Oh PlanetBox, I heart you

We generally try to stay away from pre-packaged foods and opt for homemade and fresh foods instead.  Packing a lunch for Sashimi used to entail looking through the cupboard for containers and their matching lids, put all the food in appropriately sized containers, then trying all sorts of configurations to get the damn things to fit in his lunchkit, then realizing that one container just won’t fit and resorting to unpacking his lunch, changing containers and trying the whole process over again.

Now, I have a PlanetBox.

Sashimi's lunch for tomorrow: A balanced lunch made in less than 5 minutes.

Each side compartment holds 3/4 cup, making it the perfect size for fruit or veg. 1/2 cup is equal to one serving, so if you fill those, that’s three servings right there.  The large compartment is for your main, which today for Sashimi is Dempsters Ancient Grains wraps filled with jam and pea butter (his school is nut-free), 10-grain mini muffin, a pepperoni stick and a few BBQ Crispers.  The long compartment just above has a cheese string (the only kind of cheese he will eat) and another roll up. And in the tiny middle compartment, Skittles.  That compartment is just the right size for a few chocolate chips or smarties.  A small amount of sweets goes a long way for kids.

And then, when I close the lid, all the compartments stay separated: no mixing foods!

Closed for fridge-time: foods stay segregated

The box is made out of high grade stainless steel, and has specially shaped magnets that stick to the outside.  They have about a dozen different designs.  I bought 2 different sets (I think one was included with his box, and the other cost $2) so Sashimi can choose which ones to use.  His only complaint was that they did not have dinosaur magnets.

Then, when he is ready to take it to school, it goes in this insulated carrying case:

There is room for a water bottle and a larger item (like a large fruit) or ice-pack in the exterior pouches

There are also a couple of round containers that fit inside the Box, if you want to take dip for your veggies, or a larger one if you wanted to take a yogurt parfait or pasta salad.  Sacha likes neither of these, so the containers are not used much right now.

The whole ensemble set me back about $55.  That being said, I never have to look for containers, never have to buy ziploc bags or saran wrap, it is easy for Sashimi to open and close (unlike when he would have to ask for help with various lids and baggies). I don’t have to worry about whether the plastic has BPA in it (no plastic = no worries) and I can get a clear visual every day that his lunch is well balanced and healthy.

And it comes home pretty much empty every night.

Bon appetit!

It’s canning season!

I took an interest in canning last summer.  My mom used to can all sorts of things when I was a kid, ranging from homemade pickles, to jams, to canned vegetables, to soups.

I started last year with jelly.  My first ever attempt at canning was making nanking cherry jelly, which turned out so well I hopped right into more jellies and jams. Last year, the total cups of jelly/jam canned was roughly 60.  Some in pints, some in jam jars that hold one cup.  By this summer, about 10 cups remained, mostly of strawberry jam, which seems to be the least favourite at our house.  Or maybe I just made the most of that kind last year.

Last year, Tony got into making pickles: he made regular dill pickles, bread and butter pickles, and curry pickles, which were killer. Those curry pickles were so amazing on burgers I can’t even explain it. He also made some pickled beets, and I made about 24 quarts of salsa.

This year, the running total is getting to be ridiculous: I have done 8 cups of strawberry jam, 18 cups of saskatoon jelly, 18 cups of cherry jelly, and nearly 30 cups of raspberry jam, the boys’ favourite.  All of the berries are local, all of which were picked by our family. I also made some cherry bbq sauce (5 cups). We have apples waiting to be processed, too. They are good for eating fresh, but there is no way we can go through all those apples! Jelly-time is looming.

Now, jam and jelly time is almost over and we are heading into regular pickling and canning. We picked about 10 lbs of string beans from our garden last night.  That’s right, 10 lbs.  That was from approximately half our plants, and this was not the first picking.  I picked nearly as many last weekend! I am not one for canned beans, so I am trying to flash freeze them, and Tony wants to make some dilly beans.  I have also got into pressure canning, which opens up so many possibilities, like soups.  I have done beef barley soup and a mexican-inspired meatball soup.

All this canning is fantastic, but I am quickly realizing that I need more space to store my canned goods.  I have no cold storage room, and piling jars all around my basement is not ideal.  We also have to store our potatoes at my mom’s house in the winter because she has a cold room that will preserve them, whereas if we kept them in our house, they would spoil by November, I am sure.

I never thought I would ever be so domestic, but I am loving all the home-grown and homemade foods so much.  It takes time and dedication to make all these goodies, time which could otherwise be spent knitting or relaxing, but we reap the rewards all year on our toast and at the dinner table, so it’s definitely worth it.

Especially when Sashimi tasted some store-bought jam and said “What’s wrong with this jam?  It’s no good.”

Fat Girl Vs. Anorectic Girl

So many people have commented on how quickly I slimmed down after having iBean. Yes, I am thinner now than I was before I got pregnant with Sashimi.  I am currently the same size I was when I graduated from high school. If i walked around with an FAQ on my back, one of the questions would be “Do you work hard at it, or do you just have good genes?”  The truth is, although in this particular instance I have not had to physically work hard (thanks to my friend thyroiditis and his sidekick breastfeeding), my relationship with food and my body has not always been so easy.

My eating is so much different now than when I was a teenager.  I used to eat compulsively and was 155 lbs at my heaviest.  Not huge, but not small either for a short girl.  I would polish off a ring of sausage as a snack, or a large bag of tostitos and salsa. I drank a lot of coke and tequila (not together). I liked adding those flavoured creamers (try 7 or 8 of them) to my hot chocolate. Then, at 17, I overheard a boy refer to me as  “cute, but chubby.”  All I heard was chubby.

I started exercising regularly.  I made a rule that I was only allowed to eat thin soups for lunch – no more sandwiches or other unnecessary bread consumption.  I would only eat a banana for breakfast. Doing this helped me lose nearly 25 lbs in 6 months.  Then my dad was killed in an accident, I dropped another 5 or 7 lbs in a matter of days.  I went shopping for my grad dress (for my American friends, grad dresses here are equivalent to prom dresses) about a month afterward and was completely thrilled when I realized that I fit a size 4.  I had never been a size 4, and the rush of seeing such a small dress on my body was something I cannot explain. By the time I actually graduated, the dress was slightly too big, and I could have easily worn a size 2.

When I moved out on my own to attend university, I remember thinking these exact words: “When I am on my own, I can lose as much weight as I want.”  That is scary to think of now, but I distinctly remember thinking it. I started keeping a food journal, documenting everything I ate, whether I had a bowel movement, how much I exercised, and how much I weighed. A typical day would read:

Breakfast: banana. Lunch: mini pita with cream cheese. Supper: salad with salsa and light ranch.  Tae-bo one hour. No BM. Weight: 103 lbs.

There were days when I ate out at a restaurant.  Those days, I usually just drew a big angry face and took ex-lax when I got home (I have no gag reflex, it seems, as I tried to purge and it never worked.  A blessing in disguise). A couple of my friends from high school saw me and commented on how they coud feel my spine when they hugged me.  I just told them it was stress, all the while masking my extreme delight in being so thin.  I should also mention that I was amenorrheic for about a year.  It did not bother me at all.

In the spring, I started seeing a psychologist (for another matter) and through therapy, realized that I had an eating disorder. Meanwhile, my physician had put me on an anti-depressant that had a side effect of causing increased appetite – I think she suspected something was wrong as well.  At first, I would put the extra food I craved in my mouth, chew it up, and then spit it in the garbage.  Gradually, I started to see how deranged this was, and  started swallowng the food.  I managed to put on 10 lbs over  the four-month summer break, followed another 10 lbs during my two-week séjour in France. I returned home no longer fitting my pants and with significantly larger breasts (much to Tony’s delight).

The guilt I felt over eating what I felt was too much (what I now realize was eating normally) took a few years to subside.  Tony was a very positive support for me, and I purged my closet of all my skinny clothes, so I would not put them on, feel them cutting into my flesh, and revert back to old ways.

Now, 10 years and three babies later, I like to think i have achieved some sort of balance, somewhat shaped by the fat girl and anorectic girl constantly dueling in my head.    My weight stays pretty constant. I eat what I want, all the while watching portion size and making sure that I am getting lots of fruit and veggies.  Sometimes the anorectic girl wins, and I order salad at a restaurant when I really wanted pasta.  Other times, the fat girl wins when I eat a big piece of pie for breakfast or eat two handfuls of cookies while watching TV.  But they play a zero-sum game.  If one girl wins, the next time she will lose.

Time had been kind to me, as I really don’t think about these things anymore.  I enjoy my life and food on my own terms, exercise when I want (or have the energy) to do it.  In becoming a mother, I have seen my body do incredible things and I have more respect for my body.   When I see myself in the mirror, I like what I see just as it is.**

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**Okay. Maybe not the acne. But I guess that’s what concealer is for.

Strawberries

Last spring, I planted 14 strawberry plants in my yard.  They were each one small root and stem.  I let them do their thing all summer, letting the runners go mad.  In the fall, I looked closely at what had progressed: once I separated all the runners that had started growing on their own from the mother plants, I counted my new strawberry patch: 60 plants. I rearranged them all in a row and covered them with straw for the winter.

This year, I have again been letting them do their own thing, tending to the flowering ones and trimming the runners somewhat.  Some plants did not survive the winter, but many others sprung up in their place. Everyday for the past week, the boys and I have checked the patch to pick the ripe berries.  Most days we get about 6-10 ripe berries.  Yesterday, we got this:

Nothing better than home-grown berries

So we washed them up and sliced them for the boys at supper time.  Red smiles for everyone!

Pay no attention to the Kraft Dinner in this photo...

Teeth are nice and juicy red from home-grown strawberries

It’s pie season, bitches

Despite being tired, I was very wired last night.  I did some laundry, did a bunch of weeding in the yard, then collected some strawberries and rhubarb from my garden and made this:

All the organic local goodness you can stuff in your pie-hole

I did not have enough strawberries to make this a true strubarb pie, so I tossed in some saskatoons and raspberries from last season that I had flash-frozen for such an occasion. I made the filling on the stove before baking the pie, just so I could do some necessary quality control (mmm…more quality control please…)

It was all I could do not to devour this baby for breakfast.  True homegrown flavour, wrapped in awesome pastry-flakiness, also from scratch.**

I don’t care how many calories it is. Pie season only comes once a year.

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**No, making pie crust from scratch is not hard. It is necessary for delicious awesomeness.

I take my beets pickled

I am now sporting a hot new number: an ambulatory blood pressure monitor.  I get to wear the big cuff, with cord sticking out, and wear the battery-control pack around my waist (or neck, like a camera in the old touristy days) for the next 24 hours. I am glad that we are going to get to the bottom of this blood pressure business, but I was not anticipating this thing to be so BIG. (That’s what she said.)

So I guess we shall see how much  my blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day and then my dr will decide what to do from here.  He laughed when I told him that I ate a pile of beets last night and that it actually brought down my blood pressure this morning.  But then he added “Beets are good for you anyway.”  I did not mention that they were pickled beets.  Not sure if that is cheating, but they are SO GOOD that way! And hey, my bp went from 142/104 to 122/77 overnight.  So whatever.  I take my beets pickled.