A lot of folks look at a new year as a fresh start, a time to be your better self. I’ll admit that I sometimes think those kinds of thoughts. I mean, why not? A new year is as good an excuse as any to be more motivated and make changes for the better. The problem, at least for me and maybe some of you, is that January and February are usually the darkest months of the year both meteorologically and mentally. Not only is it cold and grey most days, but it’s also a time of introspection. Sometimes those thoughts manifest themselves as constructive criticism leading to an improved home life or business strategy, but other times, there is self doubt and just regular ol’ criticism of the kind that doesn’t make anyone feel better or reinvigorated. I’m not generally a depressive person, but this time of year has, in the past, been a little rocky, and I’m always relieved to start seeing signs of spring (around Valentine’s Day here in Western Oregon). Let’s just say that winter is not my favorite season.
Maybe some of you have food-related New Year’s resolutions. Well, I’ve been thinking about food a lot lately, too. That month between Thanksgiving and Christmas was a fairly indulgent one for me. Not ridiculous, not excessive, not too full of alcohol or fast food (except for four beers in California and one quick stop at In-N-Out on the way home), but there were a few too many cookies, some dairy overindulgence, and a general attitude of ‘Heck, why not? when digging into carb-loaded breakfasts or a rich dinners. Now as the darkness really sets in, I’m joining the masses in an attempt to do better. Mostly I’m shooting for less sugar (The evil things you hear about sugar these days! Geez.), fewer carbs, more water, and more greenery. Also more potatoes, which might not really make sense, but my parents have a couple hundred pounds of potatoes in storage, and even though they’re free and delicious, I rarely eat them.
After we got back from California, I had a good week of mostly at-home time without many commitments. For the first time in a while, I got excited about meal planning and preparing various different meal components ahead of time. Nothing complicated. Mostly just beans, rice, homemade bread (find the recipe for the oat bread pictured above here), baked squash, etc.. I’ve been reminded lately (from a few meals at Laughing Planet Cafe) about the beauty of a rice/beans/veggies/sauce combo. That’s the kind of meal I could eat again and again without ever getting tired of it. Things are changing this week because kids are back in school/preschool, but I’m hoping to avoid being caught minutes before dinnertime without a plan or many options.
The last food-related issue on my docket is this caffeine thing. I’ve had problems with coffee for a while. It sometimes gives me migraines, not usually terrible, debilitating migraines, but certainly not pleasant. I’ve sworn off coffee several times now, but the smell, the warmth, and the company of coffee people has a strong pull on me. Unfortunately, the last two times I’ve fallen off the wagon, I felt crummy for days afterwards. Giving up coffee is a bummer, but it’s not a huge big deal. (I’m going to order some of Portland Apothecary‘s rooibos chai to see if it can convey that richness that most other herbal teas lack in comparison with coffee.)
Unfortunately, I’m starting to begrudgingly recognize that I might also be having trouble with chocolate as well, and I have a true love affair with chocolate. Living without it sounds terrible, but I’m going to make an attempt, a little test run to see if it makes any difference. I’ve just gotta muster up the willpower to resist, but boy, is it gonna to be hard. Ugh.
Beans are such a powerhouse food, and we’ve been eating a lot lately. I just have to make sure to set some soaking in the morning when I’m planning to serve them for dinner.
Henry planted a ton of greens in the late fall, and though they were hard hit by the super low temperatures, they’re starting to bounce back, and we’ve been enjoying many a serious salad.
My kids and I love nuts, so Henry traded some honey for about 100 pounds of filberts (hazelnuts) in shell. We’ve been slowly cracking them at a rate of about a quart a day. I’m looking forward to making my own filbert butter, and I want to try subbing homemade filbert meal into Kimberley‘s gf “spiced winter cake with cranberries“. (Only sort of related: David Lebovitz just did a great FAQ review on almond meal here.)
We seem to be doing better at finding the eggs from our very free ranging chickens. I think all the young hens hatched last summer are laying, so we are quite well endowed.
Speaking of chickens, the roosters that hatched last summer have grown quite plump, and Henry’s been “harvesting” about two a week. Henry has this way with chicken soup that’s out of this world.
On the way back from California, we stopped at Heath Ranch Organics (again) and picked up a bag of pomelo-mandarin cross citrus fruits (now know in our house as “pandarins”) that makes the best juice.
These hachiya persimmons had been sitting around since Thanksgiving getting softer and softer.
They were finally on the edge of turning into a pile of goo on the porch, so in an effort to save them, I peeled them, mashed them up a bit, and ladled the vibrant pulp into jars. All the straight-sided jars went into the freezer for future baking. I saved out the two shouldered jars for smoothies. I want to try persimmon mash in this granola recipe sometime soon.
I have some other non-food-related, mostly predictable goals/hopes for this year, too. I’d like to exercise more (mostly lap swimming and jogging) because I’m feeling like at 30 (almost 31), I really need to be setting myself up for a lifetime of good habits. I need to get my online shop in order. Some of you may have noticed that Red Onion Woodworks is “on vacation”, which has been lovely, but I plan to spend some time organizing inventory and supplies, reshooting some older boards, and cranking out a few new ones. I want apply to at least one serious craft fair this year and see how that goes. Also, I’m going to write more, here and/or elsewhere. This has been a bit of a challenge lately because a) our generator is on its last legs and is producing such wonky voltage that I can’t charge my computer at home and b) my mom bought us Netflix for Christmas and well…Netflix has some good stuff.
After saying all this, I feel like I should mention this bit of radio (skip to 4:22-5:00) that I heard the other day in which an expert claims that announcing your New Year’s resolutions publicly makes you much less likely to meet your goals, so there’s that…
Another thing that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is waste: wasted time, wasted money, and wasted resources. Here are a few of the things I’ve decided to do to cut back on waste in my life:
Quit Facebook Okay, I haven’t actually deleted my account, but I deleted the app off my phone and I unbookmarked the site on my laptop. I can still go there if I need to contact someone, but I’m hoping to put those minutes (hours) of endless scrolling through stuff that I mostly don’t care about to better use. For now, the Wayward Spark Facebook page is sitting dormant as well, so if that was the way you liked to be alerted about new posts, you’re out of luck. With the help of Henry’s cousin, I did, however, rework the “subscribe via email” system for this blog recently, so now you can get every post in its entirety delivered to your inbox. (Some of you may have already noticed this change.) If you’re a regular reader but not yet subscribed, now would be a good time to do so by signing up in the sidebar.
No New Clothes, Shoes, or Kitchen Equipment for a Year I have plenty of clothes. I have plenty of kitchen stuff. I don’t “need” any more, and if I have a rule against it, I won’t be so tempted to buy things that I only “want”. Exceptions to this rule: undergarments, exercise clothes/shoes, anything thrifted because used stuff costs a good deal less money and uses fewer resources.
Wake Up Earlier. Get Started Right Away. This is my plan. I hope to stick to it.
What about you? Do you have any waste-busting suggestions? I’d love to hear them.
On a sad note, a guy that I was once pretty good friends with passed away just before Christmas. I hadn’t seen him in years, but I have the most vivid memories of his crude, self-deprecating humor and endless charm. He was SUCH a good guy, and he leaves behind a wife (my once-upon-a-time friend Katie) and two kids, the youngest just two months old. Despite time and distance, I was devastated by news of his death. A fund has been set up to help support Katie and her kids, and I would urge anyone who feels moved by his story to donate even a few dollars. Money is not going to bring him back, but I do hope it can help his family move forward.
One last unrelated thing: We tapped our maple trees on Monday, January 6. We probably should have done it earlier because last week’s weather was perfect for moving sap, and this week is a lot warmer, but oh well. I’ll give you a real update soon, but I know there were a few West Coast folks that hoped to collect sap this year, so here’s your heads up. Now is the time.