Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Resolution #2: Eat More Whole Foods and Cook at Home Every Night

Eat more whole foods and cook at home every night (eat out no more than once a week per meal*).

I know it's very popular to resolve to eat better, exercise more, lose weight, etc., but that's not what I'm doing here. I want to lead a healthier, more intentional life. I'm not trying to diet, or get to a size 4. I just want to be happier and I know that healthier food gets me there. I've tried this before, and I felt great.

In 2008 or so, I quit drinking soda, except for the occasional Jack and Ginger or Jack and Coke. Lately though, for some strange reason, I've been craving good old fashioned Coca Cola Classic. And I've been succumbing to that craving, having had well over 10 sodas in the last month (more than the last 5 years COMBINED).

My problem with drinking soda is not that it's full of sugar and bad calories. My problem with drinking soda, and eating junk food in general, is that it's full of chemicals. In fact, I firmly believe that the "Food" industry is stuffing us with food-like products and not food itself. It creeps me right the hell out. A preservative here and there never hurt anyone, but the fact that I really have to search high and low for a loaf of bread, pasta, ice cream, or sauce that have only ingredients that I can pronounce just ain't right.

Junk food in general hasn't been my thing for years. I'm lucky enough to have a great cook for a partner, and I'm not half bad myself, so 9 times out of 10 I prefer a good homecooked meal or a salad to eating out. But sometimes life gets in the way, and I'll enjoy some Burger King or Taco Bell with the rest of middle America. Or I'll "cook" the fastest foods with the easiest prepackaged ingredients. It's not good, guys.

So, for starters, I'm taking a look at the prepackaged foods I love the most, and trying to find better, healthier versions.

Take salsa, for instance. I can eat an entire container in one sitting. And salsa, as a rule, is not that bad for you. It's all vegetables and spices. But again, prepackaged foods with their preservatives give me the heebie jeebies, so why not try an at home version? Well, I did. Yesterday. And it was DELICIOUS. Did it take a little bit of extra time? Sure. But I know it was worth it. Next stop? Home made tortilla chips.

I also want to make sure that I'm keeping healthy whole foods on hand, so I can cut out the fast food element. This is a fun resolution for me. I LOVE to cook, and I love to eat. And I just so happen to have about a bajillion recipes that need testing. Finding the right balance between making too much and too little has always been a challenge for me, but hopefully this is the year that I can figure it out.

Another good boost to this resolution is that I'm lucky enough to live within 3 miles of a fantastic Farmer's Market style grocery, and I work within a mile of a local butcher. There's really no excuse for me to not make better choices.

*Currently I'm underemployed, so the idea of eating out is laughable. But once I do find more gainful employment, one lunch a week, or one date night out doesn't seem like a crazy splurge.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Resolution #1: Stay Organized So I Don't Have the Urge to Buy Things

I figured I'd elaborate on each resolution so that, if over the course of the year I fall off track, I can come back here and remind myself of the overwrought and phony glow of hope the New Year brings and try to recapture it.

So. Resolution numero uno.

Stay Organized So I Don't Have the Urge to Buy Things

My apartment is a mess. It always has been. I was a messy child, a messy teenager, a messy college student, and as it turns out, a messy adult.

I came across this article just last night actually, and Kaplan's experience is so familiar to me, it's eery.

Magazines: Yep. I started collected Teen People from the very first issue. I thought it might be a keepsake some day. I bought every issue in its first two years of publication and refused to throw them away until well after my 2006 college "graduation". Eventually Teen People turned into Seventeen, Rolling Stone, Cosmo.

Now, it's not gossip rags that I hang on to, it's cooking magazines. Cooking Light, Bon Appetit, Whole Living, Clean Eating - the list could go on. For a long time I didn't want to throw them away because of the recipes.

I've come up with a temporary solution. For now, I've gone through each and every magazine, spanning the last 3 years. I've ripped out every recipe that I think I'd like to make some day, and I plan to organize them into files (chicken, shrimp, steak, appetizer, cocktail, etc.). At the very least I've gotten rid of the bulk of each magazine, and kept what I consider to be the most important part. At some point down the road I'll have to challenge myself to actually utilize the recipes, but for now, I'm just happy to be slightly more organized.

Clothes: "It was easy for me to mistake my closet for a scrapbook, to treat old clothes like souvenirs of where, when and who I was when I got them." THIS. This quote is perfect. Really. But I've started to purge. It isn't always easy to say goodbye to the past, but I know logically it's a little ridiculous to have an emotional attachment to a skirt.

Books: Well, look. I went to a liberal arts school and ALL books are sacred. That being said, I've gone through my shelves and selected around 30 books that I either disliked or have no intention of ever reading, and those will go to the local library system.

Beyond that, I’m decluttering, decluttering, decluttering. Eric and I would like to move this summer, and I don’t want the 4 or 5 boxes of random, half-empty, half-used, forgotten, crap.

Actually, as simple and trite as it sounds, I’d really like to live more “intentionally.” I want to own only things that matter. Whether it’s art, keepsakes, clothes, cleaning supplies, notebooks, whatever. I have this terrible habit when I’m in Target or the mall or the grocery store. I tend to buy things not because they add value to my life, but because I think they might help me create the picture of the life I want. I can’t tell you how many Ikea boxes, Old Navy blouses, throw pillows and kitchen utensils I own right now that go unused. When my house is a mess, or my closet is in disarray, I tend to think that this “one more thing” will REALLY help me out in achieving that picture perfect Pinterest lifestyle.

But we all know it won’t. A clean, organized, intentionally built home is a all I need. I know that. When my apartment is at its cleanest, I’m calmer, a little happier, far less stressed, and I honestly tend to buy less.

So the decluttering and deep cleaning will continue. I know it will be an on-going challenge, but I’m up for it.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Reflections for the New Year

It's been a while. Hello. 2013 seemed like a banner year for me. I got a great promotion at work, Eric and I signed a lease for our 3rd year, and then I applied for and was offered what seemed like a dream job. I saw a posting on Facebook the other day that said "When something goes wrong in your life, just yell 'Plot Twist'!"



I lost my job. I've been working on a post about it for a few weeks, but it's hard to really organize my thoughts and write a compelling but structured post about it. Let's just say, so far in my life, losing my job is the absolute worst thing that's ever happened. I know there are worse things yet to come, but SO FAR, this has been the absolute worst.

Trying to keep from tumbling into a deep depression, I'm forced to find the silver lining, and lucky for me, there have been a few glaring ones.

1. I'm surrounded by the most amazing and supportive people on the planet. I don't know how I got to be so lucky, but it's true.
2. I've learned a v.e.r.y. important lesson in finances. Make savings a priority. Seriously. Just do it.
3. Living under-employed, while absolutely terrifying, has been kind of relaxing. I work about 20-30 hours a week at a lovely wine shop. My hours permit me to spend some time at home getting the house in order. I've had a chance to spend a lot of time with Eric (who has been AMAZING).

I'm terrified that eventually I will run out of money, and I won't be able to pay my bills. That's a very real possibility. But, you know, hopefully that won't happen.

As for 2014, aside from getting a full-time job, here are my resolutions:

1. Stay organized so I don't have the urge to buy things.
2. Eat more whole foods and cook at home every night (eat out no more than once a week per meal*).
3. Take Johnny for more walks - at least 3 times per week and at least 6 miles total per week. C'mon now. You have no excuse.
4. Write more (400 words per day, 5x per week).
5. Read more (26 books at least).

*This applies for when I do start making money again. I have a bad habit of "needing" Mexican food or Olive Garden on the regular.