Thursday, April 30, 2015

I've got the Working Mama Blues

Last week I offered to help a friend with her business because she seemed to need some extra hands on deck. I wasn't doing this out of the pure goodness of my heart, my bank account could use some extra padding as well and this would provide it.

The job I was envisioned would allow me to work from home for 3-4 hours while Jacob was in school. But (there's always a but). This job. It's full time. It's all hours. It could easily be 7 days a week. It's stressful and exhausting and I'm suffering and my boy is suffering and Derek is probably suffering too.

For example, I took J for ice cream and spent 3/4 of the time on the phone while J desperately tried to get my attention. DESPERATELY. And if anyone has had a 5 year old who is feeling neglected and ignored try to get their attention, they can feel my pain. And his.

I can already see us missing fun things with friends because of this job. I can see, in the 4 days I've been working, Jacob is desperately missing his Mama and I'm turning into Mama Bitch Who Can't Pay Attention Because I'm WORKING RIGHT NOW! And I'm not ok with that. I'm really not ok with that. My stress levels are insanely high. Jacob is feeling neglected and I'm pretty sure I've not been very nice to Derek. But I can't quit. Because she's my friend and I am the one who offered to help and I really enjoy it when I'm not inundated and overwhelmed. I'm not sure I can keep up this pace till June 11th which is when I have Jacob home full time. I'd love this job to be what I thought it would be, I really would. I'm not sure how to turn it into that. But I can't neglect my kid, nothing is worth that.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

This is me. With a tennis racquet.

Getting my tennis on. Please bear in mind I haven't played since I was 16. I assume the next photo will be me with a bag of ice on my arm. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Fruit Snack Bars

I'm always looking for replacements for the kidz cliff bars and various granola bars my son adores. I use them as a snack before his after school activities when he's hungry and needs something to eat but nothing so big as to ruin dinner. I found this recipe on The Smitten Kitchen (one of my very, very, favorite recipe blogs) under the title 'Fruit Breakfast Bars'.

I only switched it up by making it with frozen organic blueberries because they were $2.50 at Trader Joes versus $8 frozen organic raspberries at Safeway. I'd say I would use our fresh raspberries when we get some but that would be a lie. I'm not using our fresh berries for anything but eating straight! I also added about 2t corn starch to the blueberries because they were pretty liquid and I was worried they would cook up too runny. When I layered the blueberries on, I left most of the liquid in the bowl.

These are excellent at holding together in a bar form (so many things I make get crumbly) and so far they have frozen very well and then defrosted perfectly for his afternoon snack. They're definitely on the sweet side (even though I cut back the brown sugar by 1/4 cup [accidentally but it worked]) but they probably don't have much more sugar than a store-bought bar. He loves them and we had fun making them together so it's a win-win!

For the crust and crumb:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar (I accidentally used 3/4)
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

For the berry filling:
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pound berries (blackberries, raspberries or blueberries), fresh or frozen
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Make the crust and crumb: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch glass or light-colored metal baking pan (I used my ceramic pan and it was just fine). Put a long piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan, letting the parchment extend up the two short sides of the pan and overhang slightly on both ends. (This will make it easy to remove the bars from the pan after they have baked.) Butter the parchment.
Put the flour, brown sugar, oats, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a food processor. Pulse in short bursts until combined. Add the butter and pulse until loose crumbs form.
Reserve 1 1/2 cup of the mixture and set aside. Pour the rest of the mixture into the prepared pan and use your hans or the back of a large wooden spoon to push the crust into an even layer at the bottom of the pan. The crust should touch the sides of the pan. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let the crust cool. Keep the oven on while you make the raspberry filling.
Make the raspberry filling: In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon and flour together. Add the berries, lemon juice and butter and use your hands to toss gently until the raspberries are evenly coated.

Assemble and bake the bars: Spread the berry filling evenly on top of the cooled crust. Sprinkle the reserved crust mixture evenly on top of the filling.
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, rotating the pan every 15 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the filling starts to bubble around the edges.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, then cut into squares and serve. The bars can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to two days or wrapped and frozen.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The camera doesn't lie, the picture that started it all.....

I realized that I've been a bit foggy regarding why I feel this urgent need to lose 15-20 pounds. Getting in physical shape is obviously a worthwhile goal in and of itself, but why now? I've known I needed to get in shape for years. And put it off. What happened to give me that 'do something, do some thing now!' moment?

It was a picture from our trip to Disneyland in March that let me see how I really looked. What I was seeing in the mirror was not what the world was seeing. The camera does not lie.

To be brutally honest, I loathe this picture of me. I normally would have deleted it and tried to forget it existed (as I have done so many times in the past), but this time was different. This time when I looked at an unflattering picture of myself, I realized I wasn't going to get healthy just by wishing for and ignoring it. And, to be truthful, my weight was only going to get worse and I really needed to do something now, right NOW. I don't want to look at myself and not like what I see. I don't want to only be happy with neck up pictures. I want to be healthy, fit and happy for myself, my family and my future.

Now for the picture. I really hate this picture. A lot. Please don't try and say "oh you look fine". I know I don't and saying I look ok, when I don't, doesn't help. Sometimes we all could use a good harsh dose of reality and this picture was mine. It's motivation and inspiration. It's not a negative body view (such buzz words we use these days), it's real and it's a body needing change. I don't want the wool pulled over my eyes, I don't want people telling me that I look 'fine', I know I don't. That's what we do for each other out of camaraderie and friendship. What I really want is encouragement, support and to realize that I can do this. This is extremely important to me and I'm going to make it happen.

Friday, April 24, 2015

This is what's in my bathtub - carefully swaddled lest it get a chill.

Pasta with Green Puttanesca Sauce

When we were back in Boston for Passover, my aunt Juli commented, as we were serving up olives for Passover dinner (it's supposed to symbolize peace in the Middle East) that the olives reminded her of a green puttanesca sauce she'd made. She sent me the recipe and OH WOW! Delicious! Outstanding. So super simple and easy, the sauce can literally be made while you're boiling the pasta.
It would definitely be good with a meat added (maybe Italian sausage or salami) but we liked it just as is. The breadcrumbs were my addition, because everything tastes better with breadcrumbs.

recipe originally posted in the NY Times

Pasta with Green Puttanesca Sauce

1 lb. spaghetti
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
10 anchovy fillets (I used a squeeze from a tube of anchovy puree as I find it easier to keep on hand)
1/4 cup drained capers
1 cup pitted and sliced Cerignola or Picholine olives
6-8 garlic cloves (the original recipe called for green garlic but I like the simplicity of regular garlic)
1/3 cup chopped scallions, white and light green parts
pinch red pepper flakes
12 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup torn basil leaves
toasted breadcrumbs

Cook the pasta till al dente. Drain but keep some pasta water in case you need it later.

While the pasta is cooking, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the anchovies and capers and cook, stirring, till the capers start turning brown. Add the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, olives, scallions, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook until the garlic is golden, about 3-5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Add the pasta and toss until the pasta is coated with the sauce. Add pasta water if the sauce seems dry. Remove from heat, add the basil and breadcrumbs and serve.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Why I love my chickens....

Stop! Put the chocolate down and back away slowly....

Look, I've read all the same articles you have and done all the same research. It really boils down to a very simple equation - burn more calories than you take in - very simple math. But if it was always that simple or easy we wouldn't have the issues with weight in this country that we do.

So, knowing what I know about the simple caloric equation, how am I going to accomplish my goal of losing 15 pounds and keeping it off? Because caloric intake is where the keeping it off part is really going to come into play. I could work out 8 hours a day (note: I really couldn't) but if I'm taking in too many calories it won't make a darn bit of difference. I'm also not going to starve myself in order to lose the weight, that's not healthy nor is it a long-term solution. Plus I really do love food - the enjoyment of a meal is a great joy in my life. But I need a strategy going forward that will allow me to lose weight, keep it off and still partake of awesome deliciousness.

1) The beginning of any good plan starts with the fundamentals and with this one it's eating well-balanced, healthy meals that aren't full of processed junk, added sugars and additives. This I pretty much have down - we eat like this most days so I feel comfortable with this part of my life.

2) So, I'm eating healthy meals but now I need to cut out around 200 calories a day to lose at least pound and a half a month (the math is that 3500 calories equals one pound). To hit that goal, I really need to cut back on the snacking. If I stopped nibbling between meals, that would probably be my 200 calories right there. I eat when I'm stressed, bored, hungry....pretty much it's a comfort thing. I need to find something else to do or I need to eat a piece of fruit. I'm going to experiment with the old 'drink a glass of water if you're hungry' and see if it works. Hey I read about it on Yahoo so it must be true. It would probably also help if I didn't have quite as many snacks available....I need to work on that. I must also have the stomach of a preschooler because when 10:30 hits, I'm ready for snack time and I'm actually hungry. Pistachios and raisins are going to be my go to snack (note, add pistachios to the grocery list). It used to be almonds but since they're now persona non grata in these parts, pistachios will have to do.

4) And then....vino is SO keeno BUT I lost 6 pounds like 'that' (imagine snapping fingers) last year when I cut it out due to some hot flashes that decided to hit way too early for my liking. Taking a sip of wine made my ankles sweat. Seriously. Not much fun so I cut it completely out for several months and lost weight without changing anything else. Then I decided to see if I could drink again and, well, I could, so I gained back everything I had lost. I'm not giving up wine but I'm cutting it back to a glass or two a week.

5) I have a gorgeous cousin who lost her baby weight over time by only eating till she was 80% full. I've tried this and it's way harder than it sounds. My mouth just wants more of whatever delicious thing it's eating and next thing I know, I'm stuffed. Consciously thinking about what I'm eating and how my body is feeling - this is a huge part of what I want to improve.

6) What's left, is my weakness, my downfall, my Achilles heel if you will. That damn leftover Easter chocolate (or any sweet treats). Mmmmm. Dark chocolate eggs stuffed with chocolate raspberry ganache. Have mercy. Mama ate most of those goodies and they were good. Really good. And I had at least one every day. Just couldn't stop myself, I mean if I was eating them then that saved Jacob the sugar right? I ate the last one yesterday and now I'm going cold turkey because cool turkey doesn't work for me. It's all or nothing. I've done this many times (sadly) so I know what I need to do. It's insidious that desire for something sweet, it sneaks in when I'm stressed (or bored) and next thing I know I'm stealing my son's candy and hanging my head in shame. I won't cut out chocolate completely because a life without chocolate is a like life without sunshine but I will keep myself to one small intense square from an amazing chocolate purveyor (my current favorite is Dandelion Chocolate).

These are all things that I can do or change easily (well except for the sweets craving, that one is a bitch) and if I'm successful I will well be on my way. This is not a 'diet' per se, it's an integrated lifestyle change. One I have had various levels of success with in the past but since I'm not getting any younger and because weight is so much harder to lose as we grow older and because I'd like to be in a healthy and physically fit way before I turn 50...I'm going to make this stick this time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

It's been a while....

It has been churning over in my mind that there is quite a correlation between keeping fit, eating healthy, losing weight and fiscal responsibility and health.

These (along with some motherhood patience issues) are two parts of my life that I'm going to work extremely hard at this upcoming year and beyond. I want my physical and fiscal health to become a fundamental part of who I am. So ingrained in my daily life that I can barely remember a day when being fit, active and responsible wasn't my normal way of life.

The inspiration for the physical side of things came from (cough) several rather unflattering photos that have been taken over a series of vacations. Let's see, there was the one at Disneyland of me sharing a pineapple whip with Jacob and looking like a...well an extremely large pineapple myself. Then the videos and pictures of me in Boston. Ugh. Let's just say I have no desire to continue to resemble this bloated and blimpy version of my former self. I'm 46 and need to lose 15-20 pounds to really feel like myself again. I give myself a year. And then I am keeping it off.

The fiscal side of things came rather suddenly. An income stream that we had been counting on rather suddenly went away. Resulting in the proverbial belt tightening in the financial sense. In reality, it was a wake up call and a reminder to appreciate what we do have (and it's so very much) and a large, LARGE, call to get back to the simple things. And enjoy them. I can feel the waves of concern coming from my mom. Don't worry mom. We are fine. This was a wake up call to jump off the consumer merry go round.

I have had a book on my kindle for months called 'Simplicity Parenting'. Oh the irony in having a book like that sitting gathering the proverbial dust and not having the desire or time to read it. I'm making the time now. And I think Jacob will thrive. As will we all.