Tag Archives: personal

Goodbye 2020

Like so many, I could never have imagined how incredibly different my world would look from January to December.

Wow, 2020. You really packed a punch.

In January, I was happily working a job I loved with the best team of people on the planet. I sent out the very first MittenGirl newsletter to my brand new mailing list. Goals were set. I was ready to make 2020 the best. year. EVER. 

By mid-March our office was closed. I picked my daughter up from preschool for what would be the last time, and we started the parenting-while-schooling-and-working-from-home game. 

In June I was furloughed from my job.

Final Day with the Best Team of People
{Our final team picture. I’m so glad someone thought to take it.}

To keep myself occupied during the summer, I took on an idea that had been floating around in my head for a while and began working on my first cocktail book

Editing Homemade Happy Hour book
{Content editing for Homemade Happy Hour}
Photo set up for blackberry vanilla martinis
{Photo set up for Blackberry Vanilla Martinis}

In August my daughter started her much anticipated first day of kindergarten on an iPad in our basement. And in October I published my cocktail book

Published in 2020, my cocktail book - "Homemade Happy Hour"
{My cocktail book, Homemade Happy Hour}

Now it’s December.

Last month, I was permanently laid off from my job. 

And I’ve sold 60+ printed copies of my cocktail book that I originally intended to be digital only. 

I’ve also decided to focus my 2021 efforts on blogging. Can I make it a business? Pay my bills working an unconventional job? I’m more than ready to bring on a new year of focus, energy, and possibilities.

Change can be terrifying and exciting all at once. 

This website has been taking up space on the internet for 5+ years. But only since September 2019 have I focused in on my content, and committed myself to the consistency and work it takes to build a blog into something special. That effort has led to some encouraging statistics. 

What you want is on the other side of consistency - my 2020 mantra
{My 2020 mantra ended up being pretty on point.}

Since that first newsletter in January, I’ve doubled the size of my mailing list.

From 2019 to 2020, I’ve seen an 800% increase in pageviews and a 900% increase in visitors.

MittenGirl website statistics by year
{Annual page views (lighter color) and visitors (darker color) for MittenGirl.com}

I had more website traffic in the first 4 days of December 2020, than for all of December 2019.

I’m doing something right here, and I want to keep it going. Let’s see where it will lead. 

Getting Personal

This year I’ve written more personal pieces than ever before. And they’re some of the most popular posts on my site. It makes me SO DANG HAPPY when someone reaches out to say “I shared this with my sister/coworker/friend because this is my situation too, and this is how I feel.” 

I get needing to have someone else say it in order to recognize those feelings in yourself. 

Years ago, when struggling to understand what would later be diagnosed as postpartum anxiety and depression, I started Googling how I was feeling. I came across a link that led to a blog that led to an article describing exactly how I felt. I sobbed reading that article. 

For the first time, I didn’t feel like it was just me or something I needed to “get over.” It gave me courage. It gave me the words I needed to talk to others about what I was experiencing. 

One person sharing their experience did so much for me. 

So I’ll keep posting lots of recipes, but I’ll keep sharing the personal stuff too. The articles that some will think of as “too much.” Because for someone else, it might be just what they need to know they’re not alone.

And I’ll keep working on cocktail books, and making yummy food, and shaking up drinks, and taking lots of pictures. 

Photographing cocktails for features in 2021.

Saying “Goodbye 2020” is easy. Heading into the unknown of 2021 is daunting, but I’m ready.

2021’s mantra wil help push me along:

Maya Angelou Quote - Nothing will work unless you do.

If you’re still with me, thank you. For the support, the encouragement, the time spent reading this post. You matter so much to me and I appreciate that you’re here. 

xo

~ Katy 

Got a recipe you want to see? A liquor you want more recipes for? Ideas for a collaboration?  Drop me a comment and I’ll get to work. 

It’s the Holidays and Your Friends are Still Unemployed.

Here’s What You Can Do. 

My temporary furlough became permanent last week, as it did for eight of my colleagues. 

It’s been a full eight months since my husband and I had both had a paycheck. Which means one (or both) of us has been unemployed for most of 2020.

We are not unique. 

We can easily name 20 people in our same position. 

The pandemic rages on. 

How to deal with it has become political. 

Government relief has run out. 

And people you know are caught in the middle. 

I keep seeing this post circulating around Facebook: 

“We are now a solid 8 months into this. If you are not working/not getting a paycheck/struggling to make ends meet and run out of food or necessities…please don’t let yourself or your kids go to sleep with an empty stomach. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to send me a private message. I am more than happy to help. I will drop and go, or order for pickup. No one has to know and I will pretend it never happened. What’s understood never has to be explained.  I am dead serious.  We were blessed by the generosity of others when we were at our lowest, time to pay it forward. Be the change you want to see.”

At first read, it’s nice. 

But the more I see it, the more angry it makes me. 

If you know someone who has been laid off and continues to be out of work, go ahead and assume they could use some support. 

DON’T MAKE THEM ASK. 

Your unemployed friend(s) should not have to wait until they’re desperate for groceries or rent money to know that you see them, empathize with their situation, and want to help. 

It’s also not OK to make them feel as if needing help is shameful. 

“I will pretend it never happened. What’s understood never has to be explained.”

Just, no. 

If your income has suddenly disappeared, there is NO SHAME in needing help. And you SHOULD be asking for help before you’re going to bed hungry. 

If you are someone with the good fortune of finding the pandemic merely inconvenient while you work from home with your household income unaffected, it’s time to pause and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. 

Support Your Unemployed Friends.

Reaching out on your own tells your unemployed friends that you understand things are tough for them. That your friend may need some cheer and love. And that you’re someone who won’t shame them for the financial position they’re suddenly in. 

Drop a meal, a loaf of banana bread, some cookies, a bottle of wine, or their favorite beer on your friend’s porch. 

Email/mail them a gift card to a local restaurant. 

Send them cash via Cash App, Venmo, PayPal and the like. 

Do they have young kids? Ask what they want for Christmas and buy it for them. Even better, send it to your friend(s) so they can make sure Santa doesn’t have to skip their house this year. 

Do you normally exchange holiday gifts with them? Reach out and let them know that gifts aren’t needed this year. 

Ease your friend’s burden without them having to ask. 

Anyone who’s lost a job this year is living with the uncertainty of when they’ll find work again. 

They’re trying to keep as much money as possible in the bank for as long as they can. 

Don’t make them wait until their bank account is empty to reach out for help. 

They don’t deserve that stress. 

And you’re a better friend than that. 


Read More:

July 2020 – 9 Ways to Support Your Unemployed Friends

My Monster, Anxiety

The best description of anxiety I’ve ever heard came from a PA at my doctor’s office. 

She told me anxiety is like a monster in a cage. And we all have one. 

When the monster is asleep and calm, your anxiety is under control. This is how people without an anxiety disorder feel. 

When the monster is agitated and rattling the cage, your anxiety has been triggered. This is a normal response to an event that causes anxiety. 

When the monster is trying to get out of its cage and you’re actively pushing on the cage door to keep it contained, your anxiety is a problem. 

When the monster is out of the cage and chasing you, your anxiety is out of control. 

You want to live with the monster asleep and calm, and only have it rattle the cage when triggered before it goes back to calm and sleeping. 

My monster is never asleep and calm. 

To live with an anxiety disorder means you’re constantly pushing on that cage door to keep the monster in, while trying to make sure no one knows you’re doing it. 

When the monster inevitably escapes its cage, it’s impossible to hide. 

I had panic attacks for years before I knew what they were. I always blamed them on some stress in my life – job, family, finances, relationships. 

The last time the monster burst out of its cage and chased me into a panic attack was three years ago at a big box retail store. I needed to buy my then 2 year old daughter mittens. It was December and the mittens I had sent to daycare, I was told by her teachers, were inadequate. 

But I couldn’t find any mittens her size in the store. That was all it took that day for my monster to burst out of its cage screaming “what kind of mother doesn’t have warm mittens for her child?!?!?!” 

I bolted from the store, got in my car, gripped the steering wheel, and took purposeful, deep breaths until the monster shut up and I could push it back in its cage. Then I got out my phone and ordered mittens from Amazon. There was no way I was going back into that store. 

Therapy, exercise, meditation, sleep, yoga, multiple medications. 

My treatment list keeps the monster in its cage, but it’s still pissed off and rattling the door. My doctor and I have worked for the past five years to try to get that rattling to stop. But to no avail. Some days it’s softer than others, but it’s never gone. 

If the monster metaphor rings true for you too, know that you’re not alone. That trying your best each day IS enough. And that a monster rattling its cage IS better than always pushing on that cage door until the monster busts through and starts chasing you. 

My Monster, Anxiety

Introducing Homemade Happy Hour, the ebook!

{Update: Homemade Happy Hour is now available in Kindle and print editions!}

In January of 2015, I started focusing this blog around the idea of a “homemade happy hour” – recipes for drinks and snacks that could be made easily at home with minimal effort. 

A month later I found out I was pregnant. 

So much for developing and taste testing a bunch of drink recipes. And very quickly the blog took a BIG back seat to being a new mom.

Since then, the answer to “what would you do if you could do anything?” has been “produce a cocktail book.” It’s been 5 years and I still want to pursue this idea. That must mean something, right?

When I was furloughed from my job in June, I knew this was my chance to make this project a reality. 

So I turned publishing a cocktail ebook into a B.A.G. – Big Audacious Goal. It’s a new goal for me too – not one I set at the start of the year. Which means I haven’t spent the year focusing on it and planning it into my schedule – I just grabbed the idea and ran with it. (See also, why goals are adjustable.) 

Daiquiri
This recipe’s in the book!
Bourbon Apple Cider
This one too.

I definitely have some suggestions for snacks, but my Homemade Happy Hour ebook is focused on the cocktail portion of happy hour. 

My goal with this ebook is to provide cocktails that have easy-to-find ingredients (even the liquors!) and take minimal effort. There are 18 cocktail recipes in the book – all of which fit this description. There are also 5 cocktail syrup recipes that can be made (1) with pantry ingredients and (2) well in advance of your happy hour so you can make your drinks even easier! 

Sound good? You can learn more or buy the ebook at the link below! 

Update: Homemade Happy Hour is now available in Kindle and print editions. >Buy Now

Homemade Happy Hour ebook displayed on iPad and iPhone devices.

9 Ways to Support Your Unemployed Friends

We live in a world where your job is connected to your identity.

“What do you do?” is one of the first questions we’re asked when meeting new people. And there’s something demoralizing about answering with a version of “I’m between jobs right now.” 

Having been laid off twice in one year, I’m getting good at hearing the business version of the “it’s not you, it’s me” break up speech. 

“You’re a great employee and you do great work, but we just can’t afford to pay you any more.” 

Sometimes this announcement is sudden. Sometimes there’s a warning. But every time it’s jarring and upsetting. 

If you’re someone who loves what they do or places a high value on being able to financially contribute to their household, it’s particularly difficult to separate who you are from the job you held, even though those are two very different things. It’s important to remember – especially following a layoff – that you are not your job and your income does not define your worth. 

While unemployment remains high, there are lots of people who have retained their jobs during the pandemic. If this is you and you’re watching friends get laid off, you may feel a little guilty and wish you could do something. You want to help, but how?

It’s easy to feel helpless, but there are actionable items – many costing only your time – that you can do to truly help someone who’s unemployed.

Here are 9 Ways to Support Your Unemployed Friends: 

  1. Endorse their skills and/or write them a recommendation. Head to their LinkedIn profile. Look at the skills they’ve listed and endorse as many as you can. Is your friend also a former colleague? If so, write a recommendation for them. This one requires more effort, but it also means more. 
  2. Look within your network for positions that might interest them. Carefully read through your friend’s LinkedIn profile and keep their skills in mind should you hear of any job openings. 
  3. Make the connection. If someone mentions an open position at their company and you think “My friend would be great for that!” – speak up, but then go one step further. Send an email to both your friend and the person who knows of the job opening, making the introduction and connecting them to each other. 
  4. Volunteer your skills. Are you great at resume writing? A good editor? Reach out to your friend and offer to help them update their resume or proofread their cover letters. Enjoy babysitting? Offer to watch their kids for a few hours so they can job search uninterrupted. Think about your own skills and what your friend might be needing. What you could offer to help them with? 
  5. Buy them a cup of coffee. Whether you live near or far to your friend, you can still buy them their favorite coffeehouse drink. Send a Starbucks egift card for $5 directly to your friend’s email. It takes just a few minutes and will make their day. 
  6. Spend time with them. Meet up for a socially-distanced hike, bike ride or just sit (6 feet apart) at a park and chat. Make the conversation about them and what they’re going through. Listen. Learn. Then go back to #4 on this list and do that. 
  7. Get them a treat. It’s incredibly likely that the first thing your friend did when they lost their job was to stop spending money on small luxuries like extras at the grocery store, trips to the ice cream parlor, or meals out. If you live nearby, take them out for lunch. Buy their favorite snack and drop it off or send it to their house. Buy them a gift card to the local ice cream parlor so they can take their family out for a treat. 
  8. Send a little cash. Don’t ask if they need money. Their pride will get in the way and they’ll probably say no. So just send some. We live in a world of PayPal, Cash App, Venmo and the like, where sending money to someone is EASY. If you can afford it, send them a little bit of cash to help pay a bill. It will be appreciated, even if they didn’t ask for it. Your friend doesn’t use a payment app? Paper checks are still a thing. Write one and send it their way. 
  9. Keep it up. Getting laid off rarely results in immediately finding another job. Don’t only check in on your friend right after they first share their unemployment news. Drop off cookies a couple weeks later. Send that Starbucks gift card a month later. Meet up regularly. Forward them job openings that might interest them until they tell you to stop. 

Support from others is vital, but often difficult to ask for. If you’ve found yourself unemployed and people are saying “How can I help?” – pick a couple things off this list and tell them. And if you’re in a position to help, don’t ask, just do.

People want to help. Here’s a place to start. 

See also: It’s the Holidays and Your Friends are Still Unemployed

9 Way to Support Your Unemployed Friends

Goals During a Pandemic

2020 goal setting didn’t include a pandemic. But it did include flexibility and check ins so there’s time to adjust as needed. And it’s definitely needed.

Whew. We made it to the end of March. Which is a MASSIVE accomplishment because (1) that means we survived winter and (2) it has been a BANANAS March. 

We’re all home now and life is nowhere near what we knew it to be just a month ago. Big events, small events, swimming lessons, school, extended family dinners, vacations, trips to the playgroup – all canceled. The past two weeks seemed like two months and I have to keep counting the days to remind myself that it really hasn’t been that long since life-during-a-pandemic started. 

How are you doing? Meditating? Drinking tons of water? Eating lots of produce?  

Me neither. 

It’s the third week of working from home with a preschooler and she’s had a cameo appearance in most of my video calls. We’re wearing pjs 24/7 so laundry is now easy to keep up with, but since when do we run the dishwasher this much?! 

I miss seeing my colleagues every day. I miss meeting a friend at a cozy coffee shop. I miss flopping into a booth at a restaurant with my family and letting someone else do the cooking and cleaning up. I miss hanging out at my brother’s house. I miss giving my mom a hug. 

The list goes on. And I know you’re right there with me, missing many of the same things and so many more. 

This post was originally for checking in on how 2020’s goals were going and adjusting as needed. But now I’m giving myself a virus-pass for those derailed by our new homebound way of life and the stress of everything going on. It’s not an excuse to abandon my goals completely, but it IS a way to give myself grace and patience during this time. 

You're Doing Your Best and That's All You Can Do

With that said, let’s see how it’s going.

2020 Goal: Improve my anxiety and depression by starting and maintaining a daily gratitude practice as well as a guided meditation routine.

Reality: The gratitude practice was going well until my schedule got upended by the virus. To be honest, I’m even sure where my gratitude journal is right now. I know it may not be the best idea, but I’m giving myself a virus-pass on this part. As for the meditation, I swapped that for yoga pretty early in January, and the yoga routine I’m keeping up with at home, thanks to free YouTube videos

2020 Goal: Reduce my alcohol consumption by having at least 2 alcohol-free days per week. 

Reality: This one was also going well until March. But now I get a virus-pass until we’re out of pandemic mode. Because wine. 

2020 Goal: Consistently work to build an audience for MittenGirl.com by posting to my blog once per week and sending out a monthly newsletter. 

Reality: This one is super on track. It’s oddly being helped a bit by the pandemic as everyone is cooking at home a lot more and I’m getting requests for recipes via Instagram. Which means I’m super motivated to sit down at the end of the day and write up recipes. I’ve also sent out three newsletters so far this year, which is right on target. April’s will come out in a couple of weeks. Sign up if you’re not on my list! 

And if your only goal is surviving until we’re all allowed back in our parks, offices and schools, I totally get it. Let me know how I can help you.

So how are you doing? Did you set goals for 2020? If so, tell me how you’re doing in the comments below. I’d love to cheer you on! 

Forget Resolutions. Set Goals.

Do you abandon your new year’s resolutions two weeks into January? I always mean well, but the follow through just isn’t there. Probably because I never really took my resolutions seriously. They were more like wishes. Future things I’d be good at… eventually.

Two years ago, as 2017 was coming to an end, I was once again thinking about New Year’s resolutions and found myself listing off the same ones that I’d had for several years:

Eat healthier. 
Exercise more. 
Improve at work. 

It was an annual script.

Every year I voiced some version of those resolutions and every year they were long forgotten by February. 

It was time to forget resolutions and set goals instead.

Earlier that year, I had a conversation with a very accomplished friend who suggested I start setting goals for myself. Goals include the steps to accomplish them. Goals require me to check in on them. Goals speak to specific things in my life where I’d like to improve. 

She told me to write down a goal. Decide what work you have to do to accomplish it, and write that down too. Then set quarterly check ins for yourself where you take the time to review your goals throughout the year and adjust (not erase) things as needed. 

Setting Goals

In that last week of December 2017, I did just that.

I set three goals for myself and outlined the work I was going to do to achieve them. Then I put reminders in my calendar to check in and review my goals every 3 months. 

My first goal – pass the Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification Exam – was accomplished before I got to my first 2018 check in. That March, my second goalimprove my mental health – was underway with therapist appointments and medication adjustments. But my third goal – build a regular exercise routine and stick to it – had been lost.

So I adjusted the “how” part of that goal and kept going. 

It was an encounter with giant staircase that truly motivated me to make my exercise goal a reality.

When I checked in with my goals in June, I needed to make a couple adjustments.

By my fall check in, my goals were on track and I was feeling motivated to accomplish them.

As December 2018 ended, I had not only accomplished my three goals, but I felt ready to set new ones for 2019. 

You Didn't Come This Far to Only Come This Far

As it turns out, 2019 dealt me a couple of particularly difficult setbacks.

And I accomplished about 50% of my goals this past year.

But in doing a review of them for 2020, I’m going to carry a couple through to the new year and add in two additional ones to keep moving myself forward. 

One of the goals I’m carrying forward is to keep the blog posts and recipes coming as I work to build an audience for this site. It’s a repeat goal from 2019, but I’m aiming to make it a win in the coming year.

What resolutions are you forgetting so you can set goals instead? Let me know in the comments below so I can cheer you on!

Explaining Candy

When considering what to teach your kids, the tendency is to focus on the important things – not Candy 101. 

Halloween night, after each chorus of “trick-or-treat!,” I heard the same exclamation from my 4 year old – “Mom! Candy!” she’d cheer as she streaked by me with her cousins, already halfway to the next house. 

This was our second year of trick-or-treating, but the first time that my daughter has truly been interested in the candy. (Last year she lost interest in her haul almost immediately.) 

But this year, she was as excited for the candy as she was for the racing-around-to-houses part. As I watched her trick-or-treat, I noticed that the older kids would be excited about specific treat – “KitKats! Snickers!” – while she just labeled it all “candy.” Talking with her the next day, I realized that she has yet to learn brands and types of candy.  

Leading the charge for candy!

We rarely have candy in the house because I’ll EAT IT ALL. Kiddo knows plain M&Ms from potty training and Hershey Kisses from the bowl at her grandmother’s house. We have DumDum suckers in the pantry, but that one bag I bought six months ago is still not empty.

It never occurred to me that this was basically the extent of her candy knowledge until she was SO EXCITED about finding Hershey Kisses and DumDum suckers in her Halloween bag. (Aren’t you supposed to trade those?) 

With the Hershey Kisses devoured on Halloween night, she has moved on to the rest of her loot. And she’s not about to just taste her way through. Every piece requires thoughtful examination and consideration before she’ll even try it.

Kiddo: Mom, what’s this one? 
Me: A Butterfinger. 
Kiddo: What’s it taste like? 
Me: Peanut butter and chocolate. And it’s really crunchy.
Kiddo: Oh. Why is it called Butterfinger? 
Me: Ummmmm……?

Kiddo: Ooooh! M&Ms [pulls out a black package and digs in.]
Kiddo: I don’t like these.
Me: [looks at package] They’re dark chocolate M&Ms.
Kiddo: What’s that? 
Me: There are all kinds of M&Ms and they each taste a little different. [tries to explain the difference between milk and dark chocolate to a 4yo.]
Kiddo: No. [throws away the dark chocolate M&Ms]

Kiddo: Mom, what’s this one? 
Me: A Three Musketeers 
Kiddo: What’s in it? 
Me: Chocolate nougat covered with chocolate. 
Kiddo: What’s nougat? 
Me: It’s kinda like a marshmallow, except this one tastes like chocolate. 
Kiddo: [tosses Three Musketeers aside.] Are there more Hershey Kisses? 

This is NOT the kind of teaching the parenting books, magazines, and websites prepare you for. When you think about what you’ll need to teach your kids, the tendency is to focus on the important things – stay away from fire, sharing is good, it’s important to be nice, don’t play in the road. Not Candy 101. 

But here we are. Discussing our way through her Halloween treats, while she decides what gets an auto-rejection (Almond Joy), what’s worth trying before rejecting (Nerds), and what’s worth eating up (Hershey bar). 

It’s no surprise that a discussion of candy and its ingredients is way more fun than yet another lecture on why it’s good to share. Besides, as long as she keeps rejecting those Almond Joys, that’s sharing enough for me.

Consistency > Habit

Exercise and I are not friends. 

At best, we tolerate each other.

At worse, I ignore exercise altogether.  

For years, when I’d quickly walk up a couple flights of stairs, or hustle from one building to another for a meeting, I’d end up huffing and puffing. (And then try to NOT huff and puff out loud so as not to give away how horribly out of shape I was.)

Every new year started with some variation of an “exercise more” resolution. 

Every year I tried. 

Every year exercise was gone from my life by the end of summer.

There’s lots of advice out there for making something a habit. 

“Do it for 28 days. Then it’s a habit and you don’t have to think about it any more!”

“Do it for 90 days and it becomes such a part of your routine that it’s second nature!” 

Somehow those philosophies have never applied to me and exercise. I could exercise for six months straight, stop doing it due to illness (or minor injury, or vacation, or ANY excuse), and that was it. My habit was over and it became an uphill battle to find it again. 

Then one day, I had a chance encounter with this staircase.

See that tiny blue thing towards the top of the stairs? That’s a person.

This ridiculous staircase is located in Saugatuck, Michigan. At the bottom of it is a parking lot. At the top of it are sand dunes and a path to glorious Lake Michigan. 

I was on a work retreat, when colleagues suggested a morning walk. Thinking it would be a stroll around some wooded trails, I happily joined in. And then we ended up at this damn staircase. 

I had spent a lot of time convincing myself that I wasn’t *that* out of shape. But this staircase came along to tell me YES YOU ARE!

I headed up these stairs with four other women. 

I was the last one to the top. 

By a lot. 

I kept having to pause. 

I kept feeling like I was going to be sick. 

I kept being reminded over and over of how little exercise I was actually doing in my life. 

It SUCKED. 

But I did it. 

The view from the top.
Looking at where I’d come from…

My colleagues were so gracious. There wasn’t a word said about how long it took me to reach the top, how hard I was breathing, or that they could have completed a full yoga session while waiting for me.  

But OMG, I was SO embarrassed. 

The more I thought about that embarrassment, the more I never wanted to be in that space again.

I was tired of trying to hide my huffing and puffing. 

I was tired of always putting “exercise more” on my to do list only to inevitably fall off the bandwagon (and happily wave at said bandwagon as it left me in a cloud of dust). 

My attitude towards exercise has always been go big or go home. If I wasn’t running or doing long kickboxing sessions or losing lots of weight, what was the point?! Problem is, this way of thinking was causing me to hate exercise and eventually quit. 

So how could I change my attitude?

What if instead of pushing myself to do big, long, intense, workouts, I focused on just doing something. What if instead of measuring my success by pounds lost, I measured it solely by consistency? 

I don’t know why that clicked, but it did. The new plan was to exercise for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. The exercise could be ANYTHING – gentle yoga, walking (fast OR slow), jogging – whatever I wanted it to be, just as long as I moved my body for 30 minutes.

This was about building a healthy routine through consistency, instead of trying to turn myself into an athlete. It was about giving myself a couple days each week to skip a workout, and not feel like I failed. I started keeping track of my new goal only in terms of weeks completed and I kept the number next to my alarm clock to remind myself what I was working towards. 

That was 78 weeks ago. 78 weeks is a year and a half. Funny thing is, I still want to skip my workouts. 78 weeks and it’s still not second nature or habit. I still want to bail on it. But now that I’ve gotten that week count so high, I don’t want to start it over. I don’t want to go see the count go back to one week. 

And because I’m not trying to make myself into an athlete, my results haven’t exactly been mindblowing. I haven’t lost a lot of weight or inches. I haven’t started running 5K and 10K races. I haven’t joined a gym or started cross fit classes. 

What I have been able to do is chase my dog or kid around the yard without becoming exhausted. I can pick up and carry my daughter, no matter how big she’s getting. I can walk up stairs, or dash from building to building, without huffing and puffing. 

To celebrate completing one year of this journey, I returned that damn staircase and walked up it. Did I have to pause a few times? Yes. Did I still huff and puff? Yes. But I never felt nauseated. And I climbed it in half the time I had taken only one year earlier. And after I walked the dunes to the Lake Michigan beach, it counted as that day’s 30 minute workout. Score one for consistency.

Dunes
Lake Michigan

Week One of #Cook90

Epicurious issued the #cook90 challenge to cook 3 meals a day for 30 days in January and I decided to accept. (Read: Why I’m Going to #cook90.)

7 days down. 23 to go.

I’m a Rock Star

Days 1 and 2 were a breeze. It was the holiday weekend. (No work!) Long naps for the kiddo provided lots of cooking and planning time for me. I wrote out menus and cooked SO MUCH to stock the freezer. By the end of Day 2, the week’s menu was taped to the fridge and lunch for Day 3 was packed. I was super motivated! This wasn’t going to be so tough after all.

And Then, Reality

Day 3 (Tuesday) was back to the office and it took until 11am for me to realize that I had absolutely NO idea what was on the menu for dinner that night. Which meant I had taken nothing out of the freezer that morning. Really? I had ALREADY screwed this up? *sigh* Arriving home at 5:30pm, the kiddo made a beeline for the fridge, tugging on the handle and requesting yogurt. The menu said salmon and mashed potatoes for dinner. Great. Both are frozen and only the potatoes can go from freezer to plate in 5-10 minutes. So it was mashed potatoes, frozen veggies and leftover chicken for the kiddo while I waited for the frozen salmon the thaw and bake. So hungry…

Must. Stay. Motivated.

I’m good at bringing my lunch to work, but that’s often not much more than grabbing a Lean Cuisine on the way out the door. At the end of Day 3, it’s time to make lunch for Day 4 and I’m remembering why I rely on that convenience. Why is this difficult?! Only because of #cook90 do I force myself to put together a home cooked lunch for the next day. I didn’t take on this challenge just to bail a few days in.

Better… Maybe…?

Meals for Days 4 (Wednesday) and 5 (Thursday) are drawn straight from my freezer supplies and I’m feeling good about spending so much of my previous weekend cooking. Shredded chicken combined with tomato rice and black beans to fill burritos that are consumed while putting away groceries. Tomato, veggie and meat sauce poured over pasta for a quick meal after a long and snowy evening commute. Way to go, me! But come post-dinner on Day 5 and suddenly I’m where I was two days earlier: needing to make lunch for the next day, and VERY tempted to say “screw it” and settle for a Lean Cuisine. I dig through the fridge and freezer, and combine some random leftovers into lunch. This suddenly seems a little easier than it did a couple days ago.

Hello Weekend!

One of my favorite slow cooker dishes is on Day 6’s dinner menu, so pot full of Thai Chicken was waiting for me at the end of the week. It made a ton, so I double up the rice I serve it over and package up half of each for the freezer. (Bonus!)

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It is now Day 7 (Saturday), which means time for another round of making food to freeze. Two hours in the kitchen this morning has resulted in 9 slices of quiche and 3 containers of cheddar broccoli rice going into the freezer. I also roasted two bulbs of garlic, which are now housed in a glass jar of olive oil in the pantry. There are no specific plans for that, but a bunch of roasted garlic isn’t going to go to waste in this house.

Onward to Week 2

The next 7 nights of dinners are planned and once again pinned to the fridge. For now, I’ll continue relying on my staple breakfast (baked oatmeal) and compiling leftovers for lunch, so I’m not writing out menus for those. My motivation has rebounded and fingers are crossed that it hangs around. So far I have had 21 meals – in a row – made by me, and I’m feeling pretty darn proud of that.

Recipes from this week: