Monday, August 15, 2011

Fueled Up and Ready to Clean

     I really tried to post something last week.  Really tried.  But after two days of being back at work, I was too tired to think.  Too tired to type.  Too tired to turn my computer on.  I spent Thursday and Friday unpacking crates in my classroom, moving furniture and boxes in what felt like 150 degree temps, and doing some deep cleaning.  The school district graciously offered to build us a new school building that should be ready at the beginning of the 2012 school year.  The price, one school year spent in a transition campus that deserves to be torn down and rebuilt itself.  And the third grade classrooms aren't really even in that building at all.  We are out in a portable annex, grounded securely on cinder blocks.  We are the third or fourth school to set up camp in this transition campus that was well past its prime even before it was deemed the transition location.  However after a couple 10 hour work days, some deep cleaning, and a lot of colored paper to decorate the walls, my room in the T Shack is finally looking almost cheery.
     With everything in place, I pulled out my Branch Basics cleaner and paper towels and went to work sanitizing EVERYTHING.  It kills me that the district requires all the supplies in my classroom to be non-toxic and have a non-toxic label to prove it, and yet Clorox, Lysol, and antibacterial soaps are allowed.  The chemical soup that forms in the air when these cleaning supplies are used are a lot more harmful to the students than the occasional marker.  I could smell cleaning supplies all over the campus as teachers brought in economy packs of Lysol wipes and began wiping down desks and tables, assuming they were cleaning.  I posted a while ago about what clean really is.  Are those classrooms full of Lysol and Clorox really clean?  I'm not sure that they are.  They smell clean, or smell like what we associate with clean, but my Branch Basics cleaner did a great job cleaning all surfaces without the strong smells and chemicals.  I also know that it is killing bacteria and viruses that might be lurking around the room.
     In preparation for this week, I refilled my spray bottle with Branch Basics and made some energy bars to help keep me fueled throughout the day.  I can't even begin to tell you how obsessed I am with my Clean Start cookbook.  The recipe for my energy bars came from Clean Start, and they are amazingly good, fantastically simple to make, and free of any sugars or unwanted additives.  They can be made with any kind of nut butter, the nuts of your choice, dried fruit or chocolate chips and are sweetened with a touch of pure maple syrup.  I used almond butter with sunflower seeds, cashews and almonds.  I included a picture so you could take a peek.  I ate more than my fair share before I even put them in the refrigerator to harden.  I always need snacks throughout the day, especially when I'm at work.  Now I'm sure I'll have enough energy to keep cleaning and organizing my classroom.  I have until Thursday to get everything set up.  Wish me luck!       

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Goodbye Summer

     How is Day 2 of your No Sugar Challenge going?  I woke up this morning dreaming that my sister-in-law had a kitchen full of baked goods that she swore were made without sugar.  As I took a bite of a cookie she said, Well those might have been made with sugar!  She really wouldn't do that to me, would you, S?  I love my sister-in-law.  But do you think my brain misses the sugar?  I kind of started avoiding sugar in Colorado...I had one Dr. Pepper on the golf course when I thought I was getting a migraine and an icecream that my husband bought me, but that was all, and I didn't miss it.  Maybe all the activity outside made me forget that I wanted sugar.  But last night, Day 1, all I could think about was dessert!  It will get easier as the days go by, but I definitely want what I can't have right now.
     For dinner last night I tried out one of the recipes from my new Clean Start cookbook.  The Sesame Scallion Brown Rice Salad was delicious!  Filled with orange bell peppers, mango, scallions, ginger, sesame seeds, it was a really satisfying side dish.  I'd even eat it as the main dish, but R2 wanted something else to go with it so I added some tilapia on the side.  If you haven't checked out Terry Walters' website you definitely should.  She has some great recipes!

     Today is my last day of summer.  It's hard to believe that two months of vacation have already come and gone.  I'm still trying to get everything pulled together around our house so that it is easy to fly out the door at 6:30am or to make dinner when I come home after my graduate classes at 8:00pm.  (As a side note, please excuse the poor quality of my pictures this week.  In all my organizing I have misplaced the charger for my camera battery and have been taking pics with my iPhone!)  This morning I've been washing and putting away the Snapware Glasslock containers I bought at Costco.
     Every day for lunch I take whatever leftovers we have from the night before.  In the past I used plastic Ziploc storage containers for both my lunches and for any other leftovers that I would leave in our refrigerator.  However, because of all the chemicals that can leech out of plastic, I decided to buy some glass containers.  The 18 piece set I found at Costco was only about $25.  The lids are plastic, but they are BPA free.  I usually don't heat up my lunches at school, but having glass containers now makes that an option.  The containers are definitely heavier than the plastic Ziploc ones I was using, but they are small enough to throw in my bag to get from home to work.  They will also be great for storing leftovers or snacks at home.  Do you take your lunch to work?  What do store your leftovers in?  I'm off to enjoy my last day of freedom!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

30 Day No Sugar Challenge

     I didn't really realize how badly I had cabin fever until we got to Colorado last week.  From the day we got to Beaver Creek to Sunday when we left, we spent all day every day outside in the fresh air.  It was awesome!  We hiked, biked, played golf, swam, kicked the soccer ball around, played putt putt, walked, ran, and just enjoyed being outside.  Oh how I had missed being outside.  With temperatures hovering around 100 degrees here in Houston and the humidity factor making it even more unbearable, I hadn't spent much time outside all summer.  Outside is my favorite place to be.  I need to be outside.  I feel guilty when I'm not outside.  Especially when the sun is shining and the sky is blue and I'm sitting inside...unless of course it's 100+ out there.  Being in Colorado made me even more jealous of my younger brother who is working in Alaska, spending his days outside and eating the fresh fish he's catching in the Pacific.  Sometimes I miss my free spirit, but wouldn't give up what I have here in Houston for anything!  A week in Beaver Creek was just what I needed.  And now that we're back, R2 and I may have to jog together at 9:00 at night just to beat the heat, but we are home.
     So now it's time to get serious about going back to work.  Everything starts up on Thursday and is sure to be a whirlwind until June.  There's no stopping the chaos for 9 months, until the next glorious summer break.  On the plane home Sunday night I unwillingly thought about what I need to get done by Thursday.  Thursday morning is inevitable, and all I could think about was how tired I get during the school year.  Getting up at 5am, on my feet until about 3:00 and then graduate classes that last until 8pm wears me out.  But I do know that what I eat directly affects my energy level and how I feel.  As tempting as it is to eat the candy and junk food sitting around at work, I know that I have to have whole food snacks packed and ready to go every morning or I won't make it through the day.         
     Fortunately, before I left for Colorado I ordered a cookbook called Clean Start: Inspiring You to Eat Clean and Live Well by Terry Walters.  I found the cookbook on my front porch when we got home and leafed through the beautiful pictures of delicious recipes that are gluten-free, vegetarian, dairy free, and contain no refined sugar.  I'm excited to try out some of the dishes.  The best part for my family is that she makes suggestions of meat and fish that could be paired with all of the meatless dishes.  Her philosophy is to start cleaning your diet however suits you, no matter how small the changes are.  Click on the link above and it will take you directly to her website which is full of recipes and ideas for eating clean food.
     I'm also picking up my share of fruits and vegetables from the Rawfully Organic co-op today and challenging myself to try a few new recipes out of Clean Start this week.  In an effort to clean my diet and increase my energy, I have decided to challenge myself to a 30 day break from refined sugar.  No refined sugar, one whole month, period.  And while Tuesday, August 9 is kind of a random day to start a No-Sugar Challenge, I'm marking it on my calendar and starting today.  We'll see if I even want sugar come September 9. 
     Are you up for the challenge?  Join me!  We'll feel better and have much more energy for whatever it is you have in front of you this fall.  I'm struggling to accept that summer is over, but I'm looking forward to feeling up to accomplishing what lies ahead.  Mark your calendar, get set, and let go of sugar.  It's just one month, let's start today.