Perspective In Photography and Life

Lake Alma better

The sun finally found its way to my corner of the world yesterday. Since there’s more rain in the forecast, I jumped at the opportunity to go for a walk at a local state park. It was early and cold. A handful of cars drove through and I encountered just a few like minded people looking for a stretch of the legs and some fresh air. We very politely smiled as we veered away from one another.

It was a gorgeous day and the only noise came from an abundance of birds and a lone dog barking in the distance. With each step and each breath of fresh air I could feel my shoulders relaxing and breathing become calmer. I hold my breath a lot, especially when stressed, so it was refreshing to feel pure morning air fill my lungs.

The above picture was taken from one angle at the park. The picture isn’t great but notice how blue the sky is?

This next one was made just a quarter mile away and facing a different direction. The light is harsh and the colors not nearly so nice.

Lake alma bad 3-20

It was the same park and same day – just a different perspective. This is your friendly Monday morning reminder that your perspective can make or ruin your picture as well as your day.

Yesterday afternoon, our Governor announced fresh orders from the Ohio Department of Health that are meant to keep people at home. Some states are calling it “shelter in place” while our state is calling it “stay at home.”

No one really wants to do this. In fact, it seems a little surreal.

College students sunning themselves on the beach can’t understand what the big deal is about because we all know that youth is invincible and they’re sure they won’t get sick and die. That’s their perspective.

Their grandparents likely have been staying home for a while and hoping they haven’t already been exposed to the virus or anything else that would make them susceptible to illness at this time. That’s their perspective.

Some middle aged strangers I overheard commiserating at the grocery store are upset that the government would dare take away their freedom to eat in a restaurant just because a few hundred people are sick. That’s their perspective.

Now here is mine.

This is a new virus that our bodies are not prepared to combat. It travels quietly and quickly. And while it’s most dangerous to people with other conditions and to people of a certain age, it will not discriminate if it finds its way to you. It does not care if you are talented and famous, rich or poor, a good person or not.

We all are at risk of either getting sick or carrying germs to people we care about.

I will be the first person to tell you that I’m tired and want my life to go back to normal. I want to sit in a theater and watch a movie, listen to live music in a crowded place, and hop in a car to visit a museum or bookstore. I want a haircut.

But it isn’t worth the risk. 

Sometimes  I wonder if the naysayers were given a card with the name of someone they care about and told that if they don’t take this seriously, their person could die or at least be very sick and carry with them lifelong damage to their bodies. Would that matter to the kids on the beach or the complainers in the store?

It’s not forever, friends. It’s for a while. Just keep telling yourself that and we’ll get through this.

And speaking of getting through, when you do venture out to a store or to your bank or to pick up your lunch, try to be a little extra nice to those people who have no choice but to be out there working. We rely on healthcare workers, the farmers and factory workers who make sure we’re all fed, the truckers moving stuff around, as well as the cashiers and stock people who are pushing merchandise through their stores. These are all people who cannot join the work from home brigade because their jobs don’t allow it.

At the very least, show them a little extra patience and remember that some heroes don’t wear capes. They wear scrubs, work boots, and name tags. If you see a trucker somewhere, ask if they’re hungry and offer to get them food. Those big rigs don’t fit through a drive-thru lane and most fast foods places don’t take walk-ups. We need them to be fed and well to keep things moving.

Wherever you are, stay safe and well, my friends. It’s just for a while.

 

 

Adjusting Expectations

Today’s theme is adjusting expectations.

Since the first of the year, I have been living very quietly and enjoying this time of a No Spend Challenge which has allowed for more self care, planning, reading and lots of other activities at home. I’ve been saving money for this year’s adventures too.

Lunchtime walks, upcoming events and the promise of travel have given me something to look forward to. Plans include one of my favorite old(er) movies on the big screen, a weekend trip away, an author talk, and a concert.

And then this little global pandemic hit, containing me to home at least for a while longer. While the last couple of months have been centered on voluntary self seclusion, I’m not thrilled about the involuntary kind.

In fact, I’m downright irritated that my adventure season isn’t starting this week as planned and am already concerned that my summer trip won’t happen either.

That’s why it is time to adjust expectations.

Here in Ohio, the governor has closed schools and banned gatherings of a hundred or more. Limitations have been placed on restaurants too. Churches are cancelled or holding services online. Communities like mine are scrambling to provide lunches to low income kids, and many working parents have no clue what they’ll do with their kids for the next few weeks. Lines are long in stores and people are clearing shelves of everything from toilet paper and medicines to ramen noodles and pizza rolls.

The messaging surrounding this virus has been unclear. We’ve been told to wash our hands and to be smart about germs while we’re watching Italy and China shut down entire cities. No one knows what the future holds but, from what I’m seeing, there’s potential for a lot of bad to find it’s way to this country before it gets better.

From what I’ve seen of my Facebook friends, people seem to be continuing life as usual when it comes to recreation and fun. We’ve closed schools but parents continue to drag their kids to the store, to the movies, out to eat, and basically anywhere else they wish to go because they don’t want to be stuck at home.

When I started my January No Spend Month, I jotted down a list of things to that didn’t involve spending money and most of them were things I could do at home. For me, that list included household projects like organizing kitchen cabinets and weeding my clothes closet. I had a list of recipes to try and a list of fun things too! Taking my camera for a walk, puzzles, movies, books, playing the piano, and long bubble baths are just a few things on that list.

This is a great time to spring clean and to freshen up your house by rearranging things you already own. If you have kids, give them art supplies and ask them to make cards for residents of nursing homes and hospitals who aren’t getting any visitors right now. That should entertain them for a few minutes anyway!

And remember, you’re still able to go outside. I’m making a mental list of work that needs to be done in my yard and there’s a shed that needs cleaned out and torn down.

Yesterday, I experimented in the kitchen, making up my own potato soup recipe, tried making tomato jam, roasted broccoli, chopped up some salad veggies and made a few biscuits. I read, did some laundry, began researching cruelty free companies (this has been in the list for a while), strategized for the week, and watched a little tv.

Exciting? Hardly. But I was busy, productive and completely disconnected from the mass hysteria that has caused so many people to lose their minds. 

It was a good day.

So I am going to dig in and devote this time to getting some stuff done and getting back to basics. If nothing else, I’ll be well read and rested by the time this madness is over.

I have an inner old lady who survived the Great Depression who believes in the Depression era mantra – “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” She sits in the back of mind every day but I’m hoping that I don’t need her services more than I already use her.

Look at the bright side – we may find some wonderful new hobbies, authors, recipes, family traditions and habits! Meanwhile, stay calm, avoid people when you can, and wash your hands. This too shall pass.

And one more thing – our communities are filled with people who are older, who have mobility issues or who have weakened immune systems. If you’re healthy and able and going to be out anyway, offer to run some errands for them. They might really appreciate the helping hand!

Have a good day, friends. It’s all going to be ok.

 

 

Cheese Sauce?

It’s hard to believe but it’s been about six months since a vegan friend encouraged me to try his way of eating for thirty days

This plant based journey has taught me a lot but one of the most valuable lessons is that it’s important to make the right choices for yourself in the kitchen.

Many vegan cooks manipulate ingredients in attempts to recreate familiar dishes in new, plant based and healthier ways. For example, there are scores of recipes on the internet to help you create a “cheese” sauce, ideal for nachos, mac and cheese and scores of comfort food dishes that you may remember from your past life consuming dairy.

I’ve tried a few of these imaginative recipes. Many use cashews and nutritional yeast. Some add a host of seasonings or use roasted red peppers. Nearly all create a neon orange sauce that resembles melted Velveeta. Well, resembles it in appearance at least.

In taste, perhaps not so much.

I have finally learned to cut the recipes in half so that I don’t feel as bad throwing away nearly all the completed product. After the last batch, I stood in the kitchen for a long time, contemplating whether to throw it away right then or stash the concoction in the fridge with hopes I would think of some way to salvage the two cups of mediocrity.

In other words, should I throw it away now or wait till later? This is the inner dialogue sometimes.

I’ve met plenty of people who think these recipes are great. Lots of bloggers, online reviewers and even some real life friends rave about how tasty, how authentically cheesy their favorite recipe is.

I’m happy for them but it’s not for me.

From now on, if I want mac and cheese, I’ll go to a restaurant and enjoy the real thing. It can be a treat, something to be savored and enjoyed occasionally.

For me, plant based eating should be about eating clean and eating well. There’s little more delicious than sautéed mushrooms, onions, peppers and zucchini heaped on top of a baked potato. No sauces, just some pepper and sea salt to taste. In-season blueberries are so delicious they’re hard to resist and homemade soup packed with veggies makes for a tasty dinner.

All of these things can be enjoyed in the simplest form possible. Torturing ingredients into forms they weren’t mean to take on isn’t necessary or worthwhile when you have such tasty meals and snacks at your disposal.

I’ll save my cashews for snacks and occasionally treat myself to the authentic cheesy dish.

After all, food is meant to nourish the body but I think it’s also meant to enjoy. It’s ok to take a break, especially if you’re doing it infrequently. At least, that’s the right choice for me.

Healthy Eating On The Go

Eating healthy on the go is tough. Eating healthy and plant based on the go is nearly impossible.

A lot of times I just need something to grab and go, preferably to eat in the car. These choices are deplorable. Yet, when there’s time to sit down for a meal, the choices are almost as bad.

Everything is double meat, loaded down with cheese, packed with sodium and deep fried. It’s all bread and pasta and sad little iceberg lettuce salads that are also smothered in cheese and croutons.

Yuck.

I’ve come to accept that true plant based healthy eating isn’t easy and often impossible in the outside world. A packed lunch can remedy the problem some days but isn’t always feasible.

I have figured out that Meijer is a great source for healthful food. They offer a nice selection of fresh salads and cups of cut up fruits. Some salads have meat while others like their Mediterranean, garden salad or nuts and berry salad are meat free. And yeah, it’s a lot of fruit if the salad contains fruit but it’s better than going hungry!

About $5 for a salad and $2-3 for a cup of fresh fruit and it’s more nutritious than the Impossible Whopper at BK which is the usual alternative.

The above picture shows a salad I had for dinner in Michigan last month and a container of fruit I had bought for breakfast.

When I do have the opportunity to eat in a restaurant at a table with a knife and fork like a real human, it’s fun to enjoy a treat that I normally don’t have. Pizza comes to mind. So does diner grub like grilled cheese or pancakes. I have adopted a sort of go big or go home mentality when it comes to these dining experiences – enjoy the grilled cheese and fries in the great old diner atmosphere but go back to normal eating the next meal.

It’s not a great plan but it works.

So I’m dying to know- what are your healthy eating on the go tips? Bonus points if you have vegan ideas!

No Spend January Is Here!

January is a No Spend Month for me. It’s a fun little game I’ve played for the last few years where I pay for what is needed but there’s no frivolous spending (unless pre-planned), no impulse buying and no shopping for entertainment. Goodbye, antique malls!

So bills are paid and groceries are purchased but I work on using some things from the freezer and pantry. Yesterday, I stopped at the store for about $10 worth of produce needed to create meals for the week using things I already have. If I stop for gas, my reusable water bottle had better be full because I’m not running inside for a drink. Not even for just a dollar.

There’s a gift to buy this month and a planned dinner and movie with a friend that was postponed from the holidays. That’s all the extracurricular spending that should happen.

This month, I will spend a lot of time at home, using what I own, looking for creative ways to entertain myself for free and simply appreciating the life that I have built and all that I already have. The Depression era mantra “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” comes to mind.

After all the excess and gluttony of the holidays, a spending fast is a welcome relief to the bank account but it’s also a welcome break from commercialism.

We spend a lot of time making money to survive and on spending money on stuff to fill our homes but we don’t always go home and just enjoy the life we have.

It’s is an exercise in gratitude as much as anything else.

I wrote a Winter Survival Guide last fall and it’s here in January that these techniques are truly put to work.

Here’s what’s happening in my world right now:

Books are a priority this year and I’m finding that the more I read, the more I want to read. The problem is that there’s a new one that I’m dying to tear into. I usually have three or four going at once but want to focus on one at a time this year. It can be next.

Cooking is more fun. I always enjoy playing in the kitchen but winter is a great time to experiment with new recipes. This year is especially fun as I’m looking for plant based recipes for my new lifestyle. This week I made a potato corn chowder that was divine and the lunch leftovers were a welcome treat! I also made a pumpkin cookie that was disgusting but we’ll just call that an experiment gone awry and move on.

Organization and purging are another priority. I have a list of areas to hit – from the pantry to the sock drawer to the nightstand and all points in between. It’s shocking how much stuff accumulates over time even when you try to be tidy. The goal is to do one thing from the list every day. The purging extends into intangible areas too. One evening was spent purging emails while watching the Closer on TV. Brenda Lee Johnson caught the bad guys and I unsubscribed and deleted thousands of old marketing emails. The above picture represents a new set of Christmas dishes that need to be put away after some rearranging in the china cabinet.

Movie time! I can’t go to the movies but that doesn’t matter because there’s a stack of movies waiting for my viewing pleasure. One day I’ll make some homemade potato chips and hit the couch for a little movie marathon.

Self care is a priority. Outdoor activity is less common because it’s dark at quitting time but I am trying to prioritize some kind of exercise every day. Rest is also important. My philosophy for most of the year is that you can sleep when you’re dead. During winter, these cold, dark nights call for a warm blanket and an earlier bedtime.

Being happy with the Now is a common theme and resisting the urge to adventure plan involves daily internal negotiations. It’s much harder than it should be. However, the theme of this stage of the year is being satisfied with the abundance of everyday life. Adventure planning can wait a bit. I have started a list of day trip ideas based on suggestions from friends but that’s more about being forgetful than about planning. Being present in this moment rather than dream of the next adventure is a real challenge.

For me, a No Spend Month is an opportunity to get myself together for another year, to set new goals and intentions, to stop buying stuff I don’t need, to nourish my mind and body, and to practice gratitude for what I have.

It gets easier every year and, this will sound sound nuts, but I’ve been looking forward to January for weeks.

Want to do your own no spend challenge? You can set your own rules and make it what you want it to be! You might be surprised at how much money and time you save!

Cultivating a Better Life

I like to take vacation around the holidays. This period is perfect for a forced slow down, to transition from three seasons of busy into my season of quiet.

The rest of the year is occupied by a lot of running around but our unpredictable winter weather often makes it hard to get out. I look forward to this time of year- soft blankets and books, inside chores and quiet walks through the snow take the place of road trips, weekend adventures and breakfasts on the porch.

January is typically a no spend month for me. This organized spending fast means bills are paid and necessities purchased but making do is the common theme and there are no frivolous purchases. Recreational shopping is not allowed but that’s ok because there are many free ways to stay happily occupied.

I’m more apt to do puzzles, to go to bed early and to spin records while cleaning something on a Saturday afternoon.

Relaxation is key and I turn my attention inward, write more, focus on self improvement and on building a better life.

It’s a good time of year.

This vacation is about transitioning into that period. I spent a couple of days running around but today will bake Christmas cookies for my folks. From now until the New Year the plan is to be mostly domestic.

Although, if the weather is good, there may be one last little road trip for the year, a Christmas gift to myself. After Natalie died, I realized that life is too short to not live as we wish.

This week is also about refocusing on plant based eating, exercise and rest. The last couple of months have brought spurts of stress and busyness that have messed with my sleep and left me in a position that I’m glad to just eat vegetarian while away from home rather than the plant based food that makes me feel so good.

In other words, friends, I’m making this break exactly what I need it to be. My wish for all of you is that you get a few days each year to do that for yourself. Remember, today is a great time to start.

Eating Well Doesn’t Mean Eating Boring

One of the biggest misconceptions people have about healthy eaters, especially plant based eaters, is that their food is dull or that they just eat salads and big bowls of broccoli.

Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

I went plant based just a little over three months ago and think of myself as an imperfect vegan. That means that all the food I prepare is plant based but that healthy eating in the real world is hard. So when I’m out, I just do my best. Sometimes that means an Impossible Burger with a side of fries and broccoli. Sometimes it means a grilled pimento cheese sandwich and chips at a fabulous old soda fountain.

I aim to eat plant based 90 percent of the time. However, I want to eat good food all the time.

Yesterday I made some delicious pancakes to freeze for a rainy day. These wheat pancakes with plump blueberries are as delicious as any restaurant pancakes I’ve ever tasted, especially when paired with pure maple syrup.

I also made some hot chocolate with cocoa, a little stevia, almond milk and vanilla. There was a companion recipe for homemade marshmallow that I was too lazy to make despite how easy it sounded. Nonetheless, it was a tasty cup of hot chocolate to finish off a day of Christmas wrapping.

While it was good, it was missing something- maybe the homemade marshmallow? Maybe just a little more sweetener? I’m not sure but will work to improve it until I’m happy.

Then there was the pot of homemade bean soup – three kinds of beans, vegetable broth, onions and carrots simmered to create a mouth watering soup for work lunches this week.

The point is that I’m not deprived and am as happy as a clam with most of the food I make.

It’s actually a lot of fun to play in the kitchen, trying new things and learning from the occasional mistake. The mistakes are ok because I typically learn a valuable lesson and rarely make the same mistake twice. Also, it’s a sign that I’m trying new things and that my diet is no longer limited to the same five things I used to make all the time.

This is a good thing!

Thinking about reducing your meat and dairy or maybe just trying to eat a little healthier? Try choosing one dish that you enjoy and seek out a healthier recipe for that dish. Pancakes or soups are a great place to start. Try healthifying just one dish a week and you might be surprised how much you enjoy the changes.