What we eat, part one

23 April 2014

I haven’t written about food a lot here because in general, it’s not something I think about too much. In general, it’s not something I’m preoccupied by – it never has been, and I hope it never will be.

But recently, thoughts about what we eat have been driving me nearly to distraction – so much so that a few weeks ago I had to sit down and type out my thoughts simply to quiet my mind. (It helped.) Since that point, John and I have come to some conclusions and made some changes. I know our actions and thoughts will continue to evolve over time, so I wanted to take a moment to record where we are now.

The thing that kicked off this food frenzy was a family viewing of Forks over Knives, a documentary that argues that most, if not all, degenerative diseases can be controlled or reversed by rejecting the dominant American diet of animal based and processed foods. While we had some issues with some of the studies they cite, the basic premise seems sound — and most importantly, makes logical sense to me.

John was immediately on board to cut dairy, meat, and sugar from our diet completely. To be honest, that scared me. The diet described in Forks over Knives sounded like complete and total drudgery, and I didn’t want every meal to become something I forced into my mouth. I didn’t want to live by rigid rules, inconveniencing every host and never being able to eat at a restaurant.

I do think our diet at the beginning of this year was better than average. Since graduating from college we’ve been on a slow and steady progression toward fewer processed foods, less meat, and more plants. You may remember that one of my daily goals for 2013 was to eat at least one “super food” a day, which has proven to be a great way to regularly get really good foods on my plate.

But back to the present: as my mind raced with all of the information from Forks over Knives and our subsequent conversations, I searched for more information to help us make informed decisions. Michael Pollan popped up over and over again, so I checked The Omnivore’s Dilemma out of the library.

Let me tell you, I really appreciate Michael Pollan.

michael-pollan-advice

He’s so calm and reasonable, which I feel are two qualities greatly lacking from a national conversation that celebrates something one week and then denounces it the next. In case you’re not familiar with him, Pollan’s advice has been famously boiled down to this: eat food — not too much, mostly plants.

Yes! We want this to be a long term life change, and in the long term, moderation works for us. Quitting things cold turkey or labeling certain things off limits does not. That being said, we don’t intend to use moderation as an excuse. Like the Forks over Knives peeps, we do believe that the diet we eat has a direct and strong effect on our bodies’ ability to stay healthy. We also believe that our body is equipped to process things that aren’t necessarily beneficial (like sugar), but that in order for it to be able to do that, we need to keep it in tip top shape and reduce the amount of “bad” things we take in overall.

So what does that mean for us? As I was searching for recipes to fit our new diet, I came across the A Couple Cooks blog. Their description of what they eat fits so perfectly with how we feel that I have to quote from it liberally here:

flexitarian

Our diet? We call it flexitarian. It’s mostly vegetarian, but with the freedom to enjoy all food. In general, we avoid purchasing “processed” foods — frozen meals, fast food, unhealthy snacks, items with mystery ingredients or added sugars. But overall, we like to focus on what we do eat instead of what we don’t.

– We try to eat the foods that have the most benefits to us and to our community.
– We find the approach of a “Mediterranean” style diet to make good sense: lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, but without trying too hard to fit within a certain marketable mold.
– There are a lot of diets out there. As a common core, we see homemade whole foods as the key that ties any healthy diet together.
– We eat mostly vegetarian because of the relatively lower resources (environmental and financial) required to put veggies on our table, but we also support the meat-raising farmers in our community on occasion.
– We buy organically-grown items when we can handle the price, to support the farmers who put in the extra effort of taking care of our farmland.
– We’ve found that an all-in-moderation approach works well for us. When we make pizza, we use white flour, because we like it that way. While we generally cook meatless, I recently enjoyed a big juicy steak to initiate the grilling season. In general, we choose to enjoy healthy and colorful salads, nourishing soups, and fresh veggies as our daily meals.

This diet works for us. It is freeing, and we find a lot of joy in it.

Yes, yes, yes!! Remember how my initial thought was that I didn’t want every meal to be drudgery? Sonja and Alex are correct – eating like this can be joyful, and we have found it to be so. Even in the last two months (February to March, not exactly the height of the growing season), we have found so many delicious and nutritious answers to the question of what’s for dinner.

I feel like this post is a little long on philosophy and short on details, but it’s already so lengthy that I’ve decided to split it up: the second part will go into more detail about specific recipes we’ve loved, resources we’ve found helpful, foods we’re eating more of, foods we’re eating less of, and some specific swaps we’ve made in our normal routine.

In the meantime, I’d be curious to hear: does your diet fit in a “marketable mold”? How would you describe it?

Pysanky eggs

18 April 2014

For as long as I can remember, Easter in our house did not mean Easter baskets (we didn’t get them, much to our dismay at the time – but we did do a jelly bean hunt in the living room). More than the jelly beans, though, Easter meant pysanky eggs from Bingie, our mom’s mom.

psyanky eggs

A pysanka is a traditional Ukrainian Easter egg, decorated with folk designs written in beeswax. From my birth until a few years ago, my grandmother painstakingly made all of her grandchildren a new design each year, and we loved to look at our collection when we took them out of their crates in the spring. Each egg was marked with our name or initials, her initials, and the year. She also made them for special friends on occasion, and over time, they became one of her claims to fame in her small town.

psyanky-eggs

At her memorial service last year, her pastor compared her to one of her eggs – beautiful and complicated, full of history and stories, and sometimes volatile. (The eggs, which are not blown out, have been known to explode!) My grandmother was a deeply layered person, and not always easy to understand. But so many of the things that define me were passed down from her – my love of garden bouquets, boat rides, singing in church, and books; a belief in thank you notes, penmanship, and family china; and the importance of standing up for the flag at parades and giving to your alma mater. I am glad I have something tangible and so beautiful to remember her by, especially at Easter.

DSC00873

The worst thing is never the last thing, friends. Wishing you a joyful weekend!

Weekend in Charleston

8 April 2014

Charleston is really a place like no other. There are so many delicious restaurants, so many pieces of history, so many cobblestone streets and colorful houses and charming courtyards within just a few square blocks… it’s almost not fair. This was our first chance to return since our weeklong vacation a few years back, and there was still plenty to experience and explore. We rented bikes for the first time and rode them all over downtown and even out onto Folly Beach at sunset (one of our favorite memories from the weekend – magical!). We also tried a few new-to-us restaurants, including Husk, Poogan’s Porch, Xiao Bao Biscuit, Hominy Grill, and Sugar Bakeshop, and we’d recommend them all! The biscuits at Poogan’s Porch were amazing. Where we stayed was decidedly less buzzworthy – the Holiday Inn Express on the edge of downtown :) But, it was nice enough, convenient, and the budget liked the price, and if that means we can take weekend trips more often, I’m all for it!

Just a few of our favorite spots and snaps from the weekend…

charleston-pink

camellias

charleston-battery

charleston-live-oaks

angel-oak

angel-oak-and-em

charleston-alley

carolina-jessamine

charleston-oaks

charleston-neighborhood

charleston-rainbow-row

zero-george-charleston

sugar-bakeshop-charleston

folly-beach-lighthouse

folly-beach

folly-beach-charleston

Our house’s colors

3 April 2014

This past weekend John and I had what I think of as the stereotypical homeowners’ weekend – we did little else besides checking off a long list of things on a household to do list we’d been adding to for several weeks. It was really good, actually, even though we did make eight (yes) separate trips to various home and garden stores in two days. Efficient we are not.

For us, a weekend like this is something to report on, since we don’t actually have them too often. John and I really love our weekends – we like to fill them with everyday adventures – and one thing we agreed on when we were buying our house is that we didn’t want to lose them to lawn care and home maintenance. Happily, we haven’t! Even so, we still need to get things done every once in a while.

My relationship with our house this first year has been interesting, and I’m looking forward to sorting through those feelings and sharing them with y’all – hopefully in about a month and a half, on the anniversary of our closing. In the meantime, I thought it might be fun to share a bit about our whole house color scheme. As I’ve shared before, our entry, kitchen, dining, and living room are all open to each other, so when we make decorating decisions for any one room, we have to take the impact on the other spaces into consideration. Since we’re collecting things over time, the board below helps me visualize many of the elements – some of which we’ve already put in place, some of which we’re considering – together.

main-room-color-scheme

Though I am often drawn to neutral spaces (as you can see on my home Pinterest board), when it comes down to making a decision for our home, I almost always go for something more colorful — but with a classic base. Classic with a twist, if you will, just like what we were going for with our wedding!

Also, do these colors look familiar? They’re almost exactly the same as the ones I chose for Em for Marvelous! I guess I know what I like :)

Here’s some more colorful and classic inspiration I’ve collected:

jana bek

Jana Bek

style at home

Style at Home

society social

Society Social

young house love

Young House Love

caitlin wilson

Caitlin Wilson

lonny

Lonny

colorful australia

Style at Home

southern living

Southern Living

boston magazine

Boston Magazine

young house love entry

Young House Love

style-at-home-2

Style at Home

Do you tend to gravitate toward neutrals or color? Or perhaps a more narrow palette than ours? I’d love to hear!

April goals

1 April 2014

March was a busy month. Between hosting visitors and being visitors ourselves, we were a bit out of our normal routine – but in good ways. However, I did get a bit behind on my monthly goals, so I’m rolling the leftover items to April!

spring-garden

To recap, my March goals:
Practice new calligraphy techniques
Plant peony in backyard
Plan a really happy trip to NC for two dear friends and their gents
Set an appointment with an allergist
Help launch a new service/community at our church
Plant the first round in our vegetable beds See above! We planted sugar snap peas, kale, arugula, three types of tomatoes, and basil. We’ll put in peppers and more tomatoes later in the year!

April goals:
– Set an appointment with an allergist
– Break out calligraphy supplies and do something with them
– Pick strawberries
– Make final reservations for our California trip
– Purchase a spring/fall jacket – something nicer than my fleece, but casual enough for every day wear
– Send out invitations for two showers
– Fulfill one of our Easter traditions – paying for the car behind us in a drive-through line!

I have been striking out left and right on the jacket front – any suggestions on where I should look for outerwear? And, if you’ve posted your monthly goals, I’d love to take a peek!

P.S. Tips for growing veggies in a raised bed