Thursday, January 01, 2015

2014 year in review

  • Libby learned to read
  • Mae stopped using diapers
  • Mike graduated from school
  • I did a temp job in Seattle for several months, that I really liked

Biggest bummer:
   There's actually 2 bummers running a close race, but I'm going to say that the biggest bummer of 2014 was health issues.  We are all closing the year out healthy, so I'd really like to keep it that way.  Mae got her 2 front teeth capped in July, but then just last week finally lost the bad tooth that she had fallen on last year.  The tooth got infected and had to be pulled.  They gave it to her in a tiny purple treasure chest.  It looks funny with the cap on it, but she is really proud of that tooth.  
     In October, I passed a kidney stone, and the whole episode was relatively quick but the recovery took a long time and it was really worrisome.  I saw 2 doctors and they told me a long recovery isn't normal, but since it wasn't my first stone, I think the long recovery is normal for me.  So at least I know that for next time, and unfortunately the CT scan shows another stone present, so there will likely be a next time.
     Mike's health...there's not much new to say when a person has been sick for 4 years, or more, depending on what exactly you're focusing on.  But the thing to focus on now is that he is currently healthier than he has been in the last 4 years, and that is very good news.

One little word "healthy":
     And speaking of health, how did our family word for 2014 go?  Healthy.  Well, it wasn't a total joke although obviously it didn't become the magic word I had wanted it to be either.  In 2014 I read a lot about nutrition and healthy eating and I feel good about my family's food choices this year.  We still eat more fast food than we should, but for now (the short term) I am ok with it.  I'm actually more concerned about the price of the fast food, actually, but that's another subject.  One of the best reads this year on the subject of nutrition was Unmasking Superfoods by Jennifer Sygo.
I liked this book because Sygo shares my borderline obsessive demand for original source evidence. So it goes without saying that she does not accept any claims she reads on the Internet or hears on Oprah/Dr.Oz, or claims made on food labels or in health magazines.   She does not accept published results of food studies at face value, but instead, locates the original source data and analysis, and evaluates whether the study met scientific criteria that would have been required to back up the published results.  At that point the book become scientific almost to a fault, because the language and level of detail in these sections becomes textbook-like, and I admit I didn't read all the words, but just skipped ahead to the next section that was in layman's terms.  So, I personally didn't fact-check Sygo's work, but I enjoyed her fact-checking. 

     A read that I don't really recommend is Clean Eating magazine.  I had a subscription and I liked it ok, but it's a pretty thin publication and focuses quite a bit on low calorie recipes.  Now, truthfully, I have read that low calorie diets are beneficial to our bodies for reasons unrelated to weight loss.  But Clean Eating seems to be focused on weight loss.  If they aren't, then in the past year they have never addressed why they spend so many pages on low calorie menu plans.  They are also quick to repeat hype about superfoods, and though some articles do indicate that fact-checking was involved, most of the magazine text is just small one or two-sentence snips that were likely obtained from a quick Google search.

     On my life long nemesis, menu planning, which I believe to be a factor in being healthy - I think I have finally solved the problem.  One of my many roadblocks is that many menu planners encourage you to take inventory of your pantry or leftovers so you can build menu plans around what you already have.  This is a dangerous roadblock to me, since to be honest, we have so much food we have to store it in one of SIX locations in my house.  Obsessing about eating from our home store just ends up causing paralysis.  And then I had an epiphany.  As I was sorting all the recipes I have collected over many years, I noticed that there really aren't that many different types of recipes in existence.  I compare it to the concept that there's only 7 stories in the world, and every book/movie is just a variation on one of the 7 basic plots.  Such is the case with food recipes.  I have joked about this before, regarding Mexican food.  All Mexican food has the same ingredients.  It's just presented in different shapes.  Italian food is pretty much the same.  I remember once rattling off the standard list of ingredients in all Italian recipes.  I was talking to Mike, with my back to the TV, which was tuned to Giada.  Mike laughed as my list exactly coincided with the ingredient list Giada was pulling out for her next recipe demonstration.
      So, applying this concept, in the span of about 30 minutes I created 30 meal plans that are meant to cover a single month.  I divided them into 7 categories: Mexican, Italian, Beef (American), Pork, Chicken, Fish, Veggie.  Assuming we would have a different category each day of the week.  Then I chose 4-5 recipes in each category.  You will find after you've filled that up, there really aren't a lot of recipes left over.  I kept the plans vague...e.g. "chicken with sauce" is one of the prompts.  So that could be bone-in or boneless, white or dark meat, any kind of sauce, and really could even be homemade or takeout.
    Then I added side dish prompts. I will add recipes and grocery lists as I can, and then voila, we now have what I call the infinite menu plan, for I will simply start it over again each month.  I am thrilled about my new plan and the freedom it gives me.  I really don't need to "shop" from my own stores before making my plan.  Since there aren't that many ingredients, then we will eventually use up our own store without making a conscious effort to do so.  We will "eat the rainbow" and avoid unhealthy foods, again, all without making a conscious effort to do so.
     I heard a podcast in which the speaker indicated that she also has a lifelong problem with menu planning, only compounded by the problem that she hates to cook.  She said if she doesn't have a menu plan, it subtracts 3 hours from her productive day.  Just in frittering around thinking about what to make for dinner.  I relate to this.  But this will not be 2015!

     Mike and I decided to re-use healthy as our word for 2015.

Other resolutions:
David and Shannon gave me a portable scanner for Christmas, and I'm going to use it to get rid of all of our paper, I think.

I feel recently that I've been losing the minimalist game lately.  The minimalist game is what some people call the battle against clutter.  It is hard because I am playing the game all by myself in a family of 4.  Moving is a great decluttering tool, but since we haven't moved in 2 years, the house hasn't been reorganized in a while.  And although it feels like I am hauling stuff away from our house quite often (WEEKLY!) I think someone is hauling it in much faster.  Anyway, within the next couple of months I intend to do a kind of spring cleaning and deal with this.

Also if Libby's bed is not done by the end of January I will just give up and hire a carpenter to finish it.

Happy new year to all!

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