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Sometimes Vegan Chronicles: Day 5

Cravings…let’s talk about them. Did it start with the sweet aroma permiating the house of my husband, Bryan’s, BACON cooking in the oven or was it when he toasted 2 buttermilk and vanilla waffles? Perhaps it was when Bryan pan fried a juicy burger for lunch…? No, it might have been when we went to Chick-Fil-A to pick up a late lunch for the teenagers.

Bryan has made bacon every day this week & it didn’t affect me until TODAY. It was today, the 2nd day of my menstrual cycle, that I was reminded of why being a vegan is not sustainable for me. BUT can I make it for just 7 days? I only have 2 more days to go. It’s getting tough. I had my snacks on deck, but I have a confession. I ordered some waffle fries from Chick-Fil-A while picking up food for the teenagers. They were good.

Some of the ingredients for AUSTINITE tacos. LPC

I’m going to get right to it and let you know I’m not a fan of tonight’s dinner. It was interesting and turned out better than I thought, but after the leftovers, there will be no repeat. This recipe won’t make it to my meal rotation. I get the feeling that Austin, Texas (where I live) was the inspiration for the recipe and name, especially since Austin has become such a foodie place. Tacos are beloved here in Texas.

I ate them and was again reminded of why being a vegan is not sustainable for me. I * enjoy * meat * too * much. Yes, I do.

Austinite tacos. LPC

Day 5 was a struggle, but I made it. There were lots of components to tonight’s dinner that are too much to share right now. There was a filling, a slaw, and a chunky guacamole (my addition).

Let’s see what days 6 and 7 bring.

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Sometimes Vegan Chronicles: Day 4

I woke up more rested than yesterday, did an excellent kickboxing workout, drank my morning liquids, ate my coconut granola with bananas and almond milk, drank my Pineapple Detox Green smoothie, prepared/ate another loaded sweet potato for lunch, and made/ate the thai lettuce wraps for dinner.

These meals keep getting better. I think mostly because I’m trying new recipes and food combinations. If you need a refresh on why I’m doing what I’m doing and where I’m getting my recipes, read this post: Sometimes Vegan Chronicles.

Light lesson of the day: SLEEP is a game changer and I need more of it. I was joyful and unbothered today. Oh and part of my crankiness is due to my cycle starting. The Fitbit tracker actually got it right.

Day 4 was good. My meals were plenty satisfying.

Thai lettuce wrap ingredients: shallots, celery, mushrooms, walnuts, green onions, garlic, ginger, snow peas (my addition), cilantro, mint. Sauce: Tamari, rice vinegar, coconut sugar, lime juice. LPC
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Sometimes Vegan Chronicles: Day 3

I was mostly tired and cranky all day today. Perhaps the cleanse is working, but this lack of sleep is a problem. By the way, read my post from Monday called Sometimes Vegan Chronicles to see how I ended up on this journey. One of my goals for this cleanse is better sleep, but I’m not there yet.

Baked sweet potato ready for loading. LPC

I can’t stress enough how important it was for me to prep most of the snacks and the produce (wash, chop, store) over the weekend so that I wouldn’t find myself eating something I didn’t want to eat. Because I know myself so well, I even bought a few prepared frozen, vegan items in case I couldn’t make a meal for some reason. Never mind that my teenagers have been eating my frozen items. Like since when did they become vegan?

Famous Loaded Sweet Potato. LPC

Tonight’s dinner was so scrumptious. Similar to the coconut ginger carrot soup, I’ve had this recipe for a while and made it for the first time today. I was pleasantly surprised with the slaw topping. But how can you go wrong with a slaw of shredded red cabbage, carrot, and kale with avocado, sesame seeds, and pepitas, mixed with a lemon dijon vinegrette? I’m so happy this will be lunch tomorrow too. I’m definitely adding it to my regular meal rotation.

I do like having a meal plan to follow which helps me follow the plan. I’m going to take my tired and cranky self to bed because I can’t take it anymore. Hopefully, I’ll get some quality sleep.

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Sometimes Vegan Chronicles: Day 2

I did great on Day 2 of my Vegan reset with recipes from simplegreensmoothies.com. My avocado finally ripened enough to cut so I was able to make the Tropical Skin Cleanser green smoothie. It was pleasantly tart and had my lips puckering.

Me enjoying my green smoothie on the porch. LPC

The smoothie is meant for breakfast, but I didn’t finish mine until around lunch time because I have a whole routine of liquids that take me a while to drink. I start my day drinking 16-24 ounces of water spiked with either unsweetened cranberry juice or a green energy powder. I drink this during my workout. Then, after I get dressed for work, I have a cup of my morning detox drink that entails apple cider vinegar, a lemon wedge, warm water and honey or I’ll have a cup of detox tea. That’s about 8 ounces. Mix that in with meetings and now you know why it takes me a while.

Tropical Skin Cleanser Green Smoothies. LPC

I had the Waldorf salad as a snack, but didn’t get to take a picture. It didn’t look that pretty anyway.

Garden Vegetable Stir Fry. LPC

I modified the Garden Vegetable stir fry by not stir frying it at all. I prefer roasted vegetables so that’s what I did. I also added mushrooms.

Prepping helped a lot because I had healthy snacks. At the end of the day, I was exhausted, which makes me think the cleanse is kicking in. Overall, I had a great day.

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Moving on

It’s hard to believe how quickly 2020 is moving…at least in my world. Every year in October since I was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2016, I write at least one post about my breast cancer journey. The days seem like a blur since teleworking for more than half a year now. Just like I don’t want COVID-19 to define my life, I don’t want breast cancer to define me either. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t share my progress.

As of today, I’m cancer free and have been for almost 5 years (January 2021). My initial treatment was a lumpectomy, followed by breast reconstruction surgery on both breasts, followed by 3 weeks of daily, intensive radiation treatment, and followed by oral medication, which I will continue to take for possibly another 5 years. I started the medication almost 5 years ago.

I continue to meet with my oncologist every 6 months in addition to visiting with my primary care physician and endocrinologist annually. I also get a 3D mammogram annually. My lab results (drawn every 6 months) on my blood continue to be within range with some markers being impeccable and some below range. My oncologist likes to say all of my numbers are “right in the middle”. My glucose even decreased by 10 points at my last visit. All in all, I’m healthy.

For me, breast cancer came into my life with a BANG, turned it upside down for only a period, but then turned it right side up again. I was very intentional about adhering to treatment so I could heal faster. I was intentional about self-care. Being physically fit prior helped my recovery tremendously. Though it was a difficult experience, particularly the 4 months post diagnosis, I’m amazed I got through it. I suppose that’s part of the reason why they call us ‘survivors’.

I thought I’d be one of those people who participated in all the breast cancer walks, marathons, etc., but I haven’t participated in any walks, marathons, etc. I’m not sure what that is about but it’s not a requirement for a complete experience. I think one factor is that I like to keep my world small. It’s more manageable that way. Also, I don’t want breast cancer to occupy so much space in my life. Recently, I’ve been thinking about how I can best support the breast cancer community.

In the fall of 2019, my husband and I attended a conference for cancer survivors and I really enjoyed the experience. I’ve kept up with the group that put on the conference, the Texas Oncology Foundation, since then. I’m a person that enjoys learning new things. That format was more in line with what I’d continue to participate in.

Since breast cancer entered my life, my outlook is generally positive as it was before. I’ve been feeling more exhausted in 2020 though. It’s no wonder why with everything going on with COVID-19, the political climate, and racial unrest. My sleep could be better. I could stand to lose about 15-20 pounds. I need to reduce my work stress. Of the three, the last is what I want to focus on the most because stress can negatively impact health in so many ways. I’ve been setting work boundaries. I’m constantly refining how I manage.

Once you have cancer, there’s a nagging fear that it will return despite treatment. In some cases, it does return as the same or a different cancer. I’ve mostly heard of cases being more aggressive upon cancer’s return. I’m at higher risk for other cancers since cancer appeared. Those thoughts are not at the forefront of my mind, but they show up when it’s time to get my annual mammogram, at other medical appointments, or at other random times.

I have scars from my surgeries. Although mostly faded, I can still see the circle on each side of my body by my ribs from where the tubes were placed after breast reconstruction surgery. I had to keep the tubes in for a week post surgery. Yup, long tubes were hanging from my body. My husband drained them several times a day for that whole week.

My left breast has a significant dent which you can’t tell too much from the picture of me in the cover photo. The dent is the result of the location of the tumor and my first surgeon removing the tumor along with extra tissue to be sure he got it all. The plastic surgeon completed the breast reconstruction surgery and I also received a breast reduction. I went from a double D cup to a C cup.

Breast cancer has changed my life but it doesn’t define me. No question it has made a huge impact on my life. I’ve learned and am still learning from it. I have moments where I’m laser focused on how finite life is. I have moments where I worry about my kids risk. I have moments where I worry about putting on weight because I don’t want to increase my risks. There are moments where I succumb to stress.

Overall, I think I’m doing a great job of moving on with my life post diagnosis. I have struggled at times like others with keeping things in perspective. I’m grateful for access to tools and resources to help me navigate life.

If you have a family history of breast cancer, get tested with a mammogram early. If you’re at least 40 years old, get tested with a mammogram. I was aware that my breast looked different so I made an appointment to see my doctor. There was no pain or lump. I had already been getting regular mammograms since the age of 35 due to family history. I was due for another.

Pay attention to your body. See a doctor regularly. Eat healthy. Exercise often. Reduce stress. Surround yourself with loved ones. Get a pet. Spend time with God.

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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!

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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.

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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?

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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