Friday, June 19, 2015

Recalculating...

Our house, where I thought I'd be spending my summer.

At least that's what my GPS says to me when we all thought we were heading in one direction, but then I suddenly throw everything off by heading down a different path than the planned route. And that's kind of what is happening to our summer.

When we got back from our trip to Florida and Disneyworld on May 1st, I thought that was sort of it as far as traveling went this summer. We'd had our big fun trip, and had nothing else on the cards beyond maybe a long weekend with Nick's parents as far as the eye could see. The rest of the summer would be spent at home, playing with friends, doing a few day trips here and there and mostly trying to beat the heat.

But then there was the question of our anniversary. We will have been married for 10 years in August, and always planned to do something big to celebrate. Although that was going to be tricky/nigh on impossible with two small kids, unless we took them with us, which wasn't really what we had in mind. At this point some friends and family kindly offered to take the kids so we could maybe swing a long weekend in San Francisco, and we thought that was going to be it. While it wasn't quite the Grand Adventure we'd always envisioned for this milestone, we love San Francisco and were definitely happy to spend a few days there.

Then Nick's parents, angels that they are, offered to take the kids for a week. A week! Suddenly the world was quite literally our proverbial oyster, and we started thinking what might be really fun. We knew we wanted to stay within North America so we wouldn't spend half our time traveling and adjusting to time changes, and we knew we wanted to go somewhere neither of us had been before.

We're going here! On this ship!

And now we have booked a cruise to Alaska in August!

Neither of us have been on a cruise before, and neither of us have been to Alaska before, so we are very excited to check it all out. We did our research and booked all of our shore excursions, and were more or less just enjoying the rest of the summer at home until...

We're going to see my mum!

My mum needed to have hip replacement surgery. We knew it was coming, but it wasn't until two days before her surgery that I fully realized how tricky recovery is going to be for her. She will be on crutches and won't be able to drive for six weeks, and was sort of wondering how she was going to manage. Long story short, she had her surgery on Wednesday, should be headed home on Sunday, and the kids and I are flying out to Norway on Monday.

I am freaking out just a little bit. We booked our tickets just a week before leaving, which is the shortest amount of time I've ever had between deciding to go on a big trip like this and actually leaving. And I'll be flying with the kids by myself for the first time ever, which is pretty daunting. I'm actually not dreading the actual flights as much as the travel surrounding them (when I think about getting myself, two kids and our luggage onto the train at the airport in Oslo, I kind of want to cry just a little bit). But I know we can do it, and that things are rarely as bad as I imagine them to be. It'll be a hard day getting there, but it's only one day, and when we're done, we're done.

The hardest part by far is going to be leaving Nick for a month, because I am crazy in love with him. And he's helpful and lovely and we share a brain. And the kids love him and he is the other pair of hands that takes over when I'm doing something else. And we haven't been apart for more than about five days at a time in the 10 years we've been married. Oh, I'm going to miss him like cray-cray. (See?)

But! I get to spend time with my mum and my brother, I'll be able to see some of my favorite friends (and I'm really hoping my 94 year-old Nana!), I'll be in Norway, I'll get to speak Norwegian and hear Norwegian and read Norwegian and be Norwegian for a whole month! And I get to eat Norwegian food! Ohhh, it's like finding a gas station in the middle of nowhere when you weren't sure you were going to make it to the next town. So unexpected and just what I needed! And most importunely, I will be able to actually be useful and helpful to my mother which, given the geographical distance between us, doesn't happen very often. I feel very lucky that we were able to make it work.

So, goodness knows when I'll be able to blog again. I'll be keeping up with the small health changes I've made, but not adding anything new until we get back (although I am hoping I can do a good amount of walking while I'm in Norway and it's not 97 degrees outside). I'll be Instagramming up a storm while I'm gone (I even convinced Nick to get an account!), so if you're interested, you can find me there. My username is Tamsin_North.

I'll be back in a month, if not before, at which point I will surely start blogging about frugal living and austerity measures after I have spent all our money traveling the Northern hemisphere.

Bye for now!



Image borrowed here


Monday, June 8, 2015

Small Steps to Health: Four weeks!

Look at meeeee, I'm so healthy and sporty!


I've officially been doing my own little self-invented "Small Steps to Health" regime for a month now, so I think it's time for a little self-evaluation and accountability.

First of all, I'm feeling pretty proud of myself! I've been consistent and good and both seen and felt some results, which helps me feel like I'm doing something good for myself and moving in the right direction. I've lost five pounds (2.2 kg), which obviously isn't a lot, but considering I haven't really felt like I've been trying all that hard, I will definitely take. I've also felt happier, more energized and somehow... lighter on the inside, if that makes any sense at all.

In case you need a reminder, what I've been doing for the past month is picking a new area or habit to improve on each week, and then taken a small step to improve it. When the week is over, I try to keep up my good work from the previous week, and then add something new to it. Here's what I've done so far:

  • Week 1: Drinking more water. I've replaced more or less everything I drink in a day with water except for the orange juice I drink with breakfast and the occasional glass of milk (some meals just cry out for milk!), and it has basically just become a habit now. I'm not hitting 96 fl. oz. as regularly anymore, but most days I definitely come in above 64. I'm still using my giant 32 oz. hospital cup, and just fill it up a few times throughout the day, usually around lunch, dinner and then again in the evening. I think this will definitely be a habit that will stick with me. 
  • Week 2: Eating more vegetables. This has become something of a family project. As we have planned our dinners together, we've all made an effort to make sure there are plenty of fresh vegetables on the menu. Even Espen (age 5) who has a weekly dinner night that he is in charge of, knows he needs to make sure there is a vegetable or two on our plates when he's cooking. I've also started to buy bagged salad mixes specifically so I can eat them for lunch and get a little closer to that elusive "Five a Day" (at least!) that we should all be shooting for. I've mentioned before that I really, really like vegetables and salads, so this has been a pretty enjoyable change. The only hard part continues to be making the extra effort to actually make it a priority for me to eat well, as well as for my family (the washing! the chopping!). 
  • Week 3: Being a little more active every day.  I need to refocus and try harder on this one. I just get busy and sidetracked with other stuff, and all of a sudden it's Gwen's nap time or dinner time or time to get the kids to bed, and the opportunity has passed. And I'm very good at making excuses. I have hopped on my bike and gone for a quick ride around the neighborhood after the kids were in bed, which I honestly love doing. I love my bike. And I did give the kids piggyback ride around the house this morning. But there is a lot of room for improvement. 
  • Week 4: Better afternoon snacks. This is another area that needs some work. I didn't really have any bad snacks last week when I was trying to do this, but I just didn't have enough good options on hand. I feel like I just go to the store and my mind goes blank and I completely give up. I really do struggle a bit with buying and preparing things that are just for me. A friend did introduce me to these Kashi cookies, though. I thought they were tasty and filling enough that one cookie would be enough to scratch the itch. And, while I haven't studied their nutritional information in depth, the ingredients look decent and the calorie amount is pretty good for a snack. But I will continue to hunt for the perfect afternoon snack!
As for this coming week, I'm going to give myself a week off from adding new projects and work on improving the four areas listed above. I'll be back next week with a new Small Step, and hopefully before that with a post or two that have nothing to do with my health quest whatsoever!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Small Steps to Health: A better afternoon snack

I'm so healthy! Look! Look at meeeee!

Before I get into my snacking habits, let me first report back on how I did on last week's goal of being  a little more active every day. Here's how it all worked out:

  • Monday This was an easy one! It was a national holiday, so we all had the day off and went for a hike and a picnic up in the mountains. The hike was about 3.5 (5.6 km) miles roundtrip, and I clocked just over 10,000 steps on the step counter on my phone, while equals about 5 miles (8 km). I felt like that was pretty good!
  • Tuesday  I can't really remember what I did exactly, but I know we had stuff going on all day long, so I didn't get a chance to really do anything until after the kids were in bed. Fortunately by then the rain had stopped (we had such a wet and rainy May!), so I invited a friend and went for a quick 30-minute bike ride around the neighborhood. 
  • Wednesday Another busy day filled with play dates and shopping and errands. The weather wasn't being too cooperative, so we spent the afternoon inside. I knew I wouldn't get a chance to go out and do anything in the evening, so I turned on some music and had a 20 minute dance party with the kids instead. Lots of fun, and it definitely got my heart rate up! 
  • Thursday and Friday These days both completely got away from me. We were busy with appointments and this and that, and, to be honest, I think I was just feeling a bit discouraged by this whole "healthier me" thing that I'm trying to do. To do it right and get these new habits in place can be a little all-consuming, and frankly, my interests lie elsewhere (like in curling up with a book and eating cookies). But I'm determined to get there, and I will. Sometimes just feel like they're "two steps forwards and one step back" kind of days. 
  • Saturday The rain stopped and the sun came out at last, so we spent the whole entire day working in the yard. I mowed the lawn in the backyard and spent hours and hours pulling weeds, so by the time we stopped for dinner I was almost too tired to lift my fork (almost!). 
  • Sunday After we get home from church, our Sundays are always about relaxing and spending time together as a family - usually with some baking thrown in. All I did was take a 10 minute walk to the mailbox and back with Gwen, but it was still 10 minutes more than I might have done otherwise.
Baby steps, people! 

This week I'm trying to improve another habit of mine: the afternoon snack. Every afternoon, more or less without fail, I get absolutely starving hungry around 3-3:30 PM. Which isn't too surprising, because the kids and I usually eat lunch around noon, so being hungry three hours later is pretty reasonable. What isn't reasonable is that it somehow always seems to take me by surprise, so I never have anything planned to eat. Sometimes I do a good job and eat a handful of almonds, and sometimes I start opening cupboards and come out with a cookie or a fistful of chips. Personally, I'm of the opinion that if you want a cookie, then have a cookie, but maybe don't have a cookie every day? There are other snack options that will do a better job of fueling me with the energy that I need for the rest of the day, and I think I should try to eat some of those instead. And if I want a cookie one day, I'll eat one and move on with life. 

So, what is a better/healthier snack? A quick browse around the internet will show you that there are quite literally thousands of different sources* trying to tell you what a healthy snack might look like, and you honestly just have to try to find out what rings true for you. After a little bit of research, this is what I'm going for:
  • High in nutrients (proteins, vitamins and minerals)
  • Low in fat, sugar and sodium
  • Up to about 200 calories (much more than that and you may as well call it lunch)
  • Rich in fiber and protein (both help you to feel full, which is what I'd really like for a snack
  • I like food that is real food, so nothing too processed or pre-packaged, please. 
  • It has to be tasty and satisfying! It can be as nutrient-dense as it likes, but if it tastes like cardboard, I'm not eating it. 
So, off I go to the world of healthy snacking! Will you share your favorite healthy snacks and resources with me? 


*A few resources if you'd like to join me in being a better snacker. This article from WebMD gives a good outline of what you should be looking for in a healthy snack, but you'd have to be a complete doofus to need their list of "Not-so Healthy Snacks" to help you figure out that chocolate doughnuts might not be your healthiest choice. I like this article from Real Simple too. It supports what WebMD is saying, but then adds quite a lot of other good information too. And I like this list of 24 Nutritious (and Tasty) Snacks also from Real Simple (although I'm not going to be steaming myself an artichoke as a snack any time soon. Sorry, Real Simple!). The US National Library of Medicine offers this article that has some good ideas (put it in a container to help you control portion size!) and some advice that you'd think most of us would be able to come up with on our own (replace the candy dish with a fruit bowl!). Still, sometimes it's helpful to read even the most obvious of statements just to help solidify them in your mind, don't you think?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Small Steps to Health: Everyday activity

Little explorers on the loose.

I realized today that we had a long weekend in the US because of Memorial Day, while the UK had one for Bank Holiday Monday and Norway had one for Whitsun. Which means that the majority of the people who read my blog are probably getting back into real life after enjoying an extra day off. So: how was your long weekend?

We had a really nice one. Saturday was a good combination of spending time with family (Grandma and Grandpa were in town!), getting stuff done like mowing the lawn, weeding the flower beds and planting some flowers that have been living in pots because it's been too rainy to get out and plant them lately. And, thanks to some other kind family members, Nick and I were able to sneak in dinner and a play on Saturday night, which was so needed and so great.

We started our Sunday at church, then spent the afternoon baking with the kids and just generally hanging out together before Nick's younger brother and his wife joined us for dinner. They cooked for us (being cooked for is my favorite!) and then we spent the evening chatting and playing board games. I love that they live close enough to have Sundays like that with us.

Then on Monday we drove up to Big Cottonwood Canyon (in the mountains behind Salt Lake City) and took the kids on a hike up to Doughnut Falls. We charged up our batteries with a picnic lunch and then hiked the 1 3/4 miles up to the fall. It was a bit steep and muddy in places, but the kids were incredibly good sports (not a single complaint!) and it felt so good to be outside in fresh air and beautiful surroundings, using my body in a way I don't often do. We will definitely be doing some more kid-friendly hikes this summer!

Which leads me to this week's small challenge for myself. Now that my sprained foot is starting to heal, I'm going to try to add a little bit more casual activity to my every day life. I'm not talking about dusting off my running shoes and galloping around the neighborhood every morning (although I wish I wanted to do that!) or doing anything very great and heroic. I'm just thinking a few little things, like maybe taking a walk to the mail box instead of stopping by on the way home in the car, riding my bike to a friend's house or having a little dance party with the kids. Just a little something extra every day to make sure that I'm getting my heart rate going and moving around a little more than I do at the moment.

And if you need a little inspiration to fit a little more physical activity into your day, check out this video from the Norwegian department of health! (No, really! Do it.)

 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Small Steps to Health: Eat Your Veggies!

Monday's veggie haul. And then we bought about this much again on Wednesday!


This week's health challenge was going to be all about small ways to be a little more active, but then it turns out that I have somehow (I have no idea!) sprained my foot! My doctor said I don't have to stay off it, but seeing as it hurts if I walk too much, this didn't feel like a good week to start trying to ramp up my activity levels, somehow. So instead, I have been trying to get more vegetables in my diet.

As it happens, I actually really love vegetables. Love 'em. And even more luckily, my kids like (most of) them too! But sometimes in the whirlwind of everyday life, it's quicker and easier to cook up some pasta with meat sauce and call it good than to wash and chop and prepare a plate of nutrient-rich veggies. Not to mention the fact that if you don't eat them fast enough, they start to wilt and mold  in the fridge, which can be frustrating enough that you just don't really want to deal with the whole vegetable hoopla.

But they are so tasty and so good for you too, that I'm going to keep trying! Not only are they full of the nutrients we need to be healthy, they can also lower your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer(!), they can also improve your vision and gastrointestinal health too. You can read a little more about that here and here. Plus, the more healthy foods you eat, the less unhealthy foods you eat, if you know what I mean. You get a whole heck of a lot more strawberries out of 200 calories than you do peanut M&M's, if keeping track of calories is your thing.

So, this week I sat down and planned out a veggie-rich dinner menu, and this is what we had:

  • Monday: Omelettes with salad and multigrain bread. The omelettes were filled with cubed ham, a little cheese, baby broccoli and tomatoes, and we ate it with a salad on the side. I've been really liking these chopped salad kits from Dole lately (because they're convenient and tasty, and I'm lazy), and the Sunflower Crunch kit worked really well with this meal. 
  • Tuesday: Tortilla crusted tilapia with rice and green beans. This is always a solid, complaint-free family dinner. The kids both like rice and green beans, and I serve them breaded fish cut into little fishy shapes (from Target! Good heavens, I'm not breading my own fish and cutting it into fun shapes) instead of the tilapia which can be a bit spicy. This meal was fairly light on the vegetables, but we had fish, which is so healthy that it makes up for a multitude of sins, right?
  • Wednesday: Pasta bar! This is another dish that my family really likes, and it's a really simple one: I just cooked up some whole grain pasta and added about half a small jar of Alfredo sauce. Then I put a variety of toppings in little bowls on the table, like chopped tomatoes, sautéed bell peppers (I like the mini ones because you get a variety of colors in a bag and they're easy to chop), mushrooms, cubed ham, and the green beans left over from the night before (this is a great meal for busting through leftovers!) and everyone gets to top their pasta with whatever they want. A little sprinkling of parmesan cheese finishes the job. 
  • Thursday: Chicken noodle soup with multigrain rolls. I have a really great crockpot recipe (from this book) for chicken noodle soup, and it has a ton of veggies in it, including carrots, celery, mushrooms, onion and peas. Perfect for the grey weather we've been having lately, especially with a freshly baked roll on the side. And it makes a ton, so lunch is taken care of for a day or two. 
  • Friday: Cobb salad. Friday night is Espen's dinner night and when I asked him what he wanted to make, he said "bacon and salad". So we thought for a bit and came up with Cobb salad. We haven't made it yet (but we will as soon as I hit post), but our salad will have mixed lettuce, hardboiled eggs, chopped bacon, chicken, tomatoes, olives, green onions, avocados and a little cheddar cheese, which just happen to all be things that Espen likes (with the possible exception of the green onions). 
The weekend is of course a little sketchier and harder to plan for because we're eating out on Saturday (I'm thinking Thai food or maybe it's time to try some Banh Mi!) and my lovely sister-in-law is cooking for us on Sunday, but I've been trying my best to eat salads and dinner leftovers for lunch, which certainly beats the two slices of toast I usually devour after the kids have been fed. 

It definitely takes a some planning and work to eat more veggies, but I do feel like we've been eating really well this week. Everything has been tasty, and there have been moments when I have quietly patted myself on the back as my two year-old happily ate her salad with kale in it. And I think I've felt a bit more energized than usual too, especially in the afternoons when I usually have a big energy slump. I'm a little nervous that I'm going to run out of veggie-heavy recipes, though, so please feel free to share your favorites so I can add them to the rotation. 

I'm going to try to keep up these little health goals every week, so I'll be back with a new one next week. Have a great weekend!



Friday, May 15, 2015

Something for the weekend

It's Friday!

It's Friday, it's Friday, I'm so glad it's Friday! Oh, I love weekends. Bless them every one. I'm about half an our away from sous-chefing for Espen while he makes us tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner (he has a dinner night now!) which we will eat while watching a movie together. We've done that a couple of times now, and I think that might be a new Friday night tradition for us. But before I do that, let me share a few things with you that caught my eye this week:

  • This Czech teenager incorporates everyday objects in his drawings, and the results are so clever and charming. I love the Kit Kat piano! :)
  • My clever and talented friend Danyelle invented a rescue tool for people who are lost, and it's so clever! Check out (and support!) their Indie Gogo campaign here
  • The Making Table has a really fun tutorial up for a fun art project featuring cloth donuts that your kids can make*. And be sure to poke around the rest of the site too, there are so many great ideas for art projects for families. 
  • Everything Emmy posted this Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, and I seriously think we might have to try them this weekend. She says there is no perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, but I'm thinking these ones have got to come pretty close! 
  • This engaged couple were aged by makeup artists to see what they might look like as they grow older together, and it ended up being a really touching little video. 
  • Speaking of touching little videos, I love this video that a Norwegian film maker made to help him mom find the love of her life. It really is the sweetest thing! Also, his mom is such a cool lady. 
  • These are true words. 
  • A Hanna Andersson catalog found it's way to my mailbox, and I think I would like one of each of everything for me and the kids, but especially this dress for Gwen. I mean, shut the front door, how cute is that! They have a home goods section too, which I'm a little bit afraid to even look at. OK, I just peeked and I'd better go hide my credit cards. 
Have a good weekend!




*Yup, that is me and the kids in some of the photos on The Making Table's website. Krisanne is a lovely friend of ours, and we are lucky enough to be able to go to some of her classes. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Small Steps to Health: Drink More Water!

The Mighty Water Cup. Three of these a day, baby! 


It's time for a good old fashioned project here at Project Project! Goodness, it's been ages. Here's the deal: now that I am finally actually sleeping at night, I'm starting to feel a lot more like a normal person again, and a lot less like a slug. I have more energy which is amazingly awesome (I bought a bike!) and I am finally at a point where I can really start to take care of myself and my health again, which was a really hard thing to do before. I took care of the kids and kind of the house and that was about all I could really handle, which of course I felt crazy amount of mom guilt about. But now that I'm a real girl again, I'm ready to start making some changes. Specifically, some health changes.

Past experience has shown me that if I make small, incremental changes over time, they are much more likely to stick than if I go all out, all at once. So I'm starting small and steady this by drinking more water. Nothing very big or earth shattering, but still something vitally important that I hope will have a big impact over time.

I started on Monday by pulling out my big water cup (the trophy the hospital gave me for having a baby) and looking up how much water I should be drinking in a day. There are a lot varying opinions on this (like with most things on the internet!), but these are the two main ideas that made sense  stood out to me:

  1. Drink between half an ounce and an ounce of water for every pound you weigh. So if you weight 150 lbs, you should drink 75 to 150 oz of water per day. And if you weigh more than 150 lbs (hint: I do!), that is a lot of water. A lot! Still, this rule gets repeated a lot by a variety of fairly credible sources, and should definitely be something to reach for over time. 
  2. The other rule I saw that I liked was a simple and easy (and mildly gross) one. Basically, make sure that your output matches your input. In other words, if your pee has a color or a smell, drink more water. Pretty simple!
Today is Thursday and I'm on Day Four of changing my watery ways. I'm aiming (and so far, succeeding!) at drinking three 32 oz./950 ml cups of water a day, which brings me in a few oz or ml short of 100 oz or 3 liters a day. And that's in a addition to whatever else I drink in a day. Eventually I'd like to step it up and maybe add a fourth cupful, but for now I'm pretty happy with my efforts. Of course there's only so much difference you can really notice after four days (other than having to scamper off to the bathroom all the time), but I have felt pretty good this week. 

I'll be starting up a new small change on Monday, so stop by then to cheer me on, or maybe even join me yourself. You know you want to (right?)!