Thursday, May 30, 2013

My Babies are Growing

My babies are growing, as babies do. My babies are 10, 7, 3, and 2.

It's bittersweet, leaving the baby days behind. No more squishy newborns. No more excited wondering about who this new little person will be. 

No more tiny socks and little bonnets. No more sweet, warm swaddled bundles. 

I look sometimes are these big boys and wonder where my tiny babies went. 

Then, sometimes I look at them and wonder if they were ever really that small.

Where has all the time gone? 

I won't say that it went fast. Or that I missed any of it. I was here. Right here with them, the whole time. It sure didn't feel fast. I savored all the moments, and never once wished them away. 
Not even this one.

I held onto the moments, and made it through the days, one after another, no matter what they brought. 

I have tried, and often failed, to live each day with grace. To find balance between holding them tight, and letting them go. 

I am happy to be a part of their lives. To have the chance to live and love and learn with them. 

Many days have been wonderful. 

And many days have been hard. 

There have been some days that I am glad I never have to live through again. 

And a few days that I can't believe we survived.

But through it all, I have cherished the gift or a love so sweet, it breaks my heart. 

So now, let's count my blessings.

#1. Everyone in my house sleeps all night, almost every night, in their own beds. Including me. 

#2. Everyone uses the potty at least some of the time. Most people wear big people underwear. Wet undies are becoming increasingly rare.

Diapers are quickly becoming a thing of the past. 

#3. Most of my children do chores, and do them well. 
My days of taking out trash, picking up toys, and sorting laundry are on an indefinite reprieve. 

Their "help" is actually helpful.

#4. I can use the bathroom all by myself. When I take a shower, I don't have to keep on ear open in case someone cries. I can be reasonably certain the house will still be standing when I get out. 

#5. I can have real conversations with my children. Sometimes about things other than cartoons. 

And I can see the interesting, intelligent, good-hearted men they are becoming. 

#6. I can throw them out in the back yard after breakfast and say, "I'll call you in for lunch."

#7 everyone can walk on their own feet. 

At least for a little while. 

#8 They are the best of friends. Everytime I see them together, I love each one a little bit more. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Beach Towels Are Better Than Bath Towels

In my house, we don't have bath towels. We have beach towels. Beach towels are FAR superior. I started buying beach towels soon after I got my first apartment, and I've never looked back.
Here's why. 

1. Beach towels are WAY cheaper. 
I think these towels cost me about $3 each. 
Beach towels always go on super clearance at the end of the summer. Watch and wait, then snap them up. Grandma and I found these towels at Kmart a couple of years ago. I bought 6 for under $20. A week later Grandma went back and go 6 more for $10 or $15. Great deal! 

2. Beach towels are huge.
I's a curvy girl. I like a towel that makes it's way all the way around my womanly glory. Nothing ruins a nice relaxing bath like fighting with a towel that leaves your bits and pieces exposed. 

My 2 littlest boys often call out at the end of their bath, "Two boys in one towel!" I can easily wrap my 2 year old and 3 year old up together in one towel. That's always good for a giggle or three. 

The largest sized bath towel is a "bath sheet". Bath sheets are far more expensive and still a little smaller than a beach towel.

3. Beach towels are thin, but sturdy.
Like all things, you can find good quality beach towels and poor quality beach towels. Look for a good quality towel and it will last forever (or at least a very long time). Beach towels are made to hang to dry quickly. If you are into reusing towels, these are your best bet. 

4. Beach towels are more absorbant.
I found that my bath sheets were not so very absorbant. Although they were thick and soft and luxurious, they weren't so great with the sucking up of water. Which is a fairly important job for a towel. 

5. Beach towels come in fun colors and prints. 

I stuck mainly with stripes because I LOVE stripes. But look at all the fruity colors! I love colors. Super fun for mixing and matching with other decor in the bathroom. 

6. Beach towels DO NOT look weird hanging in the bathroom. 
They look surprisingly like towels.

7. Pool, beach and splash park trips are a breeze. 
Need towels? Grab them. Go. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Snack trays and snack lunch

Peanuts, strawberry-pear-honey bun kabobs, tortilla chips and animal cookies.

I don't serve my kids a lot of snacks. But I sometimes like to serve a snack-lunch. They get all excited like I'm throwing them a birthday party, and it's perfect when you have a bunch of little things you need to use up that don't really add up to a meal on their own. 
Little people love variety, little foods and eating with their fingers.
D's grandma gives me lots of fancy trays and things. Snack lunch is fun opportunity to put them to use. 

Devilled eggs, ramen noodles, apple-mango-pear kabobs

The general rule I go by is 2 or more fruits and veggies, one or more proteins and a carb or 2. But really, I just throw together whatever is handy and let them have at it.

Fresh coconut, goldfish crackers, honeydew, cashews, pistachios, animal crackers

Monday, May 13, 2013

Confessions of a Whole 30 Drop-out

Edit: I did Week1, took 3 days off, following most, but all of the rules, then started over. So depending how you count, Day 6 was actually Day 13 or Day 11.

I made it to day 6, feeling progressively ickier. The food was fine, the cravings were unpleasant, but tolerable. But my body was unhappy.

I had no energy, muscles aches, headaches, nausea, vomiting and shakes. I was hungry all the time, eating more than usual, and I was not seeing any positive changes after my first week 1. The restrictive plan was causing me anxiety in feeding myself and my children. We ran out of food, because no one was satisfied, and eating more than usual, and I had to go buy groceries again on Saturday. 

It is possible that I was detoxing and it would have passed and I would have felt wonderful in a week. I don't think so. 

I learned 2 things from my Whole 30 experience. 

#1. There is room for improvement in my diet. 
I can cut the sugar, refined flour, white rice, and breads considerably. I knew those foods had snuck into my diet in too large quantities. I know they aren't good for me. I can still have them, but I need to have less of them. Just because there's rice on the table, doesn't mean I have to eat it. 

#2. No one diet is right for every body. 
I know some of the participants are doing great, feeling good, living and loving life. But some (myself included) weren't. 
I don't think it's a matter of good vs. bad foods. I don't think it's a matter of having or lacking will power. I think it's a matter of listening to your body and knowing when something makes you feel healthy and whole and good, and when something makes you feel icky. 
I got a little caught up in the "I can do anything for 30 days" mind trap. Yes, I can but that doesn't mean I should.
Last night, as we were driving home from his mom's Mother's Day celebration, D said, "This diet really took it out of you." I don't want a diet that takes from me. I want a diet that gives to me. 

It's been 2 days, and I'm still recovering from this experience. By day 6, I felt so depleted, I could barely get out of bed. I've been eating whatever sounds good, in an attempt to replenish what I've been missing.
For the next few days, I'll eat meats, veggies, fruits, and some refined carbs. At the end of the week, I'll re-evaluate whether I want to continue this way, or go vegetarian. 

So there it is. If you have tried the paleo way of eating, and loved it, great! Stick with it. 
If you have not tried it, go ahead and give it a go. It might be a great fit for you. 
If it doesn't sound like a good fit, or if you have tried it or are trying it, or any other plan, for that matter, and you are not feeling healthy and empowered, stop. 
Focus on the foods that make you feel good, and avoid the ones that make you feel bad. Choose whole, nourishing foods. Listen to your body. Feed your body. Food is love. Love and respect your body as the amazing, unique creation that it is. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Whole 30 Week 1 Do-over

I had a hard time with week one. I took the weekend off, ate reasonably well, but did not follow the Whole 30. I had a talk with D, and posted on my Whole 30 group. I made some alterations to my plan, including many more legumes and allowing for some carbs (my family is still eating them, even though I'm not and they do sneak in here and there). I have been craving meat, so I am bringing some meat into my diet as well.
I made a new meal plan for these 2 weeks. It's Friday, and I'm feeling much better than I did last week. I am not being as strict as I originally intended, but I'm not losing my mind, either. 

I decided after a 3 day break, that I needed to start over. So this was week one again. I didn't take very many pictures, won't be writing many recipes for this week. My focus has been on other things. I'd like to pick up my daily blogging, but we'll see how it goes. 

Here's today:

Chocolate Cherry Smoothie

Oven Baked Sweet Potato Chips
Tossed green salad with Pomegranate Red Wine Vinaigrette
Orange and Cucumber Fruit Water

(Very un-Whole 30)
Crock pot 15 Bean Soup
Pea Salad

Pomegranate Red Wine Vinaigrette
1/2 cup Pomegranate red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
generous pinch fleur de sel
3 grinds black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a jar. Seal and shake well.
Drizzle generously on a tossed salad.

Cherry Cream Smoothie
12 fresh or frozen cherries
1 TBS coconut cream
1 handful smoothie greens 
Almond milk

Place all ingredients in blender jar. Add almond milk to cover. Blend until smooth. 

Chocolate Cherry Smoothie
Prepare as above, but add 1 TBS cocoa powder.

Orange-Cucumber Fruit Water
Thinly slice one orange (well scrubbed) and one cucumber into a pitcher. Fill pitcher with water. Refrigerate one hour. 
Serve water over ice. Refill pitcher with fresh water. 

Crockpot 15 Bean Soup
This soup obviously does not comply with the No Legume rule of paleo/primal/Whole30. However, I did clean it up as much as possible. 

Soak 15 bean mix (of other beans of your choice) in warm water, changing water every 1-2 hours when possible, for a total of 18-24 hours. 

Place 1/2 cup minced onions, 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1/4 cup minced bell pepper, and 1-2 shredded carrots in crockpot along with drained, rinsed beans. 

Cover 3 inches deep with water. Cook on high 6 hours, or until beans are tender. Add more water if needed. DO NOT cook beans in salted water. The salt will toughen the beans. 

Once soup is fully cooked, season with salt and pepper. Serve with a nice green salad. 

My Mama's Guacamole 
I made an unremarkable taco soup this week, but I topped it a special dose of heaven. I will share that.

6 avocados, scooped and mashed
3 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 onion, diced
The juice of one lime or half a lemon
1 tsp each salt, garlic powder, and onion powder

In a large bowl, scoop and mash avocados. Beat in juice and seasonings. 

Fold tomatoes and onions into avocado mixture. Chill 1 hour for best flavor. 

Serve with chips, on tacos, in burritos, or pretty much anytime, anywhere, because it is crazy good. 

Olive Oil Simmered Garlic
You may not know this, but when whole garlic cloves are cooked slowly, over low heat, they turn into surprisingly sweet, mashed potato-y textured little niblets of yumminess. 
This isn't a recipe per se. Just a tip. 
Heat a skillet with an inch of olive oil over low heat. Add in garlic and simmer until it browns lightly, or until it is very soft. Stir often to prevent burning or uneven cooking. 
Remove from oil, drain and salt. 
these are delicious on good french bread, or tasty as a snack all by themselves. I sprinkled these over my salad, and mixed a few into the yummy coconut curry that follows. 

Easy Coconut Curry
This is one of my go-to comfort food recipes. I developed a taste for thick, warm curry gravy while living in cold, wet Japan.
Include any veggies you have on hand. At least one starchy veggie is a must- sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, white potatoes, cauliflower. Anything else is bonus.
I used a yellow curry powder for this batch, but you can experiment with red or green curry pastes as well as brown, Japanese curry bricks, of course. 

1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 carrots, sliced
2 turnips, peeled and diced
1 onion, sliced
1 eggplant, peeled and diced
1 large handful fresh green beans, ends removed
1 can coconut cream/milk
3 TBS curry powder (or paste, if you prefer)
Water to cover
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1.5 hours, until all veggies are tender. 

Serve over rice or with a side of stir-fried greens. I especially enjoy this curry over a scrambled egg. 

Cinnamon Apple Snack
This evening, I was silently bemoaning the absence of fries, potato chips and, most egregiously, popcorn (popped in coconut oil, topped with butter and exotic sea salts). Sigh.
I thought I might satisfy my hunger with an apple. Maybe my sad little apple would feel a little fancier dressed up in some yummy cinnamon. 

MMMMMMM. Oh. Mmmmmm. It was reallyreallyreally good. Yeah. I'm going to have to do this again. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Whole 30 Day 4- Country Veggie Stew, Drunken Veggie Stew, Apple Pie Smoothie

I'm still here. 

I wrote my good-bye post on my Whole 30 group page, but after some discussion and some meal planning for next week, I decided not to break it off. I am making some changes, modifying the program even a bit more, and even adding some meat into my diet. 

I believe in the Whole 30 and I believe in a whole foods diet. Especially for me. I've done this off and on forever, and I know this is the way I need to eat. It's certainly not a perfect Whole 30, but it's what is best for me. 

So here we go. 

Iced Pumpkin Spice Tea (YUM, by the way)
Chocolate Almond Butter Smoothie, minus the greens and with unsweetened applesauce instead of dates

Leftover tilapia and roasted asparagus and mushrooms
Iced Pumpkin Spice Tea

Drunken Flemish Stew 
Smothered Cabbage

Apple Pie Smoothie

This is my kid's lunch. 

Country Veggie Stew
I promised this recipe yesterday. I cooked it on day 2, but didn't feel like eating it. I had it for lunch yesterday, and served it to my kids again for lunch today. 
This is a hearty, mildly sweet stew. It's very satisfying on a cold, wet, rainy day, or when you need some comfort food.
I like dried mushrooms in my stews because, besides the convenience of being shelf stable and less expensive than fresh, they lend a meatier flavor to the gravy. I used a mixture of buttons and shiitakes. You may use any mushrooms you like.

3 carrots, sliced
1 cup chopped celery
1 onion, chopped
1 medium sweet potato, diced
1/2 a medium cabbage, chopped
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 cup dried mushrooms, or fresh, sliced
1 cup white wine
2 cups water
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

Saute carrots, celery, onion, sweet potato, and cabbage in oil for 10 minutes. If using fresh mushrooms, sauteed them with the other vegetables.
Add dried mushrooms, wine, water, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes, until sweet potatoes and carrots are tender. Remove bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. 
Serve over rice or noodles, or alone. 

Drunken Veggie Stew with Roasted Asparagus

Drunken Veggie Stew
This is a vegan take on a Drunken Beef Stew. Dark beer is usually used as the base, but I had Ginger Hard Cider in the fridge, so that's what I'm using. A few lentils would serve to bulk up this stew and increase the protein. I don't have any :( so my stew is lentil-less. 
The vinegar and mustard give this stew a sweet and tangy flavor that is unique and inviting. 

2 onions, sliced
1 large sweet potato, diced
3 carrots, sliced
1 cup celery, diced
1/4 medium cabbage, diced
2 TBS oil, butter, or ghee

1 bottle hard cider, or dark beer
1 TBS fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 TBS red wine vinegar
1/2 cup dried mushrooms

Saute veggies in butter until slightly softened. Sauteing the veggies speeds the cooking process and caramelizes the sweet veggies, bringing out their sweet flavor.

Add cider, thyme, mustard, vinegar, mushrooms, and water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer 30 minutes, or until sweet potatoes and carrots are soft. 

Serve over rice, egg noodles, or alone. 

Apple Pie Smoothie
So yummy, I enjoyed it for dessert.

2 TBS unsweetened applesauce
2 TBS coconut cream
1 TBS cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Almond milk

Combine all ingredients in blender. Add almond milk to cover. Blend till smooth. 

Whole 30 Day 3 -Orange Cream Smoothie, Curry Baked Tilapia, Roasted Asparagus and Mushrooms

So far, this is the best day yet. 

I started off with a walk and smoothie, and remembered my vitamins. Everyone seems to benefit when the babies, the puppy and I get out in the fresh air and sunshine first thing in the morning. 

I got through teaching my kids with no problems, cleaned my house, and have been taking the rest of the day easy. I had a quick bit of real food after the schooling was done, before getting back to the work of the household. Laundry to wash, babies to potty train. The usual. 

Doing some school

After talking this over with D, I have decided that this plan is too restrictive for me. I've taken to eating many more animal products than I'm comfortable with.

I will continue to strive for whole foods, less refined carbs, less dairy. But I will have to add in grains and legumes for a balanced diet. 

My Whole 30 turned out to be a Whole 3. I'm ok with that. I'm on the same path, moving at a slower pace. 

Chocolate Almond Butter Smoothie minus the greens. My blender is as old as I am, and not so powerful. 

First lunch:
Leftover veggie country stew (recipe to follow in tomorrow's post)

Second lunch:
Asparagus, red onion, garlic, mushroom scramble topped with fresh tomato-balsamic sauce
Lunch and bad photography

Orange Cream Smoothie (recipe follows)

Curry Baked Tilapia (recipe follows)
Roasted Asparagus and Mushrooms (recipe follows)
Orange Cream Smoothie

the juice of 2 oranges-approximately 1 cup
4 TBS coconut cream or milk
splash vanilla extract (ideally vanilla paste or scraped vanilla bean, if you have it)

Place all ingredients in blender jar. Blend until smooth. 

Curry Baked Tilapia

Tilapia fillet
Curry powder
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Place tilapia in shallow baking dish. 
Sprinkle with curry powder. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. 
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes.

Roasted Asparagus and Mushrooms
1/2 pound asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 cup fresh mushrooms, quartered
1/4 cup sliced red onions
Drizzle olive oil
salt and pepper

Toss veggies with oil, salt and pepper.
Spread in a shallow baking dish. Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes, until just tender. 
Serve alongside fish.