Wednesday, April 14, 2010

McVicar System Processing the Unprocessed...

Well for the first time I have had a request for a very specific blog post, so far be it from me to ignore it! (Yes Miss Ashely...this is for you). Suffice to say I have been meaning to grant this request for awhile now, but it seems I start every blog talking about how lame I am with my infrequent postings - so it just goes without saying at this point that I do not post as much as I would like to.

So the big news this month is this push to cook fresh food - not to succumb to the oh so easy box+ microwave frozen fare whose siren call lures me in practically every night I have to admit. So what made me do it, you ask? Why forgo that which is so easily made and eaten with great enthusiasm? A couple of things, I guess...

Reason #1
As you probably are aware if you follow this post at all, since I was separated from my last office gig I have been cooking, well, 100% more than I used to. It turns out I'm not too bad at it. By my family's standards, anyway - so with the positive feedback I've been getting, I am putting more effort into/paying more attention to this particular endeavour in general. Really, lately, us McVicars are not that bad as far as our eating habits are concerned. Not great...but comparitively speaking, not bad. But we could be better.

Reason #2
In the past I have tried to like processed foods, like I have REALLY put effort into picking out something just right from the frozen section, the kids fundraiser food sale (Market Day) or from Omaha Steaks or whatever - but whatever I would buy and heat up always tasted "off" to me. People would rave about a certain boxed Chicken Kiev...I would try it...and never really enjoy it. So I have been predisposed to not loving this kind of food anyway. Don't get me wrong, my kids are fine with it and are the first ones to request Chicken nuggets with french fries if given the choice but I suppose it's all about not giving them the choice anymore isn't it?

Reason #3
I have realized something very important about myself. I cannot cannot cannot diet. I just like eating way too much. It never feels like I eat a whole heck of a lot and I exercise more than anyone I know except maybe Michael Phelps or someone like that but I never ever lose weight. So I'm thinking that if can't manage to cut calories, maybe I can keep my food intake to things that have as few chemicals in them as possible --- it might help matters some. OK I'll be honest I'm looking for the magic bullet, and who knows? Maybe this is it. But I should probably consider that:

1) I'm over 40 years old. Metabolism-ly speaking, this is no man's land. You eat one raisin and you gain 4 pounds.
2) I quit smoking and more importantly stopped chewing the nicotine gum not THAT long ago
3) Birth control hormones. Need I say more??
4) I continue to eat cookies and ice cream on what is probably a daily basis

Yet I wonder why I don't lose weight. I really do!! Anyway, I do know in my heart of hearts that keeping it fresh and "from scratch" certainly isn't going to solve my weight issues but if I'm going to be chubby, at least I will be a healthy chubby person. If there is such a thing...I am it.

Reason #4
And of course, Mr. Jamie Oliver. We have had his cookbooks forever and actually Tom (my husband) has been on this "fresh/from scratch" kick for a couple of years now. He read The Twinkie Deconstructed by Steve Ettlinger (lots of petroleum in those gems! yum yum!) and Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser and got sufficiently freaked out by what we, as a nation, actually eat. And by what the government considers edible. He wanted to change things around here so true to "Tom form" he went out and bought loads of books on the subject. We have some cookbook from Jamie Oliver's predecessor...I forget his name but he's some barefoot hippie dude that has two piglets under each arm on the book's cover. Hmmm where might he be heading w/ those?? We also have volumes and volumes of "how tos" on vegetable gardening in its various forms but also the much less sedate topics of how to raise your own chickens, beekeeping and how to start a grass fed cattle farm (?!) So I was a little freaked out by the overall concept, it seemed a little extreme to me...especially when he started talking about buying our own cow or 1/2 of a cow. So I would nod, smile and say "Honey I do love you, but you are a weirdo."

...Little did I know...

Back to Jamie Oliver - I believe my long-winded point was that he has been around our house for quite a bit now but has recently gotten tons more exposure with his new Food Revolution show. And my dear friend Kelly got sucked into it - and she was truly affected by it and told me about it. So I decided to check it out for myself and I was so totally and completely disturbed by the family that Jamie showcased - what they ate (omg piled on the table like that! All color AT ALL), their health issues the doctor revealed for them and the sheer SIZE of all of them! When that little girl said she was 4 I almost passed out. She was about 5 times the size of Charlie! What this diet and seemingly subsequent lack of activity did to these people horrified me. Horrified me right into action. Not that I was afraid Charlie or Max would suddenly grow to 10 times their size like one of those little toys you put in water (usually an iguana or something) and within 2-3 days it becomes this frightening, squishy form of monster proportions that vaguely resembles an iguana. No, that wasn't my fear was what ELSE is this food doing to them? What is it doing to me? It can't stop at just making you fat...We already know it is flinging my husband into Barnes and Noble to whip out his credit card and buy books like "Barnyard in Your Backyard"...heaven knows what else it is capable of.

So I have been keeping it real for a few weeks now and have generally been pretty darn successful. I'm not perfect - I fell off the wagon a couple of times - giving in to chicken nuggets and frozen french fries and once a month, a treat of McDonalds (it really is just SO GOOD). I have some favorite easy recipes with all fresh ingredients that I would be happy to share if anyone would like them. Evening practice/activity schedules are always a problem so I try to do as much prep early in the day as possible or I shoot for a slow cooker recipe that is sitting waiting for us. I have made vats of bolognese sauce and chicken stock to freeze and use instead of canned/jarred. While I do not yet have my own chicken coop, I am growing my own herbs and some vegetables. What I'm not growing I buy at the farm market (no more canned), Meat is a little more difficult, we do have chemical/hormone free venison and pork in our freezers from Tom's hunting adventures but I love a good burger and that stuff just doesn't cut it. I think perhaps we should look into getting that 1/2 a cow...

...oh how Tom is doing the "I told you so dance" right now...

Monday, March 15, 2010

A few of my favorite things

So in light of the horrendous weather this winter and my subsequent mental and physical suffering from not being able to get out and run I finally broke down and used my "hair money" to join a pool. It did the trick! Boy do I feel better - the whole "process" of driving, getting into and out of the pool is a bit of a drag (I really hate locker rooms, esp. cold ones) but wow, what fantastic exercise. It's been about 4 weeks and I can see/feel a difference (albeit slight), and now that I can combine it with running it keeps things interesting for me. Since I do run and swim on the same day often times, I am actually starting to entertain the thought of "triathalon" in the back of my head but there are two problems with that

1) I don't think they would let me just borrow a bike, pretty sure I'd have to actually buy one
2) I don't think they'd they'd let me stop in between each segment and eat Pop 'ems and play Scrabble on Facebook like I do now between my morning runs and afternoon swims.

So I don't know. I'll have to ponder this more. For now I need to just settle for looking and feeling better. Well, except my hair of course. Which is a bit of a fright these days...

But ANYWAY - until I can hunt down a waterproof iPod, I have only my own thoughts to keep me company while swimming. Which can get very dull let me tell you. But there have been some instances where I had a good train of thought going and I have decided to share my mental list of the best things in my possession. I mean, don't you just love it when things WORK? When they actually do what they are supposed to do? I feel like cases of that happening are too few and far between - but there are times when you feel like you actually finally got your money's worth (and I do want to hear about everyone else's list of faves!! but I will plead for that more at the end). Regardless, here are mine:

1) My Dyson vacuum cleaner - what an amazing piece of machinery. This thing sucks up anything and everything that is on your floor or any other surface it gets close to. Seriously this thing practically inhaled one of the kid's winter coats. I bought it several years ago and it continues to work with no issues - with little or no effort on my part. Everything just feels so much cleaner after it is used - probably because everything IS so much cleaner. In a house with three dogs, two kids and a man it is a "must have" item. Very pricey, but worth every ever-lovin penny.

2) The Butter Boy - I love my Butter Boy. He is the best invention for corn on the cob since people decided to eat corn on the cob. I bought this little gem as an afterthought at one of those kitchen outlet stores and boy am I glad I did. The top of his little head pops off right at the seam of his smile and lo and behold there is a stick of butter in there (that you load from the bottom) - and the upward curve of Butter Boy's grin perfectly form fits to an ear of corn - so you can butter your corn with no mess or fuss at all. He's fantastic and I can't wait for summer so he can be locked and loaded and ready to go once again.

3) Member's Mark Dutch Oven - I am so glad I decided to get this, it is the most useful pot in the kitchen. It has completely changed what I think about cooking and has opened up an entire array of possible meals. For someone who struggled with the idea of putting anything on the table more complicated than a chicken patty this is a huge statement. I know dutch ovens can be pricey - but I didn't have to shell out too much for this one comparitively speaking. And as far as I can tell, it works just as well as it's more expensive cousins. So get to Sam's Club and check it out!

4) Under Armour - For any of you out there that also sweat on a regular basis, I think you'll agree that there is a reason you have to take out a second mortgage to purchase any of this stuff because it is honestly amazing. To start with, wicking sweat or no, it is so incredibly comfortable - which when you're running non-stop for over an hour is a very big deal. Now I can vouch for the Cold Gear stuff because of my outside running adventures this winter - it is an incredibly thin layer that does indeed keep you warm. I am not sure about the Heat Gear, I really haven't put it to any big test yet. I am also interested to hear if anyone has tried the shirts that do both heat and cold - you turn it inside out to get one or the other. I'm not sure if I believe that but it is Under Armour after all and I pretty much believe they can do anything. I am also interested to hear if anyone has tried their running shoes. I really believe in this brand but I buy my running shoes at a running store which does not carry them - which gives me serious pause about their viability. So if anyone has any thoughts there - please share them!!

5) My North Face snow boots - What an incredible difference in your opinion of snow and honestly winter in general when your feet are warm and dry. I don't know how the folks at North Face did it but I have stayed outside for hours with my feet completely immersed in snow and wet and my feet felt like it was any old spring day. So along these same lines I have to also commend my Columbia winter jacket which is also pretty amazing but not as amazing as these boots. But since moving to Budd Lake, which lately has been akin to living in the Arctic Circle, I broke down and bought real winter gear and I am sooooooo glad I did. Wouldn't survive out here without it.

6) iPod + iTunes - and I only use it for music. But what an amazing device and online store. Is there anyone out there who doesn't like their iPod? Now if I could only find one that works underwater...

7) Lawry's Seasoned Salt - say what you will but this stuff is great. I got the inside tip on it from the Pioneer Woman (whose cookbook is my current fave) - she uses it in almost everything, and I've gotta tell you, she's absolutely right about it. It actually makes Walmart brand boxed mashed potatoes taste good. Enough said.

8) Last but not least all my Levi's jeans. I have done some serious research on jeans, I have tried on every single brand Kohl's has to offer in women's AND juniors (remember...unemployed...have to fill my days somehow hahaha) and I have actually purchased jeans that are over $125.00 - twice! (One pair from Nordstrom's one from Bloomingdales - 5 years ago but still...) - nothing but nothing beats Levi's. They are comfortable - before and after washings - and they are the jeans that I pull out of my closet over and over again. They just plain fit.

So those are a few of my favorite things. Pretty much covering the categories that rule my life these, cleaning, exercising, shovelling snow...but whatever the case, like I said, it's just nice when something you spend your hard earned money on actually works. That just makes me happy.

And yes, I did think of all this while swimming.

I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to hear about other people's favorite things. So please! Comment here, on FB, wherever - I want to know! So worth sharing...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Boy am I behind!!!

Yes it has been forever and day since I actually posted any musings here. It's been a tough - and busy - couple of months. Not to mention that my mojo has been off. Could be the weather (which just sucks), could be one respitory or stomach disaster after another that I keep suffering (I blame the skeezy wrestling room for this), could be I'm eating too many carbs...I don't know. Point is, I haven't been myself. So, I figure to help try to get back to being myself I need to get my butt in front of the computer and write!!

A couple of updates to previous blogs, first...

1) Charlie's b'day party - held at DaBarn in Chester, NJ - was a huge success and a totally original event for the fine kindergarten through 2nd grade denizens of Mount Olive. Big shout out to my friend Cindy for that one.

2) My running is suffering I have to say. Because of above mentioned weather, constant snow cover causing unsafe road conditions and health issues I have been having a tough go of it. Not running could conceivably explain my mojo issues. But, I did get out this week before our latest blizzard + extreme wind/cold front (not to mention yet another respitory event that seems to be percolating) and I can still run 3 miles two days in a row with no problems anyway. Next week I am going for 5 and we'll see what happens. Heather, Ashely and Tonya - I'll be in shape for OBX I promise!!

3) Charlie's wrestling season has almost come to an end. And while there were more tears than I ever imagined, he is starting to win and he even wants to get better and go for the "extended" program (1x/week post season)...provided it doesn't conflict w/ baseball that is. My rule...not his.

4) I have read some interesting books and I will absolutely share my thoughts on these in a post in the near future (I WILL NOT wait as long to post next time I SWEAR).

Well onto the actual topic I jumped on here to write about in the first place - - - - I have been "Gainfully Unemployed" for just over a year now. It blows my mind to think that it has been that long...and I actually have survived! There are many many changes that I have gone through that the "Full Time Job Me" would not have ever imagined would happen - for instance...

1 - I would consider a kids' football/baseball/wrestling/basketball/track/swimming practice a social event.
2 - I would volunteer to do ANYTHING having to do with these events. I'm just not a Joiner.
3 - I would volunteer to step foot in either of my kids' schools - to do the book fair, be a "mystery reader," help with Market Day fulfillment, Field Day etc. - if I didn't absolutely HAVE to be there.
4 - When someone says "Wow your hair looks good today, what did you do different?" I would reply with "I washed and dried it" and honestly mean it. (I know, I know, gross...but true. Especially in the winter...)
5 - I would be appalled at the notion of not vacuuming - at least my downstairs - at least once every week, week and a half tops. Not to say this always happens, but at least I'm appalled when it doesn't.
6 - I would get super excited over a new washer and dryer and show them off to family and friends as if I had just acquired a Monet and a Degas.
7 - I could go to Target for 2 hours and walk out only having spent $13.87 (True story! Kelly can vouch for me!)
8 - I would gush over a cookbook (Oh the Pioneer Woman...don't get me started!)
9 - I would actively clip - and USE - coupons, as well as scour weekly flyers for sale items. And I would actually COMBINE the coupons with the sales to save even more! Oh, yes it's true...
10 - Similarly - I would actually purchase a store brand. And I will say proudly - even the Wal*Mart store brand. OK, not too proud about that but DAMN it's so much cheaper!
11 - I would consider jeans and a button down shirt kinda being dressed up.
12 - I would make the best twice baked potato this side of the Mason Dixon line.

Well I'm sure there's more but you get the drift. And if I think of any others I will be sure to let you know!

Anyway it's good to be back and like I said, I won't be a stranger anymore.