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J and I experienced the new documentary Food Inc. a couple of weeks ago, and though I’m not through digesting it enough to share a whole lot of my thoughts here, I can’t not tell you about the Chipotle-sponsored free nationwide screenings of Food Inc happening this week.  If you haven’t yet seen this important film, or if you want to take friends or family members, please check out this link for a list of dates and locations.  Here in Houston, the free showing will be at the Angelika tomorrow night (July 15th) at 7:30 p.m.

I am so glad we saw Food Inc.  It reminded me of what I already knew, opened my eyes to new information, and gave me a major kick in the pants to keep me motivated in pursuing local and sustainable food.  Now, off to the Tuesday afternoon Rice farmers’ market!

(Huge HT to Vicki Powers of Houston on the Cheap for letting Houstonians know about this!)

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After realizing that the Laptop Lunch was too small for J’s needs, I despaired a little, as it’s one of the biggest bento boxes on the market (see my complete review of the Laptop Lunch here).  According to the company, it holds 1400 mL or 3 cups, with each of the two larger compartments measuring 8 ounces and the two smaller compartments measuring 4 ounces each.  When filled according to the traditional bento ratio of 3 parts rice/carbohydrates, 2 parts veggies/fruit, and 1 part protein (all by volume), the box would provide a 1,400 calorie lunch.  That ratio, however, is not what works best for us, and our high vegetable consumption really drops the box’s caloric capacity.  What to do?

I zipped through Whole Foods one day on a Coconut Bliss run, when something shiny caught my eye.  A whole display of stacked, two-compartment, sparkly stainless steel lunch boxes, looking rather like an arsenal of space capsules, waved cheerfully at me.  Oh man.  I try to eschew impulse buys, but I just couldn’t resist this one.  It was big and looked easy to clean.  Bingo!

Here it is in action.

Step 1: fill bottom compartment.  This container is so roomy that I fit a generous portion of mixed baby greens, sliced cucumbers, shredded cabbage, sliced green bell pepper, sliced carrots, shredded organic cheddar, and a portion of homemade vinaigrette (the plastic dressing container is from the Laptop Lunch set).

bottom compressed

Step 2: place stainless steel divider over bottom layer.

bottom with lid compressed

Step 3: pack top compartment.  It doesn’t look terribly appealing, I suppose, but this was actually quite tasty — seasoned brown rice, beef and veggie patty (kind of like meatloaf), and an herbed mushroom sauce.

top compressed

Step 4: slap the lid on top, slide it into its carrier, and fasten it securely.  Doesn’t it look just like a space capsule?

whole compressed

Step 5: when  I manage to remember, I like to add a cloth napkin to the package, and on his workout days, I often slip a Lara Bar in the loop too.

whole with napkin compressed

Cool, right?

Downsides:

  • Can’t be microwaved.  This doesn’t bother us since we try to avoid microwaves and don’t mind eating cold leftovers.
  • Doesn’t fit easily into an insulated bag with an ice pack.  Since J drops his lunchbox in the refrigerator as soon as he arrives at the office, though, this doesn’t affect us.

Upsides (compared to the Laptop Lunch Box):

  • So easy to clean!  And only two compartments!
  • No plastic.
  • Very cool retro look.
  • Large capacity.  That leaves lots and lots of room for vegetables.  Sometimes, I fill up the bottom compartment with cut up veggies and fruit and throw in a small container of peanut butter or hummus.

My great sorrow: It doesn’t have a brand name on it anywhere, I threw away the box, and I can’t find anything just like it online!  How awful is that?  They aren’t carrying it at Whole Foods anymore either.  I plan to ask a manager next time I’m there if they have records of the manufacturer.  I’m sure they do, and I would really like to buy another one.

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It seems I’m not the only one with lunchboxes on the brain.  Apartment Therapy dumped yet another super cool brown bag idea in my inbox this morning.  I suppose it’s the economy.  Everyone wants to save a buck these days and, and taking a bagged lunch is one of the easiest, healthiest ways to save a whole bushel of ’em.  And if you can pat yourself on the back for being green on top of it all, that’s even better.  But how about doing all of that in style?

oots1These lunchboxes by OOTS! marry good looks and practicality better than any I’ve seen so far.  I simply adore that blue and pink combo.  And look how my Klean Kanteen would fit on top!  I love it.  Love, love, love it.

Unfortunately, at $45 each when you by them with the inner lidded compartments (a must in my book), these boxes are a little harder on the budget up front than some other perfectly suitable options (exhibit a: the Laptop Lunch, which I reviewed yesterday).  The only catch is, this one is light years ahead of the Laptop Lunch in the cool quotient department, at least when it comes to adult usage.

oots 2

Oh dear.  I’m not sure I can justify spending the money on it right now, but I really want one.  Birthday fairy?  Santa Clause?  Easter bunny?  Are you listening?

Go check these out at the official OOTS! website. This design team has some really cool baby and child accessories too, by the way.

(Photos are from the OOTS! website.)

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If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may remember my anticipation as I counted down the days to Valentine’s this past February.  I bought my husband a pile of gifts and could hardly stand the tension with them sitting wrapped on the table for what seemed like forever.

2009 02 11_0272_edited-1 compressed

Do you know that feeling of finding the perfect gift for someone you adore?  One they aren’t expecting?  One they couldn’t guess even if they tried for weeks?  It’s thrilling and excruciating at the same time.  I begged J to open them early.  He refused, of course, but his reaction was worth the wait.

Perhaps not many husbands would ooh and aah over a new lunchbox, but J did.  He loves taking his lunch to work.  It’s healthier than buying a lunch, it saves us a ton of money, and I also think that it’s a way he feels loved and cared for.  So he was tickled pink to discover that I bought him an Americanized bento box called the Laptop Lunch.

closed laptop lunch box

I’m not sure why he felt compelled to deface his lunchbox with all of those stickers, but — alas! — he did, and sometimes we need to allow our husbands such childish expressions.  Sigh.  (I suppose it’s no secret now where he went to school and where he works.  🙂

Have you heard of bento?  According to Biggie, the author of the wildly popular bento blog, Lunch in a Box,

A Bento lunch is a compact, balanced, visually appealing meal packed in a box. Historically, it’s a Japanese box lunch, similar in concept to the Indian tiffin, the Korean dosirak, or the Filipino baon lunch. In Japanese, “bento” or “obento” refers to the packed meal, and “bento-bako” refers to the bento box itself. See the Wikipedia entry on bento for more details.

The Laptop Lunch contains multiple compartments that keep all of your food separated and even houses utensils.  I call it Americanized for a few reasons.  First, it’s bigger than most Japanese bento boxes.  Second, it’s made in America and contains no BPA, lead, or the other scary things that are coming out of China these days.  Finally, it doesn’t have a Japanese look, though, frankly, I’m a little relieved about that.  The largest authentic Japanese bento box I found online sported the slogan “Pleasure Supply” on top.  Yes, really.  I’m not going to go there, but suffice it to say I thought we might be asking for trouble if J actually toted something like that to work.

Here’s the inside of the Laptop Lunch box:

laptop lunch compressed

Unfortunately, this one of the less visually appealing lunches I’ve packed for him, but I happened to have the camera handy this time.  As you can see, I was able to pack some leftover braised lamb and natural chicken sausage, bell peppers, cucumbers, and potatoes.  The fork and knife are tucked into the slot on the right-hand side.  Because the man burns through so many calories, he also had a little baggie of nuts to go with this meal.

Why I Love the Bento Concept:

  • Bento boxes reduce waste.  No more zippie bags or disposable tupperware!
  • It encourages healthy choices.  The food we make at home is far healthier than almost anything you can buy at a lunch spot.
  • Bento boxes simplify what you carry.  Because I avoided zippie bags, J used to juggle a slew of little glass Pyrex containers on his way to and from work.  Don’t get me wrong; I love my Pyrex, but bento allows me to put it all in one box without all the foods touching each other.
  • No breakage.  Again, better than the Pyrex.
  • It saves money.  Although the boxes are a moderate investment up front (e.g., approximately $23 for the Laptop Lunch), the ability to pack a good, healthy lunch quickly and efficiently every day adds up to major savings over time.
  • I love the idea of making lunch visually appealing.  I think all of our senses are important in our experience of food.  If you want to go the extra mile in this department, there are lots and lots of guides and gadgets out there for making everything from themed lunch boxes to fashioning crabs and octopus out of sausages or piglets out of rice (to see more examples of elaborate bentos, go to Google Images and search for “bento”).  That’s not how I want to spen my time, but I can certainly appreciate those who pour their creativity into their children’s lunches.  I prefer the appeal of different colored fruits and veggies.
  • Compact.  J puts his lunch in the fridge when he gets to work, and taking up less space is definitely desirable.  This is all on top of making it easier for him to tote to and from the office.
  • I find it motivating.  I want to pack lunches for J now.  It’s just plain fun!

Pros of the Laptop Lunch:

  • Made in the USA
  • As safe as plastic can get
  • High quality construction (the plastic is thick and sturdy)
  • Fun to look at, though I do wonder that J never batted an eyelash over the bright purple exterior!  All the fun colors could be a big plus for enticing children to eat healthy lunches.  (By the way, other colors are available at http://www.laptoplunches.com)
  • The size is perfect for older children, women, and men with smaller appetites.  This does depend on what you put in the box, of course.  We try to go heavy on the veggies, and they take up a lot of room without providing many calories.  The picture I showed above has a lot fewer vegetables than we try to eat at each meal, which bothers me.  If your family goes mostly meatless or likes a lot of starches, this size box might be  just right even for dad.  That’s just not how it works in our home.

Cons of the Laptop Lunch:

  • All the tiny compartments can be super annoying to clean all the time.  I highly recommend buying a second set of “innards.”  I caught a sale and was able to do this.  It helps a lot!
  • Too small for really big appetites.  J stands 6’5″ tall, has a naturally high metabolism, and works out on top of it all.  He burns through a lot of calories.  Plus, we like to eat our biggest meals at lunch time, so the Laptop Lunch doesn’t really suit his needs.  He always has to take lots of snacks with him when he uses this box.

Overall, I highly recommend Laptop Lunch boxes.  They are safe, well-constructed, and well-designed.  My only real complaint is the availability of only one size.  I’d love a larger one for my husband, but this size probably works beautifully for most people.

I have since bought something that suits J’s needs even better, so I’ll share about that next time.

Definitely check out the Lunch in a Box blog if you want to learn more about all of this.  I find it all quite fascinating, though I’m happy to enjoy bento at far less sophisticated (and time-consuming!) level.

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So I completed the liver/gallbladder flush a couple of weeks ago.  Can I just say M-I-S-E-R-A-B-L-E???  Good heavens, it was a disaster!!  For those of you asking about my results, I needed to distance myself from the trauma of the experience before I could write reasonably about it.  Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating.  But just a little.

Now, let me be clear.  I still stand behind my two posts (here and here) on the benefits of juice fasting.  I found the six day apple juice fast rewarding, though I don’t think I’ll do apple juice fasts again because the sugar is just too much.  I worried the whole time about my poor pancreas (I’m hypoglycemic).  I definitely plan on juice fasting in the future, but I will use low-sugar green vegetable juices like this one.

What traumatized me was not the fast but the liver/gallbladder flush that followed.  To see the protocol I observed, the one recommended by my doctor, go here.  Along with some prep work, it requires drinking four ounces of cold-pressed, extra virgin, organic olive oil followed by a small glass of fresh grapefruit juice immediately before lying down for bed.  I expected to experience some “mild to moderate nausea,” as the protocol warns is possible, but I felt fine when I went to sleep.  Wonderful!

Unfortunately, the nausea hit me at 3:30 a.m.  I woke up feeling so awful, I temporarily wanted to die. 

Anytime, Lord, I thought.  Take me now!

No, really, RIGHT NOW! 

It’s okay, I pleaded, My husband’s still young and attractive.  We don’t have any children.  He wouldn’t have any problems finding another wife.

Please????

The nausea persisted for hours, so I didn’t get any more sleep.  That means, of course, that the above dialogues with God continued for hours too.  At 5:00 a.m., I vomited several times.  Vomiting is never fun, but can I just say that regurgitating olive oil is particularly repulsive?  I then felt absolutely miserable for hours afterwards.  Furthermore, I never experienced any, ahem, results from taking the Epsom salts (laxative), and I never had the bile-green, ahem, evacuation that is supposed to follow this protocol.  Talk about frustrating!!

I was incensed the next day.  Absolutely livid.  I’m okay with misery if I get results, but seeing no results at all?  So disappointing!  I called my pro-liver flush friend and complained (nicely, of course).  She said it was the protocol I followed.  Her doctor recommends a slightly different one.  I said that unless I was on death’s door, I wouldn’t be doing any liver flush again.  Maybe I’ll change my mind someday, but this is how I feel right now.

I do think it’s important to mention that my husband didn’t have any of these problems.  Everything went fine for him.  He even had those little green “stones” the next day.  (I think that, for most people, the “stones” are not gall stones at all but that the flush still really helps people.  For more on this, go here.  Some people do pass real stones, as evidenced by their pre- and post-flush x-rays, but not everyone.  I think the question of whether or not they’re actual gall stones is a peripheral issue.)

So maybe it’s just me.  Perhaps this is not the appropriate cleanse for my body.  I’m tempted to say I’m sorry I did it.  If I had written this post last week, I would have said that.  Now, I’m glad that I at least gave it a try.  I like to work with my healthcare professionals in a highly cooperative way for a specified period of time.  I do exactly what they say for a while, and then I evaluate what parts of their approach work for me and what parts don’t.  I think the liver flush part of this doctor’s approach doesn’t work for me.  Fortunately, this MD/ND has helped me in other ways. 

That’s my story.  I know this flush has helped thousands of other people.  My case is probably highly unusual.  I realize that.  I have lots of unusual reactions to drugs, foods, exercise, herbs, and other health-related things.  If there’s a 5% chance of something happening, I seem almost always to be in that 5%.  So make your own decision about doing a liver flush, always keeping your doctor’s recommendations and your knowledge of your own body in mind.

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As a continuation of yesterday’s post, here are two more reasons I am enjoying juice fasting.

 

Extra Time

I spend a lot of time every day preparing food, eating it, and cleaning up afterwards.  I am more aware of this than ever, now that I don’t have to do it!  I’m also amazed by how much of my energy usually goes into planning meals, thinking as I drive home from school about what time I need to start dinner, grocery shopping, hitting up farmers’ markets, and packing lunches for us to take to work and school. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I love food — the textures, flavors, sights, and smells.  I enjoy planning meals and preparing them.  I love trying new things and sharing old favorites with family and friends.  But we all need a break sometimes, even from activities we enjoy.

If nothing else, I don’t have to deal with my least favorite part of cooking for a little while:

With the extra time and lack of dirty dishes, I can catch up on some of the housework that I’ve neglected, spend a little more time with my husband, maybe read, and go to bed earlier than usual.  J agrees that the extra time is wonderful. 

It helped a lot that my husband decided to do the fast with me so I wouldn’t have to cook.  What a great guy!  The first time I fasted, I simply chose a week when he was travelling.  That worked well too.  If he had not agreed to join me in the fast this time, I would have prepared and frozen food for him ahead of time.  (I can see that having kids would make things more complicated.  I don’t mean this as a universal rule.  It’s just my own experience.)

 

Freedom

Anyone else feel attached to food?  I used to think that there was no way I could possibly go without it.  I never fasted.  Ever.  Not even for one day.  The very thought frightened me.  I liked to overlook all of those Scriptures about fasting and praying.  Surely that didn’t apply to me, did it?  Part of this has to do with my blood sugar problems (which is definitely something to be cautious about with fasting!), but I think a lot of it was attachment to food.  Go without that comfort?  Talk about scary! 

The first juice fast shocked me.  I didn’t think I would be able to do it, but I did.  More than that, it really wasn’t bad!  Sure, I felt a little weak the first couple of days, but my energy soared after that.  I didn’t miss snacking.  I didn’t even want food.  I remember preparing a meal for my brother and not feeling tempted to eat it.  Amazing.

This time, I felt hungry the first two days but not unbearably so.  The smell of food the second day got to me a little bit, but I’ve been doing fine ever since.  Today I’m starting to feel hungry, not in the I-want-to-taste-something-yummy sense, but in the my-blood-sugar-doesn’t-feel-quite-right sense.  So today, the sixth day, will be my last.

 

You may be wondering why I didn’t mention health benefits in these posts.  Well, whether or not I experience any remains to be seen.  This present juice fast merely sets up the gallbladder/liver flush I’ll perform tonight.  The malic acid in the unrefined apple juice supposedly softens any gallstones that might be present and prepares the liver and gallbladder for flushing.  The benefit I most hope to see is an improvement in my nausea. 

As a final note, while I like juice fasting, I’m not perfectly happy with the two I’ve chosen so far.  Both have been far too sugary for my peace of mind.  I have anxiety about all of that sugar, even if it is from a whole food (in this case, apples).  I worry about a resurgence of candida, which I’ve successfully kept at bay with homeopathics, and about my poor pancreas, which works overtime anyway because of my hypoglycemia.  In the future, I plan to stick to non-sugary vegetable juice fasts only (i.e., green vegetables and no carrots or beets).  If I do the gallbladder/liver flush again, I’ll use malic acid in supplement form, rather than consuming gobs of apple juice.

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I never thought I could do a juice fast.  Go without food?  For days?  Not on my list of fun things to do! Contemplating it, I even felt a little panicky.  But this is my second juice fast, and I’ve discovered it’s quite a unique experience — one that I’ll continue to seek out in the future.  Here are a couple of things I appreciate about the process.

 

Slowing Down and Learning to Say “No”

Okay, I’ll admit that I didn’t figure this one out on the first fast, which I did during my break between the spring quarter and summer school.  While I took it easy the first two or three days, I just about killed myself working hard for the next four.  I sawed limbs off of trees, pruned our live oak, and bundled cuttings.

Stupid.

My intentions were good, yes, but I wasn’t being kind to my body.  I didn’t slow down nearly enough.  I wonder how much good I really did my body by plowing through in that way?  Not much, I suspect.  (As a side note, I never could have imagined I’d have the energy to do all of that while fasting.  It was incredible!)

This time around, I’m taking a different approach.  I’ve been extremely stressed over the past month, particularly the last two weeks.  Then, take-home midterm from Hell pushed me over the edge.  I needed a break, and school wasn’t going to cut me any slack.  So I decided to slow down anyway and just say “no” to extra activities and obligations for a while.  I’m a chronic over-committer, and while I’ve grown in this area, I have a long way to go. 

Because I knew this was my last chance to fast this year, I committed to jealously guarding my eventless schedule this week (school goes on, of course).  As soon as I made up my mind, the calls and emails flooded in to test my resolve.  My friend called to come over for dinner (perfectly appropriate because she’s practically family), my parents invited J and me out for dinner, the former music pastor of our church sent out an invitation to a choral concert he’s conducting on Tuesday night, I realized the women’s group is having a fellowship on Wednesday night, and I started feeling guilty for not volunteering to help with the quintuplets on Thursday.  Whew!  Normally, I would turn down maybe one or two of these activities, while the others would worm their way into my Franklin Covey in a heart beat.  But this time–this time I’ve said “no” to every single one of these obligations.  This is a big deal!  I don’t know if I’ve ever gone this far with putting my foot down in order to protect myself.  It’s a little exhilarating, actually.  Of course I look forward to emerging again to be social and to offer aid, but for a few days, I’m withdrawing.  It’s a good thing.

 

Giving Myself Grace

Like every perfectionist, I beat myself up day in, day out.  I am slowly learning to give myself grace, and I’m trying to use fasting as a special learning opportunity.  The first three days, I feel pretty lousy: tired, headachy, low energy.  Normally, I would whip out the negative self-talk and rail at myself for not accomplishing everything on my to-do list (which I never complete anyway, by the way).  But on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I gave myself permission to be tired.  I listened to my body and mostly rested.  I still ran a couple of errands, methodically took care of a few things around the house, and went to church on Sunday.  The majority of the time, though, I allowed myself to read and rest.  What a sweet reprieve from both my usual hectic schedule and my incessant self-flagellation!

I realize that anyone with kids may be thinking that this kind of experience must be nice but unrealistic with little ones.  You may be right.  I don’t know because I’ve never been where you are.  But even if you can’t spend the majority of your time resting and reading, maybe you can extend a little grace to yourself for not being Super Mom for a few days.  Maybe you can ask for temporary help from your husband or others to give yourself a little more breathing space.  Just some thoughts…

 

I’ll continue this post later with more reasons I am enjoying the fast in Part 2.  And don’t worry, I’ll dish on the negative stuff too in yet another post.  I believe in full disclosure.

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