Health and Happiness

I expect this could be a divisive topic: the balance between striving for health and having a life that you still enjoy.  For some people, people who have been immensely unhealthy, physically, nothing may seem too difficult to give up if only they can feel better.  For those who have always been moderately healthy but still want to make good choices, it can become a spiraling rabbit hole of “how much is okay, and how much is too much” or “should I even bother when it is all so hard to understand”.  Examples:  I’ve mentioned before that my mom (hi, momma!) has made some major changes in the last year.  For as long as I can remember she has been trying different systems or diet plans to get healthy.  She finally chose a lifestyle (whole foods, plant based diet) that seems extreme to many who eat more “standard” diets: no animal products, no fats, no sugar, no salt.  It has worked beautifully for her and she is really, really happy with it.  For her, every single sacrifice has been abundantly repaid in life quality and happiness.  In fact, she has been so successful that it has become really difficult for her to watch other people not feeling as great as she does, and she is admittedly right down evangelical about the benefits of this lifestyle (as we all sometimes are with anything that makes our lives immensely better).

Alternately, I’ve also mentioned that my husband and I were seriously examining our sugar consumption.  Jason has a strong family history of high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes.  We spent several months doing research, having the “how much is too much” discussion and asking ourselves if it was even a good idea, given the evidence of how bad sugar can be for the human body, to walk that tight rope and consume any at all.  Jason’s final decision for himself was to give up all sugars that are not fruit on a daily basis, and then have a treat a few times a month.  His thought is that he might be marginally healthier if he never, ever had sugar again, but he would almost certainly enjoy his life less without those occasional treats (and the social settings in which they usually occur).  He lost seven pounds in the first month after making that decision, and his recent blood work was fantastic!

I can remember many times in life saying, “I could never give up milk!” or hearing others say “If x made me sick, I’d just have to stay that way, because I cannot live without x.”  Well, I definitely came to the point where my quality of life was improved by giving up the milk I so immensely enjoyed, but I have know others who did in fact refuse to give up something that made them ill because they felt life would be less worthwhile without it.  Not just food here, either. . .I put off finding a new loving home for the cat I was desperately allergic to until I was made aware that it wasn’t fair to my husband for me to hold on to something that made our lives more difficult at a time when he was nearly drowning in the stress of caring for us all.

What about you all.  Where do y’all draw the line between health and happiness.  What are some things you either have given up to be healthier, or held onto despite your (or your doctor’s) best judgement, or because you felt the joys outweighed the detriments?  Also, what are some health changes you’ve considered and maybe given up on because there was just too much conflicting information and it was confusing? (I realize that this discussion could easily veer into the deeper and darker waters of addictions in general, but lets try to keep it on the nutrition side of things for now.)

I’ve been thinking

Greetings, again.  You may have noticed that I took some time off. . .I mean REALLY took some time!  I found in March that I was just utterly tired of food.  To be honest, I was utterly tired, period.  I began having some heart problems in late winter.  I let it go, too discouraged to try to deal with it, until my physical therapist and doc.’s office finally sent me to the E.R. one morning.  Answers were not quickly or easily forthcoming, but in the end it turned out that the allergy medications that made life here in northern VA. bearable were greatly increasing my heart rate.

Through all of this my husband and I ate in survival mode: nothing fancy, nothing that required navigating new recipes.  Luckily, we were in Williamsburg, Virginia for three of those weeks, and didn’t have to worry about cooking.

Since that problem began to resolve, I’ve still been feeling lackluster about cooking.  I’ve been thinking about lots of things and wanting to share them, but I’ve hesitated because they weren’t necessarily about recipes, and recipes and travel are what have defined this space until now.  Well, that may have to change.  I plan (notice that is plan not promise) to be writing more in the days to come.  A lot of it will be nutrition or health related, some of it won’t be; I may even get in a recipe or two before the year completely disappears!  I hope that those of you who have stuck around through the silence, and those of you who are just dropping in for the first time, will come and join the conversation.  Let me know if there are topics you have questions about, books you’ve been reading, changes you’ve been making, foods you are enjoying.  I would love to hear a bit about all of you, and could use the inspiration!  Thank you for stopping by or sticking with me, whichever the case may be :).

menu#1

Something New: Menu #1

So I thought we could try something new.  Every week Jason and I plan out a menu and shopping list.  Since I’ve got it on hand, why not share it.  If you like the idea, let me know and I will throw them up on a more regular basis.  I warn you, they may look very boring and repetitive, but who knows, if you are feeling brain dead and utterly unimaginative yourself, this might help!

This first menu reflects some of the things Jason and I have been thinking about lately, specifically cutting down the sugars in our diet.  I don’t mean cutting out fruit; I mean watching the number of calories we get from processed sugars, honey, syrup, etc.  We have been doing some research, and the new recommended limit for men is 150 calories per day, and 100 for women.  We are doing our best to stick to that on a day to day basis without being fanatical.  I’m also severely limiting my caffeine intake in light of some recent problems.  Have you been mulling over any diet changes lately?  I’d love to hear what you all are thinking about.  Again, if you like the idea of the menus, let me know.  Hope you are all having a great week.

Click on the image below to access the PDF and the links.  Later, alligators. menu#1

beaufortwater

Southern Snow and Beaufort, South Carolina

I thought I would drop in and let you know that I am, indeed, still alive.  Unfortunately, some new health concerns have arisen to put a damper on culinary enthusiasm (and life in general. . . boo, no more whining, I promise).  Here is a little of life lately. . .

If you live on the East Coast of the U.S., you may have heard that we have another winter storm on.  Right before the last one, J. and I made an impromptu trip to Georgia.  We got there just in time to enjoy a little “family bondage” (a cousin meant to say “family bonding”, but this alternate version now has a permanent place of honor in the Baird family lexicon!).

treedown A lot of ^this^ happened, which resulted in a lot of this. . .

Ispy It is amazing how long kids will play “I spy, with my little eye”!  Jason, his superhero dad, and a cousin spent the next three days keeping 4 houses afloat with two generators,  my mother-in-law kept twelve people fed three times a day despite a nasty cold, and I colored, “I spy-ed”, and hide-and-go-seeked my heart out!

After a visit further south with my folks, Jason surprised me with a mini vacation on the way back to D.C.  We spent a morning wandering around it the sunshine in Savannah, browsing Broughton St. and people watching in the park before heading just an hour upcoast to Beaufort, S.C.  We attended a festival on the waterfront there during college, and came away with the impression that it was a hidden treasure.  Twelve years later, and  a few days of down time: it is a really comfortable, relaxing, FRIENDLY place to pass some time.  The waterfront is lined with rows of porch swings,  truly amazing homes spread for ten blocks back from the water, the food is good, and the views are lovely.  There is nothing fancy happening: this is not a shopping mecca, nightlife seems fairly non-existant, the beach is not easily accessible, and away from the waterfront the town becomes a bit run down, shut down, fast-foodie.  So, if you are a mover and a shaker who doesn’t care for an extreme change of pace, you might want to keep going up I-95 until you hit the Charleston exit.  But if you are looking for a pleasant place to pass a weekend, keep Beaufort in mind.

Jason caught this little guy having a rock star moment in his own private fountain.  So sassy! cardinalfountain Then we spotted this beauty. . . streetcat which made this inevitable :) (cannot pass by furry fabulousness!). rubme

lighthouseslick The sheltered warmth of Beaufort made me long to see the ocean: inland warmth is deceptive, and sunshine is fleeting!  It was plum cold down at Hunting Beach State Park. scarethewolf Scare the wolf!  If this reference means nothing to you, disregard.  Otherwise, greetings from the lost boys in Neverland! shylighthouse Yep, did I mention. . .Plum. . .Cold.

Places we tried and enjoyed: Blackstone’s Cafe- great atmosphere, super friendly service, plain ol’ diner breakfast food, but with surprising gluten-free options (if you spend time traveling g.f. in the South, you will understand what a pleasant find this was!). Lowcountry Produce Market Cafe- really good food, lovely building, and fun browsing of local food and artisan goods.  Panini’s Cafe-  usually we skip places with enormous menus, but this one had the little “gf” symbol all over it (again, rare) so we had to give it a go.  It was great, and the waterfront side completely undersells what is waiting within.  Brick pizza oven and prep area out in the middle of the dining room, soaring ceiling, huge deck overlooking the waterfront, and solidly good food.  City Java and News- good hot chocolate and latte.

While in Beaufort I recommend: strolling through the neighborhoods, and don’t ignore the overgrown, dead end streets- they are the best!  A visit to Hunting Beach State Park- a bit of a drive, but well worth it on a warm day.  Grab yourself a waterside swing, or a bench, or a hummock of grass and just enjoy the view.   beaufortwater Have you ever been to Beaufort, South Carolina?  I’d love to hear about your time there; leave a note in the comments below.

 

And, We’re Back!

Holy Cow, that took so much longer than anticipated!  If you can remember that far back, in my last post I had just fallen down the stairs (dressed as a black cat. . .the irony did not escape anyone) and banged myself up pretty badly: two sprained wrists and a sprained ankle.  Naturally, I knew I would be out of commission for a time, but two and a half months?  This was my first time spraining anything, and I had no idea just how bad a sprain could be!  My husband did the most amazing job of taking care of. . .everything.  I discovered that he is a much better housewife than I am, and I’ve seriously questioned why I ever learned to cook when he can do it so well!

There have been a few complications that added to recovery time (awful Motrin-induced stomach ulcer, anyone?), but I am now in physical therapy and am once again a fully contributing member of our household.  Soon, I hope to be fully contributing content creator for O.i.H. as well.  In the mean time, I am happily getting back into my routines, and establishing some new ones.  All of that down time, and the diet reset (ulcer, remember) gave me ample opportunity to examine and evaluate my life: my daily habits, my goals, my eating.  I’ve got several ideas that I’m pretty excited about, and a few things I’m still pondering.  My local library is considering moving a branch into my home because I’ve been checking out so many books (joking. . .kind of); I hope to share some of what I’ve been mulling over as we move ahead.  I have no recipe to share today, but I do have some links.  I’ll be seeing you soon!

I’m reading: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and so far am really enjoying it

I’m making: Butternut Squash Risotto, Hot Wings, and the Winter Abundance Bowl this week

I’m dreaming of:  hot sunshine, and longing to be on a beach somewhere (this looks nice; this too)

P.S.  We did make it to the Marine Corps Commandant’s Ball; these are the only pictures we took!  What, we were living in the moment :).

mcbj P.P.S.  I just found this picture while making the above; had completely forgotten about it.  I call it “Fuzzy Kitty Before a Fall” :).

Photo on 2013-10-31 at 16.24