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?)!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Back from Disney World!

Meeting the Mouse himself. Espen was starstruck, Gwen was skeptical.

If things have been quiet around here lately, it's because we just got back from a week at Disney World! And Legoland. And the beach. It was a lot of fun, especially seeing how much the kids enjoyed themselves. Truth be told though, I think that even better than meeting Mickey and riding Splash Mountain was getting to spend a whole week adventuring with Grandma and Grandpa. Nick's parents invited us to join them, and of course we leapt at the chance! We even managed to keep the trip a secret from the kids for almost a year while we planned and made our preparations! Some of my favorite memories include a perfect day spent at Cocoa Beach, fulfilling my childhood dream of seeing Cinderella's castle in person, watching the Epcot Fireworks from a boat on the lake, going on "safari" at Animal Kingdom and so many moments of seeing joy and wonder on my kids' faces. And seeing Gwen going into complete fan girl mode when she saw Minnie Mouse in a parade!

So hot, tired and sweaty, but still having lots of fun.
I have to admit that I enjoyed myself a lot more than I was really expecting to. I haven't really been too much of a Disney fan since I reached adulthood, and while I like theme parks well enough, I just haven't really been to that many. I'm more of a museum, sightseeing and 'getting a feel for what it might be like to live there" kind of a traveler, so six parks in six days was a huge departure for me. And I surprised myself by actually really enjoying it! There was so much to see and do, and everything is so well-run to keep frustrations at a minimum. You're never more than a few steps away from a bathroom, a drinking fountain or a place to sit down, which is much appreciated in hot and humid Florida, especially when you're walking and standing as much as you do in a place like Disney World.

On the pier at Cocoa Beach.
I have to admit though, that as fun and amazing a time as we had at Disney World, I think my favorite day was the one we spent at Cocoa Beach. We all woke up well-rested after sleeping a 12 hour-night (I haven't done that since college!), ate a tasty breakfast at the hotel, and then headed over to the beach across the street. Nick and I left our phones and cameras in the car, and just played with the kids in the sand or the water and took turns boogie boarding. It has been a long time since the four of us have just relaxed and had fun together without any responsibilities or distractions taking our minds off the here and now. And it was a really nice, family-friendly beach filled with happy and friendly people, which was nice. Plus being right by the pier for bathrooms, lunch and a quick shower at the end of the day was so so great, especially for a family with small children. The best part, though, was just spending time together and sharing something that I love (the beach!) with my family and seeing how much they loved it too. Gwen is still requesting that we go back!

Legoland where everything is awesome. 

Now we're home again and just about back to normal. That is, back to normal until school gets out in three weeks and our routine goes out the window again! But for now it feels good to sleep in our own beds, have more than four outfits to choose from and not eat out all the time (I swear at least one of the kids somehow managed to have pizza just about every day we were gone!). Isn't it funny how some of us (me!) have this need to counterbalance having a lot of fun and excitement with something familiar and low-key? "I've had too much delicious food lately, can't a girl just get a bowl of cereal? I've spent a week having crazy amounts of fun at five different amusement parks, when do I get to watch Netflix in my jammies?" And it's not just adults that can't keep up either: our kids would get back to the hotel after a day of wall-to-wall fun, and  just want to sit down with the iPad or play Legos for a while.

Having said that, I will also say that I started planning our return trip to Orlando on about the second day. We want more beaches and swimming pools and Tinkerbell and parades and live shows and rollercoasters! But in five years or so, when the kids won't need strollers, are both tall enough for all of the rides, can stay awake past 8:30 PM and my legs have forgotten how tired they were after a week of walking. Then we will be back for more! Turns out there is a Disney fan in me after all.