Sunday, 30 March 2014

New Years Resolution Update

We are finishing up month three of 2014. That's 12 and a half weeks into my resolution. If you recall my resolution was to get myself out of a huge rut that involved a lot of tv and not much else:
  1. Not watch TV until 9 pm, and use the time after supper to do something. Anything: start a new hobby, read a book, play a board game, organize something, work out, etc. Watching Netflix does not count as a hobby. 
Right off the bat I'll admit the waiting until 9pm thing stopped happening early on. On nights that I didn't have plans, or a project, the tv was turned on by 8pm. I feel like I needed it though. The hustle and bustle of the day just demanded an end and the couch or bed called my name. I still managed to make my days something more than work, cook, clean, watch tv, repeat. 

I did still watch tv, and got caught up in Downton Abbey (not Downtown Abbey as I had originally thought) and like any good soap, it sucked me in for four seasons with the drama and the dresses. And Michelle Dockery's impressive eyebrow span. Oh, and everything that is Maggie Smith.
Check out those eyebrows. 
Oh wait, I'm talking about TV again. Let's get back on track here. 

I did manage to become slightly more productive again after the Autumn of Nothingness. My closets are organized. My basement was cleaned not once, but twice in the past three months. I recently switched around the furniture in my living room (it sounds minor, but little things like that give me a boost.)

I joined a Bootcamp group. We meet every Monday for eight weeks, and spend the first hour doing some sort of workout, like Tabata or the Accumulator. Then we spend the next hour talking about healthy eating habits, mostly about following Canada's Food Guide and the importance of preparing your own food. I had no idea how little vegetables I was eating. I thought I ate healthy (up until the Autumn of Nothingness of course, when I would skip lunch in favor of Peanut Butter M&M's) but now my veggie servings are up around 10-12 servings a day. 

I meet a friend for tutorial sessions on Photoshop and Illustrator once a week (we picked Wednesday's but there was some sort of glitch in the matrix and it stormed pretty consistently on Wednesdays this winter.) We usually worked on something for my job. It was nice sitting in a quiet coffee shop far removed from Mommyland. 

I  finished The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak. It took me a bit, since I put it down for a while, but it was a good read- the last twenty pages or so had me sobbing. My husband walked into the room during these last few pages and when he saw what a mess I was he went instantly from "Honey, have you seen my hat?" mode to "Danger: approach wife with extreme caution" mode. He almost backed up. Poor guy. I almost laughed. Almost. I was too busy crying.

So after three months, things are going back to normal. The mom-shaped blob isn't a permanent fixture on my couch anymore. Not major victories or huge changes here; all minor. All normal things that normal people accomplish...but at least it's something. Something is better than nothing.

(Note: I've been messing around with the design of the blog, but I'm still not happy with it. Most of the time when a page loads, the web font doesn't render, and Comic Sans appears in it's place. Not cool, Blogger, not cool. )

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The Search for a New Hobby

Hey all. I changed the look of the blog this week. The other design wasn't working and all the text was displaying as Times New Roman. Thanks, but no thanks.

I recently changed my relationship with a certain item in my house, due to a mom-shaped blob being a permanent fixture on my living room couch. The change happened around Christmas, so I made a resolution to make it a little more formal. Here is my New Years Resolution for 2014:

  1. Not watch TV until 9 pm, and use the time after supper to do something. Anything: start a new hobby, read a book, play a board game, organize something, work out, etc. Watching Netflix does not count as a hobby. 

I felt like this fall just sucked the life right out of me. No motivation, no challenges, just an unhealthy addiction to TV shows and curling up in front of the fire. It was just nothing. I was busy at work, and it seemed like when I got home, I needed to put my brain on hold and just not do anything. It was starting to become noticeable around Christmas that I was becoming a blob on the couch, so I decided I needed to change something.

So my New Years Resolution that I started a week before New Years began. I am trying to not veg out in front of the tv until 9 pm at night. Until that time arrives, I have to do something. Don't get me wrong, I used to be able to do things. I had projects, I took on personal challenges, I read books. Just not lately. I think I got lazy. Or the internet made me do it. One or the other. But it's definitely either my fault or the Internets.

 I read this post shortly after I started and it speaks exactly to where I am: Self-Improvement: Why I Am Powering-Off My Electronics & Accomplishing MORE. I don't see a ukulele or painting self-portraits in my near future (though it would be awesome) but I completely feel the line "I don't have any other interests besides Tumblr or Facebook".  Time to change that.

So I have a few goals in mind for the next six months: become proficient in Photoshop, train for my third Tough Mudder in July, get through a few more (lets say four, shall we?) of my "To-Read" list on Goodreads, and keep up with the blog with my progress and little projects I'm up to. Along the way, I'll keep my eye out for a new hobby. Not to sound lackluster or lukewarm about this whole hobby thing. Just that it might be too much too soon. Let's get my sorry ass off the couch first.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Week Four: My Pizzas

Pizza on Fridays is the food highlight of my week.

You can imagine my disappointment when I didn't have time to have a pizza this past Friday.

Looking back though, I had some Thai on Tuesday with some friends, and it was so delicious, it totally made up for it. The Pad Thai was made with rice noodles, and the Chicken Curry was served on rice, so no wheat pasta. And it was SO GOOD. And there were leftovers. I could have eaten it ALL.

Between eating out of the house with friends and family a few times this week, not eating at home has left me with a lot of extra veggies in my fridge. I get my veggie box every Friday, so I took some extra veggies to my sister in laws...there was no way I could get through all those veggies before they went bad.

A Typical Wheat Free Day

I know it sounds like I am going on about Thai food and pizza...but I'm really not starving myself. This is what a typical day looks like for me on wheat free:

Egg (Fried or hardboiled)
A piece of fruit OR a fruit smoothie (frozen fruit, plain greek yogurt, almond milk, ground flax seed and a small bit of protein powder)

Some almonds or mixed nuts

Leftovers from supper the night before (BBQ meat of some sort and veggies)
Salad (sometimes topped with leftover BBQ meat, or tuna salad (tuna, mayo, fresh dill)

Almonds or mixed nuts

BBQ meat and a salad OR cooked veggies such as carrots, potatoes, beets, kale chips OR raw veggies such as carrots or cucumber

Pistachios, cheese, carrot stick dipped in guac, greek yogurt frozen with some peanut butter swirled in, or fruit smoothie if I was feeling hungry and didn't already have one for breakfast

So fairly well rounded, I think. I have to get through a pile of veggies in the run of a week, so my meals HAVE to include them, whether on Wheat Belly or not.

My favorite meal was always the pizza though. It was just so warm and greasy and flavorful.

My Pizzas

The first Friday was the cauliflower crust pizza. This Cauliflower Pizza Crust recipe is similar to the one I used. It took a little bit of extra time, and grating cauliflower was messy - pretty sure I pulled some out of my hair when I was done. But it was really good...the consistency wasn't too bad and it didn't taste like a cauliflower. Pretty decadent actually. I'd make this one again. Four stars.

The second Friday was a Potato Crust Pizza similar to the one linked, but with my own pizza toppings. It tasted didn't stay together as one pizza though. All the slices separated, so it was like a little mini pizza on each slice of potato. Like a cross between nachos and stuffed potato skins. It was ok. Three stars.

The third Friday was a Cream Cheese Crust Pizza which was fantastic and delicious and decadent and wonderful. And not something I could eat every week. It was that good. It was similar in consistency to a regular thin crust pizza, but rich and cheesy. The recipe even says not to top the pizza with too much cheese, as the crust is entirely cheese. I would definitely make this one again. Five stars.
My iPhotography does not do Cream Cheese Crust Pizza justice.

My 30 Day experiment ends on Tuesday, and I have to make a decision: do I go back on wheat? Or stay off it? Or slowly wean back on? Or just limit it? I'm thinking I might stay away from it ... I definitely notice less tummy bloat, which I really like. And what is the point of trying it for 30 days and just going back on wheat? Kind of makes the past month pointless. I've already proven to myself I can do it.

Or I might stay on it so I have an excuse to eat Cream Cheese Crust Pizza again. I don't know.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Week Two: There is no such thing as comfort food.

I'm going to start this off with a confession. I cheated. 

It was Friday, and I was picking the kids up from my sister in law's, and we started chatting, and she offered me a beer, which I accepted without even thinking. All I was thinking was "it's hot and it's been a long week and a beer would be great". I was about three quarters of the way through when clued in to what I was doing. I finished the beer and confessed to my partner-in-diet and my husband.

I forgot about it shortly after.

It took two days for my gut to forgive me for it. Whoops.

No Such Thing as Comfort Food

Besides the one slip up with the beer, I spent a lot of this second week examining my relationship with food. It made me realize that junk food has always been a source of comfort for me. Had a bad day? You need some chocolate. Something spicy for supper? You need something sweet. Movie night on the couch? You need chips.  Heading back to work in the rain? You should get a hot chocolate. Kids driving you nuts? You better shovel food into that mouth.  Bored? Eat. Tired? Eat. Stressed? Eat.

The absence of comfort food has made me realize how much I depended on it. Every time I turned around this week, when I would normally turn to something yummy to snack on, my choice was a piece of fruit and some nuts, or a yogurt. It was like expecting a hug and being faced with a brick wall. An apple does not make me happy the way chocolate does. Yogurt is not nearly the late night treat that chips are. I was never hungry in these situations, just needed that dose of food, that comfort, those happy feelings.

So this week I'm learning how not to use food as comfort. Don't get me wrong, I love food. I love a great meal. I love caramelized onions on my pizza... peanut butter smeared on a banana... espresso balsamic vinaigrette drizzled over feta in my salad. Love love love food. Just gotta not be so darned emotionally dependent on it.

Had a bad day? Yes. Hungry? Yes. Hungry enough for another apple? No. Get out of the kitchen then.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Wheat Belly Diet: Week One

Ahh, nice to be back after four months of silence. It's been busy, I guess. Started a new job, trained for another round of Tough Mudder, did some reading, tried to garden and enjoy the bounty (win: rhubarb jam, fail: strawberry jam) and just generally kept up after two whirlwind children. One started a fire in my microwave this week. Just your normal household chaos.

The Battle with Sugar

I had completely meant to do a blog post about sugar in the previous months, but got discouraged when another blog I read did a great post on it, so I didn't think I could do it justice anymore. Here is the article if you are interested: Why Sugar is Worse Than Darth Vader

It was around the time this article come out I think that I stopped drinking sugar in my coffee, and went from a double double to a double cream. Man the first few sips were gross. I made several faces. But a month later, I'm still going. Coffee has become less of a sugary treat, and more of a means to an end, but that's ok.

Ready for the Next Step

We were on the drive home from Tough Mudder Montreal when my brother started talking about the book Wheat Belly, and the claims it made. Like if you cut out wheat, it can cure diabetes, heart disease, schizophrenia, joint pain, etc, and when you reintroduce wheat, your symptoms and pain that you had previously instantly come back.

He explained that the author said that wheat is not bad, just that the wheat we are being fed today is bad. Today's wheat no longer resembles the wheat from our forefathers, or even from our grandparents. There has been so many "advances" in how to change the wheat's genetic code without doing any long term testing to see if these genetic modifications are even good for us. The book says: it's not. And, in addition to all the genetic modification going on, that we, as a society, have become too dependent on wheat...that grocery store aisles are full of processed foods that are filled with wheat or sugar or corn that is just waiting to wreak havoc on our blood sugar. Junk food and comfort food make us feel good, and so we eat more of it, and it keeps on making us sicker.

So even though I'm not overweight, or struggling with an illness, I do want to be healthy, I just finished my latest goal, and hey, I'm a sucker for punishment, so why not? The author, Dr. William Davis, also claims the Wheat Belly Diet will give you more energy, higher mental clarity, better sleep and better skin. Sold!

Sign Me Up!

I didn't think I would have much trouble with it. I rarely eat pasta, I can switch out beer for wine, and I'll just make sandwiches with spinach instead of bread. I should note here that Dr. Davis says that if you cut out wheat, then you are likely to start eating other food in its place, and you should make sure that other food is the healthy stuff, not snack food, or processed food, or anything that's going to make your blood sugar spike. He goes a little crazy with this list, including things like: ketchup, canned meat and curry powder. Incidentally, a few things I'm not willing to give up: ketchup, canned tuna, and adding a bit of curry to whatever healthy dish I'm cooking that needs some kick.

Therefore, I'm more doing an interpretation of the wheat belly diet...eliminating wheat completely, but only limiting the other foods. I feel like since I'm not struggling with any serious health issues, and I eat pretty healthy most of the time anyway, that I'm ok with having ketchup on my hamburger wrapped in spinach. I'm still avoiding things that will spike blood sugar, like oatmeal, rice and ice cream. Close enough.

Wheat Belly: Week One

Much harder than I thought it would be. My starting day coincided with another brutal day of the month (you hear me, girls?), which is usually a carb free-for-all time for me, so it was extra challenging. I had a friend decide to try it with me for 30 days as well, so it was nice to have someone to compare meals with. My husband also agreed to try the challenge, but lasted approximately 1.6 days.

Day One and Two were fine. Day Three was long and I just wanted to nap. Day Four was HARD. This was the day of the microwave fire. I didn't sleep the night before for whatever reason, so between that and the hormones, it was just a perfect storm for a bad mood and an itchy, nerved-up craving for something sweet and carby. Managed to survive Day Four unscathed and woke up to Day Five with a better mood, less carb-hunger and a flatter stomach. I ate like crap the week before and the week after Tough Mudder, and was seeing the effects of this, so even though I'm not doing Wheat Belly to lose weight, I was still very HELL YEAH when I woke up on Day Five.

I'm on Day Six now, and feeling much better. I made cauliflower crust pizza for supper for myself last night and it was positively decadent compared to the rest of the week. This morning I had ground flax seed and almond milk as a hot cereal, sprinkled with cinnamon, raspberries and sunflower seeds, and I actually enjoyed it.

The friend who jumped on board with me sent me this, and it is so fitting to my Day Four mood.

So that was my week one of the Wheat Belly Diet, or my interpretation of it, anyway. I have a whole weekend to get through now, including a few beach trips, hopefully. New day, new challenge. Wish me luck!

Monday, 25 March 2013

Five Things That Shock Me.

For the past year or so, I've been painfully aware of the amount of processing that food goes through, and been making attempts to eat unprocessed and local food. I've come across tons of stories and statistics and watched documentaries and read some books...and there are a few things that I've read or watched that really stuck with me. There are a few more, but I stuck to the top five.

This is the stuff that shocks me.

5. Coke's effect on the body is similar to heroin.
I don't drink pop regularly, but when I read this one I was glad I don't.
Have you ever wondered why Coke comes with a smile? Because it gets you high. They removed the cocaine almost 100 years ago. Why? It was redundant.
In the first 10 minutes: 10 teaspoons of sugar hit your system. (100% of your recommended daily intake.) You don’t immediately vomit from the overwhelming sweetness because phosphoric acid cuts the flavor, allowing you to keep it down.
20 minutes: Your blood sugar spikes, causing an insulin burst. Your liver responds to this by turning any sugar it can get its hands on into fat. (And there’s plenty of that at this particular moment.)
40 minutes: Caffeine absorption is complete. Your pupils dilate; your blood pressure rises; as a response, your liver dumps more sugar into your bloodstream. The adenosine receptors in your brain are now blocked, preventing drowsiness.
45 minutes: Your body ups your dopamine production, stimulating the pleasure centers of your brain. This is physically the same way heroin works, by the way.
> 60 minutes: The phosphoric acid binds calcium, magnesium, and zinc in your lower intestine, providing a further boost in metabolism. This is compounded by high doses of sugar and artificial sweeteners also increasing the urinary excretion of calcium.
> 60 minutes: The caffeine’s diuretic properties come into play. (It makes you have to pee.) It is now assured that you’ll evacuate the bonded calcium, magnesium, and zinc that was headed to your bones as well as sodium, electrolytes, and water.
> 60 minutes: As the rave inside you dies down, you’ll start to have a sugar crash. You may become irritable and/or sluggish. You’ve also now, literally, pissed away all the water that was in the Coke. But not before infusing it with valuable nutrients your body could have used for things like hydrating your system, or building strong bones and teeth.
This will all be followed by a caffeine crash in the next few hours. (As little as two if you’re a smoker.)
Read more:

4. At a meal at McDonald's, you are eating more corn than the hamburger or potatoes.
In The Omnivore's Dilemna, author Michael Pollan spends time tracing the roots to his meals. One of his chosen meals was a fast food meal, and he wondered how much corn went into the making of his meal, from the corn that the steer ate, to the high fructose corn syrup in his pop. An excerpt:

“Some time later I found another way to calculate just how much corn we had eaten that day. I asked Todd Dawson, a biologist at Berkeley, to run a McDonald's meal through his mass spectrometer and calculate how much of the carbon in it came originally from a corn plant. It is hard to believe that the identity of the atoms in a cheeseburger or a Coke is preserved from farm field to fast-food counter, but the atomic signature of those carbon isotopes is indestructible, and still legible to the mass spectrometer. Dawson and his colleague Stefania Mambelli prepared an analysis showing roughly how much of the carbon in the various McDonald's menu items came from corn, and plotted them on a graph. The sodas came out at the top, not surprising since they consist of little else than corn sweetener, but virtually everything else we ate revealed a high proportion of corn, too. In order of diminishing corniness, this is how the laboratory measured our meal: soda (100 percent corn), milk shake (78 percent), salad dressing (65 percent), chicken nuggets (56 percent), cheeseburger (52 percent), and French fries (23 percent)."

So, yes. The calories at McDonald's are coming from corn, not the beef, not the fries, but the corn syrup in the pop, and the corn oil the fries were cooked in.

3. The China Study 
The China Study was a 20 year study that started in 1983 that looked at the correlation between illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes, and diet that was either plant based or animal based. The China Study concluded that a plant based diet will prevent or reverse disease.

Read that again. A plant based diet will prevent (...ok) or reverse (WHAT? really?) disease.

Think about this statement. Now think about the implications.

Are we living in this meat-eating, the-world-is-flat culture that is completely unaware that we are poisoning ourselves? I don't know. It seems pretty "out there".  I'm still eating meat and meat products. Bacon rocks. Milk is my son's favorite thing. I don't plan on changing that soon. But why aren't I? Why isn't everyone? Culture is a hard thing to turn around.

2. In the United States, the USDA held a mother and her children at gunpoint for selling local food to locals. 
Thank the lord I live in Canada. Watch the documentary Farmageddon.

1. Food dyes contain petroleum. 
They make asphalt and kerosene from petroleum as well.

My daughter ended up in emergency a few weeks ago, all of a sudden started vomiting, and had a fever with an itchy rash. She took an allergic reaction to something and when we said she had a candy, and the nurses immediately said artificial dyes. The doctor also said it was likely.

Kraft is being petitioned in the States to take the artificial colors Yellow #5 and Yellow #6 out of their Mac and Cheese. The UK has a ban on those ingredients, and the Mac and Cheese they sell in the UK tastes and looks exactly the same - they actually use real spices, like paprika. (Here in Canada, they aren't even required to list which artificial colors they use, just the generic term "artificial colors".)

I remember when Smarties changed their recipe and got rid of the artificial colors...I did not like it all. I didn't really get why they would change such a good thing. Now I get it. I totally get it. I'm pretty thankful that there is a company out there that is willing to stand up and say "Hey. Hi there. We aren't going to feed petroleum to you anymore. Don't bother thanking us. It's ok. We're just doing our job."

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Sunday Prep Day

If I don't prep food over the weekend, I'm screwed.

Since I'm trying to eliminate pre-packaged and processed food, this means crackers, bear paws, etc won't be on the menu for school lunches. Also I was getting lazy with the snacks at home, the fam was getting sick of yogurt and apples. My husband's schedule has changed the past couple of months, so he was preparing suppers way more than usual. I can throw a healthy supper together fairly quickly, but god bless him, he struggles. He tries. But he struggles.

I found that the weekends that I prepare snacks and plan a few meals my week went a lot easier, and the kids had more snack variety. And I had fewer frantic texts at 4:45pm saying "I don't know what to make for supper."

On a good prep day, I make some healthy snacks. On an awesome prep day, I make some healthy snacks and prep a meal or two.

My food prep is usually a combination of a few of these tasty tidbits.

Carrot Sticks - I cut them using my Pampered Chef Crinkle Cutter, so they look like crinkle-cut fries. Kids love them. I store them in water in the fridge.

Whole Wheat Muffins - My veggie box people grind their own wheat, so we always have whole wheat on hand. The made some buckwheat once too, so I'll throw a cup in buckwheat sometimes. I keep half out and freeze the other half for the rest of the week.
Last Sundays recipe:

Roast Chicken - We got a few frozen chickens in our meat box, and I love just roasting a chicken and cutting it up without getting into the hassle of the entire meal deal with gravy and stuffing. (Not that I don't love a roast chicken dinner. I do.) After the chicken has cooled, I cut it and portion it into freezer bags. I usually keep a portion or two in the fridge, for a quick protein snack or to chop up for sandwiches.

Protein Bars - After a few unsuccessful recipes I found, I finally modified one to my liking - one that doesn't fall apart in my hands, and isn't sticky. I cut them into individual servings, put them all in a freezer bag and freeze. These are for hubby and I.
Protein bars before being cut. 

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas -  I saw these on Pinterest, and I loved them! They are probably an acquired taste, but I enjoy them. Crunchy and "acceptable" substitute for my chip obsession (which I have not, and likely will not, kick.)

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas.

Hamburger - We get frozen packages of hamburger in our meat box, and meal prep goes a lot faster if my hamburger is already cooked. I throw the frozen hamburger into a frying pan, and cook a couple batches up at a time. I usually throw some onions and sage into it to give the flavor a boost. When it has cooled, just divide into freezer bags and toss in the freezer. Great for a quick spaghetti or casserole.

Freezer Slow Cooker meals - I tried a few of these for the days that my husband was home, he can take them out of the freezer and throw them into the slowcooker and not have to think about cooking at all. And that is better for everyone. I checked out these sites, and I think soon I will start trying to modify my regular slow cooker faves into their freezer-friendly versions:

Prepping some slow cooker meals for the freezer. 

Hard Boiled Eggs -  Eggs are another staple of our veggie box. I recently started hard boiling them, and keeping them (shell on) in the fridge. They are super handy for a grab-and-go breakfast or a sandwich filler.

Cinnamon Chia Seed Granola- I've only made this once, but will definitely try this one again. It made me buy chia seeds, which are a fun and random little seed. Why random, you ask? This little seed turns into a gel when it gets wet. It's an odd little thing.
Chia Seed Granola

And those are the usual suspects for Sunday Prep Day. I have a few more recipes I'd like to try, have to test out some more freezer slow cooker meals, and I'd love to make a couple huge batches of spaghetti sauce to have in the freezer. Pinterest and websites like are always a great source of ideas and information.

I'm just getting into this habit, so I'm interested in what everyone else does for Sunday prep?