Fresh Food

Tomorrow is shopping day. It’s been over two weeks and we are down to nothing. We could probably scrape by for another day or two if we had to, but pickings are slim. I never used to worry about shopping day, or even think about it really. If I forgot something on the list, no big deal, just grab it the next time I’m out or the following week when I go shopping again. Now it’s different. Trying to only go shopping every two weeks or less makes things tough.

There’s this added stress of being sure not to forget anything. There’s the added stress of getting to the store and realizing half the stuff you need isn’t available anyway. There’s the stress of going to multiple stores just to get enough food to feed your family of four for two weeks, especially with the limitations many stores are putting in place.

We run out of the fresh stuff right away, of course. And that’s fine. We can limp along on frozen veggies and fruit. Not as delicious and probably not as nutritious, but totally doable. Still, for someone like me who lives a nearly vegan lifestyle for most of the day, not having that fresh stuff starts to really wear on me. Like right now, even though I just had a bite of Lily’s Dark Chocolate, oh my god so good, I’m still craving raspberries.

Why raspberries?

I have no idea. They aren’t my favorite. I rarely buy them because they tend to go bad immediately whereas the other berries seem to last at least a week. But the lack of fresh stuff has me getting these crazy cravings.

The other day we had zucchini that was about a day from needing to be chicken feed instead of people feed, so I made these “brownies” with them…epic. So freaking good. It got my kids and husband eating veggies and it was amazing. So definitely making those again. But the thing that’s weird is that no one else craves the veggies and fruit like I do.

In the mornings I have a breakfast of veggies fried up in avocado oil with some garlic, salt, and pepper. Then I put kimchi or salsa on top. So delicious. But I’ve been told it’s not breakfast. Why not? Because it doesn’t have eggs. Pfft. It’s totally a scramble or a skillet or whatever you want to call it, sans eggs. And it’s delicious. And I crave it.

Luckily even without fresh stuff I can usually get away with canned beans and artichokes, frozen spinach and broccoli, and then I throw in either frozen corn or peas or whatever. It’s a super easy thing to cook, I can eat a ton of it, and it has been keeping me full through to early afternoon when I can usually get away with a snack of nuts or something to tide me over til dinner.

Because in addition to only going grocery shopping every two weeks or less I’m also trying to only eat two meals a day. If I get a late start on breakfast or a huge breakfast, it usually works. It lets our food go a bit further and if I do the late breakfast thing then it’s good for my body as a kind of mini-fast.

What changes have you had to make to your eating with this whole pandemic?

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Meditation

She’d never been one for meditation. She wanted to, of course, so many benefits, she just couldn’t get herself to sit still for so long. Nor to let her thoughts “go,” whatever that meant. Go where? They were her thoughts, oughtn’t they to stay with her? At any rate, meditation, a solid no.

Weeks spent indoors with no foreseeable end in sight changed all that.

She went out to the little patch of concrete that was her “yard,” put her earbuds in, clicked the meditation app on her phone and twenty minutes later…

Yeah, no, still can’t meditate. Valiant effort though.

The next day she tried again.

Huh uh.

Again.

And again.

And yet again.

After a week of spending twenty minutes a day on her little patch of concrete, ear buds causing her ears to thrum slightly with the odd stretch they inflicted, she realized she was actually enjoying herself. She may not be a Buddhist monk or even a man with a sexy British accent who was once a monk, but she was meditating, even if for only a few of those twenty minutes.

And she loved it.

She found herself throughout her otherwise unremarkable day thinking to the twenty minutes spent outside on her patch of concrete. She found herself flicking through her binge watching options on the television and then realizing she’d just drifted off in her mind to quiet, to silence, to peace.

It wasn’t like sleeping, although the first time it happened she thought she’d fallen asleep. It wasn’t like reading a book or listening to music or any of the other things she’d done in the past to wind down, or let her subconscious cruise. It was both more relaxing and more gratifying. She found herself returning throughout the day to that feeling of ease.

She expanded her meditation session to thirty minutes.

After another week she expanded again to two sessions of thirty minutes, one in the morning and one in the evening.

It was really lovely, waking up in the morning, boiling water for her coffee, pouring the water into the French Press, and then meditating while it steeped.

It was really lovely, last thing in the evening, brushing teeth and getting fully prepared for bed, then meditating before turning off the lights.

She found herself less anxious with each passing day. Less unclear of what she wanted from her life. Less troubled.

She was slowly gaining insight into herself and she found those moments of anger she used to have, the ones that would flare up disproportionately to the situation and constantly, disappearing. She’d still feel a twinge every now and then, but always with that twinge came the realization that she was choosing her emotions, her reactions. Nothing was outside of her control when it came to herself.

The freedom of all this control was electrifying. She reveled in the power of her own self.

She also noticed how much more empathy she had for others. No longer clucking or tapping her foot with impatience in the grocery store line when someone wrote a check they very well could have been writing the entire time they were being rung up. No longer rolling her eyes and sighing when someone couldn’t find their wallet at the ATM even though they’d been waiting in line behind someone else and could have been getting their wallet ready then.

She realized everyone was on their own path. That everyone was doing the absolute best they could, and maybe their best didn’t look like her best, and so she didn’t immediately recognize it as such. She became more forgiving, more accepting, more loving.

It was the closest she’d ever been to acceptance. Not just of others, but of herself. She felt connected to others and to herself in a way she’d never felt before. Amazed at what an hour a day of silence, relaxation, lack of judgement could do for her entire life, and wondering why she hadn’t ever been able to get herself to meditate before. Wishing she’d started earlier, and also recognizing that she simply may not have been ready before.

She was grateful she was ready now.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

The Move

She’d always been a planner. Never could do anything without spending hours upon hours researching first. So the decision to up and move without seeing where she was moving to (except in pictures online) was a bit extreme. There was something equal parts thrilling and anxiety inducing about it. Would she like the house? Would it be big enough? Too big? Would it feel like everything had a place that fit it perfectly? Would she fit perfectly?

The idea was to create something self-sustaining. A farm, but not exactly a farm. How much farming can one person do? No, this would be a not-a-farm, a hobby farm, a way to prove to herself that she could survive the zombie apocalypse she felt sure would never come but that it was interesting to imagine.

She already knew some basic gardening and how to care for chickens. She’d read extensively on how to care for goats but had yet to care for one. She’d also read up on pigs and while she was anxious to try her hand the idea of pigs also scared her a bit…a holdover from watching Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels perhaps?

At any rate, she had packed up her belongings, selling a few things she couldn’t bear to pack and unpack for the hundredth time and that were much more a part of her old life than the new life she was heading to. Everything fit perfectly in her little hardbody pickup truck. It was a bit of a Tetris game to get it all in there in such a way that it would travel without moving, but she’d done it, and she’d done it on her own.

She’d debated about the best time to leave more as a reflection of the best time to arrive than anything else and had decided that if she left after lunch on Saturday she’d arrive by lunch on Sunday with a short rest stop break Saturday night for a nap. With all that in mind she headed out Saturday after a lunch of tuna salad that she barely tasted, her stomach all aflutter with the adventure before her. She took one last pee break, locked the door on her old life, dropped the key in the mailbox, and made her way toward the future.

The drive was less than idyllic. Mostly cities and the craziness of the Interstate for hours on end. In fact it wasn’t until her first stop for fuel that she realized she’d left the cities behind and was now in desolate country. Nothing but dirt in every direction with the occasional off-ramp offering fast food and fueling stations. When she realized the cities were all behind her she began to relax. And sometime into the eighth hour of her drive she heard a loud pop and the tension between her shoulders disappeared.

She alternately filled the time with music and silence. The silences just as loud in her head as the music had been in the cab. Her head was awash with possibilities, questions, ideas, and the things she tried to ignore: her fears. She told herself she wasn’t scared, that there was nothing to fear, failure would simply mean another change of direction. But she was scared. She was afraid of something she couldn’t name.

She drove as long as she could and finally near eleven that night she was too tired to continue. She pulled into the next rest stop she found, checking for other vehicles as she drove in and parked. The stop seemed empty with the exception of one big rig, lights off, the driver likely sleeping just as she hoped to now. She jumped out and used the restroom, brushing her teeth quickly in the cold, and rushing back to the warm cab of her truck.

She considered leaving the truck running to keep the cab warm, but decided against it. She pulled her Carhartt jacket off and draped it over herself. It would be good to sleep as long as possible, the cold would wake her up in a few hours and she could continue her journey. A perfect little ninja nap.

She slept hard at first, then fitfully, the sounds of the highway and the occasional semi truck pulling in and out of the rest stop keeping her from any sort of restorative sleep. When the cold finally became too much to ignore she opened her eyes and checked the time. 4am. She’d slept less than she thought. But she felt good enough to continue.

Once again she checked her surroundings before jumping out and using the restroom to pee and brush her teeth. She also splashed some cold water on her face. Before rushing back to the truck she checked the vending machines hoping for one that offered coffee. Sadly the only options were soda and candy. She decided to look for coffee on her route and jumped back in the truck, ready to get where she was going.

She turned on some music and cracked her knuckles, a habit she hated and still couldn’t seem to break, and headed on her way. She sang along to the songs she knew, and hummed along to the ones she didn’t. She found a coffee place, drive thru no less, and was happily zipping along when she realized she was being pulled over, and that she had to pee.

“Shit.”

She considered pulling off at the next off ramp instead of pulling over on the highway, but couldn’t see an off ramp up ahead and didn’t want to risk angering the cop. She pulled over as far as she could, rolled down her window, and turned off the engine. She sighed and watched in the side mirror as the cop rummaged around in the cop car before exiting.

She put on a tentative smile and answered the cops question with, “I didn’t notice. Was I over the speed limit?”

Twenty minutes later she was not only so desperate to pee that she considered jumping out and peeing right there in front of the cop, but she also had a hefty little ticket in her hands. She decided not to risk further ire and started up the truck, continuing on her way and hoping the cop would pass her so she could pull back over and relieve herself or that she’d see a restroom in less than two minutes.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Quarantine Garage Sale

For the last four years we’ve been downsizing. We pay attention to the things we use and don’t use and once a week or so we pull things out we haven’t used in forever, double check that we really don’t think we’re ever going to use it, and then set in the pile of stuff to take to the thrift store each week (our thrift store has a drive thru donation line and it’s epic!).

With the ‘rona in force our thrift store is closed. We no longer have access to a place that will take all the stuff we don’t use and don’t want. But we’ve continued to downsize. If anything, we’ve been downsizing even more because what else are we going to do safe at home with two kids and a dog?

So now with nowhere to take it, we have this ever amassing pile o stuff and it’s getting a bit unwieldy. So I had the idea of a Quarantine Garage Sale. I’m posting the things online and whoever wants them can come to my driveway on an appointed date/time and back their car up, pop the trunk/hatch/whatever and I’ll load up their goods, pick up the cash, and they can be on their way.

It’s a great way to practice social distancing while still getting stuff done and giving people something to do. I actually had one person comment that they thought it was kind of sad that the online garage sale was the highlight of their day. Ha! I actually find that fabulous; it brings me joy that someone is smiling cause of something so simple.

What are you doing to keep yourself entertained and moving forward with your goals?

Forage

The stay home orders were loosely defined. Technically one shouldn’t leave one’s home except for emergencies and necessities. She considered her sanity a necessity. And she figured she’d kill her kids if they didn’t get out and burn some energy. That made the leaving a necessity and an emergency.

She packed a lunch, mostly snacks because no one had the kind of food required to make entire meals anymore. She remembered growing up with actual meals, meals prepared mostly by restaurants and occasionally by her mother, there’d be salad and a plate with three kinds of foods and a dessert. There was nothing like that now, ever.

Now her kids ate what she grew up calling “plate of small things,” which is basically a little bit of lots of different things until your plate has enough on it to call it a meal. Foraged fruit here, foraged mushrooms there (and these were extremely rare because she was so afraid of picking something poisonous accidentally), bits from a found can here…tragic meals really.

At any rate, she packed a lunch of snacks, grabbed canteens, and told the kids to get moving: it was time for an adventure. They all piled into the car and she triple checked the fuel levels. Three quarters of a tank. It would be enough to get them there and back but it would be there last trip anywhere; she’d try to make it count.

The kids sat up front with her, there was no backseat, and she buckled them in. She made sure she had some tools, just in case, and that all the dials on the car were turned off before starting the motor. The old car started up like it had been driven daily when in actuality it had been sitting for at least three months, maybe longer. She tried to remember her last trip to town and couldn’t be sure.

They cruised down through the empty streets, and finally onto the highway. They headed east towards the mountains. This time of year would be good for picking the last of the berries, finding the first falling acorns, and hopefully finding a few mushrooms. If they were extremely lucky they’d find some apples, even if they were still small and sour.

The kids were quiet as she drove. A blessing, and one of the reasons she would miss being able to drive with them. As the road steepened and curved their little heads began bobbing and soon they were asleep. She let out a sigh of relief. She loved them desperately and also needed a few minutes to herself to think.

She would have to come up with a better plan. They couldn’t keep hiding out in that house. No one around was both a blessing and a curse. Just the other day she’d had to tell the kids they were playing a silent game of hide-and-seek when really it was a potentially fatal one with a group of men who sounded like the guys she went to boot camp with. She didn’t want to run into guys like that without a Sergeant around.

Maybe the mountains? She knew them pretty well. There were lots of places where she and the kids could live. She’d be able to find food and water and the only real predators would be mountain lions and other people. With winter on the way that didn’t sound like such a great idea. There’s no way they’d be able to keep warm with clothes and quilts. They’d have to have fire. Too risky.

She gripped the steering wheel too tightly and felt the ache in her fingers and wrists. She relaxed her grip and stroked the wheel up and down for a moment. Think. Think, think, think, think, think. Right on the other side of the mountains was a desert. The desert would be perfect for the winter. In fact, it would be a little hot now still, but not too terribly bad. Better than where they were now, assuming she could find water.

There was lots of water in the desert. You just had to know what to look for. And she knew. Boy did she ever know. The danger would be in all the obvious places. The oases were out. Anyone could look across a desert see a mountain of green and know there was water. No. She’d have to go to the places that were less obvious.

A hot springs.

Hot springs would be perfect. Not usually a lot of greenery but definitely water. And while the water wouldn’t taste good, it would be full of all kinds of calcium and bicarbonate and would be really good for their mineral deprived bodies. She thought about the desert they were heading towards. There was a huge hot springs on the south side, but everyone would know about that. She needed something subtle. Something difficult to get to maybe.

And then she remembered the story her great grandma used to tell her. The story she’d always insisted was true but sounded so far fetched no one ever believed her. The story of their great great grandfather who had lived out in the desert for twenty years. She tried to remember the whole story, but could only get pieces, fragments more ephemeral than the oasis they bespoke.

“What was the rhyme?” she asked herself, humming a little trying to find the tempo.

“More east than south,
You’ll find the mouth,
Beware the bite…”

“Damn.” She couldn’t remember. Wasn’t even sure about the “beware the bite” part, that sounded right but out of place.

“‘More east than south,’ at any rate,” she mumbled as she continued up through the mountains.

Fall was beautiful in the mountains, even this early in the season. She drove higher before finding berry bushes that appeared to have been untouched. She pulled over carefully, looking all around and leaving the engine running for moment after putting the car in park.

Continuing to look around but seeing no one, she decided to turn the engine off and wake the kids. With the engine off there was no need to wake anyone, the kids woke themselves and began clambering to get their belts off and their buckets out of the back. Berry picking was a special treat and they were eager. Before she could issue any warnings or rules they’d shot out the passenger door and headed to the bushes.

Giving one last look around she left the keys in the ignition, grabbed her bucket from the back, and headed towards the bushes, too. The easy berries were all picked clean. There were no shoe or footprints around, so it was all wildlife that had gotten to the berries. Still, there were quite a few in the highest spots and the deepest spots of the bushes.

Amid cries of “ouch” and “ack” the three filled their buckets as best they could.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

No Title

I debated not writing today. There are many reasons including: I’d like to journal tonight, I’m near the end of The Science of Well-Being course and I’m loving it and I know it will be down tomorrow for maintenance, my littlest is going to be crying for boob any minute now, and my oldest is roaming the house like a tiger because it’s past his bed time but he thinks we don’t see him if he stalks about…I blame his new favorite book A Tiger Like Me by Michael Engler.

At any rate, there’s a lot going on here tonight and it makes me restless. Plus, too, all this home-bound stuff with kids gets a little out of control. Plus, I desperately want to continue with our downsizing which I can’t do because the thrift stores aren’t open so I can’t take a load of stuff down each week after cleaning out a section of the house. For some reason being thwarted in my efforts to clear clutter is especially exasperating right now, and I suspect it’s because I’m being forced to live in said clutter, see it every day, and do nothing about it.

Lastly, I didn’t much want to write tonight because it is April Fools Day and I figure no one is out reading blogs tonight. Everyone is out trying to find out what kind of heartless person is out there pulling pranks when we’re all in the midst of the worst April Fools Joke ever.

So there you go. The story of my life in a nutshell. And now, since this wasn’t an hour and I was doing it more for posterity than anything else, I shall bid you adieu and go write in my journal.

Oh, and as always, I am not paid by Powells nor do I receive any kickbacks if you visit their site and/or buy the book mentioned above. I am not an affiliate and I get nothing. If you do buy the book though, and it’s amazing, please let me know how your littles like it.

Monthly Check In: March

So March was a bizarre month…. I question my NYR’s a bit and wonder how they may have been different if I could have possibly known what was coming, but I also think they’d probably be the same.

Continue Practicing Gratitude

I’ve continued with the gratitude jar and it’s crazy how much I look forward to reading all these bits of awesome come January 1st. I’ve also begun a new daily gratitude practice as part of the free Yale course on happiness called The Science of Well-Being. I’m in the black on this one.

Continue Spending Time With Family and Friends

Eek! Well, clearly have not been spending time with friends and the family the way I imagined. I did get my once a month day with my bestie before everything went to hell, but our monthly family meet-up had to be cancelled due to quarantine. What’s interesting is that I’ve continued to be in touch with both family and friends quite a bit more than usual through text. Everyone is being very good about staying in touch, probably because we all feel so out of touch. So while I haven’t maintained the friends and family time the way I wanted to, I’m going to go ahead and say I’m in the black on this one because I have remained in touch as much as possible given the circumstances and because my little immediate family has been spending much more time together.

Continue My Self-Care Regime

Definitely still maintaining here. I continue to sauna three or more times a week, I got my monthly massage in before the quarantine, and I’ve been making time for myself for things like reading and learning. I’m in the black on this one, too.

Spend More Time Outside

We continue with the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge and we’re getting outside for a little while every day. We even went on a few hikes this month to places that have been on my list for years. We spent several hours outside working in the yard the last few days and plan to repeat that tomorrow. We’re in the black on this one, too.

Write for One Hour Every Day

I need to double check but I think I only missed three days this month. All three were due to pure exhaustion and/or anxiety, so I don’t feel bad about missing them the way I should. I feel like they were “emotional health days,” and I give myself a pass.

Submit at Least One Piece for Publication
Each Month

As I said in January I realized this is a better goal for 2021. In the meantime I’ve adjusted the goal such that I’m reading and learning more about publication so that when the time comes I’m prepared. I’ve continued reading books on publishing, writing, agents, etc. I’ve also received a wonderful offer from a fellow blogger to do a guest post on her site and I’ll be looking into that. I’m in the red on my NYR but in the black on my long-term goal.

Read at Least One Book a Month

I finished ten books this month which is AMAZING and partly due to the fact that some of them were begun in other months and only finished in this month and partly due to the fact that there were a few days where we were home quarantined and the baby took his nap allowing me an hour or so to read when normally I’d be driving or doing something out and about. March has put me so firmly in the black on this NYR that I’ve had to expand my Reading Challenge on Goodreads.

Take a Stained Glass Making Class

I still plan on being able to make this NYR happen this year but it’s not entirely in my hands right now. All dependent upon quarantine.

Summary

Despite how anxiety inducing and sometimes completely crippling March has proven to be, I’m surprised at how well I’m continuing to move forward with my goals. Not only that, but taking the Yale course on happiness and an OSU course on gardening have been brand new goals added into the mix. I feel like I’m making the best of the situation at hand, and that’s really all I expect from myself (or anyone) right now.

How are you doing on your New Years Resolutions? Are you meeting your goals? If you’re having trouble, take a look at my post on Achievement and let me know if it helps you!

The Farm

When she bought the farm she had grandiose dreams of how it would be: growing all her own food and operating a little farm stand out by the highway or maybe running a CSA delivery on the weekends. She’d be tired but happy, dirty and fit, responsible to no one but herself and completely self-sufficient. It was such a naive but beautiful dream.

Looking back on journals from that time, from before she knew what she was getting into, was such a laugh. Such a treat on a cold winter day, her body aching to get back out to the soil and also grateful for a few months respite. She both dreaded and anticipated the first hard snow, eager to have a couple months to read, mend, try new recipes, and come up with new ideas for how to use her harvest.

She loved her life, there was certainly nothing about it that she’d change. But it wasn’t easy. Her mother had once warned her, “I’d never want to be a farmer. So much work and so little reward.” At the time that had made her decision all the more romantic, all the more laudable, all the more magical and necessary and pure.

Even in winter there wasn’t really a “break” from the farm. There were still animals to care for morning and evening, still fence to ride, tools and clothes that needed mending, supplies to order, decisions about planting the next years crops to make, and all the marketing stuff she didn’t have time to do during the growing season. Emails and newsletters and recipes and ideas and thank-yous and and and and….

There was never a time where she sat with nothing to do. Never. In fact, there were times where she’d realize she’d been staring at the fire for twenty minutes, completely lost in thought and she’d begin to chastise herself for the lapse before realizing that twenty minutes had created a truly novel idea. She’d quickly write it down before she lost it and then spend the next hour working on whatever sock needed darning or newsletter needed fluffing all the while the new idea simmering around in the back of her mind.

Her fourth year into the farm was her best yet. She’d finally broken even. She hadn’t made any money, nothing she could say “look, here it is, my profit. I am profitable!” but she also hadn’t lost any money for the very first year. She took this as a good sign and looked back over what she’d done that had made money and what she’d done that had lost money. She did this every year, of course, in a struggle to always do better and strive to make her dream a realistic reality, a sustainable reality.

She was looking forward to her fifth year and had just finished the design for the newsletters, the majority of their info for each month pre-filled and ready to go allowing for her one hour each month of current information (the part her subscribers claimed was their favorite). The weekly emails were also pre-formatted and ready with recipe ideas based on what she knew for a fact would be included in that weeks CSA no matter what, and also with a small space for her to add whatever interesting bit came up that week (again, her subscribers favorite section).

Her subscribers loved that her life seemed so free to them. The stories of the barn cat that moved in from nowhere and proceeded to have a littler of kittens. The rooster she’d decided to let live because he protected the flock from a renegade coyote one day. The goose she lost to a mountain lion after she failed to bring the animals in one night. Even when the news was morbid her subscribers loved it.

She was living the life they all wished they could live, but didn’t really want to live. They just wanted her fresh produce, to know they were supporting her lifestyle, to tell their friends how they personally knew the woman who grew their food. And she was grateful for it. All of it. She worked hard to keep them well fed physically and emotionally.

She spent a lot of time coming up with all the right instructions for bottling your kombucha, dehydrating your own beef jerky, canning tomatoes with an InstaPot. She worked hard to find not only the things that worked but that her clients loved. Some of her clients even tried the things she told them about although most of them again loved the ideas she provided more than the practice.

She would occasionally stop to think about the things she’d given up: marriage, kids, a solid retirement fund. She’d sometimes become nearly paralyzed with the anxiety of these things she’d chosen to miss out on in order to live her dream. But these moments didn’t last long, and didn’t happen often, and as the years went by they became less of a hazard.

And then one day, early in the spring, when it was still too cold to start working the soil but warm enough to be out doing things like mucking stalls, she broke a pitchfork. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, she’d just go grab a secondary pitchfork and continue her chores. But on this day, she’d already broken her main pitchfork and had been using the auxiliary fork when the unmistakable crack of the wooden handle met her ears at the same time as she tried to quickly right herself before falling, all the weight at the end of the handle suddenly gone and all her strength at the other end of the handle still straining.

“Damn.”

She’d have to buy another, and it couldn’t wait. She’d be able to fix the first pitchfork with some soldering but that would take time and wasn’t something she could do today and still complete her chores. She’d have to go into town.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

20 Pounds of Rice

A little over a month ago, before this whole pandemic thing really gained traction in the US, we were having issues with our youngest having unbelievable gas pain at night. So gnarly that he couldn’t sleep, and neither could we. We decided that much like his brother, he has some food allergies that he’ll hopefully grow out of but in the meantime, since he’s still mostly on the boob, I’d have to change my diet.

To be fair, I’m already pretty strict on foods just because I don’t like the way they make me feel. I’ve read so many books like The Whole 30 and Clean Cuisine and Eat 4 Your Type, and I’ve followed so many of the diets for a minimum of 30 days that I’ve figured out how to make a mesh of all the advice and find the thing that works best for me. Safe to say, I already eat super minimal: tons of fruit and vegetables, no sugar, no dairy, no gluten, and animal protein only once a day.

With the littlest kid having gas though I also cut out soy. Helped but didn’t solve it. So I cut out eggs. Helped but didn’t solve it. So we decided I’d go down to a chicken and rice diet for a month, see if it helped, and then slowly start adding things in until we found the culprit (this is what we did for my first kiddo and it was a game changer). At any rate, we made this decision so I went out and bought the huge bag of Costco rice and a couple packs of the organic chicken thighs (because breast meat is dry and gross y’all) and came home eager to get my littlest sleeping again.

Fast forward three days and I was absolutely miserable. I was feeling headachey and body achey and totally miserable. It was too much protein and despite the fact that I was desperate for the calories, I couldn’t bring myself to eat one more bite of chicken. So we dropped it. I went back to eating my regular way, leaving eggs and soy out, and for whatever reason the baby went back to his normal anyway.

The point of all this is that before the pandemic hit we had an enormous bag of rice and a bunch of chicken thighs that no one was eager to eat. We don’t normally eat rice and don’t miss it. We’ll have it occasionally when we go out for Thai or Mexican but as a daily staple it’s not on our home menu. Now, however, we’ve been going through rice like crazy. We make at least a pot every other day. We have it with breakfast and lunch and dinner. And those chicken thighs are slowly getting cooked up and thrown into rotation.

We’ve been finding clever ways to use food that’s been sitting in the back of the freezer and the back of the cupboard (as long as it’s not expired) and it’s been kind of fun…exhausting but fun. I loathe cooking normally, but experimenting with new things has been interesting. One of the best parts has been learning that I can go to Google, type in the ingredients I have and “recipe” and search and all kinds of ideas pop up. Doing this reminded me that I also have lots of recipes in my head from growing up. Dishes that don’t have exact measurements or list of ingredients but are re-created each time by what’s on hand.

It’s as close to “fun” as cooking has ever been for me. And while I certainly don’t want to do this forever, it hasn’t been the worst part of the pandemic for me personally by any means. Plus it’s led me to find other fun things about food and cooking. One of my favorites is on Twitter, a woman named Kaitlyn McQuin @kaitlynmcquin posts every evening about what she’s having for dinner, but not in a here’s a gorgeous picture of the incredible seven course meal I made way. In fact, quite the opposite. Instead she describes what she’s eating for dinner using the most fabulous foodie words and then breaks down and tells you what she’s actually eating and it’s always something like Pop Tarts or Ritz Crackers with Cheeze Whiz. Absolutely hysterical and totally makes my evening every day.

I’ve also learned that my sister-in-law, perfect in every way like a real life Mary Poppins, is schooled in the way to use things before they go bad. This to me is not only a necessary skill but a skill which I don’t possess and have no idea how to garner. For instance, my mom got a ton of eggs all at once from us because we had stopped eating them. Rather than have any go bad, my SIL figured out a way to make what she wanted to make with them and then freeze that thing so that it can be used down the line. I don’t know what she did but it was much cooler than the advice I’ve read about scrambling the eggs and then freezing them to be re-used as actual scrambled eggs later (cause that sounds gross, although I’ve never tried it so I don’t know).

At any rate, this is the sort of thing that makes me go: yes! I want to know that too! But how do you even go about learning that sort of thing? I suppose a Google search would get me somewhere and then revising that search until I hit the nail on the head. It’s just so odd to have to search for something you want to know but you don’t even know what to call it so how do you search for it?

I miss my librarians.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Stay Curious

Some of the good stuff to come out of this whole pandemic: some families are getting closer, some couples are deciding to stay together rather than divorce (I know, this shocked me, too), lots of artists are offering their products for free (NIN say what?!?!), and lots and lots of educational material is now free. It’s a homeschoolers heaven except for the whole being unable to go anywhere or let your kids play with other kids thing.

Anyway, with all this free stuff available I decided to bite. There are only so many times in your life where the things you want to learn are going to be free to you, so even though the amount of free time I have has not changed one iota (I had two kids who stayed with me all day before the pandemic and now I have two kids and a husband who stay home with me all day), I have still jumped at the chance to take two courses that I would be highly unlikely to take at any other time.

Yale: The Science of Well-Being

The first course is one that I didn’t really expect to get much out of but it sounded interesting: The Science of Well Being. It’s originally out of Yale and is supposedly their most popular course. I can see why, it’s all about happiness and why we think things will make us happy that don’t and why even when we know what makes us happy we don’t always do it. In other words, it’s about how we allow our brains to be illogical even when we know better.

I wasn’t really sure what I would think of this course, and I still can’t give it an overall grade as I’m only through the second week of teaching. What I can tell you though is that, so far, it is absolutely fascinating. Totally and completely. I’ve read a lot of books about happiness and seen some Ted Talks and stuff, but this is a really comprehensive course and it’s easy. You can go at your own pace, so if you have six to nine hours free, go ahead and take the whole course all at once. Or, if you’re like me and are lucky to get an hour here and an hour there, take your time.

You have an entire year to complete the course and unless you want a certificate for having taken it, it’s totally free. Even if you’re super happy all the time, I still think it would be a fascinating course. If you’re like the rest of us, mostly happy most of the time, or even someone who gets pretty blue, I think you will get a lot out of it. And if you don’t? It’s better than watching A Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce on Netflix. I promise.

You can find The Science of Well-Being on coursera or through the article link here.

OSU’s: Master Gardener Vegetable Course

The other course I signed up for is a master gardeners course in vegetable gardening. It is being offered through Oregon State University. I am only partway through the very first part of this course so I feel I have no room to say whether or not it’s wonderful. I can tell you that the very teeny tiny bit I’ve done so far is basic and I haven’t learned anything new YET.

Here’s the thing though, I’ve done a ton of gardening. I’ve read a ton of books. I’ve been lucky enough to work with master gardeners on things. So to say I haven’t learned anything new YET just means exactly nothing right now.

If I look at what’s been covered so far, if I had never tried to grow anything before in my life I’d be super stoked right now. The little bit that’s I’ve done so far tells you exactly what to do. There is no rocket science going on. They are literally laying it out for you: do this, then do this, then do this. They are breaking it down and making it so easy that I have to remind myself “it really IS that easy.”

So if you’ve never started a garden before but you’re super into the idea (especially with everyone talking Victory Gardens like this is a war and not a pandemic) I suggest at least looking into the course. If you start it and don’t like it, no big deal. It costs you exactly $0.00

You can sign up for the vegetable course (and other courses, too, I’m sure) here.

Keep Learning. Stay Curious.

I know it’s super hard not to be a ball of anxiety in the corner of your closet right now. I get it. If you don’t like these two ideas for ways to help yourself through this crazy time, there are lots and lots of other ways to keep your brain healthy and distracted. A Google search for “free online learning” or “free online courses” will deliver you a plethora of options. Something is sure to tickle your fancy and then it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump til we’re out of this and on to the next big disaster. I guess what I’m saying is, don’t let the bastards grind you down. Keep learning. Stay curious.

~~~That’s one hour~~~