Wednesday, September 7, 2011


This post is brought to you today by my shiny, new, programmable coffee maker.  Mr. Coffee, I think I love you!

On a more serious note...

"Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world" ~Bishop Desmond Tutu

This week's Parade magazine reported a statistic that literally made my jaw drop.

40 percent of the food produced in this country is wasted.

Honestly, I don't even know what to say about that. FORTY percent?  Are we so indulged, fussy, and spoiled as a nation that we allow nearly half of the food we produce to go to waste?  If we have so much food, how can there possibly be people going hungry... and what is the definition of "hungry"?  Do people have any idea the work (or for the environment-conscious, the resources) which go into producing that food?

The statistic alone, disgusts me.  What further adds to my dismay is the constant barrage of "eat only organic", and the overabundance of recipes published which require ingredients as inexpensive and easy to acquire in my neck of the woods as Hungarian yak.  How about we instead teach folks to utilize what is readily available?  Like, say, the ten pound bag of chicken leg quarters for $5.00 which, with the addition of a few inexpensive vegetables and seasonings, can be made into over a week's worth of delicious, healthy and hearty meals?

I will be the first to admit that my family throws out our share of food.  Food poisoning is akin to Dante's Third Circle of hell in my book, and so I'm careful about food safety and abide by the adage "When in doubt, throw it out".  But I've also changed how I plan our family meals.  It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking we need a cooked-from-scratch fresh meal for every supper of the week.  That thinking, however, resulted in way too much wasted food.  My family is a busy one, with my husband often working late and both he and my daughters attending tae kwon do and other classes a couple times a week.

Enter leftovers.  A beef or pork roast, a chicken or a big pot of homemade soup goes a long way, even with a family of four.  Vegetables languishing in the crisper are easy to add to just about any meal to stretch or embellish it. The trick is to actually eat the food you make for more than one meal, and plan for those leftovers rather than relegating them to purgatory in the back of the fridge.

Here's an added benefit, for those who doubt.  Earlier this spring, my health was at an all-time low and my weight, an all-time high.  Now, I've done about every "diet plan" out there, from the frozen meals shipped to your home to low-carb to vegetarian/lowfat (ugh) to following make-at-home pre-planned meals.  I was sick of it, sick of the constant focus on food, sick of being told that the ridiculously-priced foods in the organic section of the grocery were the only ones safe or healthy to eat.  All the "can'ts" and "don'ts" and "big money is trying to poison us all" were really beginning to tick me off.

And so, I quit.  

I quit obsessing about food, decided to accept myself right then and there just as I was.  I listened to my body and ate what I wanted when I wanted.  My attention shifted to focus on my family, my hobbies, my horses.  Ironically enough, I began to eat less and move more, instinctively.  The meals my family got were generally homemade with simple ingredients... meat, vegetables, milk, eggs, butter, fruit and (gasp!) bread.  When there were leftovers, we ate them.

The pounds began to fall off... thirty, so far, in the past few months.  My grocery bill is lower, and I can't remember the last time I had the "munchies".  Its been months since I baked a pan of brownies or batch of cookies.  Not that I won't; just haven't had the desire.  And... I'm happy.

It all came from the decision to quit obsessing about "diets", to stop obsessing about food and instead be grateful for what we have... and enjoy it. I savor the experience of preparing a good meal, and relish foods such as a BLT made from my home-grown tomatoes and the bacon my dad cured. I don't hesitate to use mayo or butter or bacon when they'll add to the flavor and the experience.

One of my favorite sayings is, "Charity begins at home"; I would add that it begins not just at home, but right with each and every one of us and with the seemingly minute decisions each day.  Who knew that being charitable and loving toward myself, in the form of letting go of the "should's" and "have-to's", would result in such monumental personal growth and improvement of health, and far less wasted food (and time and resources)?

I didn't.  All I did was make a decision to listen to my body and simplify my life, but sure can't complain about the results. Imagine what could happen if more people decided to quit being led around by all the talking heads, and instead made the decision to eat and live in a way that actually works for them.  My guess is that we just may also quit wasting half the food we work so hard to produce, pay so much to acquire and spend more yet to dispose of.

Just try (as the FlyLady Marla Cilley would say) to finally love yourself... just as you are, just for a little while.  Try being charitable to yourself, and see what happens.  I bet you'll be amazed by the results.

P.S.  My total cholesterol is 168. ;)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Summer's End

Today is the first day of school for my daughters.

Eighth grade for the eldest, first grade for her younger sister. I snapped this photo while walking them up the driveway to meet the bus this morning, after my teenager quipped (with a wink), "Oooh, so THAT'S what a sunrise looks like!"

I took a sabbatical from writing this summer, to spend more time focusing on my girls while they enjoyed their vacation, and am so glad I did.  This summer went by in a flash, and I wanted to make memories. God willing, I'll be able to write for many years to come... but my girls are only six and thirteen one summer of their lives. We made the most of it.

We slept in when we felt like it, rode horses, grew a big garden, planted waves of flowers and 80 little trees and shrubs.  We welcomed three beautiful foals into the world, and played with them often.  We hosted a 4th of July party, read piles of books, took in a county fair and journeyed to the Science Museum in St. Paul to take in the Egyptian Pharaohs exhibit. 

Both girls helped with barn chores, and if I payed allowance per wheelbarrow load of manure picked or scoop of grain doled out, the oldest would probably have enough to buy herself the car she's already talking about.  The youngest, she kept busy with new kittens (after joyfully informing my sister, "I'll take all you got!"), wiggling out her front teeth, learning to ride a bike without training wheels, practicing her reading and brushing her ever-patient pony.  The rag doll we made together one day last spring, Thumbelina, went everywhere with her: to the barn, to the beach, to Grandma and Grandpa's house, to tae kwon do lessons... and she rode along as we fished from the boat, tucked into my daughters life-jacket.

This day brings such mixed feelings for me; joy at the prospect of more time to myself to write, organize, and work on projects... and yet sorrow at the passage of time.  Both girls were excited to get back to school, to see their friends, to get back into the routine.  I've watched them both grow so much over the summer, their confidence and self esteem blossom... what a gift.  It is the very reason why I don't schedule many planned activities over the school break; I feel they need the rest after a busy school year, and plenty of time to explore their own interests and develop their own personalities.  It seems to work, as by the time mid-August hits they are rejuvenated and eager to resume a busier schedule.  And, quite honestly, I am ready for them to do so.  Their company is a joy, and yet it seems there is an instinct on my part to keep them home and nurture them some, then send them out into the world to test their wings. I send them out a little at a time, then welcome them home so as to feed them, build them up and teach them a bit more before sending them back out again.  No parenting expert am I... but so far it seems to be working.

And I can't wait for them to get home, to tell me about their day.

Meanwhile, I need to go buy a new coffee maker.  Mine died this morning and its truly a miracle I wrote this post without coffee. :)

It's good to be back.