#mightyifitkillsme, food, The Tiniest Capen, working mother

Today I gave myself a pile of small luxuries.

I blocked off my calendar (defensive calendaring for the win!) and so I have no scheduled meetings today. This makes the rest possible.

So because I had no time I had to be in my office, I didn’t set an alarm, and got up when Gwyn got up, which was about 7:15. After I fed her, I handed her off to Justin for her second sleep, and dressed in workout gear.

And then I spent an hour in the basement, on my yoga mat, listening to an audiobook and moving my body in intentional ways. I did 30  minutes of yoga, mainly focusing on mobility in big muscles and opening my hips and balancing my feet and lower legs. Then I ran through my arm and abs apps — 30 knee pushups, in sets of 5 and 7, 80 crunches in sets of 15ish, and 50 reverse crunches in similar sets, interspersed with the crunches.

Then it was time to feed the baby again, because babies are hobbits and second breakfasts are awesome, and when she was fed, I chilled with Her Cooingness for a half an hour before I got myself ready for work.

I’m wearing new-to-me clothes that fit courtesy of Sarah’s closet, I’m making peace with my postpartum hair, and I have lovely new makeup via Karla’s garage sale. Small pleasures.

I put a container of chicken breast and another of mushroom-quinoa casserole into my totebag, made all the simpler by the fact that I had pre-packed both things on Sunday. I made my breakfast (sausage and cheese on toast), I put two oatmeal raisin cookies into another bag, and I made myself a bottle of seltzer in the SodaStream, then packed my Trinity travel mug for coffee at work. Good food easily at hand.

And now I’m at work, at 10:00, which sets me up for my very favorite workday: 10-6. I love 10-6. I am functional and at my most clever and energized from 10-6. Most days, my work requires that I be here at 8 or 9, and that I sit in meetings for much of my day. Not today. Today I get to work 10-6, and I have no meetings, and I am going to knock this to-do list out of the damned park.

Because I gave myself small luxuries. Exercise at my leisure. Small material comforts and vanities. Useful, tasty food. Satisfying working hours.

Because I deserve them. And today I’m also going to earn them. Watch out, endless tedious to-do items. You’re next.

#mightyifitkillsme, food

So what do I actually eat for breakfast? My true preference? An everything bagel, with a mountain of cream cheese, topped with crispy bacon. HOWEVER, I did say I’m trying not to be a carb-and-cheeseavore. So…

Mini quiches. These do require prep, but I can do them over the weekend in minimal time, and then they’re ready to nuke and eat come morning-time. Six eggs, some milk, a cup of chopped and lightly steamed broccoli, some baked and chopped bacon, a cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Distribute broccoli and bacon into a six-muffin pan. Mix eggs and milk, and pour over the top of each. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake until they’re firm in the middle. Store in the fridge until you want to eat them. MyFitnessPal says that’s approximately 250 calories each; I tend to eat 2.

Breakfast burritos. Even more prep, but these can be wrapped in parchment paper, stuck into a gallon freezer bag, and frozen, which in my world means make a huge pile at once and eat ’em for months. Start here, make your own recipe. MFP tells me my preferred egg-sausage-cheese-potato-salsa version is about 475 calories per.

Smoothies. Today I dumped a banana, a cup of red raspberries, a scoop of vanilla protein powder, and a cup of coconut milk into a tumbler and stabbed it with the immersion blender. Breakfast, ta-da. And MFP tells me it was 50 grams of carbs (yo, banana!), 25g protein, and 12g fiber (and 300 calories), so that doesn’t suck. Some days I add yogurt. Some days I use normal milk. Some days I add juice. Sometimes the bananas or fruit are frozen. Eh. Add anything. It’s pretty foolproof.

Yogurt-granola-fruit. I make homemade granola, so that I can control the ratio of oats-nuts-coconut — but really, buy it at the store if you don’t cook. There is nothing more foolproof than a bowl with yogurt, fruit, and granola in it. My fruit standbys are raspberries and bananas, but if you live somewhere that actually has decent stone fruit, peaches and nectarines are also pretty spectacular.

Sausage sandwiches. This is the guilty pleasure breakfast. A frozen breakfast sausage patty, an english muffin, and melted cheese. CARB-AND-CHEESE-AVORES UNITE.

#mightyifitkillsme, food

I’m trying to embrace small goals — small achievable goals — but it’s not an easy path for me to choose to walk. I like big stuff. I like doing shit. I like getting it all done. I like winning on my own terms.

I just don’t have time for getting big shit done. So I have to redefine winning, again, and this time it needs to include smaller chunks of things.

This week’s chunk is to start eating better. I know, from past experience and continuing learning, that I need to eat breakfast at home, I need to make sure I get enough protein and water in my diet, and I need to eat about 500% more vegetables than I default to when left to my own devices. (My own devices like grilled cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, and burritos with extra cheese and sour cream.)

So I’m starting with “eat breakfast at home”, and making sure that I prioritize dinners that better resemble something you’d feed an omnivore, not a carb-and-cheese-ivore.

Because this battle?

It will not fight itself.

#mightyifitkillsme, food, insert emoticon here, The Tiniest Capen

It’s really interesting to me how many people say “you should be easier on yourself” or “take it slow” to postpartum women, and genuinely mean it as a kindness. I mean, I totally get it when it’s in reference to “I can’t figure out what do do with this creature that wants to eat and then cries anyway and then wants to eat again and oh god its butt is wet again and why do baby clothes have so many snaps and did I eat yet today I can’t remember oh crap it’s hungry again but wait it apparently hates my nipples so maybe it’s not hungry but if it’s not hungry how do I know what’s wrong and I think I snapped its clothes wrong anyway so let’s start there but oh god now it’s peeing on me.” Going easy on ourselves on that stuff? That part makes perfect sense. Cut yourself some slack. Infants are bugfuck crazymaking.

But when it’s about me, and how I choose to navigate my adult existence, about the choices I make about shaping my life and lifestyle, about things for which I have clear agency and an active locus of control, I wonder. My health. My fitness. My diet. My housekeeping. My time management skills. My daily planning. I am actively in charge of those things in my own world, or partnering with Justin on them, making choices together. And about those things, I wonder why we say “Oh, go slow, honey!” or “Take it easy on yourself. You don’t have to be [insert thing here].” I hear those responses every time I talk about anything vaguely self-improvement related, and I just wonder at it. Of course I don’t HAVE to be [insert thing here]. But I do get to make choices about how I live, about what I desire, about my goals for myself and my lifestyle. And I’m choosing to be [insert thing here]. And why is it not the default to assume that I’m actively content with those choices? Why not assume that I want to live as I’m setting forth as a goal? Why not assume that I actually desire to live to the standards I’m openly choosing to hold myself to?

Instead, it seems like people are assuming I’m responding to some external impetus — some social force, some unwritten expectation — that says that I must do these things. And so people say “oh, you don’t have to [do that thing]” in a way that seems to assume I probably don’t want to do the thing, and am only doing so because I don’t have permission not to. To which I often think in response, “Have you MET me?” I am a deeply action-based person, driven by the intrinsic rewards of successfully completing tasks I’ve set for myself. Having reached age 38, a second marriage, fulfilling hobbies, and a healthy career, all of which have contributed to making me the happiest I’ve ever been, I rarely do shit I don’t want to do. And I certainly don’t set myself goals that don’t have value for me. So when I say I’m going to get fit, eat better, get to work on time, write my thank you notes, take the dog for a walk, stop eating oreos and staring at the ceiling, or whatever today’s goal is, you can pretty much trust I’m saying it because I want to do it. Because I have agency over those choices and actions. And because I value the outcomes of making those choices and doing those things.

Knowing that’s my headspace, I can’t see why people want to tell me to stop. So I pretty much assume they aren’t thinking of my likely headspace, or they aren’t familiar enough with me to understand it. And I know that most everyone means well, is trying to be supportive and encouraging, and speaking from a place of compassion.

But it lands wrong, with me. If you want to encourage me, what I want to hear is “GO GO GO! You can do it!” Continuing to live in a totally indulgent postpartum headspace where I’m late for everything, the dishes are always dirty, household paperwork is piling up on my desk, I don’t exercise, and I’m mainlining Oreos really truly isn’t going to make my next 6 months of climbing slowly back to work and fitness and health any easier. Is it fun to live a life of laziness and cookies? You bet your ass it is. Does it promote goals I value, and outcomes that make my life better? No way. Not at all.

So I’m defaulting back to where I started my pregnancy, when I said “I’m just pregnant, I’m not broken” a lot.

I’m just postpartum, I’m not broken. And I don’t want permission to stay that way.

food, The Tiniest Capen

A couple of people have asked about my pre-baby casserole cooking. It’s an idea I got from… I don’t know where. My friend Mary Carmen? Pinterest? The internet at large? Regardless, it strikes me as brilliance. We have a chest freezer, I like to cook, and we have a baby coming. Put those together and you end up with a freezer full of casseroles so that we can eat easily when we’re insane with baby.

One of the questions was “What are you making?” and one was “Do you have recipes?”. The answers are below!

So far, I’ve made the following, one or two each evening, a few evenings a week:

  • Italian Sausage. Justin bought a big package of these, and we divided them up into smaller freezer bags, 2 per bag. Easy to defrost and cook on demand.
  • Smoothie packs, x10. A banana, a cup of blueberries, a cup of frozen mixed fruit, and a tablespoon of frozen orange juice concentrate, to make it easy to dump into the blender with yogurt, protein powder, or whatever the desire of the day is.
  • Stromboli, x2. There’s no recipe for these; buy pizza dough. Make it into a rectangle. Layer with stuff. Roll up. Freeze. Bake later. So far, I’ve made one spinach and cheese, and one pepperoni and cheese.
  • Mexican chicken casserole, x2. I used this recipe, but cooked the chicken first.
  • Shepherd’s Pie. I pretty much made this up, because, Shepherd’s Pie. I cooked the ground beef with onion soup mix, worchestershire sauce, and chicken broth, and Justin requested peas and carrots as the veg layer. There would be two of these except we ate one for dinner the next night…
  • Penne with meat sauce, x2. Again, no recipe. I made a double batch of meat sauce, which in my case is ground beef, onions, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and seasoning, and mixed it with penne and ricotta, and topped it with mozzarella.
  • Sweet potatoes with cranberries. This recipe. These are in a ziploc, so that they can be put into the slow cooker on the day we want to eat them.
  • Sweet potatoes with pecans. This recipe. Same deal.
  • Pork roast with apples and sweet potatoes. No recipe. We had a 5 lb pork shoulder, and I carved 2 lbs off it and dropped it into a ziploc along with chopped onions, apples, and sweet potatoes. This one is also designed for slow cooking, with the addition of apple cider on cooking day.
  • Pulled pork, x2. The other 3 lbs of pork went into the slow cooker, with apple cider, seasoned with pork rub. Once it was cooked I shredded it and divided it into quart freezer ziplocs, and tossed them in the freezer.
  • Cheesy hashbrown casserole. The classic. Except, I always skip the canned soup and just add more of other dairy.
  • Beef ravioli in red sauce, x2. Not so much a recipe, but basically this. I added ricotta, because I could.
  • Creamy chicken and tortellini, x2. Tonight’s addition, inspired by this. I layered cooked cheese tortellini, chopped vegetables (broccoli, snap peas, carrots, mushrooms), and chopped chicken into trays. Then I poured sauce over the top, a mixture of jarred alfredo, chicken broth, seasoning (including my always-in-creamy-things nutmeg), and topped it all with shredded parmesan.

I still have the ingredients for and intentions of making these:

To prep for doing all of this, we went to BJs and spent about 3 months worth of our bulk food budget in one night. Two big carts of bulk cheese, meat, frozen veg, canned veg, and a case of chicken broth… and I’m just working my way through them. We also bought gallon freezer bags and 18 aluminum baking trays, and already had a big roll of aluminum foil. Crockpot meals have gone into gallon bags, and casseroles have gone into trays, covered with foil. Everything has been labeled in sharpie, with cooking instructions so that Justin and I can just shove them into the oven or crock pot. I started the whole thing by broiling a giant package of chicken breasts and stashing them in the fridge in a ziploc bag, pulling out what I need for each recipe as I cook. It’s taken about an hour each night that I do some of it, at most, with pretty easy clean-up as I go. Our only real challenge has been staging; the chest freezer is currently full of ingredients (though that’s declining as I work), so there’s not much room yet for the finished products. However, we’ve had a huge cold snap going on, so we’re basically flash freezing casseroles out in the garage, to be moved into the chest freezer as we make space.

My Pinterest inspiration boards are here: Slow cooker, freezer meals, snack foods, breakfast shouldn’t be boring.

So, here’s hoping it works out as well as I’m envisioning! It’s definitely using up my nesting impulses in helpful ways. 🙂

food, The Tiniest Capen

Cruising along

It’s amazing what some sleep and less worry can do. Justin is feeling better, after a very slow recovery from very bad gastroenteritis, so I’m far less worried – and thus far less exhausted. I was totally overwhelmed by trying to be good to my body and self, caring for him, and working. My sense of balance and capability was shot for those 2 weeks. I also slept in our bed this week instead of in the baby’s room, which helped. Generally, I’m back to sleeping again – much less insomnia. And I’ve figured out what I can do to mitigate some of my joint pain, including weekly chiropractic, sleeping in a wrist brace, heating my arm and shoulder as often as possible, and both yoga and therapeutic stretching of key muscles in my lower body. I can manage this, even if I can’t get rid of it.

And so I feel a bit more functional. More like me. More in control of my options and choices. It feels good.

On Friday we went out and bought a huge number of groceries. ALL The groceries. 2 carts at BJ’s kind of groceries. And yesterday I started cooking. On round one, I had a date with ziplock freezer bags, and with help from Justin I:

— Broiled a dozen chicken breasts for later chopping/casseroling/freezing
— Put 4 pounds of pork roast in the slow cooker with apple cider, pulled it, and froze it
— Assembled a slow cooker meal of the remaining 2 pounds of pork roast, apples, onions, and sweet potatoes, and froze it
— Made 10 pre-portioned freezer smoothie packs of frozen berries, bananas, and frozen OJ concentrate
— Made and froze two Stromboli – one spinach and cheese, one pepperoni and cheese
— Prepped two freezer-to-slow cooker sweet potato dishes (one designed to be mashed, with apple and pecans, one designed to be cubes, with orange and cranberries)
— Portioned and froze 2 dozen italian sausages bought in bulk


Next steps are staging, cooking, bagging, and aluminum-baking-dish-ing my way through a couple of potato dishes, baked pastas, and rice casseroles, all with as many vegetables as I can shoehorn into each recipe. I’ve been using my “lie down and take a break” time to haunt Pinterest for casserole ideas (the kind that don’t involve Cream Of soups), and it’s been really useful and great fun.

We will eat home-cooked food in March and April. We will not constantly default to pizza delivery. This I vow.

Then we had some friends over for dinner and hangouts, and I made stew, my winter favorite. They brought brownies and ice cream, and I was a seriously happy camper.

Today, though, I’m going to take it easier. Today I pack hospital bags, write down birth preferences, write a quick un-official will, and start catching up on the giant backlog of thank you notes that are haunting me. Most of which can be done with my feet up and a bottle of water in hand, since I’ve been told I have an irritable uterus and any dehydration will exacerbate the Braxton Hicks contractions it causes. (Which aren’t dangerous, but are surely annoying. And I could use less annoyance in my life.) Right now I’m lying in bed in the quiet morning light, with the heated mattress pad on, soothing my aching hip, and TC is wiggling like a champ, while Miles purrs nearby.

Balance. I’m finding some.

Life’s good.

dreamstuff, food, misc, The Tiniest Capen

I woke up at 6:30, having had terrible, vivid, and aggressive dreams about teeth and Dorothy and housekeeping and ugh don’t try to make sense of pregnancy dreams. And then I had some grand round ligament pains, so I gave up on sleeping and finished my book instead. Eventually, the dog woke up and noticed I was awake, and climbed up on the bed with me and cuddled in between me and Justin. When I woke Justin around 9:30, Mal decided it was pee time. PEE TIME NOW. Yes, dogface, I get it, but I need pants and shoes first, so be patient. He has this great calmly bouncy thing he does where he’s super excited to GO GO NOW LETS GO, but he’s never aggressive or noisy about it. So, after finding pants and shoes and a collar and leash, off we went and I took Malcolm for his walk this morning. How nice is it to have a reason to just go outside and walk the yard for 10 minutes? Walking with this big bouncy gentle giant makes me wish we had land. I’d have gone further and longer if there was more than a yard and a softball field to choose from.

Justin requested that I make french toast, so, clearly, I did. I never turn down an easy and earnest request. But, as usual, I made it by eye. 3 eggs, some milk, some cinnamon, a splash of almond extract, and the rest of the loaf of bread on the counter. I wondered, as I always do, if this is the time I’d mess it up somehow. (Nope.) Laid out a slab of bacon on racks in a baking sheet, and turned the oven on. By the time the french toast was done, we had perfect bacon. While we ate, him in a lake of maple syrup, and me with cinnamon sugar on one half and cherry preserves on the other, I said, “I want to make Swedish pancakes soon, too. I have my dad’s recipe somewhere.” He smiled, said ok, then, “I don’t actually know what you’re talking about.” Having grown up in the Rockford area, home of Swedes and Italians, my mind boggled for a moment. I guess I know what’s on our agenda next time we visit the family.

Later, I was telling a few brief Aunt Hilda stories (RIP, Hilda Ricci Borri) and I called her a force of nature. Again, he smiled at me and said, “you had strong female role models? You?” And I laughed. You think? They were an amazing bunch of women, the Ricci sisters. They taught us how to be family, and so much more.

And so my little family is enjoying a lovely lazy Saturday, complete with French toast and maybe a nap on the couch. Life’s grand.



Today’s Sunday(ish) Kitchen:

  • washed and cut carrot sticks, celery sticks, and cauliflower
  • turned a pear, a kiwi, the last of the pineapple from last week, a banana, and a mango into fruit salad
  • made a double batch of Dorothy’s mac and cheese, adding bacon to all of it and peas to the half going into the freezer
  • marinated and grilled pork shoulder (this is all gone; yay, successful dinner)
  • chopped zucchini, yellow pepper, and asparagus, added corn, and seasoned them with Penzey’s mural of flavor, then grilled
  • pulled out a beef roast to defrost

The plan for the week is that Justin has leftovers, fixings for sandwiches, cans of soup, and fruit for his lunches, and I have easy access to pre-washed and cut veggies, hummus, cheese, yogurt, and fruit for my lunches. I might also hard boil some eggs, and make muffins tomorrow while the roast is doing its thing.

Dinners this week will include:

  • beef roast with corn casserole, green beans, and mushrooms
  • italian sausage and lentil stew
  • at least one night of grilling sausages and hot dogs with leftover side dishes from other nights
  • probably a giant salad in there somewhere

Breakfast for me is still up in the air. I have yogurt and Jezmynne’s spiced vanilla pear butter, which are fantastic together, and I might make a batch of mixed-grain “oatmeal” in the crockpot tonight. We’ll see. I have options.

I get great satisfaction out of doing this kind of housework. The dishes afterwards, not so much, but the cooking? Absolutely.