Monday Meal Plan #23

Happy Monday! I hope you had a fantastic weekend!

Weekend Recap

We had a really fun weekend! My daughter and I picked my husband up from work a couple of hours early on Friday, and we got right on the road to Massachusetts. Yesterday was my sweet and adorable nephew’s first birthday, and my sister and brother-in-law had his birthday party on Saturday. My parents had already arrived when we got there, so we got to catch up with everyone over dinner on Friday. My daughter and the birthday boy’s big brother get along amazingly, despite a nearly three-year age difference. Whenever we get together, the two of them immediately disappear and immerse themselves in imaginary play, Legos, and other fun stuff.

The “winter one-derland” birthday party was very cute, and I had a very nice time chatting with some of my sister’s friends. There were a handful of “bigger” kids in attendance, and they seemed to enjoy playing together both inside and out.

Yesterday morning we hung out with my family, before getting on the road home. On the way, I finally finished reading, The Case Against Sugar. It took me a long time to get into this book, but I found the last third very compelling – and frightening!

The Week Ahead

After February break last week, it’s back to work and school today. I’m working four days: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. This means I won’t be able to get to the grocery store until Friday, so I decided this would be a good idea to use a $40 credit I have, and give Blue Apron a try. Other than that, my in-laws are coming for a visit on Saturday.

My month-long, no-added-sugar challenge starts on Wednesday. While I think this will greatly impact what I do and don’t eat in March, it won’t have too much of an impact on our dinners, since they don’t often contain much added sugar. (Breakfast, lunch, and snacks will be a whole different story, though…)

This Week’s Meal Plan

Here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

  • Monday: Quiche w/ frozen veggies
  • Tuesday: Cod and tomato stew w/ garlic toasts & aioli (First Blue Apron meal!)
  • Wednesday: Sicilian-style bucatini w/ Caesar-style salad & oven-toasted croutons (Second Blue Apron meal!)
  • Thursday: Leftovers
  • Friday: Pork tenderloin w/ roasted sweet potatoes
  • Saturday: Vegan black bean fajita veggies w/ rice
  • Sunday: Leftovers

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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What’s Up Wednesday: February 2017

What We’re Eating This Week

I got some inspiration from two of my favorite Food Network cooks this week: Ina Garten and Ree Drummond. Plus, we’ll be out-of-town this weekend, which means fewer nights of cooking for me – woo hoo! You can read this week’s full meal plan here.

What I’m Reminiscing About

I recently went through a bunch of old photos with my husband, and there were a number of ones of my sweet, old kitty, Tony. He died a little over a year ago, and I still miss him. With apologies to his (living) sister, Sophie, Tony was indisputably the best cat ever. I adopted the two of them when they were kittens, and I was only 25, and had just moved to California for work. I don’t miss those lonely days of being across the country from my friends and family, and finding my way in a new place, but those two made my time there more bearable.

What I’m Loving

We’ve been enjoying some unseasonably warm weather lately, and it’s got me believing that spring is almost here. Seriously, highs in the 50s in upstate New York in February?? I love it!

What We’ve Been Up To

It’s school vacation week here, so I’m home with my daughter all week. We had a ladies’ “day of beauty” yesterday, with hair cuts and manicures. (The “day of beauty” concept was my way of bribing her to get a hair cut, which she hates. It took years for her hair to grow long, and now she never wants to lose a centimeter of it.) Today we have a Girls Scouts ice-skating event, then a visit to a friend’s house, and Thursday her Brownie troop is going on a tour of a local grocery store. Friday we’re packing and heading to Massachusetts for my nephew’s first birthday party.

 What I’m Dreading

Next month, I’m going to cut added sugar out of my diet, and, while I’m very excited to try it, I’m definitely concerned about having a more limited diet. For me, one of the most intriguing things about cutting out added sugar is going to be realizing just how ubiquitous it is. I’ve started reading the labels of some of my favorite foods, and have been distressed to find added sugar in many of them.

What I’m Working On

What – me procrastinate?? Yep, I’m still dragging my feet on our taxes. Actually, I have everything we need, with the exception of a letter about a donation. I still need to fill out the questionnaire from our accountant, though, and I haven’t forced myself to sit down and do it, yet.

What I’m Excited About

Even though I’ve embraced winter this year, I’m excited that it seems to be loosening its grip. Spring’s arrival seems almost imminent, and I’m excited to welcome pansies, daffodils, and leaves back to our yard!

What I’m Watching/Reading

I’m watching absolutely nothing these days. Nothing. Seriously, with the exception of watching some news coverage when I make dinner, I’m just not switching on the TV these days.

I’m struggling to get through the book, The Case Against Sugar. It’s not exactly what I expected, and it’s fairly dry. I’m definitely going to need to read some fiction after I finish this one. (You can see all of the books I’m reading, have read, and plan to read in 2017 here.) I’m also always slowly working through my huge pile of magazines – The New Yorker, O, Money, Real Simple, The New York Times Magazine, and Kiplinger Personal Finance.

What I’m Listening To

Podcasts, of course! However, I’m completely caught up on binge-listening to all episodes of my favorites, so I’m in need of some new options. Recommendations??

What I’m Wearing

My school (and work) vacation week uniform consists of yoga pants and a fleece at home, and jeans and sweaters when I leave the house.

What I’m Doing This Weekend

We’re heading to Massachusetts for my nephew’s first birthday party. I don’t see my sister often enough, so it’ll be fun to catch up with her this weekend. My parents will also be there, and my daughter is beyond excited about spending time with my sister’s older son. (Sadly, she’s a lot less interested in her “baby cousin”…)

What I’m Looking Forward to Next Month

Seeing if I feel any differently “off of” sugar, gaining an hour of daylight, and maybe, just maybe, seeing the first signs of spring bulbs.

What’s up with you??

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Monday Meal Plan #22

Happy Holiday Weekend! I hope you’re enjoying a lovely, long, Presidents’ Day weekend!

Weekend Recap

What fabulous weather we’ve had here in upstate New York this weekend! With highs in the 40s and 50s, and more snow gone every time I look out the window, it’s feeling very much like spring is coming.

On Saturday, my husband and I took our daughter to her gymnastics class at  the Y, then we checked out an estate sale for some bargains. I’m late to embrace estate sale and garage sale shopping, but I now think they’re a lot of fun. (Maybe this has something to do with me being over 40??) My husband got a large Christmas wreath and two small paintings for $2, and I scored a box containing two glue guns and a bunch of new glue sticks for $1, plus a box of lovely, vintage Christmas ornaments for $10.

Yesterday, we went to a state park to attempt snowshoeing for the first time. (One of my goals for 2017 is to try three new activities.) The sun was bright, the temps were warm, and the snow was more like slush. I don’t know much anything about snowshoeing, but I have a feeling these were not ideal conditions. We lasted for ten minutes, all of us feeling like the snow shoes were too heavy and made it difficult to walk. I knew we were done when my daughter fell, stepped out of her boot while getting up, and put her foot down in the snow. I guessed she would be complaining about her cold foot within two minutes, and that ended up being too generous of an estimate.

After a quick Target run, we brought some food home for a late lunch. Immediately afterwards, I headed out for a long walk, to atone for my Five Guys consumption. I haven’t been out for a walk in months, and it was gorgeous and felt great!

The Weekend Ahead

School vacation week starts today, so my daughter and I will be home all week. As someone who will stay glued to the couch and in her robe all day without a planned activity, I try to schedule one thing per day during school vacations. This week’s activities include a “day of beauty” – hair cuts and manicures – for the two of us, ice skating with friends, and a tour of a local grocery store with my daughter’s Brownie troop. Friday afternoon, we’re heading to my sister’s house in Massachusetts for my nephew, Charlie’s, first birthday party on Saturday. We’ll stay with them until Sunday morning, and the following Monday, it’s back to school and work.

Weekly Meal Plan

Since I’ll be home all week, I don’t have any excuses not to cook. (Rats!) Here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

  • Monday: Spaghetti with shrimp scampi (from Barefoot Contessa Family Style)
  • Tuesday: Leftover scampi w/ sautéed spinach
  • Wednesday: Panko-Crusted Salmon (from Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?) w/ roasted sweet potatoes
  • Thursday: Black beans and rice (A request from my Chipotle-loving kid)
  • Friday: Away for the weekend!!
  • Saturday: Away for the weekend!!
  • Sunday: Probably picking up a pizza on the way home

What’s for dinner at your house this week??

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Monday Meal Plan #21

Happy Monday!! It’s looking like a real winter wonderland here, after we received about a foot of snow yesterday…

Weekend Recap

On Saturday, my daughter participated in a Harry Potter-themed engineering program at the local high school. My husband and I took advantage of some time on our own, and went out to brunch. Afterwards, we spent some quiet time at home reading, and even took a quick nap!

After we picked our daughter up, we all went to the library to borrow some DVDs in anticipation of being snowed in all day on Sunday. We happened to be at the library while Buck, a therapy dog, was listening to kids read, and my daughter eagerly signed up for a slot.

Buck, the therapy dog, is a great audience!

As predicted, we spent all of Sunday at home, watching the snow fall. (About a foot in total.) I did some chores, read the paper, and made some progress on my current book, The Case Against Sugar. It’s a little slow-going, but educational. I’m looking forward to reading something a little lighter, next.

My husband and daughter spent some time outside, building a snow fort.

The Week Ahead

This week is off to a love-filled start! My daughter’s Brownie troop is having their Valentine’s Day party after school today, and her class as their party tomorrow morning. She still loves for me to attend these types of events, and while they’re not always a barrel of fun for me, I know she won’t always want me there with her.

I was supposed to work today, Wednesday, and Thursday this week, but because our school district had a two-hour delay today, I ended up not going in today. At 6pm on Thursday, I’m bringing my daughter to a registration meeting for this year’s Missoula Children’s Theater this performance at her school. (They’re a professional theater group, and they spend a week rehearsing afterschool with the kids who participate, culminating a weekend play performance.) With the registration meeting scheduled for the super-convenient time of 6pm, we’ll be picking up a pizza on the way home.

This Week’s Meal Plan

  • Monday: Leftover lasagna soup w/ baguette
  • Tuesday: Chicken cutlets w/ garlic spinach (One of my least favorite things to make, but, my Valentine loves them…)
  • Wednesday: Leftovers
  • Thursday: Pizza and salad
  • Friday: Leftover pizza and salad
  • Saturday: Roasted salmon and Brussels sprouts
  • Sunday: Roasted pork tenderloin w/ red cabbage

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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What’s Saving My Life Right Now

I recently read a post on the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog, in which she asks her readers to focus on the positive. Rather than rattling off the things that are upsetting us, or making us unhappy/worried/sad/pissed off, she asks us to identify what’s actually giving us life right now. As someone who’s innate worldview is much more of the glass-half-empty type, it felt like a great way to reorient my thinking.

As Anne notes in the post, winter is often a cold, dark, and dreary time of year for many of us. Here in upstate New York, that’s certainly the case. For this reason, I’ve never been a fan of the winter months. Some years they’re worse than others – I still remember last year’s mild, El Nino winter quite fondly – but they all entail a lot of darkness, and a lot of time spent cooped up in the dry indoors.

For years, starting in about late August, I’ve dreaded the start of winter. “I hate the cold!”, “Why do I live here?”, and “Wake me in May!”, were common utterances of mine. I spent the fall dreading winter, and the winter complaining about it. More recently, I did some basic math, and realized that this meant I spent half of the year focusing my mental energy on hating winter. That’s a lot of time – a lot of life – to be unhappy. Over the last couple of years, I’ve become very conscious of this negative focus, and decided to do my best to change it.

I lived in California for almost two years during my twenties, and it really wasn’t for me. One of my biggest complaints was the lack of four, distinct seasons. The trees looked basically the same all year-round. Without the change of seasons, marking time felt much more difficult to me.

As I thought more about how the lack of seasonal change affected me, I also noticed how excited and uplifted I feel in the spring. Every day, I walk around my yard and look for new signs of life – which shrub has leaf buds, which bulbs are peeking out of the ground, and what animals are becoming visible again. This routine brings me great joy. I love my spring-time high. When I lived in a place without much seasonal change, I didn’t experience my spring-time high. I didn’t feel exhilarated by the changing sights, sounds, and smells of the new season.

I finally connected the dots, and realized that, without the cold, dark, and dreary winter, there would be no spring-time high. Without the low, I had no reason to experience the high. Without winter, there was no spring.

This all crystallized for me last fall. As I started to slip into my annual season of dread, I did something I’d never done before: I pushed back against it. I started to focus on the beauty of winter, rather than just the barrenness – the color of the sunsets, the sparkle of the frost on the grass, the wonderland of snow on the trees. I have noticed a huge shift in my mindset this year. I don’t grumble every time I check the forecast. I’m not counting the weeks until daylight savings time begins. I haven’t felt the desperate need to order my garden seeds in January.

When Anne asked her readers to share our list of what’s saving us now, I’m pretty sure she had an actual list in mind, rather than just one thing. But when I asked myself the question, it wasn’t hot tea, fleece clothing, or cozy blankets that I came to mind. No, what’s saving me now is this change in mindset, this acknowledgement that winter plays an important and beautiful role in the seasons of my life.

What’s saving your life right now?

My 2017 Goals: Check-In #1

Some people are motivated by rewards. Some people are motivated by fear. Others are internally motivated. Me? I’m motivated by public shame. I do not want to be embarrassed, and that’s what typically gives me the push I need complete things.

It helped keep me focused when I trained for two marathons in my younger years. I joined Team in Training, which, in exchange for participants raising funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, provides coaching, support, and organized, group training runs. Those group runs were critical for me – in particular the weekly “long runs.” Knowing that I would be running 16 miles with a group on Saturday, helped keep me motivated to train on my own throughout the week. I knew I’d never be the first, but I really did not want to be the last person to finish the long runs.

What does this have to do with my 2017 goals? I’m going to use it to help keep me on track with my goals. I’ll be sharing monthly check-ins on my progress to keep me focused, and as a form of accountability.

Check-In #1

(You can read more detailed descriptions of each of my goals here.)

Read at least 24 books that I truly want to read. In January, I read 2.75 books. I completed Lilac Girls, and I Am Not Myself These Days, and nearly finished The House of The Dead: Siberian Exile Under the Tsars. I also created this page to track my 2017 reads – current, past, and future.

Try at least three new (to me) activities, preferably active ones. I didn’t actually try any new activities in January, but I looked at the group fitness class offerings at my local YMCA, and got some great ideas. I’m particularly interested in spinning, “Strength Train Together”, and “Zen Sculpt.” I’m currently very out-of-shape, so I need some time to get into better shape, before subjecting myself to the public humiliation of a group fitness class!

Run at least three 5K races. No progress here.

Find a way to dread meal planning/cooking less. I’ve been working more days per week than usual this winter, which means meal planning has been particularly important. My clear reliance on it helped me dread it a bit less in January, but I can’t say the same about cooking. I never enjoy cooking, and I’m even less enthusiastic about it after having spent the day at work.

How are you doing with your 2017 goals/resolution?

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