Image

Labor day love

I ended my 3 day weekend laboring 😁 over this delicious beef brisket which turned out perfectly seasoned and moist. In case you don’t know, smoked brisket is a Texas delicacy. Since we don’t have a smoker or grill, all weekend I had planned to use the Ninja Foodie my husband bought me a couple of months ago. I watched some YouTube videos on making a brisket in the Ninja Foodie and I just wasn’t feeling it. I kept thinking the brisket would come out better in the oven.

Easy Brisket cooked by me. LPC

I’ve never been more right in my life! A couple of recipes I Googled recommend 6 hours at 300 degrees in the oven. I didn’t have that kind of time considering it was 1:00 pm when I finally decided to bake it. I turned the stove to 320 degrees and baked for just under 4 hours. I don’t think it would have this fabulous crisp crust had I used the Foodie unless perhaps I used the crisper at the end.

LPC’s easy brisket

This is only my second time making a brisket. The first time was about 15 years ago in my crockpot. Since it was on sale at my favorite grocery store recently, I thought “why not”? I seasoned it with a dry rub of a variety of my favorite spices and let it marinade for 24 hours. There was a nice layer of fat on top that I didn’t remove. My son, Caleb, specifically asked me to keep the fat on. I baked it with the fat side up so the fat could melt into the meat as it slow roasted. I let it roast covered for 3 hours, then continued to bake without the aluminum foil for the last hour.

Vegetarian baked beans. LPC

I didn’t decide on my sides until the last minute. As I was looking in my pantry, I saw there were 2 cans of Great Northern beans. Then, I remembered I had a great recipe I used previously. Potato salad or macaroni and cheese? I finally decided on BROCCOLI macaroni and cheese which was a first for me. I also made a beautiful mixed salad (not pictured).

I enjoyed the walk with my husband, Bryan, earlier. We’ve been taking advantage of the slightly cooler weather (90 degrees). I love walking outdoors because it’s relaxing and rejuvenating. It put me in the frame of mind to have a great day at work tomorrow.

Bryan and Lucrece

I hope you did something relaxing for yourself today. Depending on where you are in the world, you may still have time before the day ends.

Happy Labor Day!

Image

Financial Goals 2020 UPDATE

On February 17, 2020, I wrote a blog post sharing my financial goals for 2020 with an image from my 2020 Vision Board. Guess what? Despite the madness of 2020, it is possible to accomplish goals and align yourself in the appropriate path to secure a better future. My life is moving right along despite the pandemic, political turmoil, and racial unrest. I still don’t have enough time in my day to work, take care of my family, and do a little self-care because there’s so much I want to accomplish. I’ve been shielding myself from media to focus on the things that matter to me the most (i.e., read the previous sentence again on what matters most to me).

I do realize there are many people struggling and have lost their jobs. I’m not typing this post with the intent of being insensitive to them. I can only speak to what I’m experiencing in my life. However, I’ve experienced my share of turmoil with financial and physical setbacks that has caused cascading effects on emotional, mental, and spiritual well being. I think every person will experience life’s tumultuous ride at some point. You can overcome it, especially with faith, support, patience, education, and action.

In full transparency, since WordPress updated it’s site features a while ago, I haven’t quite figured out how to link previous posts into my current posts. Until I figure that out, please feel free to read my post from February 17, 2020 because it will give you insight into my financial goals and why I chose them. In this post, I will provide an update on my progress with the intention that it inspires you to keep reaching (or plan) for your 2020 goals.

DEBT. Since April 2020, my husband, Bryan, and I have been aggressively tackling debt and paid off thousands of dollars. I just realized I need to tally up the figures. We each had our own debt, and as a married couple, had some combined debt. The amount we’ve paid is probably well over $15,000 (update: roughly $20,000), but I’ll get into that in another post.

In case you’re wondering how we accumulated debt (also read the 2/17/2020 post) and how we paid it, here’s an explanation. Bryan has not worked in gainful employment for over 3 years. He has had decent paying jobs over his lifetime, especially while living in Texas. He acquired a medical disability that threw that out the window and impacted our lives forever (i.e., turmoil I mentioned).

My income is the only income, albeit a decent income, that has supported our family since 2017…except for the 2 months he worked at UPS in the fall of 2018 so we could have a good Christmas (and we had a GREAT Christmas!). In case you don’t know, I have a real GEM in this man. He was approved for full disability status in March 2020.

As part of his disability determination, he received back pay for most, but not all of the time he didn’t work. Our plan all along has been to pay down debt and save money so we could buy another house. PERIOD. I type “another house” because we’ve owned before and downsized due to life circumstances (some of that turmoil I mentioned earlier). Read my posts from 2016 through 2018 for insight.

If you are familiar with financial expert, Dave Ramsey, then you’ll know his stance on debt. He abhors debt! We’ve learned a lot from him, but I’m going to make a pivot from his baby steps. The only substantial debt I have is student loans and I’m not going to wait until I pay those completely off before I buy a house. PERIOD. I totally agree with eliminating the consumer debt and the like. Most of our debt was medical. We were both diagnosed with chronic medical conditions in 2016. We had internal revenue service debt, very little credit card debt and no car loan, personal loan, or mortgage debt.

Lately, I’ve been following YouTubers who show there are other ways of conceptualizing and managing debt and overall personal finance. I’ve been so inspired. All in all, we’ve been crushing debt!

INCOME. I work hard. I have a demanding job. I work in public mental health. I manage a team of smart, driven people committed to serving the most vulnerable populations. I earned a raise in June 2020, which increased my salary. In August, I was promoted. I’m transitioning from manager to director. This was not in my vision board, but fruits of hard labor eventually pay off. All of this is for the benefit of our goal to buy a house and to provide a better life for our family. PERIOD. Now that Bryan receives a monthly disability check, we are in even better shape.

HOUSE. We’re in the process of purchasing a home, which will be built by the spring of 2021. We are so EXCITED!!! How fitting is my cover image which is from my 2020 Vision Board??? Is this a good time to buy, let alone build a house? It is for me & mine. PERIOD. As I tend to do when embarking on new endeavors, I’ve been consumed with learning everything I can about the home buying process and real estate market. I’ve been YouTubing myself into a coma. Bryan even asked me if I planned on pursuing another career with all this knowledge. NOPE. My goal is to be informed so I can make the best decisions.

Sure, there are predictions about a housing market crash here and there. There are so many opinions. You know what? The best time to buy a house is when YOU ARE READY. PERIOD. Will we have a down payment? YES. Will we have savings? YES. Are we able to afford a house? YES. Can we do all this and take care of our kids? YES.

If God is willing, this is our retirement home, our FINAL home. Do I think my life will change once I get the house??? To a degree, YES. Some people may not understand the big deal, so to them, I say bare with me. I’m grateful for the opportunity to live where I want in the surroundings that will afford me the most comfort and peace of mind. PERIOD.

What progress are you making on your financial goals? Feel free to share any tips you may have.

Image

It’s over and he won…

Just kidding, I won too! Our Fresh Start 21 Day, green smoothie vegan cleanse ended on Saturday, 8/15/2020. Technically, it was 20 days since we ended the day before my daughter’s birthday. I’ve blogged about my smoothie cleanses from https://simplegreensmoothies.com/ before. You can peruse my site for all things having to do with green smoothies and vegan cleanses.

My husband, Bryan, definitely won in weight loss to the tune of almost 10 pounds. I lost about 3. In July, Bryan challenged me to a cleanse but we didn’t go as far as to wager how much weight we each would loose. And generally, he tends to lose more weight than me during cleanses probably because he is a male and has a different body composition. I won in the sense of the lessons I learned about myself. Of the many times I’ve done this cleanse, this was the most challenging for me. Let me tell you why.

The first thing is that because I’ve done this cleanse many times and have incorporated several of the cleanse recipes into my routine meal rotation, I thought I would have the upper hand since Bryan has NEVER had a vegan meal. I was wrong. Bryan’s strategy was to gradually eat less and less in attempts to avoid eating the foods he didn’t like. Picture a 7 or 8 year old’s face when encountering foods they don’t like. That’s how Bryan looked to me. That didn’t help my morale much because I was struggling with motivation at the onset. I initially wasn’t in the mindset to participate in a cleanse, but I thought I would just fake it until I got in the mood.

The amount of food prep for 3 weekends in a row, particularly in the first week, was exhausting. I made double batches of food thinking I was cooking for two. That didn’t do me any good because Bryan was only drinking the green smoothies and eating the dinners. I reminded him several times that this was not a starvation diet. All of the foods, including the snacks, were designed to provide nutrition and fuel. He insisted on doing it his way.

Asparagus, quinoa “salad” with dijon vinegrette. LPC

I was indeed excited about fueling my body with all the nutritious foods, but in the second week, I had a clear epiphany. Veganism wasn’t sustainable for me. I was disappointed because I had actually planned on going an extra week or two. I realized that I don’t want to do without meat. I craved eggs the second week and by the third week, I was craving meat. Also, all the prep was more work than I was willing to do long term.

I read a few times that it takes 21 days to develop a habit. I did not develop a habit to eat more vegan foods. This cleanse tends to have the opposite affect on me. For example, I’m now tired of cauliflower and fresh salads. Who gets tired of salads??? One year, I was so tired of nuts, I didn’t eat them for many months after the cleanse. However, it is my daily habit to drink one green smoothie. I love them so much and the recipes are endless.

Mixed greens salad with avocado, cucumber, grapes, sliced almonds, and dijon vinegrette. LPC
Citrus beet green smoothie. LPC

On a positive note, this cleanse was just long enough to cut my cravings for processed foods (chips, salty snacks, etc.) We’re going into our second week post cleanse and I can honestly say I don’t have a desire for those foods. WIN!!! Bryan is now trying out a Keto diet, but I declined although I’m adopting some of the principles such as reducing carbohydrates.

I’m glad I did the cleanse although I was getting weary towards the end. Overall, I’d like to adopt eating habits that are sustainable. I don’t like feeling like I’m depriving myself or am on a diet. I don’t want to have a love/hate relationship with food anymore. What I’m focused on now is monitoring the amount of calories (in the short term) I consume, ensuring I eat whole, minimally processed foods, and incorporating more weight training into my 6 day a week exercise regimen.

What fitness and exercise goals are you working on?

Image

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

Image

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

Image

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?

Image

“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
Image

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?

Image

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?

Image

Quarantine 5, 10, 15…

I’m trying to decide if I’m worried about the 3-5 pounds I’ve picked up since quaranteening. It’s been about 9 weeks since I’ve been teleworking and I’m not moving around as much as I used to working at an office.

I adjusted my Fitbit step goal weeks ago because I just couldn’t retain a high amount of steps when I’m moving around in this small space as opposed to a 3-story, government building with large parking lots and hallways.

Because I weigh myself a few times a week (used to be daily), it’s been one of my strategies to keep my weight in check. If the scale teeters upward for over a week, I adjust my food intake and exercise regimen. However, I’ve learned over the years, it’s much easier to control your food intake rather than trying to burn off the extra calories, especially as you get older. I also can’t overlook that I’m on a new steroid medication to help my lungs. This could be contributing to extra pounds.

It’s no wonder that I’ve become more lax in my food choices with all that’s going on in the world as COVID-19 is at the forefront of everything. I know I’m not the only one. We did celebrate a big take out, Italian feast for Mother’s Day. I’ve been generally eating more convenience type foods like fish nuggets from Trader Joe’s and Panko breaded shrimp from Costco.

My family can’t get enough of my homemade chocolate chip cookies. It’s comfort food and I think most everyone’s heart and soul needs comfort right now.

Fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. LPC

So I got on the scale this morning and it was up a little. My weight tends to fluctuate daily, which is why I stopped weighing myself daily. However, I’ve noticed an upward trend. I decided to do some meal prep today and tend to focus on vegan and vegetarian foods if my weight increases in the slightest. Meal prep helps me set myself up for success because I still struggle with taking breaks during the day to eat since I’ve been teleworking. I’ll share a couple of meals I prepared this weekend.

Turkey chorizo egg muffins. LPC
Turkey chorizo egg muffins ready for the oven. LPC
Sauteed turkey chorizo…my 1st time trying. LPC

I was inspired to make the chorizo variety from the Pioneer Woman herself- Ree Drummond from the Food Network. I’ve made what I call “lil egg muffins” many times in the past using whatever ingredients I have. I knew I could remake this for way less money than the frozen item and I knew it would be delicious. I also chose to use turkey chorizo instead of pork which helps with the calories.

I tend to be low in protein and iron, so these egg muffins will be a great protein snack I can quickly warm up in between my back to back meetings.

Fennel Lentil soup. LPC

This soup is one of my ALL-TIME favorite soups to make and it’s VEGAN. I’ve posted pictures of it in previous posts. Soup is so comforting to me. This one will fill me up without lots of calories. I’m getting plenty of iron from the lentils and spinach.

Baked sweet potato, broccoli, sauteed onions and fried plaintain. LPC

Sunday’s brunch was a vegetarian play on the steak dinner I made last night. It would be vegan if it weren’t for the parmesan I sprinkled on the broccoli when I baked it earlier in the week.

Thin cut New York strip steak with sauteed onions, rice and peas with fried plaintain. LPC

I’ve restarted menu planning a couple of weeks ago mostly because we are well stocked on groceries and I want us to use them. I don’t cook Haitian foods often although it’s in my blood, so I decided to devote at least one day a week to Haitian cuisine. Rice and beans is a Haitian staple.

I made a special trip to the grocery store to purchase steak since I’ve been craving it. This could be a sign my body needs the iron so I listened. Saturday night’s steak dinner was delicious.

Marinade for two different types of steak.

A fresh marinade I tend to whip quickly in my mini food processor is fresh parsley, lots of garlic, lemon, green onion, a hot pepper of sort, extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper. You can use this marinade with any protein, but it’s especially good with chicken.

Sunday small portion dinner: steak, plaintains, and premade salad kit. LPC
Roasted garlic parmesan carrot fries. LPC

My husband misunderstood when I asked him to pick up carrots from Costco. He got me two large bags of baby carrots when I asked for just carrots. The expiration date was upon me, so I had to do something because I was tired of eating raw carrots. The carrot fries were good, but I think they would be better with a dip, which I haven’t found a recipe that peaks my interest yet. I’ll keep looking.

I think I have a solid plan for food this week. The only thing is my birthday is in a few days and I know what’s on the menu. I’d like to celebrate without worry. My plan is to stick to my healthy options the other days of the week and then splurge a little on my birthday. I’ll talk about exercise in a different post. I’ve been experimenting with various exercise platforms for a few weeks and it’s been fun!

Am I worried about the few extra pounds? I am a little, but in the big scheme of themes, my life is great because I’m healthy, happy, and loved by the people who matter. I’m being proactive and that’s what matters.

How are you coping? What’s one healthy habit you’re committed to doing every day?