Archive for the ‘Food Talk’ Category

Burdens

Friday, July 25th, 2014

It’s a bad word.  Nobody says “burden” in a good way.  Ever.

But what does it even mean?  Something that weighs down on you, often times impacting every other part of your life.

I’ve been reading a lot about minimalism this spring/summer, and I’m finding that minimalists like to throw this word around a lot.  ”Stuff is a burden.”  Sure, I can get behind that.  All stuff requires work and money (however little) to maintain and space to be stored.  Such a burden.

But I’m finding, that at least for me, minimalism can be a burden as well.  In all the reading I’ve done about minimalism, I’ve found myself frequently frustrated and in a poor mood after I read a blog post or article on the subject.  That isn’t right.  The idea is that minimalism is supposed to be life giving.

So why hasn’t it been for me?

Well, in many ways, it has.  Shrinking the amount of stuff in our bedroom gives me a real sense of peace when I’m going to bed.  The kitchen is easier to work in, frequently cleaner, and all around more pleasant to be in, now that I’ve gotten rid of unnecessary items.  Our living/dining room have always been fairly clutter free, and with few exceptions, it’s remained so during this season.

But there’s this other side of minimalism that I find very burdensome.  It’s the legalism, the rules about how I’m supposed to live, and they’re driving me bonkers.  For example, I read a blog the other day that had an important principle to living with less: “Live on only one income.”  And then I become very discontent with the amount of money that my husband and I make because this seems close to impossible without severely cutting back our lifestyle (hello beans and rice!) and postponing or altogether removing our long term goals (having a family).  My discontentment is my problem, and it’s not fair of me to outsource that on somebody else.

At the same time, hard and fast rules seem unrealistic, however well-intentioned.  When people say things like “live on only one income”, they assume that one of your two incomes is sufficient to live off of.  And while Joel and I certainly could live on only one income if we really needed to, there are a lot of families that simply can’t without governmental aid which they wouldn’t qualify for since they still bring in the two incomes.  And then the spirit of the rule is that you live simply, which Joel and I would certainly accomplish by living on only one income, but I have plenty of friends who still could and would live extravagant lifestyles doing the same.  So the rule doesn’t even accomplish the purpose.  There’s just no way that you can assume that any family could (or should) cut their spending in half, or that if they did, the result would be simplicity.

But the more burdensome part of this to me is what it would mean I would have to give up.  Fresh, sustainably grown fruits and veggies.  Humanely treated and sustainably raised meat.  Dinner out with my husband.  Bella Monica, forever and always.  A breakfast date with a friend.  The possibility of having children of different sexes (because while it’s not necessary, I really think it’s important for boys and girls to have separate bedrooms).  Living within walking distance to an amazing park and fantastic museum.  Living in a neighborhood where I feel safe.  Extra school supplies so that the kids whose parents can’t afford it don’t feel left out and are still able to learn.  Vacation.  And the list goes on.

Could we give up these things?  Certainly.  Should we?  And here’s where the question gets trickier.  Sure, I sometimes spend my money on things that are less than life giving, but the majority of my money goes towards things I really want and enjoy, things that are life-giving.  (And it goes without saying that my husband and I are savers and are debt free except for our mortgage, so we’re not being foolish by putting a dinner out on the credit card.)

Money is meant to be used.  And the ideas behind minimalism were never supposed to make me unwilling to spend it.  Rather, they’re supposed to challenge the way I choose to spend it, which is an idea I gleaned from Vanderkam’s All the Money in the World.  And I choose to spend money in a way that gives life… to others, to my family, to the world.

I’ve found myself buying fewer clothes, fewer shoes, and fewer kitchen gadgets.  But I also didn’t hold back at all when my husband and I saw the latest DC Heroes game (I checked our budget, but didn’t hold back when I saw we had the money there).  There’s room in life for stuff.  Stuff can squeeze life out, but lack of stuff can also do that.  The trick is to find the balance.

Summer Update

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Remember that list of Summer To Do’s I created before the summer began?  I wanted to check in and let y’all know what progress I’ve made.  And also some goals that might have changed.

1) Hard Core Decluttering

Clothes: Check.  We got rid of our dresser which really opens up our bedroom.  All of our clothes now fit into the closet.  After I did this, I was enjoying just how open the bedroom felt and wanted more of it.  So I kept going with the clothing purge.  I managed to find a place in the closet for our laundry basket and my jewelry, which had previously been on my night stand.  Then I got rid of the nightstand.  I’ll explain more on this project later, but suffice it to say that I am loving my bedroom without all the stuff.

Kitchen: Check and check.  I went a bit further with this than I expected.  I expected to get rid of a bunch of unitaskers and utensils.  I didn’t expect to be so ruthless with our appliances.  Several left our home completely (afterall, do we really need a blender and a food processor?).  Others went to the attic.  They’re accessible when I really want them, but they aren’t unnecessarily cluttering our kitchen.  Loving the bare counters and organized cabinets.

Cleaning Supplies: I finally got around to this yesterday.  It’s so nice to know that we don’t have all these toxic chemicals sitting under the counter.  I also stocked up on baking soda and vinegar (my two favorite cleaning supplies) from Costco, and it’s nice that I have space for them now.

2) Organization

Flours: If you follow me on instagram (@eatingourheartsout), then you know that I did this awhile ago.  I stocked up on quart sized mason jars, labeled them, and placed them neatly on a narrow rolling cart that fits perfectly under the counter in this bizarre crevice between the wall and the cabinets. (Our kitchen has a kinda wonky layout, which I actually really dig, but it means for some odd angles.)  What you may not know is that less than 5 minutes after I posted the picture to instagram, I went to push the cart back under the counter, only to have it completely collapse.  Whoops.  I found another rolling cart that is actually an even better fit, as it completely fills the space.  It’s fits all of my flours on the top two shelves, and now I can put extras on the bottom shelf.

Craft Supplies: After I ditched my nightstand (which was really just a really ugly shelf), I replaced it with my antique sewing table.  Aside from a box of tissues and a glass of water, nothing goes on the surface, which really adds to the openness of the bedroom.  I also put all the fabric into underbed boxes.

Comic Books: I just remembered that I said I was going to do this.  Blech!  I need to get organizing.

3) Becoming a Little Crunchier

This is by far the section I’m most excited about.

Shampoo: I’m using a really simple water/baking soda mixture.  It’s a sort of paste that you just rub into your hair.  Then, after I’ve rinsed, I do a quick apple cider vinegar (highly diluted) rinse.  The result is super soft, super affordable dream hair.  I’ve heard rumors that you can wash less often, as the chemicals in conventional shampoo are often what causes your hair to look so disgusting so fast.  I haven’t played around with that yet, but so far so good.  I use zero styling products, just a blow dryer and a straightener.  Loving it!

Body Wash: One of the ingredients should be coming in the mail tomorrow.  I’m jazzed to try this out.

Face Wash: This wasn’t something from my original to do list, but I’m thrilled I switched over.  My dear friend Bekah from Pretty Little Snippets did a post this last winter all about oil-based face wash.  If you’ve seen her skin, you know that clearly whatever she’s doing works.  That said, I was still a little skeptical about smearing oil all over my face.  Still, if I was going to go all natural with the shampoo and body wash, this seemed a natural companion.  I followed her recipe exactly, and I am digging the results.  Day 3, I noticed loads of pimples, but I stuck with it, allowing my body chemistry to adjust, and it sure has.  I’m on day 7 now, and my face seems cleaner and fresher than ever.

Make-up: Again, this wasn’t originally on the list, but it quickly got there as I started researching cosmetics.  I wasn’t willing to go make-up-less, but I wasn’t liking what I was putting on my skin.  Then I found Shea Moisture, which is not only far more natural than what I was using, but also cruelty free, fair trade, and sustainably produced.  Woot for ethics!  It’s also quite affordable, which is a bonus to me.  But this did mean cutting back on the foundation I was using.  I now only use a light powder, which at first scared me to death.  I’ve never had particularly good skin.  But using all natural products seems to be helping with the skin, and now I can’t imagine going back to a heavy foundation.

4) Health/wellness

Exercise: With Joel being so busy with work this summer, I’ve taken over the morning dog walks.  Unfortunately, that’s about all I’ve done in the way of this.  Need to get on it.

Food: Certainly, this summer has been a lot better for me.  I’m learning new ways of cooking that require a whole lot less time.  I’ve also been freezing meals so that I have healthy easy options during the school year.  So far, frozen pizzas, lasagna, and chicken and stuffing casserole (a favorite from my childhood).  I’m also hoping to put away a couple meatloaves.

Mind: I’ve done better on both of these, but not well enough.  Meditation usually only happens when I’m feeling tired, but it’s good that I recognize it as a viable solution.  I did really well with reading at the beginning of the summer, but have really slacked off these past two weeks.  The first week, I had an excuse.  Last week, well… I’m just assuming becoming obsessed with the Kim Kardashian app is not an excuse…

So all in all, I’m making progress.  I do have some other things to update you on.  One, I’ve moving to a different school which I’m excited about.  I’m still working with a very high needs population, but it’s a better fit for me, which I’m hoping will translate into less stress.  There’s some other exciting things in the works, but I’m going to wait until we actually break ground on them to share.  Jinxing and what not.

What summer projects have you made progress on?  Or are you simply soaking up the sun?

Chosing Wisely

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

In general, I don’t really think of myself as a product of my culture.  I think of myself as “different” and “thoughtful”, which is probably giving myself too much credit.  Because truth be told, I don’t challenge my ways of thinking very often, and I often surround myself with people who think similarly.  And I realized the other day that I don’t want to be one of those bonkers conservative people who only listen to Ann Coulter and Fox News.  But I also don’t want to be their liberal counterpart.  I want to be thoughtful.  I want to be challenged.  I want to consider new ideas and reject some while adopting others.  I want to change and grow, not go deeper and deeper down a rabbit hole I started when I was in my early 20′s.

I’m reading this book by Laura Vanderkam called All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know about Getting and Spending.  It has affirmed some of what I already believe, but it’s also pushed me to think about things very differently than I have in the past.  Primarily, Vanderkam introduced me to the idea of choices.  She says, quite simply, that every decision you make about your money, whether it’s how you get your money or how you spend your money, is just that… a decision.  A choice.  And while many other people would have made similar choices, that doesn’t make it any less of a choice.

And while I understand this intellectually, I often act as though my choices were inevitable.  I make the salary I do because I’m a teacher.  Gosh darn state legislature, why don’t you give us a raise?!  My husband makes what he does because although he works in IT, he does so at an education non-profit.  Yes, it would be nice to have more money.  But at the end of the day, we make what we do because we chose to.  Others are not as fortunate as us in that they did not receive an essentially free education at one of the best universities in the state and even the country.  They don’t have the choices we do.  Regardless, these are still choices.  Other states pay their teachers better, and moving is an option.  But then we wouldn’t live here, less than 4 hours away from either set of parents, seeing my little sister on a regular basis, and in a community I absolutely love.  I choose to stay.  That means the income I have, unfortunately.  And I can whine and cry about it, or I can accept responsibility for the fact that I get what I get because of choices I have made.

I get to drive less than 5 minutes to a farmer’s market that is open two days each week.  It’s a huge farmer’s market with gluten free baguettes, tons of fresh veg, gorgeous flowers, and fresh eggs and meat that make me feel good about what I’m putting in my body.  It’s right down the street from the best gluten free bakery where I picked up a couple scones for breakfast this morning.

Scone

I’m pretty happy with this choice.  I spend more on groceries than I’d like, but I also recognize that I could spend less.  Less money on groceries could mean more in savings or more on clothes or more… whatever.  But I choose groceries, because I really like food, and I like food that I can feel good about.  I like fresh fruits and veg, I like supporting sustainable farming.  I’m making choices.

I don’t want to be a product of my culture, but in order to avoid this, I must acknowledge my own agency in creating my life.  I’m making choices.  And because I get to make choices, I have the power to change things in my life that I don’t like.

So I’m doing a lot of pondering these days.  I’m trying to imagine the life I want to have, and then I’m figuring out how to get it.  I’m making choices.  Today, I’m just thankful for all the choices I have before me.  And most of us do have a lot of choice, when it comes down to it, perhaps not the choices that we want, but still more than so many other people in the world.  I’m trying to do things because I’ve weighed the pros and cons, and I’m generally pleased with the outcome.  I’m trying to ignore social and cultural pressures so that I can live a life I’m proud of and that I enjoy.  I’m trying to challenge myself.

This morning, I made some pretty simple, but also meaningful choices.  I chose water instead of juice.  I chose cleaning instead of tv.  And then I chose a scone instead of cereal.  And you know, I’m pretty happy with these choices.

Keep Calm and…

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

To follow up on my last post, hydration helped.  Hydration always helps.  I’m sorry for taking so long to get back to you on that, but the end of the school year absolutely sped by.  I’m still a little in shock that it’s over.

Keys

The classroom is empty, things are labeled, and my key ring feels empty every time I hold it.  I’m not quite sure if I should be sad that it’s over or excited for the summer.  There’s probably a mixture in there somewhere.  I’m really, really happy… until I think about how much I really did love my class.  They were a really great group of kids this year.

Dear Ms Jones

I’m exhausted and thoroughly looking forward to some rest this summer.  Last summer was full.  Full of good stuff, but definitely full.  I traveled to New Mexico and New York.  I planned a wedding.  I moved.  Definitely full.

This summer, I intend for the schedule to be pretty empty.  There are a lot of things changing in my life.  Primarily, I won’t be returning to this classroom in the fall.  I’m not sure where I’m going yet, but I need a change in workplace scenery.  I’m a little anxious while I wait for everything to get figured out, but I’m confident that however it works itself out, it will be good.

There have also been tons of changes for my family.  I won’t go into details because they’re not my details to share.  For one, though, my mommy moved.  My sister went down to Fayetteville to help her yesterday.  That’s a lie.  We went to finally get all of our childhood belongings out of her house.  Downsizing means no longer storing middle school trophies for your children, I guess.  We worked hard.  And then we took a collective nap on the floor.

Nap time

It was grand.

I told you about my summer to do list.  I’m going to be working on that.  Some things have already happened.  I’ll have to update you.  But also, I should tell you that I’m on a minimalism journey.  That I’m trying to be a more ethical person in how I spend my daily life.  The journey is tough, and I’m hoping we can share a bit of it together.  Things around here will probably change.  This might become a little less of a food blog and a little more of a lifestyle blog because for me, those two things are intrinsically linked.

There are some surprises I’ll get to share with you, but I’m waiting for the timing to be right.  We’ll get there.  We’ll get there.

So hold onto your hat because this summer is going to be fun!  It will be full of ways to use all the fresh produce that’s started coming out of my garden.  P.S.  Check out my first cucumber!

Cucumber

It will be full of infused water and ways to make your kitchen more efficient.  It will be full of flax and quinoa because I’m on a serious super food kick.  It will be full of muffins because I have the cutest summer cupcake papers.  We might throw some traveling in.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Preparing for EOGs

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

This week is EOG week at our school.  For those of you unfamiliar with EOGs or old enough to no longer think about them every single May/June, EOGs are End of Grade assessments.  They have a big impact in a student’s ability to continue on to the next grade, and an even bigger impact on my ability to continue teaching.  Thank you, Standard 6.  I have a lot of very passionate political views on the subject, but I won’t force you to hear about them.  Let’s just take all this as a given, and know that, in short, EOGs are stressful.

But there are also some ground rules for EOGs that a lot of people may not be familiar with.  The test is estimated to take 180 minutes in 5th grade, but with instructions and two 3 minute breaks, it ends up being almost 3 and a half hours from start to finish.  Then students who need extended time are given it in a separate setting (i.e., not my classroom).  Test administrators (that’s me) are never allowed to leave testing materials unsupervised.  Let me explain what that means.  Test administrators are not allowed to go to the bathroom during those 3 and a half hours, except in the case of an emergency and where a substitute test administrator is called into the room.  That process is highly distracting for the students, and I’d like to avoid it, if at all possible.

Test administrators are expected to walk around the room to monitor students’ work, with minimal breaks to sit down and never sitting at the same time as the proctor (that’s the other adult in the room).  And then, to top it off, there is no eating or drinking during the test.

I had forgotten just how physically demanding all of that is.  Until yesterday.  The test began around 9:30 a.m.  I had avoided drinking that morning because I didn’t want to use the bathroom during the test.  The test lasted until about 1:00 p.m.  3 and a half hours of almost non-stop walking with no food or drink and while I was already a bit dehydrated.  Then, once the test was completed, there are all sorts of other duties a testing administrator has.  And then, obviously, the kids are starving, so we went to get lunch around 1:15.  Because a lot of our TAs were busy testing, I didn’t get a lunch break, totally understandable, but still a major bummer.  It was easily 1:30 before I had a chance to think about how hungry I was.  And by that time, a lot of the damage had been done.  A seemingly irreversible headache had already set in, I hadn’t brought nearly enough food to school with me, and after I drank my Naked smoothie, I started to munch on starburst candy, which hardly helped the situation.

I was tremendously unprepared, and I paid the price.  When I got home, I fell to sleep almost immediately, woke up briefly when Joel got home from work, and went back to sleep until almost 9 p.m., the headache only starting to subside by that time.

Today, we’ve got another monster long test.  I’m going to be a bit more prepared this time, though.  A) Drinking lots of water this morning, bathroom breaks be darned.  If I’ve got to put an emergency card in my window, then that’s what I’ll have to do.  B) Eating RIGHT before the test.  I’m taking a peanut butter sandwich I’m planning on eating at 9 this morning.  C) As much as I hate it, I think I might drink a bit of caffeine this morning, just to help give me the energy I need.  D) Drinking an entire water bottle immediately after the test is over.  We won’t get any bathroom breaks even after the test is over, but I’m sure I can get a colleague to watch the kids for a few minutes while I relieve myself.  Not drinking is not an option.  I’ll report back on how it went.  Since I have to stay late after school today, I’m hoping the results will be substantially better than yesterday.