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!

Friday, January 24, 2020

New year, new wellness aspirations...

Thank you to you all for the love on last week's post about how I'll continue to blog!


I really appreciate it, and it's good to know that the content I produce here is meaningful to others. Besides, you know, just me. ;-) I'll put up posts when I can, and just allow myself to be write about whatever is inspiring me that week or that season. That's how I work best, and I'm glad to know that this still brings value to all of you.

*group hug*

Right now, it still be January, I'm still in resolution mode. I wrote earlier this month about faith/family and dance goals, which I think fit into the larger picture I'm about to get into. Wellness encompasses a lot of different component parts, I think, and those are:

(1) physical,
(2) emotional,
(3) spiritual

Right? My birthday is in mid-February, and each year that goes by it causes me to re-examine a lot of different aspects of my life. Faith and family wise, I'm very happy. I'm hard at work on my list of goals for the year, and it's going pretty well. Not perfect, but pretty well. Dance is omnipresent in my life, also quite happily, and that's also heading along on it's steady course. Within that larger physical wellness realm, I've been thinking that I'd like to make some changes. I'm not at all unhappy with my physical form, but there are ways in which I'd like to do better.

I used to meal plan quite diligently, and the stress of the fall combined with the holidays has led to a complete meltdown in planning and preparing healthy meals. This affects not only me, but the entire family. Now, would the kids prefer if it stayed this way? ;-) Yes, they would be very happy without me pushing fresh fruits and vegetables on them on a daily basis, but they don't have the broadest of perspectives on this! I've gotten back into meal planning and prepping, as well as weekly deliveries from our CSA, and perhaps I'll devote a whole post to this coming up, as I have a number of methods that I combine that work quite well for us. But that's definitely a good first step!

I've also become much more interested in physical fitness. I'm pretty active, that's where dance fills part of this category, but I also enjoy walking and taking fitness classes. Although I'm not looking to lose weight per se, I'd like to tone up and become a bit stronger. I have some specific things I'd like to achieve, and things I'd like to try to mix things up in my fitness routine.

You know. I'm being inspired, Holy Spirit moment here. 😂 Let's make this a wellness series that I'll continue throughout the end of January and February, leading up to Lent. This is sort of the intro post, and I can write separately about mealing planning and prep, fitness classes/gym stuff, and dance. I've even become more into increasing my water intake, so there will be a water post. And the aforementioned chalky protein shake experiments. YES! I'm very excited about this!

*delighted face*

If there is anything specific within these wellness topics I've mentioned you'd like me to touch upon, just leave those ideas in the comments, and I'd be happy to include them. I'd also love to hear about your own wellness goals this winter if you'd like to share them. Yay!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Thoughts on moving forward...

So after the drama I caused last week ;-) I've been doing a lot of thinking and discerning about continuing to blog. I received some lovely feedback both in the comments on that post, and over in the Facebook group. To sum it up, people do still read my blog :-0 and enjoy it, though they understand that it takes time and effort, and sometimes you just don't have those things to give anymore. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that you all still enjoy the eclectic mix of topics that I write about, and I don't need to worry about that the way that I was.

My thoughts after weighing all of this is that the effort really isn't a problem - I still enjoy blogging. And time? Oftentimes, it is not an issue, but occasionally it is. The topic thing, well, this has always been a "life blog" wherein I write about whatever is on my heart that particular week, so we have family stuff, job issues, faith things, random funny happenings, and musings related to my hobbies (dance, fitness, crafting, reading). I still like writing about all of these things, and it seems you still enjoy reading about them and what each new week may bring.

So, in essence, I've decided to keep blogging.

It feels good to have made a decision about that, because it's been weighing on me for awhile. But with all things, I think it's good to refresh and recharge sometimes, and this is one of those times.

So this is the plan. At some point in the next year, I'll likely give the blog a fresh new look in terms of template and color scheme. I don't do that very often, and I'll wait to feel inspired. But I can tell that it's coming. In terms of timing of posts, I have been posting once per week, and I anticipate that continuing. There may be weeks where it doesn't happen due to my schedule or something unexpected coming up, and if that happens, I'm giving myself permission not to fret about it. I will post when I can, and I'm always very regular about that, so there's no need to pressure myself. It's more important to be able to sit down and enjoy the post, and write about what is making me inspired that week. I feel like that will give me a new sense of life with the blog.

I go in phases with themes in terms of what I write about, often related to the season, and I anticpate that also continuing to be the case. Right now, with it being wintry, I'm writing a lot about crafts. In fact, the piece I wrote for Catholic Mom this month about crocheting blankets in January has been my most commented on post over there! With Lent approaching, I'm sure spiritual reading, devotionals and liturgical good times are coming our way very soon.

What I'm feeling overall though, is that I'd like this blog to have a distinct wellness focus. Fitness is definitely something I've gotten more into this year, and I know I'll be writing about that coming up. But wellness encompasses emotional and spiritual well-being too, so I think it's a perfect fit for my little enterprise over here at Life of a Catholic Librarian. :)

Sooooo...that's pretty much it! Nothing is really changing, except I feel all rejuvenated, ha ha! I'm looking forward to giving the blog a slightly new look and exploring a fresh way of presenting my content. It's all good! So, you're stuck with me! :-0

I'm feeling a physical wellness post coming on (new fitness classes, accidental giant water bottles, and chalky protein shakes, can't wait!) so you can excitedly anticipate that late next week. ;-)


What's on tap for you this weekend?

Friday, January 10, 2020

Is it time for a change?

So, I've been going through some stuff. Nothing serious, but I've been under some stress since this past fall. Mostly, it's related to my kids, and the anxiety I've been experiencing from the changes in their lives as they both get older. Having my son start high school has been the greatest crisis in my life as a parent since dealing with epic sleep deprivation, postpartum depression, and temper tantrums from the infant and toddler years. I'm prone to anxiety by nature, and this ramped it up to a degree that for the first time, I've sought out a licensed therapist to help me to cope with it all better. That's a good thing, and it's helping, and I'm grateful for that. Overall though, I've noticed something about myself: my sense of self is much more defined than it's ever been, and my perspectives have shifted a bit. That comes from age and experience, I suppose. But I'm much more aware now of the things and people in my life that I treasure, and simultaneously I'm also much more aware of my own mortality. My birthday is coming up next moth, and well, YOU KNOW. I'm pretty sure this is the very definition of a midlife crisis. :-0

I have this increased sense of carpe diem, like now is the time to really savor my relationships and experiences, and really challenge myself within the hobbies and avocations that I enjoy. That's all good stuff, what I worry about is this deeper sense within me of: "But what is it all for? What is the ultimate purpose of pursuing this?"

Now granted, some of those are easy. Spirituality-wise, I know what the goal is, and am always working on that. Check. Relationships are the same. We want loving, happy, healthy relationships for obvious reasons. But other stuff is tougher. Dancing is my greatest creative endeavor, and I'm definitely going through a Midlife Dance Crisis. ;-) What do I want from dance, ultimately? Am I achieving that? Honestly, I don't know.

The other thing is this blog. I've been writing here, and sharing with you, for a long time, over 10 years now. And...why am I doing it? I was struck recently that blogging isn't exactly the "in thing" anymore. I've always written because I enjoy it (same goes for dancing, truly), and that's reason enough, to be sure. But midlife crises involve DEEP PURPOSES, know what I'm sayin'? Some weeks it's a challenge to come up with an idea for a post. And our community is small (but mighty!) so I do wonder to myself if it's time to try something new. Is blogging really the best way to achieve my goal to write for enjoyment anymore?

Another reason that I started this blog was to share my faith. I still enjoy doing that quite a bit. I write for Catholic Mom on a monthly basis, and I have to admit that I love writing those pieces because it's only every 30 days. Each one feels like a fresh new opportunity to share something interesting about my faith life because it's been a whole month since I last penned one. I write multiple Gospel Reflections for them each year too, and adore working on those, because they really challenge me to dig into the scriptures and discern how they apply in my own life. I also love the Facebook group related to this blog that I manage. Our weekly prayer threads, posts on interesting Catholic gifts or stories, the novenas, LOVE that stuff. Because it's low key and spontaneous, and also because there's a fuller sense of community there. I also truly enjoyed writing my book in the scripture study series put together by my friend Allison, because I had the opportunity to collaborate with a duet of lovely women and really extend myself creatively in the process. So I share my faith in these other ways, and wish to continue doing so.

So what does this all mean in terms of this blog? I don't know, lol! I would love to hear from YOU. Do you still find it meaningful to follow this blog and read my posts on a regular basis? I write about an eclectic mix of topics: religious faith; crafts; family; fitness; belly dancing; books and podcasts; random weird stuff that happens to me. I mean...:-0 What do you think?!

I don't really have any notion of alternatives. Perhaps a change of style, in which this were a website with a blog feature that I update when inspired? A website that is curated with ways to easily navigate into posts on the varied topics that I tend to write about?

I'm all ears. But I do feel like this blog needs some TLC. I think I've been going through the motions with it for quite some time because I'm very commitment oriented, and I'm also quite averse to change. This blog has always treated me well, and I'd hate to give it up. It's definitely one of my babies, and I love the people I've met through it (you!). But it doesn't feel right to keep doing something the exact same way just because that's the way you've always done it, especially when the platform doesn't feel as inspired as it used to.

All thoughts quite welcome in the comments! :-)

Friday, January 3, 2020

A fresh new year start, and soothing winter crochet -alongs...

Happy New Year everyone, I hope that you had a wonderful holiday season.


I did, it was very relaxing. I pretty much spent nearly 2 weeks in my pj's, knitting, drinking tea, and watching a Little House on the Prairie marathon. 😂 I really needed the down time, and I loved it. The fall was unexpectedly quite stressful, as I've written about before, and spending the time at home unwinding with Mike and the kids was just awesome. We also got to spend a lot of time with my parents, which was absolutely delightful. Now that it's the new year, I'm feeling all refreshed and excited to go on my goals for dance, faith and family! I'm starting off by taking a workshop next weekend that focuses on acting and stage presence for dancers - should be interesting, eeks! :-0

In other news, I'm terribly excited to be participating in another crochet -along (abbreviated as CAL in craft land ;-)) with the Attic 24 blog. She does one each January - March, and releases the color sequences a week at a time. This year's edition is called the Dahlia blanket:

I've participated in these CAL's the past two years, and the experiences have been so fun and soothing. I love being a part of a larger community, and there is a group on Facebook called "Hooked on Attic 24" dedicated to these CAL's and it's so lovely to be joined in there. The winter is a perfect time to have a giant blanket project going, and I love the challenge of finishing up the stripe sequence each week. She does offer options wherein you can pick either the varied color sequence that she favors, or a colorwash version wherein the colors fade into each more, or a mirroring stripes option. She puts together yarn packs each late fall through Wool Warehouse, but obviously you could use any yarn you like and either try to match up the colors, or come up with your own color scheme. It's such fun! The first sequence came out today, and I have to admit that I got up with an excited feeling in my stomach to go print it out. :-)

Do you enjoy having a community that goes along with your hobbies? Anybody tempted to crochet a blanket with me this winter? ;-)