Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How's that workin' for ya?

Between January 1 and January 12 I lost two pounds, counting calories but not limiting any foods or food groups.

From January 12 to today, I've lost seven pounds, following the South Beach plan.

You do the math.

I've been going to the gym for a week now. Last week I was doing 2 sets of 10 reps at a reasonably difficult weight level on both upper- and lower-body Nautilus and Cybex machines. Yesterday I bumped it up to 12 reps, and I'm making sure the weight is heavy enough to be challenging. I probably should write down what I'm doing so I can see some progress, but that would mean carrying around a clipboard. Cumbersome!

And I'd probably look really serious about it, too. Heh.

In addition to circuit training, I'm treadmilling at an average speed of 3.5 mph, and a slight incline (3 or 4), for 42 minutes – precisely the amount of time it takes to watch an episode of Glee on the Nook. There are so many TV series available on Netflix that I've never seen, because my husband commandeers the remote every. damned. night. My treadmill time will be entertaining for many months to come.

My right hip joint has been painful for several weeks, but since I've been going to the gym it's only a minor twinge every now and then. I hardly ever notice it. I believe it's because I'm using the machines for hip adductor and abductor, which I always thought toned your inner and outer thighs. Who knew they were useful for muscle and joint pain?

Busy day today. I'm working with a client this afternoon, but before I do that I need to throw together a couple meat loaves and put a roast in the oven. I'm really motivated to continue with South Beach after the progress I've made. I've been buying sliced deli roast beef, but I have a freezer full of grass-fed beef I should probably be using. One of the meat loaves is going to my dog-sitter. I usually make him something sweet; he's going to really be surprised to receive an entrée instead of dessert!

January is done, done, done … your turn to share your progress with your first-of-the-year goals. That's what the comments are for, after all. Sharing. Or leave a link to your blog in the comments, so we can be nosy and read more, more, more.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Go Places Surely

I know I'm not the last person on the planet to have a global positioning system in my car. While they've certainly come down in price in the last couple years, they're still a splurge (in my frugal opinion), and they're still not standard equipment on most new cars. (Interestingly, dropping a couple Franklins for a Garmin I can wear on my wrist seemed like a necessity back in my running days.) The airplane I used to fly was equipped with one, but it used latitude-longitude coordinates instead of ZIP codes and house numbers.

Anyway, the combination of Google Maps, Poynt, Mapquest and BlackBerry Maps has allowed me to get from Point A to Point B for several years now without getting too lost. Smartphones are, indeed, smart, and while the printed Mapquest directions are sometimes a little obtuse, they've done the job just fine, thankyouverymuch.

We recently inherited a GPS unit for the car. I installed plugged it into the cigarette lighter and tested it on a local drive last week, and put it into practice on our trip to Asheville. This ancient Magellan (three years old) worked perfectly, precisely leading us as if on a rope to the parking lot of every target.

One look at this line and my hungry, hungry husband's face 
fell. Hard. But this was just the line to get to the counter 
where you placed your order, and it moved swiftly.
As we approached 12 Bones on Friday, the restaurant was hidden around a corner by some buildings. We were in a part of Asheville that some might call "sketchy." (Well, it's called the River Arts District, so that fits, right?) Definitely not well-populated or teeming with tourists, like the downtown area usually is.

I just had to trust that the little screen was on the right path. And sho' nuff, it was. We turned that corner, found a parking place and joined the line of people waiting to chow down on some damned good 'que.

Every place we went was someplace I hadn't been before, and we arrived at every destination with no problem whatsoever. On a couple of occasions, the route FROM the spot was completely different from the route TO it, which was disconcerting (and took us through more sketchy neighborhoods), but we always made it there and back again.

Obviously, or I wouldn't be here, right? Heh.

I am, therefore, declaring GPS systems for cars the greatest invention since the wheel.

We've gone to unfamiliar towns and to unfamiliar parts of familiar towns plenty of times, but always with more than a bit of trepidation on my part. I remember the last time we left Washington, DC, how thrilled I was when, with little trouble, actually, I made it to the highway leading home. DC is the scariest place I've ever driven. Even scarier than Massachusetts, which has a rep for scary driving.

My husband has supreme confidence in both my driving and my navigating skills. Finally, thanks to this new little gadget, so do I. My car (a Ford Escape) came equipped with two cigarette lighters. I think they knew who was going to be driving it. I just ordered a unit that turns a cigarette lighter into two USB ports. With three connections, I can have the iPod, the Magellan and the BlackBerry all plugged in and charged up at the same time.

I love me some gadgets.

One thing that struck me about being GPS-equipped is that you really can be on your own. No need to stop for directions. We found Mela using walking directions provided by the BlackBerry instead of asking one of the many passersby. Those of us who are plugged in are little islands of information, happy to help, and happy not to need help. I wonder how this will affect our culture 20 years from now? By then we'll probably all be plugged in, or chip-equipped, and we won't need each other at all.

In the meantime, I wonder why I waited so long to get a GPS system for the car.

Oh. Right. There's that frugal thing.

So the question du jour is: Do you have a GPS in your car? Do you use the voice prompts (that annoyed me and I muted it right off the bat)? Do you want one or are you happy with Mapquest or Poynt? Or a road atlas? Do tell!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Too much fun, too little time

Well, we're home again, home again, already, and it's back to whatever passes for normal life around here. Emptying the dishwasher. Making coffee. Letting the dog out. And in. And out. And in.

This is one of the very few times I haven't been all that excited to get home, despite what I said yesterday about appreciating it after you've been away. A trip to Asheville (or its Mini-Me, Carrboro, NC) is either too little or too much. This one was too little, I could have spent another day or two easily.

So what does a "too-much" trip look like? I wouldn't know personally, but I imagine it would be one in which you were willing to just walk away from whatever home was and start over in this new place that you've fallen in love with.

I spent a good part of the drive home comparing Asheville to Carrboro, imagining myself living in each of them. Asheville is hillier, bigger, there's more traffic. Carrboro is much more walkable/bikable and has a small-town ambience that's very comfortable for me.

It's all a fantasy, though. The house and property in southern West Virginia that I call home is bought and paid for, and would probably be difficult to sell. Besides, where I live doesn't really matter, I'm going to be dragging my ass along with me wherever I go. Heh. Wherever you go, there you are.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

You can look, but you'd better not touch

The cake pop shop wasn't yet open when we wandered by this morning. Their hours were noon to 7 – Ashevillians apparently start their days a little later than I do. Heh. At any rate, the caramel-covered cake pops (and marshmallows and pecans and other confections of unknown origin) made for pretty good eye candy, and not a speck of sugar was consumed in the process. (I don't remember the name of the store or I'd try to find a link. Perhaps I was drooling too much to pay attention to their signage.) ETA: Found the name in another photo! It's Kilwin's.

On our tour of the downtown area, we also went into a chocolate shop. There was a tiny table and two chairs in the corner of the store, and I went straight to the chair, do not pass go, do not collect $200. I was invited to see what a five-pound heart-shaped box of chocolates looked like (it was under glass, and thus safe), so I ventured into the center of the room but I dared not go up to the counter. It smelled heavenly, and if you can handle sugar and chocolate, I think The Chocolate Fetish would be a great place to spend some money and time.

I, fortunately, left spending none of the former and only a couple minutes of the latter.

Yesterday, after lunch at 12 Bones and before we met up with our friends, my husband and I went to a place called the Screen Door, which is part flea market, part architectural salvage, part gift shop, part home decorating – kind of a you-name-it interior and exterior art and design conglomeration. Lots of inspiration there, including a tree-shaped sculpture made of progressively smaller pieces of driftwood. Since our home is near three different rivers, I'm thinking this might be a free project for us, and would be a nice addition to our new front-yard landscaping project.

After lunch, we spent quite a bit of time in an old bookstore (there are many of them downtown, Malaprops is probably the best-known but we'd been there previously and really, these other places need to upgrade their branding. Or I need to upgrade my memory.), followed by a tour of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial.

Wolfe, best known for his novels Look Homeward, Angel and You Can't Go Home Again, was raised in Asheville, in a boardinghouse owned by his mother. His father and six siblings lived two blocks away, and everyone came and went at will. It sounds chaotic, and from what the tour guide said, it sounds like Mama Wolfe could have been one of those eccentric types. Papa Wolfe certainly was.

The tour was interesting and the house is amazing – 29 rooms, including the private family rooms as well as dining areas, sleeping porches and more bedrooms than we could count. Oh, and one bathroom. Rather amazing what people would accept for accommodations back in the day. It's furnished in period pieces, all of which have Do Not Touch signs on them and most of which were original to the boardinghouse or owned by members of the Wolfe family.

Makes me want to read Thomas Wolfe again.

Now we're back at the hotel, resting before we all decide what we want to do for dinner. This is not the height of tourist season in Asheville, NC, so there's not much available in the way of Events To Go To this weekend. And none of us are the young, bar-hopping type (snort!). If we were, there would be lots of hopping opportunities.

We've certainly enjoyed spending time with our friends and getting away from home for a short time. Makes you realize that you can go home again. And you tend to appreciate it even more, after a shot of city life.

Friday, January 27, 2012

And we're off!

The last time my husband and I were in Asheville we met up at a huge rented house near the downtown area with my kids and their spouses/children. We were all coming from different directions and Asheville was the coolest destination that was equidistant for all of us.

That was seven years ago. The youngest member of the group, who was four at the time, put up with the shopping, the restaurants, the sightseeing very patiently, much more so than I would have when I was his age. But every once in a while, he would insist that we go back to our "bacation getaway."

So cute. I hope I never forget how he said it: wistfully, wishfully, and always willing to wait until we'd done one more thing.

I'm armed with multiple GPS navigation devices and looking forward to exploring the area again. We'll be hitting Earth Guild for sure, and Thomas Wolfe's restored home. Even though he can't go home again, we can. Heh.

Gotta pack ... hope y'all have a great weekend.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Finis!

Remember those clogs I was working on throughout the college football bowl season? The first half of the first and littlest pair was done less than a month ago. And while my original goal was to make four pairs and then felt them all at once, I stopped after three:

The blue ones are for my daughter-in-law and granddaughter, leaving the
brown/green ones for my husband.

I'm still going to make the fourth pair (they're for me) and, in fact, have already started the project. But my husband kept asking when his would be finished and I wanted to send the mother-daughter set off before summer.

My husband has never worn slippers, because he used to go outside every hour on the hour (I might be exaggerating a bit) to smoke. Now that he's a former smoker for almost a year(!), he can slip his cold feet into toasty warm wool clogs and relax every evening. Just like an old man.

He kind of makes fun of the old-man-ness of them, but he truly appreciates the warmth of wool. He only has two pairs of handknit wool socks (I should probably work on his sock drawer) and he loves wearing those during cold weather. Which we haven't had much of this winter, but he's managed to pull them out of that drawer a few times.

Okay! That's the knitting part of the post. Thanks for paying attention and letting me brag about a Finished Object or six.

Moving on to the weight-losing part, it appears my attention span for journaling lasted exactly three weeks this time. I thought 21 days was what it took to form a new habit! For me, 21 days was the signal to quit.

And I'll be honest with you: While I'm not chowing down on forbidden fruits, I'm certainly eating more than I did when I was writing everything down. Go figure.

The first day of non-journaling coincided with the decision to join the gym. Am I so busy that I can't journal and go to a gym three times a week? Does my brain only have the capacity to handle a minimum number of successful weight-loss strategies at a time? And if that's true, why would I toss out the number-one predictor of weight loss?

I have no answers, only questions. And a firm resolve to begin journaling again. It's not hard. I love this web-based application that also has a syncable BlackBerry app, but if you read the article I linked to in the previous paragraph, there are many others that do the same thing.

To sum up: In addition to working out regularly and following South Beach Phase 1, I will attempt to create a journaling habit again. Starting today. (Adding one carby food per day the last two days – a serving of Shredded Wheat Wednesday and a low-carb whole-wheat tortilla yesterday – has completely wiped out the stellar two-pound loss from Tuesday's weigh-in)

I'm heading out of town for the weekend. My little Hershey girl, whom you met here yesterday, will be in the hands of my very capable neighbor/housesitter while my husband and I meet some friends to explore Asheville, NC. We won't be meeting them until Friday night, so my husband and I are planning to have a mid-day meal at 12 Bones, a lunch-only rib place that appears to be SB-friendly. (And, really, what restaurant isn't? The grilled-chicken salad is ubiquitous, isn't it? Chez KnitRunRepeat served it last night, as a matter of fact.)

Also, if 12 Bones is good enough for my President, it's good enough for me. I'll do my best to throw up a daily post while I'm gone, since I've committed to doing January NaBloPoMo. Might just be photos; I imagine after this wordy post some of you would enjoy that!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I promised you pictures …

and I deliver! I swear it took as long to edit these pictures as it did to clean the closet. Heh.

On the left, the before view of a very messy closet that gets all kinds of stuff
dumped in it. When I don't know where to store something, I put it in the hall
closet. On the right, everything's tidy. And I've already moved some things
around since I took the after photo. Can't. Leave. Well. Enough. Alone. Heh.

The tippy top shelf didn't have much on it, because I'm
too short to reach it. So I didn't take pictures of it. This is
the third shelf, the before view is above the after one.
Those boxes stacked on the left are empty, do any of you
have trouble throwing away perfectly good empty boxes?

Second shelf, the in-your-face-when-you-open-the-door
one. Yes, I have foot mannequins, I'm a sock designer!
(Although I haven't created a new design in, hmmm,
how long? TOO LONG TO REMEMBER!)

Lowest shelf, and the most important one. All the
instruction books for all the appliances, heat pump, etc.,
plus office supplies, bank statements.
Above: Chaos!
Below: Order!

The floor. In the before view (above) I sometimes had to
wiggle things around to get the door closed.
Not a problem now.

On the left, things to donate (not much, unfortunately).
On the right, the trash. I'm a little embarrassed to show you how many
paper towel rolls I had stashed away for some kind of craft project!

I feel NO NEED to buy fancy canvas containers to make the inside of a closet look good. Priority Mail boxes and other shipping containers are free. Those, a box cutter and packing tape are all I needed for storage solutions.

It took a good three hours to finish this job, which really isn't much considering the amount of crap I had stuffed in there. To reward myself at the end of it, I worked out. At my new gym!

Time for a progress report. I've been feeling really, really down this week, because I check my weight daily and I haven't seen any losses. Yesterday was the end of the two-week South Beach Phase 1 regimen, and I'd hoped to see some results. Until this morning, I felt unrewarded for all my hard work. (I can honestly say I've followed the plan pretty well. No sugar, no grains, if I've gotten off track at all it's in not eating enough vegetables with each meal.)

Today's weigh-in showed a two-pound loss. I was so surprised! How does that happen, to go all week long staying the same and then suddenly drop two overnight. I guess if I knew the answer to that I'd already have written a book, right?

I think I reported incorrectly last week that I'd lost six pounds since the first of the year, when it was really five. Now it's seven since January 1 and five since January 10, when I started South Beach.

Looks like it's working. No reason to stop now, especially when I've added the element of regular weight-training to the plan.

I didn't join the gym for cardio, I'm happy to walk on my mountain for that. I joined for the Nautilus and Cybex machines and, eventually, the free weights. My previous (albeit 20 years ago) experience is that muscle-building = weight loss. That's also what science says, at least current science. So we'll see. I'm my own guinea pig!

Monday, January 23, 2012

BIG NEWS from the Middle of Nowhere

We have a gym! A gym, a gym, a gym. With machines. And weights. And wi-fi!

Oh, and I JOINED IT! Today. Four hours ago. I've already done my first workout, 2 sets of 10 reps on a dozen MACHINES and 20 minutes on a fancy-schmancy treadmill. Wanna know how fancy it is? I'm not making this up: JILLIAN talks to you on it! And you can travel the world with Google Maps if you want to.

I thought I'd better concentrate on not falling off, so I'll save the world travels for another day.

It's only twenty-five bucks a month, and the Grand Opening offer is if you sign up and pay for six months you get a month free, so of course I signed up and paid for six months. That'll take me to July 23, about the time the garden is exploding. I'll reassess whether I want six more months then or if I want to wait until September to re-up.

Not many people are this excited when they join a gym, but I'll tell you what: I've missed living near one for 15 years. It's still 12 miles away, but that's a helluva lot closer than none at all.

I'm planning to go three days a week, but I might go more often if I love it. So far … I love it.

Tie one on

Great comments yesterday, thanks so much. No offense, RDK, but I think I'll try Agatha's suggestion and listen to "Footloose" when I need a little jolt. I'm so close to the brink of things a spoonful of sugar might put me over the edge. (My motto, back in the day, was "if you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space." Thank you again, AA, for saving my life.)

Okay, what does the title of today's post have to do with the price of tea in China? (Also? Happy Chinese New Year!)

This:
These pictures just don't seem to show how very many ties we have.
Up close and personal? It's unbelievable.

What you see here represents every gift-giving occasion in my husband's father's life, as well as most of the ties from my husband's closet. I haven't counted them. I'm kind of afraid to.

I also haven't thrown them away, because apparently you can make lots of neat unusual interesting things from old ties. There are businesses devoted to upcycling ties into jewelry, clothing and accessories. I've seen photos of necktie skirts and thought 'Well, that may be all right for you, but I'd never wear one.' And that's still true: I'd never wear a necktie skirt. (No offense intended if you have one!)

But I might tuck my cellphone into a necktie wallet, and I would totally carry a necktie bag. And the owner of the gift shop at the end of my road would love to stock some. So we'll see where this goes.

The first thing I have to do is clean them all, and I'm not sending them to the dry cleaner. Since eventual wearability is not the goal, they'll be dumped into the washing machine with a small amount of detergent and swished around in cold water on the hand-wash cycle. I'm tempted to wait for a sunny day and hang them all on the clothesline to dry, simply because I think that picture would be amazing.

And it would make it pretty easy to count the tie inventory. I'll probably have to buy more clothespins.

While I wait for the sun to shine again, I'm going to work on emptying a catch-all closet. It's a linen closet, really, but it's in the guest-room part of the house and those linens are
a) on the bed and
b) hanging in the guest bath. 
(I see no need for spare sets of guest-room linens.) Instead, those shelves hold office supplies, bank statements, craft supplies, holiday decor, sentimental items I can't seem to toss. I hope to be in a ruthless mood when I start unloading the contents. I'll have a trash can nearby for motivation.

And the camera. If I promise before-and-after pictures, I'll be sure to do a better job of culling than if I just kept this project to myself.

Aren't you lucky? Heh.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The best-laid plans

When my husband returned from an errand yesterday at about noon, I still hadn't worked out. I was kind of waiting for him to come home so we could walk together. He took one look at me and said,
"You look like you could use a day off. Let's get away from here for the rest of the day. We can take care of some things in Blacksburg and have dinner out. It'll do you good."
I might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I'm not one to argue with not cooking dinner. No workout at all yesterday, but I was able to stick to the meat-and-salad plan at the restaurant. Not that it was easy, but I did it!

He brought home a couple pieces of memorabilia last week – a Chinese scroll given to his father in China during World War II and a certificate of appreciation from Franklin D. Roosevelt to his grandfather – that we wanted framed. We went to Michael's, chose matting and frames, paid a small fortune (but it's totally worth it to preserve these pieces of family history) and then went to JoAnn Fabrics.

These are not places my husband would normally ever enter unaccompanied. I could have spent hours in each of them, but I didn't think he was quite that patient. Besides, the pieces we left at Michael's have to be picked up. That will be a solo trip, for sure.

He kept checking on me, especially on the way home, saying he thought I seemed happier, in a better mood, not so down in the dumps. Maybe it's just January weighing down on me, although anyone who complains about this January is just a curmudgeon. This is the mildest winter I can remember in the 15 years I've lived here. (Apologies if you are getting slammed by ice and snow this weekend.)

Or maybe it's that after that six-pound drop between January 1 and January 13, the weight loss has stopped. Completely.

I'm definitely out of the honeymoon, pink-cloud stage and have moved on to the why-bother stage. Except I'm still bothering. I'm not going to throw it all out the window yet.

But I sure would like a spoonful of sunshine in a jar.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Still no answer ...

on the logo. Maybe I'll make a video and it'll go viral on YouTube and out of the millions of people who view it, the original designer will come out of the woodwork and offer me lotsocashmoneybucks for the one remaining gimmetote left from that particular event.

Or not.

Moving on …

I originally dedicated my Project 365 blog (I guess it should be 366 this year, eh?) this year to food, glorious food. But you know what? You can take just so many pictures of meat and salad and it starts getting boring. And repetitive. And boring. A couple days ago I kind of circumvented the topic by posting food for the soul, but yesterday I just busted out totally and shot this.

People, it's waaay too early for daffodils. The first daff photo I took last year was of a bunch of them along a median strip. On March 23. The first asparagus started coming up March 15. I'm kind of afraid to go look at the asparagus bed. I haven't even cut back last year's dead stalks.

I continue to stay on track with the food part of the South Beach plan, but totally blew off any intentional activity yesterday. Even though the dumbbells are now convenient to where I usually park my ass. I kept postponing the walking, mostly because I was busy clearing out the guest room of the generational clutter.

Among the treasures I found were five tuxedo shirts, all different, four of which are in remarkably good shape. They'd been carefully folded and placed in the bottom of a cardboard box, and then various other odd things were tossed atop them. Things like:

  • Dozens of spools of thread, some wooden
  • A set of plaques with heart images on them, advertising drugs made by Boehringer-Ingleheim
  • A stack of handprinted fabric squares, 9x9 inches, made in Key West, FL
  • Odd pieces of light blue cotton
  • Enough beautiful dark-pink cotton pique fabric, embroidered all over with daisies, to make my younger granddaughter a dress
  • A Kodak camera. With film in it.

And that was just one box. I'm also now stocked for life with blue, white and black fabric ribbon, and with gift wrap. As long as I want to present my gifts in a plain brown wrapper.

Today looks like a good day to catch up on another episode from Glee's first season. I'm always gone on Tuesday nights when it airs, and I don't have anyone to talk about the episodes with anyway, so I don't mind being a couple years behind. I do intend, however, to keep up with Mad Men when it begins its new season on AMC March 25. 9 p.m. Be there or be square.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Oh, what a relief it is …

to wake up and realize it was all a dream.

It's taken nine days without sugar for my subconscious to break free and put me in one of the craziest using dreams I've ever had.

Recovering addicts/alcoholics frequently experience dreams in which they're high or drunk. I've had more than a few of those myself. But this is the first time I've ever had a similar dream about candy.

SCARY!

I'll tell you about it in a minute (this is your opportunity to go read someone else's blog if you don't want to be bored by my dream). First, though, I ran across this website while I was searching for the identity of the tote-bag logo. I contacted the site owner, a graphic designer living in Northern Ireland, and while he said chances were slim that he would be able to identify it, he agreed to take a look.

Okay, if you're still with me, here's my dream.

I was in the terminal of Yaeger Airport in Charleston, WV, getting ready to board a puddle-jumper that would take me directly to Ft. Wayne, IN. I paid for a magazine and a big bag of Kraft caramels. I then proceeded to find my seat, where I leaned my head against the cool window of the plane and started methodically opening and eating every. single. caramel.

It took the whole flight to polish off the bag. I felt no remorse or guilt or discomfort. In fact, I was giddy and up for anything.

I ended up getting married in Indiana, to someone I hardly knew and who later turned out to be a woman – a reverse Lola moment, if you will. When I found out he was a she, I was perfectly okay with that. We were in college and trying to figure out dinner plans. She had a class at 1:30, mine was at 2:30 and we weren't going to be able to get back together for several hours. And there were lots of other people involved. It got very complicated and messy and apparently my subconscious had had enough and it was over. Just like that.

I was greatly relieved to wake up and not find a sack of empty caramel wrappers next to my bed. Oh, and to find my current husband still beside me.

The first time I went sugar-free, 21 years ago, I remember crying for the first three weeks. It wasn't that I was sad or upset, but that I was tender, brittle, fragile. I was going through a lot of personal stuff at the time, so I might have cried easily anyway, but I've always associated those easy and frequent tears with abstaining from sugar.

This time around, I'm not so weepy, but I'm short-tempered and sarcastic. The brittleness is there, certainly, but is being manifested differently. I'm nice when I have to be; otherwise I'm sullen, quiet, dark. This, too, shall pass. It did before and I lived to tell about it. Aren't you glad?

The flooded basement is more than likely still flooded, even though I personally removed more than half a ton of water from it yesterday. (A much better workout than the previous day: Suck up water until the wet/dry vac container is full, roll it across the floor to a tiny kitchen with a sink, bail the water out of the vessel until it's light enough to pick up and dump the rest.) A sump pump took out most of it before I got there, but I was left to finish the job. I noticed that one area wasn't drying up, and upon further investigation found a crack in the floor from which water was flowing. The project ended up being an exercise in futility; water was coming in at a rate equal to that which I was pumping it out, so I stopped.

Not sure if I have to go back again today. When I think about yesterday, I spent about five minutes in a room of the house that had a big candy bowl in the center, filled with – no, not caramels – snack-sized Hershey bars. There were other bags of goodies on one end of the table. It was, at the time, my worst nightmare.

Until I went to bed.

Have any of you experienced anything like this? I can't imagine I'm the only one. It's certainly strengthened my resolve to remain sugar-free: I'm really not ready to get married again.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hoarding, up close and personal

First, let's get this out of the way: yesterday was a strength-training day and I did, indeed, lift some weights. Four-pound and eight-pound dumbbells for presses, rows and curls, and mumble-mumble pound bodyweight for tricep dips, lunges and squats. Yay, me!

Now on to the hoarding.

My husband has spent nearly every day for the past two weeks helping a family member declutter several rooms of the big old house in which she has lived for the past 70 years. I've not been involved, thank you God, because

  1. she's not my family member, and 
  2. I'd rather recycle than toss (meaning not much of it would get thrown away).

My husband has no qualms about throwing things away. Most of the time.

However this project has, to a degree, turned into one of moving the clutter from her generation to his, with the idea that the next generation might gain some value or benefit from it.

Please don't plan to visit me soon, as my guest room is now a museum of collectibles. There's a tattered silk Chinese scroll from World War II, a kitchen-trash-bag-liner full of spools of fabric ribbon, medical doo-dads from three generations of doctors, ephemera from the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle – stuff we can't let go of and, at the same time, we really don't want.

Well, except for the ribbon, but where in the hell am I going to put it?

The guest room is the repository of my husband's family memories, for the moment, and while I certainly agree with the idea of taking pictures of all that crap because, really, space is limited, neither one of us can just bag it up and kick it to the curb.

(However, I had no trouble bagging up 40-year-old stuffed Santa and Mrs. Claus decorations, each as tall as an eight-year-old. And while it bothered me to toss 50 plastic coat hangers into the landfill, I currently have more plastic coat hangers than I'll ever need, and so does the thrift store. I asked. Sometimes environmental awareness can be a curse.)
The ink looks black but it's really
blue. Can you figure out where it
came from? A museum? An event?
It's a mystery ...

One thing he brought home that is intriguing and that I genuinely like is a fabric tote bag, probably from a museum in New York. (Not that I need another tote bag. Sigh.) It's khaki-colored and printed (in Avant Garde, so I'm thinking '70s or '80s origin) in royal blue ink with the names of artists – Mondrian, Klee, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Matisse, Arp, Degas, Gauguin and more. The names span eras and genres. There also is a logo/symbol/hieroglyphic, probably representing the organization, but the name of the organization is not part of the logo, nor is it printed on the bag amongst the artists' names.

A fabric tag sewn into a seam sports the name and address of the Los Angeles manufacturer and "Made in U.S.A." It's probably a collectible simply because it wasn't made in China.

The downside to this project is that there. will. be. more. More clutter, more junk, more too-good-to-toss. More memories. It's not bad enough to call in Niecy Nash (that's how long it's been since I've watched Clean House, is that show even on any more?), but it's definitely beginning to bother me.

Already clutter-creep is invading my living area. The contents of my husband's father's doctor bag are spread out on a side table in my dining area. (Thirty-year old Band-Aids in a metal tin, anyone? And when's the last time you needed smelling salts?) The tote is slung artfully over a side chair in the living room.

I am going there today, but not to sort through the past. The basement is flooded. I'm pretty good with a wet-dry vac and I have a pair of muck boots, so I'll be stuck in the lower level dealing with the current crisis, while everyone else sifts through the past. More power to them … I just don't want it coming to live in my house.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Using prison as a motivator

My husband was able to join me for my walk yesterday. He's been working on a project which takes him out of the house most days so it was a treat to have him tag along with me yesterday afternoon. It was grey and very windy, but warm enough that I didn't need a coat. Quite remarkable for January.

My New Year's goal of doing some strength training 3x/week has completely gone by the wayside. I guess seeing my daughter's results from just eating a low-carb diet (she doesn't work out) made me think I, too, could forego weight training. In fact, she and I have very different body types and very different metabolisms. She takes after her dad, clearly.

She's also 20 years younger than I, and all of us old folks know that even though it might have seemed hard at the time, losing weight 20 years ago was a heck of a lot easier than it is now.

Since it's Wednesday, and Wednesday was one of the days I'd committed to strength training, I'm going to find the motivation and time to do something with dumbbells today.

Last night was my AA meeting at the prison. I have to admit that I rarely feel like going. It's hard to head out at dark o'clock, leaving my nice warm house to deal with a hundred women, most of whom don't want to be in that room. They're not required to attend, but their team leaders strongly suggest it, and if you were in prison and your team leader strongly suggested you stand on your head, you'd be figuring out a way to do it. Team leaders are motivational like that.

There are a few women, though, who make it all worthwhile, or I probably wouldn't have kept going back for the past 13 years.

I wish I could transfer my feelings about that meeting to the dumbbells. I'd love to be reluctant to begin a routine, work my way into it and finish knowing that was exactly what I needed to be doing. Tune in tomorrow. I'll report back. In the meantime, have a happy hump day.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

One week done, three pounds gone

I'm smart enough not to say they're gone forever, since they've been gone forever before. Many times, just for the record. The three pounds last week are in addition to three pounds lost just counting calories the first 10 days of January. To sum up, since New Year's Day I've lost six pounds, half of that last week following the South Beach plan.

It's a miracle! Or a fluke, only time will tell.

It helps to be busy doing Other Stuff. My brain's go-to default is "let's eat!" so having a knitting project or a freelance design gig or some other compelling time-suck really helps, and if I have to create them, I'm going to.

The clog knitting isn't done yet, and there's not much football left. (If you're new here, I like to knit watching sports. It's difficult for me to do one without the other. They go together like South Beach-friendly ham and eggs. Heh.) I like college ball much better than pro, especially this year when my man Peyton had to sit out. (The Colts won ONE game all year, shouldn't Peyton Manning be the MVP? Clearly he is Indy's most valuable player!)

But little bro Eli made it to the championship series, so maybe there will be enough football left to complete the last two pair. I'm working on my husband's now, with one nearly done. The last pair, of course, will be mine, because I'm like the shoemaker: My footwear has holes in it, but I'm too busy making footwear for other people.

It hurts like hell to sit and knit, though, because of the hip pain. The loveseat in our little TV room is waaaay less comfortable than working on the laptop at the dining room table. Which is where you would have found me yesterday, designing a logo for a new client. (He loved it, I'm always happy when my vision matches the client's.) I need to do a little clean-up and formatting and that job will be out the door.

I have a couple little craft projects on the agenda. Actually if you saw my Pinterest Crafty board I have enough DIY ideas to get me to my goal weight. This is the one I'm doing as soon as the clogs are finished.

All in all, I'm doing pretty well following the plan. Eating more protein really does curb hunger. South Beach doesn't limit the number of carbs you can eat, but my research indicates that I might have an easier time releasing weight if I were to keep them around 30 per day. I'm averaging around 40; prior to SB I was eating about 175 carbs/day. And I'm NOT complaining about losing three pounds the first week.

The most difficult part has been honoring my commitment to eat real, whole foods, particularly when I'm looking for something sweet. I don't want to get sucked back into using artificial sweeteners, but there are few alternatives. (And because I don't like to waste anything, I'm determined to use that bag of Splenda before I try stevia.) The last time I went sugar-free it took about three weeks for the sugar cravings to subside, so I just need to be patient and wait this out.

My husband is totally on board with me doing South Beach, and hasn't even asked for a baked potato or hamburger bun to supplement his meals. He's really making it a lot easier for me, remind me to thank him. Again. And thank you for being patient with me as I slog through a South Beach post. I promise I won't make this a habit.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Continuing the conversation

Denise's comment from yesterday's post jolted something in my brain, and I'd like to thank her for it.

If you're in recovery, you've probably already heard this, discussed this, felt this, learned this, accepted this:
The chief activator of our defects has been self-centered fear – primarily fear that we would lose something we already possessed or would fail to get something we demanded.
12&12, p. 76, Step Seven
If you're not in recovery, it's worth thinking about.

Everything I wrote yesterday could have been summed up by simply stating I was afraid to be alone. I guess the deeper lesson I learned from my female forebears is that no matter how bad it is, it's better to be with someone than to be by yourself, to be dependent instead of independent.

So. Not. True.

But … it took me four husbands and 60 years to figure it out. I started figuring it out 20 years ago when I ditched the last husband. I was single for several years before I began dating my current husband. We didn't marry until five years ago, although we'd lived together for a decade prior to the wedding.

We've had many ups and downs, as most couples do, both before and after making it legal. In all those downs, I was the one who was ready to leave. I have no place to go. I have no job. I have no resources. I'd be up a creek without a paddle if I had to figure it out all over again, especially at my age and in this economy. But I was never afraid to try.

And, while I'm not going anywhere and we're very happy together (and we tell each other we are almost daily), I would still tackle a life alone without fear.

I have AA to thank for that, and Denise to thank for reminding me of it.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Here's my answer

Denise left a thought-provoking comment yesterday, one which I've not been able to get out of my head. You can read her entire comment here, but the gist of it is this:

… what … would you tell your younger self
now that you have the wisdom of age?
(Aren't I so trendy, using Tangerine Tango to spruce up the question? Heh.)

I would begin the conversation at around age 12, and say emphatically that a woman doesn't need a man to be complete. We're fine just the way we are. Women can take care of themselves. Should you find yourself attracted to a man, enjoy the moment, but don't marry everyone you meet.

My grandmother scandalized the family by getting divorced when my mother, an only child, was 12, which coincided with the beginning of World War II. Grandma went to work for Sunshine Biscuits, making Krispy Saltines all day, while Grandpa went to the South Pacific. He remarried, had a daughter and got divorced before he left the Navy. And when he came back to Ohio, he and Grandma remarried. Crazy, I know.

But the message to my young self, when I learned about it, was this: Life is better with a man, even a man with a drinking problem, a terrible temper and a child by another woman. (Although I didn't know about that until after my grandmother died 10 years ago. She took that secret to her grave, and there are so many things I'd like to ask her, now that it's too late.)

This is not the place to go into details – probably a therapist's office is the only place to do that – but suffice it to say that neither my grandparents or my parents provided great examples of how to be married.

My mother married my father when she was 19. I was born when she was 20. She married a man just like her father, including the drinking and the temper and – the biggest incongruity of all – my dad was a career serviceman. I married when I was 18, had my daughter when I was almost 19 and married a man who was basically a good guy, but had a drinking problem. Instead of displaying his temper, he quit speaking to me and seethed. And because of his eyesight, he wasn't eligible for the draft. Therefore, I thought he was different.

I was part of a six-girl group all through junior high and high school. Our little gangette did everything together – football games, slumber parties, shopping trips, movies, the county fair, dances and chasing boys. We were all boy-crazy by the time we started seventh grade, and none of our mothers discouraged us. The boys were welcome at our parties, we picked them up to go to games, they were as much a part of our families as our siblings were. Of the six of us, two are still married to their first husbands, and those husbands were the guys they went steady with in high school.

I win the prize for most husbands in our group. My current one (that's what I call him, heh) is my fourth. I hope I've gotten it right this time. But if I haven't, the one thing I've learned is that I will be all right alone.

It's taken me 60 years to figure that out. I was a book-smart, talented, creative young woman who just didn't have the self-confidence to follow my dreams. Instead, I did what my female role models had done: married young and had children. My path was not the same as theirs. I guess their unhappy marriages offered me some guidance, but I'm not sure being a serial wife was the best reaction.

Well. I guess that question is out of my head now. As Denise said, I'm not sure my 16-year-old self would have believed whoever told me I would be okay without a guy backing me up. The fact is, it never occurred to me. My script was to grow up, get married, have babies and live happily ever after. Alcoholism changed the direction of the play from a lighthearted story to a tragedy. Recovery has changed it to a drama in which the heroine triumphs. Thank God for Alcoholics Anonymous. And no matter how it sounds reading this, I truly have no regrets.

I'd love to know your answer. What advice would you give to your younger self? How would your life be different if you'd followed it? I would have been a hippie, painting graffiti peace signs on abandoned buildings and wearing flowers in my hair. I would have been a writer or an artist or maybe even an actress. Instead, I was a bad wife and a horrible mother. It's a wonder my children survived. Thank God for their stepmother.

If you blog your answer, be sure to come back and leave a link in the comments. If you don't have a blog, feel free to highjack my comments and tell us what you wish someone had said to you when you were a girl.

Thanks for listening. Peace out.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Don't get old

It seems that the older I get, the more winter weather affects my physical comfort. I'm not just talking about grabbing another layer of clothing to trap the heat, although I do that. I'm talking about the discomfort in my right hip, which I've been calling arthritis, although I don't have a real diagnosis. I'm 60, my hip hurts, why should I pay the doctor a hundred bucks to tell me I have arthritis? (Yes, my health insurance sucks. I can't wait to qualify for Medicare. And I will continue to work for single-payer health care – Medicare for all – until Congress passes such legislation. Or until hell freezes over, which will probably come first.)

I'm fortunate to be as old as I am and only have a cranky hip. It doesn't hurt as much when I'm walking or moving around, but when I sit down to relax it reminds me who's the boss.

Yesterday I twisted my left ankle. Right hip, left ankle, it sounds like a conspiracy to put me in a wheelchair. The ankle bothered me most of the afternoon and evening, and I ended up taking a couple Aleve and going to bed very early. I tried to watch a movie but couldn't concentrate and ended up sleeping for almost 10 hours.

And my ankle still hurts, but not as badly as it did yesterday.

It's not like a sprain, it's more like the joint is out of whack. I feel like I might be able to pop it back into place if I knew how to manipulate it.

So. My advice to you youngsters out there is this:

DON'T GET OLD!

Of course I know one alternative would be to die young, and I don't want that either. A better option is to stay active, control your weight and keep moving. The older you get, the harder it will be to regain any measure of fitness you once had. Don't let it slip away as you move through your 30s and 40s.

In other words, don't spend the last third of your life trying to fix something that could have been handled when you were younger and the task was easier. It could happen to you.

Friday, January 13, 2012

One down, two to go

Friday the 13ths, that is. We'll have another in April and one in July, and the most you can have in one year is three. A third of the way done with the bad-luck Fridays.

I've had more unfortunate incidents happen on the Ides of March than any Friday the 13th, though, so I will keep calm and carry on today. And keep warm while I'm at it. The arctic cold front came through last night, dumping a good eighth of an inch of snow here in the Middle of Nowhere. The high today will be 28. I have a date with the elliptical later.

Thank you all for your encouragement as I begin this new way of eating. My daughter said it seemed like a sensible, healthful plan for her. She didn't try to encourage me to jump on board at all. She was simply being a good example, although she doesn't know it. I won't see her again until June, and I'm hoping against hope that I will be able to surprise her with a much-improved body by then.

Frankly, after all the chopping-prepping-cooking I've done this week, I'm impressed by how she manages.  She has a full-time job, two children who are involved in time-sucking extracurriculars and she goes to law school. But she's always been very organized and when she knows she has to do something, she doesn't procrastinate. She. Just. Does. It.

She's been a good example for me in that respect, as well.

South Beach appears to be working so far. I've been weighing myself daily since the first of the year, and until I quit eating sugar and flour products, I'd been bouncing up and down with the same three pounds. I've now lost six pounds since January 1.

Quite amazing. And, apparently, against the laws of nature according to FatSecret. When I recorded my weight this morning, I got this little pop-up message, which TOTALLY cracked me up:

           My Weigh in Report

              You lost 2.0 lb (1.0 %) since you last weighed in on Thursday 12 Jan 12.
              At that rate it will take you about 1 months to get to your goal weight.

One month to goal? HAH! Even I don't wish for that!

I've been using FatSecret off and on since the fall of 2010, and I really like the program. I don't get involved in challenges or have buddies or join sub-groups. I use it only for tracking my progress and recording my food and exercise.

This little warning message was a surprise, since I've never recorded my weight on a daily basis before. One more reason to like it. I know a lot of iPhone folks use LoseIt, and in the past I've used other programs, some free, some paid. Do any of you use one I might not have heard of? Do tell!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Insights from a trip to the grocery

When I travel for a few days, I usually leave the refrigerator fairly empty, as my husband doesn't won't okay, can't cook (job security for me) and I don't want to come home to spoiled food.  The confluence of my return home and my decision to follow a South Beach plan meant I needed to stock up.

It's not like I didn't shop while I was at my daughter's. Heh. And never mind that I brought oat groats, wheat berries and brown rice home with me. Until I watched my daughter eat over the weekend, the idea of South Beach never crossed my mind. The grains are hidden in the pantry for now, but will be useful in a couple of weeks.

I went to Tiny Kroger yesterday without a list. I knew I needed vegetables and cheese, and thought I would have a look at other products that might work for me.

As both of you know, I enjoy cooking. I'd rather cook from scratch than open jars or cans (with the exception of mushrooms – canned mushrooms are so convenient).

So why was I in the pasta aisle, reading nutrition labels on jars of Alfredo sauce? It's like a low-carb worm has taken over my brain. Once I got past the produce bins, everything I picked up had a bar code. That's generally not how I shop, cook or eat.

I took a moment to reset my attitude and made my way to the dairy department as quickly as I could.

I want this South Beach experiment to support my desire to cook fresh, whole foods as much as possible. When I looked at my receipt, I think I did okay. The bulk of my purchases were vegetables. I also bought low-fat sausage and pepperoni, vegetable juice, mayonnaise (which I could make myself, and probably will from now on), cheeses, sour cream and yogurt for my husband. (I prefer plain, which is quite easy and so cheap to make, while he likes the slimy flavored low-fat sugar-free kind. No offense if that's what you like, too! Heh.)

There are plenty of recipes out there for tasty SB meals, and it looks like there's a lot of chopping and prepping and cooking-from-scratch involved. We had this cauliflower dish (I subbed fresh mushrooms for the olives) last night and it was beyond delicious. And I don't even like cauliflower.

So I think I'm on the right track, at least as far as meal prep goes. I know that a lot of people complain about the amount of cooking there is when you start a plan like this, but I think it's just what I need. And I'm very fortunate to not be working full-time, to only be cooking for two, to have a well-stocked freezer and to think that cooking is a creative hobby, not a loathesome chore.

As for reduced-fat Alfredo sauce, every label – even Newman's Own – had a long list of unpronounceable ingredients. When the time comes, I'll be making my own. Or going without. It's not like Alfredo sauce is a regular part of my menu rotation.

I hope the blog doesn't get boring or uninteresting (if it even was interesting to start with). I'll try not to make it all-South-Beach-all-the-time. But as I begin the program, it's inevitable that I'll be nattering on about it. Let me know if you get bored.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Check this OUT!

As both of you know, Pinterest is the new crack and I'm totally addicted. I was able to cut back slightly while I was away, simply because I thought it would be rude to stay glued to the computer at my daughter's house the way I'm glued to it at mine. And, wonder of wonders, I really didn't gawk much yesterday, since the day after a trip usually means laundry and cleaning and cooking a Real Meal for my husband instead of the toaster-oven cheese sandwiches he survives on when I travel.

But I digress.

I'm always excited to check out whatever new growth there might be in the indoor jungle, and I nearly yelped when I found this:


I recently pinned this method for re-growing celery, and then proceeded to chop off the root end of a limp bunch of celery from my crisper drawer and plop it in a glass with about a half inch of water. I think I did this a week ago. And there are leaves! Already! Tiny baby celery stalks are growing in my living room in January!

I'm astonished, can you tell? Heh.

I've planted celery in the outdoor garden for the past three years, and it does grow. I've never gotten big stalks like you see at the market, but the stalks are tender and much greener (I don't collar my plants) and quite tasty. Just … not a great yield for the space it takes up.

Some vegetables pull their weight as far as garden real estate goes: tomatoes, of course, and green beans. Cucumbers. Edamame is a high-yield, easy-to-grow plant, as is okra (although the growing season for okra is pretty long).

With celery, though, you get one bunch per plant (obviously) and each plant takes about a foot of row space and you can't eat all of the mature plants at the same time. There's not much point in growing even one whole row unless you're willing to chop and freeze most of it. Which I'm not.

(Other crops that don't pull their weight, in my opinion, are beans that are meant to be dried – cranberry, black, lima, etc., with the exception of black-eyed peas – and corn – one ear per stalk and those stalks take up a lot of space. English peas take up a lot of room and are a pain in the ass to shell, but are SO DELICIOUS that I don't mind giving them a couple rows early in the spring, before I can plant anything else.)

The celery re-growing method also works on green onions, which are on my grocery list.

Okay, moving on. My ginger-haired friend commented yesterday that when her husband eliminated one food from his diet – in his case, it was grains – he was able to lose weight. And that got me to thinking about the only time in the last 20 years I've been successful at losing a significant amount of weight (almost 50 pounds). I didn't eat sugar or white flour. At all. For five years.

One taste was all it took and in no time flat I was out of my skinny jeans and back into my yoga pants. Because sugar is my crack, just as surely as Pinterest is.

My daughter casually remarked over the weekend that she felt South Beach was the healthiest way to eat. It certainly works for her. I happen to have three South Beach books on my cookbook shelf (who among us doesn't?) so I took one of them down yesterday and started reading it again.

How hard can it be? After one day … not very. But I'll let you know in two weeks, when the first phase is over.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Game? What game?

I knew yesterday was a travel day, and the older I get the harder travel days are. That trip to Tennessee takes a good, solid seven hours. The trip TO my daughter's is less difficult – I'm excited to be going, I'm moving from EST to CST, so there's more day left when I get there, I have more energy starting out.

Coming home, though, I catch myself sliding onto the warning grooves at the edge of the highway. I literally have had to pull into a rest stop and sleep for a while the last two trips home. By the time I leave her neck of the woods and head toward mine, I've spent however many consecutive days on the go. This trip was an especially on-the-go one, punctuated at the end by building a bed, which was quite the project.

I didn't eat a single meal yesterday, only crappy gas-station-convenience-store snacks. Good thing I only filled up twice. And when I got home I knew I wouldn't be watching the BCS Championship game (congratulations, Alabama!) with my husband, even though that was my intent. I woke up at around 11 p.m. and watched less than five minutes of it – enough to see LSU fumble the ball on a 4th and long. It just wasn't Louisiana's night. And Alabama's defense was, apparently, awesome.

So. No comment-love about moving from calorie-counting to carb-counting. It's kind of ironic that I stocked up on grains and seeds at Whole Foods and am now contemplating putting them in storage.

The thing is, I really think eating whole foods of all kinds provides optimum nutrition. The vitamins and minerals and macronutrients in fruits, grains, vegetables, milk and meat are what we need for good health. Or at least that's what the FDA wants us to believe. I haven't been able to lose weight following the FDA guidelines, but my blood work looks good. I guess it's what's inside that counts?

My 5'6" size-four daughter dropped five Christmas pounds in less than a week. She's been low-carbing most of the time for several months and it's really working for her. I am, as Scarlett said, pea-green with envy. She doesn't work out. She works, goes to law school, studies, takes care of her house and children; there's no time for working out. She never seems to run out of energy to do the next thing on her list.

She's not following a paleo plan. She uses sugar-free creamer in her coffee. She eats sausage and bacon, cheese and beef stick, less frequently than chicken, but she has plenty of processed meats in her fridge. She eats lettuce and celery. A lot of lettuce and celery.

Size. Four.

You do the math.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The party's over …

Time to put my singed credit card back in my wallet, throw away the tattered shopping lists, point my car toward the east and drive for about seven hours. Give or take.

Actually I never found time to go to a craft store – Michael's would be my preference – so I'm going to see if there's one with easy access to the highway on my way home and make that my lunchtime.

My daughter and I built an Ikea bed yesterday. It's quite sturdy and, of course, since it's Ikea it's also nicely designed. Very few actual "instructions" in the manual, the Swedes are more visual, I guess. There were swear words – and much sweating – however, and it's pretty amazing how sore my back and shoulders are this morning.

Really, assembling furniture should count as both cardio and strength training.

In addition to heading home, it's time for me to reset my food button. It's much too easy to eat pretzels – a snack I don't keep on hand – when they're right there in the pantry. She keeps them for her children, since she's low-carbing. And skinny.

And every time I'm around her for any length of time I think, 'Should I try that? Could I even do it? What about fruit? WHAT ABOUT ORANGE MARMALADE?!?'

Clearly orange marmalade isn't a dieter's best friend, but I can find room for a tablespoon of it (49 calories) as part of my breakfast yogurt-preserve-granola breakfast. My daughter, however, absolutely would not eat it, not even a smidgen, because it would set off those blasted sugar cravings again.

Tempting is what it is. Not orange marmalade, but getting skinny. There's more than one way to skin a cat, so to speak, and I've tried them all. I just wonder, sometimes, and pretty frequently this weekend, what would happen if I shocked my metabolism by withdrawing sugar/flour/crackers/CARBS.

So who among you is low-carbing? And how's that workin' for you? And if you've formerly tried controlling your weight by counting calories, what happened when you made the switch to counting carbs? Details, people, I want details!

Also, Descendants was a little heavy. You've been forewarned. But there were enough twists and light moments to make it work, and I really, really cared about the characters. It's just an interesting story, well-written, well-acted, beautifully filmed.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

And another thing I don't do much in the country …

is go to the movies.

With my grandson gone in one direction and my granddaughter in another, my daughter and I spent part of yesterday afternoon with George Clooney and his Descendants. Fascinating movie, good story and great acting, particularly by Shailene Woodley, who played Clooney's older daughter.

It's on Entertainment Weekly's list of 25 films to see before Oscar night. Whew. Checked that one off the list. Heh.

Set in Hawaii, I was struck by the dark cinematography. Long shots of sea and sky showed cloudy skies. City shots were hustle and bustle. Beach scenes were mostly messy, untidy, completely unlike the travel-brochure image most of us on the mainland have of the islands.

All in all, I give it two thumbs up. As if you care.

I will be missing my walk tomorrow, as I'll be driving all day and will lose an hour going from CST to EST. But I'm getting ready to head out now, and this will be the 14th consecutive day I've walked, beginning Christmas afternoon. I think I can safely take a day off.

Food has been sketchy, I'm sorry to say. Haven't been logging what I eat, haven't been drinking as much water as I do at home. I'm watching portion sizes carefully though. I'll take my successes wherever I can find them.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Country mouse goes to the city

When I have an opportunity, as I did yesterday, to spend time in a city, I begin to fantasize about actually living in one again. I don't know what I would call the blog, because leaving the Middle of Nowhere would mean the end of the reaping part. And I would miss that. A lot.

But I had a very full and satisfying day in this city, and I could certainly get used to it.

I'd probably need a lot more money, though.

I was able to easily find the seeds and grains in bulk at Whole Foods, and picked up a few things at Trader Joe's, which was right around the corner. I was in a ritzy part of Nashville, but alas - no star sightings.

I met my daughter for lunch downtown - YES, I DROVE DOWNTOWN - and found my way back to her house without incident.

Traffic in my neighborhood isn't quite the same as it is here. The only time you'll get stuck behind a lomg line of cars back home is if you're in a funeral procession.

And when I start dwelling on the whole "driving in traffic" issue, I renew my appreciation for rural living.

There will be more shopping today, as the search continues for a few things. Tonight is my granddaughter's dance performance, and she choreographed one of the pieces. Can't wait to see the interpretation of her concept.

I can only imagine the packed parking lots on Saturday afternoon at any - or all - of our destinations. It's raining, though. Maybe everyone will stay home.

I hope you have a great Saturday.

Sent from my NOOKcolor

Friday, January 6, 2012

Time to myself

Yes, I'm visiting family in another state, but they're all scattering to their respective schools and offices today and I have a day to myself. In a city. That has stores.

Both of you know how infrequently I shop, given that I live in the Middle of Nowhere. Tiny Kroger is a 12-mile, one-way drive from my house, and that's the closest place to buy basic groceries. They've just now begun selling cilantro, occasionally, but don't look for tahini or fish sauce or hot curry powder. (They're well-stocked on mild, thankyouverymuch.)

And fuhgeddaboutit if you're even remotely crafty. Michael's Arts and Crafts is an hour and a half away from my house. Here, though, I can be there in no time. My daughter's house is 10 minutes away from a mecca of consumerism.

I'm not a big consumer and I manage quite nicely with the internet. (Just ask my husband. Or pay my credit card bill.) But there are times when it's helpful to actually look at, touch, hold, examine what you want to buy, rather than just clicking to enlarge. (Wow, that sounds like a male-enhancement ad, doesn't it?)

So I'm on my own today and I. Will. Be. Shopping. On my list:

  • a Dutch oven, a kitchen necessity I've finally decided I can't live without
  • Weck canning jars (for storage, just because they're pretty)
  • sesame seeds (to make tahini. Yes, I could just buy tahini but that doesn't solve the eventual problem of having to buy more in the future. Homemade tahini is easy-peasy.)
  • raw sunflower seeds in bulk (to add to my granola, I can only find roasted, salted locally)
  • various and sundry crafty supplies, including dimensional Mod Podge and some blank stretched canvases

Pinterest (my new crack habit), and some of the projects therein, have inspired part of my shopping list. Frankly, though, it'll just be nice to walk around a Trader Joe's or a Whole Foods or even a Target.

Instead of a Tiny Kroger.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Yay me.

So I'm filling up the car with gas and my green smoothie didn't last very long and I'm a hungry, hungry hippo. Er, blogger. I walked into the convenience store, asked if they had bananas, they didn't and I left. Empty-handed.

This is MAJOR for someone who thinks a road trip comes with permission to eat anything and everything.

So what if I'm hungry? I'M NOT GOING TO DIE.


Sent from my U.S. Cellular BlackBerry® smartphone

Orange you glad we won?

We sure are! Let's goooooo, Mountaineeeeeers!

I completely forgot to talk about getting ready for last night's football game yesterday. Because I was so busy talking about kitchen scales, apparently.

Thanks for your great ideas for other gadgets. I've never used a microplane. I have a box grater which works well for grating most cheeses, and I have a hand-turned Zyliss cheese grater for hard cheeses. So I guess I've never thought I needed a microplane. But maybe I do? Heh.

I also love my slow cooker, which I try to use at least once a week. And my immersion blender will be put to good use making a green smoothie for breakfast in just a few minutes. Great suggestions!

West Virginia got to play Clemson in the Orange Bowl last night and it ended up being a record-breaking blowout, the first really lopsided game of the bowl season. My husband has been dealing with some real stressors concerning a couple family members lately, and it was sooooo fun to see him laughing and happy for a few hours.

As I've mentioned previously, I'm an early-to-bed, early-to-rise kinda gal, and one of the advantages of that is that I don't go to bed hungry. Usually dinner wasn't that long ago when I'm tucking myself in. But when I stay up to watch a game, as I did last night, I do start feeling the urge to eat – whether it's mental or physical hunger is up for debate – about 9:30.

Remembering the saying that 'if you're not hungry enough to eat an apple, you're not really hungry' and considering what we were watching, I peeled and sectioned AN ORANGE for my halftime snack! I'm so clever.

I'm sticking with most of my plan. One guess as to what I missed doing yesterday. And will miss again Friday. Because I'm not dragging my hand weights with me on a little trip I'm taking. Strength training and I just don't get along. Yet. I'm eternally optimistic that someday, somehow, something will click and we'll fall in love. It's not him, it's me.

I'm headed out to visit my daughter and her children, to celebrate one's birthday and watch the other one perform. I've committed to NaBloPoMo again for January, and hope I don't have any trouble keeping up with it while I'm gone.

There's always a little quiet time when you're an early-to-bed, early-to-rise kinda gal.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My can't-live-without-it kitchen gadget

I have a love-hate relationship with my bathroom scale. I, in fact, own two bathroom scales because I thought I NEEDED one that calculated body fat.

Wow, was that ever depressing.

It is now stored on a high shelf in the bathroom, and I use the other one for information. (At least I try, try, try to let it only give me information. I hate it when it tells me I've been "bad" or I'm a "loser." Sometimes I swear it does.)

My kitchen scale, however, is my BFF. I use it daily, for all kinds of things, some of which are not cooking-related. But really? It's one of the best tools for helping keep track of what you consume.

I bought an Escali several years ago. Its original purpose was to weigh yarn. We knitters sometimes run into great deals on unlabeled yarn. A scale that measures grams lets us know if we have enough to make a sweater or if we need to edit the pattern and just make a vest.

If one yard of yarn weighs X grams, then 100 grams = X yards. I think. Heh. Turns out math is pretty useful after all. (I spent most of my high-school years in the art room. Who needed math when all I did was draw, sculpt, paint or sketch?)

We knitters also sell yarn on eBay every once in a while, and having a scale is a great selling tool, both in determining how much product we're offering and in calculating shipping costs. Kitchen scales double as postal scales, they're very versatile.

But a kitchen scale really shines in the kitchen. All the cool kids are now creating recipes using multiples of grams instead of cups or fractions thereof. (Actually I don't know if all the cool kids are doing it, but Cooking Light is. Or Martha. I can't remember which.)

And when I create a recipe throw something together, I can weigh the ingredients, pop them into a nutrition calculator and have it spit out all the data for me. FatSecret and SparkPeople have similar applications, and I bet there are lots of others.

I'm sure you've been as frustrated as I by nutrition labels that tell you how many calories are in X number of grams of something, when all you have is a measuring cup. Take chocolate bars, for instance. Something else all the cool kids are doing is s-l-o-w-l-y melting a square of good dark chocolate on their tongues instead of wolfing down a whole bar.

But how many calories are in a square? If you had a kitchen scale that weighed in both ounces and grams, you would know that the 7-gram piece of Trader Joe's Tanzania 73% Dark Chocolate you had for dessert added just 35 delicious, satisfying, smooth, tasty calories to your daily total. You still have to use that pesky math to figure it out, but it's easier to figure multiples of those teeny-tiny grams than fractions of those great big ounces.

Of course, you could just throw up your hands and say, "Who cares?" But, speaking strictly for me, that's how I got to see that very scary number on the bathroom scale and end up writing an entire post about my kitchen scale. Obsess much? Who, me?

Okay, your turn. What's in your kitchen gadget arsenal that you couldn't cook without? What tool helps support your goal to cook more healthful meals? Details, I want details.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

It's a sign!

Just for fun, I went to the New Year's Resolution page I linked to yesterday. Here's what I got when I pressed the "Gimme" button:


I'll take my hope for the future any way I can get it.

It's a jungle in here!

In addition to recommitting to fitness and clean eating and all that crap, I've also recommitted to taking a daily photo. I'm going to do my best to take it with the Rebel instead of the BlackBerry, but honestly, some of my BB photos are pretty amazing. Like this one:

I was walking up a hill, turned to check out the view and saw the glow of the sun
just coming up over the mountain. I did not, however, actually see the sun,
which is what the camera saw. I love this picture.

I'm going to use the photo blog this year for food pictures, probably just one meal a day. I know there are weight-loss/photo bloggers out there who hold themselves accountable by snapping a picture of every little and big thing they eat. But I'm not dragging the Rebel out every time I eat an orange, and I want to use the good camera for Project 365. I certainly get the idea of recording your daily intake with pictures, though. There's even an iPhone app that will count the calories you've eaten by analyzing your photos.

I'm not limiting my Rebel photos to food, though, which is what today's post's title is all about. All of our talk about losing weight once and for all, all the weight-loss and gym commercials cluttering up television this month, and even the discussion yesterday about Weight Watchers then-and-now seems very dark and tangled and mysterious.

The tangled jungle that is
the spider plant in my
living room. 
All we're doing is trying to find our way through the tangled jungle of advice out there. We look back at what has worked in the past. That first iteration of WW was indeed strict, but you almost couldn't get hungry. You could eat as many heads of lettuce as you wanted (as a WW leader, I had a member tell me she ate six one day. I nearly barfed at the thought!), and lettuce wasn't the only "free" food on the list.

Interesting, isn't it, that fruits and vegetables are zero-Point foods on the current WW plan?

I could get very analytical, but I'm not in the mood right now and I doubt either of you would find it very compelling reading. I simply want to figure out (and writing about it really helps) what seems to be the best way to chop my way through the thicket of plans and processes and programs. And I think the plan I outlined yesterday is not only effective (it was effective in October, just THREE MONTHS AGO, and then I abandoned myself to the holidays), but doable. And also because of the whole I-don't-want-to-be-old-and-immobile-thing-so-I'd-better-start-RIGHTNOW-to-eat-better-and-move-more commitment.

Baby spider plants.
The spider plant in the photo is big. It started out very little, just about six inches tall in a huge pot and it looked ridiculous. It now fills its container and the leaves cascade down the sides and it's beautiful. It has sprouted about a dozen little babies, all tangled up with each other. I'm tempted to snip the babies and root them and let them get big, too, but I don't have room for all those plants. I'm happy with the ones I have.

I've watched this little rescued spider plant thrive since I brought it indoors for the winter. The mint, rosemary, chives and citrus are all doing well, too. They get fertilizer, water and sunshine on a regular basis, which is exactly what they need.

Perhaps gardening is the metaphor I need to take care of myself. I have no problem caring for my plants. They can't take care of themselves. I knew what I was doing when I brought them indoors. No one but me can make me work out or eat right or drink water or do any or all of those effective Things On The Plan.

But I'm glad, as Denise said, that the road is crowded.