Saturday, January 25, 2014

What I'm Reading, Hearing, Watching, and Doing

My reading list, as usual, is as exciting as it is excessive.  I actually only spend about 20 minutes reading each day, so the fact that I'm carrying around and placing by the bedside all these books is pretty ridiculous.  But if loving so many books is wrong, I don't wanna be right.

I haven't actually started the newest addition to the culinary mystery series I love, but it's a library book, so I have to start and finish it quickly.  I'm almost finished with "The Gifts of Imperfection" (it's my nighttime book) and I'm about halfway through "The Shining" (one of two daytime books).  I purchased the sequel, "Doctor Sleep", as my pages-in-waiting.  The author of the book on my kindle is an old family friend, Darin Michael Shaw.  I believe "Chronicles of War" is his first novel, but his second published work.  I selected the giant book about the Vanderbilt ladies for my book group.  It was one of the more interesting-seeming titles that came up when I googled "books to make you smarter."  So far, I don't feel much smarter, though.  It seems to me that the Vanderbilt family was like a much earlier version of the Kardashian family.  I find myself disapproving of their long-ago extravagant parties and constant building of expensive houses, and not necessarily on principle.  I feel that they're a big part of the reason today's society is so celebrity-gaga and so shallow, as a whole.  Unfair?  That remains to be seen.

From Rip Claw: "Do we have any fun plans for today/tomorrow/the weekend?"  I don't know how or exactly when his obsession with "fun plans" started, but he was literally asking me that question  I figure there isn't anything wrong with wanting to know our plans, or with wanting them to be fun.  I was really tired of hearing the question, though, so I came up with this:
On the chalkboard painted portion of his bedroom wall.
In typical mom fashion, I included chores and additional school work (I give him advanced math problems, reading or writing assignments when we play school) in the fun.  Muah hah hah!

From Cupcake: "NO LIKE IT!" It's a rather long story, and not all that interesting, so I'll sum up: she has to drink some different kind of non-dairy milk that she isn't used to drinking.  We've tried soy, vanilla flavored almond, coconut, and lactaid milks.  Finally, after several days of bribing, cheering, rewarding, bargaining, begging, and attempting to disguise the flavors, she drank some soy milk without throwing her cup and yelling that dreaded phrase.  In addition to being a picky drinker, she is becoming a very finicky eater.  Perfect, considering she's off-the-chart small and her pediatrician probably thinks we're trying to cultivate an early eating disorder. ("Mom, what's it called when people say the opposite of something to try to be funny?" Sarcasm, son.  You'll hear a lot of it in our family.) It's hard to get her to eat enough protein and fat, so I'm very much okay with her love of hummus, guacamole, and peanut butter.
Ignore the messy counter top in the background and focus on the fact that she was licking fresh, homemade guacamole from her fingers.
Okay, I'll be honest.  I wrote the title and the first half of this post about 9 hours ago, and now I can't remember what I was going to share about this subject.  You know how frustrating it is when you lose your train of thought mid-sentence?  This is like that, only a little worse.  I've been sitting at the computer for 40 minutes now, asking myself repeatedly, "What am I watching?"  I keep coming up with a few things that I know weren't IT, but will have to do.

  • Parenthood- It's a show about 4 grown siblings and their own families.  Charming and I are getting thoroughly spoiled by watching it on Netflix, because we're still not caught up to the current season and can therefore watch 3 episodes a night when we are awake enough.  I dare you to watch and not find yourself relating to at least one of the main characters.
  • Progress.  Charming is well on his way to his first ever half-marathon race!  His dedication to the training program and the ease with which he seems to achieve greater and greater things are just so thrilling to watch.  He'll be running the Swamp House Half Marathon in March.  You should, too.
  • Potential paydays.  I am officially an approved substitute teacher for our county's schools.  Some of you may know this already, but many of you probably missed the blog post about it that I deleted a couple of days after publishing it.  (Curious, now, are you?  Let me know in the comments if you want to read the gory details and I'll see what I can do to satisfy.)  Now that I'm an employee, but not actually working, I'm spending time each day watching for jobs to open up.  
  • Pigging out.  The 2 weeks of clean eating made me aware of my awful piggish habits.  I've been watching my junk food and overall calorie intake, these days, and I've only gorged myself a couple of times.  
Really running!  I was surprised by how long after my tibial stress fracture I was running tentatively.  Like a slow, scaredy baby.  Also surprising was how long the mild soft tissue pain can last.  After long or fast runs, I still see swelling around the spot that was fractured, and the muscles in my calf and shin on that leg are much more tender than those on the other leg.  Apparently, though, this type of pain is not unusual for up to a year after an injury like the one I had.  I've been building my weekly mileage back up, and I've had some very successful long runs that have left me feeling like a real runner again.

Really cleaning!  Long ago, I made myself a cleaning schedule that looked so good on paper.  Well, it's actually on Google Calendar, but you know what I mean.  Turns out, following the schedule makes my house look good, too!  I (almost) always regret procrastination; I hate that I put off the tasks that I know I need to accomplish.  I decided recently that I would really, truly, not-just-saying-so, try to procrastinate less and try not to waste so much of my free time on nonsense.  It's a hard thing to do, to be productive, but it really is worthwhile.  What a wonderful feeling of relief comes when the laundry baskets, washer and dryer are all empty!

What advice should you take away from this post?  Read the books I'm reading.  Turn the tables on your kids when you hear things from them that are annoying.  Remember the information you want to convey.  Running is fun, even when it's scary.  Finally, go do--whatever--now!  Don't wait.

Best way to break a bad habit?

Best way to remember your own ideas?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Fat Tuesdays are Back!

The longest 2 weeks of my life have finally passed.  Actually, I'm being dramatic.  The 14 days of clean eating and drinking did not drag by as slowly as I had expected.  Now that Charming and I can once again build up our chip supply without guilt, a few questions remain.

Results?  Have you seen that commercial where the husband and wife both try to lose weight and the husband sheds pounds like magic while the wife stays the same?  I think it's an ad for a diet pill.  Or for e-harmony.  Anyway, that's pretty much what happened.  I don't have a picture to illustrate this statement (and I do not recommend googling "fat wife skinny husband" images) so here's one that doesn't relate:
Cupcake loves this picture.  "Mama!  Daddy!  Aw!  Cute!  Daddy cute!"
On the first day of the challenge, I weighed myself.  We don't own a scale (I wonder if someone would accept my iron as a trade for one?) so I weigh in at the grocery store, which necessitates the wearing of clothes and shoes.  I've debated a while, and can't come up with a good reason not to share the actual number: 129.5.  I realize, of course, that my horror of horrors number is the same as another person's dreamy of dreaminess number, but please don't hold that against me.  When I delivered Cupcake, I weighed 136.  This number is the highest I've seen when I've stood on a scale as just one person; not weighing for two.  Charming, too, had put on some weight after we got married.  You've heard of the Freshman 15?  I think there's also a Newlywed 19.  However, after running consistently for a little over a year, he had lost many of those extra pounds, and was happy(ish) with his weight.  He kept forgetting to step on a scale until the end of the 2 week challenge, so his weight loss is from when he last weighed himself in early December.  11 pounds!  I lost 2.5.  I knew I wasn't going to shed a year's worth of late-night fried food snacks and 52 Tuesdays' worth of tacos in two weeks, but I must admit, past experiences had me hoping for a bigger jump start in the direction of my goal weight.  It's just another reminder that I'm not 22, and how unforgiving women's bodies are as we age.

Process?  Charming and I both held up pretty well throughout the challenge.  No candy, no chip snacks, no* alcohol, breakfast every day, and significantly smaller portions for our meals.  Neither of us experienced any ill effects from the deprivation of our usual sugar, fat, and alcohol intake.  We both tried some of the Shakeology stuff, and reached the conclusion that it will not be a regular addition to our diet.

Lessons Learned?  The most meaningful and surprising lesson I learned was that I actually do have willpower!  Ice cream in the freezer, a huge bag full of Halloween and Christmas candy, a couple of beers, and an open bag of chips, all were left untouched by me!  I know, I do things that are difficult for some people (like run double digit miles) and it might seem obvious that I have willpower because I get up early to run or go to the gym.  However, those are activities I enjoy.  Yeah, it's difficult sometimes to crawl out of the warm, cozy bed to run in the cold, dark, morning, but I do so because I want to, not because I feel like I need to.  This diet challenge was different.  I wanted to feel healthier, lose weight, and set a good example for Rip Claw and Cupcake; I didn't want to deny myself the pleasures of candy, beer, tacos and chips.  I was quite proud to discover that I can, indeed, make difficult changes that will be beneficial in the long term.
Guiltless homemade chicken tacos with quinoa on the side.
I also learned that:

  • The absence of alcohol does not equal the absence of migraine headaches.  Boo.  
  • Eating breakfast, 2 healthy snacks, lunch and dinner does satisfy my hunger.  
  • I don't need a second helping to feel full; I need to eat more slowly and let my body do the work it is designed to do.  
  • Based on the amount of time I spent each day thinking about pizza, I think research should be performed to determine whether it is an addictive substance.  
  • It's easier to be bright eyed and bushy tailed at 5:30 a.m. if I haven't had that glass of wine the night before.  
  • Preparing healthy meals and snacks in advance and in bulk makes it much easier to make healthy choices.  
  • I don't necessarily need motivation and support from a coach or health professional.  Making the commitment is more important than following the exact plan, in my experience. 
Now what?  As you may have realized, this 2 week challenge did not produce life-, body-, or fit-of-clothes- changing results for me, but I didn't really expect that it would.  I did happen to read some articles about dieting during the challenge, and was able to confirm what I already knew: a long-term commitment to eating a healthy diet and staying active is the best bet for getting and maintaining your ideal weight.  The things that Charming and I learned during the clean eating challenge have inspired us to make some permanent changes.  We will keep eating breakfast, keep our portion sizes on the smaller side of reasonable, and stay active.  We will buy and consume fewer bags of chips each week.  We will buy and consume fewer alcoholic drinks each week.  We will close our ears to the siren call of the candy and ice cream, at least most of the time.  Perhaps most important, Taco Tuesday will be a treat, not a lifestyle.  

*Full disclosure: Charming had 3 drinks during the two weeks, I had 2.  We also ate enchiladas and apple pie at his parents' house 2 days before the challenge ended.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I've Got Your Dinner Plans Right Here

Alternate Titles:
You Can't Spell 'Bliss' (incorrectly) Without L-I-S-T
How Many Lists Would a List Lover List if a List Lover Loved Listing Lists?
Failure To Plan (Dinner) = Planning To Fail (Dinner) 

A few months ago, I came up with the totally original, never ever before thought of idea to plan my family's dinners for the entire month.  Immediately, I saw the list-making value in this venture, and whipped out my favorite mechanical pencil.

Here is a list of the pros and cons involved in this task:


  • It's actually many lists in one.  First, I write down the dates, then fill in the meals I know I won't have to plan on cooking (Taco Tuesday, Thanksgiving, school fundraiser night at a restaurant, etc.).  Next, I count the blanks and list the number of dinners needed in a neat column on the side.  I then randomly list meals in that column, until I finally assign the meals to specific dates, keeping in mind how recently I will have served a specific dinner or something similar.  
  • $$$$!  Knowing that I'm going to be making chili in 3 weeks, for example, lets me take advantage of the sale on cans of diced tomatoes at the grocery store while feeling confident that they won't be taking up valuable pantry space for months.  I shop less often, now, because of my plan, and I've been shopping smarter, too.
  • If you are the person who does most of the cooking for your household, you can easily imagine the relief of knowing every morning what you'll be making for dinner that night.  It takes so much stress away from daily life, and leaves more time for...
  • If you are the person who does not do most of the cooking, it's also nice to know what to expect each night.  Plus, you are able to give input on what you would like to eat just once a month, on the day the list is made, rather than being asked before breakfast every morning, "What sounds good to you for dinner?"
  • Leftover love. Pulled pork in the crock pot on the 5th, leftovers frozen. Cuban sandwiches (with the leftover pork) on the 16th, Taquitos (yup, you guessed it- with the last of the pork) on the 28th. I make a big batch of homemade spaghetti sauce early in the month, save a few gallon-sized freezer bags-full and lay them flat on the freezer shelf.  All the rest of my pasta dishes for the month are then easy peasy lemon squeezy!
Let's sum up the pros.  Save money, save time, relax, make others happy, write many lists.  But, this is a fair and balanced blog, unlike like the television news stations, so now for the other side.

  • It can take a good hour or so to think of and write down all the dinners you'll make for the month.  (However, if you calculate how much time you waste each month staring in the fridge or pantry, looking through cookbooks repeatedly, or just wracking your brain trying to think of anything yummy that you didn't already eat this week, it probably adds up to more than 60 minutes.  We'll have to call this one a "pron").
  • Impromptu dinner invitations are not accepted/offered quite as often.  (Although, having fresh meat and produce forcing you to cook rather than go to a restaurant can be a money-saving pro, too.  We've got us another pron.)
  • Um.

Of course, I know that I'm not actually the first person to do this whole planning of dinner thing.  In fact, I was inspired by my online friend, Luisa, who has worship-worthy cooking/planning skills.  How about you?  Do you plan ahead, or are your dinners stir of the moment? (Ha!)

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Last Enchilada

So long, dear friend.  See you in a while. :(

I'm about to do something I've never done before in all the years I can remember.  I have committed myself to a Clean Eating Challenge.  Me.  Mrs. I don't have to try to lose weight.  Mrs. Bucker of trends.  Mrs. I can button my jeans.  One of those links may have been a test to see whether or not you click on them. The truth is, my jeans don't button without a lot of breath-holding, these days.  I have some bad habits, which started to catch up with me as soon as I stopped running after my stress fracture.  There was no cost to commit to this challenge, and although I know being coached through a detox-ish diet-type thing like this via social media goes a teensy bit against what I've said before, I've accepted the fact that I do need to change some things.

Charming agreed (voluntarily!) to accept the challenge with me, so for the next two weeks, our diet will consist of all gross food and nothing delicious.  Okay, I know that isn't true.  Actually, I do cook healthy meals most of the time.  We eat a lot of vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins.  We don't keep soda in the house, and rarely eat fast food.  We do eat tacos from Tijuana Flats every single Tuesday.  My sister says our lives revolve around TF's Taco Tuesdaze promo, which is only partly true.  Only our Tuesdays revolve around it.  But still, it shouldn't be a problem to indulge one night each week with a soda, tortilla chips, and a couple of shells filled with juicy meat, crispy lettuce, lots of cheese, crunchy onions, seeds-removed jalapenos, briny black olives, fresh tomatoes and a generous drizzle of jalapeno hot sauce.  The problem lies with what happens after our other healthy, balanced, appropriately portioned meals.  Chips.  Chips.  Lots and lots of chips.  We eat a shameful amount of chips.  Go on.  Get a mental picture of a "shameful" amount of chips.  I bet you imagined low.  I won't exaggerate and say that our chip habit keeps Frito-Lay in business, but I will tell you that I calculated how much money we could save by cutting the chips from our grocery bill, and the number fell right between "embarrassing" and "nauseating."

It seems contradictory to tell myself (and others) that I'm passionate about health and fitness and doing what I can to maintain both, when all the while I'm giving in to every food that cries, "Eat me!" I don't believe that cutting out all sugar, all fat, all carbs, or all meat is a good way to go.  But I can't deny that eliminating all the super-processed, deep fried, nutritionally void foods will be of benefit to me.  I don't need the leftover holiday candy.  I don't need ice cream.  I don't need beer.  I'm pretty sure that I've passed the point in my life wherein I can indulge in those things without consequences to my body.
Cheers!  No adult beverages for 14 days!
So, here's the plan:  Coach Jasmine will provide recipes, online motivation, workout guides, de-stressing yoga poses, and all the Shakeology a person can drink.  (I've never tried Shakeology.  I really dislike drinking anything that comes from a blender, unless it is, like, peppermint-chocolate flavored vodka with vanilla ice cream and brownie chunks.  I also tend to gag on things made with powder, except when I've mixed a hot chocolate packet into a cup of coffee and added some toffee flavored creamer.  So, I'm not too eager to try the shakes, but we'll see how things go.)  Those of us participating in the challenge are responsible for eating 3 "clean" meals and 2 healthy snacks each day, and drinking lots of water.  We are to abstain from alcohol, processed foods, and lethargy.  We are encouraged to share our successes and shortfalls, to post pictures, and to track our workouts online for all to see.
Day 1.  Whose jeans do you think are happier: mine, or Alessandra Ambrosio's?  I think mine are under an awful lot of stress, and that can't be good.
I don't actually plan to cook any different, except that I'll not be taking Tuesdays off from my kitchen duties.  On the menu for tonight is spaghetti.  I made a big batch of my vegetable-chocked sauce last month and put some in the freezer.  Today, I just have to heat the sauce and cook some whole grain pasta, and throw together some salads.  Tuesday, I'll make tacos (surprise!) with chicken breasts instead of ground beef and with more vegetables than cheese.

You know what's cool?  You can join, too!  The internet is wonderfully inclusive like that.  You don't necessarily have to change in every way the challenge suggests, either.  You could be like me, and just push yourself to break your worst habit(s).  I would love to hear about it, whatever you do!  Wait-- unless it's eating at Tijuana Flats and gorging yourself on chips.  I can do without your telling me those things.