Archive for the ‘Self-Care’ Category

The INAUGURAL Talking About Our Thursday Food Choices

So, on my The RA Vegan facebook page, we’ve been talking about making healthy food choices.  It’s a constant theme in my life, to be honest.  I mean, things are certainly healthier since I became a vegan, but you can still be a junk food vegan.  (The day I found out oreos were vegan was NOT a good day!) In the discussion it was brought up that I’m not the only one having these issues which got me to thinking……  So very much like ‘What I Ate Wednesdays’ (WIAW) we’ve decided to have  ‘Talking About Our Thursday Food Choices’ (TAOTFC – LOL).  So, every Thursday I’ll write a post about what I ate that day.  (Or, in the event of being super busy, on Friday.) On the facebook page we’ll discuss our choices through pictures or posts or whatever we decide to use to share.  That way there is 1) Some accountability and 2) we can get some ideas about what others are eating!  You can share on your blog or through facebook; or you can just read.  Whatever you’re comfortable with! I have to admit that knowing that I would be doing this tonight *did* make me think more about my choices.  When I did WIAW I would often decide ‘well, I just won’t count today’ and would eat something crazy.  Today I had no choice!  That said, this is NOT about shame.  If you eat 5 soy ice cream sandwiches then oh well.  Not judging here. For breakfast I had leftover pizza.  This is homemade pizza on wheat crust with sauce, broccoli, onions, mushrooms, and vegan mozzarella from Trader Joe’s.  I often don’t eat much for breakfast but I ate 2 pieces of this.  Interestingly, after one piece I thought ‘I don’t need another’ but I still ate it.  I got about 3/4 of the way through the piece and decided I was done.  Next time I’m hoping I can listen to that inner voice earlier!


Then I packed my lunch for school.  As you can see, it didn’t take much!  This is leftover Easy Red Beans and Rice and 2 clementines.  I have started taking time to sit in the teacher’s lounge with others and eat the last few days.  Typically I eat at my desk, working, but really that’s not the best thing for my emotional health.  When I went to get up after just a few minutes today (I had eaten very quickly) one of the women I eat with told me to ‘sit down.”  She was right.  I need to take some time to talk with adults during the day; to think about my needs. packed lunch Not long after, though, I realized that this wasn’t enough food and went into the stash of food I keep in my desk.

2013-01-10_13-49-49_412  There was only about 2 of these left but they were definitely good!  Then I taught the rest of my day.  On my way to work with one of my special girls I enjoyed 3 of these macaroons.


YUM.  I got these for Christmas and I’ve enjoyed every pack.  Truth is, that every pack seems to be getting better!  After working with my girl and a quick trip to the thrift store (as my 13 year old said, at 7 am, that he needed more track pants.  Seeing as how I couldn’t handle this request at 7 am, I handled it at night!) I came home to an amazing dinner that Mark made.


Salad, Vegan Lasagna, and a gf/vegan brownie topped with strawberries!  (There might also have been a piece of vegan garlic bread in there that I didn’t get to photograph!)

So, all in all not the worst day or the best day.  I need to eat more fruits and veggies and less processed foods.  I have already put the leftover salad in a container to take for lunch tomorrow, and have a container of pomegranate seeds to take in my lunch as well.  I feel like the snacks I had in my desk weren’t bad, but I think maybe I should pack more in my lunch so that I have better options like some extra fruit.  And today had more vegan cheese then I think I’ve had in the last 6 months; It just worked out that way.  That won’t be normal.

So how was your day today. both food-wise and non food-wise?  I hope it was a positive day and that, whatever food choices you made, you don’t beat yourself up about any of them.  Each moment is a chance for a new beginning!  (Now I need to stay out of the brownies as I put them away!)


Sick and Tired and Tired and Sick – Or why I’ve been gone

My last post published here was in August right before school started.  Summer is usually when I have more time to blog since I’m not working full-time so I expected my post frequency to decrease.  But I didn’t expect it to stop.

But we can’t always see what’s coming, can we?

I started teaching in a different grade this year and found that my responsibilities increased and therefore my planning time increased.  This happened right at the same time my husband, Mark,  left a profession he found unfulfilling without knowing exactly what would be next.  I’m a big proponent of “leap and the net will appear”  and I also firmly believe that life is too short to be miserable so I was supportive, but financially it changed quite a bit for us.

To be honest I had been growing unattached from wanting to blog.  I had loads and loads of pictures and things to share but very little desire to blog.  I had no desire to cook and wasn’t enjoying food or thinking about food or talking about food.  With all this going on, and a really negative comment on my facebook RA Vegan page that caused me to question myself, I decided that I needed a break.  I needed to not feel obligated to photograph my food every time I cooked or ate.  I needed to feel like I was making healthy choices for me, not because I was going to be telling others about them.  And I needed to decide if I wanted to continue with this blog and the facebook page.  So I announced on facebook that I was taking a break and I just went about my life.  Not only did I not post anything but I didn’t read or comment.  I took a break from being The RA Vegan and was simply Jen.

Mark found a job he loves and a new calling.  Financially it’s made us make choices, but I’ll choose happiness over money.  Just to be clear, I’m not talking about choosing happiness and losing everything.  I’m talking about still being able to pay our bills but giving up some luxuries and things we had grown used to in order to be happy.  Things were looking up.

But I kept getting sick.  Not that unusual as someone who takes immuno-suppressants, but the frequency was unusual even for me.  One infection after another until I lost my voice and ended up at my doctor’s on November 5th expecting her to say I had yet another sinus infection.  Instead she prodded and looked and sent me for blood tests, telling me she suspected mono.  When she suggested, in her office, that I might need to take some time off I told her she was crazy.  I was the main breadwinner (and gluten free & vegan bread is pricey!) and I was just going to have deal with it.  I agreed to take a few days off, maybe even a week, but that was it.

I felt worse and worse and realized that sometimes you just have to deal with the reality in front of you.  So I took a month off.  We got even more creative with finances, but we made it work.  And I basically spent the entire time either lying in my bed or lying on the couch.  I didn’t leave the house for almost 2 weeks and I sent my family off to enjoy Thanksgiving in a different state without me because I couldn’t make the trip.  Once, when I got my haircut, I came home and took a 2 hour nap.  It wasn’t a pretty time.  I read quite a few free books on my kindle and ate more peanut butter and jelly than I’d like to count.  I didn’t have much of an appetite and was forcing myself to eat for much of the month.  Luckily things started to turn after Thanksgiving and I started feeling human again though slowly.  And as I started to feel better I realized I was thinking about food and cooking again; that I wanted to connect with the community I had become a part of again.

So I started posting on facebook, and reading some things.  I started making a few comments, and I pulled my camera out again.  I started cooking again and enjoying it.  And slowly I felt like Jen and The RA Vegan were becoming one again.

This is not a prolific blog and will probably never be.  I don’t make any money from doing this, it is simply an opportunity for me to express myself and talk to amazing people.  But I missed it.

Though I did learn that I can’t feel obligated to post, it will only make me want to do it less.  So I’m going to post when I want, and not when I don’t want.  I’m going to chat on facebook about veganism and having an autoimmune disorder and life but not feel guilty if I go a few days without saying anything.

Life is for living well, and being sick and tired is not a way to live if you can help it.  I don’t have control over the auto-immune disorder (which was still there during what I now refer to as ‘the mono invasion’) but I have control over how I respond and live my life.  I want to be happy, so as long as writing this makes me happy I’ll keep doing it.  If it doesn’t then I’ll stop.

I hope your second half of 2012 has been good!  My hope for us all is that we find joy and happiness and health in the New Year!

Now who wants to see the pictures of meals I’ve eaten?  LOL

My boring vegan life?

Ok.  I don’t really think my life is boring.  I mean, any life that has this happening in it can’t be boring, right?

Yes, the dog jumped onto the lime to be with the kids.  Of course, the dog can’t get out of the pool so when she does this it necessitates some assistance at getting her back to land.  So nope, it’s not boring.

Last week I spent the week at the Arts in Motion Academy at Salisbury University learning about ways to integrate the arts into my teaching.  My favorite part was beat-boxing and this article showcases some of what we did.  (My group is not up there, but we did something similar.)  I also did a play to demonstrate how early man discovered fire could do things wherein I played the very difficult role of a bird shot down into the fire!  I learned to paint on screens and how to dance mutiplication patterns.

This screen painting was supposed to be folk art of fruit but it really turned out to look like a clown face!  I might not be the most gifted visual artist, but life is not boring!

We went out to lunch 4 of the 5 days and I got some wonderful Vegan food including this Vietnamese food and Mediterranean food.

And while I was taking this class my niece and nephew were staying with us and attending nature camp with my kids.  They swam in the mucky disgusting pond everyday and came home smelling, um, interesting.  I got very talented at spraying out their shoes with the hose!  Not boring.

And today, the first weekday after my class, I got caught in a torrential downpour, had 5 kids running around my house, and cleaned out my fridge.  How could you think refrigerator cleaning is boring??

But the thing is, I haven’t done a ton of cooking so I haven’t been able to post any recipes.  I do have two posts in the works.  One is about being a “bad vegan” and the foods I don’t like.  The other is a review of the fantastic new cookbook “Great Gluten Free Vegan Eats” by Allyson Kramer.  But, I don’t always post what I’m thinking about because I don’t want to bore you.  So, what would you like to hear about?

Are you interested in how I navigate being the only vegan in my circle of friends?  How I deal with the pain of RA?  How I relax?  How I deal with teaching all day and raising my kids while having RA?  Restaurant reviews?  Something else?  Or are you mostly looking for recipes?

Seriously.  Are there any specific topics you’d like me to cover?  My brain tends to jump around pretty intensely and it will probably still do that, but I’d like a little help focusing on what you’d like to read about.  Because I know you’re not here to see my beautiful screen painting!  LOL

Because one size does not fit all or even most…

I am not an expert on health.  I am just a mom, a wife, and a teacher who has some sort of an auto-immune disorder that still lacks a diagnosis.  (You can see my About me page for the specifics.  They thought it was RA and still think it might be but are not sure due to the fact that I am sero-negative.  My medical treatment is pretty traditional for RA, though.)

The choices I have made for myself are just that, my choices.  I’m trying to do the best I can with what I’ve got.  The problem is that even the experts disagree.  Last year I attended the Take Back Your Health Conference in Virginia.  One of the things that I found both fascinating and difficult was that the speakers are all very different.  From one talk to another completely different information was presented.  This was intentional.  The creators specifically wanted us to have lots of different options because we are not all the same.  What works for one person does not necessarily work for the next person.  We are all different and this difference is precious.

But that definitely highlights the fact that a one size fits all mentality no longer works.  It’s why some of us are seeking alternatives to traditional western medicine.  But that logic would also hold that alternative treatment is also not a one size fits all situation.

I have chosen, for myself, a combined method.  I still take medication but I also have made some major lifestyle changes in order to help me best deal with my auto-immune disorder.   It helps.  I know there are other changes I could (and maybe should) make to my life and I’m doing them slowly.  At my own pace.

The reason I’m thinking about this is because I attempted a juice fast when school got out.  I’ve been talking about it on my RA Vegan facebook, which means people know.  I’ve gone almost three days and while there have been good things there have also been some things I’m a little concerned about.  Nothing awful but enough that I think it’s time for me to stop.

I know I *could* go on.  But *should* I?

And I’m a little worried about saying that publicly for fear I will look like a quitter by those who feel strongly about how long one should do a fast.  Of course, to some of my friends and family just saying I was doing it made me look crazy anyway.

But one size does not fit all.  I’m trying to make the best decisions I can for myself every day.  Good choices are good choices even if they are not the same good choices others make.

It’s hard when you’re public about things you are trying, because then everyone knows when you stop.  I’m glad I tried and I might try again.  But, for now, this is what I need to do.  For me.

Ordering Vegan Food: Whoopee Pies!

I’ve talked before about how the Eastern Shore of MD is not particularly vegan friendly at the moment.  When I went to PA a few weeks ago for an amazing 10 course vegan meal and mentioned where I lived someone said “You’re vegan in Salisbury MD?  Isn’t that Perdue country?  They let you live there??”  (For a recap of the night check out this great post by The Vegan Version.  I forgot my camera at home.  I know!  Bad blogger!)

Meals out are getting easier, actually.  I’m finding more and more places that have alternatives that are healthy, tasty, and vegan.  Rarely, though, do I find a place where I can get dessert other than sorbet.  And sorbet is good, it’s just not what I want all the time.

Now, there are a few options.  Pemberton Coffeehouse has a rotating flavor vegan cupcake, and I can occasionally find Alternative Baking Company Cookies locally.

But there is no place where I could go in and choose from a full menu (or even more than one or two) of vegan choices either main dishes or desserts.  This is not NY, unfortunately.  Wait.  Let me take that back.  As much as I love NY I’m actually happy to live where I do.  The open space, the beach, the fresh produce.  It’s lovely.  But I can’t just decide I want some vegan baked goods and go buy them like I could in NY.

Yes, I could make them.  And I usually do.  But last week was the very end of the school year which is, by far, the craziest time in my life.  I was tired.  I was depleted.  And I wanted dessert.

So what did I do?  Why, I ordered dessert of course!

Yes!  This box of awesomeness was delivered right to my door.  Vegan Whoopee Pies!  And man were they good!  I put them in the fridge and found that I preferred them cold.  They were fine at any temperature, but I liked them cold best.  My favorite flavor of this assortment actually surprised me.  Being a chocolate person I figured that’s where I would find my favorite but, actually, it was pumpkin.  They were all tremendous, but pumpkin was my favorite.  The packaging was great as well and it’s where I got that vegan tag I’m playing with in the first picture!

We won’t talk about how quickly I ate them all.  But they were wonderful and it was worth it!  You can find these and other vegan confections at the Veganville etsy store.

It was a fabulous gift to myself as I ended the school year.  Do you order vegan food online?  What are your favorite places to get it?

Wye Mill and Stone Ground Cornmeal and Accidental Discoveries

Sometimes the best things are found by accident.

Last weekend we set off on a Park Quest.  We were driving the hour or so to Wye Island Maryland to do a quest that involved hiking and solving a crossword puzzle.  Except, on the way, we discovered that we were low on gas.  So I used the gps to try and find the closest gas station.  While looking at the closest it did occur to me that it might not be in service since the name did not contain anything that sounded like gas, but we decided to turn off the main road and check it out.  Sure enough, it was closed and there was no gas so we had to get back on the highway.  On the drive back to the highway we drove past a small place with a sign outside that said “Open” and one that said “Stone Ground Cornmeal.”  The kids, who have always loved interesting places, wanted to stop but our sights were set on getting gas and right away!  As we got back to the highway we were going to turn left and go the 7.3 miles to where the gps said we would find gas when T said “Mom!  Look!  Over there!” and there, peaking through the trees right across the highway, was a gas station.  So after gas the kids begged to go back to the stone ground cornmeal sign and since it was less than a mile away we figured we’d stop for a second and then be on our way to the hike.

Well it turns out that The Wye Grist Mill is on the National Register of Historic places and that the history is fascinating.  Since one of the only things my kids like more than exploring is museums, we were hooked!

The volunteer who did our tour was amazing.  He took us through each piece of information and really involved the kids in the conversation.  We were there over an hour learning about the history of the mill, the area, and milling in general.  The entire visit was free though they do take donations, and is located just off of Route 50 if you’re on your way over the bay bridge going to the Eastern Shore of MD.  On the first and third Saturdays of the month, spring to fall, they actually grind things in the mill which I think would be very interesting to watch.

We bought some stone ground cornmeal, some stone ground buckwheat flour, and some strawberry jam.  As we were buying it I started thinking about how there really are so many different options when it comes to buying things even though we don’t always see them or think about them.  I have been trying to seek out local places to buy things (which is what lead me to joining the CSA with Taylor’s Fresh Organics) when I can.   I love the farmer’s markets locally and really need to get there more.  But it’s also nice to find the out-of-the-way places to buy things.  When I bought my flours I felt good knowing I was also preserving history while spending my money.  And yes, we did leave a donation.

After the tour we indeed went and did our Park Quest.  We loved the hiking and it was a great day.  But what an amazing find to be able to watch an old mill really grind flour!  What places have you discovered “by accident”?  Discovering places like this makes life more enjoyable, in my opinion.

Funky. Funky. Funky.

Lately I have been in a funk.  Nothing awful.  I’ve gone to work everyday and kissed my children and husband.  I’ve chauffeured and cleaned and written lesson plans.  But everything except loving on my family felt rather, well, blah.

I haven’t posted a blog post in a few weeks and  I haven’t been nearly as active on my facebook page.  To be honest, I haven’t really cooked much.  A few things here and there but very very little.  No motivation.

Apparently I haven’t been the only one.  Dacia at Thirty Four and Fabulous recently posted about a funk and A Gluten Free, Vegan, Mom Who Knows posted on my facebook page that she too has been in a funk.

Maybe we push ourselves so much that sometimes we just hit a wall.  Maybe we get overwhelmed.  Maybe it’s something else.  But it happens to most of us.

But I am happy to report that I feel refreshed and much more “like myself.”

I took some time for me.

A friend and I escaped this weekend to Jim Thorpe PA to a 10 course vegan dinner.  It was amazing to try so many wonderful courses and I will try to fill you in, with pictures, later.

But along with wonderful food what I found was the chance to feel like me again.  This friend and I talked all weekend.  I didn’t worry about what I was supposed to do.  I simply did things.

It was just what I needed.

I feel refreshed and full of life again.  Ready to re-focus on what is important.  And that is taking the best care of my family I can.  To do that I, of course, must take care of me as well.

The end of the school year is almost here and soon I’ll be in summer mode.  My CSA starts delivering in a few weeks and there will be produce to savor.  It’s time to pull out of my funk and jump back into joy.

I hope you are well.  Because to paraphrase my friend Kristen at The Healing Spoon, this webpage is not just about me.  It’s about us.  It’s a journey that I am honored and blessed to be taking with other people.  Without you there would be no point in doing this.  Because sharing together is what makes this worthwhile.

I feel bad that I have been absent lately but I needed to recharge.  And now I feel ready to move forward.

Have you felt funky lately?  How have you handled funks in the past?  Do you think they are inevitable?  Or do you think they are preventable?  What do you do to keep yourself charged up?

Thank you for being a part of my life.  Let’s move forward together!