Newport Marathon Training Update: This Is Starting To Get Real, You All!

Being that today marks week 6 of training for my first marathon in Newport, I figured it was about time to check in about how it was going.

Newport symbol

First, I will say: so far, so good.

Thus far, I haven’t done anything that I haven’t done before, so to speak.  Honestly, I’ve been doing a bit less than I’ve done before.  My training plan (as training plans are keen to do) builds up over time, so my first few weeks have been relatively easy.  I’ve been consistent with my schedule and laying the groundwork to start increasing mileage.  I’m happy to say that I’m feeling strong so far.  My body is feeling healthy; I’m running what I should be and I’m fitting in some cross-training for overall balance.

Second, I will say: I think I’m about to turn a (exciting, but sort of nerve-inducing) corner.

In the coming weeks, I will surely test my endurance, time commitment, and mental resolve.  This current week is still ‘easy’, but things will start to steadily build from there.  My plan calls for me to start increasing my weeknight running mileage, as well as to build up my long run up on Saturdays.  In a month’s time, I will be pushing myself close to setting new distance personal records for myself.  I’m excited to make this progress, but, of course, my mind is always chirping at me with some self-doubt, too.

One of my biggest concerns is simply the time factor.  I know that I will make the time to log the miles that I need, but being a person with a tightly packed schedule, it does give me a bit of stress thinking of what I will have to cut back on or forego in order to make it happen.

But I will.

I will make it happen (and I’m sure I’ll tell you how it goes).

The reality of my marathon-mission set in this weekend as I took two more steps forward.  I finally booked my hotel room for the overnight stay and I registered for a half-marathon as part of my training.  My plan actually recommends that I run a half-marathon right around the mid-point of my plan, so I set out to see if there is a local one happening that weekend . . . and there is!  I’m now registered for the Hop Hop Half on March 24th!

hop-hop-half-logo-2013

So, there you have it.  Marathon training is fully underway, accommodations are arranged, and I’ve got a new race to complete in three weeks!

I know many others are also ramping up your training as spring heads our way.  How’s it going for you?

Why Wednesdays? – Why “Listen To Your Body” Is More Than Just a Platitude

A Note About This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  I have completed series on the topics of running, creativity, and food.  Now, I’m being a bit random and discussing whatever strikes me at the time!

 

Listen to your body.

Listen. .  .  . to your BODY.

photo credit: striatic via photopin cc

photo credit: striatic via photopin cc

I hear (i.e. read/see) this command often.  To be perfectly honest, I’ve been hearing it for years, but didn’t really pay much attention to it.  I used to think it was just a silly expression.  Something that felt good and wise to say – easy advice for all sorts of circumstances.  What did it mean, really??

Of all of the many things I have learned in the last couple of years, the value of this advice is one of the most powerful.

I tend to be a cerebrally-inclined person. Historically, I sit up residence in my head, sometimes to the detriment of my other parts.  I’m analytical.  I spend a lot of time pondering things.  I toss around ideas and apply solid logic when solving puzzles and problems.  With this natural inclination towards being a bit too intellectual, it’s easy for me to flat out ignore my body (the whole rest of me), despite the fact that it’s constantly talking to me.

It’s true.  Our bodies are chatty things.  I’ve become very aware of this since I started heeding the advice that I need to listen to it.  Something I’ve been working on actively is to use my brain to actually pay attention to what my body has to say and it’s been an incredibly insightful process.  Now that I’ve made wellness, nutrition, and physical activity part of my life, it’s become even more important.  As a runner, I need to recognize the difference between a niggle and an actual injury, between a desire to eat from boredom and a real hunger that needs to be tended to, or between simply feeling tired because it’s been a long day and feeling worn down because I’ve been pushing too hard.

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

I personally believe many of us function in our world in sort of a survival mode.  We’re often just trying to get by, get through, get over.  We rush from one place to the next, we down caffeine to wake us up; we take pills to lull us to sleep; we zone out with the television as a distraction, and so on.  In so many ways, it is the American way.  I am personally hugely susceptible to all of this and it takes a real conscious effort to slow down and be present in and aware of each moment, each task, and . . myself – my body.  It is a practice that I am constantly working on (to some success, I’m happy to say).

Here are some of the insights that I’ve had so far:

1)      What and when I eat has direct impacts on my mood and mental functioning. – Seriously, if I don’t sufficiently nourish my body, I’m a mess.  Cranky, scatterbrained, dizzy – it is not pretty.  I know not to push breakfast too late in the day and that if I’m going to be running around for a few hours, I need to carry a healthy snack with me.

2)      Sleep may be my nemesis, but it is important.  – I’m a bit of an insomniac and I used to think that this wasn’t a very big deal.  I now notice that when I have a particularly bad night of sleep, I have loads of ill effects – copious amounts of hunger, increased stress levels, random body aches.  Blech.

3)      My anxiety/stress and my body pains have a symbiotic relationship.  – As I’ve mentioned before, I do carry anxiety with me often.  I also have disruptive and persistent (albeit non-serious) physical issues, such as Raynaud’s Disorder, migraines and tendinitis in my hands/wrists.  It’s become strikingly clear that when one of these is elevated, the others are triggered, too.  It’s a good reminder of how interconnected all parts of us are.  It’s unbelievable how an increase in stress can immediately bring on my Raynaud’s and how working through serious pain in my hands can make my tension escalate.

4)      Doctors are not necessarily the experts, despite how much they try to act like they are. – Don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not anti-doctors.  They’re great.  Sometimes.  However, it’s become very apparent that they don’t always ask all the necessary questions, gather the pertinent information, and listen to what you have to say.  What YOU have to say – the one person who is pretty much guaranteed to be the ultimate expert with what is going in your body.  I’m working hard on being a better advocate for myself at medical appointments and not always taking an initial diagnosis or dismissal as the final word.

5)     My body actually knows (better than my brain) when I need to push and when I need to rest.  – For me, my default is to push.  I’m not much for rest and relaxation and when I first started running this was detrimental.  Like so many new runners, I over-trained, didn’t recover properly, and ended up with fatigued, weakened muscles and injury.  I have really learned to listen for signs that my body needs some rest – and I provide it (no matter how much my brain may protest).  For instance, when the niggle in my left knee becomes too loud, I need to address it.  When my periformis becomes super painful, I know I’m not spending enough time stretching and strengthening my hips and glutes.

This is really a very condensed list of lessons learned on this matter, but I hope it gives you some idea.  Listening to all the chatter my body puts out is still something I’m constantly reminding myself to do, but the pay-off so far has been invaluable.

I would love to hear how others do with this.  Are you a natural at it or do you struggle, too?  What have you learned along the way?  If you’re also a runner, do you feel that training has helped you tune into your body’s signals better?

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Last Week’s Entry:   Why Libraries Are Worth Saving?

Why Wednesdays? – Why I Eat . . . Series Recap

A Note About This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  Currently, the focus is on food, cooking, and eating.

 

Food is serious business.  As I’ve discussed over the course of this series, it impacts our health, our energy, our brains, our emotions, our bank accounts, and so on.  It’s a need that every human being has in common, yet we all have our own unique relationships to it.

Plate of raw veggies - edited

Food is also fraught with contradictions, making it a complex issue.  For instance, consider how a meal made of just a few humble ingredients can taste so complex and flavorful.  Or, how a $2.00 taco from a food truck can taste utterly rich with flavor, while a $30 pasta dish can be bland and dull if not prepared with attention.  Think about how sitting down to a meal by yourself may feel lonely on certain days, but incredibly indulgent and peaceful on others.   Also still, enjoying that same meal with loved ones can be a long-lasting memorable experience.

My point, of course, is that food is one of the most complex aspects of our lives and societies, but for some reason, we spend so much of our time treating it as if it is inconsequential.  We shove it down without patience, swallow without tasting, purchase without reading labels, and toss it away without consideration.  We may encounter food dozens of times throughout a single day, yet not spend more than a few seconds ever really thinking about it.

This has to change.

Fortunately, I think it’s starting to.

tofu - edited

With a focus of late on obesity and food costs to start, people are starting to think about food on a deeper level.  Advocates for local and sustainable food consumption and production are making some noise.  Activists are fighting for clear and proper labeling on packaged foods.  Governments are realizing that youth need help with intervention directly in schools.  And people like us are being a bit more thoughtful.

As I’ve shared in prior posts, my relationship with food has morphed dramatically over my lifetime.  I’m still not perfect, nor would I ever expect to be, but I do think that I have made great strides to not only be more sound in my food choices from both a health and social standpoint, but I’ve also made strides in enjoying it more.  I used to think I was enjoying food, but really I didn’t even know what real food was.  Fast food and processed packages just can’t hold a candle to ripe fruit, well seasoned vegetables, hearty muffins straight from the oven, or homemade bread.

Pile of muffins - edited

Plus, I was so caught up in the blame game with food that it cast a gloomy cloud over every encounter I had with it.  I was so busy telling myself I was bad for eating this or I’d eaten too much of that or I’d never look like so and so if I ate this, that all eating did for me was reinforce negative feelings and beliefs.  Sadly, this is not unusual, especially for women (though I’m sure you guys have some of it, too), but it IS unacceptable.   I don’t want to pass this habit onto future generations.

I did a quick Google search for an actual definition of food and here is what I got:

Food:

Noun; Any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth.

Read that carefully, please.  Any NUTRITIOUS substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain LIFE and GROWTH.

That says so much to me about where we need to head when it comes to our beliefs and actions around food in our country.  Nutritious.  Life.  Growth.  I’m going to remember those three key words and try to apply them in my own diet.

It only takes a minute to ask myself:

  • Is what I’m about to eat going to be NUTRITIOUS to my overall diet?
  • Will it help me maintain my own quality of LIFE (and of others involved in its production)?
  • Will it help me continue to GROW in healthy ways?

If I can answer ‘yes’ to those three questions, I think I’ll be off to a fine start.

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Previous Entries in This Series:

#8 – Why I Eat . . . Some of My Favorite Foods

#7 – Why I Eat . . . Strictly For Myself

#6 – Why I Eat . . . Local

#5 – Why I Eat . . . To Heal and To Fuel

#4 – Why I Eat . . . Food From My Own Kitchen

#3 – Why I Eat . . . Plants!

#2 – Why I Eat . . . With Reverence

#1 –  Why I Eat . . . Thoughtfully

Recipe: Apricot Muffins (Not, I Repeat NOT Grape Leaves)

I was going to present to you photos and writings about beautiful grape leaves.  Bright, flavorful grape leaves that had been lovingly stuffed, rolled, and cooked over low heat in a slow cooker for several hours before being presented and served as part of a delicious Mediterranean dinner.

Instead you’re getting muffins.

Apricot Muffin trio 5

You shouldn’t be disappointed because these are really good muffins.  I, however, am slightly disappointed because I was really excited about grape leaves.

But I suppose sometimes we all fall prey to kitchen disasters and my grape leaves were a casualty.  I started making them on a day that had been a bit rough for me.  I was feeling frustrated and cranky and worn out.  It happens.

Anyway, I was looking forward to the meditative act of cooking and set to it.  In my funky state, however, I got so caught up in rinsing, patting dry, and de-stemming each individual grape leaf that I didn’t pay proper attention to the filling mixture that was cooking away on the stove-top.  Needless to say when I checked on it, it was too late.  Burnt rice is nobody’s friend.

Thanks to Trader Joe’s being about a minute away from my apartment, I managed to still serve a full dinner by adding on some pre-made TJ’s appetizers to the rest of the food that I was making (my fattoosh salad, homemade paprika-spiced hummus, and pita bread), but my cooking pride took a hit nonetheless.

Apricot Muffin with jam

The next day, I needed to redeem myself, so muffins happened.  This muffin recipe is adapted from a cookbook that I borrowed from my local library.  Loads of tasty looking things live in this cookbook, by the way, and I was certainly pleased about how these turned out.  I am a huge fan of the texture of these muffins, as well as the minimal sugar content.  If you like them sweeter, you can certainly add additional agave or a bit of sugar (I would recommend turbinado or light brown sugar), but I also found that spreading a bit of apricot preserves on them before eating finished them off nicely.

Enjoy them for breakfast or an afternoon snack.  Or, as the cookbook originally suggested, with a cup of tea.  Just please make sure you are feeling quite proper and sophisticated if you enjoy them with tea.  Tea tastes best that way.

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Apricot Muffins

Adapted from The Karma Chow Cookbook

Makes 12 muffins

 

Ingredients: Apricot Muffin with knife 3

1 ½ cups White Whole Wheat Flour

1 ½ tspn baking powder

1 tspn baking soda

½ tspn salt (kosher or sea salt)

1 ½ tspn ground cinnamon

½ tspn ground nutmeg

3 tblspns coconut oil, melted

3 tblspns unsweetened apple sauce

½ cup apricot preserves, jam, or spread (sweetened or unsweetened, per your preference    – I used sweetened because it’s what I had on hand)

¼ cup agave nectar (if you used unsweetened preserves, you may want to add a bit more)

½ cup milk of your choice (I used non-dairy milk – Pacific 7-Grain)

2 tspns vanilla extract

2 tblspns egg replacer + 6 tblspns water, mixed (or 2 eggs if you prefer)

½ cup dried apricots, chopped into bits

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray your muffin tins (you will need 12 muffin cups) with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together your flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine melted coconut oil, applesauce, apricot spread, agave nectar, milk, vanilla, and egg replacer or eggs.  Whisk together until ingredients are incorporated.  (Tip: melt, measure and add in your coconut oil last to prevent it from hardening while you prepare the other ingredients) 
  4. Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredients.  Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir together to combine all ingredients.  Stir until smooth.  Then, pour in chopped apricots and stir together just a few more times to distribute apricot chunks.
  5. Distribute your batter evenly into the 12 muffin cups (approximately ¼ cup of batter per muffin).  Bake 16-20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick is inserted and comes out clean.
  6. Place muffin tins on a wire rack to begin to cool for 3-5 minutes.  Then, remove muffins and let cool completely on a wire rack.

These muffins can be enjoyed just as they are, drizzled with agave or honey, or topped with additional fruit preserves (I tried them all the ways!).

 

 

Why Wednesdays? – Why I Eat . . . Strictly For Myself #7

A Note About This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  Currently, the focus is on food, cooking, and eating.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent some time in my life, TOO much time in my life, doing things for other people and not for myself.  Let me be clear, I don’t mind doing a favor or helping someone out, but what I mean is that I’ve made decisions and took actions about MY OWN life because of what someone else said or did or asked or wanted and without the foremost regard for what I wanted or needed to do at the time.  Some of these things were pretty minor and irrelevant in the long run and others . . . not so much.  Regardless of how big or small they have been, the fact remains that I have made decisions about my life for the benefit of others, at least occasionally, at the sacrifice of my own well-being.

Banana Cupcakes 4

I probably will again in the future, too.  I’m not perfect and, at my core, I like to contribute to making others happy and content.  But, here’s the thing, I’ve sort of figured out that I like to make myself happy, too, and to top it off, that’s actually what I have the most control over.  Funny how that all works out.

So, what does this have to do with food?  Quite a lot, actually, as doing things for other people has often manifested in eating for or because of other people.  There are so many times when I have eaten things that I didn’t want or enjoy or have interest in, in some sort of attempt to: fit in, not be rude, get an emotional uplift, be defiant, be compliant, [fill in ridiculous reason here].  If you’re thinking you want an example or two to understand how this works, I’m happy to provide them:

I’ve eaten food I didn’t like or want because it was offered to me and I didn’t want to appear rude or ungrateful.

I’ve eaten food after I was way too full because I didn’t want to be wasteful when there are others who go without.

I’ve eaten food not out of hunger, but out of anger or pain when I’ve been upset (food is more comforting and safer at times than dealing with the person and problem at hand).

I’ve eaten food I couldn’t afford because I was trying to fit in with others who could afford it and encouraged me to join in.

raw cabbage

Like so many other things in life, our food choices can turn into so much more than hunger, nutrients, or enjoyment, and can become about something else entirely.  This is a problem.  It is a problem because all choices have outcomes and all of this eating for reasons outside of myself had way too many negative outcomes for me personally.

Sometimes I felt sick, stuffed, too full.  Other times I suffered undue stress, working to pay off credit cards because I’d spent money I didn’t have.  There were times when I felt bad emotionally about it afterwards – guilt, maybe even shame or embarrassment set in.  There were extra pounds gained and a dissatisfaction with my level of energy.  There was the knowledge that my health was being compromised – getting too much food, yet not enough of the vitamins and nutrients that I needed.

When I decided, almost two years ago, to make changes in the way I eat it was about more than weight or appearance.  It was about owning up to the fact that food had power over me in ways that it shouldn’t have and that other people had power of me in ways they shouldn’t have.  I didn’t want to eat out of anger or guilt or to please someone else.  I wanted to eat when I was hungry and interested in food.  I wanted to eat what I wanted, try new things, and say no to things I wasn’t interested in, regardless of social pressure of any kind.  I wanted to eat with pleasure and enjoyment and to provide nourishment to my body and mind.

For me.

On my terms.

I’m not perfect in my goals with this, but I am certainly much improved with them.  As a result, my relationship with food has totally changed.  It is a relationship that is built on more knowledge and respect for both myself and for food systems and production.  It is a relationship that is much healthier than it has ever been before and one that is more exciting, too.  It’s filled with possibilities and boundaries – possibilities of exploring new things (sometimes I try cooking new things even if I may be the only one in the house that likes it!) and boundaries that suit my best interests, tastes, and preferences (I say no, politely but without guilt, to food that doesn’t fit into my lifestyle).

So, maybe in this way I am selfish – but I’m okay with that.  When I look closely at the plethora of food issues our world faces (obesity, malnutrition, starvation, depletion of resources, food borne illnesses, food-related diseases) I think we could all likely be best served by being a bit more selfish in these areas.  I also think that making decisions about food driven by knowledge and a selfish desire to be mentally and physically happy and healthy isn’t such a bad idea.  In fact, I’d encourage just about anyone to practice a little selfishness in this regard.

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Previous Entries in This Series:

#6 – Why I Eat . . . Local

#5 – Why I Eat . . . To Heal and To Fuel

#4 – Why I Eat . . . Food From My Own Kitchen

#3 – Why I Eat . . . Plants!

#2 – Why I Eat . . . With Reverence

#1 –  Why I Eat . . . Thoughtfully

In Regards to Selecting A Marathon Training Plan . . .

. . . frankly, it’s a bit overwhelming.  I mentioned previously that I committed to running my first marathon.  So once that decision was made, I logically moved on to the next step in the process, which is to plan my training for said marathon.

Now, for those of you have trained for your first marathon (or maybe you are beginning to now), you may have noticed that training plans abound.  They are not difficult to find.  Plenty of running coaches and successful marathoners have published their ideas about how one should train for running the infamous 26.2 miles.  So, it can be a bit overwhelming to find the one that’s right for you.  Complicating the matter for me was that while dozens of marathon training plans exist, they actually tend to exist on opposing ends of the fitness spectrum, leaving many folks sort of in the middle, like myself, feeling like they don’t quite fit.

Training Log 2

What I mean, you see, is that most marathon training plans I found are either:

A)    For complete novices, new runners, with little to no base weekly mileage to start; or,

B)    For runners who have completed a marathon or two and are looking to improve on their overall speed and performance (i.e. ‘Run Your Best Time Ever!’ plans or ‘Race Your BQ!’ plans – BQ, by the way, is runner’s lingo for completing a marathon with a time that will qualify you for the legendary Boston Marathon).

I don’t really quite fit into either of these categories.

Story of my life.

This will be my first marathon – so am I a novice?  But, wait, I’ve been running consistently for over a year now, so I’m not brand new to the sport.  I’ve got a base weekly mileage of approximately 30 per week, which places me above what most ‘beginning’ training plans say a ‘beginner’ usually has, but I’ve not looking to run ‘my best time ever!’ – just to finish a marathon the first time around.  I’ll worry about speed later.

Beginner training plans often start out with weekly mileage somewhere in the low 20’s, which would be a significant cut back from what I’m used to doing now.  Long runs start at about 6-8 miles, when currently I run long at a minimum of around 13 miles.  Yet, looking at the more advanced plans, I’d be getting up to 50 miles a week, with multiple runs at 20 or more miles, something I’ve never done and am told as a first-timer, isn’t smart to do.

Nothing quite fit.

Grr.

MarathonGuide4_mdIn the end, I sought some advice on the Runner’s World forums and decided to go with a trusted expert – good ole’ Hal Higdon.  Hal, at least, has a novice 1 and a novice 2 training plan, plus intermediate 1 and intermediate 2, thus offering a bit more variety.  As a first-timer, I’ve based my plan on the novice 2, but am taking the advice of my fellow runners and letting myself be open to running my long runs a mile or two longer than the plan initially begins with, so as to not cut too far back on my current base.

It feels good to have made a decision and have a schedule laid out before me (I am a planner at heart).  Being that the plan is 18-weeks long, I officially begin this coming Monday and, in response to feeling a bit run down lately, have decided to make this week an easy, scaled back run week to give my body a chance to rest up for what’s to come.

If anyone else is currently marathon training and/or you’ve used Hal’s plans, please feel free to share your thoughts – I’d love to hear them!

Why Wednesdays? – Why I Eat . . . Local – #6

A Note About This Feature:  Why Wednesdays is a Move Eat Create weekly feature determined to turn the mid-week doldrums upside down and celebrate things I love to do and blog about.  Currently, the focus is on food, cooking, and eating.

 

The concept of eating, shopping, and consuming all things local has been all the rage over the last couple of years.  I’m glad that it’s catching on and I’m glad to be a part of it.  My only concern is . . ., well, actually I have TWO concerns about this.

The first concern is that sometimes when things get a lot of buzz, they also get a lot of push back.  Becoming popular also means becoming a target.  Once popular, it’s easy to be written off as a passing fad, overrated, or just passé. My second concern is that once something becomes a big trend, (in this case even getting its own term – localvoire.  Side note, while I love the concept, I loathe that word), it can sometimes lose its meaning.  When something is trendy, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype and the group mentality of it, without actually understanding what it is your doing and why it’s important.

Overview

I worry about both of these things when it comes to the concept of consuming locally and so I will spend my time today discussing why this needs to be more than just a passing trend and is, in fact, a practice that has massive implications for our communities.

My personal story and passion for living a lifestyle focused on buying local really starts with my move to Portland.  Sadly, I didn’t always live here.  I spent many years (too many years, really) in Phoenix.  When I moved to Portland in 2009, my whole sense of community changed.  It might even be more apt to say that I finally found a sense of community that I never knew existed.

Portland is a haven for small business owners, craftspeople, artisans, entrepreneurial types, urban farmers, and foodies.  I consider myself really fortunate in this regard, as I know not all cities have this particular type of abundance.  When I made the migration from the strip-mall filled desert to Portland, three things immediately stood out to me:

1)      Trees and other green things (I seriously didn’t think trees really were so plentiful outside of full-on forests.  I was SHOCKED to see parksPathway full of trees.  Who knew??)

2)      Proper neighborhoods – With neighborhood-y names (Woodstock, Hawthorne, Mt. Tabor, Nob Hill, et cetera) and with their own distinct personalities, friendly neighbors, and corner shops

3)      The incredible lack of mega-retailer establishments in the city (sure they exist, but not nearly to the extent of what I was used to, and many actually live mostly in the suburbs, rather than the heart of the city)

While I still marvel at the first one, it’s the latter two that are most relevant to this discussion.  The thing about these is that I now feel truly connected to a community – my community.  I feel connected to the farmers and retailers and craftspeople and roadside markets and I want to foster that connection.  It has become vitally important to me to support my neighbors in order to have lasting impacts on us locally, as well as on our world at large.

I keep my food choices as local as possible in a few ways.  First, I buy a great deal of my food from local markets, both from farmer’s markets and local shops/grocery stores (I am eternally grateful for New Season’s Market and get excited for trips to Food Fight).  Second, I am a member of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, so for several months out of the year, I get much of my produce delivered directly from a farm just a couple hundred miles away from my home.  I’ve never met Sophie and Gabe from my CSA farm, but I read their newsletters and take their expert guidance on how to store and prepare the wonderful fruits and vegetables they grow.  Third, I buy many locally made food products (even when I do shop at larger stores).  These may be items like jam, bread and snack bars (Oregon has loads of companies that produce great products – Bob’s Red Mill, Dave’s Killer Bread, Turtle Island Foods, for instance).  Finally, when I do eat out at restaurants, it’s pretty much always at an independently owned, non-chain establishment.  Not only is the food generally better, but the service and atmosphere usually are, too.

By making these food choices, I know that I am:

  • Strengthening my local economy
  • Supporting entrepreneurship, as well as the realization of dreams and successes of individuals working to offer something to their community
  • Contributing to the availability of a diversity of food choices (rather than contributing to an environment where a mega-retailer dictates what I have access to)
  • Reducing environmental impacts by choosing not to buy products made in big factories and transported hundreds (or thousands) of miles in order to reach me, as well as buying products that often require less wasteful packaging
  • Generally getting better quality products, as well as useful consumer information regarding said products, made and sold by knowledgeable purveyors of their goods.
  • Using my dollar to support (or not support, as the case may be) businesses and companies that act ethically and consciously, with values that align with my own

Spending my dollars at local businesses makes my community richer in dozens of ways and, selfishly, makes my own life better, too.  The amount of incredible food options that I have access to is in no small part due to the fact that we have lots of small business owners here in Portland who fill various niches, resulting in a wide variety of goods.  If they were pushed out by one, or even two, large retailers, that diversity of options would shrink dramatically.  The quality of food is undeniable, as well.  When I get a tomato from my CSA, it tastes like a tomato.  It’s not perfectly round and red and that’s great – because it’s not supposed to be, despite what mass-production tomato growers have tricked most of us into believing.  And, if the tomato crop isn’t fantastic, I don’t get sad, tasteless objects – my local farmers just tell me they’re no good and send another item that is tasty and ripe instead!

Groundwork Organics

Plus, I am a HUGE fan of supporting creativity, joy, and personal passion.  I get pleasure out of knowing that my money is helping my neighbors live their dreams.  I was struck by this very profoundly last week during a trip to my local spice and herb shop, Stone Cottage.  I stopped in for a very small purchase.  I needed ancho chile powder and decided on a whim to try some chlorella, too.  That’s all.  I scooped up a couple of tablespoons of each and was ready to make my incredibly small purchase of about $2.  I decided to also pick up a cup of coffee (produced by a local roaster, of course), from their self-serve coffee station.  While I was preparing my items for purchase, the owner of the shop greeted me kindly, offered assistance, and finished serving another customer.  I overheard him assist her with selecting just the items she needed.  He listened to her needs, asked good questions, and shared his expertise of the products available.  As she left, he encouraged her to follow up with him about how her items worked and then he went on to wonder around his shop, tidying and being a general friendly presence.  As I set about paying for my tiny bag of spices and my caffeine fix, I was told that my coffee was on the house today.  “Enjoy the sun and take care.”

I really believe that he meant that.  He is a shop owner who is really passionate about his goods.  He procures quality products, offers limitless assistance to customers, and is working, in his unique way, to provide a positive experience to those he encounters.  I will gladly give my money to a business owner such as this any day of the week.  I want to see this business succeed and I care about having this resource available to me in my neighborhood.  Happy and successful local shop owners, equal a happy and vibrant community that I am fortunate to call home.

For more information on eating locally, or if you are interested in CSAs, here are few resources you may enjoy:

Local Harvest

Simple Steps to Eating Local

Find Local Foods

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Previous Entries in This Series:

#5 – Why I Eat . . . To Heal and To Fuel

#4 – Why I Eat . . . Food From My Own Kitchen

#3 – Why I Eat . . . Plants!

#2 – Why I Eat . . . With Reverence

#1 –  Why I Eat  . . . Thoughtfully