Andrea Macko, Dishing It Out.
My holiday reading consisted of the book Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall, which peeks into the lives of “ultramarathoners” — those who competitively run at least 50 miles, although 100 miles seems to be the standard. A traditional marathon is 26.2 miles — a nice jaunt from St. Marys to London’s John Labatt Centre — so you can kind of imagine the mindset it takes to train for and complete these ultra-marathons (no naps or vacations allowed!).
Even if you’re the starchiest couch potato, it’s a fascinating, easy read, but for aspiring athletes, it’s inspirational. I can’t imagine running “just” a marathon, nor the training involved. In fact, the closest thing I made to a new year’s resolution was a flippant comment on a Facebook running page that I wanted to complete a 10-kilometre race in 2013 without requiring a stretcher — or worse! — at its finish line.
The clean slate of a new year can inspire us to aim higher in life, few honestly achieve the lofty goals we set for ourselves… by now, many resolutions have been broken, leading to another glorious year of feeling bad for failing and never getting out of whatever rut you believe you’ve dug yourself into.
We all know what the traditional resolutions are: lose weight, eat better, get organized, save money, break a nasty habit, or spend more time with family. They’re all noble goals, but their vagueness and magnitude practically beg for them to be broken. I’m no self-help expert, but it seems to me like, much like my 10K aspiration, it’s best to aim low — err, realistically — than to go for broke and end up as such.
Other than the eternal struggle of health and diet, getting organized seems to be the constant challenge. While the dead cold of winter provides ample hours to rearrange closets or ransack your wardrobe, let’s be honest, there’s a lot of good television on right now. I suggest tackling a smaller but no less pressing problem: that out-of-control sock, underwear, or catch-all (old batteries, twist-ties, and mysterious keys) drawer that stresses you out every time you open it. Don’t get sentimental while cleaning it; you likely don’t care too much about its contents if it’s in such a chaotic condition anyway.
One beauty website suggests that women mark 2013 by merely cleaning their make-up brushes (any basic shampoo works) or tossing anything that doesn’t look or smell right, like separated foundation or sour-smelling lipstick. Being cold and flu season, you’ve probably spotted some expired medication recently, and, being vacation season, you may have also discovered expired sunscreen in your medicine cabinet. Get rid of it to make room for products that are actually safe to use.
Which brings us to the “eat healthier/lose weight/save money” trifecta. Study after study shows people who cook at home eat healthier, weigh less, and spend less than those who rely on pre-fab meals or restaurants. Don’t know how to cook? Buy a basic cookbook, like Betty Crocker’s, and learn the fundamentals instead of drooling over unachievable gourmet dishes. Bored with your current repertoire? Try something new one night a week or month. Check your dried herbs and spices: if you can’t smell them when you open the lid, they won’t add a thing to your meal. Take stock of your pots, pans and utensils: do the handles need tightened? Are knives dull? Five minutes with a screwdriver or sharpener go a long way toward making cooking enjoyable.
Eating at home more often won’t necessarily allow you to retire early, but it will save money and add that resolution-worthy “family time” to your day, especially if you can get the kids involved in preparation and eat together around the table. That might be a lofty goal, but start small with one night a week when you can all get together, sans television or digital devices. A little bit of effort can really add up: somehow, baby steps can turn into a marathon (just not for me!).
Eating better usually involves some kind of leafy green vegetable. May I suggest spinach? It’s easier to find and cheaper than more exo-tic options like kale, but has similar health benefits.
It has many vitamins and minerals, and is notably high in iron for a vegetable.
It’s a vegetable without lofty requirements: just buy a big clamshell of the baby version and shred it before using. Even if it starts wilting, you can still use it for cooking. No actual recipe this week, but here’s five easy ways to add it into your diet:
• Mix into pasta sauce, soup, curry or chili just prior to serving;
• Layer it onto homemade pizza;
• Use it as a bed for juicy meats, such as meatloaf, roast chicken or fish;
• Add to smoothies (you won’t taste it, promise!); or,
• Replace bland iceberg lettuce in salads or sandwiches.