Monday, March 31, 2014

March Goals Recap

For March, I set 5 goals for myself.  Overall I'm happy with my results.  Two of them worked out so well I plan to continue.  The first success was drinking a glass of water every morning when  I first get up.  I managed to do that all but two days this month.  Now I'm so used to it, I feel funny if I don't drink water within the first half hour of getting up.

Parking in the back of the parking lot at work started off with a challenge because it was snowing the first day I went to work this month.  I was really tempted to pull into my normal spot but then I stopped myself.  I couldn't mess up a goal on the first day!  So I pulled all the way to the back and after a couple days discovered a hidden bonus.  I was actually able to get out of the parking lot much quicker in the evening because I didn't have to wait for everyone else before I could pull out of my spot.  So I walk a few extra steps and get home several minutes quicker!  Definitely going to continue that one.  There was only one day I parked closer but that was because it was raining and later in the morning I had to go to another location with someone else.  I didn't think it was nice to make her trek across the parking lot in the pouring rain so I parked in my old spot.

The exercising went OK.  I didn't always get it all in but I liked the variety of doing yoga, running and strength workouts.

I didn't meditate nearly as much as I would have liked but I did get more in than usual and I definitely felt calmer.

The sugar - well.... I really only gave this a half-hearted try.  I didn't make any cookies or anything like that this month but I still ate sugar.  I switched it from trying not to eat any sugar to just being aware of how much I was eating.

So overall it was a good month.  I haven't decided yet if I'm going to do something similar in April.  I have a couple hours to figure it out!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Back to School

When I was in college, I remember seeing a quote that went something like:

Every day do something for the sole reason that you don't want to.

I have no idea who said it and can't seem to find it now so I may be remembering it all wrong.  Regardless, the idea of stepping out of my comfort zone has always stuck with me.  So many times when an opportunity presents itself, my gut reaction is always to say no.  Even when it is something non-threatening like going out to lunch with someone.  Although, if I ignore my gut and do it, pretty much every time I'm happy that I did.

With my new job came the opportunity to get a new certification.  I already have one for a specialized area but this one is much more broad and covers every aspect of my profession (I won't bore you with details about auditing!).  I had actually considered doing this on my own when I was unemployed because I thought it would help me find a job.  Even though I'm now working, it can only help me in my current position and put me in a better position if I find myself unemployed again.

Even though I knew all this, when it was first suggested, I hesitated.  I've been out of school a long time.  This is a three part exam that will probably take about a year to complete.  That means hours and hours of studying and then concentrating through 2+ hours of testing at a time.  I was really tempted to say I didn't have the time to commit to it.  But then I realized that was crazy.  My daughter is in high school and always busy with her own activities.  She certainly doesn't need much of my time any more.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized this is actually the best time for me to do this.  Plus, what kind of example would I be setting for her if I didn't continue to improve myself?  I always tell her that you have to keep learning so it is only right that I lead by example.

So I agreed to work towards my certification.  I ordered a study program and immediately became overwhelmed!  But I quickly fell back into the routine of studying.  I worked out a plan of attack and scheduled all my study sessions for Part 1 in my calendar.  I'm now 5 weeks into it.  I'm hoping to take the first exam sometime in April.  Some of the sections have been easier than others but even when I struggle, I just keep going.  One chapter in particular is just killing me.  I've taken quiz after quiz and I feel like I'm getting worse!  But even when I get frustrated, I'm enjoying the challenge.  Losing my job last year was a bit of a blow to my confidence but now I can feel it coming back.  It feels good to take on a challenge and feel like I'm really accomplishing something.

Last year my big challenge was running that 5K.  Hopefully this will be just as successful as that!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bean Enchilada Casserole

The last few weeks, we've had several unexpected expenses come up.  To get back within our budget, I've tried to cut back on grocery shopping.  Luckily I have a ridiculously well stocked pantry.  I seriously think we could survive for months!  It's always nice to have some quick and easy recipes that can be made with things you always have on hand.  A few years ago we came up with this casserole and it remains one of our favorites, even when we can afford groceries.  It also warms up well in a microwave at work the next day.

Bean Enchilada Casserole

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup green salsa
1 cup vegan cheeze sauce (we like the one in "Vegan on the Cheap" because it stays creamy)
1 can red enchilada sauce
Corn tortillas (about 8, but it depends on your pan)

Preheat oven to 375.  

Mix the beans, green salsa, and vegan cheeze sauce together in a large bowl.  

Cover the bottom of a 9 X 13 pan with a thin layer of enchilada sauce.  Cover with corn tortillas.  Top the tortillas with the bean mixture.  Add another layer of tortillas, beans, and then tortillas again.  Cover the casserole with the remaining enchilada sauce.

Bake for 20 minutes or until warmed through.  Top individual portions with more cheeze sauce, avocado, vegan sour cream, salsa, etc.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

New Yoga DVD

I've noticed that a lot of people seem intimidated by yoga.  I always tell everyone that if I can do it, anyone can.  I don't look anything like the instructors but I still get something out of it.  Because I'm not at all flexible, I prefer to stay home instead of taking a class.  I have one yoga DVD that I've been using for years (Yoga for Inflexible People - I knew it was for me when I saw the name!).  I also sometimes record a couple yoga shows on TV or get them from YouTube but those are usually way too hard for me so I only make it part way through before I collapse.  Still I always enjoy yoga so I try to fit it into my regular routine. Over the past few weeks, I've been doing yoga first thing in the morning or right before bed a few times a week.  I've really seen a difference in how I feel both physically and mentally.

I'm usually pretty good about avoiding impulse buys.  A few weeks ago, though, I found myself buying a new yoga DVD from the grocery store.  It was the weirdest thing.  We were walking from the shampoo/makeup area of the store to the grocery section and before I new it, I had detoured to the exercise area and thrown a general yoga DVD in the cart!  Luckily, and much to my surprise, I really like this one.

It's called AM & PM Yoga for Beginners.  It is a little pathetic that I've been doing yoga on and off for about 15 years and yet I'm still at the beginner stage but I still enjoy it.  I've been asked more than once how I can do these poses so many times and yet not become any more flexible.  I seriously have no idea but if I ever manage to actually touch the floor without bending my legs, I'll probably die of shock!

Anyway, I like both the morning and evening routines.  They do exactly what they promise.  The morning routine gets me energized and ready for the day and the evening routine relaxes me and stops me from thinking too much.  I also like that they are short enough that I can squeeze them in first thing in the morning or right before bed.  Another benefit for me is that they don't require a lot of space so I can do the routine anywhere, instead of needing to kick everyone out of the family room.

Some of the poses are challenging for me (does that mean I'm pre-beginner?) but I've been doing them long enough that I know how to modify them on my own.  She provides some modifications but not for some of the more difficult (at least for me) poses.

One of the main benefits for me is that I don't have to think about what routine to do.  I just put the disk in and pick the time of day.  The less decisions I have to make, the more likely I am to exercise so this is a big plus for me. Especially at 5:15 in the morning!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

March Goals

Back in December I had my workout goal of 2 hours a week including at least 4 miles of running.  That worked well to keep me motivated for a little bit but then that fell apart and wasn't really motivating me any more.  Kayleigh's track season started a couple weeks ago and Bill is training for his upcoming training camp (for cycling) so I decided I needed to come up with some kind of focus as well.  Last year I had the 5K that I was working towards but I don't really have anything specific like that this year.  Instead of picking one big goal, I decided to pick several enhancement kind of items that I could work on this month.  I'm generally happy with where I'm at right now but there are always small tweaks I can make.  I thought it would be good to have general health improvement actions instead of just exercising.  Here's the plan:

  • Do yoga, running and ab workouts each at least two times a week.  I came up with this one because I was considering buying Insanity.  I decided I should prove that I was more dedicated to my current workouts before I spend money on a new one.
  • Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning.  I usually drink a lot of water through the day but lately I've been so busy at work, I barely drink anything at all.  Starting the day with a full glass of water should get my day off to a good start.
  • Park at the back of the lot at work.  I usually get to work early so a close spot is usually available but that doesn't mean I have to take it. 
  • Meditate every day.  I already meditate on a regular basis but I'd like to increase it to daily.  I see a big difference in my stress level when I take the time to slow down for a few minutes.
  • Reduce sugar.  That's my hard one!  I'm going to try to cut out most sugar and use only fruit, maple syrup, stevia,  or agave sparingly.  
I've managed to make it through the first two days but we'll see if I can keep it up.  I'm hoping by the end of March I'll see an actual improvement in my overall health, fitness and mental attitude.  

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Weekly Meal Plan #3

It's been a while since I posted a meal plan so I thought I'd post what we followed last week just because it has several recipes from another one of my favorite cookbooks.  Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson has recipes easy and quick enough for my husband to handle.  Since my daughter now has practice every night until 5:30, he has to be able to make dinner completely by himself with no help at all.  It helps if they are quick as well because he refuses to start cooking until about 4:50 and I come home at 5:30 absolutely starved.

I originally bought this book because it has the word cheap in the title and I live by my very strict budget.  She has a note at the top of each recipe telling you how much it costs per serving.  I've never tested the amounts against my local grocery costs but they seem reasonable.

We didn't have any leftovers to eat last Saturday so this plan started that night.  There is only one night that we didn't eat what was planned so that will be for tonight's dinner.

Saturday:  Coconut Curry Rice - Vegan on the Cheap

Sunday: Cornbread and beans - family recipe posted on my old blog, Besides Pizza.  The cornbread recipe there calls for milk and eggs.  Obviously we switched to non-dairy milk since then.  We still sometimes use eggs in this if we have them but this time I didn't have any so we used our favorite arrowroot replacement (see here, here, or here for the amounts).

Monday: Mu Shu Burritos - Vegan on the Cheap - Bill wasn't home so Kayleigh and I had to fix this when we got home.  I use the seitan recipe in this same book and freeze it so it is ready to go when we make this recipe.  I also ate this Tuesday and Wednesday for lunch and Thursday for dinner.

Tuesday: White Bean Bruschetta - My own recipe.  I'll add this to my list of recipes to post.  It's a good recipe when you don't have any fresh food on hand.

Wednesday: Quinoa with Chickpeas and Spinach - Another one of my recipes.  It is basically quinoa cooking in orange juice and added to chickpeas, spinach and a few other things.  Bill wasn't home this night either but I didn't know that when I made the plan.  Still we were able to get dinner completed before 6.  This was my lunch for Thursday and Friday.

Thursday: Samosa Pie - Vegan on the Cheap - We ended up having leftovers because the fridge was getting full so we''ll have this tonight instead.  That's probably for the better because this one would have been hard for Bill since it includes a pie crust.

Friday: Deconstructed enchilada bake - Vegan on the Cheap.  I also use her cheese sauce on this.  Delicious.  We'll get a couple lunches out of this.

I'll post next week's plan next Saturday.  We're in a bit of a financial crunch all of a sudden so I planned next week so that I wouldn't have to go to the grocery store this weekend.  Lots of pantry items.