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what clean eating means for me

People talk to me a lot about wanting to eat clean, but not really knowing where to start. Or they equate clean eating with the kind of diet that food marketers would have you believe qualifies as healthy and then wonder why they don’t see any of the benefits that clean eating supposedly provides.

This is what I talk about when I talk about clean eating for me.

Lots of water

I’ve been using an app for awhile that keeps track of water consumption, and it’s really helped me with its reminders to hydrate during the day. Hydration has all sorts of benefits, but one of the big ones for me is helping to curb random attacks of the munchies, since often when you think you’re hungry, you’re really thirsty. So I’m less tempted to grab candy from the candy dish at work or eat a random donut in the break room. When I get restless, I drink some more water. It also helps with digestion, and when you’re someone like me with GI problems a plenty, the importance of this can’t be overstated.

It’s worth noting that when I say water, I mean water. I do drink some coffee every day, but don’t fill up your tank with a ton of what I call “fake” water – the kind with stevia or artificial sweetners in it. If you absolutely can’t drink water without it having a fruity taste, try La Croix, which doesn’t have artificial sweetners or sodium. I like La Croix when I feel like having something carbonated and fruity. We also use a Soda Stream to carbonate regular water, when you crave the burn of a soda.

Little to no extra sugar

Sugar really gives me heartburn, so when I stop getting heartburn from sugar, I know I’m eating too much. (Hello, December.) Now that I’m avoiding most sweets, when I do have something, I really feel it, especially when running. So for me, eating clean means staying away from refined sugar. I eat at least two portions of fruit every day, so I am okay with naturally occurring sugars, but I try to keep the other junk at a minimum. I don’t eschew white bread or pasta, which I know is supposed to be terrible for me, but I don’t eat enough of it for it to cause me grief.

Lots and lots of vegetables and fruit

Eating clean for me is impossible without eating tons of vegetables and fruit. There are no fruits that I won’t consume, and I love most vegetables with the exception of beets. I eat more of them in the summer when they are more readily available, but this is a key part of clean eating at any time – and probably the one that’s the most intuitive and easy to understand. Cook them, eat them raw, snack on them, do whatever you need to do to eat that produce.

Limited alcohol

I love craft beer and red wine, and there is no existence I can imagine in which I wouldn’t ever drink them. But when I’m eating clean, I limit the alcohol. Too many empty calories and it causes me to retain water. Plus, I don’t sleep well if I’ve had more than two drinks.

No processed foods

I am not fanatical about this, but I do feel really strongly that highly processed foods are not something that your body wants. I stay away from hyper processed foods all together, and will eat minimally processed things that I don’t have the time to make myself. For instance, I buy taco shells and tortillas at the store, rather than grind the corn myself at home, because ain’t nobody got time for that. I just try to stay away from processed foods with a lot of additives or unknown ingredients. My body has enough problems regulating its own chemicals that I don’t need to introduce unnecessary foreign ones into the mix.

One other part of this processed food thing is to not fall into the trap of products that are marketed to you as healthy. For instance, fat free Cheez-its are not healthy. All of those cereal bars with all the added fiber? You can get just as much fiber from an apple and a lot less sugar. Foods shouldn’t have to market their healthfulness to you – it should be pretty apparent by the nutrition label and your own common sense. I used to live a life where I ate Lean Cuisine entrees and 100 calorie snack packs all day. Sure, I lost weight pretty fast. But I was so unhealthy and I wasn’t giving my body or my taste buds what they needed. Don’t look at the terms that are called out on the boxes to give you the truth – the companies that make and market these products are not your friends, giving you loving guidance and support. They are businesses, looking for your money.

No fast food

I haven’t eaten traditional fast food in more than 3 years, and now it’s only when we’re traveling on the turnpike and I’m super cranky that I really want to eat fries at McDonald’s. Otherwise, it’s not even a temptation anymore. I’m not above eating at restaurants, though when I do, I try to eat at places where the food is made there fresh, instead of reheated from frozen (I’m looking at you, Applebees, blech). And I try to eat vegetarian unless the restaurant specifies where its meat came from – both because of my predilection to eat humanely raised meat and also because CAFO produced meat has hormones and antibiotics that I have no desire to consume, either. Plus, there are so many local restaurants doing it right in Pittsburgh that I’ve never had a problem finding some place to eat if need be.

Cook a lot

It’s not surprising that the bedrock of eating clean is cooking. (That is, unless you can eat at the Whole Foods salad bar every meal or fancy eating all of your food raw.) My diet is at its healthiest when I make a commitment to cooking most days of the week (when I say I, I really mean we, since Mark does at least 50% of the cooking if not more). We make foods that we actually like to eat, and temper recipes we know and love with new ones so we don’t get bored. And we really just love cooking. But you don’t have to love cooking to make simple, clean meals. It’s really okay if you look at cooking as a chore in the same way I look at cleaning the bathroom as one. But it’s still something that has to get done to live a healthy, productive adult life. So we do it.

Cut yourself a break

Perfection is the enemy of good. Don’t overhaul everything in your diet all at once, because you’ll not be likely to stick with it. Eliminate some stuff you know is a problem slowly, and add in the better options. No one ever died from eating an Oreo cookie once in awhile, and I do believe that you can eat some things that don’t qualify as clean and it doesn’t make you evil or weak. Just consider them actual treats – things that you don’t regularly consume. And you’ll likely find that some of them aren’t as appealing over time as they used to be.

Also along the lines of cutting yourself a break is not allowing yourself to fall into the trap of fad diets. You can find a million recipes, cookbooks and recommendations for different types of diets – grain free or dairy free or gluten free or fat free, Paleo or Atkins. If you have an allergy, sensitivity or special medical condition that requires a particular type of diet, do it. If you have moral reasons that lead you to a vegetarian or vegan diet, do it. But don’t take one person’s experience or one isolated study as proof of “health,” I am not an unhealthy individual because I choose to eat pasta (the grain! the gluten! the carbs! oh my!). Use your brain and listen to your body and you won’t go wrong.

sexist mac and cheese

last week at next gen house

Coming off of another weekend of travel and family stuff, and my brain hasn’t caught up with the mental and physical fatigue. Here’s hoping I catch up this week!

Last Week in Running

26 miles on the schedule this week, and I’ll be honest. It was hard. Too much treadmill, for one thing. I had to split up my long run miles because of traveling, since I can’t (won’t) do 10 miles on a treadmill. So it was a lot of 5 mile treadmill runs. And at the end of the week while we were traveling, I developed a lower body rash aggravated by heat and sweating. Joy. But I did all of the runs and got the miles in. Even if I had to bribe myself with pizza.

treadmill pizza

I’m getting to that point in training where I’m desperate for the weather to lift a little and to get to daylight savings so we have a little more light in the evenings. I just don’t have a safe place to run outside in the dark with the exception of Tuesday group runs, which I hope to get to this week. Next Saturday is the Spring Thaw race at North Park – I’ll be doing the 10 mile option. I know I should treat it like a long run and go at long run pace, but I’m tempted to race it. I’ll have to do some thinking on that one.

Last Week in Eating

Besides the delicious homemade pizza that Mark made on Friday night that was a great reward for a long interval workout, we also had a pretty good week for regular dinners. Nothing super special, but good standards – penne alla vodka (one of our favorite vegetarian pastas, made with our own canned tomatoes), venison meatloaf and roasted vegetables, haluski, Salad Monday and Taco Tuesday. In the last two weeks or so, my 2015 resolution to eat clean has really kicked in. I’m off sugar as much as possible (considering it was giving me some WICKED heartburn, especially on the treadmill) and feeling good.

I’m especially dedicated to this right now since I’m seeing a few signs that my thyroid is acting up again and I might need a med adjustment – fatigue, in particular. Knowing that it could be due to the combination of run training and a lot of job stress right now, I’m making sure to eat clean and also to do the daily relaxation exercises. Eating clean has so many healthy effects for me – and I know that my mood is improved when I’m dedicated. So this week will have more clean meals – including two new recipes to change it up a little.

Last Week in Reading

I’m still listening to Bad Feminist on audio through my free trial of Scribd (which I really like and think is a great deal for the monthly fee of $8.99). It’s an interesting book of essays – some are too tied to a critique of another piece of writing or film that I haven’t seen for me to get really into them. But some of them are just spot on.

I finished the second book in the Silo series by Hugh Howey – Shift – on my Kindle. On to the third and final – Dust – and then I’ll probably switch back to some comics and my large nightstand pile. Reading on the Kindle has gone a lot better than I expected, though it probably helps that I’ve been reading books that are so good that I fly through them without even noticing the format.

Last Week in Homesteading

I got more kombucha to start a SCOBY again – for my final try at kombucha in the winter. Going to use a tip that Deanna mentioned in the comments – to wrap Christmas lights around the jar for a bit of extra warmth. We’ll see how it goes.

Tangentially related to homesteading, I learned while grocery shopping that Manchester Farms, the local dairy that produced the non-homogenized milk that we love, has stopped dairy production. This makes me so unbelievably sad – particularly because this farm was a great example of how dairy can be done right – with super happy, healthy cows and no hormones, etc. Not sure why they closed, but I don’t know if people really appreciated the quality of this milk and why it stands out from any other dairy offering in the case. I’ll probably write a post about this, since I need to explore milk options now.

Last Week in Randomness

While traveling and getting gas, I noticed this sign outside of Sheetz.

sexist mac and cheese

I angry tweeted Sheetz, wanting to know what about me being a lady means that this large “man platter” of mac and cheese isn’t for me?  (Whether or not I would eat mac and cheese from Sheetz is besides the point.) I find this kind of gender marketing obnoxious in about 10 ways. I could eat my husband under the table in mac and cheese and it has nothing to do with my gender. Plus, probably no one of any gender needs the portion size of the man platter of mac and cheese, since it’s probably twice the daily recommended caloric intake. I want to go in the store and ask them if I’m using the right gas pump for the ladies. Perhaps there’s a pink one that doesn’t require you to squeeze as hard?


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Real Life CSA: winter share, week 6

I picked up my CSA share in a snow squall yesterday, so I feel like I get some extra bonus points – especially because I didn’t bring the right bag and had to walk out of the museum where I pick it up with lettuce in my arms. Keeping it real.

Here’s what we got this week!

Real Life CSA Winter 6


I think I might try drinking the apple cider warm, especially because of the frigid temperatures. Haven’t really wanted to drink it much cold this year – probably because I’ve been trained to not consume beverages that contain calories and to basically drink water all the time. But I really do like cider, so maybe I just need to revisit it.

Sweet potatoes and onions went down to the root cellar but I doubt the sweet potatoes will hang out there very long. The last time I roasted sweet potatoes, they were melt in your mouth delicious, so I can see that happening again. Have I ever mentioned that I adore roasted vegetables? Heh.

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I’m excited to have another jar of salsa, since this type in particular – Farmers Market – is really good for recipes that call for a jar of salsa. We make a crockpot recipe with black beans, corn and cream cheese that calls for a jar and this one works great. We eat a decent amount of salsa in our house because Taco Tuesday is a thing on a regular basis. So even though we can our own, it’s nice to add to the stash.

I think with the hot pepper jelly, I’ll make this pork dish again. We really liked it and it’s a great alternative to just eating it as part of an appetizer.

Lettuce will go in salads, as usual. (Even more delicious because it was carried delicately in my arms.)

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I’ve got to make another batch of granola this week, so I was happy to get some extra honey from Bedillion Honey Farm. No honey from the store can beat local honey – no matter how fancy it looks.

I am inclined to make a pasta dish with the goat cheese, but this recipe that Penn’s Corner linked to for Baked Goat Cheese with Roasted Tomatoes sounds amazeballs. And I could see myself sitting in front of the fireplace with a giant baguette, eating this.

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Not sure what my favorite roasted vegetable is – probably couldn’t pick just one. But rutabegas are up on the top. I roasted them with parsnips and blue potatoes last week and they were delicious. I usually roast with olive oil, but this recipe for brown butter roasted rutabegas looks great too.

AH, radishes. The vegetable I mildly enjoy and never really get around to effectively using. This week! This week! Going to pickle them, I think.

That’s it for this share. Stay warm and roast something!

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last week at next gen house

I feel like there’s a chill in my bones and we’ve entered the part of winter where I forget what it feels like to have warm weather. My belief that the seasons do change has been suspended and I am wearing socks entirely too often, that’s for sure.

Last Week in Running

23 miles on the schedule last week – the 7th in training for the Pittsburgh Half. I hit all of my workouts this week, even though I had to modify some mileage, running more on some days and less on others. I ran 5 times and ended up over my mileage by a half a mile, coming in at 23.5.

Most of the runs were uneventful, with the exception of the long run on Saturday. It had started to snow when I arrived at the South Side for the group run, and I didn’t bring my Yaktrax because I didn’t even think about it and also didn’t really think the kind of snow we were getting would stay (those big fat flakes that seem like they take forever to actually fall down). Well, by the time we got going and crossed the Birmingham Bridge, it was really coming down and climbing the hill to Oakland? Slush monster mess. So for all 10.5 miles, we basically had no solid footing. So shooting for an 11:30-11:45 pace and coming in at 12:06 was actually pretty amazing, considering all of the stops for traffic lights and the fact that I think it was a cross country ski and not a run.


I mentioned last week that I need to get back into yoga, and that’s definitely true. I’m feeling my muscles start to stiffen more significantly and I need the relaxation too. But I also need to add in strength training in a more significant way. It’s hard to fit in 5 days of running, 2 days of krav maga, plus yoga and strength. I probably need to force myself onto Pinterest to find some home strength workouts or check out some running bloggers who share their strength routines. Goal for this week!

Also related to running, I’m only $5 away from my first $100 raised for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Check out the module on the right or visit my fundraising page. I have a long way to go to get to my goal of $715, but every dollar counts!

Last Week in Eating

Sunday Mark and I celebrated 6 years to the day since we met by eating at Lidia’s. It’s one of our favorite places to eat – fancy but affordable, with great service and a really nice, warm atmosphere. We typically don’t diverge from the pasta tasting trio (three unlimited fresh pasta dishes brought to your table in warm saute pans), and we were not disappointed in our choice. I ate an ungodly amount of carbs and probably should have run 18 miles the next day.

I also made a great new dish this week – Creamy Chicken and Dumplings from How Sweet Eats. Delish and filling. And I’m glad I took the time to make it on a weeknight. As I was heating up leftovers at work, someone said, “those are big dumplings for Bisquick!” Well, that’s because they are not Bisquick. I will never understand how Bisquick and other baking mixes are supposedly such time savers, since you still have to add liquid. Plus they taste terrible. I’ll take my couple of dry ingredients and some buttermilk any day.

For some reason I also had a craving for my mom’s blueberry muffins (which are more like blueberry cupcakes without frosting than muffins, but that’s why they are so good). Plus we still had buttermilk from the dumplings earlier in the week. So I made some on Sunday, the coldest day.

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Hungry for muffins now?

Last Week in Reading

It was a good reading week, that’s for sure. Finished two more volumes of Fables as well as my audiobook, the third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cress. But all of that was meh compared to a book I binge-read Friday night and Saturday after the cross country ski run. Wool by Hugh Howey. I was gifted the three books in the series for Christmas by my friend T (you will recall her as the marathon angel), and after finally finishing all the books I had out from the library, I turned to the Kindle.

With my Mister Rogers mug full of coffee, my Frostbeard Studios “Old Books” candle (most amazing scented candles on the planet) and my Out of Print library card pouch that I’m using as a case until I can make one (which I received from my Book Riot Quarterly box) – I sat down on Friday and dug in.

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Holy cow. I haven’t devoured a book like that in a long time. Yes, I got virtually nothing done that I should have on Saturday. But what a book. It’s dystopian, but so clever. The writing is so good, I wanted to swim in it. Don’t waste time looking up a synopsis or any other info, just go read it.

So now, I’m reading the second book in that series – Shift – on my Kindle. And also listening to Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist on audio in my car through Scribd, which I’m trying out for their audiobook subscription service. So far, so great!

Last Week in Randomness

I have been behind on sewing projects because I need new needles for my machine. In a fit of laziness, I tried to order some from Amazon, but then realized they would charge me twice the cost of the actual needles for shipping alone, since I’m exactly that type of lazy person. So after almost being stupid enough to pay it, I thought better of it and told myself to just go buy them with a Joann’s coupon. But now it’s cold and my laziness and cheapness are warring against each other. Going to make it to Joann’s, just probably not until this weekend.

Next up on the list is Mark’s t-shirt blanket, followed closely by a Kindle case and a child-size apron for my niece for her birthday, so we can bake together. She tells me that we make a good team, so we should probably be outfitted like one, right?


some podcasts I like

If you are a runner and live in an area of the country where you experience winter weather, you’ve probably had to take at least some of your runs indoors this year. Before this year, I had a major issue with the treadmill – feeling so trapped, confined and bored that I wouldn’t make it through more than a mile before I’d give up. I can’t actually see over our treadmill to watch TV and music just wasn’t cutting it for me because it didn’t provide enough of a distraction.

But during this training cycle, I’ve been successfully running 10-12 miles a week on a treadmill without completely freaking out. (Let’s be honest though, 6 miles is my max on a treadmill. I haven’t even tried to think about going over that yet, though that’s probably a bridge I will have to cross at some point in training as my mileage goes up. But I’ll save that fear for another day.)

Why the sudden change? Podcasts.

I have found that podcasts keep me engaged enough to be distracted, but it doesn’t require the level of concentration that listening to an audiobook does for me (which is why I listen to audiobooks in the car). I even have some that make me laugh, and it’s rare that I ever smile when on the dreadmill so that’s a plus.

Just in case you’re in the same boat as me and grinding away on the treadmill wishing for some variety, here are some of my favorites. I listen to them on Stitcher, because I’m an Android person. I’ve put the links for iTunes too, if you’re an Apple person. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it includes the ones that are SFW and more widely appealing.

Let’s start with the NPR podcasts – which make up the bulk of the ones I listen to.


Of course I’m going to include “Serial”, the podcast that got me started on podcasts on the treadmill. I heard so much about this true crime, story in 12 parts podcast from people who work on “This American Life” that I had to try it. And got hooked. Is he guilty or not?!     Stitcher     iTunes

This American Life

Catch the episodes of “This American Life” on podcast if you aren’t able to tune in on NPR. Ira Glass hosts, and gives listeners stories on all manner of subjects that have to do with life in America. The one catch with this one is that they only have the current episode available at a time. It goes away if you don’t listen within the week that it’s posted before the new episode is there. But it’s great storytelling, which you can expect from NPR.     Stitcher     iTunes

The Moth Radio Hour

Speaking of good story telling, The Moth Radio Hour features the performances from The Moth live events across the country, where people get up and tell their stories with no notes or help. Kind of like TED talks, but with personal stories instead of lectures. Some of them are funny, some are moving and some are just normal people talking about life.     Stitcher     iTunes


This is a relatively new one, and it’s dedicated to the invisible forces that control human behavior. It’s light hearted but still fascinating. One of the more recent episodes was about the power of thought and if our perceptions about people or situations can actually have the power to change them. Another talked about the concept of quantum entanglement, which was just so sciency, I loved it.     Stitcher     iTunes

Now onto the niche ones, not from NPR.


I wrote about this one when it first started, because I listened to it way before I decided to use podcasts on the treadmill. But it’s still great. It will make you want to eat when you get done!     Stitcher     iTunes


I’ll let the description speak for itself: “comedians, scientists and celebrities discussing the intersection of science and pop culture with host Neil deGrasse Tyson.” Yes, please!     Stitcher     iTunes

Dear Sugar

If you were a fan of the Dear Sugar column written by Cheryl Strayed, you will love this. (If you have no idea what this is and want to fall down an internet rabbit hole for days, read some of them.) She’s back, with the original sugar Steve Almond, answering people’s requests for advice. This one only recently started, so I think it’s finding its stride, but it’s still really great.     Stitcher     iTunes

And some favorites from the book and comic world, all from Riot Media (Book Riot and Panels). Check those sites out if you read. They are my go-tos for books and literary anything.

Book Riot

This is a weekly show dedicated to what’s going on in the book world. New books, info on what people are reading, issues that readers care about. I love the dynamics of the hosts and it moves at a good pace. I always learn something new and my TBR list always grows.     Stitcher      iTunes

Reading Lives

One of the hosts from Book Riot interviews interesting people – authors, bloggers, etc. – on their reading lives. What got them into reading, what they read now, why they write, what’s important to them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a “me too!” moment listening to this one.     Stitcher     iTunes

Dear Book Nerd

This is an advice/questions column about book related topics. It’s amazing how not boring questions about being a reader are, and the host does a great job of keeping you engaged.     Stitcher     iTunes

Oh Comics!

This is my first comics-related podcast and it’s definitely introduced me to some new things. I like how much diversity is a focus of this one and it’s way more than your typical super hero comics.     Stitcher     iTunes

That probably seems like a ton of info and it is. But it’s amazing how easy you can breeze through episodes during a run. And you’ll get so hooked that you want to listen to episodes when you’re doing laundry or dishes or pretty much anything else!

book review: the chain

It’s been awhile since I reviewed a food book – awhile since I read a food book. I think that it’s almost like the feeling you get when you watch the news a lot, and you realize that the bad news is just a little bit too much. But when I saw many people in the food world talking about Ted Genoways’ The Chain: Farm, Factory and the Fate of our Food online, I thought it was time to get back in the game. I’m disappointed that books like this even exist for me to read, but I am glad I picked this one up and am putting my toe back in the water. It’s not a good habit to just turn my face to truth because it’s too hard to handle.

the chainThe art on the cover of The Chain is compelling and accurate. The pig shown has its body cut into parts, so you can see “inside” where the pig is filled with cogs and sprockets – the mechanics of a factory. While there are many books that detail the problems with factory farming, this book takes it down to the micro level and illustrates those larger problems by telling the story of two factories – one in Austin, Minnesota and the other in Fremont, Nebraska – that service Hormel by creating Spam – the ubiquitous hunk of gelatinous “pork product.”

Book after book and essay after essay have been written on the problems with factory farms, detailing their detrimental impact on the environment, animal welfare, public health and food safety. But The Chain is different by primarily focusing on the meat packing that happens at the two plants and tracing the problems backwards.

Because all large meat companies, such as Hormel and Smithfield, are now vertically integrated, they produce their own grain, to feed their own pigs, and they slaughter, package, ship and sell them. One compelling section details the work of undercover workers in a factory pig farm that services the Hormel meat processing plants, there to investigate inhumane treatment of animals and violation of regulations (and basic decency). State legislatures are increasingly being asked by industry to pass legislation that outlaws this type of recording and whistle-blowing, collectively referred to as Ag-gag laws (For some background, this is not new. I wrote about this in April 2013).

Genoways interviews Amanda Hitt from the Government Accountability Project, and her comments are too good to paraphrase (p. 39):

Ag-gag laws, as they’re know, don’t just interfere with workers blowing the whistle on animal abuse. “You are also stopping environmental whistle-blowing; you are also stopping workers’ rights whistle-blowing.’ In short, ‘you have given power to the industry to completely self-regulate.” That should “scare the pants off” consumers concerned about where their food comes from. “It’s the consumer’s right to know, but also the employee’s right to tell. You gotta have both.” She said she couldn’t believe that an industry that had been to regularly recorded breaking the law “would then have the audacity to come to any state legislative body and say, ‘Hey, we’re sick of getting caught doing crimes. Could you do a favor and criminalize catching us?'” Amanda Hitt, Government Accountability Project

Ag-gag laws are just one of the ills that Genoways mentions – sections on water pollution and the fight of small towns to have their watersheds protected from contaminated manure lagoons as well as horrifically abused animals are both fascinating and horrifying. And the book is carefully and meticulously researched, with an extensive notes section and an index – one of the marks of good non-fiction.

But the thing that sets The Chain apart is its focus on people. The people who work at the Hormel plants in Austin and Fremont and what it does to them and what it does to the surrounding communities. It is truly heartbreaking that we pollute clean water, abuse animals who are dependent on us for their care, and expose workers to horrific working conditions for near poverty wages – all for something like Spam. Spam, people.

The section that detailed a mysterious illness that plagued workers at one particular plant actually made me sick to my stomach. Workers at a table that sucked out the pig’s brain matter with high pressure hoses had to work at such high speeds, that a cloud of brain matter always hovered over the table, because the matter never had a chance to settle before more was introduced. That’s right. A cloud of brain matter. Without proper safety equipment (that encumbered workers too much for them to keep up with the company-mandated line speed), workers inhaled the brain matter of the pigs daily for hours upon hours. It gave them nerve diseases that stripped their nerves of the sheaths that protect them, making it virtually impossible for them to stand or move without excruciating pain.

The fight for workers’ compensation and for the company to acknowledge these abuses is sickening. Workers were permanently disabled with their quality of life forever diminished for something like $10/hour if they were lucky. On my worst day in my cubicle job, I can’t even begin to comprehend what working on the kill floor or the butchering line would be like at a meat processing plant.

Why could Hormel (and other companies that have similar problems) get away with this? Having destroyed the unions that supported the workforce for decades, the companies rely on a workforce of primarily immigrant labor. No matter where you stand on the side of immigration reform or law, the situations created in these communities are no good for anyone involved. The workers and communities that are at odds against them are both under the same boot that’s pressing down on them – the corporate interests of companies who have free reign by government to do whatever they want, whenever they want, to whomever they want.

I could go on for days. It was a great book. You should read it.

What I can’t seem to shake after reading it is the feeling that we so easily take horrifying abuses and problems and distill them to numbers. Commodities. We think of pigs as “pork” and not as animals, with the ability to feel pain and excitement and care and attachment. X number of chops and roasts. That’s it.

It would be easy to say that “only” X number of workers were affected by the nerve disease. But these aren’t just statistics. These are people. With faces and names and families. Hobbies and thoughts and dreams for a better life for their families – the same dream that all of us are working to reach. Does a human being, whether he/she has legal papers or not, deserve to inhale pig brain matter and suffer daily, agonizing pain, because the company increased the line speed so that we can eat more Spam than ever before? And so that Hormel can make increasingly more profit? Would the CEO of Hormel work at that same spot on the line, knowing what it’s done to people? I would venture to say no. Yet somehow, it’s okay to put someone else there. And leave them permanently disabled, physically and financially. Because that person isn’t a person. He’s a number. He’s a cog in a machine.

When you buy a package of Spam, or some Hormel bacon, you help that cog in the machine keep spinning. The machine doesn’t stop until we do.

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last week at next gen house

This was a long but good week, where you feel like you do a million things but nothing that can be checked off your to do list. Ever have those weeks? I’m looking forward to a more routine week with more time at home and a quiet weekend. My 20 year old self would never believe that my 32 year old self just wants to be home most of the time.

Last Week in Running

I had 21 miles on my schedule this week, and I managed to nail each workout. Six weeks of training now completed, and I’m starting to fully adjust to a 5 day a week plan. Right now, I usually only groan about having to run on the 5th workout, which is good for me at this point. I needed to finish up some miles on the treadmill yesterday, and I was not feeling it. But I did it anyway, after adding these great shoe tags that I got for my birthday (courtesy of the bestie).

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Next week it’s back up to 23 miles with a long run of 8-9. This week the long run was to be 8, but I cut it to just over 7 because we were so slowed due to compacted ice on the trails. So many times we needed to just stop and shuffle, and it killed our pace as well as our motivation to get going again. I can now say I shimmied/ice skated all the way from Carson Street to the Point.

It’s also back to daily yoga for me. I missed more than a few days this week and my muscles feel it.

Last Week in Eating

We had several meals we had to eat out this week, but we still managed to make some meals at home. I made my best red chili recipe (All American Chili from the ATK Healthy Family Cookbook) and it makes a ton, so we had leftovers for lunches and also to freeze once we got sick of it. It easily reheats and is filling and flavorful. Yesterday I put a roast in the crockpot using a recipe for Italian Style Pot Roast from ATK’s Slow Cooker Revolution. The prep took awhile, but the whole house smelled delicious and it was really tasty. It had veggies and a sauce with it, so we shredded the roast and mixed it back into the sauce and put it over pasta. First time I’ve ever put a pot roast on pasta, but it worked!

Sunday we had lunch with friends, and I got to request the lunch as a belated birthday celebration. I requested a comfort food dish that my friend makes that I love, which includes potatoes and beans. And then Mark made me peanut butter cookies, which are my favorite kind. Especially when you make them even better by putting the heads of the Golden Girls on them (courtesy of the bestie, again).

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I picked Dorothy, since with the exception of her height, I’ve felt like her most of my life.

Last Week in Reading

Still listening to the third Lunar Chronicles book on audio during my commute. I finished The Chain (review coming this week) and am now reading the 15th volume of Fables, one of my favorite comics. Will probably finish 15 and 16 this week and start addressing the pile of books on my nightstand. And then there’s the Kindle. Ugh. Never enough time to read! (Though I’d never be satisfied with my available time to read unless I had at least 4-6 hours to do it a day. Basically I need it to be my full time job.)

Last Week in Randomness

Probably the coolest thing I got to do all weekend (besides hang out with my nieces) was seeing Garth Brooks in concert at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on Friday night. What a wonderful show – probably my favorite concert ever. He sang so many of his hits, and it was a definite fan centered concert. Even with new music coming out, he focused on the songs of his legacy.

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It was great that Trisha Yearwood sang a few songs too – “She’s in Love with the Boy” was a favorite of my mom’s and my sister and I learned it from her. I love country music and have a lot of good childhood memories tied to it, due to my grandparents listening to country radio non-stop. Lots of verklempt moments at the concert, that’s for sure. I wish it could have lasted another few hours.


So tell me, how was your week? Which Golden Girl cookie would you pick?


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Real Life CSA: winter share, week 5

Since this is our fifth share, we’re now 10 weeks into the winter share. Which feels like a long time, but winter itself feels even longer. At the moment, I feel like it’s never going to get warm again. But it’s okay. Want to know why? Three words.

Honey. Puffed. Corn.

Let’s get to it.

Real Life CSA Winter Share 5

This is one probably my favorite share we’ve received so far this winter, because it has multiple squee worthy items. Let’s start with the fact that the farm eggs are very welcome, due to our own chickens not laying (much). We have purchased them from the online farm stand before, but it’s nice to get more in our share.

The ivory lace cheese is Havarti-style. I think the last time we had this kind we used it in paninis or grilled cheese. So perhaps that’s in our dinner future.

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These chopped tomatoes are one of my favorite of the Penn’s Corner value-added items (their canned goods). I think especially when we get to February and winter is being brutal, there’s nothing more delicious than good tomatoes, and this is the closest we can get to fresh ones. That’s why the focus of our canning and freezing every year is tomatoes – because it’s the number one thing we use in cooking. Most of my best pasta sauces (vodka and amatriciana, primarily) have chopped tomatoes as a base. So this will hang out in the pantry for probably less than a week.

Blue potatoes and red onions will go with our basement root cellar stash, which has been great. Though seeing the red onions makes me want to make salsa and fajitas. And the blue potatoes I especially love for their color. And they might be delicious roasted with these babies:

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Parsnips. Love them. Had never eaten these things until I got them in a CSA share years ago and I was missing out. I think roasted, they are like candy. Yeah, that solidifies it. Roasted blue potatoes and parsnips coming up this week.

We’ve already got some polenta from Weatherbury in the pantry, so adding some more means we need to make some polenta this week, too. Penn’s Corner gave us this recipe link for Spoon Bread, so that might work. As would this polenta with roasted mushrooms.

Lettuce will go in salad, like usual. It was cool to get two different kinds this week, too. Can’t say no to fresh greens. And the apples? I am STILL eating an apple every day in my lunch and have not grown tired of this. But I was about out of my farm stand stash, so this is another well timed share.

Last but not least. My great CSA love. The honey puffed corn.

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I just love this stuff. I would pretty much forsake any other snack items (including popcorn, which if you know me, that’s crazy town) for the rest of my life if I could have a steady stream of honey puffed corn from Clarion River Organics. This is not even hyperbole. I’ve been watching for it in the online farm stand every week. It’s really hard to share. I’m pretty sure Mark rarely gets any of this stuff, which might qualify me as a bad wife. But sorry not sorry.

So what are you eating and making lately? Favorite food item to get you through the winter?

winter north park

last week at next gen house

It takes me longer than the average bear to recover from long, busy weekends. So this past week was spent generally trying to get my bearings and get things back into a routine. That and actually trying to clean my house.


Last Week in Running

Mileage went up to 23 this week, my fifth in training for the Pittsburgh Half. It was also my fifth week of running 5 days each week. Which means my calves are the size of those giant turkey legs you see at state fairs, and they are pretty much tight all the time. I did my first hill repeats with Elite on Tuesday night for a total of four miles, and I thought it went well, though I was pretty cold. But I didn’t actually know what running in the cold was until I went out on Saturday to the group run at North Park. Six degrees with a “feels like” -3. And wind. I realized that gear is what makes the difference, because the parts of me wearing good gear, like my hands, ears, torso, feet? Nice and warm, once we got moving. But my butt and legs were another story, since I’ve been wearing Walmart tights all winter (after having found ones marked petite this year). And let’s just say they are not for arctic temps, because the wind went right through and it was for the first time, actually painfully uncomfortable. So this weekend I tried to buy new winter running tights from a company that sells them. And the only company I could find with available petite length tights was Athleta. And they were $86. (Hey other companies. Don’t be telling me that your tights are “short” when I see a 32″ inseam, get out of here with that. Under Armour and the North Face in particular should be ashamed that they don’t carry even ONE line of tights for an under 30″ inseam. Let’s just say they will be hearing from me about this.)

OK, rant over. It was nasty cold and I did 8.4 miles. With ice in my eyebrows. For real.

IMG_20150131_095307 I keep trying to tell myself that these cold temps and nasty conditions will fade into spring eventually. And that it’s weeks like these that produce the PR, the good race, the great feeling. So I keep going.

Last Week in Eating

I barely remember what we cooked last week, which probably means that none of it was particularly remarkable. This week is another crazy one, with one or both of us gone a lot of the evenings. So it will be more easy stuff – salads and chilis and penne with defrosted tomato sauce – and nothing remarkable. But it doesn’t need to be. Even people who are crazy about food, like me, need weeks where the meals aren’t photo worthy and they mostly just do the job. To me, when the weather is nasty and work is crazy and your life is busy, just making the time to cook at home is enough.

Last Week in Homesteading

I mentioned that I tried to actually clean my house this week. Which is about as much homesteading as I got done (though thanks to Deanna for the tip on the lights around the kombucha – going to see if that helps it maintain temp).

But can I just say something about house cleaning? Just like every other facet of modern life, there are blogs and books and Pinterest boards a plenty about how to keep your house sparkling and organized, as if giving me a 30 day challenge or a fun printable can just miraculously help me get this done. I would like to see a realistic cleaning list entitled “The Minimum #$%^ You Must Do to Not Qualify as Foul.” That is what I spent a lot of time this weekend doing, and that is the free printable that I would like to see next.

Last Week in Reading

I am about 20 minutes from finishing the third Dresden Files book on audio, so by the time I get to work, that will be finished and I will have started the third book in the Lunar Chronicles. I really need to stop reading books that are first in a series of 5,000.

I’m also reading a book called The Chain, which is about the meat industry, but not from the perspective of health or animal rights, but from the workers on the line at meat packing plants. I am about 100 pages in and will officially not be complaining about my job this week, let’s just say that. Review coming when I’m done.

Last Week in Randomness

Shout out to 1 of 4*, our remaining black austraulorp, for laying 3 eggs this week, when she hasn’t laid in months. Go get it, girl.

How was your week?


*Oops. Original post got the name of the chicken mixed up. It was 5 a.m. What can I say?

Real Life CSA: winter share, week 4

Super late with this, since this stuff has been in my house for almost a week now. But late is the name of the game right now, so here we go!

We’re into the fourth share of our winter CSA, and I love that we got two packages of fresh greens when we’re still in the dead of winter.

Real Life CSA - Winter share 4


The lettuce is already gone, of course, eaten in salads like usual. We also ate these delicious pea shoots in the same salad. I love these things and need more of them in my life.

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We haven’t had green cabbage in awhile, so I’m thinking either cabbage rolls or haluski. Let’s be honest, probably haluski, since there is nothing I love more than butter, noodles and other stuff mixed together.

Onions are added to our root cellar stash. I love the onions we get in the CSA and that I get from the Farm Stand, primarily because they taste delicious but also because they don’t make my eyes burninate like the onions from the store do. I wonder why that is, but I’m a little too lazy to Google it right now.

We have taco night frequently enough that I think I should make a batch of slow cooker refried beans from these Weatherbury black beans.

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The maple syrup is added to our pantry stash, though I’m thinking we should make something with a maple glaze. Like pork or carrots. Maybe?

We have a backup of apple cider right now, but I used some to make granola this week. Maybe we need to just start doing daily shots of apple cider to move through it more quickly. Part of our problem using it up quickly is that we just drink a lot of water. We’re a water drinking house and we never think to pour a glass of cider when we go to the fridge. Maybe I need to cut the apple cider with some sparkling water and make myself a non-alcoholic morning cocktail.

For this apple butter, I might research some baked goods you can make with it. I keep thinking that might be a way to eat it that isn’t slathering it on toast, which we aren’t really likely to do. Either that or cooked down into a glaze. I’m apparently into glazes this week!

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The ginger hangs out in the fridge until the next time we make an Asian dish, so while I don’t have a specific use for it right now, I am sure to pretty soon.

As for the beets, the opposite is true, so they were donated like usual. There’s another chance for beets somewhere in my future, but it’s not right now.

So what fresh food are you eating when it’s a frozen tundra outside?