Tag Archives: weekdays

All in a Day’s Work

The dishes needed washing. There were two huge stacks – one by the sink and another over by the stove. One downside to cooking from scratch.

“All we had was salmon and spinach,” my husband said.

“But the teriyaki marinade* was homemade, remember?” Plus, during lunch, I’d been experimenting with homemade pasta sauce.

The dishes sat overnight. Today, evaluating the mess, I realized the entire kitchen needed attention – countertops, floors, fridge – along with the dining room, family room, and bathrooms.

I’ve never been obsessed with cleaning, but even this mess was grating on me.

On the other hand, it was 60 degrees and sunny outside. And I’ve been waiting for this weather since November.

But then again my parents were coming to visit later in the week, so I knew I really should tidy up.

I wasted 20 minutes debating, which included a phone consultation with my husband:

Him: You should definitely rollerblade – the weather is great.
Me: But I was going to wash all those dishes.
Him: Well, on second thought . . .

And an internal argument over the merits of what it means to be a person who writes about mindful living:

Me: A Zen Master of Cleaning would emphasize the importance of living an “uncluttered” life.
Me: But fresh air and exercise will balance out your day.

In the end I decided to blade. The President’s Challenge is underway and I committed to participating on this very blog . . . so you know . . . rollerblading is part of my job.

~~~

*Teriyaki Sauce from The Maker’s Diet: 1 T fresh, grated ginger; 3 cloves garlic, mashed; 1 T toasted sesame oil; 1 T rice vinegar; 1 T raw honey; ½ cup of soy sauce. Whisk together.

Finding Flexibility in Inflexibility

Week 2 of my six-week stint at a newspaper is coming to a close. Four more weeks to go. It’s a blessing, as a freelancer, to have the opportunity to be a part of these projects (steady work! money! live interaction with creatures other than my dog!). But man, the corporate life wipes me out.

I get home from work about 7:30 p.m., make dinner, eat, and plop into bed by 9:00 p.m., exhausted, where I drag my laptop on my lap and spend another couple of hours swaying between vegging out and trying to keep up with my other assignments. The evening yoga class I’d planned to attend? Skipped again.

The other night during one of my zombie-like states, I was flipping through Yoga Journal magazine. The question of the month just so happened to be from a reader who wants to dedicate more time to a yoga practice but finds that work leaves little time or energy to do so.

The yogi who answered the reader question suggested three options (1) back off of a less fulfilling activity and replace it with yoga; (2) spend less time working and more time practicing (which probably means adjusting your standard of living since you’ll presumably make less money if you cut back on work); or (3) make yoga a priority in your free time.

For now I’m choosing option three — switching to a weekend yoga class instead of trying to cram a class in after work when I’m tired and hungry.

Do you have an inflexible schedule that makes practicing yoga more challenging? How do you adjust?

Downhill

I carefully set out my outfit.

Organized my purse.

Planned breakfast.

Gathered the leash to walk the dog.

And then, finally, set my alarm clock.

As a writer, I’ve been working out of the home for a couple years, but Monday morning I was due in a company’s corporate offices for a six-week, on-site editorial gig. I’m not a morning person at all, so the night before, I needed to prepare.

Food-wise, the first day went okay. I ate fruit and oatmeal for breakfast, had a tuna sandwich in the office’s cafeteria for lunch, and, back home, had enough energy left over to cook a healthy vegetable-based dinner. That was Day 1. The rest of week I watched myself slide downhill. (I’d forgotten how corporate jobs suck every second of your time away – making it hard to prepare fresh meals. Oh, and the sugar. Being Valentine’s week, the chocolate overload running through that office – Oy! I ate too much of it.) By Friday, my fridge was bare (no breakfast fruit), I was still eating tuna for lunch (hello – mercury overload?), and dinner was refined pasta at a restaurant.

My throat felt a little . . . sore. OMG, was I getting a cold? Dang it. I didn’t have a single cold in 2007, and I suspect it was because my immune system was stronger due to better eating habits.

“I haven’t eaten one vegetable today,” I said to Ron Friday night. (I’m not counting a wilted piece of lettuce and green tomato slice on my tuna sandwich as real vegetables).

Saturday morning, as my sinuses clogged and my throat felt worse, I rushed my husband out the door with a grocery list. I juiced vegetables and drank the concoction down in a few gulps. I ate an orange. For lunch, I made a homemade bean soup. I ate another orange. For dinner I made a veggie omelet.

Too late. I officially had a cold. I knew the best thing I could do for myself was rest. I cancelled all weekend plans, and I slept and drank hot tea. In bed Sunday night, I figured I’d be calling in sick the next day. But miraculously, I woke up cured. Again, I blame the vegetables for the quick recovery.

This week I’m doing better (not great, but better) managing the “office” life. Our home fridge is stocked with healthy foods to choose from in the morning, I’m packing my lunch (dark leafy green salad with cranberries, walnuts, and a little goat cheese), and dinner is mapped out (today we’re having a brown rice risotto with asparagus and a mixed greens salad).

I’ll be sure to toast to good health.

Healthier Options

My trip to LA is winding to a close. I’d love to post a couple of healthy new recipes I tried this week, but I haven’t been cooking (unless you consider slicing apple and dipping it in natural peanut butter cooking). Instead, I’ve been eating out more than I intended. But I guess I have re-learned one lesson on this road trip: it never hurts to ask. The other day I was ordering an Ahi tuna burger from one of my favorite spots – a roadside seafood shack. I was sure they didn’t have wheat buns – I looked everywhere for the small print in the menu indicating customers had that choice and couldn’t find it. But when I asked, turns out they could serve their burgers on wheat. And the breakfast place this morning – though the menu doesn’t specify, you can request fruit on the side instead of home fries. Of course options like that aren’t always available. The Chinese place I stopped by the other night didn’t have brown rice as an option – only white. But I’m going to keep asking, cuz you just never know.

Halloween

I’m debating what to do about Halloween.

I loved dressing up and collecting candy as a kid. But as an adult – and someone with a growing awareness of our country’s health crisis – I don’t want to encourage the consumption of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavorings…you get the idea.

I could hand out boxes of raisins, but I hated that as a child.

I could hand out toothbrushes, but again, that’s no fun.

I could bake something – treats using crispy brown rice cereal and natural peanut butter – but I know homemade goods would get thrown out by vigilant parents.

I have a friend who has her kids put their loot in a pile before bed. During the night the Great Pumpkin comes and Poof! their candy is turned into little games and trinkets from the dollar store. I also know a dentist who gives money in exchange for the kids who turn in their candy.

Hmm.

I was reading a recent issue of Body & Soul magazine and saw a small article on fair trade. Most chocolate, the article said, is exported from the Ivory Coast where kids aren’t going to school because they’re working on cocoa farms to help with family income. Buying fair trade products ensures that the money goes directly to the farmers and their communities instead of all the middlemen. And it just so happens that you can buy individually wrapped pieces of fair trade dark chocolate (according to some studies, dark chocolate does have a few health benefits).

Click here for a link to the article and a list of the companies.

Deceptively Delicious

Jessica Seinfeld is out with a new cookbook: Deceptively Delicious. Her kids wouldn’t eat veggies and she was trying to figure out how to incorporate the healthful plants into their diets. One day while pureeing butternut squash for her baby she realized it was the same color as the mac & cheese she was making for her older kids. Bingo.

She was on Oprah recently. I missed the show but I laughed when I heard about her clever concept. I sneak veggies into meals all the time…for my husband Ron.

The man hates peppers. Can’t stand beets, doesn’t care for mushrooms, won’t touch tomatoes.

Do you know how many recipes call for tomatoes?

My friend Michelle gave me a recipe for turkey burgers. Ron loves them except for one ingredient – onion – which he picks out with his fork. But one night I chippy-chopped the onion into extra small pieces. He didn’t even notice. Afterwards, he kept saying, “There was onion in the burgers? Really?”

Really.

Works great for sauces, meats, pizza, whatever.

Here is the recipe for turkey burgers: Sautee 1/4 cup finely chopped onion in olive oil. In a bowl, combine onion with 1 small apple (grated), 1 T chopped fresh chives, 1 t celery salt, 1/2 t ground sage, 1/8 t pepper. Add 1 pound uncooked turkey and mix well. Form into patties. Sautee in oil (we grill ‘em).

Holidays are Changing

I’m trying to talk my parents and in-laws into coming to our place for Thanksgiving.

Ever since leaving for college at age 18, I’ve traveled over the holidays.

My hubby and I are moving in early November, and we’ll hopefully be settled into our new place by Turkey Day. I’d hate to move in and then turn around and leave right away. Plus, it sounds fun to host the holidays. Of course, I’ve never cooked a Thanksgiving dinner before, but a minor detail, right? I can figure it out.

One year I asked my mom if she’d teach me to cook the turkey. I arrived at her house ready to tackle the bird and learn how to make stuffing. My grandmother was visiting too. The two of them have been taking on Thanksgiving together forever, and despite my good intentions, everyone fell into their normal roles that year. My brother helped mash the potatoes, my dad prepared to carve, I found myself setting the table, pouring the wine, and arranging the relish tray. My mom and grandmother had their own rhythm and didn’t need anyone – including me – butting in. Or maybe I simply got distracted watching whatever movies my brother had rented from the video store. Either way, I never learned how to bake a turkey. (Actually, bake or roast?)

This year will be different. My grandmother no longer travels. One of my brothers is married and will be away. I’ve pegged the local, sustainable farm where I plan to purchase Mr. Tom. (For any vegetarians, here are some recipes I stumbled across on GentleThanksgiving.org).

My parents jumped on the chance to come to my place for a change. I hope my in-laws do too.

Times are changing. Times are changing.

Part of me is nervous about altering the rhythm of our holiday, but I’m excited too.

Sunday Crowds

I don’t know what I was thinking. Hmm. I guess I was thinking that I had a few free hours, so why not sketch out a menu for the week and stock up with ingredients at the grocery store? Off I went – the Sunday afternoon of Labor Day weekend – and as soon as I walked in the door I realized my mistake.

What a zoo.

I tried to practice my yoga breaths as carts jammed the aisles and children blocked my path as they played handheld video games in front of the eggs while their parents taste-tested the artichoke dip. I tried to remember I had just come from church and I should be patient and kind and gentle and not cave into my mounting frustration. Breathe. Breathe. BREATHE!

Egad.

I do not do well in crowds.

The trick to grocery shopping (at least the one I go to in my town) is to hit the store early Monday morning. It’s empty and open and I can take my time reviewing my list and making sure I have everything I need for the week. When I had an office job with less flexible hours, I’d go to the store late at night. I’d have to step around boxes of fresh shipments, but it was better than being piled in an enclosed space with too many people. My goal is to get away from stores almost entirely – next season I’m signing up for a CSA subscription. And I’m continuing to explore year-round farmers’ markets (for some reason crowds don’t bother me as much when I’m outside) and buying local food through other direct methods. But I’m in transition, so for awhile I’ll be heading to the store at least once a week. On Monday mornings. Š

Better Choices

Baked pita chips, hummus, organic raisins, lemon pepper tuna…United Airlines to the rescue!

Seriously, I am sitting here on a plane munching away, so grateful that the airline serves a snack box called the “Right Bite.”

When I woke up this morning, I had a plan. I was going to swing by a center to drop off a car load of items, run by the UPS store to ship a package, drop the dog off at the kennel, pack for my trip, then pick up my husband from work. But somehow I got behind. Way behind.

Not only did I forget to bring apples and trail mix for the plane ride, I forgot to eat breakfast. And lunch. When I flopped down in my seat, I was sweating and breathless (we nearly missed the flight) and very hungry. I flipped through the food options and knew I would be able to get my body back in synch with the Right Bite instead of having to resort to “snacks” full of empty calories and sugar.

I’m glad big companies are becoming more sensitive to offering healthier food choices. I keep reading the debates about replacing sodas and candy in school vending machines with healthier alternatives. The other day I was doing some freelance editorial work for a large newspaper. The building included a cafeteria – mostly pizzas and burgers and fries, but I found a vegetarian station. And I noticed an announcement that they would be having a “sustainable foods” day, offering locally grown meats and produce.

I’m not sure if these actions are coming from consumer demand or a greater awareness on the company’s part (or both), but I’m thankful for the trend.Š

Retraining Taste Buds

The carrots I hold in my hand are fresh from a local garden. They’re dirty and have wild bushy green tops. I wash and peel the carrots then pick up the knife. I have a long way to go until I can maneuver this utensil like those chefs on the Food Network, but I’m getting better. Faster.

I cut the carrots, chop the onion, dice the celery, slice the mushrooms and throw everything into a skillet with water. While the veggies are steam sautéing I boil tri-colored pasta in a medium pot and steam spinach in a small one. I add tomatoes and tomato sauce to the skillet. When the pasta and spinach are ready I add those too, along with garlic and oregano.

My husband, Ron, wanders in the kitchen.

“What’s for dinner?” he asks.

“Italian Skillet Casserole,” I say.

He leans over my shoulder and investigates the simmering dish on the stovetop.

“Almost all veggies,” I point out.

Cooking healthier foods has been challenging in certain ways, but one thing I completely forgot about when I started this new path is that my husband can’t stand vegetables. He’ll eat certain items (broccoli or beans or salad) because he knows they’re good for him, but he would prefer them as a side dish, not the main dish.

But it just so happens that his company is having a Vegetable Challenge this summer.

So perfect timing.

I scoop out the meal into two bowls, light some candles, and sit down.

It’s delicious, and I look at Ron to see what he thinks. He’s pushing a piece of onion, a hunk of tomato, and a mushroom slice to the side. “I can eat them when they’re small, but these big pieces…” he shakes his head.

“You need to retrain your taste buds,” I suggest softly.

He’s a good sport so he takes a huge spoonful, onion chunks and all, and gives it a go. He likes it. This truly is one of the tastier dishes I’ve made, and when I’m done I push my bowl aside and lean back in the chair.

“Hey, what’s that?” Ron says, peering into my bowl.

“Nothing,” I say.

“Uh-huh,” Ron nods, smirking.

Okay, okay. So I really do consider myself a vegetable lover, but I’ve always struggled with cooked carrots. There is small pile of them left. I guess we both have some retraining to work through.