To (refined) Sugar, or Not To Sugar

A few years ago, the hubby and I tried going gluten free for 10 days. It took a lot more planning and a lot more thought, but we tried it to see if it improved how we felt. I would say that we did notice some small differences, overall there was not enough of a noticeable change to continue.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about the effects of sugar on our bodies. There are opinions and facts and diets and recommendations galore, if you go looking. There is a information stating that it is addictive. Our diet at home is generally very low on sugar besides fruit and what I put into baked goods. We buy very little in the way of prepared/processed foods. We are careful about reading ingredient labels when we do buy something in a box or bag. We bake our bread without sugar. We make our own unsweetened yogurt. We don’t drink much juice, zero soda, unsweetened coffee/tea, etc. etc.

We did have a habit of eating a small dish of ice cream each night, usually the Turkey Hill All Natural variety with only milk, cream, vanilla and sugar. Sometimes we went crazy and added hot fudge, or bought chocolate ice cream with peanut butter, or even Ben and Jerry’s, but usually it was the vanilla. I chose the word “habit” carefully in describing the nightly ice cream.

After chatting about it for a few days, we decided to see if eliminating what little refined sugar we had in our diet would make a difference in how we felt or in our weight. We opted not to eliminate grains, legumes, and other foods that some diets indicate, just refined sugar. We tried this for two weeks. We tried to make sure we were drinking a ton of water.

The only goody I baked was Healthy Chocolate Granola Bars, which didn’t look much like the picture, but which were delicious. I’ll be making them again.

choc date bars

Instead of ice cream, which was missed, we had a date bar, popcorn, or nothing. We walked by sugary treats in our respective work places. I we ate out, we tried to choose foods least likely to have sugar added. I’m sure we weren’t perfect, but tried to stick as close to it as we could.

After two weeks, there was no weight lost (of course, actually getting back to routine exercise might help there). I missed baking. We don’t feel any different mentally or physically. I do think we will continue to forego the nightly ice cream. I do think we will continue to be thoughtful about ingredients, to pass by sugary stuff at work, and to be conscious about moderation. But I will go back to baking. I already try to use as little sugar as possible in my baked goods, but I’m not going to worry about cutting it out completely.

Meanwhile, Fargo will continue to play with, and to destroy, his balls. This is why we can’t have nice things.

ball destruction

Who me?

who me?

 

Wood Furnace Workout

Our house is fun in that it has two furnaces. There is an oil furnace, and there is a wood/coal furnace. For the first few years, we only used the oil furnace. Then the cost of oil went so high that we decided to switch over to using wood once a long stretch of colder weather was in the forecast. When I say “we,” I really mean hubby, because he has done 99.9% of the wood furnace work.

I gained a greater appreciation a few weeks ago, when he was out of commission and I took over the wood furnace responsibilities. I have helped out here and there by loading wood mid day, and by helping with the wood pile a bit in the Fall, but that’s it. You may remember the pictures I shared a few months ago.

wood stacking art

wood piles

The first thing is, if we are using the wood furnace, it is COLD out. The (large/heavy) pieces of wood need to go from the wood shed in the pic right above, to the bottom of the outdoor stairwell.

outside stairwell

Let me tell you, it’s a workout to carry all those pieces of wood down the steps. I was moving 30 ish pieces every day and a half and most of the time, I carried one piece of wood at a time because I didn’t want to fall.

Fargo supervised and watched to make sure I was doing okay.

fargo stairwell

And he was very helpful by moving some sticks.

fargo stick time

Once the wood is (not so) neatly stacked at the bottom of the steps, it’s wasn’t over. Every 6-8 hours, I needed to bring 6-7 (big/heavy) “sticks” of wood inside, one at a time to put into the furnace.

wood furnace

Then, there is a whole process of how to open the door so that smoke doesn’t set off the alarms (still sorry girls, mom, dad and hubby about that happening at 2:30am), letting the wood burn hot, then shutting down the vents, etc.

I honestly could have just shut it down and reverted to oil, but the difference in how cozy warm the house feels with the wood furnace heat vs the oil furnace heat is really pretty amazing. The floors are even warm. Thankfully, by the time the next cold snap comes through, hubby should be able to at least help, even if he can’t do it all on his own. I’ll happily help and be grateful that I’m not doing it all on my own.

Side note: I ran outside this morning. The first time in way too long. One of my young, energetic co-worker friends was nice enough to plod along with me for 3.4. It was a good one.

 

Grinding Flour

I’ve used the grain mill attachment a few times now, adding some home ground flour in with store bought for bread baking. Last week, I made bread from flour ground completely at home. I used a combination of Hard White Wheat, Hard Red Wheat and Oats.

grains

I didn’t really have a recipe plan but ended up with about 2 cups white wheat, 1 cup red and 1 cup oat. The oat groats take a very long time to grind, much longer than the wheat. I also think the flour is a different consistency, or else it’s more airy when freshly ground and I need to use more than the recipe calls for. The dough was very wet so I added some rolled oats as well.

The next morning, when I shaped it into a ball, I had to add more flour to make it workable.

wet bread dough

It baked up nicely and, whether it was the combo of flours, or the freshly ground piece, the flavor was awesome.

well baked bread

Hubby got me a book about bread for the holidays, and in it, the author talks about baking the bread longer than you’d think in order to bring out the flavor.

bread book

I did bake it longer, but I think I’ll try even some more time for the next loaf.

As an extra for this post, our dinner the other night was super colorful and super delicious. I love using our home grown produce throughout the winter. Included below are our sweet potatoes and butternut squash.

colorful dinner

 

2016 Running Recap

Up until the middle of October, 2016 was probably my best year of consistent running in a long time. I am proud of my accomplishments. I am not so proud that I have run about 10 miles since the middle of October…but that’s for another day.

I was very dedicated in keeping a tally of my miles. I know a lot of people use a gps watch and then upload data, but I’m low tech and I wrote miles on the wall calendar. I ran 747 miles in 2016, which averages out to about 71 miles/month. I know that there are a lot of runners who log that type of mileage weekly, but it’s an average I’m proud of (in addition to being proud I kept track like I did).

Another positive was finally getting the new Hoka Cliftons and loving them almost as much as the original Cliftons. I was so happy with them I got two pairs, which will last me a while, especially at the rate of 10 miles in 3 months.

clifton 3s

I trained for two events, the first was in April. I used a new training plan for this Half Marathon and I followed it almost exactly. It was a great day and, though it was my fifth time participating, there were unique aspects, support from the hubster and good friends, and a near PR miss. I wrote a real Race Report for the first time as well.

beautiful course

Due to a trip out West to see the eldest, I knew that the Marine Corps Marathon was out of the picture for 2016. It might actually be out of the picture for good, though I would totally run the 10k just to be a part of the fun and to see some amazing people. Instead, I went way far out of my comfort zone and registered for a multi-run weekend. I must admit, I did not stick to a training plan like I should have, but my only goal was to finish.

I wrote a Race Report for this Hat Trick weekend but could never capture how great it was and how much fun I had. If I can get myself back into the swing of things again, I would definitely consider registering again for the Hat Trick, or at least the Half or the 5 & Dime.

rw half finish

And then there was that time I came home from a run with a cabbage (wearing my sparkle skirt and new sneakers).

 

run cabbage

Now it’s time to figure out what this back-of-the-packer needs to do to get moving in 2017!

 

Fresh Pasta

Our youngest spent the Fall semester in Italy, studying art, traveling, and eating fresh pasta. She had a most amazing experience, which made us incredibly proud of her and happy for her (not that we aren’t always incredibly proud of them both) . We can’t provide her with more time in Italy this semester, but hubby had the brilliant idea to get her a pasta maker for the holidays so she can at least recreate part of her experience.

The night before the girls left, hubby and the youngest took the pasta maker for a test drive. I was not directly involved, just the official photographer, so this post is mostly pictures.

It’s not a fancy machine, it’s hand crank, and it can only make fettuccine and spaghetti, but it’s pretty.

pasta maker

Make a well for the eggs. Youngest, “better mix because the eggs are escaping.”

egg well

It’s more time consuming than originally thought with “rest” times for dough.

pasta dough

rolling

Fargo photobomb.

fargo pasta

First roll through (youngest is cranking).

pasta sheet

Team effort.

rolling noodles

The noodles come out in pairs and need to be separated.

double noodles

noodle pile

Recording her first home made pasta!

noodle snap

A little butter and parm…WOWOW!!

plate o pasta

Saying Goodbye is Hard: 2017 Edition

The eldest was home for almost a month. We enjoyed having her best friend for a few days in the beginning of break. The youngest arrived from her semester in Italy about 11 days later. Having them both home, having the four of us together for the first time since May, was wonderful. We are so very proud of the women they have become.

Unfortunately, it makes saying goodbye really, really hard. Still, even in our fourth year of doing it, really hard.

goodbye k

goodbye b

Even Fargo The Terrible hates saying goodbye.

fargo sad

Good luck this semester, kiddos! Work hard, have fun, do great things, stay safe, take care of each other, and know that we love you!!!!!

Monthly Hobby Update

I just decided this morning, as I started typing, that I would include a Monthly Hobby Update this year. I’m hoping to be working on a few hobbies at any given time, though life has definitely gotten in the way the past few weeks. Mostly good derailment, some I could do without.

Anyway, I’m working with the youngest on a furniture project. Given that the girls are heading out way too soon, I’m reminded that I need some things from her before she leaves so that I can get moving on it without her.

This leads me to the garage project. Although it’s been slow going, there has been enough progress so that the car once again fits inside.

car garage

I think the next steps on the garage will likely need to wait a few months for Spring, but I am actually really pleased and I owe hubby a huge thank you for the time he has put in.

The main hobby I have been spending time on is cross stitch. I decided to make gifts for both girls and two of their close friends. I finished two, this is the third, in progress.

love is

If I were to do it again, I would do at least one thing differently. I have never before used pre-framed canvas, and, unless it is for a VERY small design, I will not use it again. Stitching, and pulling thread through at the end is incredibly difficult near the edges. I have inadvertently stretched the canvas in a few small areas. It seemed like a great idea when I saw them at the store, but not so much in reality.

I keep looking at the bags full of yarn every time I walk by them, so I think I will attempt a knitting project next after the cross stitches are finished. I ground more flour yesterday for the loaf of bread which is in the oven as I type. I am still enjoying watching the flour fall into the measuring cup.

Still trying to figure out the camera, especially the lighting.

dark pic

light pic

In the meantime, the usual chores are still happening. Fargo continues to be quite helpful, especially when it’s time to make the beds.

fargo helping bed

Also, yay me, I logged a whopping two miles on the treadmill Monday! Hopefully I’m going to get a little more back on track with that. Must I register for an event to keep myself motivated?

Social Media

I am not well versed in social media. I get by with Facebook and I’m still learning Snapchat a year later. Hubby and I only finally agreed to let the girls put Snapchat on our phones because it would mean hearing more frequently from them (though I do admit it’s been fun). Although I understand that the idea of Snapchat is that the pictures disappear and, therefore, don’t take up room on phones…I may or may not screenshot some…or a lot.

As I try to figure out what my goals are for this blog, expanding into more social media platforms seems to be a good step. Having an empty nest is different for everyone and it would be nice to draw in others who are figuring out how to approach their new normal. Creating a space to mutually support each other as we try new hobbies, or second careers, or travel more, or deal with crazy puppies, etc. would be fantastic.

So, with the help of my girls, this blog now has an Instagram:

instagram

And a Twitter:

twitter

Fargo is pretty pumped to be the star of all of my social media pages.

fargo paws

I’m thinking that the next step will be a Facebook page. Oh, and figuring out how to best use it all. Suggestions are more than welcome.

Happy New Year (and Cinnamon Apple Pear Crisp)

Well, time to put 2016 to bed and look ahead to 2017. The years keep flying by! This year, one of the big milestones will be attending college graduation for the eldest. Pretty sure it was yesterday that I was spilling tears about her leaving to attend a school on the other side of the country. Other than that, I will be happy with a year that is healthy for all, a year that is safe for all, and a year that brings positive forward progression for all.

As I mentioned in the last post, I would like to try and do more with this blog. I’m thinking I need to learn how to use the blog platform, WordPress, beyond the very basic way I’m using it now. I certainly wish I was more literate in this area than I am. If anyone has suggestions, feel free to share.

Okay, on to the fun food part! Hubby’s brother and wife gave us a box of about 25 pears during the holidays.

pears

We’ve eaten some, and they are delicious. However, they need to be used rather quickly, and we thought a baked good with pears would be fun. My parents are here visiting, so a good sized audience would be partaking.

After looking at a number of recipes, I deferred to my usual resource, Sally’s Baking Addiction. Because we also had some Honey Crisp apples in the house, her Cinnamon Apple Pear Crisp looked perfect.

hc apples

Also note that I used an actual camera, my eldest’s nice camera, for the pictures. My youngest is trying hard to teach me about the settings, the shutter speed, the F stop, and the light meter, etc, but unfortunately, it is not sinking in as fast as I’d like.

The pears were super juicy, so somewhat challenging to peel and slice without a huge mess and without accidentally sending one flying across the kitchen. Though, once all of the filling ingredients were together, I’m pretty sure that the juicy pears made it look so good.

apple pear

As I knew that both the apples and the pears were super sweet, and I didn’t want to hide the flavors of the fruit too much, I cut back a little bit on the brown sugar in both the filling and the topping. I definitely did NOT cut back on the butter though. I’ve come to see butter as a very good friend. The recipe lists the pecans as optional, and I used them.

The smell of the kitchen as it was baking and after I took it out of the oven, was amazing! It looked pretty amazing too. I especially loved the little pockets of liquid that bubbled up through the topping.

apple pear crisp

I plan to get more apples so I can make this again with the rest of the pears. This recipe is going in the favorites folder! It was delicious warm when we ate it as a mid morning snack, and it was delicious last evening with ice cream.

apple pear crisp II

So, what do you think? Can you tell the difference in picture quality?