“Don’t Be Weird,” Mark Sisson

It’s a statement that resounds with me constantly and one I’ve written about before. Mark Sisson first uttered these words, in my presence, at PaleoFX in Austin, TX two years ago. He also mentioned level of choice in the world of clean eating and fitness. Extremes will result in extremes and moderation in, well, moderate results.

When I first began to cut grain and sugar, I was an extremist. I felt like I might die (DIE!) if I ate a grain of rice or a speck of sugar in my coffee, NO potatoes, not even a yam. That was 3 years ago. Over time, and through lifestyle changes on many fronts, I’ve reached specific health and fitness goals and then backed off, introduced some starch back into my diet and backed off from them, tried new things in moderation and decided whether or not it was a short or long-term addition. No matter what the choice, though, each were conscious and that is what I am most proud of. I have learned so much about food and our bodies from my journey with “Paleo” and clean eating. I have researched for myself, compared notes, kept food journals and understand how my body reacts to certain things more so than others.

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In my old age (kidding, I fully intend to live to 100. I’m barely a third of the way through!) I’m able to recognize my strengths and weaknesses. I thoughtfully work towards making, what I find to be a weakness, more of a strength. More often though, I just try to make it less of a reason I don’t achieve the results I desire. Like being a food nazi. Strong word, but I have a feeling that’s how people think I live my life and it’s not.

Just recently, I went to dinner with a few friends. The dinner special was Tilapia stuffed with crab. YUM! When it came, there was a small side of rice and a cucumber salad. Everyone waited to see if I would eat the rice. OF COURSE I ate the rice. I was a little surprised by everyone’s anticipation of my decision. The meal was delicious and I devoured every single grain of it. I very rarely eat out but when I do, I try to choose the best options. I don’t ask the waiter a thousand questions about ingredients or sauces because I do not have a specific food allergy or medical reason to do so. I would rather allow room for others, should they need to inquire, without making it weird. I feel that paranoid about a restaurant’s menu, then I’d rather choose another restaurant. That’s not weird at all, just smart.  

Although I still do not condone replacing all your junk food with gluten-free junk just because it’s ‘gluten free’, I have loosened my thought process for my own children and will buy them gluten and gmo free cereals as an easy morning breakfast. Also, just because they enjoy a bowl of cereal every now and again. Processed food is still processed, after all. Fresh is always better. But again, I’m not trying to be weird or make my kids feel weird, so they also enjoy a gluten, gmo and wheat free waffle or pancake from time to time. Still seem weird to you? Baby steps. Besides, they’re just called waffles in our house. My girls understand they are a better choice of waffles because of the brands we choose to spend our money on. 
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So, while my stomach is not as flat as it was 2 years ago and my thighs have more fat then they did last summer, I am still healthy and happy with my decisions. I am satisfied with my eating lifestyle at this moment and make conscious decisions to keep my body in a good enough state, while allowing room for ease due to a more hectic lifestyle then I was leading in the past. I’ve dropped from extreme to moderate…with leanings towards extreme. Give me some room here, folks.

I still consider myself 80% Paleo but would rather promote clean eating to others and slowing ease them into a grain-free lifestyle. I realize not everyone is a born extremist and many would rather begin making one better choice at a time. Robb Wolf recently posted the 7 Shades of Paleo, which reminded me that I’m still on track even though I eat sweet potatoes and don’t interrogate the waiter about ingredients. I’m still making great decisions, despite my lack of extremes. Thank you Mark and thank you Robb, you had me at hello.

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Healthy Family – Healthy Future

I remember as a little girl, sitting on my father’s running shoe-covered feet, arms around his sweaty knees, while he completed sit-ups after his run. I’m certain each of my 5 siblings has a similar memory. I don’t know how far or how often he would run, but he always encouraged us to run and/or to be physical. What I do know is that he completed his 1st marathon on his 50th birthday and he began Cross-fitting in his 60’s. INSPIRING.

I never did go for a run, not until just recently actually, but I was active in baseball, softball and swim team through most of my adolescence. After activities ended, I gained weight and ate/drank unhealthily for most of a decade. Towards 30 is when I found Paleo and Crossfit, only after entering motherhood. Motherhood is when it all clicked for me; I am a role model, a leader of a pack and I must make right choices for my cubs. At least, that is what goes through my mind on a daily basis.

My girls on a recent hike up White Rocks Trail in Cumberland Co, PA. We made it all the way to the top!

My girls on a recent hike up White Rocks Trail in Cumberland Co, PA. We made it all the way to the top!

While I once lived to party, I now enjoy walking my children the 10 blocks to a mile, to and from school, digging up soil and mixing compost, researching what plants work best with other plants to help deter critters, promote healthy growth and of course, taste the best. I’m using heirloom seeds, recycled egg cartons to start them, chopped off milk jugs in the event of a chilly evening… Who am I and how did this happen to me?! But most importantly of all, I am doing all these things with my children. Children who live in a culture where we are taught to trust the government, doctors, big brand names and their friends’ well-meaning treats on a daily basis. I’m hoping to infuse them with their own power through information gained and gathered on the fringe of what passes for our modern American culture. Do as I say / Do as I do. I am teaching by example and although they make choices that aren’t best, they also know that eating healthy food before a sweet treat is a better idea so their bodies don’t feel bad. That they learned on their own.

One of my 2013 resolutions was to grow as much as possible based on what my family likes to eat. So far, I have 2 4×4 garden beds with carrots and onions, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and I’ve begun seeds inside (due to a late winter chill and fear of frost) which include a variety of peppers, cucumbers and greens; arugula, spinach, butter crisp, head lettuce, I’ve also planted snap peas in a very fun way…I’m sure I’m forgetting something and I hope I’m able to keep up with it all! I also plan to add another raised bed to our farm this season for all the greens and the potential of 3-6 hills for melons and pumpkins. Luckily, our backyard has plenty of room for both play and food. Of course we’ll also be mixing these two very important aspects of life together by building a wall for the vining veggies to grow up and my kids to play under, FORT!

I used scrap pieces to make a humble wall for some snap peas to climb. I am propping it up with another stick to create a fort for the kids to play in and to provide some shade in our very sunny backyard.

I used scrap pieces to make this humble wall for our snap peas to climb. I am propping it up with another stick to create a fort for the kids to play in and to provide them additional shade in our very sunny backyard. They helped paint, roll out the chicken wire and plant the peas.

While my 6 year old churned the soil and collected any weeds from our back 2 beds, my 5 year old helped me plant seeds in egg cartons with a bit of our first batch of compost, started last year in my Mother’s Day present. We tend to the yard every chance we get on these brisk Spring days, before I have to go to work and they have to attend school. We look forward to Sundays when we can really get our hands dirty and everyone gets a say in where and what we plant. The time we spend together is priceless because we’re working as a family FOR our family.

That's me in the black, next to my father and his wife, both active members at Crossfit717, along with 1 of my daughters, 2 nieces and 3 nephews. They were all participants during a fundraiser featuring family wods and a pint sized wod circuit. Not pictured: another daughter and my husband, who dj'd the event.

That’s me in the black, next to my father and his wife, both active members at Crossfit717, along with 1 of my daughters, 2 nieces and 3 nephews. Not pictured: another daughter and my husband.

Life has a way of coming full circle as I caught my nephews sitting on each other’s feet while the other completed sit-ups in preparation for the family WOD (work out of the day) at Crossfit717‘s weekend event in support of Autism. It was a great day, filled with fun, family and fitness. My younger girls were able to participate in a WOD circuit, built just for 8 and unders including box jumps, burpees (their fave), air squats, farmer carries and more, while my husband dj’d the event. We have surrounded ourselves with quite a community. My only wish is that my children influence their own friends and family in a similar way some day and my efforts are not in vain.

How does your family stay focused on health? Leave a comment or join us on Facebook for more posts and discussion.


My Daughter’s 1st Slumber Party

Boy was it fun!

No, I’m not joking, we had a blast. The guests seemed to have a great time, as well. The slumber party was originally the idea of my newly 5-year-old daughter. At first I thought, HELL NO, but after a few days to think about it and inquiring with other parents, I realized we could be smart about this and make it the best party ever.

We completed ALL the slumber party things.

We completed ALL the slumber party things.

Slumber parties, to a 5-year-old, mean lots of snacks and movies and makeup and ALL THE FUN! My 5-year-old invited 2 friends and her sister (wasn’t that kind of her?) and I extended the invite to one of the guest’s big sister to even out the ages. My sister wished me luck getting through the night without belly aches but I was already ahead of the game on that one. Just like thinking ahead at the holidays, I wanted to do this party right by these little girls and give them a great experience, not an unhealthy one.

I decided to start the party off with cake and presents and get the biggest unhealthy obstacle out-of-the-way. This year, I allowed each of my daughters to pick out a decorated cake from the grocery store. It wasn’t gluten-free, sugar-free, or paleo… it was a conventional, decorated, birthday cake. The only thing I decided on was a whipped topping instead of the super-sugar-heavy icing, but it is what it is: a quarter sheet of junk. We sang Happy Birthday, blew out as many candles as I could find, had cake, opened presents and moved onto all the fun things the girls thought a slumber party should include.

Snacks included a tray of popcorn, grapes, Stretch Island Fruit Snacks, UNREAL 41 (M&Ms) & a 77 (peanut butter cups) for each girl, a bowl of apples, a dish of sunflower seeds and glasses of ice-cold water! The girls were so happy and excited. It was a joy to see their sweet faces smiling as we jumped from activity to activity all while enjoying good choices and special treats! Yes, they even ate the apples. They didn’t hesitate to help themselves throughout the evening to more popcorn, seeds, juicy grapes or more water. The best part: their manners were IMPECCABLE. “Please” and “thank you” and “excuse me”s all night long. Good job mom & dad!

  • Stretch Island is a special treat in our house. 1: They are a NON-GMO verified company; 2: No artificial additives; 3: REAL fruit puree; and 3: I get coupons for $.75-$1 off at my local grocery store; plus they taste great!
  • UNREAL candy is made with REAL ingredients and NO GMOs. They taste amazing and are available locally at CVS, Rite Aid, and Target. Though their peanut butter cups have half  the sugar content of Reese’s, I still limited the girls to 1 cup each since they were enjoying their candy coated chocolates (40% less sugar then M&Ms) at will AND they just had cake.

After choosing their desired sleep location, 2 in the top bunk and 3 on the floor, I read the girls a story and closed the door at midnight. They weren’t up much later than that and I made sure to eavesdrop for a bit at the door. Their conversations were to die for! I awoke this morning at 8:07am and heard them chatting in the room still, door closed. GOOD GIRLS.

74413_10200353214824650_1170600616_nAs soon as they heard me in the kitchen, the girls all scurried out in their pj’s and I quickly began preparing breakfast-to-order as they dove right into playing with LEGOS and art supplies. The initial order doesn’t reflect all that the girls ended up eating, as most had a 2nd serving of a different choice, but pastured local eggs, uncured bacon, gluten-free waffles and cereal, fresh fruit, grass-fed butter and dark syrup were among the options. I figured if I’m sending home tired kids, I may as well pump them full of premium fuel.

  • Van’s Natural Food is a GMO free company plus they have gluten AND wheat free options. This is a special treat in our house as I rarely buy frozen waffles/pancakes since I have a great coconut flour recipe I like to make and freeze the leftovers for a quick morning meal. But there is something to be said for the convenience of Van’s.
  • Barbara Bakery products are also GMO and gluten-free. My husband and kids enjoy the Peanut Butter and Cinnamon Puffins. This particular morning, the ladies requested cinnamon (40% less sugar then Cinnamon Toast Crunch) and one guest mentioned “I really like dat cereal” when she was all done.

I didn’t plan this party to be a ‘healthy’ sleepover, but I decided to share our celebration to inspire others to offer good choices, mixed with special treats, that aren’t all that bad. Especially when it comes to children, who typically have a special menu of crap at restaurants and an array of junk fed to them at parties. Life is meant to be lived and I indulge, as do my children, from time to time but control is taught through repetition. My daughters had a wonderful 1st slumber party filled with activities and movies and fun! I can only hope they are learning about food choice and control through example and experience. They are currently napping.

What do you typically serve to kid-guests during parties, playdates or special occasions?


Week 7: Menu & Receipt

Lately, I’ve been able to stretch my 7 day meal plan and shopping to 8 or 9 days. Whether it’s because I just don’t have the time or I’m force-feeding leftovers to the family, I’m grateful since we’re still in a tight financial spot, as so many of us are, and need to conserve every penny.

That being said, the 4-year-old who named this blog, turned SIX on February 23rd and her younger sister turned 5 yesterday. We aren’t outrageous with gift-giving but when the yearly “Birthday Extravaganza” comes around we celebrate our daughters from one birthday to the next, as any proper celebration should play out. 30(ish) days of extraordinary fun! The little extras add up fast and I’m honestly looking forward to re-tightening our pocket.

photoThis week’s menu was thrown together just for the blog. I went shopping Tuesday morning while my little one was at preschool. Upon my husband’s request, I picked up a roast, I also went for the organic chicken club pack which cuts the cost per lbs from $7.99 to $6.99 and includes portions for 2 dinners instead of one. Chicken thighs and wings seem to be a staple these days because 1) they’re a cheap option, 2) my family devours them and 3) they’re easy to make, bake and the leftovers are bangin!

Incidentally, a friend recently suggested a way to save money was to skip the organic chicken breast and go conventional. I won’t argue a monetary savings here and have typically suggested the same.  He added “Almost every article I read says that the nutritional benefit over regular chicken breasts is negligible. Most impurities and toxins are stored in fat and chicken is so lean that only trace amounts would even exist”.  He is an intelligent and trusted friend, with killer hair, so I stored this info in the ole’ brain and went for a sale on conventionally raised chicken drumsticks a few weeks ago, not breast meat, I realize. I roasted and served them to my girls for dinner. They didn’t gobble them up, as usual, but I didn’t give it much thought as appetite has ebbs and flows. The following day, I served myself a few for breakfast and nearly spit it out before I could get a napkin. The taste was so obviously inferior, it made me feel sick. Bad batch? I don’t know but it reminded me that choice does matter and organic chickens always taste better! I threw the rest away.

You’ll notice Tuesday starts off with chicken (cooked with onions and peppers) and noodles. I finally found a gluten-free, GMO-free noodle option at my local grocery store: TruRoots. After reading the website, I see they claim an ‘al dente’ texture after cooking. My husband, however, says he over cooked his first batch and they were a little mushy, but decent enough to eat. I didn’t warn him they were ‘different’ then his regular noodle variety so it doesn’t’ surprise me that it overcooked. Regular noodles could boil for much longer then required and still not become mushy. Imagine that sitting in your gut… just chillin. Despite over-cooking, he said he’d eat them again and that’s a win for me since we rarely have noodles and now we have some in stock.

photo-2Another exciting find I made was on thursday morning when I stopped by the grocery to pick up some taco shells for my now-5 year old’s requested birthday dinner: Bearitos. This little gem of a company is also non-GMO (found through my non-GMO app) and for a corn meal/chip company it was thrilling discovery since 85% of the corn in our country is genetically modified and that creeps me out. I suspect it’s mostly gluten-free as well, but they do not follow the testing practices for gluten so they do not claim it. They were delicious and had a more authentic taste then the cheaper, standard taco shells. I will now only buy GMO-free tortilla chips, as well. We’ve found and tried 1 or 2 other brands at my local store, my husband says they’re good but aren’t salty enough and I’m okay with that.

During this quick trip to the store, I decided to check the organic meat section for sales while I was there. Often you can find a few items marked down in yellow to add to your freezer and low and behold, I DID! 1 package of organic pork sausage (I often cut up and use sausage in my soups along with another protein) and 2 lbs of organic ground turkey breast were marked 50% off, so I snatched them up. That means you’ll have to add $4 for the taco shells and $12 for the extra organic sale-meat to my receipt for the week. Worth it!

I think I’ve covered everything from this week. My last request: Your favorite recipes including chicken thighs and ground turkey. Please comment here or add them to our Facebook page and you may see them on next week’s menu! Also, I added the spice combination I used for our taco seasoning to the Facebook timeline. Check it out & share with friends!


Week 6: Menu & Receipt

I don’t have a lot of time today so let’s keep this short and sweet, I hit a total of $109.06. If I were shopping at one store, I would have put back a pack of wings or thighs, or perhaps a bag of apples. Instead I put back my baking essentials of honey, vanilla and something else at the 2nd store, in order to stay closer to the budget of $100. It’s not a hardship to be without stock for cookies or muffins. Choice!

It's a learning curve shopping at 2 stores with this budget so bare with me while I work out the kinks!

It’s a learning curve shopping at 2 stores with this budget so bear with me while I work out the kinks!

This week’s menu was made after I went shopping based on the available funds, sales and meat choices that were in the stores. If you noticed, I used a $1 off coupon for some nitrate free pepperoni – just check Applegate’s website!

Our fries are fresh cut from sweet potatoes and/or organic white potatoes. My sandwiches are on lettuce. And real chili doesn't have beans! Ask a Texan.

Our fries are fresh-cut from sweet potatoes and/or organic white potatoes. My sandwiches are on lettuce… And real chili doesn’t have beans! Ask a Texan.

What are you having for dinner this week? Leave a comment or join us on Facebook to chime in on another topic.

To check out previous $100/week budget Menu & Receipt posts click below.


What’s for Lunch?

I had a follower on Twitter recently ask “what are you eating for lunches??? I read your menu and see leftovers on the menu for dinner. Just curious.” GREAT QUESTION.

@evroman
I was posting my lunches to our Facebook page pretty regularly while I was in Barber School and I think people enjoyed that. It allowed them to see, I really AM eating a lot of leftovers and salads with a side of carrots and guac or a banana, as I say, “ALWAYS MAKE EXTRA”. A few other things as my lunch go-tos are:

  • (Grass-fed from a local market) Hotdogs & kraut
  • Mixed greens, sliced veggies, hard-boiled eggs and leftover protein (salad, duh) sprinkled with Annie’s Oil & Vinegar, the brand is nonGMO and also has a great taste to it, unlike a few other organic O/Vs I’ve tried
  • Scrambled eggs, onions, & cayenne paper, sometimes I’ll add Boar’s Head lunch meat to the scramble or leftover protein
  • Leftover protein (think meatloaf) with a dippy egg on top – YUM
  • Boar’s Head sliced turkey/chicken/roast beef/London broil (or other nitrate free, gluten-free lunch meats) rolled up with any medley of cucumbers, carrots, apples, grapes, etc dipped in mustard

I follow my hunger cues and usually don’t eat the standard 3 meals a day, instead I eat when I need to fuel up or replenish my fuel. Breakfast has never been my forte and after reading a nice article on How To Start Your Day by Mark Sisson, I first drink a giant glass of water, followed by my morning coffee (I usually have another cup when I get to work around 3pm). I tend to eat before heading into work (think, filling my gas tank) and that could range between 11am and 3pm. This is what I call Lunch.

Real food gives you real energy.

Real food gives you real energy.

Now that I’m finished with school (daytime) and moved onto my new career in hair (a lot of evenings), I continue to plan out our Dinner menus that I usually prep for my husband who finishes cooking for himself and the girls. I tend to bring leftovers for my work-Dinner (think, gas station pit stop on your way to the beach) from the day before. When I get home from work, I always eat again. This is my after-work Dinner (think, filling tank after a long trip). While I am on my feet and hustling at the salon, I use and maintain a balanced level of energy which is so very important in customer service. I can thank my diet for that! Energy is VITAL in this industry but really it is vital to my life in general; mother, wife, household, preschool, kindergarten, career, it gets intense. I’m certain you have a similar story.

In short, I pick my food based on the fuel I’ll need for the day. A slow day like today? A sunday where I’m going to be prepping food, hanging with kids, attending a birthday party and having dinner with the fam – I won’t need as much fat/protein as I do on, say, a Tuesday when I am running back and forth all morning between preschool and kindergarten, cleaning house, doing laundry, prepping meals, working 6-9 hours on my feet, calculating, thinking, planning, etc. This is something I’ve learned over the years and after paying close attention to how my body feels with the fuel/food I’m choosing.

What do you typically have for lunch? Leave a comment of add to the conversation on Facebook!

 


Week 4: Menu & Receipt

As you see, our weeks are not set in stone. If we go out of order, I like to cross off a meal so we know what we're dealing with. My husband appreciates variety so I try to mix up my proteins throughout the week. I, on the other hand, could eat the same thing all day until it was gone. Leftovers are my jam.

As you see, our weeks are not set in stone. If we go out-of-order, I like to cross off a meal so we know what we’re dealing with. My husband appreciates variety so I try to mix up my proteins throughout the week. I, on the other hand, could eat the same thing all day until it was gone. Leftovers are my jam.

IT’S BACK.

The past few weeks have been hectic as I am knee-deep in a new career. After being in school all day for 12 months my routine of leftover lunches has now become leftover dinners because I typically work in the evenings. My family is left to fend for themselves (with the help of my menu planning and preparation, mind you) while I work 3-5 evenings each week. My house hasn’t been this organized in a year and we’ve been checking off the Pinterest ‘to do‘ list at lightning speed. Life is good. My weekly shopping trip, however, has been chopped into spurts.

I don’t mind shopping in spurts, but I received a lot of positive feedback on the weekly menu & receipt posts so my intention has been to continue doing a weekly $100 grocery trip and meal plan (you know, to keep myself busy) so, HERE I AM.

I put a few things back this week, like a 2nd box of k-cups ($5.99), in order to afford a few treats. I also decided against the organic butter (4.29) because we have some butter in the house and my sister recently picked us up 2 jars of Trader Joes Coconut Oil, which I have been using more of recently.

  • Budget: $100
  • Meal Plan: 1 week
  • Final purchase: $92.61

Eating As A Family on a Tight Budget

During my hiatus, I will note, we were not living it up, it was quite the contrary as a matter of fact. My girlfriend, Jodi, recently asked “Without pasta or a starchy filler is it difficult to stretch (a dollar)?” and my immediate answer was “no”. We maintain our eating habits, as much as possible because we are committed to health. It’s almost better for us to spend our money elsewhere 😉 We (/I) are nowhere near perfect. Paleo is the goal and we live as close to it as we can. Sometimes, we don’t want to. 🙂

1. Snack less; It is a privilege, not a right

2. Pack meals with protein – no counting calories or controlling portions (within reason). EAT.

3. Cook with coconut oil instead of butter – it adds more fat to our lessened amount of food. Fat = energy and we all need energy to keep our brains and bodies working well.

4. Use more eggs – added protein and fat for a good price

5. Drink (even more) water.

6. GET BUSY and/or NAP – our bodies work best in these conditions

WHEW, Treats! There was a new brand of nonGMO cereal I decided to throw in for the kids, a bag of potato chips, flavored coffee, crackers & cheese and a sack of ENJOY chocolate chips. PRIVILEGE.

WHEW, Treats! There was a new brand of nonGMO cereal I decided to throw in for the kids, a bag of potato chips for the husband, flavored coffee for me, crackers & cheese…for me, and a sack of ENJOY chocolate chips for all of us. PRIVILEGE.

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