October 15, 2009

Who's behind you?

This picture from a friend's wedding (courtesy, once again, of Trystan Photography) is just about my favorite picture ever of Kurt and me. Firstly, I'm actually dressed up and holding a gin and tonic, always a good memory to capture. Next, Kurt looks happy and silly and adorable, caught in a moment of relaxation not often seen lately. And finally, I love that guy behind us, just strolling along, doing his own thing. He's totally unaware he's just been captured for all eternity behind a blissfully happy couple. It makes me wonder how I must fit into the background of other people's lives, too, how many vacation pictures have me wiping my kids noses or calling out to my husband behind someone's carefully posed family shots.
There are bits and pieces of other people's lives and memories tucked all over our own. I like that.

October 12, 2009

She shoots... she scores! Woohoo!

I did it, I did it, I really did it. Go, me! I finished my whole week from the CE menu challenge even though at first it seemed complicated and impossible and besides, I almost never finish anything. But I did it.

Funny thing is, by Sunday, it was easy. I didn't even look too much at the printout on the fridge because I had the hang of it all. Plan ahead every few days. Eat every 3-4 hours. Drink 2 cups of water with most meals. Stick to fresher, less processed or sugary ingredients and snacks. Look for a general balance of proteins, fats and fiber. Pay attention to your portions just by noticing how full you actually are. Try something new.

Heck, I even learned to love my coffee with half the sugar and milk I used to mix in, go figure on that one. (I'm still not okay with plain egg whites, though, but I am okay with not being okay with them. Does that make sense?)

Over all it was a good week. I feel renewed and motivated. The best part, or maybe not the best but the biggest reminder, was lasagne night last night. Kurt's dad had us over for a big, rich lasagne dinner followed by chocolate cake. We had wine and bruschetta for appetizers. It was a lot of food and I was excited. I felt like I deserved to indulge, like I'd earned it.

After the first glass of white wine, I started to get a headache. After the bruschetta, I was totally full. After the first few bites of lasagne (which was really delicious in the moment) I felt like I would burst. By the time the cake came around my stomach was bubbling unpleasantly, even after 2 glasses of crisp water.

I still ate the cake, though. Of course I did! In fact, that was the best part of the whole night, to the point that I nearly embarrassed myself. When the first bite of cake and frosting hit my tongue, a huge shiver of pure pleasure shot through me. Quite involuntarily, my eyes shut and I kind of... well... moaned.

Kurt choked on his wine and nearly died trying not to laugh hysterically. He later told me that he'd seen that expression on my face before, but only when we were alone. That's right, y'all. Chocolate orgasm! Ahhh...

Even with that finale, by the time we got home I felt sick, really sick. My headache turned into a raging migraine as I lay in bed, fighting the urge to go throw up. I finally downed two Tylenol PM just to knock me out and make the pain stop.

This morning, after a couple glasses of water, a hearty CE breakfast and a nice cup of coffee, I feel much better. But I've taken the lesson to heart. Even though the dinner last night was exquisite, my body has learned to thrive on and expect moderation, even after just a week.

So I'm sticking with the plan, adjusting it to make it my own. I liked feeling good and not hungry, I liked trying new things. I especially liked that one bite of chocolate, after abstaining from sweets for awhile, was practically X-rated. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? Later this week... Pumpkin Spice Latte. (May not be appropriate for younger audiences!!)

But I'm sticking to a small with skim milk. Don't want to go overboard and end up in full overdose barf mode again. So that's my Clean Eating Week wrap-up. I'm sure it's been a thrill ride for you, my dear readers (all 7 of you). I certainly learned a lot.

Coming up next... NaNoWriMo? How many challenges do you think I can finish this year?

October 10, 2009

Home stretch, Day 5

It's cold today, icy stinging cold with freezing rain and black ice on the road and that feeling like your fingers and toes will never warm up. I've had my hands wrapped around hot mugs of tea, coffee and, yes, hot chocolate all morning and I'm still worried about frost-bite. I have friends with their furnaces broken right now and seriously, I don't know how they're functioning. It's COLD.

Yesterday was chilly, too, but without all the ice. By now, I feel totally comfortable with the whole CE thing; I know when to eat, what kind of foods to look for, what's a good portion, etc. So, after cabin fever with the kids all day kicked in, we headed out to the mall so they could run around in the play place for a bit and burn off their mania. Kurt met us there later and we headed up to the food court for dinner.

Uh-oh. Food courts aren't notorious for clean eating, so I felt a little trepidation at first. But I know my stuff now, y'all! I can make good decisions! I had a grilled chicken salad with vinaigrette, and saved my whole grain allotment for after we got home, with another yummy slice of Great Harvest bread. I love that stuff. I have no patience for making my own bread, but reaping someone else's rewards fills me with warm fuzzies.

So. Here I am, one day away from the challenge, marinating on what I've gotten out of it, what I want to take forward, what's not going to fit for me. And you know what? I think, surprisingly, a lot of it does fit. Except the egg whites, don't I keep coming back to that? Can't handle plain egg whites. I made scrambled eggs this morning and added in one whole egg, which made a big difference. I'm not sure why the yolk isn't considered "clean" except maybe for the saturated fat, but whatever. A yolk here and there does not make the world stop turning. I need my yolks, people. It's a sacrifice I just have to make.

That's pretty much it, not fascinating at all. There's only so much you can say about healthy food, right? The control freak in me adores the schedule posted on the fridge and my stubborn side is determined to see this through and be a better person for it, dammit. At this point, though, we're all bored of hearing me say, "Yum, feel healthy, things are good, wheeee!". "Lemme esplain... no, wait... lemme sum up." (Princess Bride, cliff top duel, I love Inigo Montoya!)

Tomorrow-- lasagne. Monday... still good things, I think. The best part is, I will not be torturing my devoted readers with every bite that passes my lips! Thanks for putting up with the challenge, which I am pretty sure was a challenge in and of itself.

Now, go forth and eat almonds!

Day 5:

Breakfast was my good ol' cereal combo with peanut butter toast and a banana. Polished off the hummus for a snack in the morning and fell back on my almonds and pear for the afternoon. The suggested lunch was a strawberry spinach salad with poppy seed dressing, which was good, but not at all filling, so I added in walnuts and a slice of Ezekiel toast on the side. Much better. Dinner, like I said, was a chick-fil-a grilled chicken salad. I didn't even steal any of Silvia's fries, go me! Then cranberry almond bread for dessert. Sprinkle the day with tea and rain on it with water and you've got the whole shebang!

October 09, 2009

Day 4 and dirty dishes

My dishwasher is still broken. Kaput. A glorified dish rack. Grrr... It won't be fixed until next Tuesday. For those of you keeping count that's eight days from when it broke. "Fast and reliable service", my ass. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

The lack of dishes (since I am procrastinating the washing up more and more with each passing hour) has certainly begun to play a role in my adherence to the exact CE menu. I've switched around breakfasts and snacks that are less cooking intensive, like cereal instead of scrambled eggs with veggies or oatmeal (it sticks like glue to the bowls). I know, lazy, but I just HATE washing dishes and the pile already looming is bad enough as it is.

The dinners, however, I love even with all the clean-up. Last night we had Adobo-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Pico de Gallo and it was soooo gooood. Even though I thought I knew better, I've been surprised at how tasty most of the recipes this week has been. I guess I had an underlying belief that "healthy" and "clean" meant blah. Instead I find it tastes better than even my perfected go-to dinners. The focus is on flavor, lots of fresh additions and spice combinations that bring out the best in the food. In CE magazine there are hundreds of recipes that I'm excited to dig into, now.

I'm reminded now of what I already knew but had forgotten. My body thrives on a healthy balance. I'm less tired, sleeping better, feeling more focused and patient (not the Dalai Lama by any stretch, but better than my usual temper). As this week goes on I realize now it's not as hard as it seemed on Monday, that there's a lot more flexibility than I saw before and that it's not even TOO much more expensive than the more ready-to-eat foods I usually rely on.

Except for the supplements, that is, which I have a hard time justifying. I take a discount adult gummy vitamin everyday and that's about the limits of my efforts. I balk at buying the pricey almond butter, much less bee pollen. My excuse for not diving into that aisle at the store is that, with all the fresh food I'm eating, I don't really need anything extra.

One other thing... I miss Starbucks. I do. I think I've mentioned it every day this week. I know all the sweet stuff is not good for you, but it's good for my SPIRIT, you know? Next week I plan to indulge. The difference I hope to hold on to is it's an indulgence, not a daily necessity (Kurt will like that, too, since he disapproves of Starbucks on a moral level).

Day 4 in review:

Started the day with whole grain cereal sprinkled with flaxseed, milk, fresh berries and a slice of toast and peanut butter. This is my favorite breakfast. Since morning is not my most cognizant time, having this in place is great. Fills me up, it's easy to prepare and tastes good. Plus, yay, no egg whites.

Lunch was a salmon salad with celery, green onion and bell peppers. I tossed in some spinach to give it a more salad-y feel and added a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I also had a side of cottage cheese, which I haven't decided if I still like or not. Skipped the crackers, just felt too full.

I only had one snack, a pear and almonds, which is also my favorite go-to snack. Add a cup of tea and it's perfect. Isn't it funny how everything seems SO filling and satisfying? I can't remember the last time I ate so much every day but didn't put on 15 pounds.

Dinner was the pork tenderloin, delicious and for once I didn't over cook it! I am notorious for hockey puck pork, Kurt just about had a heart attack from shock. I went off-menu for dessert and had a slice of cranberry almond bread from Great Harvest, but I only had one piece and it's an all-fresh ingredients bakery so it's fine.

Still struggling to drink enough water. Why is that so hard? If I had to eat cookies every two hours I'm sure I'd fit it in somehow, so why do I forget taking a drink? (OK, that's a bad comparison as water has no chocolate chips, but you see my point...)

I'm off to wash seven hundred and forty-two dishes. Good times!

October 08, 2009

Day 3: Go me!

I am really proud of myself, really. Here I am, starting off my fourth day of a strict fresh-healthy-balanced meal plan and 1) I feel pretty good, 2) I'm totally getting into the swing of things and 3) I made my very first risotto last night and it did not suck!

The trick I think (not to the risotto, the other things) is that I eat every 3-4 hours. And since all the meals are really filling it seems like I'm getting to snack time right as, or even before, I'm hungry again. Since my traditional style is coffee for breakfast, starving by 11, grazing on little bites of whatever I can find (like a bite of Anna's sandwich, goldfish, some toast, crackers, cookies, etc.) that by dinner time I'm full but unsatisfied and eat way more than I need.

This wasn't always true. Last year, with all the wacky and crazy going on, I got WAY addicted to my routines. I had lists of lists sub-divided into alternate lists. Totally a control thing in a world gone mad. Anyway, as part of the recovery education, Kurt and I both learned a lot about the nutritional side of mental health. These days it seems the go-to solution is medication and a lot of docs leave it there. But with my compulsive lists, research and goal-oriented behavior I found out there is a lot more to it than that. Don't get me wrong, I took my pills and still do. Some things a vegetable alone will not heal.

But there's so much evidence that a healthy lifestyle, even down to something so simple as water, can have a major impact on depression. At the hospital the nurses were constantly following us around with cups of water to help our bodies process the medications more effectively. Turns out there are some meds that won't even work if you don't take enough water with them.

From water I jumped to sugars and processed foods, learning more about how they effect your brain function as well as your bodily functions. I got into a very, very healthy eating and exercise plan last year that did a lot, A LOT, to carry me back to me.

But time goes on and things start to slip. I've been skipping workouts as more "important" things come up, eating on the fly with whatever's at hand, skipping breakfast, drinking too much caffeine, etc. Doing this week, even just three days so far, I feel better. As cheesy as it sounds, I feel clean. Having it all laid out for me, too, in a neat little grid that I can check off and review, appeals to my inner control-freak. I'm loving having a list, even when everything on it is not so appealing.

I don't love it all. No. I do not like plain egg whites except in smoothies, I just don't. And smoothies with nothing but milk and oatmeal, flax and half a banana? Very texture-ly disturbing. The thing is, though, that it's a lifestyle, not a diet plan. So yeah, I can replace, adjust, find the things I like. This week I'm trying everything at least once, just to see if I might like it. That's what I always tell Anna, right? Turns out oats added to a regular fruit smoothie are not bad and that sucker will expand and fill you up for DAYS. Live and learn.

So now I'm contemplating adding my current comfort with flexibility to my past (ok, and present) obsession with controlled routines. And I think I can do this. Not totally limited, not without good old-fashioned chocolate cake and a tasty sweet latte from time to time, but in a general way. It tastes (mostly) good and I feel good. How nice is that?

I want all and sundry to know though, next Sunday evening we're having dinner over at my father-in-law's place and he's making a traditional, cooked-the-sauce-all-day, lasagne for us. I cannot wait. The best part? Considering how well I'm eating this week, I have absolutely no guilt about the upcoming indulgence. I plan to enjoy every. single. bite. YUM.

Day 3 in review:

I'm sticking to the grains for breakfast since the egg-whites are just gross, especially first thing in the morning. A nice whole grain cereal topped with a sprinkle of ground flax (not bad like I imagined), some fruit and peanut butter toast. Big breakfasts seem counter-intuitive but are SO working great for me. And coffee. Oh my, yes.

Lunch was a grilled chicken salad with a whole wheat tortilla-- boring but fine. Snacks are my favorites right now because there's no prep at all. The best for me is a handful of almonds and an apple, with a cup of tea. Also did the Amazing Expanding Smoothie with Magic Rolled Oats.

For dinner I made the risotto with scallops and roasted asparagus and Kurt said it was "Awesome!!". Stirring risotto non-stop for half an hour is a pain-- in the wrist. It was a time-intensive dinner and I was grumpy by the end of it, just thinking about all those dishes I now have to wash, but it was good, I have to admit. Yay, me. I skipped the after-dinner snack, I was just too full.

PS. I know you are all THRILLED to be reading blow-by-blow accounts of what I eat each day. I hope that by Day 7 your joy will know no bounds (because it'll be over, right?).

October 07, 2009

Day 2: clean eating challenge

It's Wednesday morning at 7, the house is still asleep (or at least not crawling in my lap asking for hot chocolate) and I'm drinking a big tall glass of water. WATER. Not delicious hot coffee with a splash of milk, the warm mug a comfort in my hand, but plain old H2O.

There's a change for you. The water part, 2 liters a day which translates to 2 cups at most meals, has been the hardest part of this whole challenge so far. I simply do not drink enough water, period. Sitting down and grabbing a cup of the stuff every time I eat feels weird and I've been ending up slamming it down AFTER I eat just to get in my quota. Even then, I'm still not getting all the clear goodness prescribed.

Two days d'eau, though, and I feel different. My skin feels less crackly, which in Colorado is akin to saying I don't feel very hot on the 4th of July. I've lost my 2 P.M. nap slouch, where I pretend to be meditating while Anna has her Sesame Street break. She's very sweet and has yet to mention the drool when I fall sideways on her during Elmo's World. This week, though, I've been okay. Not exactly Peppy McPepper, but still functional. Whether that's the water or the OTHER liquid side effect I just don't know.

Speaking of which, I have to pee. RIGHT NOW. It's hard to crash out for a nap when I am dashing to the bathroom every 20 minutes or so. Keeps me on my toes, friends. Well, and on my booty but let's not go there, right?

Actually, let's. As you may know, I've evolved in my acceptance of the less glorious human realities in the course of my marriage and the requirements of motherhood. Even so, I'm not so proud of this particular reality. This diet contains a lot of protein, a lot of fiber and a lot of fruits and vegetables. It's a change from my usual less-strict and spur of the moment style and there are... consequences. So far, no was has blamed me out right but I know it's me. That old junior high saying is proving true in our home this week... she who smelt it, dealt it. (Sorry, Kurt)

On that pleasant note, Day 2 in review:

I didn't have the spinach for breakfast, mine keeps going bad, which brings up the question, how do you make fresh produce last longer? I switched out a breakfast from later in the week and decided to move around some of the snacks and other meals, too. As long as it's on there, I figure it doesn't matter which day I eat it, right? So I had muesli with low-fat milk, sprinkled with flax seed. I haven't gone on to buy all the other supplements, like bee pollen-- it's too expensive, but that's for another day. THEN, on top of that, I had Ezekiel bread with organic peanut butter (again, almond butter is pricey) and, of course the water. And coffee. Big breakfast, I was extra-full.

Snacks were hummus and raw veg, tasted just fine (toot, toot!!) and later, almonds and an apple. Lunch threw me for a loop, but it wasn't gross, just not my idea of yum-- cottage cheese mixed with chopped apples and grapes, with two crisp bread crackers. Weird, but not bad, exactly.

Dinner was Cajun Shrimp Stir-Fry. I served the Kashi Whole Grain Pilaf on the side, it's a favorite, and the whole thing was delish!

Then, my sneaky treat, off-menu for sure. As you know, I have the wonderous Keurig machine and my order came yesterday with a box of Dark Hot Chocolate. I could not resist, so instead of my after-dinner popcorn, I had a steaming cup of yum. I feel no guilt! On to Day 3.

October 05, 2009

cleaning to eat clean- what a monday

My dishwasher is kaput. The hose split right down the center and puked water ALL OVER the kitchen floor (the now-buckling and swollen hardwood floor). The repair guy will have to order a new hose which will take anywhere from a day to a week. Why is it that repair guys give you these HUGE windows of possibility, by the way? Why not just admit you have absolutely no idea when anything will happen and it's all up to the whims of fate? At least then I'd know he felt as lost in the current as I did!

Anyway. We had a big family dinner last night and used about all our dishes, which were in the wash, which lost continence all over the place... which means I just spent the last hour washing every dish we own, by hand. They are now drip-drying in the conveniently place dishwasher.

Why is it so convenient? Did I not mention that it's pulled out completely into the middle of the kitchen, blocking everything, so the floor underneath can air-dry? Did I leave that out?

I'm thinking sea bass and risotto are beyond me tonight. Looks like it's going to be hearty cereal with yogurt and berries. Doesn't sound that bad, actually. Hell, as long as I keep my back to the kitchen entirely, nothing seems that bad at all.

Day One in review:

Breakfast was a disaster (see earlier post), live and learn. First snack of almond butter and apple slices was yummy. Lunch was tuna salad and I substituted salmon since we had leftovers. The afternoon snack was a smoothie with a banana, oatmeal and flax and it was GROSS. Strangely, Anna loved it, I let her finish mine once the gag reflex calmed down. Dinner was supposed to be sea bass with mango salsa AND risotto with sea scallops AND roasted veggies. The two seafood dishes seem like main dishes, so I was in doubt about being able to eat it all. That's one thing I've noticed, too, there's way more food then I can really eat. I guess that's a good thing, right? Either because the menu is so plentiful or because I am not sitting around feeling starved. All the water probably fills me up, too, but I am a little tired of all MY potty breaks on top of all Silvia's potty breaks, too.

Ok, enough babbling. Off to watch the floors buckle. Thank goodness for our dry climate, maybe it'll all smooth out within the week.

It's a challenge

This morning I sat down for breakfast with the girls. They each had a (homemade and reheated) pancake with (low-sugar) strawberry jam, as evidenced by the totally happy pink mustaches gracing their faces.

My breakfast was a bit less joyful. The bowl in front of me contained a chunky, sickly blue mash dotted over with several dark spots of blueberries. Yum, right? I managed to gulp down about half of it by simply not looking at it while I ate. Then I gave up and tossed the whole mess.

Yuck. My spirits sank and I thought, yeesh, what have I gotten myself into?

This week, starting with my sumptuous breakfast, I am participating in a Clean Eating 7-Day Challenge. Of course, there's only one other friend in the mix with me but we're keeping strong together.

Clean eating (CE) is pretty much what it sounds like: eating clean, healthy and minimally processed foods in moderation. For instance, one of the tips is to look for foods with only one or two ingredients listed on the label to avoid processed, man-made additives. There's other details to the lifestyle, as well, like eating every 3-4 hours, drinking 2 liters of water a day and getting lean proteins in every meal, combined of course with veggies, whole grains and exercise. Mostly common sense stuff, but taken to a more serious level of commitment.

I eat fairly well, in general. I learned last year that one of the things that helped me feel healthy and stay balanced was cutting way back on sugars and processed foods. Generally I still stick to that. But hey, like all recovering emotional eaters, I go through big ol' junk binges, just for the fun and bellyache of it all. That was my first motivation for doing this week of cleanliness. The empty containers of Peppermint ice cream, Oreo's and chips bags littering our trash bins lately don't exactly fill me with pride, more like gas and belly rolls. To put it more concisely, my jeans have begun to bitch me out every morning when I try and button up. Time to bring on the health. Plus, hey, something to pass the time, right?

Seriously, though, I really want to know how people do this, eat this way, LIVE this way, all the time. There's a huge amount of planning involved, not to mention conviction. To stick to it 100%, one would have to eat out very rarely and selectively, prep food ahead of time every single day AND carry something with you wherever you go, shop at least twice a week to keep up with all the fresh produce, and generally learn to ignore and avoid all the delicious temptations lining the streets of our society. Pumpkin Spice Latte from the drive-thru? Nope. Probably you could make one cleanly at home with a little creativity, but it just wouldn't be the same. Coffee and tea for clean eaters only comes in black. (Here, I cheat, but a tsp. of sugar and splash of milk aren't going to screw-up the whole experiment.)

I'm not making this sound appetizing, am I. Okay, here it is. I think it's brilliant in theory-- healthy, nutritional and, with good planning and handy recipes, often very tasty. My curiosity comes from wondering how someone could live this way ALL THE TIME. Will I feel deprived this week, or does it all fall into place? How hard is it, really, to keep on top of the planning and groceries? For that matter, is it significantly more expensive than your Standard American Diet (SAD)? Will my kids see me munching on hummus and go, "YUM! Mama, bring on the chickpeas!"

Okay, so let's go back to the oatmeal gone oh-so-wrong this morning. I messed it up all on my own. The menu said, "Dry oatmeal with egg whites cooked in water and top with mixed berries" and that's what I did. I stirred my egg whites and water into the oatmeal and cooked it. Then I stirred in (after trying to mush up all the chunks of egg white) frozen blueberries, thus the blue.

When I called Jess (my CE cohort for the week) and asked if she'd been able to choke the mess down, she almost hung up on me from laughing so hard. So maybe it made more sense (and would have been way less gross) to cook the oatmeal, add the berries and then serve it with cooked egg whites ON THE SIDE.

It was early, I hadn't had my coffee. Anyone could have made the same mistake. Hopefully I'll be a little more rational in the rest of my experiments this week.

Tonight: Sea bass with mango salsa, risotto and asparagus. Sounds good to me! Cross your fingers for me that it doesn't turn out blue and lumpy.

PS. Big congratulations to Alison and Colin! Their baby girl, April Caroline, was born this morning and everyone is healthy and doing well.

October 02, 2009


So I've been deep in thought. Or at least, deep in procrastination. I've had some conundrums in my head, some what-if's and certainly more than some splurges of personally indulgent self-doubt.

Conundrums. How to re-define friendships as they shift with the times? It's tricky and sometimes fairly uncomfortable. Especially if, here's the sticky spot, the other person doesn't know the winds have changed? Hmm. It's a part of the mommy-land that doesn't show up on the map often. I started out a stay-at-home mom and found my footing around other stay-at-home mom's. Our babies played together, we drank coffee and cried and commiserated and laughed at the absurdity of it. Then... the kids get older. Interests and schedules change, priorities shift, school lurks on the horizon. The mommy part of it all drifts apart, leaving the realization that perhaps that connection WAS the friendship in the first place. The kids grow up and make new friends and then... I do, too?

What-if's. Changes in career, life, expectations-- without seeming to, it can all snowball into bigger questions than were originally asked. For instance, I've decided to take Anna out of 3-day a week preschool. She and Silvia will go 2 mornings a week from now on. This decision did NOT come easily. Partly, saving moolah is an issue. But that issue leads to the question, "Is saving that chunk of cash worth the change?". And then THAT question leads to, "Does that 4 hours of preschool benefit Anna any more than an extra 4 hours with me?". Which turns into, "What is it that I do in those hours that necessitates her absence? Silvia's with me on those days anyway, so it's not like I'm all wild in my freedom.".

On and on it goes. The key is to know where to stop it and that's where I am. For now, the girls will have two mornings a week of preschool and 3 mornings a week with me. If they drive me bonkers, I can always go to the gym. If I need a day off, I have family in the area who can spot me some childcare from time to time. Overall, I feel, while it doesn't save a whole lot of money, spending that money doesn't really save us anything either.

I'm re-thinking the atmosphere and flow of our lives, what's important, what needs to go, what we can add in. They say you should take down, dust and move around the ephemera in your house at least once a year to freshen things up and provide a new perspective.

My ephemera is dusted and ready to move. I just need to figure out exactly where to put it.