Monday, November 24, 2008

A Healthy Start

Photo courtesy of

Well, here we are. The week that marks the official beginning of the holiday eating season. What foods lie in wait for us in the weeks ahead? Pies, cakes, pastries, stuffing, meats and cheeses, white rolls with butter, fudge, Christmas cookies, wine, cocoa, fondue--the list goes on an on.
I'm certainly not posting about all of this to rain on anyone's parade, least of all my own. I love the holidays and I love the special foods and smells that are only around once a year.
But one thing I hate is getting sick after Christmas. It never seems to fail--after the parties are over (sometimes before), I come down with a bad cold and/or flu. The cause? Too much unhealthy foods, particularly sweets, not enough fruits and veggies, too little sleep, too many gatherings. I'm worn out and exhausted and my body is run down.
While I don't want to be one of those people who munches plain carrot sticks and sips seltzer water at parties (not that there's anything wrong with that), I do need to learn to exercise more moderation. Christmas cookies? Absolutely my favorite Christmas treats. So maybe I can overdo on the cookies and not take any pie, which I really don't care for. If there's a party planned for this evening, maybe I can nap this afternoon so that I don't get overtired. Being "with child" this year offers me the perfect excuse to take even better care of myself.
I have already been feeling the effects of overindulgence. Though the only cookies I have in the house are of a low-sugar variety (animal crackers and homemade biscotti), it's easy to reach for those in place of fruit or other healthier options. Last night I was browsing some of my favorite blogs and re-read a couple of posts on the Happy Foody site. No matter what, Sara has the ability to inspire me to want to eat better and live more "cleanly".
I figured fitting in a fruit smoothie this morning was the perfect way to start my day. I put spinach, frozen strawberries, an orange and a banana in the blender with a little honey and water and viola! A yummy, filling smoothie which will hopefully give me the energy I need for the busy day ahead of me.
Check out these recipes on Happy Foody for some smoothie inspiration. Or check out the Green Smoothie Girl's site--You'll be craving a smoothie for yourself before you know it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Patriotic Spending?

After September 11th, President Bush encouraged us to spend to show our patriotism. In the wake of the recent financial disaster on Wall Street, we are again encouraged by the media to get out there and stimulate the economy.

As someone who is trying hard to cut back, make do, and do without, I find this advice worrisome. Am I being a "bad American" because I'm not spending? Is it wrong to try to live more by the standards our grandparents had then the throw-away standards that are so popular today?

Absolutely not, says Dr. Juliet Schor, an economist and professor at Boston College. Read the whole article here.

Whew. I feel better.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

*Photo from US Government Photos

Maybe if we all got out in nature more often, we'd take better care of the planet.
This is a photo of the Grand Canyon, a place I have yet to visit though I've wanted to for years. In fact, I just got a book recently about a new book Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv. I haven't read the whole thing yet, but one part that struck me is the phrase he coined, "nature deficit disorder". He is referring mostly to the fact that children spend so little time in nature. They are "plugged in" much of the time to one electronic device or another and when they aren't, they're being shuttled to and from organized sports and other activities.
Honestly, I think he's on to something. I remember spending hours outside when I was a kid. My mother had four children, so sometimes she would kick us out of the house to get the cleaning done! I remember creating imaginary houses within the thick tree trunks, boats out of fallen logs, and magical kingdoms on the little stream that would freeze over in winter. I learned a lot about the woods just by being in them. That old, wet wood peels apart exactly like turkey in flakes and chunks, the smell and taste of clover, the way the leaves turned "inside out" before it rains.
I haven't gotten that far into the book yet, but I wonder if Louv talks at all about adult nature deficit disorder. Because I think that like many problems and bad habits which children inherit, it's normally the adults setting the stage. If more parents were to take their children into the woods rather than to a weekend matinee or afternoon at the arcade, their curiosity about the natural world would be sure to increase.
Parents may wonder though, what to DO with their kids in the woods, especially if their own parents never spent time showing them the wonders of the natural world. Here are a few suggestions:
1) Go geocaching. This is a sort of nature treasure hunt--geocachers "plant" caches in different locations. Seekers must find the cache using only a GPS.
2) Go for a hike. It doesn't have to be long and arduous. Listings of quickie hikes and easy trails should be listed on your state's forest parks and recreation website.
3) Have a picnic. So what if it's cold? Bundle up and build a campfire in your backyard. Spread some blankets around the fire and enjoy a yummy meal together.
4) Garden.
5) Explore your local state or local wildlife refuges. These have some great walking/snowshoeing trails and normally lake or river access for canoeing.
6) Buy a used telescope and explore the stars and galaxies together.
7) Walk the dog.
8) Go on a family walk and clean litter off the roadside as you do it (don't forget gloves!).
9) Go Letterboxing. Similar to geocaching, only you stamp a small log book instead of finding a cache. Requires no GPS.
These are just a few ideas, I'm sure you can come up with a lot more of your own. The important thing is just to try to get out there--even if it's once a week. My bet is that the fresh air, movement, and connection to nature will have you wanting more in no time.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Why do we tend to think that nice dinners can only be had out of our own homes? Sunday I prepared a yummy, warm, fall feast for my husband two of my sisters. The dishes I made were simple and homey, but tasty. Best of all, we could linger as long as we wanted over the Spiced Baked Fruit dessert and cups of decaf. No one breathing down our necks to clear the table and, maybe best of all, no check to fight over at the end of the meal.

Yeah, yeah, I hear you saying. That's all well and good, but it's a lot of work to make homemade meals and clean up afterwards.

Well, true. It is a little work and if you are someone who doesn't enjoy cooking than going out is probably a much better option.

Still, if you prepare some or most of your dishes ahead of time, you can pop them in the oven before guests arrive. I try to keep the dishes cleaned as I go and put things away as soon as I finish one recipe so I don't make a huge mess of the kitchen. PLUS, making a nice big Sunday meal means you'll have at least a day or two of leftovers. I had leftovers for lunch--yummy, free and no work.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Feeling Pinched? Give.

When we feel the most like hoarding, it is the best time to give.

This theory keeps popping up in different places for me. I bet I've read the idea, in one form or another, in three different places within the past week. The most recently was while re-reading Richard Carlson's Don't Worry, Make Money which I borrowed recently from the library.

In fact, not only should we give when we are feeling like there isn't enough to go around or when we instead want to hold tight to every penny in our purse, but we should give out exactly what it is we are hoping to get more of. Want more time? Give some of yours away. In need of cash (who isn't)? Make a donation or treat someone to something special. Want more love in your life? Give love-- to people, pets, the environment, etc.

Here's a paragraph from Dr. Carlson's book:

"Money is "circulation." It needs to flow. When you are frightened, selfish, or when you hoard everything for yourself, you literally stop making circulation. You create "clogged pipes," making it difficult to keep money flowing back in your direction. . . Giving and receiving are two sides of the same coin. If you want more love, or fun, or respect, or success, or anything else, the way to get it is simple: give it away. Don't worry about a thing. The universe knows what it's doing. Everything you give away will return, with interest!"

A good reminder.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Healthy AND Delicious

This weekend I was re-reading another old favorite from my simple living library--Janet Luhrs's "The Simple Living Guide" I was re-inspired by her chapter on nutrition. Fall is a time when I feel my best--I don't know about any of you but there are certain seasons when I feel great, inside and out, and others (like late spring) when I feel icky and out of balance.

Anyway, in reading the chapter on nutrition, the author talks about the importance of whole, unadulterated foods and trying to eat foods as close as possible to the way they are found in nature. By doing this, we can feel our best, build our immune systems, and generally be our healthiest.

The author bases a lot of her health nutrition on that of the Seventh Day Adventist Church (though she is not an Adventist herself). One of the things that Adventists traditionally believe, is that the body needs good, nourishing foods and then time to digest them properly. Luhrs talks about their belief that one should eat their largest meal at breakfast, the second largest at lunch, and a very small, or no, supper. Meals should be spaced about 5 hours apart and one should eat a LOT at mealtimes, as snacking is not looked upon favorably.

I'm not one for a lot of "rules" around food--having grown up in a house where we were always "all or nothing" eating (either all trying to be super healthy or all scarfing ice cream sundaes). I try to be very moderate about my eating habits. However, I did take the authors suggestion of making a pot of healthy, whole grains and having that with fruit for breakfast. I found a recipe for Crockpot Cobbler and scoured my kitchen cabinets Saturday night, putting together the ingredients in my trusty crockpot. This is a great way to use up some of your fall apples AND any stale granola you might have lurking in your cupboards. Plus, it's super easy and fast to make.

It was delicious--warm and creamy, low in fat and high in fiber. And it was a real treat to smell breakfast already cooking when I got up on Sunday morning. I felt like I was at a B&B!

This morning I made up a large pot of kidney beans, from dry beans I purchased at our local natural food store this weekend. Dry beans are a HUGE savings and really aren't that time consuming to make--they just require a little pre-planning to soak before cooking. I'm going to make chili and Mustard Baked Beans with them, and will use any leftovers in my salads. I think I'll try to find a whole grain cornbread recipe to go with both dishes.

Here's to cooking healthy AND delicious foods!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Tightwaddery Gets a Bad Name

Frugal Frannie, Tightwad, Cheapskate, Penny Pincher. Most of these labels bring up feelings of unease. Who wants to be called one of those less than flattering names?

But what if tightwaddery was looked at in a positive light? Back in the day, people who managed their money well and were frugal were considered "good with their money", "careful" and "responsible". In today's society though, being careful with your money is more likely to get you laughed at than respected.

Enter the Tightwad Gazette. This book, and the ones that follow it, are written by the frugality queen, Amy Dacyczyn (pronounced "decision"). I have read them in the past but recently picked up a copy at a local used book store. I read it in three days and enjoyed it (again) immensely. Okay, some of the ideas are a little off the wall like the many uses of old juice can lids. But there are many, many good ideas that can save you money, and in many cases, time. I like how the book is organized. Someone said that it's formatted almost like a blog, broken down into small pieces. I think that's a great comparison.

Another thing I LOVE about the book is the fact (reminder) that many things we do to save money are also great for the environment. In fact, the author talks about these overlapping circles--living in a frugal manner is also good for the earth the majority (I think she says 90%?) of the time. And it's true~think about it. Drying clothes on the line instead of in the dryer--saves money and the environment. Making food from scratch--saves money and the environment (no wasteful paper wrappers and Styrofoam containers), even more so if you are eating local and/or organic foods. You get the idea.
Another important tip? This is actually the theme of the book, in my opinion. Prioritizing. For the author and her husband the priority was to have a big family and live in a big house in a rural area. They knew what they wanted and were able to make saving the money for this type of lifestyle a priority. They could have said that this is what they really wanted, but then blown money right and left on tropical vacations, evenings at the theater, dinners at expensive restaurants, etc., but because that wasn't their priority, they chose to pinch pennies and go after their dream. I think that without priorities, it would be very hard, maybe impossible, to stick with being frugal. You need the goal to spur you on to action.

I also came across this article on The Simple Dollar in which the web site owner interviews Mrs. Dacyczyn--it's a good one and I'd highly recommend it, especially if you are already a Tightwad fan.