SPRING CLEANING

 

I’ve been looking around our house the past few months, wondering how in the world we ever called ourselves minimalists.  It’s funny how quickly stuff just piles up.  The past two weeks I have been spring cleaning, though! It was a spring cleaning that turned into a spring purge and ended in a fresh coat of paint through the main room, and now everything is MUCH easier to tidy and fresher to look at! 

I really wish I could be a minimalist, but I know I have a tendency to save things.  When we were on our honeymoon, we watched Hoarders for the first time, and I was so convicted and motivated, it began our little journey of living more simply.  Pete was an unintentional minimalist in college: he didn’t call himself one, but I was shocked the first time I saw his dorm room.  It looked like he could pack up and leave in the night with just a bag on his back, and I was intrigued. 

Eventually, 3 years into our marriage, somebody walked into our apartment and asked if we were just moving in because it looked so empty– we had lived there almost a year.  It was thrilling being on the minimal side of that question! 

And then life happened; birthdays and holidays felt too close together, we bought a house, and eventually it seemed as if clothes and books and toys were pouring out of every drawer, corner, and empty shelf.  It was past time to reevaluate.  I viciously purged out 3 van loads full of stuff to the thrift store and an entire van full of trash/recycling.  I was even finally able to pitch some things that have made it through all the other purges over the years: some textbooks and sentimental items.

It all felt so refreshing and echo-ey that I decided to give our living room a fresh white coat of paint.  It was the perfect way to end a crazy week of spring cleaning, and I’m satisfied with how it looks.  Most of all, I’m pleased with how empty all the little spaces feel again.

Although I wish I could just pitch stuff once and be done, there’s a constant, sneaky flow of stuff coming into our home that piles up so quickly!  Gifts and hand-me-downs, things we purchase, and things the kids pick up here and there are somehow steadily streaming through our doors.  I’m realizing this is another repetitive life processes that never ends.  It’s nice to have a springtime to remind us to open our windows and the doors of every nook and cranny hiding all the unnecessary things taking up space in our homes.

The biggest bonus after my massive spring clean this year: I can tidy so quickly!  I know some people enjoy tidying constantly, but I don’t.  I don’t naturally want to walk around picking up and rearranging little things all day long.  However, because I enjoy cleanliness so much, the only solution I see is having less stuff to tidy.  With fewer clothes comes less laundry; fewer toys make less pickup time; less furniture means less dusting. 

And now it’s Friday, and I’m about to go do a quick house cleanup to prep for the weekend, and I’m so excited to tackle what I know will maybe take an hour instead of three! 

BARBECUE TOFU DINNER


I’m blocking out the sounds of the television as I write because we managed to have such a productive day, the kids are getting to enjoy a show while I take a few moments at my desk. The toddler is napping, my tofu is pressing for dinner, and I’m sipping some afternoon tea in this nice, quiet moment after a full day of learning, reading, playing, and an outing to the library. I made it to my scheduled writing time without even scribbling a tiny note on a scrap of paper today; the productivity of today feels noteworthy!

And, just like that, after 10 minutes of writing, I was distracted for 3 hours playing Stratego with Jude (his 4 year old version), finishing dinner, and cleaning up dinner.  However, that’s okay because now I can talk about the tofu that I nonchalantly mentioned above.  In reality, this is the first time I’ve tried cooking it.  And truthfully, I’ve been scared to attempt it.  I decided, however, I needed to try something new for protein after eating an on-again off-again vegetarian diet for about 7 years and never once using tofu.  I’ve eaten a lot of tofu prepared by restaurants that has left me more than unsatisfied, and I think I’ve assumed if they can’t cook it in a way that I like, why would I ever be able to do any better?  I found a few recipes I want to try eventually, but I finally settled on this recipe from ohmyveggies.com entitled Baked Barbecue Tofu (Tofu for Tofu Haters).  This seemed like a good place to start, when barbecue is loved in our home and tofu is new.

To begin, I research research RESEARCH everything to the extreme, and cooking tofu was no exception. I learned from a vegan cookbook from the library that firm tofu cooks best, and all tofu has to be pressed to remove the excess water from it so the blandness of the tofu can be replaced with whatever flavored sauce you choose to cook it in. I followed the tofu prep directions from the cookbook and the recipe closely, and I think I can say it was a hit! Kids weren’t clamoring for more, but we all ate what was on our plates and only the two year old wouldn’t eat his. For dinner tonight I paired it with roasted potatoes and a simple oven-roasted asparagus recipe (one of our favorite’s) from the pioneer woman.  I’m still unsure of the texture; I think that’s the number one reason I’ve been disappointed with tofu before.  However, as far as a meat replacement, it took the place of chicken in a way black beans never can.  I’ll be trying this recipe again but not before I try crumbling tofu in vegetarian tacos first.  I’m hoping crumbling it will hide the texture…?  I’ll let you know when I try it!

What about you? Are you a tofu lover or tofu hater? Do you have a favorite tofu recipe? I would love to hear your favorite way to eat it!

WHAT OUR KIDS EAT ON A PLANT-BASED DIET

I have a secret that I never tell people in person: one of the reasons we homeschool is so that we can feed our children healthy food.  The amount of processed food going into kids these days by the hand of caregivers is ridiculous, and there’s no way to justify it.  When the ingredients aren’t even real food, it shouldn’t take the place of food no matter how cheap or easy it is to prepare.  We can’t give up and grow unhealthy kids for the sake of convenience!

Children are just like adults, and they won’t learn lasting healthy habits if we focus on what we shouldn’t be feeding them.  If our kids think foods high in sugar and fat are good–even in moderation–they will think we are depriving them of good food when we ask them to eat healthy foods.  Because they don’t know any different, they will eat unhealthy foods until they are sick.  It’s our job to regulate what goes into their bodies and teach them about how our bodies work!  They WANT to eat healthy food when they understand that the food they eat grows the cells in their bodies and each cell creates more cells until that group of cells becomes them. 

Kids don’t want to be tricked; they know we have more power than them and that we could manipulate or deceive them.  They’re naturally cautious of our motives and will rebel if they don’t think our reasons are for their benefit.  If we aren’t letting them in on the great secrets of how cells divide and grow our bodies, they won’t ever see the importance of eating healthy foods.  Because processed foods taste good and are often easy and fun, they’ll only eat veggies if they understand the importance of real food. 

Kids are also brutal bullies, and food is a seemingly innocent thing that kids bully each other over.  As adults, we often miss kids bullying each other over food, or we miss its power.  If we place our kids in a setting where it’s cool to have the newest processed food and uncool to bring their healthy lunch, they’ll ignore our pleas that they eat healthy, and we’ll lose the food battle (a battle that is actually for their health.)    

After all that, I feel like I should have a great master menu of what the meals and foods are that I give our kids, but really I just try to shove as much fruit and vegetables into them as possible!  Nothing is packaged or processed.  Breakfast gets loaded down with fruit, lunch is fruits and vegetables, and we have at least 2-3 different vegetables at dinner.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard about eating a plant-based diet is to eat some form of protein at every meal.  This is especially important with kids.  Whether it’s just a handful of nuts, nut butter, seeds, beans, or eggs, protein keeps them full and satisfied.   

It’s a glimmer of hope when one of the kids voluntarily asks if a food is healthy or not.  I hope they internalize the why behind healthy eating and continue to make healthy choices for themselves as they get older.  For now I think it’s our responsibility to teach our kids that food from the earth is good and anything else should be avoided or eaten cautiously in moderation.  

Do you struggle with getting your kids to eat healthy foods?  Do you have any tips that I didn’t talk about that help get kids to choose healthy foods on their own?  Let me know!  I’d love to hear how you teach your kids about eating healthy!


 

SPRING THINGS

We’ve been spending SO much time outside the past few days because the sun finally came out, and it feels like spring this week!  We are officially warming up, and enjoying our last days in the woods behind our house before the poison ivy and copperheads take over. 

Gardening: I’m always motivated this time of year every year to start a garden.  For a few years I grew a successful garden planted in large tubs on our patio.  Last year was our first summer in our new house, and I spent spring break building raised garden beds and planning out my garden.  However, I discovered we don’t have enough sun in our yard because we live in the woods.  The plants grew but didn’t give us any produce; it was really disappointing.  I also planted watermelon directly in mounds on the ground without raised beds, and something dug them up.  I think it was an armadillo, but we also have squirrels, rabbits, opossums, deer, and raccoon in our yard regularly, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.  This year I’m just giving up and turning the raised beds into sandboxes.  I think we might have enough sun on our deck to plant things in containers, but I’m really trying to have self control this year and not purchase any plants.  We’re wanting to travel some this summer, so a garden wouldn’t survive without us home anyway.

Morning workouts: Morning workouts have been my thing this month.  Every morning for the month of March, actually.  I know that’s normal for some people, but not for me.  I’m normally really inconsistent when it comes to the time of day I feel like working out.  I’m trying to be more disciplined, though. 

Yoga: For years I thought yoga was boring.  I also had trouble with the asymmetrical-ness: when the workout would spend too long on one side of the body before switching sides I would get an OCD panic that we would never get around to completing the exact same exercises and stretches on the other side of the body.  However, when weight lifting and other fast paced bodyweight workouts weren’t interesting anymore, I had to find something else.  I went months bored and frustrated last year doing the same workouts over and over; I even ended up going a few months doing almost nothing.  I think different workouts fit different seasons of our life, and what works one year might not work the next.  We have to be willing to search out something different and not give up altogether.  I started trying different things, and yoga stuck.  I realized I had never found a good yoga workout video, and found a few great ones that I really like.  I still haven’t gone to an actual class yet (I know, I need to), but I’m really enjoying my morning yoga at home for now!

Spring allergies: I can’t talk about spring without mentioning allergies.  This past week has gotten really bad.  I can’t go outside without suffering through sneezing and itchy, watery eyes.  For now, I can’t run outside, but I’m thankful it only lasts a few weeks and then I’m back to normal.  Spring is still my favorite season in the Ozarks, regardless of the allergies!

Spring break: We’re having spring break at home this year, and loving it! Sometimes it’s just nice to stay home and do home things without the rush and seriousness of regular life.  We’re taking care of all the errands that are easier with two adults (one to watch kids and the other to run the errand!)  Pete’s been running every morning; I’ve been teaching ESL classes every morning online; the kids have been playing outside every day; we’ve had family visit…and this is just the beginning of the week!  

All the sunshine we’re having is so refreshing after so many cloudy days this winter.  I’m off to enjoy another day of our spring break!  I hope you are all enjoying this first week of spring!

OUR PLANT-BASED DIET

A couple months ago I was feeling foggy, sluggish, and depressed and couldn’t figure out why or what to do about it. I kind of just blamed it on winter and waited for it to pass. Then, one day I was reading my workout journal, and I realized how much our diet had changed over the previous months. I realized I had fallen into the habit of focusing on avoiding unhealthy food and controlling portions instead of focusing on what food I was eating. It may not sound like a big difference, but it is EVERYTHING!

About 6 years ago, as I was attempting to discover some food/gut issues, I went through a pretty rigorous elimination diet. I was able to discover some root causes for lifelong symptoms (I have an unusual food sensitivity to yeast). As I was eating the most basic foods allowed on an elimination diet, I wondered why we ever add anything else! These foods were allowed because they have no reason to ever make anybody sick. That was when we first began to eat a plant-based diet. I was very strict in the beginning, but I hate the food conversation; it can get so awkward, especially if other people are serving us food, so we tend to slack off when we’re around others. I think the fear of that conversation even reached into the online world, and I wasn’t even interested in writing about it here. However, since I’ve recently struggled with this again and was reminded how much better I can feel, I finally want to write about it. If eating a certain way keeps me feeling energetic and sane, it’s worth sharing!

Eating plant-based is a lifestyle diet, not a temporary way to lose weight.
It’s not about counting calories or even trying to lose weight (because you can easily find plant-based foods to overeat.) It’s about feeling better. We simply plan all our meals around plants instead of treating fruits and vegetables as side dishes. Fruits and vegetables become the main courses. For instance, instead of sprinkling a few blueberries on top of oatmeal for breakfast, I will sprinkle a few raw oats on top of frozen blueberries with coconut milk. Or spaghetti squash instead of pasta noodles and plant based proteins instead of meat. It doesn’t have to be complicated to be healthy! We avoid meat and animal products on a regular basis, but I think the only way for us to make eating plant-based sustainable is to be okay with eating these things when we’re with friends and family. This is especially true with the kids; when they’re at home they eat what we eat and don’t know any different, but we can’t control everything they eat when we’re away from home, and it’s never worth the struggle!

When the focus is on what good we can/should be eating, we’re suddenly packing ourselves full of vitamins and nutrients that make the cells in our bodies thrive and feel alive! If we follow a “healthy” diet but don’t replace the things we’ve removed from our diets with fresh, raw alternatives, we still won’t feel better. We really are what we eat! This shift in focus also keeps us from feeling deprived. A huge part of our relationship with food is in our heads. When it’s a mental battle of wills, our stomachs almost always win. We have to give ourselves better options and good reasons why we’re not eating the delicious unhealthy foods, otherwise it just becomes a failed diet.


The good news for me was that it didn’t take long to feel better. Within a week of eating plant-based I had more energy, and within 2-3 weeks I felt better mentally and emotionally. These are my results, not necessarily the results everybody will see. Although I’d love to hear your results if you do eat a plant-based diet or if you ever choose to try it out!