Alone

Alone

Early morning walk

Welcoming the day

I’ve never lived alone.  After high school I moved into a dorm in college with a roommate and shared a floor with 20+ other 18 year old girls.  (Technically, I guess I did have my own dorm room for one semester but you were never really alone on the 8th floor of Stephenson East in 1996.) After that first year, I shared a house with two other girls  and then moved in with my future in-laws for six months before Jeff and I got married.

Not only have I never lived alone, I have never spent much time alone.  I always loved having lots of friends and being involved in tons of things.  I rarely eat out alone and have never been to a movie by myself.  And when I’m the only one home I usually had the tv on to fill the space.

Until recently.

I don’t know if it’s being in my mid-thirties and becoming more comfortable with (even liking) who I am. Or maybe this is what happens when you have three babies in three years, spend eight years deep in the trenches and then suddenly find yourself with all three of those kids in school all day.  It could be that there is stigma associated with moms desiring “me” time. I know I often felt guilty about leaving the kids or “needing” a break even though Jeff was always willing to give me one.

I guess it doesn’t really matter what caused it but this is what I know today,  I crave being alone.  Especially in my house, in silence.

It’s like a breath of fresh air.

I feel like I’m able to complete a thought, read a book and maybe dream a few dreams of what may come.  I’m realizing that I can only be there fully for Jeff and the kids when I’m refreshed.  (I loved this from Molly last week.)  Not only that, but I am starting to figure out who I am after spending these last few years in the trenches and without all of those outside influences that I depended on so much in my teens and twenties.  That feels good.

Don’t get me wrong.

I love my friends and I look forward to meeting new people while we’re here.  I can’t imagine living life without my four.

It’s just that I’m not nearly so uncomfortable alone.

In fact, I really am enjoying it.

Alone

Alone

Early morning walk

Welcoming the day

I've never lived alone.  After high school I moved into a dorm in college with a roommate and shared a floor with 20+ other 18 year old girls.  (Technically, I guess I did have my own dorm room for one semester but you were never really alone on the 8th floor of Stephenson East in 1996.)

After that first year, I shared a house with two other girls and then moved in with my future in-laws for six months before Jeff and I got married.

Not only have I never lived alone, I have never spent much time alone.  I always loved having lots of friends and being involved in tons of things.  

I rarely eat out alone and have never been to a movie by myself.  And when I'm the only one home I usually had the tv on to fill the space.

Until recently.

I don't know if it's being in my mid-thirties and becoming more comfortable with (even liking) who I am. Or maybe this is what happens when you have three babies in three years, spend eight years deep in the trenches and then suddenly find yourself with all three of those kids in school all day.  

It could be that there is stigma associated with moms desiring "me" time. I know I often felt guilty about leaving the kids or "needing" a break even though Jeff was always willing to give me one. I guess it doesn't really matter what caused it. 

This is what I know today,  I crave being alone.  

Especially in my house, in silence. It's like a breath of fresh air. I feel like I'm able to complete a thought, read a book and maybe dream a few dreams of what may come.  

I'm realizing that I can only be there fully for Jeff and the kids when I'm refreshed.  (I loved this from Molly last week.)  

Not only that, but I am starting to figure out who I am after spending these last few years in the trenches and without all of those outside influences that I depended on so much in my teens and twenties.  

That feels good.

Don't get me wrong. I love my friends and I look forward to meeting new people while we're here.  I can't imagine living life without my four. It's just that I'm not nearly so uncomfortable alone.

In fact, I really am enjoying it.

Recently in our Kitchen

I know I’ve had a lot of kitchen related posts but as the head chef for a family of five much of my life is spent in the kitchen.  That continues to be even more true as grow in our whole food diet.  I really do have more to share and that is coming soon but I thought I would pass on a bit of what has been happening in our kitchen.

So, what we’ve been up to includes:

* Whole Grain Bread from Cynthia Lair’s Feeding the Whole Family. This has become the bread we live on.

Roasted Garbanzos

* Carrot Tomato Soup

* Butternut Squash Apple Soup (I subbed sweet potatoes and it was delish.)

* Whole Wheat Muffins

There are many more but those will come in time.  I also wanted to updated on our “Real Food Challenge”.

I’ll be honest, we made it 100% for five days.   Then I broke in order to enjoy a wonderful, long awaited date day with the hubs.  I had wine and white flour and I’m totally ok with that.  Jeff and I have “debriefed” throughout the first few days of this project and we’ve realized that overall we’re very much okay with where we are.  I’m just not going to worry about the sugar in ketchup as we eat very little anyway. (Though I would love to make my own.)

The two areas that have come to our attention for our family are crackers and cereal.  The products we bought in these categories, though considered “healthy”, are still full of junk.  We are working to eliminate them.

I have also realized what an obscene amount of coffee I’ve been drinking.  Actually, I knew but it was my early morning comfort.  Strong and warm, that’s what I’ve turned to at five in the morning.  I’ve found a Yogi Green Tea that I really enjoy and will be drinking that from now on (with the occasional coffee).

So, while we didn’t finish the actual 10 days, I feel totally ok with what we’ve done.  Jeff’s on board for the few changes ahead as are the kids.

So here we go.

Recently in our Kitchen

I know I've had a lot of kitchen related posts but as the head chef for a family of five much of my life is spent in the kitchen.  That continues to be even more true as grow in our whole food diet.  I really do have more to share and that is coming soon but I thought I would pass on a bit of what has been happening in our kitchen.

So, what we've been up to includes:

* Whole Grain Bread from Cynthia Lair's Feeding the Whole Family. This has become the bread we live on.

Roasted Garbanzos

* Carrot Tomato Soup

* Butternut Squash Apple Soup (I subbed sweet potatoes and it was delish.)

* Whole Wheat Muffins

There are many more but those will come in time.  

I also wanted to updated on our "Real Food Challenge". I'll be honest, we made it 100% for five days.   Then I broke in order to enjoy a wonderful, long awaited date day with the hubs.  I had wine and white flour and I'm totally ok with that.  Jeff and I have "debriefed" throughout the first few days of this project and we've realized that overall we're very much okay with where we are.  I'm just not going to worry about the sugar in ketchup as we eat very little anyway. (Though I would love to make my own.)

The two areas that have come to our attention for our family are crackers and cereal.  The products we bought in these categories, though considered "healthy", are still full of junk.  We are working to eliminate them. I have also realized what an obscene amount of coffee I've been drinking.  Actually, I knew but it was my early morning comfort.  Strong and warm, that's what I've turned to at five in the morning.  I've found a Yogi Green Tea that I really enjoy and will be drinking that from now on (with the occasional coffee). So, while we didn't finish the actual 10 days, I feel totally ok with what we've done.  Jeff's on board for the few changes ahead as are the kids.

So here we go.

Clean Food Challenge

Today is the day that we start the 10 Day Challenge.  This isn’t going to be as much of an adjustment for us as it is for many.  We already eat whole grains, natural sugars (lots of honey and syrup with a bit of turbinado) mainly whole foods and rarely eat fast food (they just don’t have it here and we’re never on base).  In fact, when I told Jeff about it he said, “no problem.”

The challenge is going to be sugar.  I know how pervasive HFCS is and it is the rare exception when it comes into our home.  But I got a sure awakening when I did our pre-challenge shop.  Sugar is everywhere.

Mustard? Check.  Salsa? Check.  My beloved spicy sriracha sauce?  Check.

Gross.

And when there’s not sugar there is just so much added crap.  Again, gross.

Now, let me stop right here and say that none of this, not the clean(er) eating, meal planning or shopping happened overnight.  This part of our family live has been evolving slowly over the past few years.

We aren’t perfect.  Both Jeff and I could stand to lose weight.  Just today we ran out of cumin for the refried beans.  When we’re in the states we occasionally eat fast food.

But we put one foot in front of the other and plug away.

Anyway.

For the next 10 days we’ll be following the plan.  The kids are on board though they know that if someone brings cupcakes to school they are welcome to have one.  Connor eats lunch everyday at asilo (we’re talking an awesome Italian feast each day).  He won’t be getting whole wheat pasta or bread there and I’m fine with that.

Since I feel pretty good about where we’re at already, I decided to add a little extra fun to the mix and am going coffee and alcohol free.  My coffee consumption is ridiculous and well, I live in Italy and have enjoyed the benefits of local wineries.  So, it’s two cups of green tea a day and water for me.

I’ve got meals and snacks planned and the tea pot on for hot lemon water.  Here we go.

 

Clean Food Challenge

Today is the day that we start the 10 Day Challenge.  

This isn't going to be as much of an adjustment for us as it is for many.  We already eat whole grains, natural sugars (lots of honey and syrup with a bit of turbinado) mainly whole foods and rarely eat fast food (they just don't have it here and we're never on base).  

In fact, when I told Jeff about it he said, "no problem."

The challenge is going to be sugar.  I know how pervasive HFCS is and it is the rare exception when it comes into our home.  But I got a sure awakening when I did our pre-challenge shop.  

Sugar is everywhere.

Mustard? Check.  Salsa? Check.  My beloved spicy sriracha sauce?  Check.

Gross.

And when there's not sugar there is just so much added crap.  Again, gross.

Now, let me stop right here and say that none of this, not the clean(er) eating, meal planning or shopping happened overnight.  This part of our family live has been evolving slowly over the past few years.

We aren't perfect.  

Both Jeff and I could stand to lose weight.  Just today we ran out of cumin for the refried beans.  When we're in the states we occasionally eat fast food. But we put one foot in front of the other and plug away.

Anyway.

For the next 10 days we'll be following the plan.  The kids are on board though they know that if someone brings cupcakes to school they are welcome to have one.  Connor eats lunch everyday at asilo (we're talking an awesome Italian feast each day).  He won't be getting whole wheat pasta or bread there and I'm fine with that.

Since I feel pretty good about where we're at already, I decided to add a little extra fun to the mix and am going coffee and alcohol free.  My coffee consumption is ridiculous and well, I live in Italy and have enjoyed the benefits of local wineries.  So, it's two cups of green tea a day and water for me. I've got meals and snacks planned and the tea pot on for hot lemon water.  

Here we go.  

Monthly Meal Planning {Part 2}

156:365

Well, then.  This little topic got sucked into the black hole that is December.

In case you missed it, check out Part One here.

Menu planning is just one part of the picture when it comes to a stress-free dinner time.  You have to make sure to have the needed ingredients on hand.  That’s step two.

I know that it seems over whelming to shop for two weeks (or a month) at a time but it’s really no different than shopping for a week or a few days.  The only difference is volume.

As I sit down with the calendar and select menu items for the month, I add ingredients to my grocery list.  Sure, some things I (almost) always have on hand but they get annotated none the less.  I keep one list for the 1st to the 15th and a second list for the 15th to the end of the month (I usually keep the list for the 2nd half on the back of my meal calendar so it’s less likely to disappear).  Once I’m done planning dinners, taking into consideration snacks, special baking or other things I have planned I add lunch items and other necessities for the first two week period (or make note for the second half of the month).

After everything is compiled, I check the pantry.  Yes, basil is almost always in the pantry but it really cramps my dinner time style to be making spaghetti and not have it.  So, this is the time to double check.  If I have it great, an item crossed off.  If I’m close to running out, it stays.

Once these list are compiled (I double check the mid-month list right before I shop also),  I should need to hit the store for a major shopping trips only twice a month.  During these trips I purchase everything for a two week period except produce, milk (we had it delivered from the local dairy when we were in CO but that’s not an option here) and bread (I make our sandwich bread but we buy everything else in town as needed though I’m starting to try making other bread items as well).  Yes, you need a bit of storage but it is so worth it.

Wholesale Shopping

The love of Costco runs deep in my family.  It knows no generational boundary.  When Jeff was deployed last year I really embraced my monthly Costco run and stocked up on everything I could.  In fact, I made a comprehensive list of those items that we used in a month that I could get there (really, what can you not get there?). My list included:

TP, diced tomatoes, Annie’s Mac n’ Cheese, tomato sauce, shredded mozzarella, whole wheat pasta, canned green beans, vanilla, frozen berries, Pellagrino, syrup, Tillamook sharp cheddar, coffee, dry pinto beans, contact solution, toothpaste, jam and taco seasoning.

I even kept a spreadsheet with the prices (yes, a bit annoying) and could change the quantity needed and print out my shopping list with a good idea of my total. Let’s be honest, there’s always a few extra things in the cart at Costco.  Though the list really helped me be disciplined.

So, Costco knocked out a big chunk of my shopping for not only two weeks but the entire month.  The rest of my list for the first half of the month gets sorted by aisle (again, annoying but it makes it so much easier to shop, especially if you have littles with you) and off we go.  Every non-perishable item on the list for the 1st to the 15th is purchased at this time along with perishables for the first week.  I head home with my bags of deliciousness and am thrilled to know that I don’t have to think about it again for two weeks.  I have everything I need.

Now, a few other things that really help.

The last two years we were in the States we bought beef from a rancher.  The first year we got quarter steer and the second a half.  The half steer lasted our family of five nine months.  No, we don’t really eat that much beef but it was so great having amazing, high quality meat (ground, steaks, roasts, etc.) already in the freezer.  The only drawbacks were the up front cost and the amount of freezer space it took up.  Otherwise, we loved it and will definitely do it again when we move back.  If you eat beef regularly at all, I suggest looking into it.

Buy your bread in bulk!  We bought some of our bread at Costco but the most cost effective place is the Orowheat Outlet.  For my FtCo friends, there is one in Loveland and I know there is at least one in the Everett area.  The same 100% Wheat bread that was around $4.00 at my local store in Colorado was $1.89 at the Outlet.  But here’s the kicker.  More often than not I would leave with around 15 bread items having only paid $20.  At the beginning of the year they give a calendar of coupons usually buy one get one.  The Loveland store also did punch cards and Thursday was double punch day.  After you filled one card you got two free loaves.  I could fill a card in one Thursday trip.  Finally, for every $7.00 you spend you got to get an item off the free table.  So, bread, hamburger/hot dog buns, tortillas, english muffins all done for the month I spent about $20.

I’m still figuring out the best way to do our shopping here in Italy.  I’m making even more from scratch, we’re trying to use the local markets, butcher, etc. as much as possible, I’m still getting used to remembering to buy enough milk on base, and planning the monthly wine stock up at the local winery but my general approach is the same.

Yes, it does take a bit more time initially but I think that’s totally worth it.  I’d love to hear what you think if you give it a try.

Monthly Meal Planning {Part 2}

156:365
Well, then.  This little topic got sucked into the black hole that is December.
In case you missed it, check out Part One here.
Menu planning is just one part of the picture when it comes to a stress-free dinner time.  You have to make sure to have the needed ingredients on hand.  That's step two.
I know that it seems over whelming to shop for two weeks (or a month) at a time but it's really no different than shopping for a week or a few days.  The only difference is volume.
As I sit down with the calendar and select menu items for the month, I add ingredients to my grocery list.  Sure, some things I (almost) always have on hand but they get annotated none the less.  I keep one list for the 1st to the 15th and a second list for the 15th to the end of the month (I usually keep the list for the 2nd half on the back of my meal calendar so it's less likely to disappear).  Once I'm done planning dinners, taking into consideration snacks, special baking or other things I have planned I add lunch items and other necessities for the first two week period (or make note for the second half of the month).
After everything is compiled, I check the pantry.  Yes, basil is almost always in the pantry but it really cramps my dinner time style to be making spaghetti and not have it.  So, this is the time to double check.  If I have it great, an item crossed off.  If I'm close to running out, it stays.
Once these list are compiled (I double check the mid-month list right before I shop also),  I should need to hit the store for a major shopping trips only twice a month.  During these trips I purchase everything for a two week period except produce, milk (we had it delivered from the local dairy when we were in CO but that's not an option here) and bread (I make our sandwich bread but we buy everything else in town as needed though I'm starting to try making other bread items as well).  Yes, you need a bit of storage but it is so worth it.
Wholesale Shopping
The love of Costco runs deep in my family.  It knows no generational boundary.  When Jeff was deployed last year I really embraced my monthly Costco run and stocked up on everything I could.  In fact, I made a comprehensive list of those items that we used in a month that I could get there (really, what can you not get there?). My list included:
TP, diced tomatoes, Annie's Mac n' Cheese, tomato sauce, shredded mozzarella, whole wheat pasta, canned green beans, vanilla, frozen berries, Pellagrino, syrup, Tillamook sharp cheddar, coffee, dry pinto beans, contact solution, toothpaste, jam and taco seasoning.
I even kept a spreadsheet with the prices (yes, a bit annoying) and could change the quantity needed and print out my shopping list with a good idea of my total. Let's be honest, there's always a few extra things in the cart at Costco.  Though the list really helped me be disciplined.
So, Costco knocked out a big chunk of my shopping for not only two weeks but the entire month.  The rest of my list for the first half of the month gets sorted by aisle (again, annoying but it makes it so much easier to shop, especially if you have littles with you) and off we go.  Every non-perishable item on the list for the 1st to the 15th is purchased at this time along with perishables for the first week.  I head home with my bags of deliciousness and am thrilled to know that I don't have to think about it again for two weeks.  I have everything I need.
Now, a few other things that really help.
The last two years we were in the States we bought beef from a rancher.  The first year we got quarter steer and the second a half.  The half steer lasted our family of five nine months.  No, we don't really eat that much beef but it was so great having amazing, high quality meat (ground, steaks, roasts, etc.) already in the freezer.  The only drawbacks were the up front cost and the amount of freezer space it took up.  Otherwise, we loved it and will definitely do it again when we move back.  If you eat beef regularly at all, I suggest looking into it.
Buy your bread in bulk!  We bought some of our bread at Costco but the most cost effective place is the Orowheat Outlet.  For my FtCo friends, there is one in Loveland and I know there is at least one in the Everett area.  The same 100% Wheat bread that was around $4.00 at my local store in Colorado was $1.89 at the Outlet.  But here's the kicker.  More often than not I would leave with around 15 bread items having only paid $20.  At the beginning of the year they give a calendar of coupons usually buy one get one.  The Loveland store also did punch cards and Thursday was double punch day.  After you filled one card you got two free loaves.  I could fill a card in one Thursday trip.  Finally, for every $7.00 you spend you got to get an item off the free table.  So, bread, hamburger/hot dog buns, tortillas, english muffins all done for the month I spent about $20.
I'm still figuring out the best way to do our shopping here in Italy.  I'm making even more from scratch, we're trying to use the local markets, butcher, etc. as much as possible, I'm still getting used to remembering to buy enough milk on base, and planning the monthly wine stock up at the local winery but my general approach is the same.
Yes, it does take a bit more time initially but I think that's totally worth it.  I'd love to hear what you think if you give it a try.