Things I’ve Learned Lately

1. I like kimchee. Kevin and I recently went to a Korean restaurant and he ordered it as an appetizer. I, of course, made a variety of faces when he asked me to try it, basing my opinion entirely on what I’ve heard from people and the idea that it was “spicy”…forgetting that I now have a much higher tolerance for spice and despite the face that Kevin said it wasn’t bad. I complained some more, took a hesitant taste, and then proceeded to steal the dish and stuff my selfish face with delicious kimchee. Who knew?

2. The dryer has a “Fluff-No Heat” setting. This utterly confuses me. What’s the point of a dryer if you setting it to “no heat”? This is spoken by the woman who only acknowledges one setting on the dryer and that is “cottons – high heat”. The only reason I even learned of this mysterious fluff setting is because I couldn’t figure out why my clothes were still wet and cold despite being rolled around a dryer for 80+ minutes. Only then did it occur to me to look at the settings, which is why I immediately shouted down the stairs, “Why the heck is the dryer set to “Fluff-No Heat?”” To which my husband replied, “I tossed my jacket in the dryer the other day.”

I still have no idea what the purpose of that was.

3. My husband probably deserves to be sainted for putting up with me.

4. I hate having to go to the main branch of my company. It’s like a high school reunion where the only people who show up are people you don’t want to talk to or don’t ever want to see again. And then you’re left running down the hallway in the opposite direction in a suit and high heel boots, trying in vain not to spill coffee on yourself in an attempt to get away.

5. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days is a lot harder than I realized. Broken down, that’s 1,667 words per day – which is A LOT. (You’d thing this one would be common sense, but clearly it is not.)

6. And another thing – in the weeks leading up to the month where you are supposed to write 50,000 words you will have ideas galore – only to find that when you sit down to write any of those 50,000 words…you got nothing. (Case in point: I wrote this blog post while I was supposed to be writing some of my 50,000 words.)

7. Agreeing to host Thanksgiving for 12 people at your house is one thing. Actually planning and preparing for it is quite another. While I’m super excited to be hosting my family this year…I’m also scared to death. We’ll probably end up eating turkey at a Chinese restaurant.

8. It’s never a good idea to eat roasted garlic the morning of a briefing for an Executive Board. Again – common sense? Apparently not for me.

9. Taking leftover Halloween candy to work so you won’t have it at home to eat does NO GOOD if you squirrel away a bag of your favorites and hide them in your desk drawer.

10. It is much easier to stop eating healthy and working out than it is to start.

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Weekly Meal and Menu Planning

This past weekend was the first weekend I’ve had nothing scheduled for a long time. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time in PA with my family (last week was our annual reunion), or spending the weekend in California with The Man, or visiting with my sister and her husband, but I also enjoy the weekends when I have time to myself to go grocery shopping, work on some new recipes, clean, and most importantly, make a menu for the upcoming week.

menu 1

I’ve had this awesome magnetic meal planner for at least three or four years, back when I started following Tosca Rena’s “Eat Clean” diet. (Please excuse my cluttered refrigerator. I collected magnets until I ran out of space. Literally.) Before that, “grocery shopping” meant running to the nearest store several nights a week (usually while I was starving) and leaving with a cart full of junk – bread, cheese, and wine made routine appearances in my weeknight dinners, as well as pasta dishes and microwaveable meals. Suffice to say, it was seriously unhealthy and seriously expensive. Finally, I got smart and realized I needed to change the way I was eating – I felt like junk from all the junk I was eating, I would workout sporadically and halfheartedly…I just wasn’t happy in general. So, I changed my entire lifestyle. I bought a magnetic meal planner. On Friday nights or Saturday mornings, I would sit down with my cookbooks and a list of the current contents of my fridge and freezer and create a weeklong meal plan that included breakfast, a morning snack, lunch, an afternoon snack, and dinner. I would work the items I already had into my menu and keep a grocery list of what I needed to buy, and also made sure that if for example, I was having a chicken dish on Monday that only used half of a head of broccoli, I would plan another meal on Wednesday or Thursday that also used broccoli.  And every Saturday morning (after breakfast, so I wouldn’t be hungry and therefore prone to impulse buys), I’d go to the grocery store, buy only what was on my list, and head home. Then, similar to my current routine, I would pack everything in my insulated lunch bag the night before, get all my stuff set up for the next day’s dinner, and be set. It was amazing how much money I was saving, the amount of food that wasn’t getting wasted, and I never had to worry about my meals because they were all planned out in advance. Brilliant!

I’ve been doing this same routine for the past several years, and the only thing that has changed is that now instead of following the “Eat Clean” diet, I now try to follow the paleo diet, which eliminated grains and legumes from my diet. This way of eating keeps me fuller longer and I no longer need to pencil in a morning or afternoon snack into my menu, although I do usually plan on one snack to bring to work each day, just in case.

So on this lovely Monday I decided to share with you my menu planning process and what I’ll be up to this week!

menu 2

As I mentioned, I start by checking out the contents of my fridge and freezer. As you can see, I’m pretty well stocked right now, because I broke my own rule and went shopping on Thursday night to get some stuff for some blog recipes and ended up buying more than I intended. So I wrote down what I had and sat down at my kitchen table with my menu planner and my list…

menu 3

… and used what I had to plan my menu for this upcoming week! Now, the only difference from my normal routine is that I purposely created meals that used what I already have because of the aforementioned impulse shopping trip. Otherwise I would have made a grocery list as I planned, making sure to incorporate my list ingredients into more than one meal to make sure everything got used up. I hate wasting food.

And after about 20 minutes of careful planning, this is what I ended up with:

menu 4

Now I don’t have to worry about coming home from work and wondering what to cook that night, because it’s already planned out. You’ll notice there are a few question marks or options (for example: fish tacos OR stir fry on Wednesday), which sometimes depends on what I have left by that late in the week or just gives me some flexibility. I also have a snack planned in for each day in case I need it.

Not only does this save me tons of time and money, but it gives me peace of mind to know what I’m packing for lunch the next day, or waking up knowing what I’m doing for dinner that night. Granted if I make plans or something comes up, I have to tweak the menu, but overall this works wonders for me.

Do you follow a weekly meal plan?

How do you plan your week of meals in advance?

Treadmill Running (and the death of my writing schedule)

One of the things I heard at the Muse and the Marketplace writers conference in Boston earlier this month that really resonated with me was this:

“writers need a set schedule, routine, and discipline.”

That was a quote from my session with author Ann Bauer entitled “Writing Bootcamp: The No-Excuses Approach.” Ann goes on to say that as writers, we need to write every day, preferably at the same time every day, in the same place, with the same routine. She then added that this time should ideally be first thing in the morning, right after you’ve woken up and you haven’t had time to really think about anything else.

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The reason this resonated was because I know from experience that she is right – that IS the ideal time. I used to have a really great writing schedule. I’d wake up at 0530 to a freshly brewed pot of coffee (thank you, programmable Mr. Coffee!) and I would sit down at my dining room table happily typing away until 0645, when I would then have to start getting ready for work. During this time I was on fire – I wrote every day, my novel was coming along nicely…

…and then things started to go downhill.

— I started snoozing a little bit longer each day

— I started skyping with The Man in the mornings so we could talk before I had to leave for work (sometimes we did a devotional together, other days we did not)

— The weather started to warm up and it started getting lighter earlier, so I was waking up and running in the mornings before work.

My writing got pushed to the back burner.

In the days after the conference, I started a new routine. I was again waking up at 0530, I would write until 0615, then shower and get ready and still have time to skype with The Man for 20-30 minutes before work.

Except that I also realized recently that I need to focus on time alone with God (see this post), and so my morning writing got replaced with spending time with God. This is a good thing, trust me. My days are so much better (and less stressful!) when I start them with Jesus.

I’m still trying to figure out the writing schedule thing. Right now (ha – I seriously wrote “write now” just then!) I’m writing in short spurts, whenever I get some time or when the mood strikes. And I think, for now, that’s going to have to be my writing routine. Maybe it’s not “the ideal writing routine”, but it’s working for me…mostly.

You’ll notice that running was also taken out of my AM schedule. This brings me to…

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…the dreaded treadmill.

I used to be a treadmill junkie, mostly because I spent three years in the Middle East and refused to run outside in 140 degree weather and at 6000 feet above sea level. So I pounded out the miles on the treadmill and was lovin’ every minute of it.

(Anybody else now have that song stuck in their head??)

But then I moved back to the East Coast, where I started a love affair with outdoor running. What’s not to love? The scenery always changes, the air is fresh and crisp, you get to spend time outside…love it.

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I mean, can you blame me? Gorgeous, right?

Now, running on the treadmill has become a chore, but if the alternative is to not run at all, well, let me at that machine!

I should mention here that I only have to run on the treadmill a couple times a week. I still run outdoors after work, but on days when it’s just raining (like all last week) or when I know I need a break during the day, I’ll grab my gear and hit the treadmills at my office. I prefer running in the morning, because then I spend the day with a runners high, but I’ll take what I can get!

I’ve decided to look at it this way — at least I have a gym at work with treadmills to run on. At least I have two working legs and a clean bill of health. I have the desire, the opportunity, and the ability to run…so all I can do is thank God for that.

…and get back on that treadmill.

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