Sunday, February 22, 2015

I'm Not Looking Forward to a Good Night's Sleep




If you are lucky enough to have a cat live with you for almost 18 years, you are probably unlucky enough to have to make the decision to end their life. It's a Catch-22 that to have furbabies usually means they die before you, unlike most parents of humans. I have been blessed to have two cats in this category, and one of them is finally speaking to me in her telepathic way that the end is near. The more the fact sets in to my brain, the more I can't stop crying. I know from past experience that this pain is temporary, but it is still a horrible feeling.

I suppose I should be thankful to have had such a long time to spend with some cool cats. Age 18 is when human kids usually go away to college and start a life of their own. In my version of parenthood, I will never see my furbaby again, unless there is such a thing as the Rainbow Bridge.

They say you will know when it is time to let go. It's true, I've experienced the knowing. Right now, the knowing is setting in. She is fragile, arthritic, and skinny. The question is, do I make her suffer a bit longer? Is she even suffering? She is always so happy to see me and greets me with those green eyes, a hello meow, and deep purrs. How do I know the purring isn't the kind that soothes her own pain? These questions cause constant worry and wonder.

I rescued Paris in 1997. I lived in Rutland, VT in an apartment with my boyfriend and my other kitten Tinker. We lived next to a cat lady whose daughter just saved Paris from a farm. I mean cat lady in the best way, she rescued as many as she could and took great care of them. I visited with her often and she told me about Paris and I decided she would be a great sister for Tinker as they looked alike and were about a month apart in age. We brought her home and she fit right in.

From the very beginning, Paris has been a pain in the butt! She wakes me up all night long for food and is so persistent there is nothing I can humanely do about it. If anything, when her time comes, I will have a good night's sleep. I love her though, she is the sweetest, most loving cat ever and our connection is strong. I am the only human she loves and I am the only human that loves her. She has put up with six moves throughout the years and has never had any litter box issues. She has had hyperthyroid disease for years now and has done well on medication. She even accepted having dogs in the house, which is something I swore I'd never do to her, but it was never a problem.

After all we've been through together, I guess it's the difficulty of saying goodbye to one of my best friends and having to make the decision of when that happens. It doesn't seem fair at first, but I have to remind myself that I gave her a most amazing life, one which wouldn't have happened without me. I have to trust that when the time comes, I will know. With all these years behind us, I can't fail her now.



Sunday, February 15, 2015

My obsession for 2015




Wow, talk about a sporadic poster I am. I guess it's a time thing and a lazy thing. I am also scared that what I have to say is stupid. That in itself is stupid, but now that people are blogging all the time these days, it's interesting to think how many people might be in to your innermost thoughts. I suppose at first, not many people care, but what happens if you actually have something that draws people's attention? I like to think I have some good ideas and sometimes I like to share them with everyone I know. Maybe it's cocky of me to think that people care what is on my mind, but maybe I help someone out. I think that would make it worth it.

This year I have a goal. It has taken me far too long to get to this point, but I am finally here and ready to finish it. For basically my entire adult life, I've had credit card debt. I don't know how or when it started, but every month I allot a certain amount of my hard earned money and give it away. It seems like I've been doing this for so long that I became so used to it that I didn't care. Well, I've had enough!

Technically I have been working on this for a year already. In 2014, I decided to pay $500 on my highest interest rate card every month. I also promised myself that I would not use the credit card for anything. $500 is more than double what was due so I thought it would get paid off pretty quick. Well, it has taken what seems like forever to pay off. But, as of today, I only have $285 left!!! I can taste the end.

Next up is to start paying down the other card. Right now there is $12,143 left to pay. Seems daunting, but I know it will be gone this year with my insane diligence. I plan to pay $1000 every month and any extra money that I have will go towards the balance. I should be getting a settlement from my salmonella poisoning that is going straight to the debt. We are going to stay in more often for dinner and not take a vacation away from home this year. I even saved over $600 by switching auto insurance companies. All these little things will add up to my freedom from debt.

I have started following a blog called Mr. Money Mustache. He has an amazing philosophy that deep down I think I've always had, but never put into practice. It's a less commercial and more basic life that creates freedom in your mind from all the shit that gets shoved in front of it everyday. He managed to retire at 30 years old by never getting into debt and by being frugal. Before he knew it, he didn't have to work. I am forlorn that I didn't adopt this sooner, but I am starting now. Better late than never I suppose.

Beyond my credit card, all I have is our mortgage. There are 28 years left to that one! I went to my mortgage company's website and played around with the amortization calculator. If I take the $1000 that I am using to pay off my credit card and put it towards the mortgage starting next year, we will have it paid off in nine years! Isn't that crazy? I think I might do it! No credit card debt and no mortgage! I can't even imagine.

I hope this year's blog posts are more numerous. I'd like to keep track of my journey out of credit card debt and the ways I accomplish it. I know it's going to happen, I just have to push through. I might miss out on some things, but I think I will learn a lot about myself and I look forward to finding less expensive ways to have fun!

See ya later Chase!! I am chasing my freedom!!




buh bye.....


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Clean Breakfast Oat Nut Bars



In my quest to eat less processed foods, I realized one of the biggest culprits in our diet were those incredibly convenient granola bars such as Nutri-Grain, Quaker, or Nature Valley. Have you ever looked at the ingredients? They are filled with sugar and other less than healthy garbage. I was able to cut them out of my diet, but it was killing me to buy them for my husband, who had one almost every morning for either breakfast or a midmorning snack. He has a family history of diabetes so I am trying very hard to keep him healthy. Continuing to buy processed, sugary, and misleading granola bars is not the way to stay healthy.

I happened upon a recipe during the Clean Eating Challenge I did back in January and I have made a batch of these special oat bars almost every week for us to have for breakfast. They are healthy, mostly organic, and I know exactly what I am putting into my body. I change up the nuts and dried fruit to keep it interesting, and I am so good at making them now that I don't think we will ever have to eat those terrible processed bars ever again!

Here is my version of the recipe adapted from the Whole Living Action Plan:

Heat oven to 350 degrees

In a big bowl (dry ingredients)

3 cups of organic rolled oats
1 cup of nuts (pecans, walnuts, and cashews work well)
1 cup of dried fruit (organic raisins or cranberries are great, and even dried dates are good)
a healthy sprinkle of cinnamon over the top
pinch of kosher or Himalayan salt

In a smaller bowl (wet ingredients)

1/2 cup of raw honey
1/2 cup of almond butter
1/2 cup of organic applesauce (the only ingredients should be organic apples and water)
1/2 cup of pure 100% orange juice
tiny bit of vanilla extract (real please)

*Mix ingredients in each bowl separately until thoroughly incorporated
*Brush a small rectangular or square baking dish with either extra virgin olive oil or organic sunflower oil. Don't forget the sides!
*Add wet ingredients to dry and mix completely
*Add oat mixture to the baking dish and press down until packed down as much as possible
*Bake for 25-30 minutes. The sides should start to brown a bit.
*Be sure to keep an eye on it because they tend to be on the dry side if over-baked even a little.
*When done, cool completely before cutting. I try to get 10 bars out of a batch.
*Individually wrap in tin foil for easy grab and go in the morning. They go great with tea or coffee!


I have most of these items on hand all the time. I buy the oats in bulk at Whole Foods, along with the almond butter. One jar lasts for 3 or 4 batches. I also buy the raisins or cranberries in bulk at Whole Foods because it's so much cheaper than at a regular grocery store. I do get the apple sauce at Big Y although I am sure it's at Whole Foods too. I've been trying to cut down on special trips to the store and go to certain places before or after work, depending on what I need that week. I've already noticed I have more time on my hands to do more important things, like organize the house or walk the dogs.

I hope you enjoy these as much as we do. My husband loves them and I know he doesn't miss those other bars at all.

Good Luck!






Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Preparing for Week One of the Whole Living Action Plan


Hey everyone!

Week One of our natural cleanse is coming up in just a few days, so the time is NOW to start planning what you are going to eat. There will be no room for "eating on the fly" because, trust me, there are very few eating establishments that fit into the clean eating shoes!

I am hoping that everyone has read the cleanse by now, but if not, here is the link!

http://www.wholeliving.com/216880/2013-whole-living-action-plan

Week One allows us to eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, lentils, oils and seasonings.

( I would like to point out that coffee is not allowed on the plan, although plain, unsweetened green or black tea is fine. The reason for this, and I don't think they mention it on the website but I remember it from last year's actual magazine, is that you may be addicted to coffee. Well, duh, right? Most people are, and they don't realize how very dependent they are on coffee. Of course, this is an optional choice, but I highly recommend at least trying to switch to tea now. The way I did it last year, was a few days before the cleanse started, I just tried tea instead to see how I liked it and how it affected me. Well, it was easier than I thought and I have switched over to tea completely and the thought of drinking a cup of coffee grosses me out! I never ever in a million years thought I could do it, but I did.)

Here is a link explaining why you should drink organic loose leaf tea, as opposed to say Lipton brand. http://foodbabe.com/2013/08/21/do-you-know-whats-really-in-your-tea/

To the week at hand! I decided to write down a list of ideas for what I want to eat next week. I want things like sweet potatoes (because they are filling and nutritious), beets and apples (because they are natural cleansers from the inside), and a good hearty lentil soup (lots of protein and filling). I suggest writing down a whole bunch of items you enjoy eating and then base your meals and snacks off of that. As long as you stick with the guidelines, you're golden!

In the morning when I first wake up I have been having lemon water with cayenne pepper. It hydrates you and gets your body moving better than coffee or tea first thing. After I drink that I will have my tea at some point during the morning craziness of getting ready for the day. I have been doing this for maybe three months now, and I absolutely love it! http://foodbabe.com/2011/12/27/habits-for-the-new-year-and-beyond-1-drink-lemon-water/

For breakfast I am going to have a mango smoothie http://www.wholeliving.com/216565/mango-tahini-smoothie. I love this smoothie!! The tahini really adds a good flavor, but if it's not your thing, it's fine to leave out. I am also going to bring a banana, some dried dates, and a pre washed and cut apple for snacks throughout the morning. I am used to a decent amount in the morning, so it's my most difficult time to eat light.

For lunch and dinner, I am going to alternate a few dishes. I am going to roast a batch of vegetables with lentils http://foodbabe.com/2012/12/05/garlic-roasted-vegetables-with-lentils/. Then, I want to buy about five sweet potatoes and bake them to have ready for this meal: http://www.wholeliving.com/216574/baked-sweet-potato-greens. Swiss chard is new for me, so I am going to give it a try!
This lentil soup http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/eastern-european-red-lentil-soup/ needs a little adjusting for this week, so no honey or yogurt at the end. Also, I try very hard not to eat out of cans anymore because of BPA, so for the tomatoes I will use organic strained tomatoes in a glass jar.
I am also going to have a few spinach salads with toppings like pears, apples, walnuts or almonds, carrots, red peppers, roasted beets, etc. For dressing I will make a simple mixture of lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper.
 I may also make a mushroom and tomato sauce to have over roasted spaghetti squash if I run out of food to eat.

I wanted to add a note about exercise this first week. While of course it is very important to exercise, the plan advises to do gentle activities this week. Your body is adjusting to a new way of eating and you won't be eating as many carbs to fuel a sweaty cardio workout. I plan to do about 20 minutes of stretching each morning, much like yoga, to get my body moving and awake and of course I will take my dogs for their walks as much as possible.

I like this cleanse because you can eat as much as you want. While it's not about losing weight, you probably will. If you stick to the lessons learned from these three weeks, not only will you feel better in general, but your body image will improve, no matter what your weight is. When you feel good you look good, right??

I have learned that clean eating takes a lot of research and experimenting with new ideas regarding our food. It's worth the time to learn what you are putting into your body. You only get one body!?  There is always an alternative to a canned item or other processed food. Start looking at your ingredients and choose items that are organic as much as you can. Learn how to make a few things from scratch. Clean eating doesn't necessarily mean you will spend more money either. Think of all the money you will save by buying produce that's in season. You will eat less overall because your body will actually absorb the good ingredients you are putting into it and fill you up quicker. Or what about money saved by not having to go to the doctor or buying expensive medicines? I swear to you I haven't even taken an ibuprofen since last February when I started this!



Welcome to Clean Eating folks!  Let's do this!!!

Jaime






Sunday, December 1, 2013

Asparagus and Potato Soup





It's definitely a warm soup kind of Autumn here in Massachusetts. I've been making a lot of bean and lentil soups lately, but yesterday I looked in my freezer and realized I've been collecting the woody asparagus ends for quite some time now, and it's probably time to do something with them. I eat at least a pound of asparagus every week, so I had probably 200-300 ends saved! I went online and learned making asparagus stock is as easy as boiling the leftover ends in water for about an hour and suddenly you have a delicious vegetable stock that's basically free. I happened to have onions, garlic, and potatoes on hand, so I made the easiest and cheapest soup ever! Oh, and by the way, my husband even loved it enough to have seconds. That's definitely a bonus!!


Asparagus and Potato Soup

Simmer asparagus ends in fresh water for an hour, or until mushy. Strain. Discard ends and keep the stock. Set aside until ready to add to soup, or let cool and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

Add some olive oil to a large soup pot that's heated to medium. Add one diced onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add two or three minced fresh garlic cloves to the onion and sauté for another few minutes. Meanwhile, dice up a bunch of washed, but unpeeled potatoes. Keep adding to the onion and garlic mixture. I probably used about 12 medium sized potatoes.

Season the mixture with salt and pepper and add a couple bay leaves. Pour in enough asparagus stock to cover the potatoes by a couple inches. Bring to a simmer and cook until potatoes are very tender, about 30 minutes or so. Blend with an immersion blender or let cool for a few minutes before blending in batches in a blender or food processor. You may need to reheat the soup and season with salt and pepper to taste after blending.

Serve with warm crusty bread and top with freshly steamed or sautéed asparagus spears.

I have enough soup to last me two lunches and two more dinners and it probably cost me no more than two dollars to make. The crusty bread I bought to go with it cost three dollars, but it was so big that I have enough to go with the lunches, plus it was GMO free. Talk about affordable!

ENJOY!!!

P.S.
I do not ever peel my potatoes because that is where the most nutritious part of a potato is. Why throw away the best part?!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fried Rice- A Staple Meal



The weather this summer prevented me from craving Asian themed meals and instead I've been enjoying Spanish flavors. But with Autumn upon us I figured I should brush up on my fried rice skills.

It is one of the easiest and quickest dishes to make, especially if you already have cooked rice and leftover veggies and/or meat. It is also extremely versatile. You can add whatever your heart craves. Don't be afraid to try new veggies or even tofu!

What you will need for a successful fried rice:

Cooked rice- I always use Lundberg Farms Organic Brown Rice for my meals
Organic Tamari Sauce- found next to the soy sauce in store (gluten free is available also)
Non GMO canola oil
Eggs from happy chickens
Protein- beans, tofu, chicken, beef
Veggies- asparagus, carrots, corn, peas, snow peas, spinach, broccoli


The first thing I usually do is cook the egg. Get your frying pan nice and hot on medium to medium high heat. Whisk your egg in a bowl. Add a small amount of oil to the pan-just enough to coat the bottom. You don't need as much as you think. If the pan is hot enough, a small amount will spread out nicely. Add the egg to the pan and swirl it around a bit by picking up the pan, not touching the egg itself with a utensil. It will only take a minute or so to cook through completely. It should slide right out of pan, so set it aside until later.

Next up is the veggies. If they are not cooked yet, sauté them in another small amount of oil. Every veg is different, so cook according to how long it takes to be done to your desired texture. For instance, you wouldn't want to cook broccoli and spinach together because spinach takes only about 30 seconds to wilt down. But carrots and broccoli take about the same time to cook, so you can start them together.
If your veggies are already cooked, you can skip this part.

Your protein is next, so if you have raw chicken or beef, you should cook it now. If I still ate meat, I would cut the meat into bite sized pieces, season it with pepper and then sauté until cooked. If I was using tofu, I would have this made ahead of time (see recipe in a previous post) and if I was using beans I would have them ready to go into the pan for the next step.

And now for the moment of truth! Make sure your pan is still nice and hot and add another small amount of oil. Have everything ready to put into the pan in the following order: Meat, veggies, eggs and then rice. Mix together and then add in your tamari sauce. Tamari is like soy sauce, but more concentrated in flavor so you don't need as much to get the desired flavor. Go easy with it at first to get the right amount for your taste buds. Mix everything at a fast pace for 30 seconds to a minute, trying to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom. I usually use a metal spatula and continuously mix from the bottom of the pan up. When everything is heated through and mixed together, it's done. It goes quick, so be prepared to kill the heat and get it off the burner.

I am always surprised how much this makes. It's kind of like when you are cooking pasta for 1 or 2 people and you always make too much! But it's ok, because I always have enough for lunch the next day.

Usually on Sundays I make a big batch of rice, cook up some vegetables and make the special delicious tofu since these are the most time consuming tasks. It makes life so much easier when I need a quick meal during lunch or dinner. If you feel frustrated with making this at first, don't give up. Once you get the hang of it and what works in your kitchen, you will make this frequently. It is a wonderful way to use up leftovers because you can really use anything you want and make a great balanced meal.

Enjoy!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

I don't wanna name my diet!



Now that it's been five months of drastically changing the food I eat regularly, I think it's time to list all of the items I've been eating from day to day. It's almost easier to just say what I don't eat, but the inevitable question is always, "So what do you eat?" or "How do you get enough protein?". I don't have a name for the "diet" because I don't think it needs to be labeled as anything but a new way of life.

I will quickly recap what I don't eat:

1. Gluten- bread and pasta
2. Dairy- milk, cheese, and butter
3. Sugar and artificial sweeteners
4. Meat- beef, pork, chicken, turkey, etc.
5. Coffee
6. Processed foods such as canned soup, cereal, and frozen dinners, etc.


Here is a list of my favorite things to eat. There are many more options you can choose from so go crazy with as many whole foods as possible to spice up your diet. I feel like I have only started to get this figured out, but so far it's totally worth it and I recommend it to anyone!

Drinks

Water
Organic Tea- regular black, green and chai
Lemon juice in water with honey
Alcohol- I now refrain from beer due to gluten
Homemade organic almond milk
Ginger Libation- new fave alcoholic drink

Staple grains

Organic whole brown rice
Organic steel cut oatmeal

Fruits

Organic apples (I have one every day)
Bananas
Dates
Frozen organic mango, pineapple, strawberries for smoothies
Organic berries of any kind
LEMONS!!! The juice of at least one lemon every day
Avocado
Cantaloupe
Watermelon

Veggies

Organic spinach- always in the fridge
Asparagus- by far my favorite veg ever, nothing compares
Carrots
Peppers
Garlic
Onions
Squash
Collard Greens- great to throw in a smoothie
Tomatoes
Potatoes

Proteins

Wild caught salmon
Wild caught cod or haddock
American shrimp
Tuna
Tofu- see recipe in previous post
Beans
Eggs from happy chickens
Pistachios
Almonds
Sunflower seeds
Peanuts
Pecans

Miscellaneous

Organic gluten free tamari sauce for stir frys
Non GMO Canola oil
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Raw Local Honey- my fave is from Warm Colors Apiary in South Deerfield, MA
Organic Free Trade Chocolate- check out TAZA chocolate made in Somerville, MA
Plain seltzer water
Spices- all are probably ok- just avoid any that may have MSG added


There it is in a nutshell. It is a drastic change from the way most Americans eat, I know. If you decide to do this, you will probably get a lot of crazy stares and comments, but I guarantee you will feel so good you won't care what they say.

On Sundays I usually make a batch of rice, oatmeal, and tofu for the week. It takes some time, but then during the week it's easy to throw together a quick meal if those things are already made. I eat a lot of omelets with spinach, rice and other veg. I also have stir frys quite often. I usually switch from an Asian theme to Mexican theme spices. I have just discovered organic non-GMO tortilla chips at BJ's and it makes me happy!

Corn and soy are the biggest culprits when it comes to GMO's. They have been genetically modified and the effects on humans have not been tested yet, but they cause HUGE issues with mice. Please stay away from processed foods because almost everything contains soy and/or corn.

Have you seen the soda aisle at the grocery store? It's giant. It's also full of sugar, artificial sweeteners and other things you can't imagine. Please don't drink energy drinks, sports drinks and vitamin water. It's not worth it.

Another thing I hear a lot is that it's too expensive to eat this way. I completely disagree. I haven't actually done the math, but it's either the same or less than what I used to spend on food. I buy a lot of these things in bulk either at Whole Foods or believe it or not, BJ's. I barely ever go to a regular grocery store and I think that's why my costs are down. Unless you are buying sale items, which are usually processed, you pay a lot more at grocery stores.

As a side note, my allergies are gone, my energy level is through the roof, and my mood has been amazing these past few months. Knock on wood, I haven't had a head cold or been sick since last November!

Remember to try and buy LOCAL or AMERICAN!!!

I am happy to answer any questions anyone has, so feel free to contact me.

Happy eating!!!