Friday, December 27, 2013

My New Year's Goals

I'm really not one to make resolutions.  I just strive to do my best every day.  But right now, I'm thinking I need a goal.  You see, I got two cute sweaters for Christmas as gifts.  And...they are a size too small.  Now, because they are sweaters I think I can still wear them.  But it doesn't help that I have a really cute shirt I got last year for Christmas that I have yet to wear, because it's too small.

So in that vein, I have some health goals for the year.  But they are health goals, not weight goals.  So, here goes:

1.  Eat 5 fruits and vegetables a day.  You'd think this would be a no brainer. And there were times when I easily put down 8-10 servings a day.  But man, that's a lot of prep work and it's hard to do that with toddlers.  One way I can do better with this is to eat fruit for breakfast.  So, here's my fruit goal for breakfast.  Alternate:

- yogurt with bananas and berries and granola
- smoothie with Amazing Grass
- banana whipped oatmeal
- fruit (2 pieces) and a handful of nuts

Eat at least two servings each for lunch and dinner.

2.  Cut back on the sugar.  The holiday sweets.  They were bad.  And I got the whole family into the bad habit.  So, no more sweets unless I bake them.

3.  Eat more greens, beans, nuts, and mushrooms.

4.  Get more regular exercise.  Let's face it - with my sleep issues and work schedule, I'm not going to be running any half marathons.  Nor am I going to look like Maria Kang.  But I can work exercise into my day.  Here's my goal: 6 days a week.  The requirements on any given day are minimal.  They can include:

- Walk at least two miles
- Run a mile (this is soooo unlikely with my ankle, but you never know!)
- Do 15 mins of strength training, whether with weights or body weight
- Do 15 mins of intervals at home
- Do any 15+ minutes of any workout DVD.
- Do any class at the gym (spinning, yoga, etc.)
- Do any 20 minutes of cardio at the gym - swim, bike, elliptical

You see that the requirements here are rather small on any given day.  On Christmas morning I went for a 2.3 mile walk - it was slow, only 2 miles per hour (pushing the baby in his new car).  But - it was walking.  Really I want to incorporate exercise into my day so that it is "incidental".

5.  Chill out.  I kind of started with the "Sabbath".  I also continued it with using my PTO liberally.  I earn a certain number of days per year to be used for sick,  holiday, and vacations.  In September, I just decided to use it when I needed it.  So unlike earlier, when I would work >40 hours per week - these days - well I haven't worked a full 80 hours in two weeks since September.  So I've been using PTO every single pay period (for sick time, appointments, etc.)  It means that I may never have enough time off to go on an actual vacation.  But I'm finding that by taking time off as I need it - I don't feel the need for a vacation like I used to.  So win-win really.

6.  Continue the lunch dates with my hubby, at least 2x a month.

7.  Play with my kids more.  As they grow, figure out what they like to do. This means building blocks and playing with stickers with the toddler and learning more about chess with the big boy.

8.  Drink more tea.  I have been chilling out at night with herbal tea, and it's very nice.  I also haven't been drinking much wine.  I have a LOT of wine right now (1.5 cases).

9.  Don't freak out as much when the kids get sick (I can't help it!  I keep thinking about the work that I'm not getting done!)

10.  Have friends over for dinner at least once a month.  I don't do this enough's a lot of work.  But you know, it doesn't HAVE to be so much work!  I can throw a roast in the crockpot.

11.  Knit, crochet, sew, make jewelry.  I have so many craft items lying dormant.  For the last month, I have been working on little holiday projects.  I find it so relaxing!!  It really is good for me.

12.  Read 10 minutes before bed.  I have been doing a pretty good job at this.

13.  SLEEP!  I have sleep issues. I have been trying to sleep as much as possible.  If I've had a couple of bad days, then I happily take a Unisom.

Wow, that's a really long list.  I guess I'm a dabbler, what can I say?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The One Pot Christmas

So, it's Christmas Eve!  I know that a lot of people have great holiday traditions.  In my husband's house growing up, they were elaborate.  Put up the tree on the 23rd (little Christmas Eve) and decorate.  Eat Aebleskiver.  Christmas dinner was actually on the 24th and included roast pork, cooked red cabbage, two kinds of potatoes, and a lot of other delicious vegetable side dishes.  There is dancing and singing around the Christmas tree.  Rice pudding.  A marzipan pig.  Lots of fun.

In my family as years went on, our holiday tradition became just eating snacks on Christmas eve - cheese and crackers, venison bologna (as long as someone got a deer that year), veggies and dip, etc.  The big meal was Christmas day - sometimes ham, sometimes turkey.

When we moved to California and stopped traveling home, we adopted our own traditions.  For years we cooked on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve and had our friends over.  Then we had kids and every single holiday, one of the family was traveling.  (When you are on the school schedule, that's when you travel!)  Well this year, as luck would have it, both my husband and the wife of the other family have to work.  So, we are having them and their 2 kids over tonight for dinner.

But my husband is working.  Normally, we would do some kind of roast (turkey, beef, pork, ham) and my husband's famous mashed potatoes (with butter, sour cream, and cream cheese).  That was originally the plan for today, but we didn't get the potatoes done last night (I went to bed at 8:30 and slept till 7:30.  I feel a little guilty at skipping the gym.  But I'll take the kiddos for a walk today.  That will be good enough, right?)

So I surfed the land of google and found a couple of roast recipes.  This one and this one.  Our roast beef tonight was cooked on a bed of vegetables - potatoes, onions, mushrooms, garlic, and carrots.  A simple one pot meal with crescent rolls on the side (our friend is bringing green beans).  I didn't make any dessert but I had some cookies.

The problem with this plan is that the boys wanted dessert.  The roast was probably perfect when it came out of the oven.  Then the boys left to get dessert.  I put it back in the warm and off oven...and, it overcooked.  About 75% of the time, we overcook our roasts.  Ah well, it will make decent roast beef sandwiches.  The veggies were delicious. 

I leave you with a photo of the tree...

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sometimes it helps to do the math (again)

This was one of those not-so-frugal weeks that pop up every once in awhile.  My husband was on jury duty (as well as trying to get work done, kids, Christmas cards and shopping, holiday party).  I had a really bad couple of nights of sleep where the 17 month old woke up and was awake for 2-3 hours.  (He was gassy.  I'm thinking it's the hummus.)

So Monday was one of those days where I had no lunches packed and nothing ready in the freezer.  Because of the lack of sleep (I crawled back into bed at 4:52 am after being up with the toddler for a few hours), I missed the gym and ended up waking up about 15 minutes before I needed to get to work.  I grabbed a couple of muffins and headed off.  As I walked out the door I yelled "There's no lunches packed, you are all on your own!"  So the big boy got school lunch, Daddy ate out, and I went to the cafeteria at the company down the street and got myself a wrap and a drink.

$9.  For a wrap and a drink.  That night after dinner, I went into the kitchen and made 12 bean and cheese burritos (I had at least made the crockpot refried beans over the weekend).  I packed up the last little bit of beans and threw them into a container with some leftover rice from the weekend, salsa, and leftover vegetables.

Total cost for my leftover rice and beans and vegetable lunch?  $1.06.  And $0.82 of that is the salsa and vegetables).  It's good for me to do that math once in awhile as a reminder of why I don't just "pick food up while I'm out" (though I still do that, and did so a few more times this week).  I spent $9 on lunch out on Friday meeting friends for lunch, one of whom was passing through, and $21 on lunch while out shopping yesterday).

On Wednesday, I was sorely tempted to pick something up at the store for dinner, but resisted yet again (it's easy to resist when you have to shop with a toddler).  Instead of spending $30 on takeout or $15 on a pre-made meal at the store, I went home and made 1-pot spaghetti with pasta, meatballs, jarred marinara, and some vegetables.  Served with a simple salad with homemade dressing (I made a big batch a couple of weeks ago).

The cost of the one pot of pasta was $10.95, which is about $3.65 per meal - one 12 oz box of pasta makes about 3 meals for us.  When you add the vegetable servings, the cost per meal goes up to about $4.32.  That's for 3.5 people and is a far cry from $30 or even $15.

**cute toddler alert** He's right now spinning in a circle until he gets dizzy and falls down, and then says "uh oh".

So let's summarize:
1.  Monday: $9 for lunch instead of $1.06 - wasted $8
2.  Friday: $9 for lunch instead of $1.06 - wasted $8 (I even only drank water that day)
3.  Saturday: $21 for lunch instead of $4.32 - wasted about $17
4.  W-Th-Sat dinner: $12.96 instead of $60, saved $47.

I sort of came out ahead, but since the norm is to NOT eat out, really, I didn't come out ahead.  I wasted about $33 on eating out this week.

I am on vacation this week, so here is the rough dinner plan for the week:

Sunday: Turkey and rice casserole with vegetables (leftover turkey from Thanksgiving), carrot/turnip/ginger soup
Monday: Leftover casserole and leftover soup
Tuesday: Beef roast, mashed potatoes, rolls, vegetable (having friends over for Christmas Eve)
Wednesday: Chicken fingers and broccoli
Thursday: Leftover beef and broccoli
Friday: Pizza

Friday, December 6, 2013

Orange Balsamic Pomegranate Salad Dressing

I love homemade dressings.  First, I have this great bottle (it was a gift) that I got from, that was recommended by the folks over at 100 Days of Real Food.  There are dressing recipes right on the bottle!

I also like to find other recipes and make my own.  I have really enjoyed the Balsamic Orange Vinaigrette from The Prudent Homemaker.  I have been tweaking the recipe a bit (I tweak everything every time), and today found a different recipe here to tweak even more.

The result was quite good and I thought I'd share.  Don't be afraid to make your own dressings!

Orange Balsamic Pomegranate Dressing
Zest of one orange
Juice of one orange (approx. 1/4 cup)
1/3 cup oil (I used canola because I'm almost out of olive oil!  Yikes!)
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Juice of 1/2 pomegranate, about 2-3 Tbsp (I just get tired of deseeding the darned things, so I seed half and squeeze the life out of the other half using the citrus juicer)
2 tsp Dijon mustard (I used 1.5 tsp Dijon and 1 tsp of orange zinfandel mustard from a local winery)
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried onion flakes

Mix all together in your bottle, and shake shake shake!

Our salad tonight had candied pecans, feta, radishes, mixed lettuce, and pomegranate seeds. And this dressing of course!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Budgeting

I don't particularly budget for holidays like Thanksgiving.  Usually we just cook a big dinner and eat a lot of leftovers.

Last year we took a vacation instead of eating at home.  Our budget this year was much lower.

Last year's approximate budget:
3 nights in a hotel in Carlsbad (The Hilton Oceanfront Resort and Spa)
2 days at LEGOLAND
Associated food (lunches and a couple of dinners).  Gas.

This three day trip cost about $1000.

This year's approximate budget:
Pre-cooked meal from Fresh and Easy: $60 (about $30 more than it would cost if we cooked it ourselves).
Bagel breakfast this morning: $10
Possible burger lunch tomorrow - it's Sunday Sabbath: $30.

This year's fun: $70 more than a standard year.

The "fun" things we did this weekend (since we were not on vacation):
Thursday beach walk with a former coworker (free!)
Sleepover for my son (friend was here)
Lunch and walk with a friend (here): free!  (leftovers)

It was definitely more relaxing than traveling.  The tree is up, the leftovers are delicious.  I've spent quite a bit of time working on Christmas projects/ gifts.  Our family calendar came - I make one on, order 10, and give them as gifts.  This year, I copied last year's so I could keep the birthdates on there and not retype them.  At the last minute, I realized that I hadn't changed "2013" to "2014" on the cover.  So I caught that.

Apparently, what I DIDN'T catch was my son's birthdays - the calendar says they will be 7 and 1 next year.  Whoops.  Going to fix those manually.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Week Menu

Well, I'm gonna be honest.  There's been a lot of frozen chicken nuggets, frozen pizza, and one-pot pasta in the last couple of weeks.  Spouse has had two trips in two weeks and I caught a second cold. The second trip was an "oh shit" on Monday when he realized his telecom on Wednesday was not a telecom.  It was, in fact, an in person review on the East Coast. So in addition to all that, the baby has been teething...he finally got #15 and #16 is taking WAY too long to come out.  I'm going to get a break after this right?  Please say yes.  After all, there are only 20.

I did finally get healthy enough to get my flu shot yesterday, so yay me!  The pharmacist at the drug store suggested I aim for August or September next time.  I tried for October this year but had bronchitis.

Anyway, on to Thanksgiving week!

Over the weekend I used 5 weeks worth of CSA carrots to make a big pot of ginger carrot soup.  It's about 3-4 nights worth of soup (half done).  I roasted a bunch of eggplant and zucchini as a side dish.  I made my favorite Mediterranean chickpeas and rice, but in the rice cooker instead of the pressure cooker.  I have a problem with burning this stuff in the pressure cooker.  I made caponata (wait, that may have been last weekend).

So this week is chickpeas and rice, carrot soup, lots of salad with salami and cheese. 

Thursday's menu:
Roast turkey breast
Sausage and cornbread stuffing
Brussels sprouts with bacon
Butternut squash risotto
Pumpkin pie
Mashed potato casserole (aka, heart attack on a plate)
Chocolate peanut butter pie

Now, you're probably thinking "what a great list of homemade deliciousness!"  And in a normal year, you'd be right.  Except for the occasional trip east to visit family (or last year's impromptu trip to LEGOLAND), we cook dinner every Thanksgiving.  In the past, this has included huge numbers of people (up to 14 in student housing, with our one-butt kitchen).

But this year, we are ordering dinner from Fresh and Easy.  But we are making the potato casserole and chocolate peanut butter pie ourselves, so that's something.  We just didn't have the energy for a huge to-do this year.

I'll leave you with a couple of photos from our Sunday Sabbath.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My first "Sabbath"

So this was the weekend where I tried to institute a "Sabbath".  A day (mostly) off from chores, and a day for fun.

On one hand, this means all chores end up squished into one day.  On the other hand, I just did fewer chores.

On Saturday, I baked bread.  This is huge people!!  I don't have time to bake bread when I have a baby/ toddler.  Until age 3, cooking is dicey.  I made Moroccan lentil soup to go with it, and it's a pressure cooker recipe (you can find it on my "favorite recipes" tab).  I was going to have salad too, but didn't feel like it, so the lettuce is still unwashed in the fridge.  (Maybe for dinner tonight??)

This bread is sage-apple bread based on a yeast bread recipe by Mark Bittman.  A friend brought it to a housewarming party last weekend and I demanded the recipe.

On Sunday, I consider cooking to be a chore (well, cooking with kids around), so we had Teriyaki chicken in the crockpot, rice in the rice  cooker, and steamed broccoli in the microwave.

Teriyaki chicken dinner:
~3 lbs chicken breast: $5.71
80% of a jar of teriyaki marinade: $1.60
2 cloves garlic: $0.10
grated fresh ginger: $0.10
Total for chicken: $7.51
This is about 9 servings, give or take. $0.84 per serving

1 cup uncooked rice (cooked): $0.19 (6 servings) = $0.03 per serving.

12 oz broccoli: $1.50 (5 servings): $0.30 per serving

We celebrated our "Sabbath" by going on a 6 mile/ 3 hour hike with the kiddos.  It was fun but at one point we lost the trail (well, you cross a creekbed many times.  This time of year, it's dry.  So you get lost for a little bit trying to find the trail).  Anyway, I stepped off a rock onto what looked like solid ground.  Eh, not so much, it was quicksand.  Here are a few photos from the hike.

And...there may have been McDonald's for lunch after, and I may have split a hot fudge sundae with the boys.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Blue Zones

I have been wanting to read this book The Blue Zones for awhile.  I am not sure why I didn't just run out and buy it, except - well, I don't do that anymore. I will put books on my wish list for Christmas.  I will read books on my Kindle (usually free ones).  And we don't have any book stores anymore.

So last week while I was down and out with bronchitis, I paid $5 for the Kindle version and read it in a few days.  It was very fascinating and worth the read.  I also went to the website and checked to see what my "age" is.  Turns out: 41.  I remember the days when  my lifestyle had me a good 5-10 years under my real age, and now it's only two.  This is not surprising with the amount of stress that I am under, the lack of time for exercise and cooking, and the "still carrying around 30 lbs of baby weight" status.

There are many things I learned from the book that I will be trying to incorporate into my life (again, and for the first time):

1.  Beans.  One of the things that most of the Blue Zones had in common were beans.  Fava beans, pinto beans, other beans.  Most Blue Zone areas are bean eaters.  I had gone a little on the "Paleo" wagon a couple of years ago (but never full bore) and stopped eating as many beans.  Also, as I age, I find that I cannot eat as many carbohydrates and maintain my weight.  So my tendency has gone toward more chicken and fewer beans.

2.  Sleep. I have already been working on this.  I try to get 8 hours a night.

3.  Walking/ exercise.  Most of the Blue Zone areas get a lot of exercise.  Walking as part of daily life.  Gardening.  Few actually "work out" a lot - they just get more exercise in general.  And in Okinawa, one of the biggest things was just frequently getting up and down from the floor.  This is where being 43 with a toddler is a good thing.

4.  Meditation/ Yoga.  I have not really done this much yet.  But at my women's retreat weekend, I learned the importance of being able to meditate (and for me, I find Yoga to help with that.)  I want to start taking 15 minutes in the morning to stretch/ do Yoga, and meditate quietly in my room.  If only the kids didn't get up so damn early.  I also learned that knitters/ crocheters get meditation benefits because their minds go "blank" while they work.  So I pulled out my crocheting.

5.  Sabbath.  I am not particularly religious - religion serves a purpose much like meditation.  A "higher purpose".  One item that many religions put forth is the idea of a Sabbath - a rest day.  With two full time jobs and two kids, this is going to be tough.  But I am going to try it.  I am going to try and do all of the chores on one day, and set up the crockpot for one day on the weekend.  Just to enjoy family.

So what's happening this weekend:
1.  My husband is off at "Zombie Survival Camp" with the 7-year old.  It's kind of their "Sabbath".  I'm at  home doing laundry, cooking, taking the baby for his haircut, etc.
2.  Tomorrow we are going to either meet friends for dinner and to chill out, or have a very simple soup for dinner.
3.  I have been invited to a housewarming.  I would love to walk there (about a mile one way), but I'm not sure I'm physically up to it yet.
4.  Dinner tonight is bean burritos and tomorrow may be lentil soup.  Beans!!

Have you read the Blue Zones?  Do you meditate?  How do you reduce stress.  Do you want to try and live longer?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Learning to Take Care of Yourself

So, it probably doesn't come as a surprise that I often take care of others before myself.

I have a husband, and kids, and I'm always trying to care for them.  Cooking meals, reading stories, packing lunches.

I have a full time job, and earlier this year is when I switched from part-time to full-time.  Because I felt that it was needed.  I had worked hard to build a team (hiring and training many people over the last few years, specifically 4 in the last year).  I felt that they needed more time with me.  I was planning a way to make it work.

And then, boom.  10 days after I went full time, my team was laid off.  A large part of my group, including 3 of the 4 people I'd hired and worked to train.  And it only got worse over the next few months.  It was kind of a slap in the face "thanks for all that work, but..." (especially since now we are short handed and THEY WANT TO HIRE PEOPLE BACK.  And they all have jobs!) 

So I decided to take a little time for myself and attend this women's rejuvenation weekend at the beach.  It was awesome.  Healthy cooking, yoga, stretching.  It would have been better if I hadn't been sick.  A little cold, I thought.  Which turned into...

the sickest I've been in a long time.  Bronchitis.  Dizziness.  I missed an entire week of work.  I have been napping 2-4 times per day.  I'm still not sure when I will be able to work a full day.  Wow, I cannot even explain it.  I am now on antibiotics and prednisone.  This morning I finished my second nap by about noon.  I've been feeling a little better this afternoon. Now, had I not been so stressed and overworked, would it have hit me as hard?  I can't really say.

But what I have learned is that I cannot take care of anyone else- if I don't take care of myself.  It seems like the last 9 months I've learned that my company doesn't really care about me anymore.  I mean, we are just numbers, commodities, not people.  I have been spending a LOT of my best time on them instead of myself or my family. 

Now, don't get me wrong.  I work.  I work for a paycheck.  I believe strongly in doing a good job and getting paid for it.  But that love, that drive for this startup company - it's pretty much gone.  I still want to see it succeed.  I still will do a good job.  But now my health, my family - has to come first.

Wish me luck.  I burned up a lot of PTO on sick time this week.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Staying on track while eating out

I'm going to tell you a secret.  I don't eat out very much.

Okay, maybe that's not much of a secret.  I used to eat out a lot.  I gained weight, spent a lot of money, and had high blood pressure in my late 20s.

As a short, stocky, 40-something mother of two, I just don't have the metabolism (or the budget), for frequent eating out.  All my eating out budget goes to daycare.  Plus, have you ever tried to eat out at a restaurant with a toddler (age 1 to 4?)  Miserable.  Not fun.  For anybody.  They just want to run around.

But sometimes, you just gotta.  You are on vacation, on business travel.   You have to eat lunch with your coworkers for a going away lunch.  You want to go on a date with your husband.  How do you navigate?

Here's how I navigate:
salad, paleo, vegan, sandwich, smoothie, let loose

You have to balance your intake with "how much" you are eating out.  If you are training for a marathon, you can probably let loose a lot.

But if you are the average American?  Maybe not so much.

On the few times that I eat out, I try to be healthy, and I go through the list above.

1. Salad.  I pick this most often.  In Southern California, you can get a salad pretty much anywhere.  And because people like salad, it's generally good salad - not just iceberg or plain lettuce.  You can get main dish salads with protein, roasted vegetables, raw vegetables, name it.  And the best thing is that you actually get vegetables.  Now, you will always hear "beware the salad", and sure, if you are going to top it with croutons, ranch dressing, and lots of cheese, it can be a calorie bomb.  But if you get the dressing on the side and fill it with produce, you are on the right track.

2. Paleo.  A lot of times, your salad will also be paleo. I am not personally afraid of proteins on my salad.  Chicken, shrimp, eggs, beef - protein keeps me fuller longer.  But if you are at a place where you cannot get a decent salad - aim for something paleo.  Let's face it - some restaurants avoid fresh vegetables.  They are hard to store, go bad, and if you want them to last, you are buying them from somewhere that grows them for shelf life, not for taste.  Longer-living vegetables like hard squash, broccoli, and carrots can be your friend.  It is pretty easy to get a paleo meal at an American place (fish, steak, or chicken and a side of steamed vegetables), or a Chinese place (stir fry, hold the rice!)

3.  Vegan. I don't know about you, but there is something about rice, meat, and cheese together that just make life so delicious - whether it be a burrito or pizza, it's hard to say no to.  So that's why sometimes, you best option is something vegan.  This may be a bean and rice and salsa burrito, a vegetable taco, a tofu stir-fry, or a bean-based salad.

4. Sandwich.  Have you ever been rushing through an airport and desperate for something to take on the plane?  Enter the humble sandwich.  Even if you are eating at a restaurant, it can be a good bet.  Keep it simple with two slices of bread, a protein, and some vegetables.  I'm not going to tell you to leave off the cheese and mayo either.  If you pile it with tomatoes, lettuce, and onion, you are at least getting some produce.  But you have to leave it at the sandwich.  Unless you have fruit or a simple green salad as a side dish option, skip the side.  Mac salad, potato salad, or chips are not your friend here folks. 

I also loosely define "hamburger" as a sandwich.  If you are jonesing for a burger, by all means, have one.  But just the burger.  "Do you want fries with that?" The answer is no.

5. Smoothie.  This may be a California phenomenon, but there are smoothie bars everywhere here where you can get a few servings of fruits in a meal for about 350 calories.  Especially good on a hot day.

6.  Let loose.  Everyone has birthdays and anniversaries and special occasions.  As long as your special occasions are once a month?  Who cares, eat what you want.  Once in awhile, you just want to have a beer, eat some pizza, and dunk your hot wings in blue cheese dressing.

So what did I do this weekend?  We went out for breakfast.  I got a sandwich (a bagel), I only ate half of it, and I saved the other half for later.  My side dish?  Fruit.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Some Days I Look at my List and Just Sigh

Today is one of those days.

The "list" incorporates a few things:
1.  Cooking at least one big meal for lunch or dinner for the week.
2.  Washing and cutting any fruits we have for the week.
3.  Prepping our CSA vegetables that aren't necessarily going into the big meal.

Yesterday I did not do any cooking (I did make myself a sandwich for lunch).  I did spend a couple of hours sorting through baby clothes dropped off by two good friends.  This is a huge chore, but I definitely always say "yes" to free things.  It's worth the two hours to not have to buy clothing for a year or more for the little guy.

So that means today is all about cooking.  I have:

1.  Caramelized onions in the crockpot. New recipe.
2.  During nap time, I'm going to make Arabic rice and lentils (to go with the onions)
3.  I have green tomatoes, so this time I'm going to make green tomato salsa instead of what I did last year (relish).
4.  Slice up some watermelon.
5.  Wash lettuce and make a salad for th epotluck

I already deseeded 5 pomegranates.

Hopefully that will keep us going for the week!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Getting busy in the kitchen

I even had some help from the hubby this weekend, due to my bruised foot.  Which I got...?  Your guess is as good as mine. I woke up with it.  And big boy has a cold (or at least, a runny nose).  Well, he didn't get the last cold, figures he's starting the next one.

I'm also working on using up items in the pantry and freezer. (These are in red.) Doesn't stop me from buying more though.  I'm trying.  I made the mistake of going to Whole Foods today.  One tiny bag and $35 later.  If I could JUST stick to the produce and the bulk goods (oatmeal), I'd be fine.  But no.  There were scrambled eggs and bacon in the hot bar.  And chocolate.

Here's what the FHS family is making/ eating this weekend and during the week:

1.  Banana muffins (some with chocolate chips).  Hubby made these and they were so much better than mine.  Then I realized - he doesn't cut the sugar in half like I do. :)

2.  Enchiladas.  I made these yesterday - chicken (previously poached and frozen), peppers (chopped by hubby - a HUGE bag of TINY hot peppers), onions, tongue of fire beans (from the CSA, previously cooked and frozen), chard, and cheese (bought on sale that I shredded), and discount tortillas from the freezer.

3.  Aloo gobi (that's cooking right now)

4.  Salad (including pomegranates - 3, that hubby took care of.  Got the seeds out of two and juiced the third.  We both hate that job).

5.  Roasted cherry tomato, garlic, pepper, and feta bruschetta.

6.  Barley salad (well, I'm really just going to put the cooked barley in my salads).

7.  Cantaloupe and watermelon.  You know I list this because I have to wash, peel, and slice.  These were on sale for $2 at the grocery store and there were 55cent coupons at the display.  These are the Tuscan melons. $1.45 for a watermelon and $1.45 for a cantaloupe!

Really trying to be better on the produce all week and on weekends.  I keep reading about how children's palates really develop from age 1 to 2.  Nick is a pretty good eater, but I was pretty strict with the fruit and veggie intake.  I haven't been quite as good with Daniel so far.  This is why I ran off and bought more baby food (it's so much easier to get him to eat it in pureed form).  Nick was the same way as a baby...the veggies were in puree form a lot longer than many kids.  But he loves vegetables still.

Plus.  I need to lose weight.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Delicious Vegetable Dip

A new recipe!  I know right?  From me?  However is that possible? 

I'll tell you  how.  I was so busy having fun this weekend that I didn't cook ahead for the week.

And then in desperation, I needed to figure out what to do with these random bits of veggies from the farm.  So one night, I just threw a basket of cherry tomatoes and 4-6 small, yellow sweet peppers (about the equivalent of 1/2 to 1 regular sweet pepper) into the oven while something else was cooking.  Then I stuck them in a container in the fridge.

Then another night, I steamed a bunch of chard and added it to the container.

And then tonight, I pureed all that in the food processor with a cup of cottage cheese and some garlic powder.

It is VERY tasty.  We are eating it with crackers.  I could probably also put it on pasta or use it on sandwiches or ???

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cheap Fitness

So, I'm a big fan of the blogger Mr. Money Mustache.  I don't agree with him 100% on everything.  I mean, who does?  Maybe his wife, and a few others.  He retired in his 30's and now writes his blog, invests in real estate, and raises his son.  They both do (they both retired).

Anyway, he is a HUGE fan of biking and has often discussed the uselessness of gyms.  Or at least, points out that you don't need a gym to be fit.  This is totally true - I won't disagree there.  I am, however, a gym rat.

I have tried to work out at home, regularly.  My success rate really depends on the age of my children.  There was the "sweet spot" of age 4 to 6 where I could pop a video in and do it - he would wake up part way into it. Sometimes he would chatter constantly while I finished, sometimes he did it with me, sometimes he crawled all over me. Needless to say, it does NOT happen with the little guy.  He just wants to be on top of me.  The gym is the only place I can go to lift weights in peace.  Not to mention: pool.  Classes.  I like people and group exercise.

I have tended to be pretty liberal in my fitness spending.  We belong to two gyms.  The first, 24 hour fitness, is on a $99 a year plan.  (That's a person, so $198 for two.)  The second, the YMCA, is $99 a month.  We joined this a couple of years ago when I was swimming a lot (tri training) and it has been great.  It's a nice family atmosphere and we enjoy getting our 7 year old in the pool.  He has become MUCH more confident in the water because of it.

I have to say, we may not get our money's worth.  My husband only goes to the YMCA when we use the pool as a family (which has not been much with the new baby - he doesn't really dig the pool), and I only go to 24-hour fitness when the YMCA is closed for their annual maintenance.

But that's not all.  In the 2009-2010 time frame, I was running a LOT.  Two half marathons, part of a marathon, a 10 miler, and a whole host of 5k's.  These races were anywhere from $25 to $150 each.  Pretty expensive T-shirts.  (And when you consider the wear and tear...piriformis, followed by physical therapy, followed by Achilles tendonitis...) 

The piriformis resulted in my switch to triathlons.  That added even more expense.  $120 for the sprint tri (500 yd swim, 6 mile bike, 2 mile run, an hour of my time), $100 for the discounted wet suit (the first year it was 59 degrees in August!), and $250 for the summer-long training group.  I love this training group.  I did this two years in a row.  I LOVE group fitness and I found it really worth the money, especially since I started my 40th birthday year not being confident swimming in a POOL and ended it having swum in the ocean dozens of times, up to 3/4 mile.  But man, $400 a year on top of my gym memberships...  Hey, that's one way the pregnancy helped save money...I'd just given birth in 2012 and I don't fit into my wetsuit for 2013.

Last week I got an email about the local park's 5k fall trail run series!  It's 4 weeks long and it's $20 a race ($15 if you buy all four).  Family fun, beer food.  It sounded fun but I can't run (that Achilles tendon again).  This park is at the end of our dead end street and as we were there  yesterday (playing Frisbee) I found their map of the race course. 

I decided to have a little bit of frugal fitness.  I took a picture of the map, printed it out, and today, I put the baby in the Ergo and did the 5k.  It was a little tough here and there (some areas of deep sand), lots of hills, and it was a little hot.  It was definitely a "hike" and I kept a 2.0 mph pace. 

It's not the same as a timed race.  Depending on who you ask, this is good or bad.  Some people figure if you aren't racing or "training", you aren't doing anything.  Others say if you are racing for time or training, you are missing the point of fitness.  (I read a quote by a blogger - don't remember who "exercise is the junk food of fitness".  Meaning, instead of "exercising" for 30 minutes or an hour, we should be just MORE ACTIVE.)  My own personal opinion is - it depends.  What works for you today may not work for you tomorrow.  Training and racing is great (I enjoyed it, even though I will never be fast), but it also resulted in a lot of injuries.  However just plain exercise can seem like you are "going through the motions".

So what are other options for Frugal Fitness that is still fun, and group worthy?  I have a bunch of coworkers who like to go backpacking.  It has expanded to quite a large group.  Yes, it's mostly the young-uns (20's) and there is probably too much beer involved.  But it does occasionally include people in their 30's and 40's, and sometimes even a parent gets a day off to join them.

When we were discussing the triathlon at work (several of us have done them), one of my coworkers said that he wanted to be sponsored.  I said "I'd sponsor you!"  He said "really, you'd pay $150 for me to do the race?"  I said "no, I'd give you 10 bucks, but only if you did the LONG course (1 mi swim, 34 mi bike, 10 mi run), and I bet a bunch of other people would too."  At that point, we all realized that we could probably get 6 - 10 people together and set up our own tri unofficially.

Now of course, this would be more for fun and not for time.  It would be hard to get people to time us - we'd need a place to set up our bikes - we'd have to follow the road rules and you can easily get stuck behind a train around here.  But it would still be cool - I'm sure we could find some surfboarders to watch us in the water.  Training for it - that would be the biggest issue - you always need to make sure you are swimming in the ocean with at least one other person.  Working around kids and schedules makes that difficult too.

Here are other ways for fun frugal group fitness:
Group hikes
Group bike rides
Set up your own "race" (swim, bike, run, all three...)
Lunchtime walks
Go out dancing!
Boogie boarding/surfing
Do your own Boot Camp!

And there is always the Mr. Money Mustache method of biking everywhere, or my neighbor's method of walking everywhere.  She is in her 50's with two daughters and does not drive.  She has never really struggled with her weight, because she walks EVERYWHERE.

So, what say you about keeping fitness fun, and interesting, without a lot of money?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Crazy weekend of prep and my freezer is PACKED

So, I've come to accept that if it doesn't happen on the weekend, it doesn't happen.

While that is not 100% true (I was home sick one day this week and made chicken tortilla soup in the crockpot, corn muffins, and cooked up some beans), it's mostly true.

When big boy was a little one, I did a lot of cooking and prep after he went to bed.  Now with two, bedtime is pushed off to closer to 8:30 or 8:45 for the big boy - so I'm too tired mid week to do anything.

This has resulted in a lot more wasted food.  I'm not beating myself up too much about it, but I AM trying a lot harder to prep everything on the weekend.  I realize that in this phase of full-time job and two kids, one a baby, I simply have to adjust.  This means, generally, that all of our CSA and "fresh" veggies are eaten between Saturday and Wednesday (we get them Thursday night, and we generally run out by Tuesday or Wednesday).  Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are frozen vegetable nights.  I try to avoid wasting food by using my freezer and not cooking too much - and by eating what I've already made.  That means we are all sick and tired of things eventually - today's lunch should be the 4th and final episode of the tortilla soup.

I'm still recovering from a cold and now my husband has it.  I've had a couple of nights of insomnia (I'm thinking it's cyclical).  So last night, I just decided to prep as much as possible.

After the baby was in bed, during our movie for movie night ("Daddy Day Care"), I washed, destemmed, and roasted 2 baskets of cherry tomatoes.  I just cannot stomach raw cherry tomatoes unless they are chopped in a salsa like thing.

After the big boy was in bed, I went to town - about 40 mins of washing and prepping a bag of small sweet Italian peppers, fennel, a bunch of baby carrots (they are tasty but I would MUCH rather wash, peel, and cut 5 large carrots instead of 20 baby carrots), a zucchini, and three tiny kohlrabi.  I froze the beans I cooked on Wednesday.

OH, but that's not all - today I took the baby grocery shopping and found a killer deal on pluots - from the discount rack at Fresh and Easy - 2.2 lbs for $1.13.  They were very ripe, so I spent some time peeling and slicing - they are freezing in a single layer in the freezer right now.  I don't know what I will do with them, but some blog somewhere this week featured frozen peaches - and the writer said that she liked to throw a few slices in her oatmeal while it cooks. Yum.  That, or pluot crisp!

I've also got beets steaming, and then I should be almost done with the prep, except for washing lettuce.

My freezer is so packed, I have to make an effort to eat it down.  I am officially done buying meat until I eat everything that is already there.  I also have a lot of veggies (but we eat those), some homemade popsicles (it's the hot season now), various bread products (I do NOT need tortillas).  In order to really be efficient in the freezer use, you  have to have the time to go through the freezer, see what you have, and plan around that. I used to love doing that, but I find that I am too pressed for time.

Thus, I am going to make a renewed effort to plan at least 2 meals a week (weekends of course) based on stuff that's in the freezer. Today, I am going to make mac & cheese with leftover ham (from the freezer) and some frozen spinach - and the roasted cherry tomatoes.  Tomorrow, I am going to use up some meatballs and frozen stir-fry vegetables.  I will make an Asian sauce with some apricot jam and soy sauce and other items, and serve over brown rice.

To give you an idea of how bad my freezers are, here are some pictures of the top-of-the fridge freezer, and the mini-freezer in the laundry room.  Yes, there are corn dogs in my freezer.  My "no processed food" lifestyle took a back seat when I had the second child.  It's generally the early years - 0 to 3 - that make it really hard to cook everything from scratch.  Oh, and there is a jar of plum freezer jam that I think I canned 5 years ago.  I should probably toss that.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A frugal fun afternoon

So, I must admit - it's kinda easy to have a fun, frugal afternoon when you live at the beach.  I mean, really.  Even so, we manage to spend money too easily more often than I'd like to admit.  Usually on food, because we were either not prepared (were out too long), or were too lazy to pack food.  I mean, when I pack up the family - husband, 2 kids, beach towels, umbrella, toys...boy, food is last on my list AND increases the requirement to 2 trips from the car.

But today, I went for the packing the food (and the 2 trips)!  The total cost for today: $1.49 for a bag of ice (most of which is now in the freezer for later) plus gas (probably $2).  And whatever sunscreen we used.  We spent a few hours at the beach.

Here's what I packed:
turkey and salami sandwiches/ wraps
carrots, celery, peppers, radishes and homemade hummus
applesauce (for the baby)
string cheese

Here's what we did:
boogie boarded (daddy and kid, I didn't even have my suit on.  I regretted this, it was a beautiful day).
built sand castles
played in the sand/shade

Here's what we DIDN'T do:
Go to the grill down the street for lunch.  It is delicious there.  But it would have been $30 for lunch for the 3.5 of us.
Go to a beach where you have to pay to park
Pay for a movie
Go shopping

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Party Time!

You'd never really know it by my blog, but I'm kind of a social person.  I just happen to be way too busy in real life to be too terribly social.

I wasn't always brought that out in me.

On Wednesday, hubby and I decided to have a weekend BBQ - spur of the moment.  Three days in advance is spur of the moment for me.

It's not a particularly big BBQ - I don't have the energy for that.  Just a handful of folks from work or the neighborhood.  So, here's what's on the menu:

Hot dogs
(no, none of these are local/ organic/ grass fed...I don't have quite the time for the extra shopping stop these days)

Panzanella salad
Homemade hummus and carrot sticks
Homemade salsa and chips
Wine, beer, tea, bubble water
Corn on the cob
Salami and cheddar and crackers
Ice cream

And I might make a box of organic mac and cheese for the kids.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Regular Schedule, and how it helps with eating frugally

There are many ways to eat frugally.

There is the "Pantry Principle" (Amy Dacyzyn) - keeping a stocked pantry full of food purchased at rock bottom prices and eat from it. 

There is shopping a few times a week, and buying ONLY what you will eat that week (nothing goes to waste).  (Less is Enough follows this mode).

There is very carefully buying in bulk and planning your meals a month in advance based on this.  This is a strategy used by The Grocery Shrink.

There is heavy use of foraging and collecting free food (at the end of a farmer's market or discards from a grocery store) - 100 Dollars a Month and Penniless Parenting.

And there is simplifying by eating foods on a regular schedule.  This would be the Frugal Healthy Simple method when kids are little and work time is big.

This is really how I've been working lately.  Now that I'm full time, I don't have that extra hour at the end of the day to clean and chop.  Pretty much, if I don't prep it over the weekend, it doesn't happen.

So my regular schedule has many parts to it:
1.  Shop at Fresh and Easy on Friday afternoons, after picking up the baby (it's a few blocks away).
2.  Make TJ's baked chicken tenderloins and steamed broccoli (pre-cut and washed) on Tuesday.  Sure, this meal is on the more expensive side compared to some ($3 for the chicken and $2.29 for the broccoli), but it's easy and predictable.
3.  Make some kind of meat in the crockpot on Wednesday (after we've run out of leftovers from the week) with a frozen vegetable (by Wednesday, the CSA veggies are gone).
4.  Wash all CSA veggies on the weekend.  Steam, roast, freeze, whatever is needed.
5.  Make bread on the weekend (bread machine).
6.  2x a month, cook up a pound of beans.  3/4 of the time, this is refried beans in the crockpot (which turn into bean and cheese burritos in the freezer).  Sometimes, it's another bean.
7.  Make a salad or casserole for Sunday night potluck, which can be eaten during the week if not finished.
8.  Hard boil 1/2 dozen eggs for salad or snacks, once a week.  Twice if my hubby gets into them.
9.  Lunch: I eat the same thing every day.  Salad.  I'm trying to lose some baby weight.  It's not really working - I lost 7 lbs, but if I don't count calories, I stall.  And with the job and the lack of sleep (molars - I have had exactly one 7+ hour stretch in the last 7 days) - it's not happening.  But at least just eating salad keeps the weight in check.  If you eat the same thing every day, you aren't buying many items, and you are less likely to waste food.

Try to check out the freezer once a week and use up things that I put in there, thinking they'd be useful at some point.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Stay at Home Parent advantages

That's what is on my mind today.  I've been working pretty hard to lose the baby weight.  I took part in my own little "diet bet", aiming to lose 7 lbs in 30 days (I lost 7.2).  I haven't decided to start the next round, mostly because I'm feeling busy and overwhelmed.  Full time job, husband, 2 kids - counting calories to 1500 a day and squeezing in exercise.  I kinda need a break.  And I have PMS.  And I keep thinking that if I weren't working, there would be a lot more time for all of this.

Last weekend was another banner cooking week.  While I cannot seem to find the photos, I can give you a list of what was on the menu.  We actually didn't finish all of the leftovers until Friday.  It's a good thing I made so much because my spouse had a day trip one day - didn't get home until 9 pm.  It's nice to be able to heat food up in the microwave those days.  Who am I kidding, I do that a lot.

Last week's menu:
Broccoli ramen slaw.  Frugal (the slaw mix was $2 for 2 lb).  So, ramen isn't the healthiest thing, but I never use the flavor packet.  I ate this for lunches and took it to our neighborhood pot luck.  Total cost for this dish (1 lb of slaw, 2 ramen packets, dressing, cashews) was $2.

Sausage, onion, potato egg casserole.  Also took this to the pot luck, brought most of it home, had it for breakfast.  Total cost for an 8 inch pan: $2.12.

Pasta salad with pesto, roasted tomatoes, and chicken:  1 lb pasta, plus chicken, probably less than $5.  We ate this all week.

I also poached 6 lbs of chicken in the crockpot.  I totally overcooked it.  Definitely destined for casseroles.  The cooking time seemed too low in the recipe.  Whoops.

I had to laugh at the kiddos this week.  My son's friend was having tacos for dinner.  She was complaining that she wanted to go out for burger.  Then my son started complaining that he didn't want  his favorite chicken,  he wanted tacos.  Anyway, 7 year olds.  Always want something else.

So back to the stay at home parent advantages.  (with regards to food anyway)  When it comes to feeding your kids - HUGE advantage. I am always impressed with the amount of cooking that The Prudent Homemaker gets done with homeschooling her kids.  But the trick is - she's at home.  I am not at home.

The baby is now on a lot of table food.  But still, 1/3 of his meals are "baby food" purchased in bulk in jars.  1/3 of his food are "snacks" that are simply more expensive than regular food: crackers, freeze dried fruits.  The rest of his food is table food - bits of chicken, steamed potato, string cheese, fruits.  I haven't been all that great about introducing new foods like my SAHM friends.  It's just easier to buy the freeze dried raspberries and whole wheat crackers.

Today, in an effort to change that a bit (let's face it, home cooked food is way cheaper), I have bread in the bread machine.  Most of the bread we buy has seeds in it - he's too young for seeds.  I did give him a few bites last weekend of our storebought seeded bread, and let's just say his digestion was way off.  It may have been due to something else, but I'm not taking chances.

I am going to make it a goal to make and introduce one new homemade food per week.  Bread, beans, lentils, rice, other cooked vegetables.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The List of Weekend Cooking Chores is LONG this week.

...but the pile of delicious, frugal, and healthy food to eat is HUGE!  Boy what a long weekend it has been for cooking.  One disadvantage of full time working is 8 fewer hours mid-week to do chores.  So then it moves to nights and weekends.  I have a memory of doing a lot of prep in the evenings after Nick went to bed.  Well my friends, I am there again.

This week from the CSA we got 5 lbs of tomatoes.  Yummy.  But that's a lot of tomatoes.  So what do you do?  You make marinara.  Do you have to peel the tomatoes?  According to just about everyone on the internet: yes.

So here's  how the weekend has panned out.

Friday night: Blanch, peel, de-seed 4.5 lbs tomatoes.
Saturday breakfast: Make eggs to go with the pancakes and bacon that we made for the family and my son's friend (sleepover)
Saturday morning: Make 2 lbs of meatballs.
Saturday lunch time: Wash lettuce
Saturday afternoon: make marinara and cook pasta
Dinnertime!  Assemble salad (basically lettuce and dressing.  At this point, I was tired.)

Saturday evening: Put crockpot refried bean ingredients in crockpot
Sunday morning: Drain, mash, turn into 9 bean burritos for the freezer
Sunday lunch time (after coming back from the 3.7 mile walk to and from the Greek festival): Make Arabic lentils and rice, and caramelized onions.

Still yet to come: Make Greek salad with purslane (something new from the CSA), and roast carrots.  Dinner is the lentils and rice and onions and carrots and salad.  Everything microwaved, except the salad.  When you are cooking in 15 min spurts, you just end up reheating everything.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Week 2, 3.2

Another 3.2 lbs, down 6.4.  Hey, I'm now down to where I was last September.  Ugh.  Oh well.

Trying to get a stubborn baby to go to sleep. Unsuccessfully.

Monday, July 22, 2013

On long term success

I've been thinking a lot lately about long term success. Mostly, I've been thinking about weight loss, but I think it applies to any long term, parenting, etc.

I am a member of the National Weight Control Registry.  Sometimes, I feel like a bit of a fraud. I recently filled out my annual questionnaire and I'm not particularly happy about my current weight. Especially when I admitted that I hadn't given birth in the last 12 months. I took them literally because I got the survey 12 months and 11 days after the baby was born. What upsets me the most is that i was almost 20 lbs lighter last October and I backslid. It's one thing to stall, backsliding is something else.

My good friend the dietitian told me today that she knows I've made permanent changes and the baby weight is only temporary. How does she know? And why did I backslide? I know there were several factors...lack of sleep, stress, illness, husband traveling. It's just plain hard to keep it all together.

This week, I returned to work full time...I've been PT for the last 10 months., my first day, the baby woke up with a fever.  So I'm starting my first FT week not working FT.  In order for me to lose weight, sadly, I have to count calories.  I'm not one of the lucky ones.

 I've lost weight I the past on weight watchers.  The dirty secret about WW is that every few years, they change their plan. It is, in part, due to new information on health and diet. It is also, I believe, a way to get more money.  Each change means you have to keep attending meetings, or continue your on line membership or buy new materials. Thing is? The last two iterations didn't work for me, so I cancelled my on line membership and decided to go with straight calories.

This, my friends, takes time.  I have a hard enough time cooking dinner with a one year old underfoot.  If I am counting calories, I basically need to know what I am eating a day in advance.  I managed to make a pasta dish for dinner...tasty but looked awful...brown.  Then I needed to plan tomorrow. After I got the baby to sleep, I
Scooped out pasta into three Tupperware.
Started boiling eggs...which is so bad with easily distracted, I've almost cooked them dry.
Made a side salad.
Oops, baby woke up again...picked him up, turned down the eggs, rocked him back to sleep, turned the eggs back on
Washed blueberries
Made soda water

Now I am sitting typing on the iPad because my kid and hubby have been fighting over the computer.

How can you be sure that you have what it takes long term?  For one, you have to know what works. You have to be willing to stick with it over the long haul.  For me this means planning my meals in advance, planning my exercise . When I recommit to my plan, at first I have to stay away from triggers...chips, alcohol, chocolate, eating out.  This most recent time, I've decided to give myself a day off a week, at most, from counting. This doesn't mean I go hog wild, it means I get a day off from the tedium. It also means if I have two parties in one week, I have to be very careful at at least one and count calories.

It also means you have to go with it. There is nothing I'd love more right now than to be training for a triathlon or doing P90X daily.  My life, my ankle, my knee won't allow it.  They WILL allow me to lift, swim, bike, and do short walks, so that's what I do.

How am I looking long term? Only time will tell. Week one of my recommitment saw me down 3.2 pounds, so yay me! Only 37 more to go.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Those sneaky "Special Occasion" Calories

I know you've been there.  You are trying to watch your weight, or lose weight, and so are either carefully counting every calorie or are just staying away from high calorie and/or trigger foods.

And then.  There they are.  The "pushers".

The pushers come in many forms.  Sometimes they are overweight friends who want company - they really don't want you to lose weight.  Sometimes they are skinny friends, who see you as the "fat friend" and are threatened by the idea of you trimming down.  Sometimes they are well-meaning, normal-weight friends who have never struggled with their weight.  They can eat a brownie or piece of cake, and it never goes to their hips.  Or they don't have food issues, so they can eat a single cookie or drink a glass of wine, and that's it.  They can leave it after that.

A favorite comment from a "pusher" if you turn down that cake is "But it's a special occasion!"

This, my friends, for most of us, is total bullshit.

At some point, long ago, it really made sense.  When I was a child in the 70's, we didn't eat out.  Meals were mostly cooked from scratch (with some canned soup and bologna sandwiches).  We rarely had chips or soda in the house.  Cookies were baked from scratch.  Special occasions were special - Thanksgiving.  Christmas.  New year's.  Birthdays for the kids (most of the time, 3 of us).  That's...5 special occasions a year.  Add in the occasional party or other event and it was certainly still less than 12.

But these days, how special are they?  I'll tell you how special.

Let's start with June 1.
1 year old birthday parties: 5.  I have attended 5 of these and declined to attend at least as many.
My own baby's birthday dinner: 1
My birthday (I was on a plane, there was no cake involved): 1
Our anniversary: 1
Company BBQ: 1
Retirement party: 1
Friends visiting/ French festival: 1
Days where there was cake or cheesecake at work: 2

So in 6 weeks, there were 13 "special occasions" with the opportunity to eat sweets, cake, drink wine or beer, or eat fried/ unhealthy food.  That's two per week.

That doesn't even factor in the school aged child.  He attends at least 5-7 birthday parties a year.  Cookies and chips are a regular thing at camp and school.  Sometimes he feels that  he should get dessert every night.  Every night??  We've set it at 2x a week, but still there are "special occasions" like tomorrow's concert in the park.  No, I'm not packing sweets, but if his friends are there and they have them, he will eat them.

This is why it's very important to define "special occasion" calories.  After I had my second baby, I met with a dietitian online (she happens to be a friend).  She defined various foods as "everyday", "once in awhile" and "special occasion".  And "special occasion" foods are once a MONTH.  How do you handle the "pushers" who don't get that?

I simply decline the cake and say "I don't like cake" (which is mostly true).  If it's a good friend, I simply state that at my age, I simply cannot spare the calories. 

Some people, however, will never get it.  So be strong, friends.  Understand "Special Occasion" calories and decide how often they will enter your life.  Accept that we are all different.  That 24-year old marathon runner will be able to eat a lot more than that 43-year old occasional exerciser.  Try not to compare yourself to other people's options.  It's just depressing.  (It has gotten to the point that I don't even read any blog post that is a dessert.  I will not make them.  I will not eat them.  I just press the delete button.)

And because I want to post a photo, here's a pic of my little sweet boy on his first birthday, eating his first piece of cake!  And so far, only. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

We're BAAACK...

from vacation.  To an empty fridge.  I'm still figuring out what we are out of.  Like ketchup.

We spent two weeks on the east coast.  I'd say glorious, but man, we had the worst weather ever.  I enjoyed visiting family, but seriously - rain and thunderstorms every day in PA, then 90-95F and 90% humidity in NY.  Where you just sit, in a non-air conditioned home and sweat...

We've been back for half a week.  We muddled through the week and did a fair bit of eating out on the weekend, including eating at the French festival (man, $54, what a racket).  Yesterday was our anniversary (17!!) and we did nothing special, just hanging out with some great friends who were visiting from the Bay Area.

I have been getting back into the cooking groove.  For the first week of vacay, I did all the cooking.  Not much of a vacation eh?  Week two: nothing.

This weekend I have been trying to get back into the weekend prep during nap times.  I return to full time in a week (yikes) and those 8 hours a week have to come from somewhere.  Hopefully not sleep.  Or exercise.

Here's what's on the menu:
Crockpot tri-tip (yesterday)
Crockpot refried beans (today)


Pasta salad with homemade pesto, chicken, and vegetables (carrots, zucchini, roasted red peppers from last summer, tomatoes).

Lots and lots of dishes today. 

On to my fitness level: in a word: it sucks. Okay, that was two words.  I seem to have found 20 lbs since last October.  I decided to join Biz in her latest diet bet, but my computer was on the fritz - so I decided to do it on my own.  I need to lose 7 lbs in 30 days.  I put $25 in an envelope.  If I do it - I keep it.  If I don't - I donate it to the YMCA.  Boy, calorie counting is hard work. 

I am limited in the exercise that I can do right now.  I have achilles tendonitis that makes running and long walks painful.  So I figured I'd try more biking and swimming.

I want to get back into riding my bike to work 2x a week (Mondays and Fridays).  Right now with summer camp, it makes pick up/ drop off hard.  So today, I drove to work with my bike on the back and biked home (10 miles).  I will bike in tomorrow.  And it will hurt.  A lot.  Because today hurt, a lot.  In the prime of my fitness level (2009-2010), I could bike to work in about 45 minutes.  It would take 50-55 minutes to get home (bigger hills, tired at the end of the day).  Well, today, the bike home was 66 minutes.  Yucky.  Hopefully in a month the bike to work will be closer to 45 min.  A goal to shoot for! (In addition to the 7 pounds.)

Okay, is it me, or does it look like the photos from my new phone are actually better than the ones from the camera??

Saturday, June 15, 2013

My "Use it Up" Phase

Well folks, we are getting close to our 2-week vacation to visit family.  This is something we do every couple of years.  So, about a week ago I embarked on the "use up the pantry, fridge, and freezer" phase.  It's always good to do that from time to time.

This means when I grocery shop, I try to keep it at a minimum - snacks for the plane, milk, some fresh fruit and veggies (but I am trying to use up frozen right now).

I've had to be somewhat creative.  A little of this, a little of that.  Look, only a tablespoon of sunflower butter, might as well use that up...look, one can of chickpeas, throw that in there.

I've been using frozen fruits for my afternoon snack (except for the day I found a bee in my raspberries - yuck!)  I'm making a bunch of soups (yes, I know it is almost summer, but it's June gloom in So. Cal. and at least it's cool here most days because of it).

In the last week I've used up some pasta, a can of tomatoes, frozen meatballs, chicken breasts, a tri-tip, some corn dogs.  For Father's Day tomorrow (sorry honey, I'm winging it!) I'll probably be making more carrot-turnip soup and baked salmon and kale chips. 

I really like doing these challenges from time to time because I do get to get my creative juices flowing.  I don't get to do that much anymore with a baby (and older child...and job).

There are several foods that I have that I really need to figure out how to use up:

A pile of frozen bananas (I seem to grow the pile faster than I use them)
Frozen spinach
Frozen roasted red peppers
Frozen baby food pears (hmm...maybe I should just feed them to the baby...)
Plus some other stuff in the pantry, which will probably just have to wait until we get back.

One of my FB friends told me about, which is a website where you put in what you have and it brings up recipes.  I tested it last night with items like chicken, cauliflower, mushrooms...and I was disappointed with the results.  Then I went to Pinterest and did the same and got MUCH better options (or at least, prettier pictures), and the same with google.  Maybe I'm just not impressed with the websites that supercook pulls from.

So based on pinterest and google, tonight I'm making creamy mushroom and roasted cauliflower soup.  And either chicken in the soup or grilled on the side.  That's TBD.

The weekend AFTER we come back we have friends visiting AND it's our 17th anniversary!!  So I'm pretty sure I'm going to save that 9-lb package of grass-fed tri-tip for their visit and do my famous crock-pot tri-tip (tri-tip, salsa, crock-pot).

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The weekend cooking chores

I get so inspired by Biz's posts and the many things she cooks every week.  I have to remind myself that her kiddo is up and out, and that's a big factor in the type and amount of cooking she does.

My weekends are often filled with cooking and prep for the week.  It really depends on the week and the weekend.  Last week was the illness week.  My husband and I are both feeling behind at work.  We each took a day off with the sick kiddo.  Then I caught a bit of the bug.  Then I came home on Friday (hubby was home with the kids because school was out), and the baby had a fever (24 hour one, he seems to be fine now).  At least we are fine enough to be cooking today.

The amount of cooking a family does will depend on a lot of factors:
1.  What you like to eat
2.  The number of kids you have
3.  The ages and temperaments of your children
4.  The jobs that you have and their schedules
5.  The family you have in town (or not)
6.  The extracurriculars

I remember having a discussion with friends about this.  One friend was amazed with how much cooking the neighbor and I do sometimes.  Well, my neighbor works part time, but that means 4 days per week.  She often spends a great deal of time on Friday cooking, which gives her a head start.  Her husband makes the bread, and they often roast a chicken in their rotisserie every Sunday night.  I also work part time, but shorter days.  So I do my cooking on Saturday and Sunday, but also have an hour after I get home before dinner every night (often that time is spent feeding the baby and bottle and solid food though.)  This particular friend has a job where she is on the road a lot.  So some days she can be home early, but often it's her husband who picks up the kids.  It's hard to cook when you aren't at home.

Last weekend I only really made a pasta dish.  I made a big pot of soup the day I was home with the sick kid.  This weekend I am trying to get a bit more done.

We ate the last burrito on Thursday night, so I knew it was time to make more.  I am trying to limit my shopping right now because we're visiting family for two weeks soon, so I'd rather use up what we have in the fridge and pantry.  Usually, most of my weekend cooking chores revolve around prepping the CSA vegetables.  Washing and cutting are time consuming.

So here's the weekend plan:
1.  Cook crockpot refried beans - DONE (put them in on Friday night, and out Saturday morning.  Still have to mash.)
2.  Cook crockpot tri-tip - DONE.  My neighbor was the inspiration for this dish.  She mentioned offhand once that her boss's "Bachelor meal" is a tri-tip in the crockpot with a can or two of black beans and a jar of salsa over the top. It's now my go-to recipe for tri-tip (I do have others, but this is easy and delish.)  This was a big save too - yesterday we drove south to go play mini-golf.  We were coming home at 5:30 and were STARVING.  It would have been so easy to get a burrito somewhere.  But luckily we had a bag of sliced apples and a small bag of cashews in the diaper bag and that kept us going until we got home.  We had the beef in tacos.
3.  Make basil-arugula pesto - DONE.  It's basil season at the CSA.  I've made plain arugula pesto too, but that's pretty bitter, so I am always happy when I get both the same week.  My pesto is nut-free.
4.  Make bean-tri-tip burritos.  We start an assembly line with shredded cheese too and roll them up and wrap in plastic, put in the freezer.  This used to be just a lunch thing for hubby and I, but now it's turned into a great dinner and lunch thing for the kiddo too.
5.  Make more carrot-turnip ginger soup.  I have a bunch of carrots and turnips, and it's the only recipe with turnips that I actually like, vs. just tolerate.
6.  Wash strawberries - DONE (hubby did this)
7.  Slice another cantaloupe (when the first one is gone)


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Saltines, applesauce, and gatorade.

Sounds like fun 'eh?  Big boy yesterday morning complained that his throat hurt and he had to throw up.  I told him to go to the bathroom.  He did, but nothing happened, so he came back, and threw up on the floor.  I told him to go lie in bed and use the trash can.  I cleaned up.  Baby was NOT happy to be relegated to the crib or high chair.

Hubby came home from the gym.  He told me we can't keep him in his room all day.  So he threw a sheet on the couch.  Then...big boy proceeded to throw up on the couch.  (Which is why I didn't want him on there.)

Anyway, I went off to the store with the baby to get pedialyte and crackers and applesauce and gatorade, and went to work.  Hubby stayed home all day (okay, he has totally made up for the two business trips).

Finally the puking stopped at around noon.  Starting at around 2:30, big boy got tablespoons of water or pedialyte every 15 minutes.  At 7 pm, he got 1/2 a cracker.  At 8 pm, he got the other half.  He seems to be better today, but will be kept home from school until tomorrow at least. 

We've quarantined the kids, because the last thing I need is to have this thing spread.  Big boy is on his little chair, or in his bed, or in the bathroom.  Baby is allowed in our bedroom with his newly cleaned toys, his crib, and the high chair.  I plan to keep them separated until at least Thursday, because apparently these viruses can live for 3 days.

Hubby did a ton of laundry yesterday, and I'm doing more today.  He bleached everything.  I bleached everything.  I am using the Clorox wipes on the doorknobs, fridge, and light switches about 3x a day and will bleach everything at least 2x a day.

This may seem excessive, but big boy brought home a stomach virus when he was 11 months old.  We didn't realize it until too late and we both got it.  I was down and out for a week.

He's only had a stomach thing probably 4-5 times total in  his 7 years.  The first time and the time we caught it camping with our neighbors (no running water camping) were the only times we caught it too.  So the quarantine, the obsessive hand washing, and the bleaching really does work.  I am also really glad that we buy paper towels at Costco.  These are the days you give up on your "environmental/green" side and use paper towels.  If we make it to Friday with no spreading, I'll be happy.

The one good thing about the stomach virus, unlike respiratory illnesses, is that you really aren't contagious beforehand.  When you start getting sick, that's when you are contagious.  So you don't have to worry about who you were around 2 days ago.  You DO have to be careful for the three days after.

So yesterday and today are full of Harry Potter.  We are reading book 2 and watching the movies.  Yesterday he watched movies 2, 3, 4.  He's watching movie 5 today.  Sucks to be missing the last week of school but he's not complaining.

Thus far he's had a bunch of applesauce, gatorade, and crackers today, so I think he's definitely on the mend.  I'll probably see if he can handle some bread for lunch.

Wish us luck that it doesn't spread.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Some pictures

Wow!  I've been meaning to post, and have been taking some pictures.  But...not so much time.  Husband traveled to Texas twice in 3 weeks.  I made a frittata to eat while he was gone, and nachos for dinner when he got back.  We went to a crawfish boil party yesterday (lotta work, I could lose a lot of weight on a crawfish only diet), and I made a big fruit salad and some banana chip bars for the party.

Tonight there is a potluck BBQ up the park.  I guess it's been going on for years on Sunday nights (Monday on holiday Mondays).  My hubby is "outdoored out" after a couple of parties.  Plus, it's the worst allergy weekend of the year.  Plus, there's ash coming down due to a fire over the mountain.  Looks foggy but it's really red.  So, I think I'm just going to cook up some skillet pasta and bread and green beans, and call it a night.

Tomorrow is Tuesday not Monday, and I have to remember that I am delivering dinner to my friend who just had twins!! Don't forget don't forget...

Farmer's market finds

Radish sandwiches for lunch
Fruit salad!

Beach day!