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~

The Daily Dish: Bread is the Devil

devilbread

I have a confession:  after yesterday’s biscuit nirvana, I didn’t feel well.  Even though the meal was vegan and lowfat and technically “healthy,” it wasn’t good for me.  You see, white flour and I don’t get along.   We have a long history, a complicated relationship full of temptation, indulgence and inevitable guilt.  I can’t just have one bite, or one biscuit..one slice of Italian bread, one cup of pasta.  One leads to two which leads to an empty bread basket and a giant tummy ache.  I have tried & tried over the years to break up with Mr. White Flour, knowing that we are not good for each other, but somehow he pulls me back in.

So, I did some deep thinking and some soul searching.  Though I know lots of people can, and do, enjoy pastas and breads on a plant-based diet, I’m simply not one of them.  Maybe someday I can tip my toe in, perhaps flirt with whole grain varieties and my beloved Ezekiel bread, but for now I’m going cold turkey.  I’m leaving you,  Mr. Dough Boy.  Cute as you are, we are simply not right for each other.  Please don’t tempt me any longer, don’t invade my dreams with fluffy biscuits and crunchy French bread.  Just leave me alone, ok?  Because there’s a new guy in town, and he is named John McDougall, MD.  He’s taking me on a date, promises me a good time without tummy aches, guilt and remorse.  This new adventure is one I’ve been on before, and it was good.  I lost weight, I had more energy, I was content.  I was healthy, in body and mind.  He even has a side kick, Dr. Neal Barnard, and they are going to help me reach my goals, for once and for all.

Books

For the next month I’m challenging myself to a whole foods, plant-based, no oil, no processed foods way of eating,  ala The Maximum Weight Loss Diet.  I’ll be using all of the MWL-compliant recipes I can find, along with some from Dr. Barnard and colleagues.  I’m going to follow the program as closely as I can, but I’m admitting right now that I will likely have an occasional glass of wine, and my morning coffee is not negotiable.  Progress, not perfection, as they say.

I hope you’ll follow along with me, would love the support and camaraderie! I’ll pop in later with my weekly menu, am going to pore over a few cookbooks and websites for a little while.

Have a wonderful day!

Note: My daughter Kristyn designed the dough boy devil graphic years ago, isn’t he adorable?!

Plan to Succeed

apples with clock

As I mentioned in my last post, meal planning is an integral part of my homemaking routine. Not only does it save time and money, but it also helps me with my fitness goals. I’ve found that I’m most successful on my “diet” when I plan ahead; the more planning, the more in control I feel which leads to better eating and ultimate weight loss.

I like to dedicate one morning per week for meal planning & shopping. I peruse the grocery sale ads, check my fridge and pantry for what I have on hand, working with what’s fresh and in season whenever possible.  Since I don’t work outside the home, I usually spend Monday mornings on this task. I combine it with laundry day and general tidying-up-after-the-weekend.  Of course, you can choose whichever day works best for you; Sunday afternoon is popular with some folks.

I’ve just completed this week’s meal plan and shopping list, thought I’d share here and perhaps make this a regular weekly blog feature. I’ve featured mostly dinners for now since I tend to eat simple breakfasts and lunch often consists of leftovers from the night before, but did include one lunch-friendly salad and one sweet treat for fun. There are five dinners planned, allowing for dining out or one lazy night when we just throw something quick together.

Michele zucchini

Since I bought a giant zucchini at the farmer’s market yesterday, I’ll be looking for ways to use it up! I also have some overripe bananas which will be baked into bread for a special friend, and a head of red cabbage begging to be cooked. Oh, and a gorgeous pineapple (my favorite fruit) is sitting on my counter, tempting me with it’s sweetness!

Here’s what I’ll be cooking this week; clicking on the links will take you to the author’s original recipes where you can print if you’d like.

Note: I follow a WFPBNO (whole food, plant-based, no oil) diet 90% of the time, allowing for a little 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. Most of the recipes posted are perfect “as is,” no modification required, but in the case of baked goods I just allow myself that bit of fat and move on. (Life’s too short to live without  an occasional bite of chocolate, for goodness’ sake!)

Sending good luck and best wishes to the students and families returning to school today! I hope the 2015 – 2016 school year is your best yet.

Michele

Back to School

Back-to-School

Even though the weather outside my door doesn’t reflect it, Summer is nearly over. Students of all ages are preparing for the new school year, some of them in my area have already headed back. Even though my girls are all grown up, I can still remember the flurry and excitement of this time of year, and the stress that comes along with it! While parents are likely ready for their little darlings to return to school, they are also dreading the crazy busyness that comes along with it. I’ve been chatting with some young moms about this issue, and know that they all want the same things: a less hectic, more organized school year. They want their kids to excel academically, enjoy whatever hobbies and sports interest them and also fit in some much-needed family time. She wants to prepare healthy home-cooked meals and maybe actually eat them together around the dinner table now & then. How does a busy mom manage it all, especially while working outside the home and/or pursuing her own interests? In my experience, it all came down to one word: Planning. Without a plan, a system in place, things quickly unravel and can lead to chaos. There are plenty of books out there to help the harried homemaker and I’ll add my recommendations at the end of this post, but for right now I’d like to focus on the topic near and dear to my heart: food. Specifically, healthy food. With everything else he/she has to do in the day, how can a parent also find time to put a healthy meal on the table?

First_Day_of_School

This is where planning comes in. When my kids were young, I sat down with a calendar and mapped out a week or two’s worth of meals at once. Based on what I had on hand and/or what was on sale at my local grocer, I gathered recipes, made a menu plan and shopping list. I wrote each day’s dinner on the calendar and pinned it to the refrigerator so we all knew what was coming up. I didn’t often have the luxury of child care, so I took the girls along with me, letting them help with the shopping. It was a great learning experience and let them feel a part of the process. (When Kristyn got old enough to drive, she did the shopping for me. She’d clip coupons and whatever savings she earned, she kept for herself!) Once the groceries were home and unpacked, I tried to do a bit of prep work, sometimes even making a whole meal ahead of time if I had an extra hour or two.  No more rushing in the door at 5 pm wondering what’s for dinner, it’s on the calendar and the ingredients are ready to go. I am also a firm believer in kids helping out in the kitchen. Even little ones can complete easy tasks such as washing veggies, tossing salads, and setting the table. When they’re involved in the process, they are invested and take pride in the meal they’ve helped create.

Kristyn__Lindsey_mixing_cake

What about the nights when Jr has football practice and Janie dance rehearsal (or vice versa)? How can you get food into their tummies when there’s no time for a sit-down meal? While many families rely on the fast food drive through for these situations, we all know that’s not the ideal solution. One busy mom told me that she feeds her son a quick peanut butter & jelly sandwich before zipping out the door, and I think that’s brilliant! Peanut butter is full of protein that growing bodies need, and if spread on wholegrain bread, perhaps with some sliced banana or an apple on the side this is a perfectly fine meal. My suggestion to her was to also prepare a small cooler filled with other healthy snacks, have it waiting in the minivan for when practice is over. This ensures a peaceful ride home with no ravenous kids begging for junk food!

Another tip I simply can’t recommend highly enough: Dust off your Crock-Pot and use it whenever possible. This appliance is a lifesaver for the busy family and there are so many slow-cooked plant-based recipes out there to try.

So, now that we have the kids covered, what about the adults? Maybe you’re not a parent, or a student, and you think the back-to-school frenzy doesn’t really apply to you. Ah, but I disagree! Even those of us who are no longer students or don’t have little ones returning to school can’t help but feel the excitement of this time of year. Fresh start, new beginnings, it is motivating and exciting to turn the page on Summer and greet the Fall. Maybe it’s not an academic class you’d like to take but a fitness one instead. Perhaps you’d like to try yoga this year, or Zumba? Maybe you, like myself, are just looking forward to cooler temps so your daily outdoor walk is more enjoyable. Now that summer vacations are over, maybe we need to clean up our diets and focus on our weight loss efforts. Maybe we have a certain goal in mind we’d like to reach before the end of the year, a holiday outfit we’d like to fit into?

Over at our Facebook group, we’ve planned a Back-to-School Challenge. We’ll be posting our goals and how we plan to achieve them. Whether that be a number on the scale, pants size, health stats, whatever..we are here to support and inspire each other!

The challenge officially kicks off on Labor Day, giving us a couple of weeks to clean up our kitchens, decide on a new eating/exercise plan or how we’ll re-commit to one that’s been working for us. If you’d like to join us, we’d love to have you!

Enjoy the last few lazy days of summer!

Michele

PS Here are my favorite homemaking/organizational books & sites: