Book Review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I wanted to share a recommendation for a book I just finished – Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver. I love Kingsolver as a fiction writer; The Poisonwood Bible is a great read, and definitely worth checking out. However, this particular book slipped past me. I saw it on my Goodreads recommended list recently and decided to check it out – and boy, am I glad I did.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is Kingsolver’s account of her family’s attempts to end their reliance on industrial farming. They committed to eat only food that they had grown themselves or acquired from a local source for a span of one year. The book draws on that year, spanning April to March, for its structure; each month represents a chapter in the text, so as you progress through the book, you follow the natural growing season. Accompanying Kingsolver’s masterful prose are additional sections written by her husband, Steven, providing additional context and information about certain topics, and by her daughter, Camille, including recipes and meal plans.

Now, I live in a city just outside of Boston. Between our challenging climate and my pitiful backyard, I certainly don’t think that I could replicate this experiment any time soon. However, reading this book did make me more conscious about the foods I consume. Kingsolver repeatedly stresses how much better food tastes when it’s eaten in season, from a local source. She provides a lot of information about heirloom varieties of produce, and educates her readers on the importance of understanding where your meat comes from, as well. Kingsolver’s family raises turkeys and chickens (which are used both for eggs and for meat) in addition to their produce farming.

I loved this book because it didn’t read like a promotional treatise on eating locally; Kingsolver and her family were engaging characters and I enjoyed learning about their experience of changing their eating habits over the course of the year-long experiment. That said, it also made me think about my own eating habits, and what I could do differently. After reading the book, I spent some time looking into my own options for eating locally and purchasing meat from small farms instead of from large grocery chains. My city unfortunately doesn’t have a farmers market, and those are tough to come by in New England during the winter season, but I found some great home delivery options that I’m excited to try.

I registered for a biweekly Dogma Box delivery through Boston Organics. The Dogma box, also known as the Local Box, is priced at $29. It features produce that is grown as close to Boston as possible, making it closer to a true CSA box. Boston Organics offers a variety of other home delivery options, but it was important to me that I choose the option that kept things as local as possible. My first delivery is due this weekend; normally I’ll receive my boxes on Fridays, but the snowstorm threw everything off. I can’t wait to review the service! The website lets you see what’s coming in the weekly box, which I love, as it gives me time to research recipes before the delivery. As expected for this time of year, my local box will have a variety of root veggies, which keep better in the winter (beets, carrots, celeriac, turnips, and potatoes will all be landing on my doorstop). I’m also getting some sunchokes, which I’ve never tried before, so bring on the experimentation! One great feature of the Boston Organics service is that they offer grocery add-ons from local suppliers. I’ll be getting whole grain bread baked fresh that day, local farm fresh eggs, and a few cheese varieties to try out. You can customize your grocery add-ons to be a standing order that ships with your regular box, or as a one-time add-on.

In addition to produce delivery, I also signed up for monthly meat delivery from Walden Local Meat Co. This company is committed to partnering with local farms that produce sustainable, pasture-raised meat, free from hormones or antibiotics. They offer several different options for delivery; I opted for the $79 6-7 pound full share, which includes a variety of beef, lamb, pork, and chicken. When ordering, you can specify preferences – ground meat, roasts, chops, etc – and also exclude certain meats if they aren’t your favorite options. As with Boston Organics, Walden allows you to add on to your monthly order; they send an email out prior to the monthly shipment and let you choose from their monthly featured additions. I haven’t gotten my first email yet so I don’t know what they tend to feature, but I have heard amazing things about their pasture-raised fresh eggs! My first delivery will come in February and I’ll be sure to review it then. If you’re interested in trying them out, there’s a space on the order form to indicate where you heard about them. Mention my name (Colleen Myers) and receive $10 off your first order. 

 

Disclaimer: I did not receive sponsorship from any of the products featured here. The Amazon links to the book are affiliate links. All opinions are my own, and I pay for my deliveries from Boston Organics and Walden Local Meat Co. 

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Blizzard-ready fitness

In case you haven’t heard, or aren’t fortunate enough to live in New England, we got walloped with one heck of a winter storm yesterday. Over two feet of snow fell according to the official totals, but I was wading through snow that came up to mid-hip yesterday, so I’m convinced the actual total was closer to three feet. Either way, the storm led to some serious cabin fever.

Winter storms make me long for hot cocoa, rich and hearty stews, and curling up with some whiskey and a good book. Unfortunately, none of those things are helping me to reach my wellness goals! I will admit that I indulged in a mug of cocoa spiked with some Bailey’s after my shoveling adventures yesterday, but otherwise I’ve tried really hard to keep up with my fitness goals during the past 48 hours of being stuck at home. I figured I’d share some of my strategies to help myself succeed through this storm!

Stock up on healthy groceries. Yes, like everyone else in New England, I rushed to the grocery store on Monday to make sure I had enough food to last through the storm. I had to have options on hand that didn’t require cooking in case we lost power, and I needed to make sure I had some basics ready to go. I picked up some Special K cereal (I love the Vanilla Almond flavor) and a few extra containers of coconut milk for a healthy breakfast option, and I got some whole grain bread, low sodium turkey, and part-skim cheese for sandwich fixins. I knew that I’d want something to snack on, so I turned to the chip aisle with a critical eye, and was super excited to find this Vanilla Caramel Popcorn. I love popcorn and usually air pop it myself, but this was a good backup in case we lost power – and it’s pretty low in sugar, so it didn’t have that overly sweet kettle corn taste that I try to avoid. Definitely recommend!

Don’t skip your workout. It’s really tempting to stay curled up in sweats under a blanket, but I know that I always feel better when I get in my workout for the day. I had to cancel my planned yoga class on Monday in order to get home before the storm, but I was still feeling pretty achy after this past weekend’s ski outing, so I came home and did 45 minutes of yoga on my own. I’m still not a master yogi by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have enough experience at this point that I feel like I can put together a series of sun salutations and basic poses without needing to follow a DVD. Once the storm actually hit, shoveling turned out to be quite enough of a workout for me! Clearing out the driveway, the walkway, and our stairs took several hours. We do have a snowblower, but I did the walkways by hand, and also had to dig out our cars. Be careful when shoveling, and always remember not to overdo it! Be careful not to overload your shovel when lifting snow, and always keep your knees bent. Also, don’t jump right into shoveling – warm up beforehand with some light stretching and easy cardio, like a walk around the block, to warm up your muscles and help prevent injury.

It’s okay to indulge – but be smart about it! I love to bake, and whenever I’m stuck at home during a storm, the urge to have something delicious in the oven becomes too strong to ignore. This week, I had some bananas that were at the “bake me or toss me” point of ripeness, so I made banana bread. I used whole wheat flour, added some low-sugar dried cranberries and toasted pecans to the batter, and topped it all with a steel cut oatmeal crumble for some added crunch and an extra source of whole grains. The treat came out great, and I felt like I was indulging, but because I had made smart swaps for some of the ingredients, I felt less guilty about my treat.

Sometimes being a kid is the best way to feel great! I admit, when the neighborhood kids were passing by me carrying their sleds, while I was stuck shoveling out my cars, I felt some serious jealousy. I wanted nothing more than to toss aside the shovel and join them! Unfortunately, I don’t own a sled anymore, otherwise I can’t say that I wouldn’t have tagged along. I couldn’t resist the desire to get out and romp in the snow, though, so I took my dog out yesterday afternoon for some winter playtime. Unfortunately he’s not the biggest fan of this weather… all those videos you see online of dogs leaping playfully through the snow banks? Yeah, not so much with my dog. He wanted the whole thing to be over before it had even really begun. But I had a blast out there, diving into snow drifts, making snow angels, climbing over the piles of snow that were taller than I am – and it definitely counts as cardio! The mood lift also counts toward my overall wellness goal, trust me.

I know a lot of New Englanders are grumbling and complaining about this storm, but honestly, I’m loving it. I love living in the Boston area, winters and all! I’m also hoping that this storm is a sign of more to come, because I’d really like to use my Stratton season pass to ski straight through April!

What tips do you swear by to survive winter storms? 

2015: The Year of the Half Marathon

At some point in the past few months, I started telling people that 2015 would be the year I ran a half marathon. Because I’m crazy, and because I knew that if I told other people, I’d have to hold myself to that bold and insane announcement.

Well, this morning, I took the next step toward accomplishing that goal by registering for the B.A.A. Distance Medley.

This medley, hosted by the Boston Athletic Association, involves three races over the course of the year – a 5K in April, a 10K in June, and a half marathon in October. I ran the 5K last year and it was a blast; it’s during Marathon Weekend here in Boston and you can’t beat the energy in the air. I was really impressed with how well the B.A.A. organized and ran the event, so I’m looking forward to trying these other events. Signing up for the medley guarantees that I’ll have an entry in all three events, as they sell out SUPER fast, and will also help me to stay accountable to a training schedule.

I have heard that this particular half can be tough – my cousin, an experienced marathoner, compared it to a bad boyfriend, “because even though it hurts you and you hate it for causing you so much pain, you keep going back to it because you love it so much.” Um. Great. I probably should have listened to her, but I am a glutton for punishment, so when registration opened this morning at 10am, I pounced. The half marathon benefits the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund, so that’s an extra incentive to get my butt on the road to train!

So, any tips for me, as a below-average runner attempting her first half marathon? Would love tips for great training routines, resources I should check out, or mistakes to avoid in the coming months. Let me know what worked – or didn’t work! – for you!

Introducing: Web Roundups

I’m super excited to roll out this new biweekly feature on Being Your Change. I spend a lot of time on the internet, and I’m constantly saving things that I find interesting. The problem is, I save them all over the place! I retweet fitness and health related tweets, I pin interesting recipes and posts, and I use Bloglovin’ to save things that I don’t share elsewhere. I have the best intentions of eventually sharing them with you all, but without a dedicated post to do just that, they often end up getting lost!

So, every other week, I’ll share some of the posts that I found and enjoyed. I’ll try to keep them current, but I do often stumble on older articles or resources when I’m killing time on ye olde interwebs, so there may be a golden oldie in here from time to time.

So, without further ado, here they are – the links I’m digging this week!

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The Power of Dinner Templates, from The Kitchn: This post is from a relatively new series on The Kitchn, “Loving Food While Losing Weight,” authored by Joy Manning. I highly recommend reading through all of Joy’s posts, as the content is really wonderful. This particular post resonated with me because it’s such a realistic way to meal plan. Joy’s “dinner template” idea is just what it sounds like – a very basic guideline to use that keeps grocery shopping and cooking fairly simple. My favorite template? A rice bowl – brown rice with some sort of protein (chicken, tofu, beef), whatever veggies I have on hand (either a stir fry, or roasted veggies leftover from another meal, etc) and a healthy fat (sometimes I make a greek yogurt sauce; other times I add avocado).

24 nutrition-based infographics, shared by Pulptastic: Thanks to Buzzfeed, there’s a crazy proliferation of listicle-based sites floating around. I had never heard of Pulptastic until this week, when a friend on Facebook shared this list of infographics. Each image alone is worth saving, and the collection taken as a whole is super valuable. Definitely worth checking this out and pinning your favorites! Many of the images are reposted from health and fitness websites or magazines, so they’re from reliable sources.

30 minute total body circuit workout from Housewife Glamour: Heather’s blog is one of my favorites to follow, and this circuit workout has all the signs of a soon-to-be-favorite for me! It requires dumbbells or a resistance band, and it’s the perfect length for sneaking in a workout over my lunch hour. The building that houses my office opened a very basic gym that’s free for anyone who works here, and this is just the type of routine that will work well in that space. If I’m feeling ambitious, I might add some cardio to this to extend the workout a bit, but it’s also great as written. Best of all, Heather’s a personal trainer, and she provides great explanation on how to do each move, how to modify if need be, and demonstrates form. There’s nothing worse than finding a great workout printable only to realize you’re not sure how to do some of the steps!

Crock pot steel cut oatmeal, from Carrots ‘n Cake: Where has this recipe been all my life?! I love oatmeal but I hate the instant packets, and I don’t have time to make it on the stove in the morning. Since I started making steel cut oats in my crock pot, though, my breakfast has been on pointThis recipe, from Tina’s blog (another one of my fitness faves!), is a really basic starting point. I mix it up a little, using half almond milk and half water instead of all water, but the basic ratios and timing is about the same. These come out super thick and delicious! I also like adding some vanilla extract, cinnamon, and nutmeg while they’re cooking; not only does it taste great, but your house will smell amazing.

A Race to the Front Row, from the New York Times: I’ve never been to a Soul Cycle class, so this article came as a total surprise to me – and frankly, turned me off of the studio. This article, discussing the competition to get coveted front row spots at some fitness classes and what the position signifies, made me feel even more grateful for the awesome fitness communities I’m a part of. I will admit that I prefer to stand in the front row for my favorite Zumba classes, but it’s not out of some twisted sense of superiority – frankly I like that it’s close to a fan and it’s easier to dash across the front of the room to the bathroom if nature calls in the middle of a Pitbull song! Have any of you ever experienced this sort of front row madness?

What types of links would you like me to feature in future round ups? Any favorite blogs or websites that I should add to my list of regularly visited sites? Let me know in the comments!

I’m baaaaack!

Didja miss me?

I don’t have any good excuse for the lack of posting over the past month. Family issues, holiday stress, and a much-needed vacation all kept me away from this blog, and I’d apologize, but the truth is, I needed some time away from everything. I drafted and discarded multiple attempts at a 2015 resolutions post to kick off the year, but it felt disingenuous to share a resolutions post when I truthfully hadn’t yet gotten myself into the right mindset.

The good news? I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the things that I’m doing right, and the things that I need to do better, to continue improving my overall health and wellness in the new year. I finally feel like I’m at a place where I can fully redevote myself to the mission of this blog and, by extension, get back into the flow of blogging.

So what do my 2015 resolutions look like? I only have one: Don’t make any resolutions! 

I’m 29 years old, turning 30 in a few months, and I have a life that is super jam packed and constantly evolving. What seems like it’s a good fit right now may not still work for me in a few months, so a year-long resolution feels like I’m setting myself up to fail. I have the best successes when I’ve got a regular forum to check in with someone else – whether that’s a nutritional counselor, a fitness group during a challenge, or just a friend who agrees to be my accountability partner. Those external check ins really help me to refocus on what I’m trying to achieve, so I’m going to approach 2015 similarly.

On a regular basis – at least monthly – I’ll sit down and reflect on how things feel. What’s been going really well? Where have I been slipping up? Am I bored with any aspects of my fitness routine? What can I do to freshen up my day to day activities to keep myself invested in my own journey? I’m also looking into a therapist who specializes in disordered eating and body image issues. The stress of the past few months made me realize that I’m still very much at war with my impulses toward emotional eating, and this isn’t something I can fix on my own. I’m looking forward to the coming months, and to inviting you all along with me as I continue to figure it all out.

What are some goals you’re currently working toward? Do you make resolutions?