Bits & Bobs

I don’t like olives. In fact, I detest olives. I want to like olives because every word ever used to describe them is typically right up my alley (salty, briney, pungent) food-wise, but alas. I can tell when an errant olive made it into my slice of pizza, once I remove the offesnive bit I can still taste its essence in the bite and I am struck by how thoroughly vile they are. It makes me sad because I’d love to order a martini with blue cheese olives, the drink seems so very me, and yet, I don’t like martinis and I don’t like olives. It is a complicated disappointment to be sure.

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Gracie is really into “helping” these days and it is a little bit astounding what she is capable of. She helps me unload the dishwasher (I take the sharp stuff out before she meanders in, and I work on the breakables) by carrying silverware over to the general vicinity of the silverware drawer before carefully pushing each piece onto the counter while standing on her tip toes, she carries the cutting boards to the cupboard they go in and sets them on the floor. She helps me unload groceries, and if you turn your head away for just a moment you’ll find her carefully carrying a 28 oz can of tomato sauce over to where the food cupboard is (pantries are a pipe dream in the city) and you’ll worry she’ll drop it and crush her toes, but she doesn’t. She found a jar of applesauce in the bag on Sunday and carried it to the open fridge and placed it in the door, right where it goes. She helps vaccuum and dust and generally wants to “hap” at all turns. I realize she needs some actual chores so for now I think I’m going to ask her to put her dirty laundry in the basket and carry her empty milk cup to the kitchen sink. And for Christmas? She is totally getting a kids Dyson.

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For years I was terrible about folding and putting away clean clothes. We perpetually had a pile of clean laundry at the foot of our bed and then it would build up into this monster that took us 40 minutes to put away. For no real reason I suddenly became tired of the huge clean laundry pile and have put considerable effort into putting clean clothes away by the end of the day. I can’t tell you how much happier it makes me- the clean foot of the bed, the refilled closet. I’m hoping this new habit sticks around. I’m also working on moving empty clothing hangers to the front of my closet so when I need an empty one I don’t have to start out with the five minute search for the empties squished among my clothes.

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Dinner with Gracie has become a bit of a battle. I try not to worry too much, she eats well at daycare (organic food! hot lunch! lots of fruits and veggies!) and I had some old standbys (soup, all the soup) I could lean on when I felt like she just wanted to subsist on crackers. Lately though my standbys have been fails and I’m at a loss as to what to feed her that she will actually eat. Applesauce, coconut chips and crackers are the only sure choices, past favorites like bananas, berries and soup are now met with a “no” and a clenched jaw. Sometimes she’ll eat macaroni and cheese, sometimes she’ll eat grapes, sometimes she’ll eat smoked salmon or yogurt. Peanut butter sandwiches are now for playing, meat is generally rejected unless it is sausage and even then it is 50-50. Veggies at home are a total joke. I thought she liked yogurt covered raisins until I realized she was just chewing off the yogurt coating before spitting them back out. Food battles: ugh.

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I went to my first Pure Barre class last night (thanks ClassPass!) and I think I liked it? Some parts were so absurdly difficult I wanted to laugh and I can feel it in every muscle today. Interestingly, my typically stiff lower back was a lot more loose after class and today I feel like I have a little better range of motion. I also can’t sneeze without it hurting, so you win some you lose some. Later this week I’m taking an early morning yoga class and on Sunday I have a spin class. So far so good….

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Rhett Butler had been worrying us a little bit lately, he’d gotten stiff and sore and seemed to be moving more slowly. After last weekend (we visited friends in Michigan) playing with another dog for two days he seems to have returned to Chicago with his usual level of energy and range of motion. I can’t tell you how happy this makes us, although we plan on chatting with our vet about his senior status at his next yearly check up.

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Gracie starts swim lessons and gymanstics classes soon and I’m really excited. Both are once a week and are “Mommy and Me” type classes. The gymanstics class is a bit of a whim but I’m hoping as the weather turns cooler it is a nice outlet for energy in a big indoor space. I don’t anticipate Gracie being a future Olympian but I think she is going to have a blast playing with ribbons and walking on a mini-balance bean. I might even get in an arm workout or two as I help her. The class is titled “Moms, Pops, and Tots” so I keep telling B his leotard is in the mail. He seems unenthusiastic. (Most likely he won’t be able to attend most of the classes due to work obligations, but we knew that from the get-go)

 

 

 

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Last week I deleted Twitter and Facebook off of my phone. I didn’t have any particular concrete reason or goal. I wasn’t angry with technology or worried about carpal tunnel in my thumb. I think I had a growing, nagging feeling that I was relying on social media too much to entertain me when I was bored, and the more I relied on it, the more quickly I became bored.

I recently went to the post office- something I do every 3-4 months because man, I loathe the post office- and found myself stuck in a line of 20 people with two open windows and no phone in my pocket. I mentally wrote at least 10 scathing (yet witty!) Tweets about how terrible the post office is and then I realized just how pathetic that was. And then what would I do? Wait for people to reply to my wittiness? Tell me they too hate the post office? I felt like a loser. An overly-reliant on technology and pocket friends loser.

Don’t get me wrong, I think social media is great. I’ve witnessed both the positive (raising money or support for people with a medical or other crisis) and negative power behind social media (when brands behave badly) and I’m not quitting anytime soon. But the world of social media isn’t a depository for all my negative post office feelings and random thoughts about things of little consequence. In fact, if social media could respond to such things, it would probably tell me that nobody cares.

That isn’t to say social media isn’t the place for the random, the pithy or the occasional product review question. But at the same time, “thinking before you tweet” isn’t half bad either. This past weekend we went out of town and I put Facebook and Twitter back on my phone, if only to entertain me for the drive to and from. I’ll probably take them off again this week as I re-learn to pick up a book instead of Twitter when I’m waiting at the doctor’s office. I don’t really have a great end to this, the perfect “and then I learned all the entertainment I need is right in my own living room, I’m so #blessed” but at the same time, not having these programs on my phone means I leave it behind a lot more often, which I’m sure isn’t a bad thing.

Wellness Challenge

I shall start this post by confessing that I haven’t worked out in a really long time. Like…since I found out I was pregnant with my now-19 month old child.

For reasons that are entirely in the past (and will not be dwelled on), I had surgery, I found out I was pregnant, I was put on modified rest (no physical activity), I threw up for essentially the entire pregnancy, childbirth recovery, breastfeeding woes (limiting cardio work out abilities) and then…well that was a long time off, so hey, this couch is super comfy. It isn’t to say I’m entirely stagnant, I eat a pretty hefty amount of fruits and veggies and I do live on the 3rd floor of a walk up and lead an active life with a toddler and a dog, both of whom require daily walks or jaunts outside.

Anyway. Here we are. It isn’t to say I am an amorphous round blob, but there are some pounds to shed and areas to tone. (Side eye upper arms, side eye). I found an age spot near one of my eyes on the morning of my 31st birthday, a literal slap in the face reminder that, HEY GIRL, YOU ARE NOT GETTING YOUNGER.

So now at the end of the summer and two things happened in one week. It was like Jillian Michaels herself was yelling in my ear. One: my work announced this big walking challenge (more on that in a moment). Two: I got an email from ClassPass which is launching in Chicago, inviting me to their launch party at Flywheel, a spinning gym I’ve been wanting to try since the beginning of the aforementioned timeline. ClassPass invited me for free, but didn’t ask me to blog about it, so uh, consider that your FTC transparency. So last night I attended the launch party where I had my ass summarily handed to me, which I’m pretty sure was the point, and as it all ended and I could barely move my limbs I thought “What an amazing workout” and “Huh, go figure, I miss doing that.” I then contemplated how I was going to get into my house, which is a 3rd floor walk up and generally requires mobility on my part. ClassPass is offering me a month trial of their “system” which traditionally costs $99 a month and garners you workouts at all the hottests speciality/boutique gyms that participate. In Chicago the list is pretty extensive (all the different bar method-y gyms, a Crossfit gym, a few spinning studios, some fancy pilates and yoga places) and considering most of them charge around $24 for a drop-in class rate, I’m thinking ClassPass is the better deal. There are some limitations (you can only visit one studio three times within a month for example) but regardless, if you are looking for variety, it might be just what you are looking for. I’ll report back I’m sure.

So in addition to ClassPass my work announced this walking challenge and while I suppose deep down I’m grateful for the opportunity I’m participating for two reasons only: (1) I love myself a competition; and (2) I’m cheap because the challenge comes with a free pedometer and for different benchmarks, you are entered into various raffles, the grand prize being $1000 off your annual healthcare premium. FINE. I GUESS I’LL PARTICIPATE. Truthfully I’m annoyed, I think I have to log into the system daily to enter my steps (snooze) and the system includes an already obnoxious amount of cheerful reminders for things like “write down something you are thankful for” and I’m just like, since when did my employer turn to Pinterest for its wellness intitatives?

Anyway. That was a lot of word vomit to say: I think I need more workout clothes. And a larger bottle of anti-inflammatory pain killers.

 

Daisy Q & A: Freezer Foods 101

A few readers asked me to tackle freezer meals in a blog post, so here I am talking about all things frozen. I don’t consider myself an expert (this isn’t something I’ve spent a lot of time researching and tend to go with trial and error) but I have found ways to freeze meals and foods so that I’m happy with the result after it has been thawed and cooked.

salad

So as a general rule I have two methods of freezing, one for soups/stews/sauce and another for casserole type items. Anytime I’m making a soup or chili that I want to freeze, I often double the recipe so I know I’ll have lots of leftovers. After B and I eat dinner, I let the food cool until you can stick a finger in it without burning yourself, and then I divide it into gallon sized ziplock bags. I carefully squeeze the air out of the bag and lay them flat, on top of each other, on a cookie sheet or flat baking pan. I also use a Sharpie to write the date/food on it….chili and beef stew can look awfully similar after they are frozen…. I freeze the bags on the baking sheet nice and flat, after they are solid I can remove the baking sheet and reorganize my freezer accordingly. Freezing them flat makes them super easy to store and also helps them thaw evenly. Favorite things to freeze? Baked potato soup and chili.

As far as casserole dishes go, my biggest “trick” is to freeze them raw. I make the recipe right up until the “bake” point, where I stop to freeze the dish. Generally this means when I set out to make lasagna to freeze I either make two lasagnas (one to eat now, one to freeze) or I cut the noodles in half and make two smaller pans (8×8 pans rather than 9×11) so I can freeze one and cook the other. As a general rule, I make the entire dish right up until the cooking point, then I wrap the baking dish in saran wrap (two layers), followed by foil. I try to use these dishes within 3 months of freezing since I don’t have a deep chest freezer. As far as thawing goes, I take it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge the night before I want to serve it, so it can thaw slowly in the fridge all night/day. An hour before I’m going to cook it, I take it out and set it on the counter, then I bake normally. My favorite things to freeze? Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon rolls, lasagna, chicken spaghetti, sweet potato chile mac and poppyseed chicken.

cinnamon2

I know those are not groundbreaking tips, but it is what works for me!

 

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