Early Easter & Eclair Cake

We celebrated an early Easter this past Sunday at my Uncle Eric and Aunt Carol’s house.  First, it was really nice just to be included.  That may sound odd, but my mother recently moved to SC, and Eric is her brother.  In the past, many of the invitations to extended family gatherings were extended to us via my mom.  She is no longer in the area so I just wasn’t sure if we still be included as often as we were in the past!

Family gatherings are always really important to Mr. Keller and I.  We are absolutely .determined that our children should know and love as many relatives as possible!  Plus, our families have really changed and ground over the last year!

On my mom’s side alone, there were four new babies born!  Additionally, there were 2 new marriages and 2 new retirements!  I was just thinking this morning, too, how grown up my younger cousins are becoming.  Everyone in my generation has really matured, and I find it all to be so exciting and enjoyable!

The Keller Kids love it, too!  They were tumbling around and rough housing with one another and their second cousins the entire time.  They got a little bit noisy at times, but it was a happy noise.  They reminded me of a litter of puppies playing on the floor!  I did feel bad for the babies as I thought the Keller Kids were probably a little bit too loud and . rambunctious for the babies, but the Keller Kids were way too wound up to slow down–no matter how many times I attempted to slow them down!

The kids were spoiled by Aunt Carol with an early Easter egg hunt.  While Uncle Eric took the kids all out to feed the horses, Aunt Carol hid the Easter eggs!  When the kids all clambered inside and noticed a few eggs laying about, I’m not sure who was more excited:  the kids or Aunt Carol!  It was really sweet, and a memory worth keeping!

Eclair CakeFor our early Easter meal, we enjoyed hot dogs and hamburgers!  There was also Aunt Melanie’s delicious baked beans, chips, a yummy fruit salad made by cousin Myranda, and a very large 7 layer salad constructed by Aunt Christy!  Mr. Keller and I provided dessert.  We brought Lemon Lush and Eclair Cake.  Both were consumed with enthusiasm by the family!  I’ve posted the recipe for Eclair Cake below after several requests.

The Keller family loved our early Easter celebration!  We were grateful to be included, and we are definitely looking forward to more Easter celebrations this coming week!

Eclair Cake
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
1 9x13 pan 20 minutes
Cook Time
25 minutes
Servings Prep Time
1 9x13 pan 20 minutes
Cook Time
25 minutes
Eclair Cake
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
1 9x13 pan 20 minutes
Cook Time
25 minutes
Servings Prep Time
1 9x13 pan 20 minutes
Cook Time
25 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: 9x13 pan
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400. Lightly grease a 9"X13" glass baking pan.
  2. For the Eclair Crust: In a medium saucepan, melt butter in water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Stir in flour. Mix in one egg at a time, mixing completely before adding another egg. Spread mixture into pan, covering the bottom and sides evenly.
    Eclair Cake
  3. Bake 25 minutes until golden brown. There will be air bubbles. It's okay! If they're too tall, just kind of smoosh them down.
    Eclair cake
  4. For the Filling (make filling while crust is baking): Whip cream cheese in a medium bowl. In separate bowl make vanilla pudding by beating the pudding mix and the milk for 3 minutes and put in the fridge until set (5 minutes). Make sure pudding is thick before mixing in with cream cheese. Slowly add pudding to cream cheese, mixing until there are no lumps. Let cool in fridge.
  5. When the crust is completely cooled, pour filling in.
  6. Top with layer of cool whip however thick you want it. Serve with a drizzle of chocolate syrup
    Eclair Cake
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21 Day Fix Update

I made it through the 21 Day Fix21 Day Fix.  Well, sort of.  I cheated–a little bit.

For those who may not remember, 21 Day Fix is a Beach Body workout and eating plan.  As the name suggests, it lasts for 21 days (just enough time to form a habit!).  When you sign up, you receive 2 work out DVDs with a different workout to do each day of the week, and you receive several containers for your meals.  The meal containers are actually probably the most important part if you’re doing this program for weight loss.  The containers help the user understand portion size and proper nutrition.  The number of containers that you are permitted to use each day is dependent upon  your weight at the start of the program.

I found the container system to be handy and easy.  I actually found the meal plan very easy to stick with during the week.  I had a vanilla Shakeology shake for breakfast.  My first attempt at mixing the shake, I just used water (no ice), and I didn’t like it at all!  The second time, I blended some ice in the drink, and I found it much more to my liking.  Then, I would have plain Greek yogurt with a little squirt of honey for a mid-morning snack.  Lunch always consisted of a mixed greens salad with feta cheese, a little rotisserie chicken, and fruit on  top.  I tried the salad dressing recipes that the program suggests and didn’t like them at all, but I actually like salad without dressing so I just skipped the dressing altogether.  Mid-afternoon snack was usually a few whole wheat crackers and cheese.  Dinner was often a salad again.

Food is where I cheated, however.  I was extremely good for the first week and a half of the program, but during the second weekend of it, I found myself snacking.  I ate an entire sleeve of Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies!  That wasn’t exactly part of the meal plan!  So, snacks were definitely my down fall.

The exercise programs were challenging, but not too challenging.  I enjoyed the fact that it was a different one each day.  Each workout has it’s own challenges and worked on different parts of the body.  The first week, I was pretty sore, but it got better after that.

Now that my 21 days is up, I intend to keep going!  I won’t be as strict with the food, but I do plan to stick pretty close to the plan.  The program has made me start to feel more fit and healthy, and that’s a feeling that I like!  I don’t want it to just vanish!

The results:  I only lost a couple of pounds; however, I wish that I had taken my measurements.  I am very sure that I lost several inches as my favorite pants are now a little loose.  I can also visibly see a difference when looking at myself in the mirror.  With more focus, I’m sure that I can continue my journey towards fitness!

 

Zucchini Chips
Print Recipe
One healthy snack that I enjoyed during the 21 Day Fix was these zucchini chips!
Servings Prep Time
1 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
2 hours 2 hours
Servings Prep Time
1 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
2 hours 2 hours
Zucchini Chips
Print Recipe
One healthy snack that I enjoyed during the 21 Day Fix was these zucchini chips!
Servings Prep Time
1 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
2 hours 2 hours
Servings Prep Time
1 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
2 hours 2 hours
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven 225 degrees fahrenheit
  2. thinly slice the zucchini into rounds
  3. Press zucchini between a couple of paper towels in order to draw out some of the moisture
  4. place zucchini rounds, olive oil, salt, and additional spices (I liked my chips spicy!) in a gallon size ziplock bag. Zip the bag and shake it all up to mix
  5. place newly seasoned zucchini rounds onto a greased sheet pan (I just gave it a quick spray with Pam non-sticking cooking spray). Spread the rounds out so that they're lined up neatly and not on top of one another
  6. Bake zucchini rounds on sheet pan for about 2 hours or until crisp. Time could be a little more or a little less depending upon thickness of zucchini rounds
    21 Day Fix
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Kicking Kellers

The Keller Kids are now the Kicking Kellers!  They started soccer on Friday, and they could not have been more excited!

Earlier in the week we really stoked the fires of their enthusiasm.  Mr. Keller had the kids out nearly every day kicking the soccer ball.  BK had received a couple of soccer balls for his birthday in addition to a soccer net, and they really made use of those items!

Kicking Kellers

Waiting for practice to start

We also stoked the fires a little bit more when we took the kids to Target!  They needed to get water bottles and shin guards ahead of practice.  The shin guards were easy; there was one set that fit.  The water bottles on the other hand…  We had no idea there would be so many options!  It took a good 10 minutes to pick out a good, sturdy set of water bottles, but at the end of those 10 minutes I think we were all satisfied with our choices!

When practice finally rolled around on Friday evening, we were ready!  They went to daycare on Friday in the clothes that they would wear to practice so that was easy.  Practice was at 6:00 and could potentially last an hour so we gave them pretty good sized snacks of chocolate coated super fruits and granola.  Then, we rushed out the door to make it to practice.  Before leaving, I grabbed their winter coats, and I’m so glad that I did.  It was cold!

In fact, the weather was probably the worst part of practice.  Their coach seemed enthusiastic and patient.  His son was less than sure about playing, but I think the cold factored pretty heavily into that.  Regardless, I think the kids will get along well with their coach.

Kicking Kellers

MK dribbling

The coach started out by introducing the kids to  a few basic concepts:  no hands and dribbling and passing.  They ran a couple of drills and then played a short scrimmage.  BK was very into it, and he actually scored 3 goals during the scrimmage.  MK participated, but she was cold!  After running around for a few minutes, MK declared that she wanted to be the goalie.  Unfortunately, she won’t get her way on that as there is no goalie at this level.  Practice was called due to the cold about 30 minutes in.  BK, however, was not wanting to quit.  He and Mr. Keller kicked the ball around for another  5 or 10 minutes.  BK was so into it that he even shed his winter coat!  He was grinning ear to ear.  MK snuggled with me while we watched.

Kicking Kellers

Look at that grin!

The Kicking Keller Kids will have practice again this coming Friday.  We don’t know their game schedule yet, but the whole family is looking forward to attending those games.  Mr. Keller and I are sure that the games will be pretty cute!

2016 Financial Check In

I’m counting on this blog to keep us accountable for the Keller Household financials.  That being said, I thought it may be time for a quick financial check in.

Financial Accountability

Taking Financial Accountability seriously makes cents!

So far, 2016 has been an expensive year for the Keller Family!  I may have gone a little bit overboard on birthday presents and celebrations for BK..  I’m afraid we definitely blew through that budget!  Additionally, I’ve had a hard time this month staying under budget for shopping.  It’s only mid-month, but I’m over budget there, too!  I also booked and paid for a vacation for the kids and I (poor Mr. Keller can’t take the time off from work).  Luckily, these issues have been offset by several other things so that the Keller Family’s financials actually look great!

Mr. Keller has worked every Saturday but one since the beginning of the year.  Financially, it’s been great.  Lots of over time pay.  Of course, at this point, we would rather that he be home for at least one or two Saturdays a month, but it has offset some of my excess.

We’ve also benefited from the weather and lower fuel prices.  I budgeted for much higher natural gas, electric and gasoline costs than we’ve actually seen for the year.

The biggest helper, though, has been the bonus we received through my job.  It’s smaller than last year, but we are still more than satisfied.

In all, even though we blew through a few budget line items, we earned more money and saved in other areas.  Since the beginning of the year, we have saved about $9,000 into our regular savings, $6,800 in retirement, and paid the house down by $13,000 for an over all increase of nearly $20,000 to our net worth.  Not too shabby for not quite 3 months.

This overall net worth increase is impressive, but it really could have been better.  That shopping bug hit me hard this month!  I also really haven’t been grocery shopping very economically, but that’s a decision that I may continue to make.  I’ve really enjoyed having fresh fruits and berries in our refrigerator and eating a greater variety of proteins.  Mr. Keller and I did talk briefly about financials last week, and I think we intend to save more of Mr. Keller’s pay checks directly into savings.  After all, the best way to save is to pay yourself first!

In fact, the best way to win at the game of life is to pay yourself first!  What’s that mean?  It means putting money into savings and retirement each month before you make any other payments.  Obviously, you can’t put more into savings than you can afford; rather, you should work out a monthly budget and determine how much you can/will save, and put those little green employees away first.  Even better if you can automate those savings.  Each month, my retirement savings go straight into my 401k, and every year I have it set so that the savings percent automatically goes up.

Now, you may be the type of person who would rather enjoy themselves today and save for the future in, well, the future.  That’s certainly an option, but you’re really short changing yourself.  Literally.  You see, even though your income will surely be larger in the future,  You will have lost out on the wonders of compound interest.  Compound interest, should be in my opinion, the 8th wonder of the word.  Historically, the stock market grows at an average of about 10% per annum (that average includes the Great Depression, too!).  Run that through your calculator a few times, and I guarantee that you’ll  not only be saving every year, but you’ll be doing what you can to save more every year!

You may also be sitting there and thinking, “I’ll invest later, when the stock market is up.”  Don’t be that person!  When you’re in the wealth compiling stage of your life, a down stock market is a gift!  You’re buying when things are on sale!  Take it from someone who likes to shop:  a good sale is a wonderful thing!  Truly, though, as long as you continue to put money in while the market is down, history would say that you are sure to come out ahead.  At the minimum, be sure to save enough to earn your employer’s match!

Better Together: My Review

I’ve just finished Better Together:  Because You’re not Meant to Mom Alone.  I mentioned before that I had been chosen to be part of the launch team for this book, and the book is not yet released for purchase, but you can pre-order it!  Here’s a quick run down of my overall impression of the book.

Different quoteThe book puts into words what I think all moms and perhaps even most adults realize:  we need strong friendships in our lives.  It’s so easy to let friendships fade to the point where you wake up one day and realize it’s been a month (or more!) since you last talked to your best friend!  The book reassures us that this is normal, but it also gives us a lot of ways to keep this from happening!  For example, the book gives suggestions like forming book clubs or dinner clubs.  The great thing about formal clubs/groups like those is that you put it on your calendar and, therefore, it happens!

Better Together also gives lots of suggestions on ways to make new fellow mom friends.  The suggestions are really pretty obvious as they revolve around finding possible future events while participating in events that are common to mom life suggest as children’s sporting events.  The genius of this is that you’ll automatically have two things in common:  a similar aged child and an event.  The downside:  I felt that this list was pretty obvious and it actually never gave any suggestions for finding friends in the work place.

Better Together - DifferentOne area that I thought the authors of Better Together really did well in was describing the process of forming friends.  Friends don’t just happen.  You start with Might be Friends and move to Trying to be Friends.  This is where you start to spend time with that person perhaps through playdates at the park with the kids.  After spending regular time with that other person and starting to have deeper conversations, the friendship may develop further into Good Girlfriends.  At this point you are at the “Hang out in my family room” stage as the authors put it.  You’re comfortable with one another and not really trying to impress the other person.  Finally, a really great friendship might make the leap from Good Girlfriend to Best Friend Forever.  Those are the friends who don’t ring the doorbell before walking into your home.  It’s the type of friendship where you can genuinely refer to the other person as a sister.

This progression is important, I think, to understand.  While I actually kind of really hate the terminology that the authors use to label the different levels of friendship (and I hate even more that they refer to them by acronym throughout the book), I do appreciate the point.  Friendships don’t happen overnight.  You must spend time and experiences with that other person in order to really develop the foundation upon which a friendship relationship can develop.

I also liked the way that the authors of Better Together challenged the readers to really help out friends and potential friends.  Basically, if you have a friend who needs some help, help them out!  If there’s a surgery coming up, take over dinner and maybe help pick up the house.  The other mom needs a break from the children in order to run some errands, volunteer to watch them.  The book really emphasizes giving.

I was a little bit disappointed that the book seemed to focus on stay at home moms.  Yes, many of the examples can also be applied to mothers who work outside of the home, but it’s much more difficult.  I would have liked to have seen a chapter devoted to mothers who work out side of the home.  Of course, the authors have both spent their children’s formative years as stay at home moms so I understand that is their experience, but they often did reach out to other moms for examples in this book.  They could have tapped a mom who worked outside of the home to give her perspective on these tips and strategies, and also to show how she manages to balance it all.

In the end, I’m not sure that I really can recommend this book to my friends.  I really enjoyed the first half three chapters of the book, but I felt like it went downhill from there.  So much of the book was common sense that I can’t really imagine paying for it.