-starts your metabolism which will help burn calories. Just make sure that your breakfast is healthy and balanced. Stay away from over-processed foods and artificially sweetened things like yogurt.

10.  And my worst-kept weight loss secret (because I am always telling people): it’s all about the magic in your glass.

Don’t drink your calories. No sodas. No alcohol. No juice. Water and green tea only.

I drink 3-5 glasses of green tea per day and I fully believe that it has boosted my metabolism to a level it hasn’t been in years and years. I prefer green tea with flavor over plain green tea, so I like mint, pomegranate and berry. I buy the tea at the grocery store (with all the other teas) and make it by the pitcher. I sweeten it with stevia. (Two small packets per one large pitcher of tea).

So there you go, folks. Those are my secrets to weight-loss. It’s a difficult process, I know, but I’ll tell you this—if you make it a permanent lifestyle change rather than a temporary diet, not only will you be doing a world of good for your body, but you’ll begin to crave healthier foods instead of junk.

You can do it. You can be healthier. Do it for you. Do it for your family. Do it because God expects us to take care of the things He has given us, and that includes our bodies.

Other tips:

1. Don’t let the numbers on the scale rule your life. Take your measurements around your waist and hips and enjoy the shrinking numbers.

2. Use your clothes as a gauge. Are they fitting better? Feeling looser? Do you need to buy smaller sizes? Then who cares what the scale says?!

3. Set realistic goals, not only for your weight, but on the calendar. Hold yourself accountable to a date and stick to it.

4. DO NOT weigh yourself daily. Weigh yourself once a week, at the same time every week. (I do my weight checks on Sunday mornings, right after I get up.)

5. Find an accountability partner. Having someone help you and encourage you can mean the difference between frustration and results.

If you are interested, here are some of my favorite things for being healthier:

Vitalicious Muffins and Mini-Cakes

Bigelow Green Tea

Cascadian Farms Organic (especially the cereals)

Farmer Boy Greek Dressing

Fiber One Coconut Almond Protein Bars

Veggie Straws

Golden Zucchini Pancakes

Share with me: What’s your favorite healthy snack, food, or recipe?

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PS– Check out the healthy recipes I’ve pinned on Pinterest, or this post, reviewing some healthy recipes.

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Filed under Cool Stuff I Recommend, Family

8 Pinterest Dinner Recipes I’ve Actually Tried–Healthy and Family-Friendly

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Pinterest has become my go-to for new recipes, but so many of them are tagged with “this is the best recipe I’ve ever tried!”

They can’t all be the best, can they?

Now that I’ve tried a few of these “best ever” recipes, I can honestly say, no, they can’t.

But some of them were good. Really good.

To help you navigate the labyrinth (and genius) that is Pinterest, here are some of those yummy recipes that I’ve actually tried and what I (and my family) thought of them.

These recipes are healthy and family-friendly. Sorry this list is a little heavy on the Mexican food side– my family loves Mexican & Tex-Mex so I’m always looking for good recipes in that category.

Sweet Hawaiian Crockpot Chicken

sweet-hawaiian-crockpot-chickenRecipe HERE.

Pin HERE.

Hale Household Review— 3/5 stars. I made this using half of the chicken it called for so I halved the other ingredients, too. I was super-busy that day, so I started it in the crock-pot late and it didn’t get to cook for 5-6 hours. The chicken was done, but it probably would have been even better if I had let it cook all day. My fault. The chicken was good. Plenty sweet– you could actually cut back a tad on the brown sugar. I served it over rice with a pineapple rings and a green veggie on the side.

Smothered Chickensmothered chicken

Recipe HERE.

Pin HERE.

Hale Household Review— 5/5 stars. This was yummy. I left off the mushrooms for my husband and oldest son and kept them for myself and my middle son. We all agreed that this one could stay on our menu rotation.

Tomato-Corn Biscuit Pie

tomato corn biscuit pie

Recipe HERE.

Pin HERE.

Hale Household Review— 4/5 stars. I loved this recipe. It was light and delicious– perfect for a summer meal. However, the biscuit was a little thick. I almost wonder if this recipe wouldn’t work with something more buttery, like crescent rolls. I’m going to try that next time. There will definitely be a next time.

Bada-Bean-Bada-Boom Mealbadabeanbadaboom

Recipe HERE.

Pin HERE.

Hale Household Review— 4/5 stars. This was a fun way to get my boys to eat tuna without realizing it. It’s so much like a Tex-Mex dip that I served it with tortilla chips for dipping and a small green salad on the side. My boys also loved saying the name of this meal. 🙂

Ravioli with Salsa Black Bean Sauce

ravioli with black bean sauce

Recipe HERE.

Pin HERE.

Hale Household Review— 3/5 stars. This one was SPICY. Next time I’ll need to cut back on the chili powder and cumin and definitely not add the red pepper flakes I threw in for fun. (Duh.) The next time I make this, I’m sure it will get 5/5 stars.

Oven Baked Chimichangasoven baked chimis

Recipe HERE.

Pin HERE.

Hale Household Review— 3/5 stars. I had never cooked with chipotle chiles in adobo sauce before, so I put in the entire can. I almost killed my children. Yeah– it was that spicy. Even after I tried to cool it by mixing in some sour cream and adding some grilled corn, it was eye-watering hot. My 4 year-old drank 3 cups of milk and 2 glasses of water after only a few bites. (How was I to know? The can was tiny!) Next time I’ll use just a bit or I’ll substitute with a can of tomatoes & green chiles. With toned down heat, this recipe could be deeeee-lish.

Healthy Baked Salmon Nuggets

salmon nuggets

Recipe HERE.

Pin HERE.

Hale Household Review— 5/5 stars. My husband and I don’t care for seafood, so it’s a wonder that my boys seem to really like it. I tried this specifically for my oldest who loves salmon, and I enjoyed these, too! They are a super-yummy and healthy substitute for store-bought fish sticks or chicken nuggets. Give these a try for sure.

Quinoa Black Bean Burgersblack bean burgers

Recipe HERE.

Pin HERE.

Hale Household Review— 5/5 stars. This recipe was DELICIOUS. Add a little ranch dressing on top or some salsa and mmmmmm… everyone in the house enjoyed these.

I hope you enjoy these recipes. To check out what else I’m pinning, be sure to click on the Pinterest icon on the right side of the blog and follow me!

Share with me: Got any delicious and healthy family favorites you care to share?

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Filed under Cool Stuff I Recommend, Family, Just For Fun, Uncategorized