In recent conversations, both in-person and online I have been amazed at how many people (both men and women, for the record) who don’t know how to do what I would consider “basic skills”. For instance, the amount of people who drive a car daily but don’t know how to change a tire is fascinating.

I learned how to do it in Drivers Ed because, just like putting gas in a car and checking the oil, it’s part of basic maintenance and operation of a vehicle. And yes, I’ve changed a tire more than once. I’ve also called AAA; but I know that there are times and places where I won’t have cell reception and I am going to be responsible for myself.

Anyway all of this got me thinking of what skills I want my children to have by the time they go to college. This is ever-evolving, of course, but here’s what I have so far:

Car care/operation: Change a tire, check tire pressure, check/add oil (and/or whatever new technology brings), how to read a paper map

Clothes: sew a button, fix a hem, iron, operate a washer and dryer without ruining the clothes. Bonus – if either kid wants to, I will teach them to use a sewing machine.

Home & Garden: start and use a lawn mower, paint, plant flowers, operate a drill and other basic tools, how to install new locks.

Cooking: make perfect chocolate chip cookies, cook a variety of proteins, make bread, make our family’s favorite recipes, make a good marinara sauce, cook perfect eggs, how to follow a recipe, starting a charcoal grill, cooking on a grill.

Maybe part of it was being the youngest of 3 and having “tired” parents, but I did all of these things by the time I was in high school. I mowed the grass in late elementary school. By 4th grade I was let lose in the kitchen without supervision and became the chief cookie and zucchini bread maker for the family. The summer between my 8th and 9th grade years I removed wallpaper and painted several rooms in our new house. I learned to sew from my mother and my middle school required Home Economics* so I furthered my skills there.

I remember being dumbfounded by a college classmate who had no idea how to use the dorm washing machines. I don’t want either of my children to be “that kid”. Beyond that I think that most of these things are simply basic parts of being a functioning adult and it’s my responsibility to teach my kids how to do them.

What “basic” skills do you want to teach your kid? As an adult, what skills do you wish you had?

*we were also required to take Shop where I learned things beyond basic tools like a drill press, table saw and metal working tools. Those classes were the best! I wish schools still required this.

From the Basement

We still have boxes in our basement that haven’t been unpacked. We moved here almost 4 years ago. Our unfinished basement was reaching Hoarders level of STUFF so when my parents were here 2 weeks ago Mark and I tackled the task.

Luckily most of the STUFF could be trashed or donated. Many of the unpacked boxes were of the last-minute variety – those 3-4 boxes of random crap you throw together as the movers are loading the truck. Those were easy to go through. But there were a few treasures to be found. Like the cute baby snowsuit that I searched and searched for this winter, swearing that I would not have given it away. I haden’t but now it’s outgrown so I will.

But the best discovery was a box of my old t-shirts which my parents saved. Behold the beauty of the late ’80s and ’90s:

First up… concert t-shirts from elementary school. We were apparently a patriotic bunch.

I remember most of the songs and dance moves from this concert

When I was in 5th grade I went to Walloon Lake, MI with a friend’s family where we lived like feral children for a week while her parents sat on the dock drinking wine. I remember falling asleep on a raft that was tethered to the that dock. It was the best trip ever:

My grandparents went to Acapulco and brought back this horribly tacky, bright orange fringed shirt. Of course, I wore it nearly every day (4-5th grade):

Hangin’ Tough….mmm, I wonder if anyone going to the New Kids/Back Street Boys concert wants to buy this from me? (6th grade)

Now this is a shirt I was so excited to get. For whatever reason, getting a shirt made when you got braces was a BIG DEAL in our town. And yes, I went to a shop so I could pick out the “perfect” iron-in for my shirt. We went to the iron-on store straight from the orthodontist. I wore this shirt with such pride. I just offered it to my niece who got braces and she declined – I wonder why? (6th grade)

Nerd alert! This one was customised at the iron-on store with my name on the back. Of course it’s spelled KT instead of the much too laborious Katie (8th grade):

I would have never saved these on my own but it is kind of fun that my mom kept them. Matilda loves wearing the smaller ones as night shirts.

Did you or your parents save anything from your childhood that makes you laugh?

Mustard Seed Sale and Giveaway

You already know that I’m into eating local. And that we try to avoid artificial, processed foods. And that I will support a local business over a chain any time I can. That’s nothing new. So last year when Matilda started taking ballet in Solon we were thrilled to discover Mustard Seed Market right around the corner from her studio. We started shopping there every week while she was in class.

If you don’t already know about Mustard Seed think of it like locally-owned Whole Foods. But better because they’re a local, family-owned business and have been in the community for 30 years. They believe that “Real Food is Good Food” and everything in their stores lives up to these standards:

– Free of Artificial Flavorings and Colorings
– Free of Harmful Chemical Preservatives
– Free of Saccharin and Aspartame
– Free of High Fructose Corn Syrup
– Free of Partially Hydrogenated Oils
– Free of Bleached or Bromated Flour
– Free from Irradiation
– Hormone-Free and Routine Antibiotic-Free Meat
– Cruelty-Free Cosmetics

This means I don’t have to read labels as closely because I know that the things we avoid are not even allowed through the doors. And that makes shopping so much easier.

Since I already shop at and love Mustard Seed I was excited to be invited to tour the Mustard Seed Market in Solon with Abraham Nabors, a second-generation owner of the the business.

So, what new things did I learn from my tour?

– Mustard Seed Market gets much of their seasonal produce from local farms (many of them Amish). In fact, 25 years ago Mustard Seed owner Phillip Nabors worked with area farmers to go organic. Amazingly, for 3 years he paid organic prices for conventional and transitional produce, which assisted the farms in paying for the work and paperwork it takes to become USDA Certified Organic.

– At Mustard Seed “local” = produced in Ohio.

– If you sign up for their weekly sales newsletter you’ll also get great coupons.

– Their prepared foods are awesome. I’ve never been a big fan grocery store prepared foods – even from a gourmet grocery. But Abraham spoke so excitedly about the quality of the salmon that I gave it a try. And it was DELICOUS. Seriously. Like restaurant-quality good. I will be buying it again.

– Their supplement section is enormous and staffed with very helpful (but not pushy) associates. They also offer many free lectures and classes that are open to all. They have a real passion for education.

– If you check-in on Foursquare at Mustard Seed Market from now until June 30, you’re entered to win one of these awesome t-shirts (you can also buy one at the Market)

If you’ve never been to Mustard Seed this weekend is the time to go…They are having their biggest sale in their history on Saturday, June 11. Every regularly priced item is 20% off for one day only:

Here’s the Giveaway: Win a $25 gift certificate to Mustard Seed Market (good at either location):

1) Follow @MustardSeedMrkt*

2) Tweet the following phrase: I heard it from @kakaty: Sat June 11th Get 20% Off @MustardSeedMrkt Click for Details pls RT!

No purchase necessary. The contest closes on June 11 at 6pm, at which time Mustard Seed Market will select and notify you via Twitter DM if you are a winner. You can enter once per day (Thurs, Fri & Sat) and the only way to enter is through Twitter. All entries must include the full phrase and hashtag; RTs are ok. *You must follow @MustardSeedMrkt so they can DM you if you win.

Good luck!

Disclosure: I was invited to tour Mustard Seed Market and asked to promote the 20% sale and the gift certificate giveaway. I received a gift certificate to Mustard Seed Market after my tour. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.

The Plunge

For a very long time I have been reading the tales of others who went sugar-free, grain-free or “primal” with both awe and a feeling that I should also do that. I read a ton; AndreAnna is a big source of info as is Holly. Heidi Robb has given me many pointers and my trainer, Jen Arenschield, has supplied me with many articles about going sugar-free.  I read Mark’s Daily Apple and The Paleo Solution. For years my work email address was somehow subscribed to Dr. Joseph Mercola’s daily newsletter and once I discovered he was legit, I started reading it.

It still took me 5 months to finally take the plunge and cut out processed food, sugar and grains. May 9th was my first day. I promised myself I’d make it 10 days. On May 11th I thought I would die from my withdrawal symptoms (massive headache, extreme fatigue). I went to bed at 8:30 that night and got up the next day feeling a little better. By the end of the first 10 days there were no more headaches and while still tired, I wasn’t as fatigued. I decided I could do it for 30 days.

Now I’m 6 days shy of my 30 day goal and 21 pounds lighter. Other than the first week it wasn’t too bad. Yes, I was grumpy and a few times would have cut you for a baguette. I also had one day that all I could think about was making chocolate chip cookies and falling face first into the bowl of cookie dough. Up until this past week my energy level has been lower than usual (and I’m still up 1-2x a night with the Madman, so “usual” is pretty low), but that is starting to get better.

I’m not following any strict plan, which after years of Weight Watchers, is strange. I’m using (and the iphone app) to journal my food; but I think once I get a handle on protein/sugar contents I will be able to back off of this tracking. I aim for 70-100g of protein and try to keep my sugar (from fruit/veggies) to below 20g. I don’t really pay attention to fat or fiber. I usually get about 1200-1500 calories a day.

A few people have asked me what I eat and how it works for the kids. Here’s my basic day:

Breakfast: eggs, smoothie or fasting.
I’ll make scrambled eggs (2 whole, 2 whites) with some veggies – spinach or red/yellow peppers, usually. If I’m on the run I’ll eat 4-6 hard boiled egg whites on the way to work. (The only reason I don’t eat the yolks is because I don’t like egg yolks if they aren’t runny).

Some mornings I’ll have a smoothie with whey protein, chia seeds, spinach and either strawberries or blueberries.  Either way my breakfast clocks in at 20-24g of protein.

If I’m not hungry in the morning I don’t force myself to eat. Often I find that I’m not hungry until 10-11 AM.

I make a huge salad with lettuce, other veggies, cheese and some fruit. I usually use straight balsamic as the dressing. My current favorite combo is strawberries and this amazing grass-fed organic feta from the Farmer’s Market. So delicious! Then I’ll have protein on the side. Yesterday I had 3 chicken legs. Some days it will be tuna salad, egg salad (both made with a little mayo, mustard, celery, chia seeds), or leftover protein from the night before.

Going out with coworkers isn’t that hard, either. Chipotle/Qdoba are easy – meat, veggies, guac and salsa over lettuce. Or I can have a salad with grilled chicken with oil and balsamic dressing. Or a burger without the bun.

This is where I thought things would get tricky and I would be making a separate dinner for myself. But that hasn’t been the case. I usually have a salad (almost always a smaller repeat of what I had for lunch because that’s what I have on-hand). Sometimes Mark will want a salad, other times he won’t. Then, since we almost always have a protein I eat that and just not the starches.

For instance, when we have burgers I have mine either with a knife & fork or wrapped in lettuce. Last night we had spaghetti and meatballs so I sautéed some diced peppers (I keep a big bag of them in the freezer) and had my meatballs covered with marinara and peppers while Matilda and Mark had their’s over pasta. Chicken, steak and pork are easy to eat without a starch. Right now Copper River salmon is in season and I could eat that every night (so could Matilda). The night we had lemon shrimp and pasta I just ate the shrimp. For them stir-fries go over rice while I skip it. Honestly, I usually eat what everyone else is eating but I just don’t eat the grains.

I have a Paleo cookbook that I haven’t even cracked yet. And there are tons of sites for paleo/primal recipes, but so far I haven’t seen the need.

Plus, I’m getting more adventurous with my vegetables. I’m not a huge fan of many of them (I will never, ever willingly eat broccoli) but I’m trying more. After years of not touching asparagus I bought some at the Farmer’s Market for $1 (hooray for being late and catching the end of the day deals) and roasted it. It wasn’t fall of your seat delicious but it wasn’t awful and I ate it without making faces. And Matilda ate a bunch, too.

I’m looking forward to both our CSA season (starts today!!) and more vegetables coming into season at the Farmer’s Market. I think I will be challenged to eat more of the good stuff.

Almonds and blueberries are a favorite. Fresh-ground peanut butter or almond butter on celery (or off a spoon!) is another. Strawberries with cream – yum! But after the first 2 weeks my snacking needs went down. I usually have something around 3 PM and then, if I work out, something around 8-9 PM.

I haven’t had any alcohol during this 1st 90 days but between being pregnant and nursing for 50 of the last 65 months it’s not like I’ve been drinking much in the last 5 years. I gave up Diet Coke when I got pregnant with the Madman and even though I took it back up at the beginning of the year it wasn’t that hard to quit again. I had been drinking 2 cups of coffee a day but since I can only stomach coffee with cream and lots of sugar I gave that up. Right now I drink mostly water and iced tea, which wasn’t much of a shift for me. I did, however, give up most of my milk (I love milk). But I still do have a glass of Snowville whole milk a few times a week.

Over all it’s working and I can see myself sticking with this way of eating for a long time. I’m not going to lie – on June 10th I plan on having something sweet and/or grain-full. But I can see now that when I do “cheat” it won’t be with junk… it will be with awesome artisan bread or Jeni’s Ice Cream – it will be worth the splurge. I have vague plans to eat pretty clean until our vacation in July, and then I think I’ll aim for 6 days a week with 1 “cheat day” and see how I feel. But other than then 1st 10 or so days, I’m really doing just fine. I’m happy with what I’m eating, I feel better and I don’t feel deprived.