Friday, June 19, 2015


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?