Monday, March 31, 2014

eating clean: you have to start somewhere

Yes, you read correctly yesterday, this little family is going to be eating clean from here on out. Honestly, we've been working on eliminating processed foods and eating healthier for months and months now, and I think we were doing okay, especially during main meals. My boys are far more adventurous with food than most toddlers, and they have always absolutely LOVED their fruits and veggies. But when it comes to snack time... well, they love goldfish, graham crackers, and pretzels as much as every other kid. And don't even get me started on the fruit snacks... they would  probably eat an entire box in one sitting, if I let them.

Have you ever actually looked at the ingredients that go into most of the most popular toddler snacks? Sometimes I've never even of the ingredients before and I'm not even sure how to pronounce them, and that's never a good sign. Trans fats, refined grains, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors and colors, waxes, MSG in all kinds of tricky disguises... the list just goes on and on. I used to kind of overlook those minor details and fill my cart with processed snacks because "I always cooked a healthy dinner." Well, while a healthy dinner is better than nothing, what about all those brain-cell killing, metabolism slowing, cholesterol rising ingredients in the foods that they munch on all day long?

I'm finally putting my foot down. Spring is here, a new month starts tomorrow... I figured it was as good a time as any to finally ditch all the gross processed foods and replace them with only clean food. So, what exactly is clean food? 

Clean food is essentially real food free of preservatives, white refined flour/sugar, trans fat, or saturated fat. It is not processed or chemically modified. Chances are, if it's pre-packaged, contains more than five ingredients or any ingredients you can't spell or pronounce, it's not clean. 

Yesterday, I planned out all my clean meals for the week. Then, armed with my shopping list, I went to the grocery store. You'd be AMAZED at the sheer amount of fake food at the big box stores. You're generally pretty safe in the produce section, but the rest of the aisles are just full of processed foods. Unfortunately, we don't have any large local natural grocers. We do have one small natural market, but it was closed yesterday. I managed to find everything on my list at our local Meijer store, though. It just took some serious hunting (and help from friendly sales associates). 

When it comes to clean eating, Michael Pollan is a revolutionary. He has written numerous books and makes a compelling argument for eating clean- and he even simplifies the process! He is full of all sorts of witty but true quotations such as:

  • "don't eat cereal that changes the color of the milk"
  • "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." 
  • "Whenever you see the words low fat, reduced fat, or fat free, think chemical crap fest." 

He also has a pretty easy to follow list of rules for grocery shopping: 

I mean, that's not too difficult, right? I managed to do it all by myself yesterday (cue clapping). I could probably even do it with two hungry, hyper toddlers in tow, too ;) I want to order a bunch of Michael Pollan's books to read. I mean, he's basically a genius... a honest, real, hilarious genius. To get the whole list, visit his website.

Some other resources I've found to be really helpful are:
100 Days of Real Food
The Gracious Pantry
Clean Eating Magazine
Clean Eating Chelsey
He and She Eat Clean

We're eating clean for April (and beyond!) Care to join me? 
Tomorrow I'll be posting lists of clean toddler breakfasts, lunches, and snacks.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

CLEAN weekly menu plan

Monday: crockpot whole chicken
Tuesday: homemade chicken noodle soup
Wednesday: slow cooker apricot salsa chicken
Thursday: baked turkey burgers
Friday: baked tilapia with homemade mashed potatoes & veggies*
Saturday: whole wheat pizza pockets
Sunday: chicken & veggie bake

{this week's recipes can be found at The Gracious Pantry & 100 Days of Real Food}
meals marked with * = my own recipe

Goal & Focus this week: eating CLEAN... which really just means eating nothing but real food. I'll blog more about it tomorrow- but yes, even the toddlers are going to be eating clean. :)

Healthy Tips: one key to staying on track (and under budget!) at the grocery store is having a well organized list that you stick to. I've been using this free printable grocery shopping list for months now, and I love it! Get it here.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

meet the bunnies

When your family is full of animal lovers, a year and a half in a pet-free apartment complex feels like an eternity! I'm sure it came as no surprise that we brought home the first fluffy member of our new family only a few days after receiving the keys to our new home- and before our furniture was even delivered! We were exploring a feed store in town when we fell in love with a 3.5 month old checkered giant rabbit, who Elliot named Noah.

Rabbits are highly social animals and do better in pairs than on their own. So we knew we should probably get him a friend. We had an adorable english lop for a few days, but she was not a male, as the breeder said, but a female. She was also four months old (so possibly able to get pregnant!) and Noah wouldn't leave her alone. In fact, she even had little scabs on her shoulder blades from all his *ahem* loving. We ended up giving her back and making an appointment to have Noah neutered. 

A week after Noah's surgery, we were back in the same feed store, picking up more hay, when I stumbled upon a big cage full of TEN of the tiniest, fluffiest little baby bunnies you've ever seen. I squealed like a little girl- literally. They were all so sweet and cuddly, Aaron knew before I did that we would be bringing one home. An hour later (they were all so cute and colorful!) I finally picked out "the one".

Scout is just about nine weeks old now, and a lionhead-rex mix. He is a typical baby bunny- so a little nervous, particularly of crazy Emmett, but he's also very sweet. It will probably take him awhile to warm up as much as Noah has. After all, EVERYTHING is huge to him. But that's okay with us because Noah is super friendly- he follows us all around the house like a dog and just LOVES being petted.

Noah and Scout get along fabulously- I think the combination of  Noah's neuter (and therefore less hormones) and the fact that Scout was such a young baby made the introduction a breeze. They took to each other instantly. Usually, they sleep right next to each other in their cage and follow one another around the house. Believe it or not, Noah actually has gotten even more outgoing now that he has a little roommate!

You can expect to see more of the bunnies around the blog from now on ;) and I will probably do some bunny care and FAQ posts, too. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

life is good.

As I type, I can hear my husband chopping and sawing away in the garage, turning gigantic trees into firewood to heat our home. And it occurs to me, just now, how amazing this life we're living really is. Sure, we're buried under snow, but we are finally doing it! Living our dream! We have our house out in the woods, far away from the hustle and bustle of town. We are heating our house solely on wood- and currently, my husband is taking it a step further by harvesting dead/fallen trees on the land surrounding us.

some of the fruits of Aaron's labor today.

We are moving closer and closer to the quiet country life that we've always dreamed of. This spring, we will plant seeds into our very first garden, seeds which will grow into fresh, healthy, homegrown food for my family. Also, as soon as it warms up we will be building a chicken coop and run and raising chickens! Those cute baby chicks will eventually grow up and provide us eggs and (possibly, if I can wrap my head around it) meat for our family. They will be raised the natural, healthy way. Allowed to live full, happy lives and just BE CHICKENS. That makes my heart so happy!

As much as I love modern society and science, and all that it has done for humanity... we really just want to get back to our roots. Isn't that funny? I know there are plenty of people in this world who LOVE their busy, nonstop lives in the city, but it's not for me. If you need me... I'll be in my house in the woods. As soon as it warms up, we will be outside running, playing, exploring, and learning... and I might have my camera in hand ;)

When you stop to think about it, life is amazing. It really is. Even if you aren't living the life you imagined yet, the fact that every little thing you do is just another step of your journey... it's mind blowing.

ps: a special shoutout to my husband. Without him, none of this would be possible. He has given me everything I've ever asked for and more. I have the best husband I ever could have asked for. Truly blessed! I love you Aaron Patrick! ♥ 

Monday, March 24, 2014

a new adventure begins

I'm happy to say we made it to Michigan safe and sound! Emmett and I arrived at the local airport in Texas before dawn, which I was less than thrilled about, but we were lucky enough to watch the sunrise from over 20,000 feet up in the sky, which was a new and exhilarating experience for me. It was a long day- three flights and two layovers followed by over an hour drive. The perfect recipe for a toddler meltdown, right? Well, luckily, despite it all, Emmett was a picture of perfection! I could hardly believe it.

Aaron and Elliot braved the 14,000 mile drive a couple days after Emmett and I landed in Michigan. It was Elliot's first long car drive, so I was nervous that Aaron would be facing some potential accidents and tantrums, but surprisingly, Elliot did just as well as Emmett! No accidents and no tears. I'm telling you, my boys must have been super excited to finally play with all of their grandparents in the snow, or something.

Speaking of snow, Elliot had been talking about all the things he wanted to do in the snow for months and months before moving. Neither he or his brother had EVER set foot in snow before! Building a snowman, having a snowball fight, and sledding were at the top of his list. Well, he has now gotten to do ALL of those things, and it was just as fun as he'd imagined. He asks to go outside pretty much every day, which is easier said than done. I had no idea how LONG it takes to get two toddlers fully suited up and ready to play in the snow! And then it takes just as long to peel all the wet layers off afterwards!

Emmett, on the other hand, is a little less excited about the snow. He clomped around a little bit in the few fresh inches in the driveway (the snow in the yard would go over his head!), threw some snowballs, did some shoveling... but sledding? No no no! You would've thought we were trying to torture him. He still enjoys himself outside- but he's ready to go back inside long before Elliot is. He's definitely my summer baby. I hope he has more fun next winter when he's a little bigger.

So far we are LOVING it up here- especially our house. I'll blog more about that later. One other thing that is making our move that much more enjoyable? We're finally allowed to have pets again!! Meet Noah & Scout, our two new bunnies. I'll be blogging more about them later, too.

That's all for now! If you're up north/east, stay warm! And if you're in Texas/down south... enjoy that warmth and sunshine! ;)