Thursday, April 2, 2020

Lenten Theme of the Week: Patience, and more meatless lasagna talk...

Happy Thursday everyone, how are you all doing? 🤗 This is week 3 of us all being home (it's likely something similar for you), and all I know is that we still have a long way to go. I'm just rying to hang in there.

And that's why I chose patience as our theme of the week. I don't know about you, but I'm struggling  mentally and emotionally with not interacting face-to-face with anyone outside of my household into the foreseeable future. But we must be patient. No matter what, Holy Week is next week, and Easter will come. Good things are on the horizon, we must just be patient.

Every day, I've been taking an online dance or fitness class via Zoom, and this has been a huge source of respite for me. I have come to really look forward to these times, and have a little area set up in our office/guest room for me to move around nicely in there. I'm trying to look at the positives of the situation, and one of them is that I have the opportunity to study with dancers whom I wouldn't be able to normally, due to location. So that's a big yay!

I've also been crafting during our family relaxation time in the evenings. I finished this mosaic crochet tote, which is a gift for a beloved friend!

Free Mosaic Crochet Tote Bag pattern!

The technique was new for me, and challenging at first, but once I got it, I really enjoyed it. I love the finished result! I also pulled some yarn out from my stash (and isn't this was yarn hoarders have been waiting for for YEARS, our accumulated yarn stash is there for us during the lean times 😍):

Expression Fiber Arts Oasis Camel Silk Fingering in "Weekend Vibes"

...and I had a lot of soothing fun with my yarn swift and winder:


...and last night I started this new shawl:

Pattern is Polygonia, from the spring 2020 issue of Interweave Crochet
When it's finished, it will coordinate with the dress that I have picked out for Anne's First Communion ceremony, though I now have no idea when that will even be. *sob* I'm also still working on the Our Lady Star of the Sea inspired shawl:

Pattern is Find Your Fade
...and am about to move into the lace segment for the aqua yarn. This has all been bringing me a tremendous amount of needed distraction and solace.

With the kids, we've been trying to work with them on their schoolwork as best we can. Last Friday, we took Anne on a field trip to a local historic cemetery to walk around. That sounds strange, but this cemetery is actually a landmark around here, it's quite vast and there are tons of walking paths. While cemeteries aren't normally uplifting places, this trip brought us all some much needed time outside in the sun, and peaceful time within our own heads. We also visited with some cute ducks there:


I'm really feeling for the kids, who rarely get out of the house these days. I know that this is what we're supposed to be doing right now, but it definitely isn't altogether good for children to be cooped up so much inside. I've been encouraging to go out into our yard as much as the weather will allow. Anne has also been able to participate in her Tae Kwon Do classes online via Zoom, which has been excellent.

As we near the end of Lent, our menus are uninspired (just don't have the energy these days), but they do still exist, and that's what counts:



The requirement to abstain from meat on Fridays has not been lifted in our diocese, and this week we're planning to grab some takeout fish fry from a local restaurant. This particular restaurant, however, also has a vegetarian lasagna option that got my wheels turning, since we had a fun chat in the Facebook group and in the post comments last week about lasagna and different cheeses. They offer a sweet banana pepper lasagna, and YUM, that's what I'm getting. :-) I'll be so curious to try this, and I found this recipe online for Sweet Pepper Lasagna if you'd like to try your own!


How are you holding up this week, my friends? I'd love to hear from you in the comments. *heart*

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Lenten Theme of the Week: Steadfastness, and cheese lasagna for meatless Friday...

Happy midish point of Lent everyone, and let's have a group hug for making it this far, yes?

🤗

I'm keeping up with my 2 devotionals, but I'm letting myself take it easy with regards to staying perfectly on a Lenten timetable. Right now, our lives ARE LENT, so I think that simply by remaining steadfast and hanging in there, we're doing just fine right now.

For our part, we've all been trying to stay busy at home, our creativity flowing via online means, and still liking each other by the end of each week. ;-) Mike and I have both been working with the kids on their schoolwork, and also trying to get our own teaching work done from home. It's been a tough balancing act, for sure.

On the upside, I've been finding lots of time for crafting! My in-progress shawl is coming along very nicely, and I'm aiming to finish it to wear on Easter:

Pattern is Find Your Fade
I also received a few new rosary purchases, and am quite in love! First up is our pal St. Patrick, I love the pop of green this time of year!

St. Patrick rosary over at Rosaries by Allison

And the next is a 7 Sorrows Rosary, which is a totally new devotion for me, and it's perfect for Lent! You could also pray this without the specialty rosary, and just keep careful count. :-) This custom rosary though has medals depicting each of the sorrows, very handy!

Created by Rosaries by Allison
The 7 Sorrows of Mary are:

1.) The Prophecy of Simeon
2.) The Flight into Egypt
3.) The Loss of Jesus in the Temple
4.) Mary Meets Jesus on the Way to Calvary
5.) Mary Stands at the Foot of the Cross
6.) Mary Receives the Body of Jesus in her Arms
7.) Jesus is Placed in the Tomb

In our evening time, we've been watching the Lord of the Rings movies as a family. This isn't our first time doing so, but it's been a few years, so we're really sinking into them anew. And Anne didn't remember the stories particularly well, so they're almost like new to her. It's been nice to have an installment to look forward to after a long day of work, and I've been making popcorn for the kids to go along with it. Lord of the Rings has also been inspiring my crafting life:

Journey hues kit from Expression Fiber Arts

Yarn purchases and project planning has been keeping me sane right now. ;-) Also keeping me sane is the vast amount of dance and fitness classes that are available online now! I've been doing at least 1 daily, and it's helping to keep my creative juices flowing, along with meeting some of the items on my dance goals list for 2020! I'm getting to study with dancers that I would ordinarily not have the opportunity with, so I'm taking advantage of everything that I can.

In terms of meal planning, we're still at it:


We've been getting takeout 1-2 times per week from a local restaurant, and that's been another way of cheering ourselves up in the early evenings, along with supporting local businesses that are really suffering financially right now. For our meatless Friday this week, we're making a 3 cheese lasagna similar to this one:


Mike isn't a huge fan of ricotta cheese (believe me, I too cannot image how this could be true :-0) and when he makes this, he subs in swiss cheese. Unconventional, and I was skeptical, but I will say that it is delicious. And it is a perfect dish for a Lenten Friday!

How are you doing, friends? Do you need anything? How are you staying busy at home? Let's cheer each other up in the comments. :)

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Lenten Theme of the Week: Hope, and parmesean rice for meatless Friday

Hi everyone.

*big, huge, virtual hug*

I feel much better. We all needed that, yes? :-) This global health crisis is very hard on everyone right now, in a multitude of different ways, depending on your specific situation. In my family, none of us are sick (and believe me, I'm VERY grateful for that, especially since both Mike and I work on college campuses, where it's much easier to catch contagious illnesses given the volume of people in a relatively small environment), but we're all cooped up at home, which is where we need to be right now, but everyone is struggling in their own way with all of this. My Anne is downright sad. She misses school, her friends, the hobbies that she loves, and I'm struggling with the same things. I know that's all small potatoes compared to what others are dealing with, but it's still a loss to contend with, and for an unsettling unknown duration.

For my part, I'm navigating trying to work from home while also technically homeschooling the kids. It's not an easy balance, especially for someone who has never homeschooled before! We're making our way through it as best we can.

And so this week I thought that we should highlight holding on to hope. It's going to take some time, but we can all learn important things from this, and I pray that those who become ill are able to heal as quickly as possible. The loss of my routine is very hard on someone who relies on routine as a coping mechanism for her anxiety condition, so I'm finding new things to focus on and treasure. Of course, I'm grateful that my family is safe and sound at home. I also have this perfect new Lenten coffee mug:

Rosary coffee mugs available over at Willits Works, this one is the Carrying of the Cross!

...and Mike and I have been taking daily walks outside in the evenings. We've been wanting to get back to this habit for a while now, and this is the perfect opportunity! My dance and fitness classes have all moved online via Zoom, and I'm *so grateful* to still be able to connect with my friends in this way. *heart*

I've also been very excited about my knitting and crocheting:

In love with this patter, which is Find Your Fade, by Andrea Mowry
My colorway inspiration is Our Lady Star of the Sea, did you ever?!


My next color is aqua. *squeals*

I did menu-plan for the week, despite the depressing nature of our local grocery store:



...but we're decidedly interspersing with regular trips to local restaurants to get takeout and give them our support and business. Friday's meatless option is Lemon Shrimp with Parmesean Rice, and sub out the shrimp for roasted vegetables for a vegetarian option!


Just about any veggies that you have on hand would work well with this delicious rice side!

How are you all holding up, friends? I'm here to listen in the comments! We've been sharing rosary prayers and other Catholic coping mechanisms in the blog community Facebook group, if you'd like to join us over there. :)

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Lenten Theme of the Week: Perseverence, and alfredo sauce options for meatless Friday

Wow, it's been quite a week, yes? I think everyone is feeling a heightened sense of mortality right now with our current COVID-19 situation, and that this Lent is even Lentier than usual. The university for which I work is suspending all in-person classes, and the quiet campus in the middle of March is going to seem awfully sad and lonely. It's for the best, though.

In the meantime, I've been keeping up with my Lenten devotional reading, if not the Morning Prayer with the Magnificat Lenten Companion app. I persevere and do what I can each day! I also started the St. Joseph novena this week.


I'm really loving 33 Days to Greater Glory. I'm into the third week already, and we're examing the time Jesus spent with His disciples in the Upper Room before His passion and crucifixtion. The first two weeks addressed some important people in Jesus' ministry, and the seven signs of his otherworldly power. 😍 Fascinating stuff!

I've also been busily crafting to distract myself a bit from worries, both in my own job and family, and in our world. I love handknit socks in the winter, and so I have knitted what I'm calling the Frosty Socks:

Pattern is Sailor's Delight



That wintry blue color is a favorite of mine in the colder months. I am planning many spring socks this year, plus airy and beautiful shawls knit and crocheted in sock yarn! I'm very excited, and the thought of this is definitely perking me up during this tough week.

I have to say, I'm loving these menu planning photos 😂 and here we have Lent Week 2!



Our meatless Friday option this week is Seafood Fettuccine Alfredo:


I'm not a huge fan of traditional marinara sauce on pasta (odd, but true) and so I love alternative sauces for pasta. Alfredo sauce is a rich choice, but we don't make it very often, and it's nice to intersperse with olive oil based sauces. As a seafood fan, I adore shrimp, but you can simply omit the shrimp in this recipe for a vegetarian version! We often do not have fettuccine noodles in our pantry, so I'll use either regular spaghetti or angel hair, whatever we have on hand.

How is your second full week of Lent progressing? We're right in the thick of things now!

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Lenten Theme of the Week: Gratitude, and the 1st of our meatless Friday recipes!

Well, we're well into the first full week of Lent, and I'm feeling super energized. :-0 This is not unusual for me for the first week of Lent, and it is the topic of my upcoming Catholic Mom piece for March. ;-) My piece addresses 4 ideas for managing to persevere all the way through Lent without getting overwhelmed, and one of the ideas is to not take too many devotions on all at once; you'll see that this is very ironic given the sheer volume of devotionals and other prayers that I have shared/am about to share with you all as my Official Lenten Plan for 2020. 😂

This week, my thoughts immediately turned to Lenten gratitude, and the reason for that is COMMUNITY! I feel so grateful to be journeying along this Lent with all of you.

*virtual hugs and hearts*

In the mail last week, I had a little package from our dear community member Melanie. And look what she sent me!

Give up Worry for Lent

She knows I've been going through a struggle with anxiety lately, saw this book at a conference she was attending, and bought it for me as a gift. I mean, wasn't that so sweet and awesome of her?! Thank you so much, Melanie!

I've also been talking with my sister quite a bit about Lenten devotionals, and she recommended this one to me that she learned about from Twitter:

Remember Your Death and accompanying Memento Mori journal
In the spirit of community, I bought a copy. ;-) I've been keeping this one on my nightstand for use just before bed, and really liking it! I love sharing things like this with others in our group. *heart* I am feeling so very grateful this Lent to have such meangingful and long lasting relationships!

*group hug*

So as you can see, I've added to my Lenten arsenal. I'm just doing what I can, taking it all in, and enjoying everything! If I don't get to every devotional every single day during Lent, that's ok. I'm doing my best and learning a lot, and that's what is important!

We're also going to start weekly meal planning and recipe talk here on the blog during Lent, and so I snapped a picture of our family menu for Lent, Week 1:


Lots of leftovers on tap for this week, because I cooked a lot last week. We take the kids out to a restaurant once every other week as a little family tradition on the weeks Anne and I don't have Girl Scouts, and this week is one of those. For meatless options, this Friday we're having Ceasar Salmon Wraps:


If you're a vegetarian or do not enjoy fish, you could swap out the salmon for roasted or marinated vegetables! I think bell peppers, tomatoes and avocado would work particularly well.

Each Thursday, I'll feature a free meatless recipe that we'll also be trying! If it involves fish (and it often will, we like seafood), I will suggest vegetarian alternatives. :)

Check out Catholic Mom's Meatless Friday archives here!

What are you choosing for your Friday meal this week? How is gratitude playing a part in your Lent? I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Wishing you all a blessed Ash Wednesday!

Hello friends, and I hope that everyone is having a blessed start to Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season! I'm writing to you earlier than usual this week, but Ash Wednesday just seemed like an ideal time to check in with each other about the start of Lent. How is it going for you?

🤗

For my part, I'm all worried about several things behind the scenes right now (one of which was the intention for the Our Lady Undoer of Knots novena I just finished praying), and have been working on cultivating faith and peace within myself. We're getting there! I think this is going to be my theme for Lent this year.

I dropped Henry off at school, and immediately pulled out a new rosary that I bought specifically for Lent:

St. Thomas Aquinas rosary, made by: Rosaries by Allison
I just love these smooth Czech glass beads, I picked them out based upon another rosary Allison made for me that is one of my very favorites. It brought me a lot of peace as I drove in to work this morning. I prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries, and I have this little rosary booklet that advises the mystery distribution this way, which I have to say that I have always loved:

Pray the Rosary, available on Amazon for just 99 cents!
In the past, I have kept to this schedule, which means that Lent is exclusively the Sorrowful Mysteries, and I love how set apart it makes this special season feel. Come Easter season, the other mysteries feel so decadent! I will probably veer a bit and still pray the Glorious Mysteries on Sundays during Lent, because those are always Solemnities.

I also pulled out my main Lenten devotional and am all excited:

33 Days to Greater Glory, available from ShopMercy.com

I started the Introduction this morning (should have read that yesterday, d'oh!), and plan to get all the way through Day 1 today. So far I am LOVING IT! Fr. Gaitley has such a natural and relatable style to his writing, and I'm becoming quite absorbed in it.

Also yesterday, I saw an ad for the Magnificat Lenten Companion 2020, and those hold a special place in my heart. I've ordered the print versions many a year, and have also tried out the Kindle version on occasion. The print copies sell out well in advance of Lent, plus I was pretty low on time, so this year I decided to try out the app version:

Linky to Kindle, Android and ios versions
I have Android, and it looks absolutely beautiful on my phone. I read the Morning Prayer selection this morning, and am in love. This isn't the full Liturgy of the Hours, but I think this is a lovely, shortened option for those who do not have the full set of books, and/or do not have the timeslots to fit all of the official Hours in. Their Morning Prayer includes a hymn, a Psalm, a scripture reading, Canticle, intercessions, and a closing prayer. Also included are the daily Mass readings, a Lenten meditation, and Evening and Night prayer (same structure as I mentioned above: not the official Liturgy of the Hours, but something modeled after it). This is absolutely LOVELY. I'm curious as to whether I'll keep it up for all of Lent, and whether this will tempt me to get a digital subscription to Magnificat. I have a print subscription to Living with Christ that I use as my missal and aid to meditation on Sundays, but if I find myself using this app regularly during the week, it may be worth it to pursue as an additional aid to prayer.

I'm leaving work a tad early today so that I can attend the 4 pm Scripture Service and Distribution of Ashes at my parish, and I'm all excited, especially since I attended the Worship Committee meeting a few weeks back to discuss all of the decor and liturgical options that we will observe. 😀 We are making cheese ravioli at home later as our meatless dinner for this special day. No desserts or snacks after dinner for anybody!

So! I'm contemplating posts here for Lent. I'm still not entirely decided on how I'll structure them, but expect lots of specifically Catholic content during this season. I'm thinking of maybe some saint features, or Lenten themes each week? Also, is there interest in a weekly link to meatless Friday dinner options? I'd love to hear from you what you would like to see! And let me know how your Ash Wednesday is going. :-)

Friday, February 21, 2020

Lenten planning 2020 - Catholic nerd alert!

Happy Friday everyone, and happy last full week of Ordinary Time before Lent begins! I am getting SO excited for this particular Lent! Maybe because Anne is making her 1st communion this year, maybe because I've been doing so much discernment lately about both of my kids and their schooling and hobbies situation. But whatever the reason, I want to be armed for a fruitful Lent!

This year, I feel called to do a lot of reading during Lent. I was contemplating tackling a larger spiritual work on non-fiction that I'd had in my personal library for quite some time, like perhaps the mammoth John Paul II biography. 🤔 But then I saw this at all of the entrances to my parish, next to the bulletins:


33 Days to Morning Glory
...and Father announced at Mass recently that anyone who completed this retreat by May would be able to participate in a special consecration ceremony that he would hold in the church sometime around the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. And I was inspired. :-) I have completed 33 Days to Morning Glory in the past, but it's been several years, so I figured this was an excellent opportunity to approach it anew and also connect with my parish community in the process. Win/win! In the past, I've used the full size book to complete the daily reflections, but these little guys that Father gave us are booklet size, nice and convenient to carry around with me in my daily routine. So I'm going to be starting this during Lent! But THEN...

*gleeful hand rubbing*

I saw this:

33 Days to Greater Glory
This whole 33 Days phenomenon by Fr. Michael Gaitley has it's own little fiefdom, and I'm FASCINATED:

Sorry about the glare! That middle one is 33 Days to Merciful Love

I AM SO EXCITED. Doesn't the Greater Glory book look PERFECT for Lent?! Look at all of this shouting I'm doing, I'm so excited!! :-0 I kept admiiring it online when I discovered it (it's fairly new), and next thing I knew, the Marian Helpers had sent me a review copy in the mail and I was like: "Holy cow, this is obviously meant to be!"

SO! It's going to be a consecration kind of Lent for me. I'm going to start with 33 Days to Greater Glory on Ash Wednesday, which will take me through to the 3rd Sunday of Lent. Then the following week, I'll begin 33 Days to Morning Glory, which will bring me into the Easter season, and to the first few days of May, depending on when I actually begin. I'm really stoked for the spiritual benefits that are to come, and think this will really keep me focused this Lent! I'm also going to single out each of my children to do something special with them this Lent of their choosing: Stations, adoration, they can pick. But I'll take them so that it'll just be the two of us, and then we can grab a bite to eat and chat about what we learned. :)

Super excited! Anybody want to join me with either of these 2 books this Lent/Easter? What are your Lenten plans? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Friday, February 14, 2020

Winter Wellness Series #3 - Water and other fun ideas!

Happy Friday everyone, and welcome to the conclusion of our Winter Wellness Series for 2020! I've enjoyed this little foray into a topic that I've become much more interested in over the past 6 months or so, and I hope that you enjoyed sharing it with me!

*hug*

I thought this week we could chat about other ways we try to stay fit and healthy, outside of our nutritional goals and exercise. Please do drop your suggestions in the comments! For me, I try to drink more water. Water flushes your body out in a healthy way, and helps you to feel fuller, longer. I've also wanted to try and experiment with protein shakes, especially in the mornings when I tend to eat sugary breakfast cereals, but that hasn't really gone anywhere. Let's start with water!

I've always kept a water bottle chilling in the refrigerator for when I want a cold drink (it's always enticing for me when it's super cold and waiting like that!), and I'm pretty good about drinking water every day. But I knew that I could improve. So I bought a new bottle water with a new goal in mind. Never one to take the easy road when the impossible road will do, I purchased this:

Bottled Joy 1 Gallon Water Bottle
Yeah. That's a gallon jug of water. When it's full, I can hardly lift it. 😂 Maybe if you're going to be hiking through the wilderness for days at a time, you'd need this water bottle, but this suburban librarian does NOT need one. I'm curently keeping it in my office for ease of using my Keurig machine and calling it a day.

I reapproached Amazon, and then settled on this cute little number:

Bottled Joy 32 oz Water Bottle
Now this is a good water bottle. It's 32 oz, and has a little timeline along the side so that you can track your intake throughout the day. If you fill it up twice a day, you'll drink a half gallon of water, which is a very worthy goal. It's much more manageable to carry with me throughout my day, and I love it.

*heart*

Then, when Anne and I were out shopping one day, I found these guys:

Fruit Slice reusable ice cubes
I mean, did you ever? These are reuseable ice cubes, and I love them so much I can hardly stand it. They really perk up your water, and keep it colder longer when you need to take your bottle on the go!

Isn't this SO ADORABLE?!
I'm just in love. I drink way more water now, and overall I feel much better throughout my day.

So, as I mentioned, I really want to experiment with protein shakes to take the place of the breakfast cereal I tend to quickly eat in the mornings. This experiment has not really gotten off the ground, but I had some protein powder leftover from a previous experiment, so I decided to use that instead of buying anything new until I found whether or not I liked it or not. Previously, I had just mixed with water and put shook it together in a regular water bottle. The result was: 😷

Oh my. It was not good. :-0 So, in an effort to further explore this topic, I bought this little guy:

BlenderBottle Classic Loop Top Shaker Bottle, 28 ounce, Clear/Blue
This comes with one of those wire balls that help to mix and distribute your powder and liquid better. I also used milk this time. I mean...

It was somewhat less pukey. But I have to say, it was still pretty chalky. I think the key is actually blending everything in a real blender, and also adding fresh fruit or other produce to add texture and taste. I have my eye on a little Magic Bullet thing for my birthday, I'll keep you posted. ;-) Does anybody drink protein shakes regularly and have products and/or recipes to share?

Also, I'd love to hear other wellness tips and ideas! Our little series of talks has really energized me as me move closer to spring, yay!

Next week, I'll be posting about some ideas for Lent and see if anyone would be interested in joining me for a fairly informal read or pray -along, or something of that nature. Stay tuned!

Friday, February 7, 2020

Winter Wellness Series #2 - Fitness!

Happy Friday everyone, and welcome back for week 2 in our Winter Wellness series! Today we are talking about exercise and fitness!

*streamers!*

What I'd like to do is chat about our workouts or other ideas to stay active, and then talk about how the rest of the month will run here on the blog in terms of topics. Sound like a plan? :-)


So, I'm a pretty physically active person, but I have a confession: I hate gyms, and I also hate running. These are, of course, two big ways in which many people work out and stay active. 😂 Here, though, is something that I think is of utmost importance - when it comes to exercise, you should do what you know you will do. In other words, there's no use in trying to force yourself to do something that you loathe and have little chance of following through with longterm. If you like to take walks, you should do that, and challenge yourself to up your game a bit by adding distance and more challenging hiking paths. If you enjoy dancing, you chould try a Zumba class or other dance fitness. If you're not usually very active, try some different things to ferret out what you like best!

I really do hate running, btw. I hate how long it takes to build up endurance, and I hate the constant risk of injury doing something that I don't like doing anyway! If I get injured dancing, well, at least I'm doing what I love. :-) When I have tried running in the past, I would dread doing it, get frustrated when all of my hard word would get derailed by a single cold or something that kept me from running for a short stretch, and eventually I'd give up in a huff. This is what we don't want, for sure!

While it's true that I don't like the gym, I do like group fitness classes (which are often offered at gyms, I will grant). I love the community spirit, it keeps me motivated, and I so prefer a class format to lifting weights or toiling away on a treadmill (again with the running). I am a huge fan of Zumba dance fitness, and have a class in my regular rotation. I also take Piyo two times per week, which I LOVE. This is a yoga/Pilates fusion that works your entire body with your own natural resistance (no weights involved), and it is amazing and you will SWEAT! I've been wanting to challenge myself to try new things, and so this winter I have also added in a HIIT class (high intensity interval training). While it's not love like with the other ones (exercises involving running *snort* and jumping are not the best fit for this body with a bladder that has experienced multiple pregnancies 😨) the instructor is amazing and incorporates strength training with hand weights, and that part I do like!

In addition to specifically fitness classes, I also dance two times per week, and I walk when I can with friends or my husband. :-) Check out your town's community education class schedule, there are often new things to try in there in terms of dance, martial arts and other types of fitness classes. It's a great way to find new things, and try them out for a manageable and limited time frame so that you can see if if you like them! Community ed. is actually how I first discovered belly dance!

Planning a fitness routine is key, in my experience. For me, the best time to work out is during my lunch break at the campus gym/recreation center. For a lot of people, that time is right after work. Again, it just should be a time that is convenient for you, that you know you can stick to with some regularity. For walks, those are in the evening or on the weekends if I have Mike with me. Whatever works!

I also think a lot depends on what your goals are. Working with a personal trainer can really aid in establishing and working towards these, and that's something I'm interested in trying! If you're looking to build muscle and tone up, they will likely suggest a different track for you than for someone who is looking to lose a set amount of weight. I'm in my 40's, and looking to build muscle and generally get in the best shape of my life. I'm excited. 😁

So I'm going to keep trying new classes where I can, and look into the personal training thing. It's good to have goals, and to encourage each other!

What are your fitness goals? I'd love to hear about them! Next week, we're going to wrap up the wellness series with a talk about water intake, protein shakes, and anything else I can think of that we haven't covered already. ;-) Then the week after that is just before Ash Wednesday, so we'll be doing some Lent planning, can't wait! 😀

Friday, January 31, 2020

Winter Wellness Series #1 - Meal planning and prep...

Happy Friday everyone! Last week we had a fun chat about wellness goals for the year, and I was inspired to start a series to run for the end of January and into February on related topics. Here we have our first official post in the series, and today we're tackling meal planning and prep!

*praise hands*

Caveat: I don't have a background in nutrition, or any experience with specialized eating needs involving allergies or other food sensitivities. I'm just going to lay out what works for me, and new things I'd like to try. Obviously, we are all different, and what works for one will not work for all! But I think that sharing experiences provides ideas and inspriation in any number of ways, and that that is always a good thing. :-) With that said, let's get started!

Whenever I come to a place wherein I want to increase my overall physical health, the first thing I do is examine the fuel that I'm providing my body. If I'm not feeling as good as I have in the past, it's often because I'm not balancing my eating as well as I used to, and in my case, that *always* comes from a lack of planning.

When I meal plan, I provide structure for balanced family dinners, but also for the lunches I pack to take to work, because I use the leftovers as my lunch 90% of the time. For lunches, here's the key: put the leftovers you plan to use for this purpose into convenient to carry, lunch-sized containers RIGHT AWAY, as you're cleaning up from dinner that night. If you don't, the chances of you using your awesome leftovers become significantly reduced. Ask me how I know this. ;-)

If we don't have leftovers for lunch, I'll pack a salad, or what I call An Assortment, which is usually cheese, crackers, fruit, and whatever else I can scavenge from our fridge and cupboards. Having this Plan A and B for lunches helps me to feel organized, and to be better about planning dinners. And planning dinners is ever so important to our physical health goals. Here's how I do it:

Magnetic dry erase menu

Yep, I am a nerd, and I use a dry erase board. You can see that Anne has penned her very own meal ideas in the Groceries section of the board. ;-) I am a huge fan of this system, and have been doing it for years. When I slack off, things go bad quickly. This particular type of menu requires liquid chalk markers, not traditional dry erase, and I get those easily on Amazon:

Liquid chalk markers available from Amazon
I plan the meals over the weekend, usually Saturday or Sunday morning, for the entire week ahead. Sometimes, things don't work out as planned (we don't have enough leftovers on a day I have planned leftovers for dinner, or we're missing a key ingredient for a meal that I thought we had), and so I'll just shuffle things around, or add something new in mid-week, no biggie. The key is not to be too hard on yourself. We all try to be organized, and sometimes things don't work out as planned. We try again!

I meal plan using a variety of sources. I have a cookbook collection that I love, and I'll select things out of there. When I pick something, I add it to the menu, and I also added needed groceries to our grocery list. This cuts down on the Missing Key Ingredients, although it isn't 100% fullproof. ;-) One of my favorite series of cookbooks is 100 Days of Real Food:

I highly recommend the 100 Days of Real Food blog and cookbook series!
I also have a slew of recipes that I print out from blogs, or recipes that someone gave to me, and I keep these in folders divided into meal categories. You can really tell that a librarian is in charge of this operation, yes? :-0 These are usually family favorites, and I'll try to insert one of those into the weekly menu alongside the inevitable healthy, vegetable-laden new things that I'd like to try, but that the children will hate. ;-)

I also use recipes from a service that I subscribe to called Prep Dish. Prep Dish is an awesome company, owned and operated by a professional chef, that provides you with weekly meal plans, shopping list, and a plan for prepping the food for the entire week, so that each weekday your work to prepare the meals is minimal. The meal plans focus on a gluten free situation, or a Paleo eating philosophy, neither of which totally apply to me, *however* the meal plans are based on using whole, fresh produce, meat and fish (if you're a vegetarian, could easily eliminate these), and are just generally very healthy and flavorful. I use the Paleo recipes, and am always finding new ideas, seasonings, cooking methods, and general inspiration from them to try new things. I personally do not do all of the advance prep, but this is obviously another fantastic idea that you might want to try! I also don't use every meal idea on the weekly plan, but each week will simply select a few to try. Even though I'm not using all of the capabilities that this service provides, I still consider it VERY worth it to have built-in seasonal, healthy ideas every single week! I am an annual premium subscriber, and consider this an essential renewal every year.

Another recipe source for me is our local CSA (community support agriculture, a farm share of local fruits and vegetables, essentially), and this gets into an important point about meal planning: having fresh and healthy food in the house means that you are much more likely to use it in your meals, or snack on it when you feel hungry between meals. We have an awesome CSA that provides recipes for the produce that is included in that week's box, and they deliver it right to our door. They also have a webstore wherein you can add in a slew of other locally made goods such as dairy products, meat and fish, pasta, bread, jams and jellies, pickles, etc. I'm often adding yogurt and granola to my order, and sometimes chocolate milk that my children devour like they've never seen liquid before. I find having fresh fruit and veggies essential to my lunch options too, so if I'm out of leftovers, I'll cut up carrots, toss whatever fruit we have in there, etc.

I LOVE belonging to a CSA. I spend a little more than if I purchased the items at the grocery store, but the convenience, and the fact that we're supporting local farmers, makes it so worth it to me. Ours even runs all winter with root vegetables and hydroponic lettuce and tomatoes!

So for meal planning, that's all I got. :-0 I don't track what I eat, even if I'm trying to lose a few pounds, I just try to focus on balancing my meals with lots of healthy, whole food, and to not snack between meals aside from fruit or vegetables, and a protein, if needed. I know that a lot of people swear by tracking their food, so this might be something that works for you! I know there are tons of great apps for that out there now.

To me, it is SO, so essential that we enjoy our food, and have a healthy relationship with food. We shouldn't deny ourselves less healthy food that we enjoy, we can just try to control our portions of it and balance it out with healthier options. And sometimes if that doesn't happen, it's ok. We should treat ourselves sometimes, and be kind to ourselves. The fruits and veggies will be waiting for us Monday morning. ;-)

What are your meal planning ideas and/or system? Do you have tips that have worked for you in terms of healthy eating? I'd love to accrue some new ideas!