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It’s been 14 days

I wish I could say this whole cleanse up to this point has been a breeze, but I can’t. Exactly two weeks ago on July 26, I let the world know I was embarking on a 21 day Vegan cleanse through https://simplegreensmoothies.com/. I’ve done this cleanse once or twice a year for the last few years. I’ve written many blog posts about my experiences, which is different every time. What makes this one fun is that my husband, Bryan, decided to join me for a friendly challenge. This is his first time on the cleanse.

Week 1 was actually a breeze and it felt really great to be preparing and consuming these nutritious foods. Since I’m not new to the cleanse, I’ve gotten really familiar with the recipes and know which ones I like and don’t like. Of course, I stuck to the ones that I like, hoping Bryan would like them too. He’s a very finicky eater.

Week 2 is where we both leave much to be desired in how poised and committed we’ve been to the recipes. The most important thing about Week 2 is that it is the actual cleanse week. Not only are we consuming all vegan foods, but grains, lentils, and beans are omitted. Life certainly is less colorful without these foods. I also remembered that I did NOT like most of Week 2’s recipes.

Bryan has denied this, but I think his strategy was to simply not eat in order to avoid eating the food. There was no question we were mostly hungry this week. Have you ever been so hungry, yet didn’t want to eat the food before you? You usually hear that if you’re hungry enough, you’d eat anything. I was hungry most of Week 2, but didn’t want to eat. We did cheat a couple of times with onion rings. Onions rings are vegan. What can I say (palm bump on forehead)?

I’m hoping for greener (pun intended!) pastures in this last week. Grains, lentils, and beans are back. At least they’ve been back since day 13 because I couldn’t take another day without them. If this were an actual race, I’d be the one clawing and clinching to the finish line. I’m a little surprised by how I’m experiencing this cleanse. And to think, I was actually planning on going an extra week. No way!

All in all, it’s been a fun experience with Bryan. We’re both a little lighter too. We’re celebrating the last day of the cleanse by BREAKING the cleanse for our daughter’s birthday. She gave us the side eye a couple times as she watched us cheat. I type this in jest, but what example are we showing her? I know. Execution might not be perfect, but finish. Pick back up where you left off. Do your best, and even if you don’t, keep it moving.

I will lay this cleanse to rest for the remainder of 2020 once we complete this round. Here are some pictures of the beautiful food I made with my own hands. As an experienced cook, I tailored the recipes to my preferences and even combined some.

Citrus beet green smoothie
Swiss chard white bean skillet
Black bean zucchini tacos
roasted veggies served with basil pesto and brown rice (not pictured)
Baked hash cakes over a bed of mixed greens
Prep for lemon chia pudding; vanilla extract not pictured; chia seeds soaking in coconut milk
Herbalicious hummus with veggies
Filling for black bean zucchini tacos
Pineapple carrot green smoothie

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It starts tomorrow

Sometimes the thing you don’t want to do is the thing you should do. To my pleasant surprise, my husband, Bryan, offered to do a cleanse with me…any cleanse of my choosing. Hmmmm. I’ve done a few that I keep going back to and they all involve green smoothies. Then, he changed the tone of the offer to a CHALLENGE. Come again??? Let’s do Fresh Start, the 21 day vegan, green smoothie challenge, spring edition.

I’ve been prepping all weekend. I’ve posted before about setting yourself up for success whenever you can. So that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m going to show Bryan how it’s done. Anyway, this is a good time for an overall cleanse- mentally and physically. It’s something I can control in this messy state of the world right now. It’s also a nice distraction.

I was not that excited initially. I started thinking about all the meat products in the freezer and the chicken breasts I just bought at a great deal. I thought about the stash of food I’ve been accumulating for months just in case the state shuts down. I could feel myself holding onto something.

As we were shopping, which took the whole weekend, my excitement began to increase. I began letting go of “BUT this” and “BUT that”. I began visualizing how good I would feel during the process. I’ve been here before. It’s going to feel great and I will be so proud of myself. I’m going to feel good, look good, sleep good, and possibly lose a few pounds in the process.

So there you have it. I spent two whole days prepping my heart out. What I like about this cleanse is that there is plenty of plant powered, delicious food. Here are some pictures of my endeavors. I’ll post a couple of times during this process so you can read about my progress.

Woke up Sunday morning and made the roasted snacks. Tamari almonds are part of a different cleanse and that’s ok because they’re vegan. LPC
Herbalicious hummus in my Vitamix blender minus the cilantro because I didn’t have any.. LPC
Decadent cashew cream which is a versatile substitute for sour cream and whipped cream. LPC
Two cashew creams were frozen for weeks 2 and 3. I will eat this with a kale salad, zucchini black bean tacos, waldorf salad…to name a few. LPC
Almond butter sauce for the asparagus snow pea stir fry with brown rice later in the week. LPC
Strawberry herb dressing for Monday’s lunch salad with mixed greens, cucumbers, avocado, and sliced almonds. LPC
Strawberry herb dressing. I labeled everything to make it easier for Bryan. LPC
Warm spiced almond milk. The coconut whipped cream is not part of the cleanse recipe, but it’s so good. I drink this often. This will be our daily night cap. Yum!!! LPC

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Am I the only one exhausted?

It’s been 17 weeks since I’ve been teleworking and I’m exhausted. Don’t get me wrong, I actually love working from home. However, it comes with some unexpected adjustments.

The dry erase board outside of my office 3/18/2020

Little did I know when I wrote this on my board on March 18, 2020 that on July 16, 2020, I’d still be teleworking. At the time, my agency indicated telework was voluntary. Because I’m in the high risk category due to my breast cancer history and current treatment, I decided I would telework most of the week and work from the office once or twice a week. As COVID-19 updates were rapidly changing, by Friday March 20, 2020, telework was no longer an option. It was mandatory.

Beignet and Cannoli – my office mates. LPC

You may be wondering why I took the picture of my dry erase board before I left to venture on this teleworking escapade. Well, I actually took the picture in mid-May, after a 2 month absence. My laptop crashed so I had to meet with IT at one of the state buildings. It was a great opportunity to stop at my office and pick up a few things. Who knew I’d be so excited to wear my work badge again.

My baby orchid on my desk was still alive! LPC

So what are the adjustments I’ve made for teleworking? For starters, the fact that my world has been turned upside down (slight exaggeration) with the increased utilization of every virtual platform known to man (slight exaggeration) has erupted my senses (no lie).

At my agency (state government), we are authorized to use about 3 virtual platforms. Some of the platforms out there lack the security needed to protect our information, particularly pertaining to the vulnerable populations we serve.

Though I think it’s very cool that state government is finally embracing the tools of the 21st century (insert sarcasm), it’s a lot of work for my senses. My team connects with me in multiple ways throughout the day, every day: instant message, email, virtual, and text. Add in the fact that I work longer hours and am required to participate in more meetings, you’ve got an exhausted Lucrece on your hands!

Beignet expressing my exact sentiments. LPC

I attribute the decrease in writing on my blog to this exhaustion. There is so much going on in the world right now with the COVID-19 pandemic and racial unrest that it’s no wonder I’m exhausted. This is a time for self-compassion.

Here are some benefits of teleworking:

  • Traffic stress evaporated
  • Time to exercise daily
  • Close proximity to my family
  • Mid-day snuggles from my cats
  • Safety of home
  • Easy accessibility to my team and bosses
  • No fuss about clothing  or shoes
  • Wear shorts and comfy bottoms almost daily
  • No unsolicited office snacks like donuts, cookies, and cakes

It was surreal going to the office in May because it was empty…as if time stood still. All the files, file cabinets, boxes, and shelves of just “stuff” that we thought we needed in the office, but ended up not needing when told to vacate. That alone can be a blog post in itself…a post about “stuff” we don’t need, but think we do. On that note, stay tuned for a future blog post about all the organizing I’ve been doing to keep track of all my “stuff”.

To my surprise, the plants in my office were still alive so I took them home. A little while back, maybe about a year and a half ago, I made a picture board outside my office of favorite moments with my team. I went to the local craft store to get some supplies and had pictures I took with them developed. While at my office in May, I stopped to look at their faces on the board. I remembered the lunch outings, birthday parties, and other activities. Although I see them everyday virtually, I do miss seeing them in person.

I occassionally create a space in the daily “huddles” with my team to discuss how people are feeling in the midst of current events. The flooding of news and information can take a toll on each of us. I think acknowledging it is a step towards reducing anxiety. People need an outlet to discuss these things. In this time of “social distancing”, it can feel isolating for many people. It’s important to have meaningful connections whenever we can.

Cannoli. LPC

Thankfully, I’m on STAYcation this week, making time to unplug from work and get some rejuvenation. Since my mom passed away on July 8, 2017, I’ve  taken time off from work around the anniversary of her passing. This year I decided to take a whole week off and I’ve inserted some additional time off in the next few months. This is called self-care.

Stay tuned for more blog posts. That’s my self-care too.

How are things in your neck of the world? What are you doing to cope?

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“Routine” Independence Day

Unlike years past, July 4th, 2020 looked like any other day. It’s been my family’s tradition (hubby and kids) to attend the Auditorium Shores fireworks display in Austin for many years now. I love the experience of finding a spot on the grass with the crowd, snacking, playing games and enjoying the weather, and then later gasping at the magnificent display. Even if we couldn’t make it to “big” fireworks show in previous years, especially when the kids were little, we traveled to nearby, smaller towns to see their displays. However, last year, we made it to the big one.

July 4, 2019 LPC

It felt great sleeping in this morning. I took a couple of days off work on Thursday and Friday. My husband and I took our routine walk and hike along one of our favorite trails before it got too hot. We returned to the house and I made bacon, pancakes, and eggs for brunch. I ran a few errands, took a nap and made chilli dogs and chocolate chip cookies (their favorite). My son got to eat before he went to work. It was a quiet, peaceful, and normal day…normal as it can be with COVID-19 looming.

My famous chocolate chip cookies. LPC

Instead of complaining about the state our world is in right now, I choose to focus on how immensely grateful I am for being born and raised in this country. Despite the problems and history of the U.S., I can tell you I appreciate the freedoms we have in this country.

My parents and most of my family were immigrants from Haiti. From my view, people from other countries who have hopes and dreams of living a better life in the U.S. view the U.S. differently than those born and raised here. I don’t want to make any political statements, but I’ve received a good education, I’ve never been persecuted for earning an education as a woman, I can vote for who I want, and I can choose how and where I want to live.

Fireworks, Austin, TX July 4, 2019

Yes, there are absolutely problems in this country, but I’m free…free to live my life in peace. As the country celebrates it’s independence from Great Britain, I celebrate living the life I want, where I want. I’m hopeful for the future despite the pandemic and racial unrest.

I hope you had a safe and peaceful day.

What are you grateful for this independence day?

Fireworks, Austin, Texas July 4, 2019
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Shopping deals during COVID-19

There is so much going on in the world right now between the COVID-19 pandemic and the long standing pandemic of racial injustice in the world. Although I’m an optimistic person, it’s no wonder that many people including myself have been feeling mentally drained.

Like a lot of people, I’ve engaged in some retail therapy to help me cope. Some of this is normal in the sense of using distractions to help ourselves feel better….like self-soothing. However, shopping can become addictive, so be careful. If it’s not in the budget, then you don’t have the money to spend. This sounds simple enough, but unfortunately that doesn’t stop people from spending what they don’t have.

I had my last big shopping hoorah last week. I’ve pumped the brakes on shopping because I have everything I need and want. I’m able to discipline myself when needed, plus I have long term goals. Also, there is no space to keep a huge accumulation of stuff. That’s the bonus side of living in a small townhouse.

I admit I get a massive boost of dopamine from a great sale. And lately, I’ve found great sales which I attribute to COVID-19 effects on the economy. Retail stores are struggling. I find the few I’ve visited barely have inventory or places like Kohl’s have huge inventories of winter pieces that they want to get rid of. Also, many stores are not equipped to process massive online orders like Amazon. It took The Container Store one month to send my order which was delivered on 3 different delivery dates.

Brand new sweater $3.50 (after additional discount) from Kohl’s. LPC
Simply Vera by Vera Wang less than $4 (with additional discount) at Kohl’s. LPC

If you have a few extra dollars, this is the time to stock up on winter items. I purchased 7 sweaters at less than $4 a piece because of the extra 30% off on clearance at Kohl’s. Occassionally, Kohl’s offers cash back on certain amounts you spend, plus additional coupons.

Costco also has been having cheap prices on clothes. Cheap as in $5 dollars for name brand pants and tops. You have to really pay attention or you’ll miss it. The sweaters plus a few other items are stored under my bed in the storage boxes I bought from The Container Store.

Since I work in a professional environment, I’m usually looking for professional pieces. I like variety. I got really excited when I found coats on clearance I could wear to work.

Cathy Daniels $25 final price. LPC
Chaps sweater/coat $14.22 final price. LPC
Apt. 9 jacket approximately $15 final price. LPC

I know winter is a few months out, but these are great deals. I honestly thought we’d be back to the office by now. With the increase in COVID-19 cases in Texas, I’m wondering if we’ll be back to the office at all in 2020. I hope I’m able to wear these pieces I bought this year. If not, I’ll hold onto them for winter 2021.

My whole household benefited from Kohl’s sales. I found some major deals for my husband, Bryan, and my two kids. I also brought several items on clearance I needed for the kitchen such as a Pyrex glass dish, mixing bowls, and cooking/prepping utensils.

Randall’s tea clearance. LPC

Not only have I been finding deals on household items and clothes, but my grocery store has been clearancing out some items including expensive, organic, responsibly sourced teas such as Mighty Leaf, Numi, Traditional Medicinals, Organic India, Yogi, etc. for $1.97. To my surprise, the expiration dates are fine: 2021 and 2022. There were too many teas to capture in the picture. Randall’s is also having a clearance on coffees, including some organic ones and fancy nut butters and organic jams. I stocked up and may even reserve some as gifts.

Overall, groceries have been more expensive, but I’ve found my Randall’s has been slowly bringing back their weekly sales and ads. Shopping is no longer like a scavenger hunt, at least for now. I’m able to find what I need which is great. However, the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Texas makes me think there will be another lock down. Whatever the case, I’m prepared. What about you?

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Cooking new recipes during COVID-19

Starting in April and lasting through May, I reduced the amount of cooking I was doing for several reasons, none of which was planned. The reduction in cooking wasn’t due to a lack of groceries either. As I’ve indicated in previous posts, I’m grateful for a well stocked pantry, deep freezer, and refrigerator/freezer.

In April, I was still getting used to teleworking and initially was finding it difficult to make time to eat in my newfound virtual reality. I continued to drink my nutitious green smoothies daily, but I’d begun relying on convenience foods. Example: Trader Joe’s fish nuggets and orange chicken paired with salads or soups.

We were also in celebratory mode for a while because my husband, Bryan’s, disability was approved. This was such a relief for him because his life has been in limbo. He deservedly received compensation for back pay which has allowed us to live comfortably during a pandemic. We’ve paid off many debts in a matter of months. We also have the emergency fund that Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman have been preaching about for years.

Also, May is a special month in that Mother’s Day and my birthday are one week apart. We celebrated with takeout from the same delicious Italian restaurant for both occasions. This was the first Mother’s Day since my mom passed three years ago that I didn’t cry.

No matter how good convenience foods and takeout foods are, I always return to craving my own cooking. Also, I didn’t like gaining a few pounds since teleworking. I know when I cook, I’m able to control how healthy the meal is and add my own flare. I’ve been tracking my calories on my Fitbit since the end of May, and thankfully, the scale is going back in the right direction.

I’ve been doing weekly meal planning…nothing fancy. There are so many YouTube videos of meal planning, shopping on a budget, and being frugal. Since shelter in place, I’ve increased my viewing of these videos exponentially. I enjoy them so much. Some youtubers have their own products to help people get organized, but I created a simple hybrid system which is tweaked here and there.

I created a master list of the foods my family enjoys. I asked them for ideas. When I get some time, I plan to type up the list, but for now, I keep track in my journal. Weekly, I write a menu I create on the dry erase board on the refrigerator. I also get inspiration for new ideas from the YouTube videos and sites I follow. Although I don’t recall what inspired me to make the vegetarian lasagna roll ups, it doesn’t matter because they were so good. My family loved them.

Spinach & ricotta lasagna roll ups with salad. LPC

On my birthday, I got to speak to one of my long time friends for a while. We were talking about everything and then the conversation inevitably landed on food. We both love to cook. I noted that I’ve never tasted mussels or oysters. A couple of days later, I began asking myself why I was limiting myself from trying these foods. Next thing you know, I was in Costco and bought a frozen bag of mixed seafood. Seafood soup popped in my head. Then, I learned something for the first time.

Seasoned seafood ready for the pot. LPC
Beautiful sauteed veggies for seafood soup. LPC
Seafood soup. LPC

Mussels are actually quite delicious. I don’t like that it’s taken me so long to learn this.

Sunny side up egg and mashed sweet potatoes. LPC

In January, while participating in the green smoothie challenge, I blogged about the importance of people setting themselves up for success. Prepping ingredients on the weekends sets me up for success during the work week. A couple of weeks ago, I roasted my last 5 or 6 sweet potatoes and mashed them with only cinnamon. There was no excuse to not have healthy options. I tried a new breakfast combination of a sunny side up egg with mashed sweet potatoes. It was delicious!

Peaches and biscuits. LPC

I caught a video of vegan, social media superstar Tabitha Brown (google her) making a vegan peaches and biscuit recipe. I’ve never heard of this combination, BUT I was inspired to try it. On Saturday, I found myself buying Fredericksburg peaches from a lady who was deaf on the corner by the park by our house. Ten dollars for a large bag.

Fresh peaches simmering in maple syrup, freshly squeezed lemon, cinnamon, and freshly grated nutmeg. LPC
Nothing says summer like fresh peaches. LPC

What a delicious treat! I was careful about ensuring I had enough calories in my daily allotment. I’ve found tracking my calories to be helpful because occassionally I get too lax. I was able to eat this treat and not worry about exceeding my calories. WIN! WIN! WIN!

I’m so glad to be back into my cooking groove. I’m even more excited to be adding new recipes to my meal rotation. Homecooking is not only healthier depending on what you’re cooking, but it’s more cost effective for your budget. Even if I can afford it, I want to live below my means and save money where I can.

What inspires you to cook? What new foods or food combinations have you tried recently? What are you cooking up this week?

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Father’s Day message

Happy Father’s Day! In case you struggled today, this message may be for you.

enlightenedsocialworker

There’s no denying the impact a present father has on his child’s life. In my culture growing up, he wasn’t “father” or “daddy”…he was called “poppy”. Whether positive, negative, or mixed, it’s an impact that lasts. I think when a father hasn’t been in his child’s life, especially from an early age, the impact becomes more tricky to assess. My perspective is personal because my father was not in my life. In fact, I barely speak of him. He was dangerous. He was irrational. He was bitter. He was defeated. He was misunderstood. He was broken.

My father was around, but he didn’t raise me because he was incapable of raising his family at the time. People whispered about him in my presence. When visiting my uncle, his brother, he couldn’t sit in the living room…he could only go to the basement. My uncle would arrange for me to see…

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What breast cancer has taught me…

In recognition of National Cancer Survivor’s day June 7, 2020

enlightenedsocialworker

Breast cancer awareness month is nearing its end. I often spend September and October reflecting on my life after my breast cancer diagnosis, mostly because I was diagnosed right at the onset of breast cancer awareness month.

About 10-12 years ago, when my mom was attending to her breast cancer treatment, I had no knowledge of the disease. She told me she was struggling with how to proceed in her course of treatment considering how much her breasts meant to her. My mom had a mastectomy and breast reconstruction with an implant. I didn’t think she needed to get a breast implant. Admittedly at the time, I thought it was odd my mom was talking about her relationship with her breasts, considering she was in her late 60’s. I thought she wouldn’t care so much since she was in a different phase of life. Looking back, I was insensitive.

She…

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Dominican Republic (DR) Chronicles 2019: Food

I have fond memories of this trip. One day, I’ll be traveling again. In the meantime, I have memories.

enlightenedsocialworker

For my blog readers, my son, Caleb and I are finally on our mission trip in Santiago, DR. We arrived in the middle of the night to the Mission of Hope (MOH) Santiago Campus Sunday morning, June 2. I’ll be blogging about this experience while I can on the trip and for the next several weeks. I’ve shared pictures on my Facebook page, but I really want to unpack this experience through blogging. Update: This is the only blog post I’ve managed to type thus far. I intended to post more, but I think several things are at play: I’ve been more tired than usual, been getting settled into my normal routine, and still mentally and spiritually processing this trip.

This particular post is focused on the food. These almond butter packets I brought have saved me to a point.

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At the time that I posted this, I only…

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