“To everything there is a season…”

“To everything there is a season…” Ecc 3:1
pumpkins

Autumn is my favorite season. And I love decorating with a fall theme. I am not that into Halloween. It has just never grabbed me and my kids never really liked it until they were teens and then it was just to scare each other. The candy thing was always a pain. Do you let them eat it? Do you parse it out, a little at a time?  Have you ever found Easter Candy in July? Well, I have found Halloween candy in August! As the kids got older, we started a family tradition where we would take them to dinner and a movie. The next day, we would take them shopping for one bag of candy each – it was always on clearance – and they usually got more than if they would have trick-or-treated, and they got exactly what they wanted. Worked for me. Tonight, I am attending a pumpkin carving party. We’re supposed to wear costumes. That is so not me. And we got 6″ of snow last night. Kind of dims the party spirit.

The party was actually fun. The people were so very nice. And I had a great time. The pumpkin carving was funny. I was able to drive to and from our friend’s very isolated home, up steep and icy roads, without a problem – I was quite proud of myself. And during this party, I found myself seated at the table…right in front of some cute cupcakes and some sort of peanut butter dip covered in Reese’s Pieces, to be scooped up by chocolate ghost cookies! And after a short chat with a new friend, I was even offered a drink of 15-year old Macallan Scotch!!! The absolute torture!!!

scotchneat

For those of you who know me, I would much rather have one to two fingers of scotch, neat, than pretty much any other alcoholic beverage. Even after discovering Chocolate Martinis – I still prefer my scotch. And the thing is, I am still on Whole30. Part of the program is no sugar in any form – and no alcohol in any form. None. So far, so good. Today is day 24. About a week to go before we add things back in. Now before you freak out, I had no problem sitting in front of all that sugar. I kept seeing chemicals and pasty-feeling frosting on my tongue and I was not even tempted. I happily reached for the fresh baby carrots and celery sticks. Truly. I did not miss it at all. I was sorely tempted by the scotch (it was Macallan!!) but that was about it.

porkbutternutsquash

Don’t feel too badly for us. Tonight we are having the recipe above – Pork Shoulder Roast with Butternut Squash and tomatoes. I am opting out of the kale, because we are just not kale people. But we are not suffering in the recipe department. Last night I made bacon-wrapped chicken breasts on sliced white sweet potatoes and a side of green beans with garlic. It was amazing! We are devouring eggs and we discovered British Breakfast Smoked Bacon. Oh my goodness – where have you been all my life??? No sugar added. No extra salts or seasonings that are not compliant. It is delicious. We have adopted many butternut squash recipes. I love to eat them but not so much in the prepare department. They are a pain to peel and gut and dice! Ha-Ha.  But they are so tasty! We have discovered that our taste buds were somehow in a coma. We could not taste – we thought we could, but truly, we did not taste. Now, I am in love with all these amazing spices and ways of cooking. I had to go out and buy two more pans because I kept running out. The prep is a  lot but I am re-discovering my joy of cooking.

sausage

I learned how to prepare my own sausage from organic ground pork. It’s simple and fast and we have found we like the flavor much better. I discovered a new way to make meatballs (a family tradition in the Kaiser household) and we discovered we like that recipe better, as well. We have slowly converted our teen son to a better way of eating. He is still eating snacks a lot, but his meals are far better. His choices are better. We found this recipe for “Mexican” meat that is so good. We fry it up and put it on a bed of raw spinach and mixed greens, topped with salsa and guacamole. Oh my goodness! The teenager had seconds. And asked that I make it again.

oilandvinegarcruets

The journey of Whole30 has taught us so much about how we have been trained to eat. How we have also been trained to shop. It truly is less expensive to shop the perimeter of the store! We buy a grocery cart full of fresh ingredients and spend far less that we ever have. I have learned that I actually prefer WALNUT OIL and APPLE CIDER VINEGAR with simple salt and pepper on my salads. I even cook with it. But you have to know that prior to this, I was a heavy ranch and thousand island user! I would dip in it. I would cook with it. I would slather my salads with it. I loved my dressing. But now, I am enjoying the taste of my salads, enhanced by a mild oil and vinegar. Wow. This is big for me. It is huge. Whole30 is changing my relationship with food, and with my kitchen!

masonjarstorage

Because we shop for pretty much all fresh ingredients, I have discovered Mason Jars! Oh my goodness. I have all my dried fruits and nuts in them. We go through them so quickly. I love making my own “trail mix” using fresh, bulk-bought, dried fruits and nuts. I now love shredded coconut with no sugar, and add it to a mix of nuts and fruits and keep in my purse for a pick-me-up. Mason Jars are pretty awesome. You can see what you’ve got and what you are running low on. I am using small and large ones, not having discovered the need for medium ones, yet (give me time). And this week, I am re-doing my kitchen insofar as organizing it for easier prep and use. Whole30 has up-ended our lives.

dishesrestaurant

Another thing that Whole30 has done is positively affected our budget. One way, other than eating fresh ingredients made at home, is that we have not dined out. Most of the dishes served locally are very non-compliant with Whole30 guidelines. And for now, that is fine. We mostly miss the convenience of grabbing a bite on late, rushed evenings. And we miss the social aspect of Saturday morning breakfast with our grandkids at a local Grill. But, we are eating better and we are eating simpler. And we are sharing it so much, that we are seeing others adopt the process, including some people very close to us, just by modeling this behavior. Eating simple and cleanly has changed not only how we see food, or taste food, but it is slowly changing how our bodies absorb food. Our bodies were so used to using quick energy from sugar-ladened foods, that they are now learning to grab energy from our fat stores, and the healthy fats we are feeding ourselves. This process has causes a few reactions. We have found ourselves sluggish and days of a headache or two. But as we are starting to see the finish line, we are not questioning the process.

This process has caused me to think more about the end of the day when we gather for dinner, the breakfasts and lunches we will share and prepare as the family goes about its day, and the healthy snacks we will consume in-between. We have become planners and label-readers. We have become more concerned about content and quality, rather than quantity.

kitchensinkeggs

But one of the most amazing things, is that it truly has taken the emphasis off food for food, and replaced it as food for health. Think about that. Why would I ingest a BigMac meal with fries and a soda? I can feed my body a healthy meal, for less money, less negative affect on my body, and with very little effort? Convenience? We need to stop being so lazy. The recipe above has you gather whatever you have left over insofar as fruits and veggies, and with some spices, add them to eggs for breakfast…or lunch…or dinner. Why not? I no longer crave McDonald’s fries. No more. It’s simply not tasty for me, nor worth the damage to my body. I do crave that British Breakfast bacon and some eggs over medium. Yum. With a side of a sliced apple. Yes, please. And one of the biggest things? I have discovered that I actually love the taste of coffee. For coffee. Not the creamer or sugar I had added to it. I like black coffee. Who knew? I actually went to a business meeting at one of our local coffee houses and ordered decaf drip, black (it was at night – still can’t do caffeine late in the day!!) in an awesome mug…with free refills. First.Time.Ever.

blackcoffee

I am not sure, once we reach day 31, what I want to add back. I do not miss bread or crackers or cookies or cake or noodles or rice or cheese or many of the other things I have not eaten. My first thing to add back? I have thought long and hard about this. And to be perfectly honest, I am not sure. I am enjoying learning to eat this way. I am proud that my body is now getting better nutrition. And I am not sure if I want to re-introduce the things I have loved eating without. There are a lot of Whole30 graduates who pretty much adopt the Whole30 lifestyle in perpetuity. We just might. My husband misses pizza. I think I would scrape the toppings and cheese off and skip the crust part. Maybe. Sometimes what we think we are addicted to, we really are not. We are just in a rut or have developed a bad habit. And Whole30 challenges you to break these habits. It challenges you to think about your choices. It challenges you to choose healthy over convenience. And I have always liked being that stick in the river, refusing to go the way everyone else does. Whole30 is not really going against anything, but rather, returning to how we once ate, before chemical additives and boxed everything. Join me! You might be surprised at yourself.

woodinrivers

For some, it is not time, yet. It is hard to look at habits and how we live. It is hard to delve into things that are not comfortable. Looking in a mirror is not easy. Trust me. I am overweight and out of shape. I have, however, faced my fear. I have enrolled in a water aerobics class. Ha-Ha. The first laugh is my bathing suit. I have had it since our kids were little. I am surprised the material is still hanging together (sort of scares me, wondering what it is made of). And the other funny thing is I have re-entered the world of the dreaded locker room. When I was in high school there were girls who could walk around naked with no care in the world. Even back then, I could not do it. And being 60 and overweight, it is just not happening. However, those same girls who walked around nude at 14 are still doing it at 70 – and there are some things you just cannot unsee. They are not literally the same people, but are sort of like the same ones, if you get my point. And changing and showering and all of that has been the subject of quite a lot of laughter. The funny thing is that while we do water aerobics, they have children’s swimming lessons. So there are little children from toddlers with their swimming diapers all the way through to us old grandmas, running around the locker room and shower area. The noise level is hysterical – my head just about explodes! But the sights are quite something to see.

wateraerobicsbarbells

Do not poo-poo water aerobics. Join me, I dare you. During the night right afterwards, I am already rolling over in bed, aching. This last class caused me to wake in the night to revisit my oils and relieve some of the aches and pains, and to ensure a restful night of sleep. It’s been two days and I am off to play with those silly noodles and water barbells again tonight. Those barbells, made of foam, are no joke, either. My arms are killing me. But I am moving. I am out and about. I am giving my body the proper nutrition, and I am moving all my muscles. Movement is so important, even if it is just to walk to the corner and back again. To stroll through the mall. To park the furthest away at the store and walk in (except for in ice and snow – I park as close as possible). The Whole30 program challenged us in more ways than one. I know it has been life changing and I cannot see us returning to the lazy ways, the lazy days, prior to Whole30. And I’m not sure if we’ll add foods we have done with out for 30 days, back into our diets. We are still thinking about the long term process, once we realize the full affects of this program. It is pretty amazing, and so very simple. Think about it, and, again, think about joining us!

whole30on

 

 

There’s a random post going around Facebook, asking people to list 10 things you might not know about them.  It has been interesting reading about my friends and acquaintances.  It is a sign of the times that we have so many people in our lives, but when it comes down to it, there isn’t the depth we used to have in relationships.  I am opining here, so I know there will be objections!  And that is okay, too.  Our world has become so instant and so automated, that quite often, there is much we do not really know about the people we interact with.  Quite often I have been told people date, have a relationship, and break up – all either online or through texting someone.  I find that absurd in some ways, and infinitely sad in other ways.  And the other part is the instantaneousness of it all.  “I just met this guy and he is so awesome! I am in love” or I was friended by this girl online and we’ve been talking on Facebook.  I don’t know but I think she might be “the one!”  I find it all so indicative of our culture, and immensely sad.  We do not converse any longer, we chat.  We do not write or read, we text.  We do not sit down to dinner and actually talk to each other, rather everyone is on their phones.  A friend suggested this article to me and I just read it.  “18 Things Everyone Should Start Making Time for Again.” (http://thoughtcatalog.com/brianna-wiest/2013/11/18-things-everyone-should-start-making-time-for-again/).  I commented to my friend that just reading it was like a sigh, or a pause, like a breath of fresh air.  It is depressing to think we even need a list like this, but it is also wonderful!  It brings into the light things we do not often think about.  One of my favorites was #3 – Thinking before responding.  You can actually watch people in conversations and see (sometimes I feel I can hear the gears turning in their heads) them formulating their response before the speaker has even fully expressed their idea or position on something.

Intent to replyAnother point she made was #13 – Making sure relationships are based on spending time with people.  This speaks to our digital, instant, rapid-paced culture.  There is nothing like a cup of tea shared with a good friend, taking hours and hours to talk about our lives.  I miss the friends I have who enabled me to sit and chat with them. Those moments of my life are some of my most treasured.

The past few days there was a discussion on pews or no pews on a Facebook page, as well as another post about confession that was a video tape of a conference.  The talk was awesome; the discussion on pews was enlightening.  I enjoy the intellect and the banter, although I am saddened at the vehemence with which Christians attack or defend positions.  It still baffles me, but I love the fervor, nonetheless.

Tomorrow we begin our Advent Fast (well, we really start today).  Today is the Feast Day of St.Philip and the Fast is often referred to as St. Philip’s Fast.  Regardless of the title, this marks 40 days until Christmas.  This year has sped by so rapidly, it is hard to comprehend it.  We have had such an upheaval since the Holiday Season of 2012.  Thanksgiving last year we were hosting my god daughter for several days, and attended a dinner at some very dear friends’ home.  It was one of the most memorable Thanksgivings for all of us. A peculiar mix of people at the table, wonderful food traditions shared, great wine, and some of the best conversations, ever!  The joy, laughter, and love experienced that day will stay with me always. I loved that day.  And Christmas of 2012, we hosted extended family in our home and it was lovely.  It was a difficult Christmas, as it was the first without my father-in-law, but it was wonderful to sit with his brother and sister-in-law, as well as my mother- and brother-in-law, and share stories about Joe and his early life, and to hold each other up in our own grief over his passing.  It is hard to believe we are entering into the preparation phase for holidays so soon.  This year, I am facing the season without my stepfather, whose birthday is today (Memory eternal, Frank) and trying to support my mom, who is suffering with Dementia and the loss of her “anchor” in life.  We are also in a completely new community and physical environment, but have the blessing of family nearby (son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren) and a great support of our Church family.

All of this lead me to think on my relationship with God.  If I look back on all the things, events, and people who have made up my lifetime, I find that God is the constant – always there, always the same