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clean eating

My herb garden in the backyard has been a success this summer. I used our back planter boxes to plant some starters, and they’ve done great! Once I got our drip lines turned on, that is. I’m useless when it comes to remembering to water – drip line and sprinkler timers are my friends. :-)

Among my herbs, I planted stevia. I’ve never been a fan of the store-bought stuff – it’s far too bitter for me. I’d heard good things about home-grown stevia extract, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I plan to harvest a few sprigs today and see how it works for me. I’d love to have a natural no calorie sweetener option for when my sweet tooth hits. This time, I found a video showing me how to harvest my stevia plant and grind up the sweet leaves in to a powder form. My plant is still rather small, but I’ll do a few test batches and see how it goes.

I noticed the link to this woman’s blog on her youtube video, and saw that she hosts a “clean eating” website. I’m happy to see so many people glombing on to the clean eating bandwagon. Or maybe I’m just one of the masses, and having my eyes opened to this way of life is making me more conscious of others around me doing the same.

There are a few facets to “clean eating” that I love…

First, it’s a great opportunity to get back to nature, understand where your food comes from and, when possible, grow it yourself. Sure, these things can take longer, and probably wouldn’t fall in to any definition of “convenience” food, but that’s what we’re trying to get away from anyway, right?

Second, it’s not a “diet” in the conventional sense of the word. Sure, it’s a way of eating that can be referred to using that terminology (i.e. “the cleaning eating diet”) but is not intended as a quick fix weight loss. It’s more of a lifestyle overhaul – replacing the junk in our diets with real, wholesome, close to the source food.

Third, there are so many creative adaptations and recipes out there! The internet is such a fantastic place for pooling together ideas and bringing the masses together. There are clean eating recipes for most anything your heart desires (possibly even twinkies… although, again, that’s probably not in the spirit of “clean eating”).

So, what is this whole “clean eating” deal? It’s not so far of from what Ben and I have been doing for the past eighteen months. It’s about eating more whole foods and helping your body help itself. The main things that you reduced from your diet are refined foods – white sugar, white flour, white rice. Foods that turn to sugar quite quickly in your body and give you little nutritional “oomph” for the calories. Now, you bring in the substitutes. Maple syrup, agave and honey are all excellent replacements for sugar (although still to be enjoyed in moderation); whole wheat flour or nut flour to replace white; brown rice as a substitute for white, etc. Overall, it’s common sense stuff… make smarter choices and your body will thank you for it.

I love this page that discusses clean eating. It’s a good, simple explanation. She does a better job at breaking it all down than I, and her website is pretty nifty, too!

Continuing on in this site, I found an interesting article last night about soaking and drying raw nuts before eating them, similar to how we soak beans. The part that won me over was how the author described the texture and flavor as being enough to entice her to soak. So I decided to give it a shot. I threw some in a bowl, added some salt and let them soak overnight. They went in the oven this morning to dehydrate. Results to be determined…

Hope you all are doing well and enjoying the summer! Until next time…

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climbing a rock

Tsk, tsk. What ever happened to those aspirations to write more? Where are all those posts that you planned to write? Those ideas that come to you in the shower? The project and craft ideas I’m so inspired to write about? I don’t have any good excuses, so I’ll just move forward.

This past weekend, I climbed up a rock. A really BIG rock. A mountain, in fact. Saturday afternoon, under the heat of the sun, I stood atop the amazing mountain known as Half Dome. It was truly an amazing experience. The sheer physical exertion, mental determination and will power needed to make it to the top can be daunting. Actually making it happen, finding myself at the top made me question…did I really just do that?

Ben and I teamed up with my brother, Chris, and our friend, Michelle, for our trek. We made our way down to Yosemite early Friday morning, and started our long hike in to Little Yosemite Valley (the backpacker’s camp) early afternoon. The hike in was around five miles, which would normally be a decent workout, but adding in the altitude, elevation gain and 20+ pound backpacks made it rather grueling. Still, we trudged on and found ourselves at camp in about four hours. It was a slow pace, but we intended it that way, so none of us were feeling too badly that it took us so long. We set up camp, ate our dinner, played a few games of “Blisters” and called it a night early.

Saturday morning, we got up early, ate our breakfast and made our way out for the three and a half mile hike to the top of half dome. Sounds pretty easy, right? No, I didn’t think so either. We made it to the subdome around 9am, give or take 30 minutes. From there, the cables present both a mental and physical challenge. The sheer pitch of the mountain is nauseating. The narrow cables affixed to the mountain and guiding the way are equally sickening. Still, we pushed on. Pulling on our gloves and starting from the bottom, we went up the mountain one step at a time.

The view from the top was simply breathtaking. Simply. Breathtaking. (photos to follow)

We made our way back to camp Saturday afternoon, took naps, had dinner, then hung out at the communal fire pit with some of our fellow backpackers.

Sunday morning, we had breakfast, packed up camp, then put our (slightly lighter) packs back on and made our way down the mist trail. At the end, pizza and beer awaited us. And let me tell you, it was The. Best. Pizza. Ever.

It’s now late Sunday night, and time for me to shower and wash the trail dust off. Hope your weekend was as awesome as mine.

yummmmm….

Fruity beverage in hand, I write to you from the depths of vacation. We headed to the mountains for a few days of relaxing – renting a cabin with some friends and enjoying time away from the norm. Even with only working a few days a week, I still feel that sigh of relief that comes from a few days off. Our friends have a small child as well, so C and J have kept each other entertained for much of the stay, and where that’s not happening, the parenting forces are doubled against the wiles of active toddlers… whatever variety they might be.

The days have passed by too quickly – chopped up by accommodating nap schedules and bed times. Yesterday, we had an early bird dinner at a local favorite, Sunnyside, then collected the girls to get them to bed at a reasonable hour. Here they are, plotting as they walked up from the beach. Can someone please tell me what goes on in the minds of a two and three year old? Man, they are going to be trouble when they’re older.

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Today, we went for a fantastic hike and got some awesome photos of the lake. The girls even held up their end pretty well – trudging along with minimal complaint and just a bit of slipping and sliding on the hill. The payoff at the top was worth the hike – simply amazing views of the lake, mountains and trees.

Hope your weekend has been as awesome as ours!

work, work, work…

I’m still at it. Burning midnight oil to get this rusty ‘ole brain functioning again. Two years out of the rat race will do that to you. Journal entries aren’t coming as easily to me, bigger picture ideas are fuzzy, training from years past is long gone. Things are slowly falling in to place for me, fortunately, it’s just taking a little while to get warmed up again.

The whole working for myself thing (I’m an independent contractor for the company I’m working with) is an odd concept to me. I’m pretty sure I understated my rates when I started this gig; basically using the hourly rate I made when I left the workforce, plus a percent to cover self employment tax. I didn’t add any special consideration my CPA license, the hours I’ve invested in training or the years of auditing and industry experience that I bring to the table. I also didn’t adjust for the fact that I am picking up training cost and time on my own tab, the scrutiny and push back over the hours billed, or the hours I might have to eat for my own trial and error when working on a project.

Hour tracking and goals aren’t new to me. I dealt with it in public accounting; you submitted your hours based on client and task. Overages weren’t that big of a deal for me as an associate, but when I started senioring jobs, it suddenly became my budget on the line, and those extra hours my associates were putting in mattered… a lot. I never loved that part of it, but I got the reasons for it. In order for a job to be profitable, you can’t spend too much time on one project. There’s something to be said for a salaried work arrangement, especially when hour tracking isn’t critical to your role. Someone else’s budget, getting work done on your own timeline, not worrying if it’s taking you a bit longer to finish something. I guess it’s the same deal here – you end up eating hours whether you’re salaried or hourly.

I try… I really do, but sometimes I feel like my brain just doesn’t work. I’ve always considered myself to be a kinesthetic learner, as audible and visual learning never really stuck for me. I learn best by writing things down – they just don’t get in my head unless I physically write them out. It turns out there’s a whole new category of learner since I was a kid, the reading/writing preference learner, which fits me exactly. It doesn’t work well in meetings, though, to be fervently writing while someone is talking to you – head down, pen scratching, processing thoughts and ideas through your pen instead of your head. It’s not until an idea is written and read back that it sticks in my brain and I can roll around the concept. This, most assuredly, is the reason I’m in any sort of customer relations / marketing / sales job. My brain just works best when I can put things on paper. I even run in to this when working in excel. Sometimes I just have to step back and write down, on paper, what it is I’m trying to accomplish. What are the inputs? Where am I trying to get? What am I missing from the big picture?

It’s a humbling thing to be back in the accounting world. I feel “less than” my peers quite often. Ben assures me that I’m not, but, man, sometimes I just feel dumb. I guess everyone has moments of insecurity. Mine are just magnified by the fact that I haven’t had much positive reinforcement from the professional world in a very long time. It’s also tough to work for someone who seems to be “on” at all times. Something I aspire to be. My colleague picks up information from conversations that I miss. His financial statement analysis blows me away. Only a few years my senior, and yet, my skill set pales in comparison to his. Certifications, experience and a resume that far exceed my own.

I have to remind myself that life isn’t a competition… or at least it shouldn’t be. I’ll learn what I can, and expand my own skill sets and competencies, but ultimately, there will always be things that someone else is better at than me, and things that I am better at than others. It’s just how things are.  We all have our own reasons for taking the pace we do and goals that we want to accomplish in life. For me, being home with Claire was important, even if it meant putting my career on hold.
 
Ok, that’s it for me. Happy Friday everyone!

ikea hack: underbed storage boxes

I <3 ikea. They have great storage solutions at affordable prices and, for the most part, their products are well thought out.

The underbed storage boxes we bought didn’t meet this “well thought out” criteria. Although they fit perfectly under ikea beds in the showroom, where all the floors are flat and hard, they just don’t fit when your bed is in a carpeted room.

My solution? I took the boxes apart and trimmed them down. Here’s the play by play project:

1. Turn the boxes inside out (your cut will be on the inside of the box). Use an exacto blade to cut the nylon about an inch from the edge. For the sides that are flaps, cut on the side that will be hidden when the box is assembled, and cut close to the “hinge” side of the flap.

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2. Inside, you’ll find a corrugated plastic material. Pull this out.

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3. I needed the box to be about 1 1/2 inches shorter than they were, so I measured it out and cut the plastic. At this point, it probably would have been a good idea to check the fit by placing it under the bed – I lucked out, and my trimming worked great, but I’d suggest this step for next time!.

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4. Slide the trimmed plastic piece back in to the nylon.

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5. Pull the nylon edge back over the plastic so it’s concealed.

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6. Use packing tape to secure the cut edge. Repeat this process for the remaining 3 sides.

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7. Here’s where I finally checked the fit. Phew! It fits! And now, fill it up!

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how to: make spreadable butter

Tired of pulling rock hard butter out from our fridge, but not thrilled about buying a spreadable butter filled with a bunch of unpronounceable ingredients, I came up with my own solution… a homemade spreadable butter.

It’s really quite simple…

1. Grab some room temp butter & oil. I like the flavor of grapeseed oil, but you can use whatever kind you like best.

I use a ratio of about 1 to 1 butter & oil. More oil gives you a softer butter, less gives you a more buttery flavor.

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2. Blend together. I’ve used the Magic Bullet for this, but my hand held blender also did a nice job. My guess is that plain ole egg beaters would be fine, too.

3. Put in the container of choice, label it (if you’re so inclined) and refrigerate. When you’re ready for some spreadable butter, just pull the jar out of the fridge, plunge a knife in and spread away! It’s really quite lovely to spread on toast.

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I haven’t priced it out, but I imagine the cost is lower than buying the tubs of imitation stuff from the store, and I like knowing exactly what went in to it! The added bonus to this is that the blend gives you a lower cholesterol butter option.

exhausted

I’m home with C today. It’s nap time and I have a moment to myself. I’m staving off the afternoon sleepies with a half-caf coffee from Starbucks, and am committed to getting a post up today. I have work I need to get done, but I’m pushing it off to write instead.

I was fearful of going back to work and not being able to cut it (I swear I wrote about this somewhere, but I’m at a loss to find the post). Among other fears, I worried that I would feel even more exhausted than I already did every day. But here’s the thing… although work seems to use up most of my energy by 5pm, I don’t find myself tired during the day. For the most part, I’ve been on the go, fully functioning and plugging away. Which is good. Very good.

The other thing I’ve found? I’m still exhausted the days I’m home with C. By her nap time, I’m ready to nap as well. And, I am at liberty to do so (assuming I don’t have any accounting work outstanding). Is it the freedom to do so that makes me feel more tired? Or is it just because it’s a different kind of work? Spending the days constantly distracted, never able to finish anything, and everything taking twice as long as it should to get done can be quite draining. Coffee helps, but it doesn’t take away the fact that I feel completely wiped by mid day.

I enjoy the time I spend with C, and it’s definitely high on my priority list, but I don’t feel like I’m at my best when I’m with her. I tend to feel scattered, halfway put together and frustrated. Simple tasks like going to the store are complicated acts and require careful planning. Everything becomes a negotiation. I just don’t feel like it’s my best “me”, but I’m not sure how to behave any other way when I’m wearing my mommy hat. It’s like my brain just doesn’t work as well as it should.

There are pros and cons to going back to work. Working outside the home gives me back the freedom to go to the store unencumbered (pro). However, sometimes trips to the store are a great learning opportunity for C and she misses out (con). I love being able to put my degree and CPA license to good use (pro), and even missed doing training for work (pro), but I worry that C ‘s education might be stifled by the “teaching to the lowest common denominator” approach that you find in many education settings (con). The money from working is a definite bonus (pro), and more than covers our preschool costs for the week, but it’s a balancing act, as I find that the more I work, the fussier and clingier C gets (con). One big con is the shorter nap times on days she’s at school. At home, she takes 2-3 hour naps, but at school, they only allocate 1.5 hours for nap time, so she’s getting short changed a bit on sleep, which is probably contributing to her being fussy and clingy.

I can tell that C’s adjusting to the change and trying to figure things out, and although outwardly she seems ok with it all (she talks about how much fun she has at school), little shifts in her behavior lead me to believe it’s harder on her than she lets on. It’s all about easing in to things right now and getting her used to being away from me for longer stretches of time. Really, there are work arounds for all the cons above, and ways to give C the best home and school experiences possible in a complimentary fashion – it’s just a matter of figuring out what works best for us.

We have C signed up for preschool 5 full days a week now, mostly because that was the best deal and gave me flexibility to schedule work as needed. The difference between 3 full days a week and 4 was $12. The jump between 4 and 5 days a week was $4 more – we’d be crazy not to sign up for full time! So, for $16 more per week, I can keep C home when I have time off, and take her in to school when I need to work. I make that back in less than an hour of work, so it’s not a bad deal. However, she was at school 4 very long days last week, and that was just too much for her. Taking her in late and picking her up early seems to work best – it gives me a good chunk of time to get work done and she seems happy.

I’ve picked up more work these past few weeks than I originally intended. The first two weeks of April, I clocked 65 billable hours – plus I had nonbillable hours for training and business related tasks. That’s with working 3 days per week. Phew, I’ve been busy.

So quickly I forgot how all consuming work can be. Very recently, I was giving a friend a hard time about not blogging. And, yet, I find myself 3 weeks out from my last post, struggling to find time to fit in the briefest of posts. It’s not just the time commitment – it’s getting my head out of accounting mode and in to writing mode. Even my last few posts were canned entries that wrote weeks before and had in the queue for times when the writing tank was low. Guess we’ve hit that space.

I’ll try to keep up with posting more frequently. I’ve gotten through a big chunk of work and have a bit of a lull (although I’m meeting with a CPA firm regarding some potential consulting work this week). It really is good to be back at work, and I’m glad I’m doing this. C will adjust, regardless, and so will I.

Until next time!

green monster smoothie variations

I’ve been playing around with the standard green monster smoothie recipe and wanted to share some of my findings.

Apple – My favorite! I cut one up fresh, remove the core and throw the pieces in, skin intact. It makes the drink incredibly sweet and more filling. This is the perfect add in, IMO.

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Pineapple – refreshing, but the combo with peanut butter just didn’t work well. Leaving the peanut butter out was a nice variation, though. It had a tropical flavor with the banana and pineapple flavors coming through strong.

Blueberries – Yummmm! Great combo. Fresh blueberries didn’t add much flavor, unfortunately. Frozen was a different story. I especially love the frozen organic wild blueberries from trader joes. They’re incredibly sweet and have a great flavor. It also blends up bright blue! I made one this morning, but didn’t think ahead to get a picture before I drank it all. Here’s a photo of the remnants.

Strawberries – ripe ones are fantastic. They add a nice sweetness and flavor. Think banana pb&j sandwich. Well, without the bread, that is. Again, Trader Joe’s has a great frozen organic variety that I like to keep on hand, especially when strawberries are not in season.

Flax seed – I’ve been adding this to just about every thing recently. The flavor is slight, adding just a bit of nuttiness to the drink. The health benefits of ground flaxseed are great, and I have a big container to use up, so why not throw some in.

Frozen spinach – fresh is probably best, but we used all of our fresh stuff for juicing this week, so I scoured the freezer looking for another option. My favorite? Trader Joe’s pesticide free spinach. It has a good flavor and cooks up well. Turns out, it also blends nicely in smoothies! It blends better if it’s slightly defrosted, so throw it in the microwave on defrost or pour some out ahead of time to give it time to defrost.

Let me know about any other creative variations you discover!

favorite things friday: honey nuts

Have you ever had honey nuts? General Mills got it right when they made honey nut cheerios, because the combination? Is DIVINE.

meadowfoam honey

I got this honey from a local shop in midtown sacramento and it is delicious. Unlike any honey I’ve had before.

You might be wondering, how does one make honey nuts? It’s so mind numbingly simple. Put nuts in a jar, cover with honey (enough to fully submerge the nuts) and let soak for a few days. If you want to speed up the process, do what I did and chop the nuts when you put them in the jar. You can either do this separately, them throw them in, or stab repeatedly with a knife after nuts/honey at in said jar (which is what I did). A butter knife worked great for this. By chopping them, it only took overnight before the nuts began to infuse the honey flavor.

Then spoon it up and enjoy! It’s my new favorite treat.

shhhhh…

Wanna know a secret?

I missed work. Yup. And I like it. That, too.

I went back to work today. It’s been nearly two years since I left the workforce. I’ve had a great time at home with C, but I learned something about myself today. I really do enjoy accounting work. I missed looking through financial statements, performing analyses, finding missing pieces of the puzzle and seeing it all “click” in to place.

Remember when I said I wanted to find an easy bookkeeping gig? Yeeaaahh… that didn’t happen. I drug my feet, and didn’t really look for work so much as it found me. I got an email from an associate I met a few years back at a training. He started a business last summer and was looking for help. Specifically, looking for someone with my accounting background. It’s not the low key, easy, sleeper job I’d envisioned, but it’s also not the high stress job I’ve had before. Hopefully it will end up somewhere in the middle. Challenging without being overwhelming.

For now, I’m working a few hours a week, picking up projects here and there as needed. My plan is to ramp up to three days a week, with some flex hours to wrap projects up at home. For now, I’m enjoying it, and glad to be back.

~suzy



Mom to "C", wife to Ben. I'm a part-time blogger, cook, organizer, seamstress, house cleaner, taxi, nurse (the mom kind), accountant... I could go on, but really... it's all in the blog. Read away!

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