Clarity via health scare

Coming back from the New Year, my coworker dropped by to catch up with me about his newfound interest in positive life outlook? I don’t know how else to describe it. Connecting to inner spirituality? Think meditation, nature bathing, values-questioning type stuff. He recently had a health scare where one of his heart arteries was majorly blocked. It wasn’t a heart attack, but he needed surgery to get a stent to open up the flow. He mentioned his wife also isn’t in the best of health so he’s been re-evaluating his life and thinking about retirement.

He mentioned a few things that stuck out to me:

  • I can trade time for money, but not the other way around. He says he’s seen so many boats and RVs for sale from owners who didn’t get to use them for long because after they retired, they were older, or got unforeseen conditions that left them unable to enjoy those things. He wants to be able to enjoy these things while he and his wife are still physically able.
  • Real estate taxes can take a big chunk out of your retirement. He’s thinking of selling his place after he retires and moving somewhere less expensive because even though he’s no longer paying a mortgage, the taxes alone will take a significant chunk of his retirement. I never thought of it this way, but home ownership isn’t true ownership. We pay rent in perpetuity to the gubment. I am having second thoughts about how badly I want that backyard garden.
  • Buddhism can be applied as a philosophy rather than taken as a religious dogma. I think he’s trying to apply aspects of it to his life and maybe rethink or re-prioritize his values? Or something?
  • Retirement classes cover a whole lot about finances but don’t really help much in the area of how-to-life.

Anyway, I was glad to get a glimpse of what goes on inside the mind of someone as they start thinking about retirement. I sometimes feel like I’ve been ready already, but when it’s staring me in the face, I will be a lost little lamb!

Supplemental resolution

The other person who inspired me a lot last year (well, maybe for a few years now) was Mr. Money Mustache. So between Marie Kondo with her get-rid-of-your-garbage philosophy, and MMM’s stop-buying-garbage philosophy, I was torn about which I would adopt as my theme for 2019. So I’m taking them both. I’m sure I’ve recycled these two ideas in past resolutions. It’s an uphill battle for me on both fronts and they relate. Stop trading my time and space for garbage.

With MMM in mind, I had originally drafted a post geared towards what I thought was going to be my 2019 project of reducing my annual food cost from 2018. This was in November before the end of the year and my data was incomplete so I waited to finish the post with all the dollars tallied. Lo, the outcome was stupid. Yes, I can lower my food costs. No I’m not as Mustachian as the man himself. But no. See food expenses in 2018 were lower than in 2017. Good enough for me. I apparently made strides without even trying.
My theory is, part way through 2018 I gave up on finding decent plant-based options in the area because they were mostly just mediocre, so we ate out a lot less. I don’t see the dining scene suddenly improving this year. We’ll still try a few places every now and again, but maybe this isn’t the pie slice I need to improve. I will just have to look elsewhere to improve my clutteriffic living situation. Anyway, it’s not like my food takes up that much space. Except maybe the beans and rice – I hoard that as if the next apocalypse were upon us.

The Daily

First day back at work from a two week extravaganza where I kept the hours, diet, and life of a college kid. Family has a way of bringing out the old habits of youth. I even fired up Sims again. Unfortunately my body doesn’t handle that like it used to so I got sick. I still have some lingering congestion from my New Years cold but I know I’m on the mend when my immune system goes back to tilting at windmills (aka allergies).

I didn’t really feel like going to the gym today, but I ended up going to yoga tonight. It’d been two weeks and I felt stiff and hoped maybe the stretchy part would help. The gym was packed this evening. I forget how busy things get after the New Year at a gym. I supposed I was glad I went even though I wasn’t feeling it. I did look at the clock a few times and took whatever easy option I could. At the beginning of every class this instructor often asks everyone what they’d like to work on (it’s a small group). I was tempted to say savasana, one hour! I still feel stiff but maybe less so? Fighting entropy is a losing battle. But fight I must!

Homemade Nut Butter

I was about to buy one of those fancypants high-speed blenders (Vitamix) just so I could try making nut butters at home. Fortunately, in all that research for blenders, I learned that food processors would work too so I tried that.

Redskin Peanut Butter

It was so easy to make in the food processor and I’m glad I’ve found a new use for this kitchen tool. It took a matter of minutes to blitz peanuts into a jar of peanut butter and it’s actually smoother than the kind I get from Mom’s.

In terms of cost savings, I’m not so sure. It takes a whole lotta nuts to make a jar of nut butter. Maybe two cups of nuts become one cup of nut butter? For the effort, cleanup, etc. I highly recommend just buying the stuff. For the customization, smoothness, flavoring, experimentation, go for it.

For my next batch I plan to make a frankenstein nut butter. All the nuts and maybe even some seeds mixed into one. I have pecans, walnuts, cashews, almonds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and peanuts. A nut allergy nightmare.

Throwaway Year

I started purposefully throwing stuff away last year, but getting rid of things is an iterative process. For example, first, I got rid of the CD player/stereo. Then it was the DVD/VCR player. Then the VHS, DVDs, CDs, and Blu-Ray discs. And now I’m tossing the Blu-Ray player. We probably used it a handful of times before we just unplugged it and put it away. I think this is the last of the digital media I have, except for the Taylor Swift cds because TS. Although once I get rid of my PC, I won’t have any device to stick them in.

I think by being on the lookout to throw things away, I end up bringing fewer things in. At least that’s the hope. Whenever I consider getting something I think about the throwaway. The only things I haven’t gotten a handle on are the plants. I want all the plants!

The year of flexibility

I wanted to focus 2018 on flexibility. With my limbs. Stretch more. Use the foam roller more. I blame Instagram.  Nothing good ever came out of social media eh?  So that lasted for maaaybee a month?  I mean I kinda’ sorta?  Reality: I probably stretched no more or less than usual. You know how it goes with resolutions and old habits. I was hoping that my physical flexibility would manifest into my day-to-day life. That I could be more flexible physically and mentally. I’m not sure my brain flexed anymore than my limbs though so there ya go.  Old habits are hard to kill. Then again, life is moment to moment so maybe just keeping the thought in mind helped in some way? I don’t know. It’s not something I measured, nor would I know how to. Or maybe not measuring and not tracking was itself a sort of flexibility. Just learning to go with the current moment rather than worrying about how I was in the previous moment. Anyway, I really enjoyed this “resolution” because it’s more flexible. How very meta. So I can’t tell how I did. There is no success or failure. It’s just a word.

Conversation in the ladies room

How was your weekend?

Oh we got our decorations up.  My husband got on the roof and I couldn’t watch, but it’s done now and it looks great!

Wow on the roof!  That must’ve been nerve wracking. He has life insurance right?!

I know! Earlier in the year, he got a chain saw and was cutting down some limbs off the trees and he decided to tie it to his waist so it would free his hands.  I couldn’t watch.  I finally had to leave the house.  And when I came back, he had an iced tea in one hand and his other hand had a big ol’ bandage around it.  He had put his hand on the blade before it stopped spinning and grazed it.

I’m a firm believer of outsourcing.  Also, that chainsaw needs to magically disappear.

Not another haircut

Usually, I like to show my haircuts with a before and after cut comparison.

(See 2017, 2016, 2015)

This time, I’m showing a before and after a year of growth.
1 year of growth

I’m hoping to grow it another year before lopping it off again. The thing I learned about a short cut is, I like them. They require less work to look stylish. Although I won’t go this short again because it gets all bent out of shape when I sleep and trying to fix it takes heat and effort. A bob length is easier because there’s enough weight on the hair to not get too unruly. Also, it can be tied back for the gym.

The food in New Orleans, LA

The one thing I’d heard over and over from multiple sources about New Orleans was the food there is AMAZING. I put it on my list of places to visit for the creole, etouffee, gumbo, fried anything, beans and rice, and on and on. Then after I started eating plant-based, I wrote it off. So when I visited last week, I really had managed expectations despite what I’d heard about it being some kind of food mecca.  I thought I’d for sure have to duck into some greasy junky Chinese restaurant to find a plant-based meal.  I seriously entertained the idea of looking for a Panda Express. But holy moly was I utterly wrong about that.  NOLA has the best (plant-based) food I’ve had in all my travels since I started eating plant-based. They have plenty of restaurants (way more options than I can find in DC) and they’re all knocked-it-out-of-the-park excellent and the ones I had were all within a 5 mile walkable or transit-able distance.

Even if you don’t eat totally plant-based, you’re going to love this food. It’s just good food period. Here’s what they served.

  • A well-thought menu, with well-crafted dishes.  Not a burger patty made with rice or quinoa slapped between a hamburger bun. Not a salad minus the cheese.  Not some afterthought of side dishes slapped together.  It has cooked beans or lentils.  It incorporates fresh vegetables and whole grains.  It’s not overly fried or salted or made with unrecognizable composites and called “chick’n”.  It’s real food made with real ingredients.
  • Hearty and filling food.  The portions are generous enough for me to say “I’m full and satisfied” at the end of the meal.  And let’s just say I’ve had enough people gawk at me as I take seconds or thirds to recognize that I have a very healthy appetite.
  • Tasty and fresh ingredients made with plenty of flavorful spices enough to inspire me or give me new ingredients to experiment with when I cook again.  And it’s also flavors I don’t make at home.  It’s new and interesting to me.

These places I went to in NOLA all fit the bill.  I wanted to take them all home with me and I miss them now even as I reminisce.

These first two on my list I declared as “my favorite” “number 1” “this is the place to go if you only get one meal in NOLA” each time I ate at each place.  So it’s a toss up.  I ate at both places, one after the other, on my last day before catching the flight home.

Sweet Soulfood
Sweet Soulfood

Walking in here, you’re hit with a steam sauna of flavor. They cook everything fresh and it steams up the little diner. Everything is plant-based and it’s all so hearty and delicious, I wanted everything. Their portions are generous enough to fill me up. The dishes are made with fresh ingredients and they have rotating daily specials. This meal’s daily special was the barbecue cauliflower. I love their jambalaya and cornbread. They do use some vegan sausages for some dishes, like the jambalaya, but it’s not heavy-handed and you will find bay leaves in the food because they actually cook with real seasonings. So good! I’m going to be saying that a lot here.

Good Karma
Good Karma
This place is such a hippie-dippie-coffee-tea-organic-plant-based-gluten-free-namaste-yoga-hang-out-and-relax kind of cafe. Seriously, it’s connected to a yoga studio. Their food is phenomenal and I said that every time I dug into their daily soup and veggie special. It’s inspired me to cook with lemongrass, galangal, and lime juice more, though I doubt I could create any of these dishes. I need this restaurant in my life. The food is incredibly warm and delicious. I think we ate here for four meals.

Seed
Seed
This place is a lot more fancypants then the first two places. They have table service. They also serve cocktails. The nice thing about NOLA is I can order a bourbon drink before noon and it’s perfectly whatever. Also, it was so good I noted the mix: Buffalo Trace, lemon juice, and hot sauce. I will definitely make that at home. This is also an all plant-based restaurant, but the options lean a tad more vegan-junk-food. Fried seitan nuggets for example. However, you can get hearty non-junky things too like gumbo and etouffee. Wonderfully warm and flavorful.

Green Goddess
This place is not entirely plant-based but they have multiple vegan entrees and they’re all well done and satisfying. It’s conveniently located in the French Quarter and if it were located here in DC, it would easily be one of my favorite places to eat. In NOLA though, with all those other places competing, this one is just okay. I have to give them credit for well-designed dishes though, beans, rice, vegetables all freshly prepared.

Satsumas
Satsumas
Ok, not a restaurant, but easily our favorite food in New Orleans. They’re a local in-season fruit and they are so juicy, sweet, easy to peel, and thirst quenching. We walked or took the trolley 3 miles each way to get these at a local grocery store three times for a total of maybe seven dozen satsumas. At first glance they don’t look all that great. Green tangerines. I expected them to be sour. But nope, they were awesome little fruits. I think my favorite thing to do whenever I travel is visit grocery stores and local markets.

So in short, New Orleans is a food mecca. It’s dirty, it’s gritty, it rained every dang day we were there. But the food. Man! The food! It can only come from a city with so much love you can taste it.

Cava

Not to be mistaken with their sit down table service restaurant, Cava is like the Chipotle of Mediterranean cuisine. It’s a fast casual place that dishes up bowls of food with mix and match combinations of rice, lentils, salad greens, hummus, vegetables and on and on. It’s about $10 for a bowl and while I still prefer Mom’s Naked Lunch, this came in a close second. I really enjoyed the crunchy salad mix they had (Splendid/Supergreens) and the lentils and hummus made it filling. Would I come back? Do I recommend? Sure and sure!

Grain of salt: I have been having difficulty finding proper meals dining out and I’m probably not the best judge of restaurants anymore. But I really thought it was good and I have a coworker who says she and her boyfriend eat here at least once a week! That must count for something right?

Also I forgot to get a picture before I dug in. It looked like a bowl of greens and vegetables.