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 Healthy On The Road

Saturday around Winchester (2)

I transitioned into a mostly plant based diet this fall. In layman’s terms – I’m vegan. This has been for health reasons although I have long avoided meat for moral reasons as well.

My diet now consists of mostly fruits and vegetables, whole grains, plant based proteins and some healthy fats. No meat, dairy, eggs or oils. And I do my best to not make a lot of unhealthy foods using healthy ingredients.

This works great when I’m at home or can pack my lunch. In restaurants, life is hard. A lot of restaurants, including fast food giant Burger King, are offering plant based burgers now but you can’t live off burgers alone and these products aren’t what you might consider health food.

So, when eating out, my goal is to eat as healthy as I can within the rules I live by at home. As much as possible. 

This road trip was my first as a vegan and was helpful in shaping my goals and standards for future travel.

The first goal was to find a hotel that offered a fridge. I opted for a newly remodeled Motel 6 where the tile floors and removal of all unnecessary wood and fabric made me rest easier about protecting myself from bed bugs and other nasties. Motel 6 is a very basic, affordable chain with no bells and whistles. While they don’t provide breakfast, they do provide a fridge and microwave.

So I packed a small blender, a plate, reusable straw, kitchen towels and utensils. When I got to town, a stop at the local Aldi for supply acquisition – frozen fruit and almond milk for smoothies, peanut butter, bread, bananas and bottled water – cost about $15. With no toaster at hand, I just heated my bread to simulate the peanut butter with toast that I have with a smoothie most mornings.

I also packed some apples, homemade granola and a few protein bars in case I was in a pinch while traveling.

I had mexican one day and found a small pizza shop that made me a veggie pizza with gluten free crust and no cheese. They offered vegan cheese but that just sounds like heavily processed crap and maybe something that doesn’t fit with my healthy eating goals. So I passed.

There was a veggie burger at a cool old diner in West Virginia too.

The day of the Flying Circus Air Show, I stopped at Subway for picnic food at the airport – a veggie sub on bread that isn’t vegan but I needed something more substantial than a salad to get through this day.  I also went to Chipotle for a bowl that night.

And I cheated for a few meals. After leaving Winchester on Monday, the road took me south to Luray Caverns and west to a town in Maryland before landing in Clarksburg, West Virginia for the night. I arrived after dark and ended up at a mall looking for a few things. By then, I was hungry, tired and in no mood to go hunting healthy food. Traffic was bad in Clarksburg so I wasn’t going exploring at that point either. I ended up with food court pizza and salad. The next morning, I had a cheat meal that was planned – pumpkin pancakes and scrambled eggs.

In all, it was more fast food than I would normally like but I was on the go a lot and didn’t want to waste time waiting in restaurants.

I tell you that to tell you this.

None of these meals made me feel good. I woke up each morning grateful for my healthy breakfast and looking forward to cooking fresh food when I got home. The sodium in most of those meals was ridiculous and made my fingers swell – always a bad sign.

Could I have tracked down healthier options? Probably. Although, I had researched Winchester options prior to the trip and the best alternative would’ve been going to the grocery store for wrap ingredients or getting veggies to have with peanut butter sandwiches. But I wasn’t interested in making that kind of effort on this particular trip. I just needed to eat something so that I could keep going. There were adventures to be had!

As I become more entrenched in this way of eating, priorities may shift on future vacations. For now, I’m happy with doing the best I can with what I have to work with while road tripping. And also – I will blatantly break the rules and be plain old vegetarian in any and all cool old diners. I don’t care. Sometimes you have to make small sacrifices to do something you love! And I do like my cool, old diners! 

 Have tips? I would love to hear them!

Slowing Down The Wanderer

It’s hard to be a backroads wanderer when you have a nasty sinus infection. Turns out my trip to Nashville exposed me to all kinds of fun pollens and crud that left me vulnerable.

This isn’t unusual since I tend to have two sinus infections a year – one in fall and one in spring. So I know the drill: Rest, citrus, fluids, meds, repeat.

This week’s goal simply is to get better. I’ve got a fistful of antibiotics, a mountain of fresh oranges and a desire to simply be well again. Wish me luck, friends. I am a terrible patient.

 

Repetition

There are some places where I never tire of spending time. Lake Alma State Park falls into this category. My favorite feature here is is the nice bike path that stretches past the lake and into the nearby City of Wellston.

It’s reasonably peaceful most days and easily accessible for a quick walk after work.

I sometimes snap phone pictures here during my walks and the challenge is to find new ways to look at the familiar.

Like these boats.And the road.

Luckily, nature changes daily. The sky and the light are always different. Right now the trees are bare but starting to bud. In a couple of weeks they will look completely different.

Repetition may seem boring to others but I find it calming and even challenging at times. I like looking for new ways to see the familiar.

It’s a skill, I think, being able to look at something day in and day out but still see it from a fresh perspective. It’s a skill that can be applied to situations that require problem solving and to daily life just to prevent boredom.

Perhaps this is why I am never bored. There’s always something to see or learn about a subject – even when you think you’ve seen it all!

Crisis Averted

So the headline is a little melodramatic but I was beginning to think a crisis was on the horizon.

You see, since starting the Whole 30 last year, I have become dependent on RX Bars as meal replacements on the go. Even when I’m not following the Whole 30 (like right now), it’s a great way to avoid fast food when there’s no opportunity to eat a decent meal. They also make terrific pre-workout fuel because they taste good but are made with just a few ingredients you can pronounce.

Sadly, a recall due to possible peanut dust exposure left the shelves bare of almost every RX Bar flavor sold in southern Ohio. My supply has been dwindling and I was starting to worry.

Finally, though, I was able to lay my hands on a box yesterday! I also grabbed a new flavor of Bubly because I evidently am an impulse shopper. Doesn’t Blackberry sound yummy?

Isn’t it funny the habits we fall into and how challenging it is to face the prospects of changing even if just for a short time? Is there a product you use that would feel like a catastrophe if you couldn’t get it? Tell me about it!

Recommitting To Myself

new years 2019I’m not a huge fan of the New Year’s Resolution. Maybe it’s because I believe every day is a perfect time to commit to doing something that’s necessary or good. Maybe it’s because I see how quickly most people fail with their resolutions. It takes at least a month of commitment to form a new habit. Sadly it takes one bad decision and about five minutes to revert back to our old ways. Then discouragement sets in and before we know it, we’re waiting for next January 1 to repeat the process.

Last spring, my beautiful friend Sarah introduced me to the Whole 30. It’s designed to help kick a sugar addiction and it’s an elimination diet to help folks with health issues figure out their allergies or other food related problems. For me, it became more of a lifestyle to stave off sugar cravings, lose weight, have increased energy and greater mental focus. I even found that food was causing some mild Rosacea like symptoms.

I quickly learned that I am happier when I eat whole foods and avoid heavily processed stuff. 

It’s a real commitment to be a Whole 30 Pescaterian. It’s a lot of cooking and most convenience food is off the table because it’s packed with sugar and all sorts of nasties you can’t pronounce and probably shouldn’t digest. For most Whole 30’ers, the prospect of eating in a restaurant is enough to incite panic. In other words, it’s a commitment and a challenge. And unlike most diets, if you make a mistake today, you don’t just pick up and go on tomorrow. You go back to day one with every slip up. So if your goal is to just get through the thirty days, it’s stressful when you’re new or when you’re trying to eat on the go.

Like I said, I have achieved a place of lifestyle where I try to stick with it as much as possible but am not bound so tightly by the rules of being on a thirty day round. This healthier diet gave me more energy for hiking, working out and going on adventures. After a few months of being really strict, I gave myself a season of leniency – more or less to see what my tendencies are, what my weaknesses are and what I do if given some leeway.

Turns out, my weaknesses and natural tendencies are appalling.

So today I start a new Whole 30 round and recommit to some of the lifestyle choices that made me so happy last year – drink lots of water, fuel my body with good food, get outdoors when possible, hike a lot, read good books, listen to amazing music, write daily, and surround myself with people and things that make me happy.

I’m also doing a reset on my budget. The holidays and poor self control on this last road trip tell me that I simply cannot be trusted with food, money or anything else. Ha, ha… ahem.

So, I’m not making a resolution. Instead, I’m making conscious decisions to recommit to what’s good for me and to what’s really important.

If you are among the many today who are committing to a resolution, here’s my advice – PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!!! Write out your strategies, write down what you’re doing, study your choices and reward yourself for good performance.

If your goal is to cut spending so you can pay off a credit card, you would need to make a budget, write down every penny you spend, study your spending habits and chart your progress as the credit card balance decreases. Then periodically reward yourself with something special but not necessarily something that costs money. Maybe you invite a friend over for coffee or take a long, hot bubble bath. If you have kiddos, plan a picnic at a local park.

You get the idea.

Whatever you do, remember that the thing you want – the slimmer body, the fatter bank account, the life without cigarettes, or whatever it is – you can work toward every day of the year. You don’t need a calendar or a silly annual tradition to make it happen. You WILL need some elbow grease and a commitment to make it reality.

I have my plan together and I have a goal to be good to myself. And really, my friends, what’s better than committing to being kind to yourself?

Best wishes with your resolutions or goals or whatever it is you call them. Go forth and conquer every day this year! Let’s make 2019 our best year yet!