Thursday, September 26, 2013

Quick Update

Hi everyone!

We have been rushing around trying to get some last minute things done before Tadpole's big debut and I haven't been writing much-sorry for the lack of posts. Tadpole's room is finished and Phase 1 Bathroom Remodel is almost complete (just need to put the top coat of paint on), while organizing closets and desks has been completed. I can finally walk into the pantry and find anything I want in seconds! Of course, this makes me realize just how little canning I did this year. Oh well, the tomatoes are still waiting for attention.

The gardens are winding down and I've started pulling plants to make room for the winter cover crop. My big plan to fill the space with winter veggies never came together so I'm trying something new. A cover crop helps put nutrients back into the ground, control erosion, and provide green manure in the spring when the crop is tilled into the soil. There are many different types of cover crop out there, from legumes to brassicas to grains. I decided to go with a legume, the crimson clover. Legumes can take nitrogen from the air and fix it into the ground, providing as much nitrogen as fertilizer. And the red blossoms are very pretty. The garden still needs some clean-up before I can start planting though-I really need to get on that.

We've hit 37 weeks and have, officially, reached full term-yay!

My toes are down there somewhere. It'll sure be nice to see them again. Any day now the Tadpole will arrive!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Emotional Eating and Growing Up

And so begins our next phase of parenthood: school. 

Munchkin had zero issues leaving us in the dust to play with other kids though I can't say the same for me, I spent most of the morning wandering around the house, mentally making lists of all the stuff I could be doing but really just trying to keep the tears at bay. Not that preschool is a bad thing, but if she's old enough for preschool then she will eventually be old enough for elementary school, high school, *gasp* college! It means she can (and will) grow up and leave the nest.

Yes, you can say I was an emotional mess with all these thoughts racing through my head. At times like this my first reaction is to grab the cookies, ice cream, cake; anything that's high in sugar.

When I caught myself scarfing handfuls of dark chocolate chips I knew I was in trouble. 

Emotional eating is something I have fought against all my life. Growing up food was important-we raised beef cattle and pigs, hunted and fished, planted large gardens, and cared for fruit orchards. Being a farm kid most of my non-school hours were spent dealing with food or food production in some form. The nearest grocery store was 30+ miles away so it was a big deal to drive into town once a week and pick up what we couldn't/didn't grow or raise ourselves. Eating at a restaurant was a big deal, even if it was just McDonald's. Birthdays, anniversaries, and other celebrations were often centered around feasts of specially prepared foods that were rarely offered the rest of the year.

Food, for me, became important, not as a substance that kept me healthy and active, but as a means to instant happiness and comfort.

Sometimes its hard for other people to understand this. My brother, who grew up in the same house and exposed to the same situations, has no issues with food at all. To him a cupcake is just a cupcake, tasty but that's it. For me its a reward, a warm hug of chocolate icing. Nothing can send me into a bad mood faster than having a meal I carefully planned and prepared fall apart-not because all that hard work was wasted, but because of the disappointment in taste and flavor.

Why is this?? Research has shown that throughout life certain foods will develop certain associations and in times of stress we reach for these foods to remind us of those associations. So grabbing a slice of chocolate cake when depressed may trigger happy memories that help fight the depression. Which may explain why my brother-in-law can't stand applesauce: it was the go-to item for when he was sick as a kid and has tons of negative memories attached to it.

Another reason may be what's in the food. Few people want a steak when they are feeling down, more often they reach for pasta and chocolate. Carbs can boost serotonin, helping to make us feel calmer and happier for a short period of time (before we need another carb fix). Sugar is another key comfort food (can we say Ben and Jerry's?), combined (to some extant) with fat. All of these work on our serotonin levels, which make foods high in them more appetizing when we are down.

So, what can we do?

1. Recognize why you are eating what you are eating. Are you really hungry? Are you sad? Stressed? Happy? Sometimes a cookie craving is just that-a desire for a cookie. Sometimes its a need for comfort. Learning which is which has been my hardest food obstacle.

2. Identify your triggers. When I had a corporate job I could juggle several intense projects and be stressed to the max without any issues but have someone casually mention that my house was messy and I'd be in tears and reaching for the ice cream. Knowing what stresses make you reach for food is a great learning tool to changing the habit.

3. Develop new habits. Go for a walk, call up a friend, switch the cookies for fruit, find something else. Emotional eating is a habit and, like any deeply ingrained habit, it is hard to break. Substitute for something else. For example, when I caught myself scarfing the chocolate chips I made myself eat an apple, just in case I was actually hungry.  Sweet, crunchy, but eh, it just didn't have it the way the chocolate did. When I realized I was back in the kitchen reaching for the bag again I made myself take a warm bath. By the time I got out I no longer craved chocolate.

4. Stay strong. Its a habit. Habits can be hard to break, especially the ones developed to cope with sadness and negative emotions. The important thing is to realize what you are doing. I ate nearly a cup's worth of chocolate chips before it dawned on me what was up. To some that would seem like a failure (you ate chocolate!) but to me its a small victory. I didn't eat the entire bag and I realized that I was eating out of emotion rather than need and took steps to stop it.

Little victories like that lead to overcoming obstacles.

What is your favorite way to deal with stress?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Happy Back to Work Day!

Summer is now technically over for most people. Summer vacation has ended, the kids are back in school, and many parents are breathing sighs of relief. Munchkin starts preschool tomorrow and while a part of me is looking forward to the child-free half-days another part wants to sob "How did she grow up so fast!?". My teacher friends are already planning evil ways to torment their students, and we are taking bets amongst the parents with older children on how fast school will become hideous torture.

Officially summer ends on September 22nd at 1:43pm PDT. Even though the nights have been cool enough lately for some of the trees to start changing colors the garden is still perking along, the warm days are keeping everything happy and growing. The zucchini have started to slow down though, and I've been busy shredding and freezing it for winter.

After years of trying I have finally raised a pumpkin. Ain't it purty? I hadn't planned on putting in pumpkins this year but I had so many volunteers pop up where I had piled last year's Halloween leftovers that I decided to allow a couple to stay. Of course, one pumpkin won't be enough for my fall decorating obsession, but I'm rather proud to say I finally got one to grow.

Over the weekend we cleaned the pool and put it away. It seems early but the last week of cloudy weather and occasional rain showers helped us along. Better to put it away too early (and get it completely dry) than to try and dry it out once the fall monsoons have started. Without the pool hogging so much yard space it suddenly feels as if we have an acre or two out back.

To celebrate the 'first-ish' day of fall we went out to the U-Pick farm and  stocked up on early apples and late summer fruits.

We always have so much fun at the farm. Their corn and pumpkin patches are growing wonderfully and I can't wait for the Harvest weekend activities to start. They'll have a corn maze, wagon rides, pumpkin throwing, apple bobbing, and loads of other activities starting later in the month.

U-Pick farms are awesome for autumn/Halloween activities. In my area there are several fairly large farms that host fright nights, gigantic corn mazes, and other spooky holiday fun. Check out Pick Your Own to find a local farm near you.

It was fairly warm out today and I opted not to pick my own. As much as I wanted to wander the orchards I knew I wouldn't make it past the second row of trees.  At this stage of the pregnancy I can't handle the heat at all-which isn't surprising considering I'm roughly the size of a small sea mammal.

Instead we picked a selection from the already picked boxes: Asian pears, Bartlett pears, Early Red apples, MacIntosh apples, Gravensteins, some plums, and a bottle of apple cider. My counter is piled high with all the goodies-not to mention the stack of tomatoes picked from the garden. I love this time of year!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Introducing: Gourmet Grassfed

I am very lucky in my area. There are several farms and ranches who work hard to provide the community with healthy products, including grass-fed, pasture-raised meats. The local farmer's markets carry delicious, lovingly handcrafted food items, and there are always classes of some sort going on so you can learn how to make it yourself.

There is only one thing I can complain about: finding tasty sugar-free, soy-free jerky. Oh, I can make it myself but then that whole laziness thing kicks in (plus slight distractions in the form of small humans. Meat smoked to a powder just isn't appetizing). And while my dad makes some of the best venison jerky around the amount of brown sugar that goes in the marinade would make your head spin. There are some stores that carry specialty dried meats but many contain odd ingredients that I can't spell, let alone say.

What's a girl to do? (Especially a pregnant one that needs her salt fix).

Enter Gourmet Grassfed.

Their range of products includes a Whole30-compliant jerky that ranges from Bold Original to Ginger Teriyaki (yum!), just the thing to keep on hand to ward off potato chip cravings or snack attacks. Personally, since I'm not on Whole30 right now, I'm looking forward to their Grassfed Beef Sticks. Its basically a Slim Jim but made from much healthier ingredients. The Jalapeno flavor is calling my name even as I type!

Gourmet Grassfed is a small business that strives to produce tasty snacks with the best of the best ingredients. Their products are free of gluten, soy, dairy, and GMOs. They are processed as little as possible to keep all those healthy vitamins and nutrients in the product. They source their meat directly from the farmers so not only are you getting an awesome product but you are helping to support real people rather than big businesses. I had a blast clicking on the farm pictures and checking out the farms-seeing the cows all fat and shiny reminded me of those long-ago days growing up on the ranch.

Need more of a reason to give these guys a try? They received two thumbs up from the Whole9 team! (check out the Whole9 page for a special Labor Day discount).

Check out the Gourmet Grassfed blog and give them a like on Facebook. Don't forget to swing by Whole9 as well!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

September Morning Still Can Make Me Feel That Way

Ahhhh…September 1st.

While technically it’s the end of summer today is the day I don’t feel guilty putting up autumn decorations and lighting the pumpkin spice candles. Normally I like to stick with the calendar, dragging out holiday gear early grates on my nerves (I’m talking to you Costco, with your Christmas decorations already on sale), but bringing out the fall decorations on September 1st is an allowable exception in my rule book. 

Fall is my favorite time of year. 

Growing up autumn meant hunting season, distant friends and family visiting, late nights telling stories around the fire, feasts of delicious foods, and the smell of freshly sharpened pencils. It meant riding into the high country to bring the cattle herd from the summer pasture-hours leisurely climbing up and down steep trails while watching the panorama of the Hell’s Canyon unfold before us; seeing the fat and shiny cows with their yearling calves bucking and playing, chipmunks and timber tigers scampering everywhere, the bugle of elk through the early morning mists and the smell of wood smoke drifting on the breeze. 

Today it means the return of the school bus (and Munchkin's first day of preschool), squirrels growing fat on stolen sunflower seeds, and trips to the U-Pick farm for apples and pumpkins. It means our annual trip to the coast for crabs (which, due to Tadpole’s eminent arrival, has been canceled this year), ordering cords of wood, and jealously thinking of Grandma’s spacious root cellar and pantry while I shove garden goodies into any free corner.

According to the Farmer's Almanac it is going to be an early and cold winter so we have started prepping early. The flower beds have been mulched and I'm starting to watch the nurseries for sales on fruit trees and spring bulbs. We've also put up two cords of wood and plan to get two more, just in case. We'll be checking the windows and doors for drafts, getting the chimney swept, looking for water leaks, adding more insulation, and finishing the bathroom remodel-and all hopefully before Tadpole makes her grand appearance. Its going to be a busy month!

(Internet bacon strips to any who can guess the song and artist of the Post Title. Yeah, I'm dating myself.)