Sunday, September 30, 2012

Happy October Unprocessed!

All new eating regimes sound fantastic to me...until Sunday morning when I'm trying to pull together the meal plan and grocery list. This is when the full realization of what we can't eat sets in. It's not the longing for the newly-taboo foods that gets me; it's the sheer and utter lack of creativity in replacing these foods with better options that induces near panic.

Thankfully, I have a pencil, a notebook, an iPad, and the entire interweb at my disposal. Oh, I also have tightness in my chest and sweaty palms because even with the ENTIRE INTERWEB at my disposal, I still have no idea what to make!


As I pull it together breathing deeply the little voice tiptoes in saying, "you've got this", "you're so close", "you have all the tools you need to do this". And, the biggest tool of all (um...I mean my biggest source of strength and inspiration) is my husband.

Jeff is our executive chef and always has been. My interest in cooking prior to our marriage started and stopped with baking. As a kid, Jeff participated in family cook nights, had a foodie stepmother, and lots of exposure to fine dining (aka "fancy" meals with shrimp or "special occasions" with lobster). His love of food combined with his natural ingenuity made Jeff the ideal college cook. With almost no discernible ingredients in the fridge or pantry, he could  pull off a gourmet display. His talent was uncanny and infallible. Now, instead of delighting college drunks (or about-to-be drunks or hungover-from-last-night drunks), he brings culinary joy to the Roche brothers and their mother. Thank you, Jeff, for appearing nightly in our kitchen and helping us succeed at the October Unprocessed challenge!

Jeff is also the procurer of groceries very late this Sunday night (so late, in fact, that he closed Whole Foods), for which he deserves equal credit and praise. GOLD STAR, SWEETNESS! I am ready to rock this challenge together.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Anticipating October Unprocessed

I step into the sunlight each day and wonder how I can make the world better for my children. Can I love them in such a way that they will never doubt their self worth? Can I be softer with them when they experience the painful sting of frustration? Can I encourage them more vigilantly? Can I teach them something with more passion? Can I help them learn life’s real lessons outside their textbooks? These questions and more are continual works of cerebral deliberation, including am I feeding them “right”.
For me, the nutrition questions go to the heart of matters as much as the nurture questions. I imagine Jeff and myself as farmers growing whole children – minds, spirits, and bodies. There’s no manual, and the healthy eating field has left me increasingly perplexed. Is chicken okay or is even organic chicken filled with too many toxins? Can we eat red meat regularly or only once a month? How much sugar is too much? And, HOW CAN I GET MY BOYS TO EAT VEGETABLES??? I don’t have the answers, but I do have the curiosity and commitment to search for them. (Side note: I also have an insanely high sense of “good grades= good girl” which provides me with the tenacity to never quit my pseudo-academic pursuits.)
Next on our family’s journey to find the elusive answers is the October Unprocessed challenge from Eating Rules. The rules are simple (thank you, dear Lord, for hearing my prayer and providing some simplicity here!): (1) when you eat grains, eat 100% whole grains, (2) don’t eat anything with high fructose corn syrup, and (3) don’t eat hydrogenated oils, trans-fats, or anything that’s been deep fried. Simple, and, for the most part, we’re already there as a family. Food rules creator, Andrew Wilder, also adds the kitchen test to determine if food counts as “processed”: unprocessed food is anything that could be made by a person of reasonable skill in a home kitchen with whole-food ingredients. Really making sure ALL of our food meets this test, especially where the kids are concerned, will require some adjustments (e.g., not making them Annie’s Organic Mac and Cheese for a side dish every night, because at least it’s organic, right?).
Wish us luck and love this October as we nourish our bodies with unprocessed foods while avoiding the temptations of Papa John’s pepperoni pizza, homemade chocolate chip cookies, Dunkin Donuts coffee with cream and sugar, Georgetown red velvet cupcakes, salty French fries,  Caroline’s caramel cake…..ooh, that hurts! Perhaps you could wish us luck and love AND fortitude of will!   

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Calvert Cliffs

Now that it's Fall, typical weekends involve soccer on Saturday mornings, chores, grocery runs, and hopefully something deemed "fun" for the kids. Last weekend, we hiked Calvert Cliffs State Park and scoured the beach for shark teeth. The 3.6 mile hike was fun for the boys - streams, marshland, turtles, lillypads, trees, and a mainly flat terrain. Once on the beach we picnicked before starting our search. Brice found a tidal pool and abandonned all other efforts. Finn, Jeff, and I sifted through the sand and found one large shark tooth, enough to call the mission a success. Then, thanks to Jeff shuttling Brice on his shoulders for more than half the hike back, we played on the tire playground before heading home just in time for Sunday yoga.  Phew!

Thanks to Jeff and the boys for a great weekend!

Monday, September 10, 2012

What We Did on Our Summer Vacation(s)

This summer saw us well traveled! And, at times car sick, jet lagged, and downright exhausted. Here is the cliff notes version of our trips:

Lake Cumberland

The Roche/Giannone clan visited Lake Cumberland, Kentucky for a long weekend. The water was beautiful - so inviting that we spent the majority of the vacation marinating ourselves in lake water. The kids (okay, everyone) enjoyed a three-story waterslide, tubes, and jumping off the second story of the boat into the lake below. Our fun was childlike, beautiful in its simplicity and wholesomeness, and just plain amazing for the soul. We hiked the shores looking for treasure (driftwood, rocks, and quartz), and enjoyed lots of low-key family time. What's not to adore about a vacation spent entirely barefoot and almost entirely in our bathing suits?

Finn dubbed our destination "Nantucky", prompting lots of jokes about the difference between Nantucket and Kentucky. Rich people take their private planes to Nantucket; we take our SUV to Kentucky. Rich people have private chefs; we have coolers in the back. Rich Rich people go yachting; we rent houseboats.

Speaking of the was the MEGACAT! Yes, we had the biggest boat on the lake, much to Jeff's delight. The three stories of fun included a hot tub, waterslide, bar, multiple levels of decks, eight staterooms, seven bathrooms, and a great living area. Redneck yachting at its finest, and we enjoyed every minute!

Breckenridge, Colorado

Our second adventure of the summer was out to Breck for a wedding. (Congrats to Evan and Kate Mahan!) Pat and Marilee rented a great house for 22 of us (yes, that's 22!) with astounding mountain views. This was my first time seeing "real" mountains, and I was in love with the beauty of nature. The boys and their cousins quickly found a mountain stream in the quaint downtown that they explored fully (a.k.a - wet kids!). We spent some time at an amusement park on the slopes - luge-style rides, a sled coaster on rails, and a bungee trampoline experience that allowed even me to do flips. And, we enjoyed the shops and restaurants in the cute downtown; Jeff and I love a good main street!

After the lovely wedding, we made a daytrip down to Fairplay, CO to do a wildflower hike. While we never found the anticipated hike, we did find burro days - a local celebration that involves a burro race where you run 29 miles tied to a donkey. We also found some abandonned mines and some time to hike Mount Sherman. It was a very cool slice of earth to stumble upon. The next day we drove up Mount Evans, the highest paved road in North America. (Does it count as summiting a mountain if you do it in a Suburban?)

Mount Whitney and Vegas

Labor day weekend we traveled out to Vegas and onto Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48. I've never seen Vegas, and 24 hours there was enough for me. We enjoyed the pool and cabana at Mandalay Bay during the day and rented a limo to see the lights on the strip at night. The boys liked the limo even better than the lights, I think. It was perfect! Then, I was done.

The next day we caravaned (us in a Suburban, Trent in a Porshe) through Death Valley to Mount Whitney Portal, where we camped two nights. We had a fantastic time seeing Jeff's San Diego cousins and meeting their mother's family. In all, there were 44 of us extended family members enjoying the clean Sierra air and the stream that trickled right through our group campsite. This was the first time Jeff and I camped with the boys. They had a blast! Jeff survived.

We also tested our new hiking boots and my new (thank you, Jeff!) Cambelback daypack on the trails of Mount Whitney, hiking nearly 6 miles to Lone Pine Lake. I wasn't sure what to expect, but the lake was breathtaking and well worth the effort. I think we've caught the hiking bug, for sure. We're already looking forward to a possible summit attempt next year, though a 22 mile dayhike to the highest peak in the contiguous U.S. is daunting, to say the least.

We spent our last night in California renweing our gratitude for running water after three days in the woods. Dearest showers, how we will never take thee for granted again!

Our summer 2012 was packed with adventure! Many, many thanks to our wonderful family who made outstanding travel companions...mostly.