The Laziest Whole30

As promised (threatened?) a recap of our latest Whole30!Winter2017-56.jpgI highly recommend doing Whole30’s in January. Not only do you feel so disgusting following the gluttony of the holidays that you have extra motivation to get through it, but everyone else feels likewise so you can usually con other people into doing it to. The sneaky secret to a Whole30 succeeding is having enough people on board that you can all have dinner parties where some roasted nuts are dessert and no one bats an eye. Decaf coffee instead of wine? Totally normal. No cheese plate or bread basket? Acceptable.

But even with a team on board, it is an eating plan that is very labor intensive. And frankly, the days of labor intensive dinners are over. So here were the rules for this round of Whole30, the laziest Whole30 designed to feel better, but not to devote all your energy to the philosophical perfection of the plan:

  • Meals had to be easy or cheap, and preferably have leftovers. Carefully crafted meals that only made two servings and had complicated ingredients? Nope. Not happening.
  • Meals did not need to be creative. I had a rotation of a dozen meals that I planned at the beginning of the month and then just rotated through them.
  • Breakfast is no time for creativity.
  • Neither is lunch.
  • Condiments should be purchased, not made. Yes, I can make my own compliant mayo, dressings, creamer, ketchup, etc. But I could also spend just a tad more and buy them and not spend all my time in the kitchen. Yes please.
  • Frozen and canned veggies should be embraced. Many are compliant, cheap, and can be stocked on hand so that meals can be thrown together at the last minute. The ones we kept on hand were canned green beans, canned tomatoes, frozen broccoli, frozen diced onions, frozen diced peppers. Just check labels first!
  • If a shortcut is found, take it. Like when I grabbed a bunch of pre-roasted sweet potatoes and chicken from Trader Joe’s. Slightly pricier than doing it myself, but easier. Worth it.
  • Keep the kitchen stocked with the frozen and canned veggies, a variety of potatoes (sweet, red, yellow), onions, fruit, peppers, prosciutto, greens, and nuts so that a meal could always materialize if needed.
  • I would also roast a whole sheet of sweet potatoes, and then just reheat them as needed. This was helpful too as Henry loves roasted sweet potatoes, but asking a hungry baby to wait an hour… is not a thing.

Here is what we ate for the month:

Breakfast: Every week, I made one large spinach, sweet potato, and egg frittata. Then I ate a portion of it and a piece of fruit every day for breakfast. It was fast, filling, easy, and cheap. And I love repetition, so knowing the same breakfast awaited me every morning was wonderful. I used frozen spinach, one large sweet potato roasted, 8 eggs whipped with 1/2 cup coconut milk. Bake on 350 for an hour.  On the weekends, I made a brunch of breakfast hash with bacon, potato, and kale

Lunch: Leftovers! In the sad absence of leftovers, I ate a lunch of “Whole30 Tapas,” (fruit, celery, nuts, almond butter, and mini sweet bell peppers wrapped in prosciutto) or a salad.

Dinners:

  • Meatloaf+mashed potatoes + green beans (canned or roasted)
  • Almond fried chicken + roasted sweet potatoes + broccoli (frozen)
  • Chicken sausage sauteed with cabbage and onions
  • Stir fry chicken and broccoli + cauliflower rice (I used coconut aminos for the sauce)
  • Beef stew or potroast (as they two are really only divided by the size of the meat chunks)
  • Steak + salad
  • Shepherd’s pie
  • Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup (and you can use frozen diced onions and peppers, which makes this an impossibly easy and fast meal!)
  • Crockpot pulled BBQ chicken or pork +cauliflower mash + green beans
  • Roasted potatoes, carrots, sausage + some green veggie (all tossed on one pan)
  • Taco salad (pulled spicy pork from crockpot + greens + Trader Joe’s frozen fire roasted peppers + avocado)
  • Burgers (Beef or Trader Joe’s Chili Lime Turkey Burgers ) + onions, mushrooms, spinach, avocado + sweet potato fries

And you know what? Even without spending forever in the kitchen, without creating ground breaking recipes, without making my own mayo or complicated dishes  – our Whole30 was awesome. We feel great, ate great, and didn’t have to stress about it much.

The laziest Whole30 was a fantastic success. winter2017-55

If you have done more than one round of Whole30, what tricks did you find made them easier as you went on?

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Weekend update.

I keep on putting off blogging until I have a nice chunk of concentrated and calm time to write something of substance and quality… but then that never happens. And so in lieu of that illusive post, here’s a weekend update punctuated by only the highest quality of grainy cell phone snaps. Consider it my early Valentine’s Day gift and may it hold you over until I find that magical moment to wow you with a scintillating post of Crockpot musings or a recap of the world’s laziest Whole30 that we finished. Get excited.

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Baby free and crayyyyyyyyy.

I am a firm believer that couples need dates, even after babies come and suck all your time, energy, money, and a hefty chunk of your brain cells. Time away from tiny people with not-so-tiny needs reminds you that you do in fact like Other Parent, and have liked them since long before you routinely saw them covered in spit-up. Of course, I can enjoy the distinct snobbery of being a Parent Who Routinely Goes On Dates because we have a posse of siblings nearby why are ever eager and willing to babysit the Hankster. Were I to actually have to pay for an evening sitter, and you might find me changing my tune real fast.

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Ignore Henry’s highly skeptical expression. He knows that Aunt Ruth and Uncle Lyman’s house is approximately six thousand times more exciting than his own.

But Friday night was extra special because my brother and his wife invited Henry for a sleepover! And we happily agreed, because we are not idiots. We left Henry with them Friday night and hit the town in time to get dinner and a movie (LIKE IN A THEATRE! WITH PREVIEWS AND POPCORN AND IT IS ONLY THE SECOND MOVIE I HAVE SEEN IN A YEAR!), and still made it home in time to be in bed by midnight and milk every last second of our baby free night to sleep in the next morning.

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All about the bear-meets-dino aesthetic that the Hankster has been sporting lately. Which makes sense, since he doesn’t dress himself.

And Henry? He maybe didn’t miss us at all, sleeping a solid 11.5 hours before partying hard over breakfast and then passing out again in his bear suit.

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So serene! Meanwhile, at home, Henry was attempting to remove every single pot and pan from the shelves.

After returning Henry home, I slipped out to snap some pictures of our friends’ newborn baby. She is all that is perfect and tiny and I am just over the moon about more babies arriving in our posse of friends and neighbors. A new baby also gives me an excuse to make these and then eat way too many of them.

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Y’ALL. This baby was the sweetest. And so much beautiful black hair!!!

Somewhere between Thursday and Saturday, Henry took to crawling, and we were ECSTATIC for all of .68 seconds, before realizing that we live in a death trap with cords, outlets, sharp angles, and zero baby proofing. Our TV perches precariously on a bookshelf with tantalizing wires hanging from it, and our router just sits beside the couch, beckoning Henry’s preferred method of exploring, which is to shove any and all new objects into inquisitive mouth. At least, any objects other than food, as the kid has zero interest in feeding himself.

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Seconds before he almost launched himself to the floor, and hours before the crib was set to the lowest position. Only 78,658 death traps left to remove.

We went out to Virginia for games with friends Saturday night and I ate lots of chocolate cake, as it was our first day free from Whole30. That chocolate cake mix had taunted me from the cabinet the whollllllleeee 30 days, but alas- I am triumphant. There is no picture of the cake, as my presentation was lacking, since I used an upside down Tupperware bowl in the absence of a cake carrier.

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Oh hey, white dishes. Just like everyone else on the internet.

On Sunday we had friends over after church for brunch, and I made these biscuits. Mine still didn’t rise up like the evasive biscuits of my dreams, but we survived. And thrived. And ate lots of them.

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Breakfast sandwiches!

Plus, these two babes and besties took great naps and then looked awesome in their sleep sacks.

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When they go to the prom together someday, I am going to request a similar pose. And outfits.

We finished the evening with Apollo 13, as seeing Hidden Figures on Friday had us excited to watch anything where the question of will the heat shields hold??? was at the forefront. Halfway through we tried to pause it and had to find a whole new way to finish it, since Henry has drooled in the remote to the point of short circuiting it and we couldn’t find our scene again after accidentally restarting it.

And that’s enough excitement for one weekend, so – the end.

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WEEKENDZ ARE THE BEST EVER.

 

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Now that I’m a real adult, I drink coffee.

Remember when I wrote this? So young! So innocent! So well rested!

Because though I happily and easily spent 28 years and 9 months never needing or drinking coffee (frothy and sweet concoctions are a different story and obviously don’t count), 6 weeks with a newborn had me bowing before the carafe alter.winter2017-34And I love it.

Scenario 1: I teach MWF this semester, and after those glorious 2 semesters in a row of not teaching, thus, not having to really do my hair as much (because one does not simply show up to teach without coiffed hair!) and rolling in when I wanted – I have to get it together. And it is not easy. We need to leave at 8:15 to get Henry to childcare and me to my office, which means waking up early (for me- I know some of you start days way earlier and bravo for you). I know that I have to get up by 6:15 for the morning to not be hectic, that I have to do everything but get dressed before Henry wakes at 7. The hour and some change that we are up together is consumed with final details, nursing, breakfast, cuddles, etc. I also know that my days need some quiet and calm at their beginning, and I have always been notoriously bad at actually making it out of bed to read my Bible for a bit.

But then coffee.

I do not like drinking my coffee on the go, and when my alarm goes off and alllll I want is more sleep – I realize that if I can just make it into the kitchen and to the pot – it is going to be ok. I will have my calm, drink my quiet, and be ready to start the day. Because I want that time, I make it out of bed.winter2017-32

Scenario 2: On Tuesday’s and Thursday’s, I get to be home with Henry and I love it. I don’t have to roll out of bed early (because helloooooo dayjamas at home!), but the couple hours before he naps at nine are still a kind of crazy time of being with him and working a little on all the myriad things that need doing. Starting laundry, tidying up, unloading dishes, starting dinner (because we crockpot HARD in this family!), extracting objects from his mouth, his hands, his hair – it flies by. I also start thinking through my lofty goals for naptime and the day. The pages of my dissertation I need to write, the emails that need sending, the workouts that will (not)happen, and it pretty quickly rises to overwhelm me.

But then coffee.

I don’t drink it early on those days, saving it as my naptime reset, telling myself during the flurry that if I can just make it to 9:00 – I can make it forever. Cup poured, scripture read, emails done, and I feel ready to conquer anything by the end of that coffee soaked naptime. He naps easily and predictably now, but when it was still a battle, that promise of coffee and calm to come sustained me.

Scenario 3: Coffee dates, Saturday mornings, lengthy brunches, Whole30 reduced menus, instant bonding over universal addictions – coffee is the answer.

Because coffee is energy. It is ritual. It is pause. It is community. It is warmth. It is serenity, not because of any one aspect of what is in it, but because of some conglomerate of virtues, qualities, and associations that make it a very, very special part of my day – however that day might look afterwards. It is a soothing liquid flowing underneath the bridges of busy days and tired seasons.

I know the rest of you are rolling your eyes because you have been here for a long while, but though I am late, I’m happy to join you. I know it’s basic and unoriginal and cliché and ridiculous, but that universal appeal of a totally normal thing is its charm.

Let’s pour a cup and settle in. winter2017-30Side note: James made fun of me at length when I asked him to snap these pics and he actually jotted down this list while I was pouring a cup, only to reveal it afterwards and mock me for hitting every cliché in the book. Thanks husband, for keeping me humble and fighting that urge to be an Instagram husband. Also for knowing me well. winter2017-35

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Some things for your pause.

Henry is 8 months! I have no clue how, because I’m pretty sure that he was born yesterday, but here we are. He devotes lots of energy to protesting against his limbs’ lack of coordination that frequently results in face plants into the floor or belly slides, à la Bambi on ice. But mobility is soon to come, which means the ease of the potted-plant baby days will soon be beyond us. Still, in its place is a fun little boy who is discovering the world more and more every day and everything is SO EXCITING AND EDIBLE AND MUST BE TOUCHED.winter2017-44winter2017-51winter2017-50

And now, some other things.

This looks really tasty, easy, cheap, and can be seamlessly transformed to be Whole30 compliant. Check, check, check, check.

Small space, big life. We considered moving last weekend when an opportunity came to DOUBLE our living space for just a couple hundred dollars more a month. It was tempting, but we crunched the numbers, factoring in uncertainty about my employment, and decided that while it was a steal, it wasn’t wise. I read this article shortly afterwards and loved it.

Also loved Mary’s words about making decisions about your home. While she is on the other side of the grad school experience from me, so much of it rings true. (Of course, given that I share one of Mary’s articles almost every time I do a reading round-up, I obviously love her words on everything.)

It’s been strangely balmy these past days, and I’m kind of hoping winter comes back with a vengeance, at least for a little while. It lets me continue hibernating in this sweater that I snagged on sale recently. Yes, it is totally shapeless and objectively unflattering, and James wisely chose to complement the color when I asked him how it looked – but I do not care. SO COZY.

Speaking of cozy, the world is obsessed with hygge these days. It also makes me want to read this.

I have slowly become a skin-care junkie. I only get a few products at a time, but I love reading reviews and I keep a list in my phone of what I want to try so that when I need a new _______, I can experiment. Thus, I loved Sharleen’s list.

Easier cookies, means more cookies, which means better life.

I am in the process of an office renovation. And since my “office” is a tiny nook that is about 4 feet by 6 feet, that just means I am in the market for a new desk. I have fallen hard for the Mid-Century look. I love this one, but am intrigued by the more price friendly options of this one and this one.

You will notice that there are no political links on this list, and if you are reading this in America, that should strike you as off since our country is a hot bed of opinions lately and I am nothing if not Very Opinionated and Eager To Speak My Mind . This isn’t because I don’t have a heavy heart for all the serious issues that are ripping our country apart at the moment, or that I haven’t read so many articles that express things I wish I could say. I get frustrated when times are stressful and people are venting their feelings on social media, and someone starts posting puppies and being like “Let’s just forget and hold a puppy!” Yes, I love puppies too. But they can’t fix everything, and it is insulting to those who are genuinely concerned, heartbroken, and engaged in civic discourse – as, I might add, we all should be. I have read so much over the past weeks that has been shared on social media, some good, some bad, some ugly, but all beneficial. Even if something is blatantly biased, it succeeds in showing you how someone is seeing the world. We can’t fix it if we can’t understand it. But yesterday I was anxious and frustrated all day and I finally confessed to James that the Internet was stressing me out. Not the trivial stress that can be cured by a puppy, but the deep heavy heartedness that cripples and paralyzes. I just needed a little pause, a deep breath, before returning to reading and reflecting on what I can do to impact the world around me. I’m sure that you have already read any article I could possibly share, and I am equally sure that very few minds are changed by an angrily shared article. So I hope that some of the above links can be a little pause for you too, before heading back out to fight the good fight in the world of ideas.

Also, this is way cuter than a puppy:

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Whole30 Cran-Apple-Pear Crisp

You might already be tired of hearing about our Whole30, since I reference it obnoxiously and no one cares about anyone else’s restrictive eating habits. But – my blog, my rules.winter2017-20One of the hardest parts about doing the Whole30 is the lack of desserts. It’s not even the taste of dessert that I miss, but the ritual ending of a meal. I love that moment where everyone stays at the table, holds on to their forks, and lingers over something sweet. Since the Whole30 doesn’t allow you to make imitation baked goods, or use sweeteners like honey or coconut sugar, dessert is easier to just forget. Dinners end in just an anticlimactic trickling off instead of a grand finale.  I have tried variations of sautéed spiced apples in the past, or fruit salad, but they just lack the pizazz of a real dessert.

winter2017-17Over New Years, my mother-in-law made the tastiest baked fruit dish. Like a cobbler, but with none of the doughy topping. Hers had butter and brown sugar, which was delicious, but I started thinking that a version could be possible that was permissible during the Whole30. I think I’ve made it at least 5 times over the past couple weeks, tweaking it until I found a combination that had enough sweetness to offset the tart berries, but not so much that it delved into the forbidden “paleo junk food” category.  Some might still deem it SWYPO, but I feel that the lack of any grain, sugar, or dairy substitute absolves it. Just fruit, nuts, and spices doing their thing.

And it means that dessert can be back on the table when we have people over for dinner. It means that we can have a sweet treat on a rainy Sunday night. It means that we can deliciously linger over meals, dipping out yet another scoop of sweet and tangy goodness. winter2017-21

Whole30 Cran-Apple-Pear Crisp

  • 2-4 apples (mine were tiny ones so I used 4), sliced in wedges, skin on
  • 1 pear, sliced in wedges, skin on
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 4 dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 TBS Cinnamon
  • 4 TBS ghee
  • 4 TBS coconut oil

All of these are approximate measurements, and you can tweak them according to what you have and like. The pear and dates are important as they offset the tart cranberries, but you can play around with everything.

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease baking dish.
  2. Toss apples, pears, cranberries, coconut, dates, walnuts, and cinnamon.
  3. Melt ghee and coconut oil and pour over apples.
  4. Bake for one hour, or until berries are popping and apples are tender.

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January snippets.

winter2017-23winter2017-12winter2017-11winter2017-4winter2017-3winter2017-2I said that I hadn’t taken any pictures during our time in Indiana over Christmas, but I uploaded pictures from my camera and was pleasantly surprised to find a couple Midwest gems in there. I’m tossing them above with some other random shots from lately, and then plastering some disjointed words from life these days in hops that two means of hodgepodgeness makes at least a consistent mess. Yes? No?

We, along with half the world, are doing a round of Whole30 this month. This is our 4th-ish one, meaning we have done one other hardcore one and 2 that were “mostly Whole, Maybe 30,” a much more sustainable version, where you follow the spirit of the diet at home, and give grace when out. We are falling on the strict-ish side of laid back this time around, which means a couple allowed premeditated moments of weakness and the occasional use of butter before I made it to the store to get ghee. Because if butter is wrong, maybe I just don’t want to be right, you know? It feels easier this time around, partially because I just don’t have energy to focus as much, and partially because I set out to do the World’s Laziest Whole30. This meant planning a simple rotation of about 10 meals all month long before the month started, using my Crockpot as much as possible, and purchasing any and all compliant condiments. We have loved the Tessamae’s ketchup, BBQ sauce, and dressings, and Nutpods are my life saver, as this is my first W30 (that’s right, we are on a abbreviation basis) as a coffee drinker. If you follow along on Instagram, you have probably seen some of my lazy recipes through Instastories. Even in our lazy, I-have-no-time-to-experiment Whole30ness, I feel really good. I needed a cleansing reset after the holidays, and months of just slow decline in healthy inclination. I’m reading the book of Proverbs alongside the plan, a chapter a day. Wisdom for the body and mind. If you have any easy Crockpot Whole30 meals, feel free to dump them in the comments so I can dump them in my Crockpot/mouth.

I am late to the party, after having first arrived and found it highly overrated. But alas- I submit: Hamilton is kind of catchy. And by that I mean that Henry and I listen to the full thing at least once a day, preferably when he’s eating and I do really intense dances to accompany the rap as I feed him. I know, he’s one lucky baby. He also might start associating the Revolution with pureed vegetables.

Our ability to enact said daily dance party is due entirely to the fourth member of our family, Alexa. Y’all. I was skeptical when we got her as a gift, but she has revolutionized my home-vibe. I query her on the weather approximately 678654 times a day, because I CAN. Whereas I used to have to find music to play, I can now just call from the bedroom “Alexa- play Enya!” and walk out into the smooth ambiance of a car commercial.

This month it is back to work. My job includes teaching and an administrative role along with my own academic work, but I have had two semesters in a row with only administrative duties. I know, you were wondering if I actually worked. Yes, but gimme that sweet sweet academic schedule forevvverrrrr. It was beyond wonderful to have last spring to devote more time to writing, and this past fall it was absolutely priceless to have so much time home with Henry. I can’t imagine a better schedule for welcoming a baby into our lives than the one I have enjoyed the past year. But I really miss teaching and I am looking forward to stepping back into the classroom on Wednesday.

And then of course, there is that pesky dissertation. I have been too frazzled for New Years resolutions, but if I had to make one it would be:

Finish.

Finish that dissertation, finish school forever. Finish well, finish strong. Graduating “on time”- an idea in perpetual air quotes for PhD students because HA – would mean finishing writing by mid March and that will not be happening. I really thought I could do it, graduate on time with a dissertation in one hand and a baby in the other. But I can’t, or at least, I can’t unless I seriously compromise the quality of both. I don’t want to write a crappy dissertation… and I am unwilling to miss out on Henry’s first year of life to devote all my time to writing a good one. So I’m dragging it out just a tad, but I’m determined to finish before 2018.

I have all sorts of blog posts and thoughts cluttering up my brain and drafts, but every time the myriad of daily things is done, they don’t get written. So in the meantime, just a couple January snippets of the things filling our days.

 

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A perfect weekend.

untitled-1Last weekend was perfect, or at least I told James that it was so at least 20 times.

What makes a perfect weekend?

Nothhhhhiiinnnnggg.

Or at least, the absence of Something. It had been 9 weeks since we had a Saturday that was profoundly lazy, one without travel, stress, excitement, etc. The weekend before proved extra insane, as I went to Philadelphia for a conference, James drove to PA to (FINALLY!) pick up our car, Henry spent the day with friends, and then Sunday I drove back to dump a weekend’s worth of pumped milk in the freezer before we all headed off to the airport. We flew home to KY to celebrate my grandmother’s life and mourn her death, before turning around and flying back, collapsing in exhaustion from all the travel, stress, joy, sadness, planning, visiting, and frustration that the last two months have held.

But then this past weekend came. And it was empty. Glory.

Of course we filled it, but with the sorts of lazy activities that send reserves of rest rather than excitement into your spirits.  We had friends over Friday night, the type of friends who schlep their baby along and can halfway doze off on your couch at the end of the evening and no one minds. On Saturday we had more friends over for brunch… which lasted 4 hours before anyone noticed the time. We were finally back in the pews of our church Sunday morning and my brother and his wife came over Sunday night to watch The Bachelor. And then James had Monday off so I went to Trader Joe’s by myself, a luxury second only to a solo excursion to Target. We had a fire going in the hearth all weekend, made dents in books and magazines, and caught up on some good TV. We went for walks around our neighborhood and lazed about in bookstores.

I only halfway remember those early months with Henry, but I do remember thinking that we would never get to eat a meal in peace again, never have naps that were dependable, never be well rested again, never be able to host friends without feeling utterly chaotic to the core. Obviously, life doesn’t go back to pre-baby normal. But this weekend I slept well. I was able to make brunch without feeling harried, and Henry went down for naps on time and with no fuss in the midst of our visitors. Life didn’t feel like it was spinning out of control. It was calm and happy and easy.

Dear Newborn-focused, exhausted, overwhelmed Hannah (who will no doubt reappear with any future kids): perfect weekends will come back. They will look different. They won’t be full of dinners out and activities around town. You won’t sleep till noon and you won’t stay up late. But they will be good, and full of warmth and joy and a whole new sort of perfection.

 

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