Food Rant: The No Time Myth

Disclaimer: As Maya Angelou says, “When you know better, you do better.” Before I get contrary comments, I’m coming out right now and saying that in terms of health and nutrition, there are situational exceptions. Not everyone has had the opportunity to learn these things, factors involving poverty, homelessness, etc. that I am not addressing here. I’m talking to the majority of us who haven’t taken the time to really be conscious of what we are feeding ourselves and our families, were taught but got lazy, or are tired of feeling like crap from eating food out of packages day in and day out.

When it comes to food and meal preparation, it’s no mystery that ours is a culture that prizes convenience. In the documentary Fresh, the quote is that Americans fear nothing but being inconvenienced. In my own experience and observations it rings true. (Even when it comes to other matters, such as a slow internet connection, or traffic lights, we get disproportionately upset by delays and frustrations.)

Here’s my theory: When it comes to food, we’ve been fed the line that “we are so busy,” that we “deserve a break today,” and that cooking from scratch is really hard, labor intensive, and time consuming. We just don’t have time to cook. I call a big fat B.S. If people really thought about it, or were taught how to cook, it wouldn’t be such a daunting task, and more importantly, we would be less apt to buy into the idea that we are just too busy. We’d know better.

Here are a couple of real world examples:

Old Fashioned Oats vs. Instant Oatmeal in a packet (with fruit flavoring, usually)

First off, tearing off the packet, pouring water in a bowl and nuking it in the microwave, takes all of 1 minute, plus 1 more minute of standing/cooling. Old Fashioned oats? They take all of 5 minutes. You’re saving a whopping 3 minutes. Seriously? Boiling water or heating milk and adding some old fashioned oats is super easy, and tastes better. Top with fresh fruit instead of fruit-like flavors made of who knows what. If you need a little sweetness, add some honey, cinnamon, or even a bit of brown sugar. It’s tasty, it fills you up with lasting energy (with no crash later), and it takes 5 minutes. Don’t tell me you don’t have 5 minutes in the morning. Drop the drive through Starbucks coffee and you have more than 5 minutes.

And if that wasn’t enough, check out the ingredients in the apple cinnamon instant oatmeal packet:

Oatmeal Ingredients

First off, sugar is the second ingredient! (the higher up on the list an ingredient is, the more of it there is in the package). Creaming agent? What the heck? Gross! Partially hydrogenated anything – you don’t want! Partially hydrogenated=trans fats. And you’ll notice they put a little note at the bottom that says it adds “an insignificant amount of trans fats”. These man-made chemical nasties in any amount are not good. Peach flavor? I thought this was supposed to be apples and cinnamon. Bottom line: if they aren’t ingredients you wouldn’t cook with in your own kitchen, chances are they aren’t that great for you. Put ’em back and grab the old fashioned oats. They’re better for you, they’re customizable, and no nasty ingredients!

Macaroni and Cheese – the blue box vs. homemade

Boil water, cook the noodles, add orange powder, a bit of milk and some butter. Stir. Boiling water takes a few minutes. (If you’re really cool and have a high-tech stove, it can be as little as 90 seconds!) Start with hot tap water and it takes less time. But making homemade mac and cheese takes THE EXACT SAME AMOUNT OF TIME. You aren’t saving any time by buying the blue box. And in fact, based on these crap ingredients, are losing big time in terms of health:

Kraft-Mac-ingredients

That list is HUGE! What is interesting is that currently, Kraft uses dyes (yellow 5 and 6) that have been shown to cause behavior issues with kids. (What’s shocking is that our kids aren’t glowing after eating the stuff! It’s nearly neon!) This stuff is really bad news. The same stuff sold in the U.K., not so much. Why? Why don’t we care about what we eat? Want to know how to make homemade macaroni and cheese? It’s easy! Boil the water, add noodles (buy whatever shape you like!), cook and drain. To the warm pot, add 1-2 tbls of butter, 1/4-1/2 cup of milk, shredded cheddar cheese and the drained noodles. Stir! Yum! Easy! (If you want go for the gold, you can even pop it in the oven for 5 minutes on 400 or broil with a little shredded cheese on top and panko bread crumbs for crunch!) Add in some diced lean ham or turkey and some broccoli for a complete meal. It’s really just not that hard!

Many convenience foods are like this. You can make them yourself at home, for about the same amount of time, but more nutritious and without ingredient lists that read like a chemistry text book. This doesn’t just apply to stay at home parents. Growing up, I know I was fortunate to have parents who cooked at home nearly every night. But you know what? They both worked full time. (For many years, they both worked multiple jobs, but still managed to put a meal together.) Again, it’s not just for the stay at home parents. Eating real food can be done. Don’t buy the lie that we are all just too busy. If we are too busy to eat – we’re too dang busy! Feeding ourselves is a life skill. We have to eat to survive!

 In my research, I came across a yahoo question from what I can only assume was young person (early teens, I’m guessing) preparing a meal for a 6 year old sibling. The question was, “How do I make oatmeal?” I’m not sure what I was more shocked at, the fact that he or she was unable to read the directions (again, I’m assuming this was a teenager), or the fact that he or she hasn’t been taught how to cook. Even if I hadn’t been taught how to cook at home, which I was, I learned quite a bit in my home economics class in school as well. How are we not teaching people to feed themselves? Am I alone in thinking this is crazy?! Most of us eat everyday, how do we not know how to prepare it for ourselves? It starts with us as parents. We need to teach our kids how to cook. We do them no favors by doing everything for them, or buying it out of a box or a drive through window. 

Thoughts?

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Goin’ Out on a Limb….

Yeah. So I’m gonna go out on a limb for a minute and rant.

This morning I got up, fed the kids and checked messages and came across a Facebook post about Miley Cyrus. Wondering what all the hubbub was about, I checked the YouTube video of her “performance” on the VMAs.  The look on Will and Jada Smith’s face in the audience said it all. I won’t link to the video because I don’t think it really needs any more hits.

Here’s my question: When did being a singer/actress/celebrity become a constant cry for attention? And if I hear one more person in the public eye complain about the “pressure”, I’m gonna puke. (Come and talk to a single parent or a military spouse about pressure!) If you want to be famous, you HAVE to know that by now, that comes with a certain level of responsibility.

I love talented celebrities. While Lady Gaga may not be for everyone, when she is outlandish and crazy, she’s making a statement – and it’s not ALWAYS about sex. I am beyond tired of the Brittney/Lindsey/Miley Disney-product-good-girl-gone-bad” story line. It’s tired. If you have talent – sing. Act. Dance. Do what you love and are passionate about. The fame thing – so over it.

No, I am not a prude, I vividly remember sitting wide-eyed as Madonna danced around in her cone bra. But there is a constant pushing of the envelope, pushing the limits of what is socially acceptable. I know sex sells. I get it. But perhaps if we stopped buying the cheapened version of it, we wouldn’t have to quickly change the channel so our 4 year old won’t ask questions that he is not equipped to handle just yet.

Thoughts?

Things You Should Not Say To Me While Ringing Up My Purchases

There are so many instances where I’ve nearly left a pile of drool at the checkout line because my mouth was gaping open, shocked at the audacity of people and the things they say. So much so, that I felt compelled to share the list of what customer service people should never say to me (or anyone else) at the register.

1. Do not tell me how to parent my child. If I wanted your advice, I would ask for it. And if I’m asking for advice, I’m probably not going to solicit someone who I don’t know, doesn’t know my kids, or someone who may not even have kids of their own. Seriously – I’m sure you are just the “best auntie ever”, but if you don’t have kids of your own – you really shouldn’t be handing out parental advice. (The only exception to this would be if you are a teacher.)

1.b. Don’t parent my child for me. This has happened to me only twice. Both times a person attempted to tell my son what not to do. (He was eyeing the candy and the clerk told him no.) I laughed. (And no, I didn’t buy the candy.)

2. Unless you are 1000% sure – do not comment on what a “big boy” my baby is (when she is in fact a girl in head-to-toe pink!) Just say how beautiful my baby is and move on.

3. Do not comment on the price of an item. As in, “Whoa! You’re gonna pay how much for that?!” No lie. This actually happened to me, over a pair of $40 jeans. Umm. You work here. At the place that sells the jeans at the price you are balking at. Why the shock?

4. Do not make judgments out loud about anything I am buying. Everyone is of course entitled to their opinion. I just don’t need to hear yours when you feel critical or morally superior.

5. Don’t ask weird questions. Questions like, “Wow. you have a lot of vegetables here. And all organic. You some kind of health nut?” How the heck am I supposed to answer that? “Why yes, I try to be a super-wacko!” Good grief!

6. Please, for the love of all that is holy, do not tell me your life’s story. I am sure you are a very sweet person and working retail is VERY hard, I know. But these two minions in my cart have a limited attention span. If we don’t speed it up, I’m seriously going to have an aneurism.

7. Yes, 15-year-old customer service rep, they are feminine products. No I’m not really embarrassed, but I can clearly see that you are. I’m sorry. It’s part of life. You’ll get over it.

8.  Please don’t tell me to do your job for you. At the Navy Exchange there are a few customer service reps that sit while ringing up customers. I don’t have a problem with that. I used to be a bank teller, I know long days on your feet are rough. But there is one rep, (the one I avoid like the plague) who is rude and actually said, “I’m too tired to get up and reach your stuff. Put  your stuff closer to the scanner.” It was literally inches from her hand. I almost laughed. Then I realized she was dead serious.

9. Please don’t check your phone in the middle of our transaction. I think it is very rude for customers to talk on cell phones while simultaneously treating the person behind the counter as if they are a robot. It’s obnoxious and demeaning. I keep my phone off and I expect you to do the same.

1o. Do not act as if I don’t exist. I am a person, too. Please don’t have a conversation with a co-worker and ignore me entirely.

I won’t be rude to you, you don’t be rude to me, mmmkay?

What crazy things have you heard while being waited on at the checkout line?

Businesses in a Box

I think entrepreneurship is great. Some people have the gumption to create their own business, turn their passion into a profit – more power to them! Here’s what I don’t like: the businesses in a box. The multi-level stuff.

I’ve dabbled in a couple of these “businesses”, but ultimately a person becomes a recruiter (“team builder”) if they want to make any real money at these ventures. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my Thirty-One bags, my Avon Skin So Soft, the Creative Memories crafting tools, etc, just as much as the next person. I think there are some folks who are EXCEPTIONAL at team building and recruiting and really make these things work. Kudos to you if this is you.

My beef? Relationship sabotage.

I was playing with the kids recently at the playground and in my “quest to chat up other parents at the playground” and generally step outside of my comfort zone and not be such a hermit, I had a very pleasant conversation with a dad who happened to have kids the same age as mine. As most parents do when you meet others with kids of a similar age, we compared notes of kids’ birth stories, ages, was a parent deployed while pregnant, developmental milestones, parenting philosophies – you name it. It was simply a pleasant conversation. As I was mentally patting myself on the back for stepping out, striking up a conversation, putting myself out there, and envisioning dinner dates with a new couple, the bomb drops.

“You know, you have a great personality. You would be great at my business. Have you ever heard of direct marketing or e-commerce?”

Dammit.

Now why’d you have to go and do that?!

UGH.  Yes, I know everyone “needs a plan b” and all that other garbage. I just left feeling used, set up, and generally disgusted. I started to question how authentic those kid story similarities were. Did he just make up stuff or embellish anecdotes to foster a common ground? Needless to say, a hasty exit was made and a “Thanks, but no thanks,” muttered as we went our separate ways.

I’ve also had the experience that when you “buy in” to one of these opportunities, all of a sudden you seem to have a new world of friends. They care about how you’re doing, both inside and outside of the business. When you decide it’s not for you – it may as well be 1642 and you have a scarlet letter on your chest.

I don’t have a problem with the products, it’s the business model I’m not a fan of. Don’t try to make money off of me. Stop trying to use your “sphere of influence” to make money off the lower rungs of the tier.

If you are my friend, be my friend. I’m just not interested in being business partners masquerading as friends.

Stuff

What is it about stuff?

We live in a culture dominated by the accumulation of more. Better stuff, bigger stuff, shiny stuff, stuff to impress others. I’m certainly no exception. Hello, my name is CurlyMama and I like stuff!

Recently my “niece” blogged about Project 333. You can read about it from her blog here. (The quotes around “niece” is simply because I find it funny that due to the timing of when my husband was born, many of his nieces and nephews are the same age or older!) After reading about Project 333, it got me to thinking. I am a purger by nature, but I’m also a shopper – and often the purging doesn’t quite keep up with the purchasing. Couple that with kids and their stuff, a husband who is definitely not a purger by nature (hello 4 bowling balls!) and we, like most people – end up with a lot of crap.  Being in the military adds an additional component. We move at least every three years. Often it’s more than that. Do I really need to keep a prom dress from nearly 20 years ago, carting it from duty station to duty station just for the memory and sentimental value? Does the thing itself really hold all the sentiment? Or can’t my memory and pictures of that day suffice?

I think we hang on to things (I do, anyway) because of 3 reasons. Sentimental reasons, practical reasons, and “goals”. My prom dress, or jewelry, are the perfect examples of sentimental reasons. I don’t think we hang on to stuff because of the stuff itself, it’s the emotion to which it is tied. Practical reasons to hang on to stuff would be, “But I might use it ‘someday’…” I haven’t used it in 6 years, but someday, I just might. Practicality is good. I’m not gonna just throw anything out, but my rule of thumb is that if I haven’t used a thing or worn it in the last 3 years, it’s going. I’m obviously not going to use it.

And finally, the reason many of us hang on to clothes – it’s the goal. Goal clothes are the ones we hang on to as we are working to lose weight. I admit, I’ve had my share of “hopeless goal” clothes as well as “realistic goal” clothes. I find the realistic ones are the ones that are only 1 or 2 sizes away, while unrealistic goals are those random pieces that we may have inherited from a friend who is a size 2 and we are a 14. While not outside the realm of possibility, it’s more of a long term goal and that article of clothing is taking up space. Space in the closet, yes, but also space in our heads. As we look over that item every morning as we are getting dressed, do we think to ourselves positive thoughts, or thoughts like, “ugh, I’m never going to fit into that!” and mentally beat ourselves up over and over.

My friend Carrie mentioned a quote about being organized in your environment leading to a calmness and peace on the inside. It may sound a little “whoo-hoo-y,” but I believe there is a spiritual/emotional element to living in disorganization and chaos and drowning under too much stuff. Not always tangible, not always well-articulated, but it is there.

All this to say, I’m joining my niece and doing a version of Project 333 myself. Join us, won’t you?

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(And mom, yes, I will be bringing it over for you to look through before it gets donated!)

I Don’t Give a CRAP About Your Dog

No, I don’t. I really don’t care about how Fluffy the doberman or Butch the Chihuahua are “just like your babies”.

Chihuahua chewing up a plant
Chihuahua chewing up a plant (Photo credit: DanCentury)
A female Doberman Pinscher.
A female Doberman Pinscher. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, before you send me all kinds of hate mail, please don’t misunderstand. I grew up with and have owned pets of all kinds. Horses, cats, fish, ferrets, and yes even dogs. I am an animal lover.

What I don’t love though, is their crap. Especially when I’m running. If I wanted an obstacle course on my run, I would have set it up myself without the aid of piles left by your precious one. And don’t tell me you forgot to bring doggie bags, because there are these dispensers about every 20 feet where I run. (And before you say anything, yes, they did have bags in them! I checked!)

dog poop bag dispenser
dog poop bag dispenser (Photo credit: Leo Reynolds

It probably wouldn’t go over well if I potty trained my 2 year old on your lawn. All I ask is that you pick up after your “baby” the same way I do mine.