Real Food Challenge – Week #10

For 14 weeks, the family and I are undertaking a Real Food Challenge (put forth by the awesome 100 Days of Real Food blog). I’m hoping to check in about any struggles and successes along the way each week. Our ultimate goal is to cut down on our dependence on processed foods and start using some cleaner fuels to energize our bodies. And stuff.

So, here’s how it works. I’ll get an email every Thursday for the next 14 weeks (the actual eating challenge will start on Sunday or Monday for 7 days, so there are a couple of days of grocery prep built in). Each email outlines the “rules” for that particular week. It’s up to each participant as to whether or not they’d like to try each week independently or build on top of the prior week. In other words, continuing doing the prior weeks while attempting the new weeks, if that makes sense. There’s also a very active Facebook group (I’ve actually joined an offshoot that’s super supportive and far more focused) that’s there to share, answer and support.

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Review of Week #9: This week has been the week of “no refined sugars, only maple syrup and honey.” (Some people on our message board were getting scared about the lactose in milk, but as I see it, it’s naturally occurring…just like the fructose in fruit. We’ll let those rest.) For the most part, we’ve done well. But, I won’t lie: We inadvertently cheated a couple of times. Hadley baked some goodies with his grandma the other day, which were loaded with traditional sugar (she sent some home, but I put it in the freezer to enjoy at a later date). Dave ate some crackers that had some sneaky sugar in them. Our croutons had hidden sugar…dang it. But, mine was probably the worst. I had a kid bring me a cupcake after a very long, stressful day, and I gulped it down without even thinking about the challenge. Oops!!!

Plus, I’ve got plans this weekend that pretty much demand that I eat “out”. Pretty sure even a wrap or sandwich of some sort will include some hidden sugar (wrap your head around THAT one!); and dessert will be a must, so there goes that. I suck.

Otherwise, our meals and snacks have been either devoid of any sweeteners or made with maple syrup. I baked some of Lisa’s carrot applesauce muffins with maple syrup and learned FAST to freeze a majority and store the ones I hoped to eat within a day in the fridge. Seriously. I felt awful when I had baked them, tossed them in bags, and sat down to enjoy mine Monday afternoon for a snack…only to find bits of green forming all over the top. INSANE. So, there’s my tip of the day: all-natural = refrigerate the darn things. That said, they were super moist and I might have packaged them too soon before cooling, so it’s probably part user error.

My other trick of the week involved my coffee. I’m trying to cut back, but my energy has been low (trying to kickstart my at-home yoga sessions again!). So, when I do drink the stuff, I found that the syrup was too heavy tasting and had a definite depth from the maple. So, I tried raw honey, which I usually loathe, but it gave the perfect light sweetened taste without that “bee puke” aftertaste. Plus, it’s FULL of antioxidants (the coffee was far from boiling, so they were left intact). Win-win!!


Week #10 Challenge: Next week seems suspiciously easy, so I know it’ll be a greater challenge than I expect: No refined oils. So, the only oils we’re allowed for the week are: butter, olive oil, and coconut oil. (To be specific, the butter should be at the very least organic from pastured cows, the olive oil should be extra virgin, cold-pressed and unfiltered, and the coconut oil should be organic, unrefined and centrifuged if possible.)

Now, this isn’t very different from our norm, except that I have been buying just plain ol’ store-brand (or Cabot; VT, woot!) butter. Our CO & EVOO are fine, though. The Dorky Daddy has been teasing me for awhile about the “GMO butter” I’ve been buying, but the other stuff that our store offers is a) super expensive, b) salted and c) from an organic brand that we don’t support. I’ve swallowed my pride, looked away at the checkout line, and hooked the family up with some Horizon (ugh) butter as well as a package of Kerrygold, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. 😉

There are sneaky issues here, though. Firstly, we won’t be able to eat out AT ALL. (We haven’t in awhile, but still. Knowing that you can’t sucks.) Secondly, much like with the sugar last week, things are hidden. Our favorite organic cereal bars undoubtedly have some sort of organic vegetable oil in them. Crackers? The same. Pretty much anything we might like to munch one, it’s there.

So, my strategy for the week is to once again be proactive. I hope to make some more muffins or a homemade granola bar of some sort, maybe a french toast bake that can stretch a couple of breakfasts, and hopefully some tortillas if I have the time. Plus, even though he’s busy with rehearsals (which tosses an extra challenge into dinners), the hubby will probably be called into his stellar popcorn-making service a couple times (he’ll make a HUGE batch during the weekend that lasts us about half the week). He usually douses it with a scant amount of butter and a teensy bit of salt, which will suffice. (Side note: Totally impossible to walk by that bowl and not grab a handful here and there. I dare you. Impossible.)

It’s looking like a lot of cooking for me this week, though. Eep!

Here are my meal ideas for the week…fingers crossed!

  

Cheap (or Free!) Ways to Embrace Trends

Be they fashion, decor, technology, or anything else, “trends” can be kind of negative. And, to some extent, I agree. When a few years fly by, we find ourselves laughing or rolling our eyes at what we once thought was “cool.” However, I’ve realized that it’s up to us to decide which trends are worth our time (and money) or not. As with all things in life, we have to be true to ourselves and always go with our own individual interests and tastes in the end. I wholly believe that.

But, it doesn’t mean that we have to completely ignore the world outside our own minds. Some trends help to light a spark inside you that can help freshen up your life, fill you with inspiration, or put a spring in your step. I’ve discovered some of my favorite colors and prints after seeing them used in a really fun, creative way on a blog or store display. As long as it’s not ethically immoral (say, fur or a demeaning message), I’ll always give something new a little consideration. Sometimes I immediately know it’s not for me. Other times, I fall in love.

Says the girl who once adamantly brushed aside the latest fads for Punky Brewster mismatched clothes, a Peter Tork haircut and tie-dyed tees, and a short-lived ’50s James Dean (like, guy clothes) wardrobe. Take what I say with a grain of salt. I’m clearly not a fashionista. (Even that term is outdated.)    

Anyway, even as a girl who considers herself to be pretty eco-friendly and minimalist, I feel greatly that while we purge, we still need to surround ourselves with joy…simply.

So, today I’m sharing a few simple ways to embrace trends without totally breaking the bank and completely overhauling your own uniqueness. (After all, that’s what’s most important in the end.) Some of these ideas are to spruce up your surroundings and others are wardrobe-related. All are just a little inspiration to try to mix up the old with some new-ish styles.

Cheap Accessories Help Layer in the Fun – This chevron print infinity scarf is a great example of one of my favorite things about trends: they clearly failed history class because they keep repeating it. For only $15 (or on sale if you’re lucky), you can brighten up your bland wardrobe. This is honestly the only chevron print I’ve seen that isn’t overdone (it almost looks like diagonal stripes), so my attention is less on the print and more on the vintage-inspired colors. Oh, and a great pair of sunglasses (I grab mine at TJ Maxx for the cheapest options) helps bring it all together.

Put Some Spring in Your Step with a New Shoe – It may seem subtle, but switching out your usual flip flops for a cute sandal with fringe detail can bring you happily into the warmer seasons. The rest of your outfit may be a slouchy old t-shirt and capris or skinny jeans (yes, I’ve jumped on that bandwagon, too; don’t tell my 15-year-old self), but an inexpensive (this one’s about $20) shoe can help wake it up.

Try a New Style of Pant with Subtle Details – Trying a new style can be downright frightening. (Almost as scary as bathing suit shopping. Eep.) So, if you’re a little shy, try to keep to a solid color. If you’re a touch more daring, try for a very subtle pattern, like this gorgeous colored (they say it’s red but it sways towards my favorite “new” color, coral) with dots. The fact that these pixie ankle pants remind me of Laura on the Dick Van Dyke Show makes me want to run, not walk, to my closest Old Navy. No, seriously. Oh, and I tend not to pay $35 for pants, so I’d suggest waiting for a sale (they’re currently on sale for $30…still iffy, but better).       

Pillows, Pillows, Pillows – One of my favorite ways to include some new trends around the house is with the use of throw pillows. I usually buy mine at TJ Maxx (yes, again), but Target and World Market are great alternatives for inexpensive pillows. I usually pay between $10 – $15, but even upwards of $20 is worth it for a pillow if you fall in love with it. This World Market pillow uses the southwestern/tribal motif while the Target pillows follows more of a geometric, ’80s color vibe. (Okay, who am I kidding? The ’80s are back. Cue clapping and cheering from my husband.)

Do It Yourself – This is one of my favorite ways to get a trend you love without breaking the bank. While I haven’t done any projects lately, I always keep an eye out for super inexpensive (but good quality) pieces to transform. I actually have a couple of super old, super inexpensive (like $20 for both) wooden chairs that need to be stripped, and I’m giving serious consideration into doing the paint-dipped look like Remodelista shows here. 

Bonus:
#1 – Buy Vintage – What’s old is new again! Hit up your local thrift shops and antique stores to see what once-scary item might serve a new purpose.

#2 – Free Printables – Depending in your style, there are free printables available from a ton of blogs and sites. Just Google your taste or check by your favorite blog and see what comes up. I’m loving this calendar from Vintage Revivals that uses the geometric trend wonderfully but in a fun, easy (and free!) way:

So, what are your favorite trends lately? Do you skew “classic”, “trendy”, or somewhere else? (I’m definitely all over the place, myself!)

(There are actually no affiliate links in today’s post, despite the links. Just wanted to share some thoughts and inspiration. No kick-backs. :-))

Essential Oils – How We Do

Real Food Challenge – Week #9

For 14 weeks, the family and I are undertaking a Real Food Challenge (put forth by the awesome 100 Days of Real Food blog). I’m hoping to check in about any struggles and successes along the way each week. Our ultimate goal is to cut down on our dependence on processed foods and start using some cleaner fuels to energize our bodies. And stuff.

So, here’s how it works. I’ll get an email every Thursday for the next 14 weeks (the actual eating challenge will start on Sunday or Monday for 7 days, so there are a couple of days of grocery prep built in). Each email outlines the “rules” for that particular week. It’s up to each participant as to whether or not they’d like to try each week independently or build on top of the prior week. In other words, continuing doing the prior weeks while attempting the new weeks, if that makes sense. There’s also a very active Facebook group (I’ve actually joined an offshoot that’s super supportive and far more focused) that’s there to share, answer and support.


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Review of Week #8 – This past week was all about listening to internal cues to stop eating when we were full. I took this also to mean no mindless snacking (at least, not on crap ;-)). So, while it sounds simple and we did great with it, we needed a few reminders. I tend to eat a smaller lunch with some mid-morning yogurt and a healthy snack in the afternoon (depending on my schedule) from my pregnancy days, so it actually makes it easier to make it to the next meal. But, yeah, it was fine. Definitely not an issue.

We’ll see about this upcoming week, though…

Week #9 – This week will involve eating no refined or artificial sweeteners. In other words, foods and beverages can only be sweetened with a moderate amount of honey or maple syrup…which I’m not that great with. I normally use raw organic sugar in my tea or coffee (a little less than a teaspoon, which is an improvement but still significant). The consequences also mean no baking (unless using maple syrup or honey), none of my usual granola bars, etc. I’m not pleased. (And, spoiler alert, in a few weeks I won’t be allowed ANY added sugars. No syrup on pancakes, aaaarrrrgggghhhh!!! #firstworldproblems)

So, my solutions are as follows: Yes, I’m going to bake. We already have pancakes for H’s breakfasts for the week (and ours, if we like), but for that granola bar craving I tend to get, I’m trying out the 100 Days of Real Food Whole-Wheat Carrot Applesauce Muffins. Gotta say, I may need to make another dozen mid-week since Dave has already proclaimed his admiration for them. (He’s right; they’re really good.)

I JUST happened to buy a new organic ketchup which, of course, contains sugar. SO, since I’m jonesin’ for some meatloaf (in the guise of meat muffins…something about muffins), I plan on making some sugar-free ketchup. The recipe I found is a non-cook one, which is VERY different from what I’ve read in my great grandmother’s recipe notebook, so we’ll see how it comes out. Oh, and I happened to find a pasta sauce that doesn’t have sugar, although I could’ve made my own…but, yeah. I’m not my mother, and that’s okay.

I also discovered two breads that meet my personal guidelines for this challenge. Our usual “white” bread is actually a peasant bread from a local bakery. It’s not organic, but it has very few ingredients and is completely natural. I’m also super excited to see that the Barowsky’s Organic 100% Whole Wheat Bread I buy on occasion is a honey wheat — no other sugars. Score!

Here’s my “guide” for the week: