Thursday, October 01, 2015

I Love October

I'm so glad to live in a state like Michigan where we get the full autumn treatment. 

Five Things I Love About October:

1. This song. It just screams October.

2. Halloween!
Oh my, I love Halloween so much. I've got to #tbt to my two favorite costumes in the last few years:
I won $150 with this costume! 
This one just made me laugh so much and I didn't have to wear heels or makeup. 
3.  Honeycrisp Apples
I ate one for lunch today and it was perfectly juicy. Unfortunately, due to the price of the honeycrisp, one is all I will be eating this week.

4. Stews and Soups
It is time to bust out all of the soup recipes from Simply in Season!
Do you have this cookbook yet? 

5. Pumpkin Spice Lattes -__-

Make Your Own Pumpkin Spice Latte!
Happy #FirstDayOfFall! Here's a recipe for the ULTIMATE pumpkin spice latte.
Posted by Above Average on Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Whole30: Week Three Round-Up

When my friends ask me what's been happening in my life, all I can ever start with is, "I've been really busy." One of my best friends even posted this on my Facebook wall the other day:
She gets me.
My busy-ness was my excuse for not cooking much over the last three years of crazy career transitions. This Whole30 has forced me to see that you can't use being busy as an excuse for going out to eat 4-5 times per week. That's how I've ended up with an extra fifteen pounds on my bod. 
The trick to staying on top of Whole30 and being busy is putting in the time to prepare my food every week. I'll just cook like a fiend for 2-4 hours, depending on how fancy I want to be. I like doing this on Sundays, but if I'm busy on Sunday, I'll do it on Saturday. If the weekend was spent traveling, I'll spread it out-- I'll roast my chicken on Monday morning and make some kind of stew(s) on Monday night. It is worth the time, gives me lots of choices, and saves my gut from the chicken tenders dipped in ranch that I would order if we were going out to eat. 
Right? No?
Week three was weird because of my sickness, so I spread my cooking over two days. In total, I spent about two hours in the kitchen (not counting making my breakfast every day). 
On Monday, I made coconut shrimp souproasted garlic mashed potatoes, and roasted sweet potatoes. On Tuesday, I made roast chicken thighs and homemade mayo. On Wednesday, I mixed things up by making this quick creamy dill salmon and eggplant fries for dinner.

Below is what I ate for the week, just to give you an idea of how I split the food from my weekly cook-up and faced PMS while on Whole30.

Tuesday-Saturday: I ate a variation of the same thing every day.
I don't mind eating similar meals almost every day for a week. I will eat leftovers every day as long as I don't have to cook during the week. And it's not like I have to choke these meals down, like when my mom got too many corndogs at Sam's Club back in the day and we had to eat corndogs every day for dinner for weeks after while holding our noses because we couldn't take it. The food I'm making is delicious, so I look forward to eating it and I'm a little sad when it's gone.

  • I've always been a morning person and I find comfort in making my breakfast every day-- this wasn't something new that came with Whole30 (THANK GOODNESS). Breakfast is always some kind of green (right now I'm really into collard greens) sautéed in coconut oil, two-three eggs scrambled in OR over medium on top of the greens depending on my mood, and an avocado. If I've done a morning workout, I will throw the greens and eggs on top of some roasted sweet potatoes. I've always loved this combination and eat it every day until it gets cold outside. Then, I switch to crockpot oatmeal until my bones thaw in the spring (in my non-Whole30 life). Oatmeal is one of the first things I'm reintroducing when this is over! Please GOD, I hope it doesn't upset my gut! 
    Valentina hot sauce, ohhhhhh yeahhhhh. My apologies that I didn't make it look like art-- I just poured it on there.
  • Lunch is cut up chicken thighs, half an apple, and sugar snap peas with a heaping tablespoon of homemade mayo. I put this chicken salad on top of spring greens and top with chopped almonds. This salad makes me so happy! I haven't gotten sick of it yet. This week I'm going to try chicken, celery, carrots, and half and apple. I don't think it matters as long as I have my mayo. 
    Homemade mayo is the sunshine of my life.
  • Dinner this week was coconut shrimp soup over mashed potatoes, salmon and mashed potatoes with eggplant fries, or coconut shrimp soup and leftover salmon on the mashed potatoes. I didn't get sick of this soup all week either. The heat from the jalapenos felt awesome on my healing sore throat. I have no pictures of the soup because I kept eating it before I could take one. 
    I usually hate eggplant, but I LOVED these fries. 
  • I haven't been snacking throughout my Whole30 because I'm trying to be really mindful about my eating, but between PMS cravings and a day or two where the time between lunch and dinner was insane because of meetings, I had some cashews and a few slices of dried pear. When things got really bad with the PMS, I ate a handful of frozen cherries and a Cashew Cookie Larabar. This is a huge improvement from my usual PMS Reeses and Oreo flurry.

Alrighty, now for the Whole30 predictions for my feelings this week.

Days 16-27: Tiger Blood!
Follow up to last week's question: What does Tiger blood in Jen World look like? Here are your answers, as well as other Whole30 victories:

Tiger Blood
-I woke up after two days of being sick and felt like:
-I sleep through the night, every night. 
-I feel really happy. Maybe it's the Tiger Blood, maybe not. I just feel really, really happy.
-I'm even more perky than usual in the morning.
-I look better in my clothes.

Other Victories
-I didn't give up when I was sick.
-I made it through another TWO lunch meetings at my favorite sandwich place and favorite local eatery.
-We had a celebration for a group I've been in for the past year that included food (bread, cheese, AKA my favs) and beer (Arcadia Jawjacker and New Holland Poet, WHYYYY), I didn't deter, and it wasn't too bad.
-I was on a college tour with students and we got to eat lunch in the all-you-can-eat cafeteria and the food looked delicious. I ate a lunch I brought from home.

(Interlude) Day 21: I'm so over this.
Whole30 says that during this interlude, you get so sick of Whole30 food that some people can't even eat. This isn't the case for me because I'm still having so much fun cooking. I am, however, SO OVER not being able to eat Greek yogurt, oatmeal, legumes, honey, and bread. I'm over not being able to be social because I can't really eat or drink anything offered to me.
 I'm not going to go hog wild when this is over, but everything in moderation, ya dig? I could quit now, just because I feel really good and I want to see how my body reacts to Greek yogurt, oatmeal, legumes, honey, and bread, but I've gone so far that I might as well finish it out!

Only one more week before I start reintroducing foods and I'm looking forward to it. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Old Lady, The Puppy Head, and The New Guy

I realized when I was reviewing my About Me page the other day that I haven't written about losing our sweet Hannah very suddenly and quickly in April. It still hurts. Before this, I was lucky to say I'd never lost a pet. My parents always gave away our pets before they got old. So weird, right? 
My last picture of Hannah.
She was my first adult-life dog. I spent time with our Hannah girl as much as possible in the months before we lost her. Every time I thought to myself, Man, I don't want to take a walk with these dogs, I'd look at her and think too, But what if this is your opportunity for your last walk with Hannah Banana and you didn't do it? I'd grab their leashes and walk 'em both. Morbid? Maybe, but when you've been through big losses in life, I think your brain just naturally goes that way-- the DEATH way-- and that is mostly okay. In that way, I have no regrets that she didn't get enough love from us. 
Our last picture together.
I started talking about her very advanced age six months before we lost her because I wanted to be prepared. She was fifteen and damn, that's an old, full life for a dog. That's how I spoke about it too. "Damn, this dog is old, but look at her! She's still bouncing around and cuddling and being a sweetie! She's had an awesome life." And she did. 

Life post-Hanners was very quiet. Nipsy had never been alone in her whole life with us. She did not know what to do with all of the attention we were trying to slather all over her. She's not a cuddly dog. She's lovable and she'll love on you, but in her own way. This means by licking you or staring at you anxiously until you stop looking at her. It's not her personality to want to be all up in your grill. I tried, but she just looked scared.
I wanted to cry every time I looked at her little, white puppy face. She seemed so lost that I wanted to get her a buddy right away, but it felt too soon. Then we started dabbling with Petfinder-- you know what happens once you start looking at dogs on Petfinder. We went through the application process with a rescue dog organization in town so we could meet a few dogs and when the woman called me to interview me, I started ugly-crying when I talked about how much we loved on our dogs and how we lost Hannah and she was our first dog together. Then she started crying about her first dog that she lost years and years ago. We were both sobbing and through her tears, she said, "Honey, you guys obviously care about your animals. You can see any of our dogs and any time and I hope you adopt one." Aw. The kindness of strangers, let me tell you. I love dog people. 
So. Freakin'. Cute.
We met dogs and they weren't a good fit. Some of the dogs we met were so needy and nervous--my heart went out to them, but I didn't want to pair our sweet anxious dog with a new anxious dog. It took Nipsy years to not shirk away whenever she walked by a car or a boot. Then we met this guy:
Louis, formerly known as "Oscar," formerly known as "Zeus."
We'd been searching for a thirty pound dog around 3 or 4 years old with a gentle demeanor. I got the feeling when, on a whim, we went to meet a 70 pound dog around 1.5 years old on Mother's Day and he put his paw in my lap and pranced around with Nipsy. I was sold. 
Louis' first boat ride. Pure joy. 
It was VERY different getting this little bear housebroken and crate trained compared to housebreaking and crate training the Nipsers. 
I wanna be on you. Never leave me!
He's a gentle giant, but he IS a giant and I had no idea how to train the guy. After our first few weeks, my palms were covered in blisters from hanging onto his leash and getting pulled all over the neighborhood. When I tried to take him into the woods for what I thought would be a walk to burn off some of his puppy energy, this happened:
This story got lots of likes on Facebook. Muah. 
We went to my first ever dog obedience classes, where I learned how NOT to phrase everything to him like a question. I called the teacher my first week in tears because he wasn't listening and she told me to chill out and be patient. After eight weeks, we got it. If we don't practice, I get pulled around the neighborhood, but he's a smart and sweet boy who is eager to please. 
When I say "SIT." instead of "sit?" I get results. 
The best part about Louis is that he and Nipsy behave like a pack. The love is there and even with the crazy age difference of Louis at 2ish and Nipsy at 12ish, they get along like two peas in a pod AND Nipsy is the alpha now. He submits to her and lets her nip at his ears. He keeps Nipsy on her little white paws and I'm glad they've got each other.
He didn't sleep on a bed for his first few weeks, just next to her.
Teaching him about riding on the boat. 
Leaning on Nipsy.
So glad we got this big guy. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Teacher Sick Days vs. Regular Sick Days

I took a sick day yesterday due to some kind of virus that rocked my body:
Damn you, college students, for coming back on campus with your unwashed hands and buffets of germs. Yeah, I see some of you in the bathroom, just running your hands real quick-like under the water and not singing happy birthday in your head. I see all of you. 

I digress. 

When I was a teacher, there were two ways I handled a sick day. 
Way #1: I'd be sick, really sick, and think really hard about how sick I was for about an hour. Like, how SICK was I really? I'd take my temperature and see if I had a fever. If I didn't, I'd move to the next step-- I'd survey the nausea. Was I puking? No? I'd go to school. Was I running back and forth to the bathroom to empty my bowels? No? I'd go to school. Kind of? I'd go to school and risk the pain. If my throat hurt, I'd take a flashlight and survey my throat tissue or make the Hubs do it. Was it red with no sores? I'd go to school. 

At school, I'd carry my coffee mug full of Throat Coat or peppermint tea and pathetically lean against the wall looking so sorry that my students were nice to me for the whole hour. If my voice was all messed up from my sore throat, they were even nicer. When people at school told me to go home, I'd respond with, "Guys, I'm not sick. It's fine."
Then, I'd go home as soon as the bell rang and fall into my bed where I'd sleep until the next morning. I was so not fine. I was sick and I brought my germs to everyone in the building. 
I'm so sorry, co-workers I had for eight years of teaching, for always coming to school when I was sick. That was so rude. 

Way #2: My last resort if things were so bad I couldn't even move... get a sub at the last minute.
When I knew I was going out of town and could schedule my sub ahead of time, I'd get a sub who already knew everyone and who was really good with my students. I prided myself on my awesome sub plans and having a sub who stuck to them. It's all very smooth and easy-- when you can hand pick your sub. But when you can't because you have to call in sick?
On Pinterest there's all these very detailed emergency sub plan packets. They're all very cute. But it doesn't matter. There can be packets of emergency work full of pretty clip art and clever anecdotes, but if you have a sub who doesn't know the students/is scared of the students and busy work that has nothing to do with your curriculum, you just lost a day and you should have just gone into work sick. 

To be real, when I hit year five of teaching, I thought a lot about self-care and what that really means when you're sick. The days I had to call in because I was sick weren't so tortuous because I didn't obsess over how my emergency sub plans were my students wasting time copying definitions onto a worksheet. I still hated it though. I imagine it would have gotten even easier to get a sub over time or if I had kids while I was teaching... guess I won't know unless I go back to the classroom, amiright? It'll be awhile.

Now that I'm not a teacher, this is how I handle a sick day during a regular workday:
1. Picks up phone or opens laptop.
2. Emails, Hey I'm really sick with ____________. I won't be in today.
3. Emails any meetings to cancel reschedule. 
4. Goes to bed for the whole day.

Give a teacher a hug tomorrow, would ya?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Whole 30: Week Two Round-Up

Tomorrow marks the end of week two of Whole30. It started out great, like really great. I cooked for about three hours at the start of the week and BAM! I had nothing to do throughout the week but mix and match all of my food. It was awesome, worth the time, and made Whole30 feel a lot more manageable this week. I roasted chicken thighs, made a carton of hardboiled eggs, a huge batch of golden cauliflower soup, two spaghetti squash, sunshine sauce for paleo pad thai, thawed out some wild salmon for easy dinners all week, and baked sweet potatoes.

It was all delicious and much easier than the first week, but I can't get over how NOT into spaghetti squash I am. So many people tout its versatility, how it's THE BEST stand in for pasta... etc. I don't know if I wasn't making it correctly or what, but I've got to throw a big no on those claims.
I'm going to try it again next week, but only as spaghetti squash, not under tomato sauce like it's actual spaghetti or something-- let's not kid ourselves. I have a feeling gluten sensitivity isn't in the cards for me, so I'm looking forward to reintroducing whole grain pasta when this Whole30 is up. Until then... zoodles?

Onto the Whole30 timeline predictions for my feelings this week. 

They say... Days 8-9=Tighter Pants
This didn't happen to me this week. What did happen is I tried to eat less red meat, more chicken and fish. I just can't stomach too much red meat, even if it's grass-fed and organic. I also made a few salads, including this beauty with sweet potatoes, golden tomato, spring greens, and Tessemae's lemon garlic dressing as a side to my herb-crusted salmon
Like I said... a great start to the week!

They say... Days 10-11=The Hardest Days
We went out of town for the weekend, which made days 10 and 11 even harder than already predicted. When we got to the hub's parent's house, they had pretzel rolls and sourdough bread, not to mention wine. Torture!
I had to tell myself what Whole30 told me... it's only 30 days. It wasn't a holiday or a special occasion. It was just a weekend away, those happen all the time, and it's okay to not eat the pretzel roll or sip on the wine this time. 

I think the end of my "YOU CAN DO THIS!" self-talk rope came when we hung out with our niece and nephew and went for ice cream. At the candy shop. 
Sugar addict's nightmare. So many gummies.
The weekend was rough on my willpower and ability to maintain positive self-talk, that's for sure. I even thought about weighing myself because I feel lighter and it would have made me feel better even though it's a no-no and would defeat the purpose of why I'm doing this. I even got snippy with the Hubs when he ate a bag full of bagels (he literally ate a bag full of bagels, it was small, but still). I was like, "DUDE."
-- I said other stuff too, but that sums it up. It was just a cherry on top of a weekend of trying to be cool with sticking with this for thirty days.

They say... Days 12-15=Boundless Energy and Dreaming About Junk
Yeah, this isn't happening because I'm sick. I have no appetite and no boundless energy. I've got a sore throat and body aches-- this is a real killer. In fact, yesterday I slept thirteen hours. 
 The only things I want to eat and drink are saltines, Mrs. Grass, dry toast, mineral water, and warm whiskey with lemon juice. Soooooo... none of those are Whole30 compliant except for mineral water and lemon juice. 

I had a moment yesterday where I got irrationally angry at all of this. I've been working my ass off on sticking to Whole30 and this is what I get? I get sick? Really? Isn't my immune system supposed to be bouncing viruses off of it like rubber? I mean, WTF, Whole30?!?
I'm over the rage today--I was being irrational. I realize now that anyone can get viruses, even when they are super healthy. I'm grateful that I have no snot running out of my nose because I'm not eating any dairy. I'm also grateful that I'm not eating a bowl full of gummy bears to comfort myself right now because sugar can make it harder for you to get better when you're sick.

 This is what I am eating or drinking when I have an appetite:
-Plain baked chicken
-Scrambled eggs
-Throat coat tea
-Water/mineral water
-Roasted and salted almonds (kind of close to saltines?)
-Mashed potatoes with ghee
-Frozen cherries (feel so good on my throat)
-Unsweetened applesauce
Throat coat. A lifesaver. 
It's working out so far. Here's hoping to better days going into week three, the supposed week of Tiger Blood
We'll see what living with Tiger Blood in Jen World looks like next week.

Friday, September 18, 2015

New Song for My (and Your) Ears!

Lord Huron was amazing last night! I'd won tickets to Wilco at the State Theater, but I've already seen them play an amazing show-- one I will remember for my whole life.

Lord Huron has been in my weekly rotation since I first heard them two years ago and I had to see them again. My first time was at the Pyramid Scheme in GR and the sound was so bad that I wanted to scream!!! So much feedback. Not good for such a good band. Last night more than made up for it. It was a great non-food way to enjoy week two of Whole30 too.
Loved it all!
Plus, they played a new song, which was just lovely (as all their songs are):

The drummer, Mark Berry's, parents were in the audience and we spoke to them after the show. They were so cute, talking about how they've bands he's in playing in their basement since he was in fourth grade. As a fellow Bands in the Basement Person, this made me like them automatically. 

I really enjoyed the opening band at this show too-- Son Little. Of course, his performance had that awkward "opening band so no one knows their songs vibe" and the audience was really quiet, but I was moving my head around and groovin'. I looked Son Little up on Spotify and did some listening yesterday-- that's some good blusey, soulful stuff! Check them out:

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Yo Dad, I Miss You

My dad died on this day fourteen years ago. It really and truly sucked. 

I feel differently with each anniversary. Last year hit me really hard for no particular reason, just because. It doesn't matter if the year is even or odd or in five-year increments-- some years I cry like a baby over every little thing that happens this day, some years I feel more calm, some years I eat my feelings... it all depends. 

This year to reflect on this day, I'm going to use a poetry form I used to use when I was a teacher with all ages because it works all the time, even when you're adult. :)
Yo Dad, I miss you.
I wonder if you'd like Donald Trump's presidential bid and how our discussions over his idiocy would sound.
I hear vaudeville or Gershwin or even the people singing on Prairie Home Companion and my chest aches.
I see new movies that blow my mind and wish I could watch them with you.
I want to give you one more hug. 
Yo Dad, I miss you.

I pretend I know more about you than I do.
I feel like you forgive me for my selfish teenage ways. 
I touch old pictures on this day and wonder what we'd look like together now.
I worry I'll forget more about you as each anniversary passes.
I cry when I see old round men with white hair and gentle facial expressions wearing suspenders.
Yo Dad, I miss you.

I understand now why you stressed the importance of family.
I say I'm fair to middling sometimes when people ask how I'm doing, just like you did.
I dream you've met Nathan and you love him too. 
I try to whistle as well as you. 
I hope you'd be proud of me if you were here. 
Yo Dad, I miss you.

Peace and love to you,

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