Happy New Year

Goodbye, 2016, and good riddance! Overall, you were a pretty rotten year. To recap,  in January we became aware of some health issues with my dad, symptoms that his girlfriend couldn’t deal with on her own. In early March, we moved him 350 miles from home, up here with us, and started the rounds of doctors and tests which, in mid-April, lead to the diagnosis: Alzheimer’s Disease/Lewy Body Dementia. 

(In the midst of this, one very BIG, very BRIGHT spot..we welcomed my first grandchild into the world. The amazing, adorable Angelo graced us with his presence in April, and he has kept me laughing & smiling through the darkest parts of this year. What a blessing he already is, what a joy!)

So, we sold Dad’s truck and beautiful 5th wheel trailer and with that went his dream of traveling the country, enjoying his retirement after 42 years with the same company. It was devastating. We were able to move him into his own small home, maintaining some independence,  but he requires some supervision so we hired caregivers to be with him about 75% of the time.

At some point that’s not going to be enough and I will have to make the Big Decision. For now, I’m just treading water, trying not to drown under the worry and overwhelming responsibility that comes with being the only child of an ailing, aging parent. It requires more patience, strength and grace than I possess on any given day.  I’ve discovered skills I never knew I had and dusted off some I never thought I’d need again.  Managing finances, caregivers & general day to day life, doctor visits (and one scary hospital stay), has become  the focus of my life. It has become a full-time job, because even when he’s being cared for by paid professionals, I’m still on call. 24/7, 7 days a week. My phone is far from my side. No vacations, no holidays, no days off where I can just put Dad’s illness on the back burner and focus on ME. It’s sad and stressful and all-consuming. Yet, I keep going. I keep swimming, as Dory advises, hoping that I make it look easier, that I appear more graceful than I actually am. Because it’s not his fault. And I’m not complaining, truly I’m not. It’s just freaking hard, that’s all.

With all of this going on, I moved Dad to the front burner and put everything else in the back. My hobbies, my goals, my health..my weight loss. My fitness. All of it got put on hold. I tried to keep up with my daily walks, but either I was too busy or I was simply too tired or stressed. It was easier to self-medicate with food instead of exercise. I allowed some more junk to seep back into my diet, especially while cooking for Dad who is definitely not vegan but was willing to try some faux meat products, just nothing too “green” or anything that looked like “weeds.” So, more veggie burgers, hot dogs & fries & less kale ended up on my plate for a while. My Fitbit continued to plug along, logging the couple thousand steps that were part of my daily routine. Now & then I managed a long beach walk, and my body & soul thanked me for it but I couldn’t manage to sustain that habit. As a result, my clothes got tighter. The  numbers on the scale started going in the wrong direction. And before I knew it, 10 of the 20 lost pounds had crept back on.

 

Sad & sobering and oh-so-disappointing. But, here I am. It’s a new year, can’t do anything about what happened in 2016. What now? Do I keep heading in that direction, just treading water and surviving? Nah, let’s not. A better idea would be to get myself together, force myself (and others) to put myself first, or at least somewhere near the top. How to do that? Well, I think we have a working system in place, that Dad’s needs are being met..for now.  There will always be adjustments, issues that come up that will need addressing, but I can’t sit around waiting for what might happen. I need to keep living my life the best I can. I have a father to care for, but I also have a partner, children and a grandchild who want and need me around! In order to do that, I’ve gotta take care of myself. I’ve got to do what keeps me healthy & happy because if I’m not around, who’s gonna take care of Dad?

So, I am already working on the new plan. It involves some elements from the past, what worked before, with a few new habits thrown in. I’m excited and hopeful and determined to lose what I gained in weight, and gained what I lost in fitness & mental health.

For the readers who are still with me, thanks for hanging in there. I hope to see more of you in 2017.

Michele~

Monday Menu Planning: Clean Slate

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It’s been so long since I’ve posted and I’m not going to bore you all with the reasons for my absence. I’ll just say this: It was a long, stressful Spring & Summer and I am very much looking forward to Autumn! I hope that the change of season brings some personal changes along with it.

Though I no longer have little ones at home, I still revel in the back-to-school feeling and welcome the added structure this time of year brings. I find myself cleaning, organizing, and recommitting to projects and personal goals. First on my list: resuming my weekly mean plan. Taking the time to plan out my menu sets the tone and sets me up for a successful week.

P137 Clean Slate

This week I’ll be focusing on the late-summer veggies in season but also easing my way into more Fall-ish meals. Perhaps Mother Nature will bless us with an early Autumn, who knows?!

What’s cookin’ at your house?

Note: I follow a WFPBNO (whole food, plant-based, no oil) diet most of the time, deviating a bit here & there when dining out or when I just want a little treat.  When the recipe calls for oil, I substitute vegetable broth or plain water when appropriate. If the exact recipe I’m using isn’t published online, I will post a similar recipe.

P.S. For other great menu planning bloggers, please visit Organizing Junkie!

Have a great day!

 

Monday Menu Planning: On the Road Again

It’s been a busy couple of weeks and the remainder of the month is equally hectic. We’ve been traveling for Chip’s work, back & forth across the state, staying there half the week. It’s fun because we’re in a city right near my kids, but the schedule is also a little stressful on someone who likes routine and organization. (That would be me!)

On the way home last Thursday, we stopped by a popular roadside produce market. Oh, my! The veggies were so fresh and gorgeous, I was in heaven! I ended up with 3 bags of yummy-ness for only $15. You can’t beat that, and you can’t get more local than this!

 

 

I bought a giant “bouquet” of that gorgeous kale, am planning my meals around it this week. In the meantime, it’s been threatening to take over my refrigerator!

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Without further ado, here’s this week’s menu plan, including one breakfast and a couple of lunches.

What’s cookin’ at your house this week?

Note: I follow a WFPBNO (whole food, plant-based, no oil) diet most of the time, deviating a bit here & there when dining out or when I just want a little treat.  When the recipe calls for oil, I substitute vegetable broth or plain water when appropriate. If the exact recipe I’m using isn’t published online, I will post a similar recipe.

P.S. For other great menu planning bloggers, please visit Organizing Junkie!

Have a great day!

 

 

Monday Menu Planning: Fresh Start February

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Over at The Vegan Weigh Facebook group, we’ve begun a Fresh Start February challenge to help us recover from the holidays and refocus on our health & fitness goals. Some of us gained a few pounds, others maintained or even lost weight but want a little support and camaraderie as they move forward into the new year.

I personally gained about 4.5 pounds due to holiday indulgences and lack of exercise. I had a little accident in late December which banged up my foot and prevented me from walking regularly, but that’s all healed up now and I’m ready to get moving again! I’ll also be meal planning & prepping on a regular basis, have a bunch of new recipes I’m excited to try.  If you’d like to join our group, please leave a comment here or email me directly (link in my profile). We’d love to have new members!

Before I chat about the coming week’s menu, here are a few highlights from last week’s meal plan.

We’ll be on the road for a few days so my menu plan reflects that. I’m choosing several tote-able, reheatable dishes that won’t take up much space in the motorhome. There’s a lovely mix of flavors and cultures in this week’s recipes, can’t wait to start cooking!

What’s cookin’ at your house this week?

Note: I follow a WFPBNO (whole food, plant-based, no oil) diet most of the time, deviating a bit here & there when dining out or when I just want a little treat.  When the recipe calls for oil, I substitute vegetable broth or plain water when appropriate. If the exact recipe I’m using isn’t published online, I will post a similar recipe.

P.S. For other great menu planning bloggers, please visit Organizing Junkie!

Happy New Year

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Wow, it has while since I posted! I got so busy with the holidays and kind’ve lost my groove there, but I’m back and more motivated than ever to reach my goals!

I gained a couple of pounds over the holiday season but have already started to shed them, am also back on track with my meal planning and prep.

Here’s this week’s plan:

Note: I follow a WFPBNO (whole food, plant-based, no oil) diet most of the time, deviating a bit here & there when dining out or when I just want a little treat.  When the recipe calls for oil, I substitute vegetable broth or plain water when appropriate. If the exact recipe I’m using isn’t published online, I will post a similar recipe.

Hope your 2016 is off to a great start!

 

Monday Menu Planning: Halloween!

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Lindsey & Colin at Trader Joe’s

Wow, is it Monday again already?! Like I said, this year is flying by! I can’t believe Halloween is just a few days away. It’s one of our favorite holidays, we tend to go all out on the decorating and celebrating. Of course, now that the kids are all grown and gone, the holidays are a little bit different, but we still join in the festivities in our own way. We’ll be dressing up and attending a couple of events this week, should be a spooky good time!

Did anyone join my in my freezer/pantry challenge? How did it go? I had a great week, used up a bunch of items and made some lovely meals. Here are the highlights.

Lobster Rolls

Vegan “Lobster” Rolls

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and “Meat”balls

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Open-Faced Tofu Scramble Sandwich

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Pumpkin. Sausage & Mushroom Pasta

As you can see, I made a few unplanned recipes but still used mostly items I had on hand. A couple of last week’s dishes weren’t photo-worthy, and I never got around to making a couple others. It’s okay to change our minds and allow for some spontaneity and creativity in our meal plans; the point is not to waste food and/or be caught with nothing to eat when dinner time rolls around!

I’ll be continuing with my freezer/pantry challenge this week. Though the cupboards are definitely more bare, I still have a few items to use up. I’m excited about this week’s plan as it contains several Autumn-ish recipes as well as some that are just the colors of Halloween!

What’s on your menu plan this week?

Note: I follow a WFPBNO (whole food, plant-based, no oil) diet 90% of the time, allowing for a bit of oil here & there when dining out or when I just want a little treat.  When the recipe calls for oil, I substitute vegetable broth or plain water when appropriate.

P.S. For other great menu planning bloggers, please visit Organizing Junkie!

Monday Menu Planning: Autumn Pantry Challenge!

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I don’t know about you guys, but this year is really flying by for me! I can’t believe it’s mid-October, seems like just yesterday that I was sitting on the beach soaking up the summer sunshine! Now, even in Florida, it’s windy and the leaves are falling off our northern trees. They look so funny, little naked branches in between the green palms!

Along with cravings for warm comfort food, Autumn also brings a tightening of the budget around here. I’m looking at the calendar and counting down ’til Christmas (9 weeks, 4 days), starting to think about the expense that goes along with all of that Yuletide joy! I’m sure many of you are feeling the pinch as well, maybe still recovering from back-to-school expenses and/or saving for holiday travel. With that in mind, I’m going to be cooking more from my pantry and freezer over the next few weeks, relying on what I have on hand and supplementing with whatever fresh produce is available and on sale. I know that most folks do this sort of challenge in the summer, but I’m suggesting a Fall version. Not only will we put aside a little money, but we’ll be making room for those inevitable holiday goodies!

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I have two pantries, the everyday one shown above along with another in my laundry room. I also have a large stand-up freezer in the garage in addition to the refrigerator version. All of these are chock-full of odds & ends – veggies, beans, grains & canned tomatoes. It’s time to bring all of these ingredients together for some yummy meals!

This week is a hodgepodge of recipes, a little of this & that. We have some traditional southern fare mixed in with international dishes, a little culinary trip around the world! I hope that by the end of the week my pantry and freezer will be as empty as my wallet is full!

How about you? What’s cookin’ at your house this week? Would you like to take the pantry challenge with me?

Note: I follow a WFPBNO (whole food, plant-based, no oil) diet 90% of the time, allowing for a bit of oil here & there when dining out or when I just want a little treat.  When the recipe calls for oil, I substitute vegetable broth or plain water when appropriate. At the moment I am also following the Maximum Weight Loss Diet by John McDougall, M.D.

P.S. For other great menu planning bloggers, please visit Organizing Junkie!

The Daily Dish: Beef(less) Stew for Sunday Supper

I’m originally a Midwestern girl, born in Ohio but relocated to Florida when I was just a tot. My mother grew up in the hills of West Virginia, the daughter of a coal miner and a homemaker who struggled to clothe and feed five children on meager income, making a home in the “sticks,” as Mom called it. She called herself a hillbilly, and was proud of it, so I carry on that pride. Grandma was famous for saying, “We may be poor but we’re clean;” she kept her tiny rental house spic & span and was known for being a phenomenal cook. She was able to whip up a meal with whatever scraps of food were on hand, nobody ever went hungry at her table. In fact, my bio dad claims it was Grandma’s cooking that won him over, falling in love with her cooking before he did my gorgeous mama!

Grandma & Grandpa Smith, late 1960’s
Mom, before Me
Grandma & Me, 1967

My mother was not a particularly adventurous cook, better known for her baked goods than anything else, but we had a homecooked dinner on the table every night, even though she worked a full time job outside the home. It was the 70’s, so meat was the center piece of the meal. I know the menus well; when I turned old enough (about 12 or so) I took over the nightly cooking, giving mom a much-needed break. Baked chicken. Baked pork chops. Tuna casserole. On the weekends, there was grilled steak and the dreaded Sunday Pot Roast. Oh, how I hated that roast! I’d push the pieces around on my plate, trying to hide them under a pile of mashed potatoes, but Mom always caught me. She didn’t make me clean my plate, but I at least had to force down a couple of bites. I swear, that plate of beef is the reason I became a vegetarian! But, I digress.

Me & Mom, 1972

When the weather turned chilly (by Florida standards, this means below 75 degrees!) Mom would make a big pot of chili or beef stew and we’d “eat off” that all weekend long. Ooh, there was nothing like taking a slab of white bread and dunking it into a bowl of chili or stew! Simple comfort food, that’s a Midwestern diet.

Mom continued making her “famous” beef stew for many years; all of my girls have fond memories of sitting around Grandma’s table with a loaf of bread and a big bowl of soup. Even as vegetarians, they would pick out the pieces of beef and just eat the veggies, not willing to give up that taste and experience!

Now that mom is gone, and I’m a vegan, I have been searching for the closest facsimile to Mom’s. Dad has passed along the original “recipe,” of course, but I’ve never been able to replicate it. I pretty much gave up, thinking we’d all have to settle for a stew-less life, and then this happened..

My daughter Kristyn alerted me to this recipe, and therefore the blog where it’s posted. I must’ve been living under a rock, how is it that I’m just now discovering the Shannons? I love all things vintage and have actually modernized a few retro recipes on my other blog, but these folks took it to a whole new level, tackling the sacred Betty Crocker! A noble effort, with wonderful results!

This version is not quite the same as Mom’s; hers wasn’t as savory/spicy as the Shannon’s, but it’s close enough. I think that Mom were here she’d give it her seal of approval.

Beefless Stew

I made a couple of changes using what I had on hand; I substituted a bag of frozen mixed vegetables for the peas, and also left out the olive oil. I would definitely not prepare this without the creole seasoning as it adds a very nice punch without being too spicy. At the risk of sounding sexist, I must tell you that this is a very “man-friendly” recipe, a hearty dish that is sure to please even the biggest appetite! It’s a favorite of my omnivore hunny who swears that had I not told him, he wouldn’t know it was vegan.

Again, you can find the recipe over at the Shannon’s blog, along with some other wonderful dishes!

Note: I follow a WFPBNO (whole food, plant-based, no oil) diet 90% of the time, allowing for a bit of oil here & there when dining out or when I just want a little treat.  When the recipe calls for oil, I substitute vegetable broth or plain water when appropriate. This recipe does contain a meat substitute and since I limit my amount of processed foods we make this one of those occasional indulgences.

Have a wonderful day!

P.S. This is a re-post from my other blog, with a couple of updates/revisions.


The Daily Dish: Rainy Day Chili

2013 Asheville NC

Asheville, North Carolina ~ October 2013

It doesn’t have to be rainy to enjoy this dish, it just seems that I crave chili when it’s dreary outside, or when I’m feeling a bit under the weather and want something warm & familiar. It’s so nice to curl up on the couch with a favorite tv show, book or movie, and a big bowl of cozy comfort food! Or maybe you want to grab a cup and gobble it up while enjoying the gorgeous autumn weather.

Rainy Day Chili

I’ve been making this “recipe” for many years now, and despite it’s simplicity it always gets rave reviews.  I basically toss a couple cans of drained, rinsed beans (kidney, chili, black bean, whatever you like) and a couple cans of diced tomatoes (Ro*tel brand if you want a little extra kick) into my Crock-pot along with a chopped onion and a packet of chili seasoning. If I’m cooking for non-vegans who prefer a meatier chili, I’ll add some veggie crumbles. Turn on low to cook all day, or high for a few hours, or if you’re in a big hurry you can cook it on the stovetop for an hour or so. Like lots of veggies? Chop up some green peppers, mushrooms, etc. and toss them in. Corn? Sure, add a can or bag of frozen. Want to make your own chili seasoning? Even better! This recipe really is infallible! I usually top with a dollop of vegan sour cream and soy cheese, maybe some scallions if I have them.  Chip is a big fan of oyster crackers so he often adds those as well.

To round out the meal, I will either serve over brown rice or just with some bread or cornbread on the side, as you can see in this pic from my old blog.

Rainy Day Chili2

What about you? Do you have some favorite recipes that you turn to when you’re craving comfort food?

Have a wonderful day!

Note: I follow a WFPBNO (whole food, plant-based, no oil) diet most of the time, allowing for a bit of oil here & there when dining out or when I just want a little treat.  When the recipe calls for oil, I substitute vegetable broth or plain water when appropriate. At the moment I am also following the Maximum Weight Loss Diet by John McDougall, M.D.

Menu Planning Monday: Soup’s On!

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The temperature is blessedly cool today, at least by Florida standards, and it’s supposed to stay mild throughout the week. So, you know what that meals: more soups & stews! I’m also making a couple of “man-friendly” meals using a little bit of faux meat because though Chip never complains, I know he gets tired of beans day after day. I’ll make adjustments to my portions to keep them MWL-compliant or I’ll allow myself a “cheat meal.”

What’s the weather like in your neck of the woods? Are you filling up on tummy-warming soups as well?

Have a wonderful day!

P.S. For more menu plans, please visit The Organizing Junkie!