The First Time

The first time I had a drink, I was 4 or maybe 5 years old. My older step-sisters, in high school at the time, were having a party. I don't remember much about that night, other than I felt amazing being with all those big people. I was making them laugh! They let me play their ping pong ball game with them, and even let me cheat and win! I don't remember having an opinion about what I was drinking, or even what it tasted like. I drank it though. I liked the attention. I have a vague recollection of not feeling good, but specifics are not clear. I do recall dark brown fuzzy carpet.

Dragging me by my arm, I was told to go to bed and pretend to be asleep, as people rushed around shushing each other and scrambling to pick up. Hindsight and retelling of family stories years later filled in the gaps that were confusing for me as a child. They were home, and evidently earlier than anticipated.

To this day I do not know where my parents were that night. Or the time I woke up one early morning to a sea of sleeping bags and blankets, covering so many bodies splayed out all over our rec room floor. It was a different time, the eighties. The thought process was "at least they are partying at home instead of out driving around. They are doing it safely".

I will be 40 in 10 days. I have drank alcohol up until 65 days ago. I didn't drink in my early teens, but by 18 had a boyfriend with legal friends. For over 20 years I have ….

been an alcoholic? An on and off binge drinker? Both? Does it really matter?

When I look back at my history, on paper yes. If I was reading this about someone else, it would leave no doubt. Of course she's an alcoholic. But because it's me, it's somehow normal….

It's not that bad…I didn't wake up and have a bottle of vodka for breakfast. (Although I've had Kahlua in my morning coffee on a couple of occasions with friends.) I didn't hide bottles. I never drank before work. I did strategize calorie consumption with alcohol, as in skipping meals to get tipsy quicker, skip meals to compensate for anticipated alcohol consumption. Switched from sugar- and calorie-dense cocktails to straight liquor over the years. Granted, the worst of the bottom occurred in my twenties.  I didn't drink while pregnant. After the kids were born, I drank, but responsibly. I didn't drink alone.

Until I did.

I've had horrendous hangovers, but never withdrawal symptoms.

I think that's the thing. That alcoholic term is so loaded. (Pun not really intended, but I'm leaving it there.) Alcoholics are physically addicted, right?

I don't think it matters.

I don't care what the definition is. Alcohol does not work for me. It doesn't make me feel good, it doesn't improve my life. It never feels as good as that elusive just-tipsy-but-not-drunk feeling does for that brief moment. Chasing that ever-closing window of buzzed perfection always led way past excess. When having 1 leads to 10, it's not good regardless of whatever the definition says. I love the way Jim states it at Fit Recovery, "I didn't want to drink, I wanted drunk."

Exactly.

I am done wrestling with am I or not. Doesn't really matter in the end, does it?

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Day 55

I have not had a drink in nearly 2 months. In 5 days I will have earned my 2 month chip. In that time I have also switched to a plant-based diet.

I would like to say that these 2 decisions are miraculously making me into the fabulous version of myself that I always knew I could be, much like an after picture where life is now wonderful and amazing and the problems of daily life do not exist.

Truth?

What I'm noticing is an awareness of the pervasiveness of drinking culture. Mommy play groups, social media, cute videos depicting funny women discussing parenting over glasses of wine, college life, radio ads, military groups, music, books, etc. It's everywhere. It seems normal. But is it?

I notice personally, that my skin is clear-ish. My clothes are loose. Life is going by, just as it always has. My head is clearer. I feel better. Burying feelings under a heavy blanket of alcohol is no longer an option. I'm reading more and am noticing more, but it's still me. I think that's the thing is that you still have to deal with yourself. I am not reaching and pining for something to drink, as I imagined I would. I don't wake up tired and cranky most of the time. I go to bed without regret, usually just tired and ready for the day to be over.

The 'one day at a time' mantra is ringing true just as much for sobriety as it is for deployment. Play a game with the kids, be present. Prepare a meal. Read. Write. Be with the dogs. Clean the house.

Just do life.

Without the numb.

Culinary Escapades

This week we tried a vegan pulled “pork” sandwich that was featured on Tasty Vegetarian’s facebook page. WOW. The flavors did not disappoint, however the jackfruit, was …messy. (To put it mildly.)

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This thing was a beast!

Here’s the video, if you are interested:

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So weird, but fun! Side note: super glue is likely manufactured from jackfruit. This is the stickiest substance on the planet! Sheesh! I had it everywhere and had to wash my hands with a scrub brush multiple times to get it off!
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The house smelled AH. MAZING at this point, regardless of how this pile of fruit looks.

It was very tasty, but sadly, we were missing an ingredient so a trip to the store resulted in a longer cooking time. Ours came out mushy. We will be trying again, however – but this time with canned jackfruit. Once was enough of an experience for this cook!

Later I whipped up this little experiment of my own. I love tacos. LOVE them. For these, I used cauliflower for the crumbly “meat”, (sounds weird, but seriously, cauliflower is amazing in its ability to take on different flavors.) With the cauliflower seasoned and sautéed with homemade taco seasonings, I topped the tacos with some brown rice and black beans that I had left over, some fresh salsa and sliced avocado. They were divine!

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Even hubby said they were good, and he’s not a fan of tacos!

I picked up a cookbook and tried this slaw made with veganaise, a mayonnaise substitute. It was not my favorite. At all.

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May look pretty, but the dressing was gross! Veganaise gets a thumbs down from this girl.

I had made some red lentil chili the other day and it made a bazillion servings. (Recipe in the link.) It was delicious, but a bit spicy even for me – and I dig heat! I had a numb mouth and a ready glass of ice water while eating! Using the leftovers, I topped it on some mixed salad greens and added avocado and tomato to dial down the heat just a notch. Turned out pretty good!

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Gotta get those greens in!

One thing I miss with our veggie tray is ranch. Hummus is okay, and it’s growing on me – but sometimes I just prefer ranch dressing. Attempting to make a completely vegan/plant-based version and perhaps dial up the nutrition factor, I found a recipe for one here. Made with tofu and seasonings, I thought it might work well….

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…I don’t know if it was because I used more potent red onions, or the silken tofu instead of regular, but I just did not like this. Thumbs down. It didn’t taste like ranch.

I’m still experimenting with different ranch versions and am excited to find one I like! Going to try one that uses almond milk this week! Fingers crossed because I need ranch for these beautiful veggie trays!

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This $2 divided tray has been key in getting my kiddos to snack on veggies this summer. Best two bucks ever spent! I just keep it filled with whatever veggies I have on hand and set it out. It gets eaten!

And finally, made this quick lo mein last night. Super easy and came together in a flash. I added in my tofu crumbles that I like. They have the texture of mushrooms and even my hardcore carnivore hubby likes it!

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Lo mein! YUM!

I have quite a few recipes printed up for next week. I tend to gravitate toward stir fries and tacos, so we will be venturing out a bit and trying something different!

If you have a favorite plant-based recipe – share in the comments!

Food Adventuring

A question I got was “So, what are you going to actually EAT if you go vegetarian?”

All of the things. You know, except for things with a face. In cattle country (aka Texas), it seems like going vegetarian is just crazy. Seriously, though – there are SO many whole food, plant-based items to eat – that are truly delicious.

My breakfast this morning was a yummy chocolate banana smoothie!
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Dear daughter had a banana, pineapple, strawberry, and mango smoothie with flaxseed and soymilk. It’s the first smoothie that she’s actually finished all gone! (She’s a soy milk convert!)

I was turned on to Dr. Greger from his appearance in the documentary films Forks over Knives and What the Health. (Check them out if you haven’t!) He also has a fabulous app for plant based diets to ensure you hit all your markers for a complete veggie diet. Super helpful!

A little light reading while dear daughter was in gymnastics. Uplifting title, no?!

I will say I’m about halfway through the book and enthralled. There is SO much info about food that I thought I knew. Love learning new (and healthy) information! The book is broken down into chapters by category: How not to die from Heart Disease, How not to Die from Diabetes, etc. Then they go into why each of the categories of food are recommended, then the how to. I think that’s the key for most of us, myself included. It’s great to read all this info, but then what do you do with that knowledge? Practical application is key!

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Part of dinner last night! Cucumber, tomato, avocado salad, garlic toast (no butter), Spanish rice. We also had chickpea barbecue sandwiches. They aren’t pictured because 1. they were ugly, and 2. no one liked them.

I think that’s the thing that I love about food and cooking: there’s always another meal to try again. There’s so many flavors to experiment with and food combinations with which to fall in love. Who cares if you don’t like one particular dish? It’s okay!

The one thing that I do find challenging is to feel like the meal is “complete”. The food pyramid/my plate influence runs deep. It’s definitely a shift to looking at veggies as the main meal instead of a side dish.

Are you a vegetarian? Flexitarian? Vegan? What do you love about veggies? Do you feel better by eating plant-based foods?

Anticipation

I’ve always been afraid of it. I don’t really know why. Frequently maligned and mocked things can come across as scary. It was with great trepidation I even gathered the courage to…

put it in my grocery cart.

But I did it.


Steeling myself as I reached for what I assumed was gelatinous goo, I set it on the counter to open the packaging. The label said “extra firm” but I could hear the sloshing of liquid inside. Frustratingly, the label offered no window with which to peek.

“Deep breath,” I told myself.

Gently peeling back the label, I was greeted with nothing more than a simple white rectangular prism sitting in its own nice little pool of water. No mold, no worms, no other disgusting materials of which nightmares are made. Just a rectangle of white.

I poked at it with my finger, curiosity overcoming my trepidation. “Hmm, it IS firm,” I thought, and proceeded to follow the directions for my breakfast scramble.

The white rectangle stared silently as the other vegetation warmed itself by the fire.


I crumbled it in, added garlic and tuneric, cooked and stirred. “It really resembles scrambled eggs,” I told the kids who really couldn’t care less.


Bottom line: It really DOES take on the flavors it is cooked in. With a bit of salsa and in a tortilla, it could easily be a delicious breakfast taco. Ahhh, the possibilities are endless. Like most scary things, the anticipation was far worse than the thing itself.

One thing I did learn through this recipe is that I’m not a huge fan of turmeric. I don’t mind it in tea, but in my scramble it wasn’t my fave…..but I’m excited to experiment more!

What is your favorite way to make tofu? Were you ever scared to try it? Tell me and share your favorite recipes!

via Daily Prompt: Impression

Inspiration

Feeling a little blah after the holidays I’ve been not so inspired to write lately, about food, fitness or anything else. I have officially stopped working at the gym (my choice, all good) and have been getting into the new routine working out and doing the mom thing.

A friend of mine started a blog Fiftytwoin2017 in which she posts recipes she makes for her family – but adds her take with humor and practicality! I thought it was a great idea, but still not enough to get me off of Netflix to put some ideas down.

Last week our son had a multi-cultural lunch where each student brought a native dish from their country of origin, wrapping up a 6 week unit studying their heritage. I made Irish soda bread and brought it to the party, and of course Jacob tried one bite and said nope, and refused to try any of the the other dishes, not so shockingly. I picked the bread for it’s plain flavor and relative ease, but also knowing that there was no way my son would ever get near corned beef and cabbage. (For the record, anyone who has no taste/texture issues – the bread was delicious!)

At lunch with my husband today, we tried out a new restaurant. He is not a huge fan of Mexican food, but can usually find something he likes, mainly enchiladas. While he likes many foods I do not care for, he is often hesitant to try new things. (It’s really a miracle that our family ever eats at the same time as we are all food incompatible with each other!) Chuy’s, based out of Austin, was our lunch spot and it was delicious! His enchiladas came and had a tomatillo sauce on top. The look on his face was one of apprehension and worry. (Gah! Green! The horror!) Reluctantly he tried it – and liked it, even saying he would order it again! Win win!

Looking at the Facebook “On this day” feed, I saw that a friend had posted a recipe that I simply HAD to try – 2 years ago. It was a recipe for borscht, the Russian beet stew stuff. Hmm. I suppose after razzing Eric about trying new things, I should probably buck up and do the same. I scanned the ingredients and had most of them…all this cooking and different cultures swirling in my mind I decided to give it a go! Better late than never, right!?

Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

454 g ground pork (optional)

I used the pork. Delish. Bonus – Protein!

3 medium beets, peeled and shredded

Shredding was a pain. But worth it. You could also dice them, but cooking time would need to be extended.

3 carrots, peeled and shredded

3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1-6 ounce can tomato paste

¾ c water

½ head of cabbage, shredded

1-8 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

3 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste I recommend more than you might think, approximately 1 1/2 tsp each. I ended up wanting a tad more on my serving. 

Raw sugar to taste, approximately 1 tsp

I skipped this ingredient. Don’t need more sugar, but for as much as this recipe yields, it seemed insignificant. 

Sour cream and fresh parsley for garnish

This would have been nice, but I’m not a huge sour cream fan. I would make these optional.

Directions:

Brown ground pork over medium heat until no longer pink, drain and set aside. In a large soup pot, bring 2 litres of water to a boil. Add sausage and beets – cook until the beets have lost their colour. Add carrots and potatoes, cook until tender. Add cabbage and canned tomatoes.

2 liters = about 8 cups.

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Pretty beets. Pain in the butt to peel, but worth it!
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Looks like I slaughtered something – oh! It’s beets. (Notice that the last one is diced instead of shredded? Yeah, I’m not into shredding and neither are my knuckles!)
In a skillet, heat oil and cook onion until tender. Stir in tomato paste and ¾ c water until smooth. Add to soup. Add garlic, cover, and remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes then season with salt, pepper and sugar. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and parsley if desired.

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Regular white potatoes about to turn red!
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Getting there!
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And kid approved!
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Delicious!
We ate it with mini saltine crackers (classy, I know). This would be amazing with some toasted french bread. (Of course, french bread is always good, I’ve never met a loaf I didn’t like.)

Tex-Mex for lunch and Ukraine for dinner! How’s that for around the world cuisine?!

Greatness is Contagious

I was watching her – not only as a bootcamp participant, but as an instructor. Early on in my heart of hearts, I knew that I was watching and learning to become an instructor myself. Yes, I was getting my own fitness on track, but deep down I felt like this was something I would love to do. Concentrating on my form, sweat beads dropping from my hairline down my back and trying to eek out each rep, she hollered at us:

“Greatness is contagious! Don’t be that person that quits half way through! The person next to you is watching! You drop out, then she does. It is contagious! Don’t be the downfall of the people next to you! Be great! Catch the greatness!”

Needless to say, that when given that little gem – somehow you manage to find what little strength you have in the tank and give it your all. She was, and is, full of these fitness gems. (You can check out Christina and her other awesome Christina-isms at her website dumbellfitness.com.)

What she said was, and is, so very true. I see it as an instructor myself all the time. You may think that while you’re in your group class, stopping mid workout to check your phone that you are only affecting you, but you’re not. Everyone in the group feels that focus and that energy detract from the room. During indoor cycling class, I’ve threatened to bring in a basket “depository” for all electronics for the hour. I crack jokes in class to get the point across without singling anyone out – because a lot of the time I think it’s just become so customary. We have these screens attached to our fingertips all of the time that to set it down and (GASP!) actually turn them off seems to make us feel naked! For one hour – just one – take a break. Work on you. Leave all of your life at the door. Trust me – it will be there when you are finished. Fill your cup – then you can get back to filling others’. 

If you are coming to a group class, understand that you are a part of that group – even if it’s just for that workout. Your presence, your energy, and your focus is wanted and needed. It’s not about the instructor or ego or anything like that – it’s about your fellow participants. When you half-ass it, they see that and it is contagious. But so is greatness. If you are giving it everything you have, so will those around you. This isn’t to say you have to be perfect, or do every rep – it’s that you are doing YOUR best. Giving it your all.

In fitness, we don’t half-ass it. We use our whole ass. Why? Because greatness is contagious!