Sunday, May 8, 2011

Eating crow... on a budget.

So it's time for me to eat some crow - to apologize to readers, and myself, for falling off the blogging bandwagon again. It's been a long time since my last post, and a lot has happened since then. I mean A LOT. Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

In the early part of Summer 2010, one of my best friends convinced me to join an online dating website. I'd previously been on the site but cancelled the account after only a 50/50 success rate - which actually was a big ol' goose egg considering none of the relationships lasted anyway. So one night, feeling slightly lonely and a little vulnerable, Ali convinced me to rejoin this website.

At first, things were going okay. I received some flirty little "winks" from strangers, and was even looking forward to the potential of a first date. However, a slough of losers began coming into my email inbox and it wasn't until one night - after having a lovely conversation with a gentleman that seemed compatible on the surface but turned out to be a cross-dresser who wore ladies socks, underwear, and a nightgown to bed - that I finally called it quits and stopped logging into the website.

Occasionally I would receive emails from the website, since I hadn't deleted my account but was just inactive. More often, though, I was receiving notifications that "Hot69Guy4U" or "PrinzCharming48095" had sent me an email or had designated my profile picture as "hott." *barf* I ignored all of these messages and just deleted them - for some reason, never sending them to the junk email folder or just deleting my account altogether. I didn't have any intention of using the site anymore, so why did I leave my profile on there?

Then, on October 7th, I opened up my email to see if I had any new comments on this here lil' blog. I don't think I did, but what I did have was yet another in a long line of emails from the dating website saying someone had sent me another message. This time, though, instead of deleting the email right away... I opened it.

That brings us to April 23rd, aka my wedding day.

Yes, you read that right.

On October 7th I got an email from a stranger named Josh. We started emailing and had our first date on October 28th. He, too, had been working hard at losing weight and had lost 50 lbs between July and October! He, too, is a blogger (though his focus is more on politics and news). The similarities were uncanny, the compatibility was endless, and the chemistry was electric. So when he proposed on December 26th, I undoubtedly said "yes!" We got married less than 6 months from the day of our first date and I could not be happier.

While the butterflies of new love and the stress of planning a wedding entered my life, I sadly did not hold onto the new lifestyle I'd created for myself. I cancelled my gym membership and stopped watching what I ate. I haven't had the guts to weigh myself to see how much I've gained, but I haven't noticed clothes fitting differently either. My wedding dress was a size 24, whereas I used to wear a 28, and while on our honeymoon I even wore a bathing suit and went swimming in public! One day, I walked around in my bathing suit and a sleeveless sun dress letting my bat wing arms flap in the tropical breeze to my heart's content. It was fabulous!

Now that we're married, and I quit my job to move further south, we are on a tighter budget since we're a 1-income family until I can find a new job. Even still, Josh and I agree that we are determined to get back to our healthier lifestyles that we were leading when we first met.

All that sounds great, but being healthy costs. Gym memberships and healthy foods are enough to break the bank. These days it's actually less expensive to order off the dollar menu than it is to make yourself a delicious, healthy, organic salad. So how do we go about getting back on that elusive health horse we've fallen off of, while keeping our bank account from crying out in pain every time we want to buy an organic low-fat chicken breast?

So, my challenge to readers is this: Help me. Help me figure out some healthy recipes for our daily meals that are good for us, but also good for our wallets.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A family recipe.

While I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, my parents were from California and Missouri which provided a more "worldly" upbringing... especially when it came to food.

My dad grew up in Southern California in a suburb just outside of Los Angeles. Because of this, he was exposed to tons of different cuisines from around the world, the most prominent of all being Mexican. I wish I'd kept track of the number of tacos I ate as a child as my dad made his quest across this great state to find anything resembling an eatery with the same genuine flavors he found at home in SoCal.

My mother, on the other hand, was from a teeny-tiny town in Missouri. Her mother, my Grandma Opal (pictured above), was a true mid-Westerner and in all the stories I ever heard of her, it somehow revolved around her cooking. When my mother would tell me stories about my grandma, I always envisioned her in a short-sleeved dress of a tiny flower print with an apron perpetually tied around her waist. This memory has made me come to love and appreciate old-fashioned, high-quality aprons like the ones from Ashley at Ice Milk Aprons. (More to come on this, as it will be part of an update on weight loss rewards - the rollings of cinnamon apron WILL BE MINE!)

I never got to meet my grandmother - she died suddenly when my mom was only 12 years old. Through pictures and stories about her, though, I feel deeply connected with this woman who raised my mother and her siblings with grace, humor and down-home cooking.

One of the most raved about stories from her children was something called "white sauce." My mom, who passed away when I was 16, would get a dreamy look on her face when she would recall the family-famous sauce. You could tell the memory was coming from her tastebuds as she closed her eyes and savored the long-ago taste of white sauce served over hot toast. Then, when the moment passed, a sadness would set in - my mom never got to have white sauce after her mother passed because there was no written recipe. This sentiment was spread across all 4 siblings and resonated into the younger generations.

Because of this deep connection I've always felt for my absentee grandmother, as well as my mother's fond memories for this white sauce she was served as a child, I decided to look up the recipe for this elusive sauce. Surely there must be someone else in the world who serves white sauce! Turns out, there are. While I haven't had the opportunity to get this recipe taste-tested and approved by my aunts, I am quite certain that it is the sauce of their childhood. It is not the healthiest of recipes, however, and while I do not plan on indulging in it anytime soon... I don't see the harm in living out a bite or two of my personal heritage from time to time. I hope you enjoy the recipe.

How to Make White Sauce

♦ 2 tablespoons margarine
♦ 2 tablespoons flour (white or whole wheat)
♦ 3/8 teaspoon salt
♦ 1/8 teaspoon pepper
♦ 1 cup milk

To start, you'll need a quart-sized saucepan. Melt the margarine in the saucepan over medium heat. Once the margarine is completely melted, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flour (wheat flour will make a ruddier sauce). It will lump up a little bit, so keep stirring it until it is smooth (a whisk is recommended but a fork works as well). Next, you'll want to add the salt and pepper and return the pan to the heat. Cook and stir until the flour/margarine mixture bubbles up and sort of sizzles for a moment or two. This step keeps the sauce from having a “raw” flavor, and also permeates the sauce with the seasonings. Slowly stir in the milk so the sauce will not become lumpy - lumpy sauce is not the most pleasing to the eyes, even if it still tastes ok. After the milk has been stirred in, cook the sauce over medium heat until it boils. Stir it often, to prevent it from lumping or burning. When it boils, cook and stir it for a full minute, and then remove it from the heat. It is now done and ready to eat! Tip: Pour over hot toast for a delicious breakfast treat. I've heard it's also tasty with a sprinkling of sugar.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Just a little T & A...

Friday morning was an adventure in "firsts." For example, it was the first time in a very loooong time since I'd been up before the sunrise. It was also the first time I'd made this yummy apple cinnamon organic oatmeal for breakfast. Then, it was the first time I'd gone to the gym in the morning. Hoorah!

See, I heard this little rumor that if you go to the gym in the morning, you'll have more energy and burn more calories throughout the day. The thought of going to the gym in the morning was nauseating. I imagined it to be packed with people trying to squeeze a workout in before their work day began, and only type A personalities would think to get up that early and be proactive. This assumption (this will be a common thread throughout the rest of this blog entry) lead me to a vision of hardcore, skinny, fierce gym rats using up all of the machines and giving my fat ass a stare of death until I left the premises.

Turns out, yet again, that I was wrong. Funny how that keeps happening to me when I cast judgement or make assumptions without any foundation for my opinion. The gym was about as empty as it is when I go around 9pm, so I had my pick of machines. My cardio session on the bike got cut short, however, when I was suddenly surrounded on all sides by other gym-goers (I get claustrophobic when there are people on both sides of me while I'm biking or walking on the treadmill - don't ask me why because I honestly don't know). I still did 5.5 miles, but usually I do 11, so I was slightly disappointed.

After finding some breathing room near the weight machines, I decided to do a full body workout and I spent the next hour and 15 minutes working on my core, chest, upper arms, glutes and legs. It was mah-velous! Sweet, sweaty bliss at its best!

Speaking of sweaty... it was obvious I needed to change my clothes before heading to work. I'd brought my change of clothes with me to the gym and had been praying that the locker room would be empty for the 45 seconds it would take for me to strip and re-dress. Even though I've been going to the gym for some time I just haven't gotten used to taking my clothes off in front of total strangers (there goes my career as a stripper - geesh!). As you can imagine, I was delighted when I walked into the locker room to find it completely empty, save for a girl that was in the shower. I assumed (<--- key word) that she had just gotten in and I would have plenty of time to get changed. Wrong again!

No sooner had I opened my locker and started to unzip my hoodie than the Shower Girl got out of said shower. I wasn't too worried as, again, I assumed she had a locker on the opposite side of the room from me and we would have plenty of space to change with our backs to one another, just like every other time I've gotten changed there.

That's when she opened the locker RIGHT NEXT TO MINE. Insert silent panic attack here.

It was obvious that the other girl was as hesitant to get undressed as I was, because the both of us took our sweet time going through our things and arranging our clean clothes on our respective benches... one item at a time. Finally, after I had individually laid out each clean item, removed my shoes, arranged them under the bench, dug around in my purse, put my hair up, taken it down again, and stood there with my hands on my hips while observing my clothes with a quizzical look on my face... I realized I was going to have to make the first move. So I did. In a split-second decision I ripped my shirt off (maybe with too much gusto), and as soon as I did, Shower Girl started getting dressed. Or so I thought.

S.G. and I kept our backs to each other for the first part of the semi-naked party. I assumed (there's that word, again!) that while I was putting a clean shirt on, she was keeping her towel on while she got her underwear in its proper place. So when I accidentally dropped my hair tie on the ground between our lockers and I bent over to pick it up, the last thing I expected to see was her bent over with the towel (that was supposed to have been covering her body) draped over her head like she was pretending to be Cousin It, while the rest of her was hanging out without a stitch of clothing on. I mean, NOTHING. Boobs everywhere! It's not like I haven't seen them before - I see my own every day - but that's just it! I see MINE. Not a stranger's. Especially not a pair within 2 feet of my face! Another first!

Part of me wishes the world record keepers had been there because I'm pretty sure I set some sort of land speed record for fastest time putting one's pants on.

While I'm proud of myself for getting over my changing fear, I'm also hoping I don't have to see that again. It has nothing at all to do with homophobia, or body hatred, it's just that I'm a bit of a prude these days and I personally don't appreciate having naked women in my immediate presence. I'm a big fan of my personal space bubble and, while I don't mind it getting popped by an unanticipated hug from time to time, I do not want it popped by a bare nipple or air-drying ass. I'd say that's a pretty reasonable request, wouldn't you?

However, when I'm skinny, I'm totally going to walk around naked and turn my towel into Cousin It. Make that #22 on my To Do When I'm Skinny List. Ha!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hola, Senor Soda!

As my last post stated, I made it to my 90-day challenge. In fact, I made it 102 days until I finally said, "To hell with it! Bring on the fizzy corn syrup!"

It had been a bad day - rushing in the morning, stressful day at work, stressful after work. It was a cortisol-creating, hair-pulling, muffled-screaming, wall-punching, road-raging kind of day and by the end of it I was ready to knock someone's lights out just for smiling at me the wrong way. Maybe I'm wrong here (please call me out), but I think I'm a fairly laid-back person. Yes, I get agitated about odd things, and yes I can let stress get the best of me from time to time, but rarely does it get to the point where I'm driving 20 mph over the speed limit (uphill, mind you) and screaming curse words at my windshield because it's letting the sunset create glare. :-/

All of that to say that, on this past Tuesday, I drank a glass of Coke. One. Little. Glass. It wasn't filled to the top and it even had a bunch of ice in it! And you know what? I burped so much! I couldn't help it! The carbonation just kept creeping up and I couldn't stop it. There was so much gurgling going on in there, it sounded like an underwater fart coming to surface. A long one, like after a lunch of beans and sauerkraut with a side of broccoli.

Not sure what my next 90-day challenge will be, but I definitely want to do another one. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Invasion of the Gingers!

Quick! Pack your emergency kit and get ready to run, because the Gingers are here!

Seriously, tonight at the gym the population was more saturated with red-heads than they were with sweat. It wasn't really alarming, but it was definitely to a level that it was noticeable and noteworthy. Also, they were all wearing gray! Not complete gray, but one had a gray t-shirt, another had gray pants, one had gray shorts... maybe it's a signal they send out in solidarity to one another, kind of like the PostSecret people wearing white hats when they go to movies by themselves...? (Kudos to you if you know exactly what I'm talking about here without having to Google it. Double kudos to those of you who are finding this entry mildly amusing, and are willing to forgive it's lack of any real substance based on the correct assumption that I'm sleep deprived and have nothing else better to talk about.)

While I feared for the safety of the dark haired folk at the gym this evening, I considered myself safe as my hair has begun to fade to a dark red. My trust was in the G's, that they would recognize a sympathizer and comrade. Seeing as how I made it home safely to write this little re-jump-start blog, and assuming none of them followed me home, I think it's safe for me to head to bed now.

Oh, and so you all know, I made it to the end of my 90-day challenge of being soda free. More details to come!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Muscle mood music.

Ever feel a complete lack of motivation to tackle a project or task at hand? Some sort of activity that you dread, or even simply dislike. Cleaning seems to be a common one for most people, myself included, but I find that a little mood music really helps get me "in the zone" to just bust through the task and get it done. I even usually finish in a good mood. Bonus!

Another example: the gym. I thought I might share with y'all the music I listen to, because believe it or not, sometimes I really don't feel like going to the gym. I get in my car anyway, though, and on the way to the muscular gallows I usually play myself a little music to get myself psyched for the inevitable sweating I'll be doing. For the short ride to the gym, I rock out to this little diddy by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (aka the best band in the whole world).

Once I get to the gym I like to hit the recumbent bike first. Yes, this song is overplayed. And yes, she sounds like she's gagging when she sings. And yes, the music video is lewd... but I just can't help but LOVE this song. Really - nothing gets me pedaling faster or harder than this quintessential Katy Perry tune. Other songs that get me going on the bike include this song by Eminem and Rhianna, this heavy hitter by Muse, and this funky (but incredibly bass-driven) song by Weezer.

Other classic pick-me-up songs on my queue include good ol' Marvin Gaye's hit number, some down-home goodness from Lynyrd Skynyrd, and a little less back-in-the-day but still just as great... my all time favorite song by the very talented Blues Traveler.

After a little while I escape to this back room where it's nice and dark. It's mostly a storage room for the exercise balls, but occasionally people will use it as a quiet retreat for floor exercises. When I go there I like to focus on my core by doing these funny crunches - knees come up to the chest, arms go from being extended over my head to being parallel with my torso, and shoulders come up off the floor. To keep myself going with these crunches, and doing them quickly so I don't notice how tired I'm getting, I crunch in time with this fantastic Taio Cruz song... you know, because he sings about your hands being in the air and schtuff. Really, I'll listen to this song for anything because the beat works for the bike, leg presses, hip ab/adductors, and even just driving around at night with the speakers blaring so I feel like a badass. That's important, too, you know. Another good one for keeping a steady beat with crunches and other core workouts is this little number by Maroon 5. The close-up of the girl's abs is also motivation - ha!

For when I'm feeling more calm, cool and collected, I'll focus on my breathing and zone out to this track by M83.

Lastly, there are the emotional songs. They don't necessarily have catchy lyrics or a beat that can be mimicked with an exercise... they just meet me on a deeper level and remind me why I'm doing this in the first place. They may remind me of people that I've loved and lost, a reminder to live a healthy life to the fullest because that's what they did during their brief time on earth. "Landslide" by Stevie Nicks and "I Hope You Dance" by Lee Ann Womack both remind me of my mom and I find it difficult to hold back tears if they come on while I'm at the gym. For my dear friend, Justin, I can't help but smile when "I'll Be" by Edwin McCain comes on (at least once a week - no joke), or I can listen to "Babylon" by David Grey and remember his sweet smile that just spread light everywhere it shone and it makes me want to be just as radiant.

So put in those earbuds and turn on that iPod - get ready to rock your ass off! Literally. :-)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hi-yah! Ka-pow! Take that, Plateau!

First on tonight's update agenda: I got into a fight. No, not a knock-down drag-out kind of fight, but a very extended sort of tug-o-war that ended up with me knocking the crap out of my opponent. Who's the opponent you ask? That would be my yo-yoing weight.

For the past few weeks, possibly month, I've been stuck between 13 and 15 lbs. total loss. It's been one of the most frustrating experiences, especially after reaching that 15 lbs. with such momentum. The Plateau, as I like to call it, came suddenly and completely unexpected. In trying to overcome it I would eat healthier, or drink more water, or exercise harder.

Now, notice that I only said "or" in that last sentence and not "and."

Throughout this Plateau I've kept forgetting that weight loss doesn't happen just by doing one thing. I've been fighting it instead of just giving it what it needs, and I've been oblivious (or, really, unwilling due to laziness) to the fact that my body has a triple threat of needs: nutrition, fitness, hydration.

For the past few days I've been able to keep all three things going. I've been exercising and just generally increasing my activity throughout the day - this can be difficult with my desk job. I've also been drinking a lot more water and eating healthier. For example, this evening I made myself a mango smoothie as a pre-workout supplement. The smoothie consisted of frozen mango chunks, almond milk and some low-fat vanilla yogurt. Put those in a blender to puree and you end up with one icy glass of deliciousness, let me tell you! Then after the gym I made myself a tasty, tasty dinner. First I steamed two pieces of salmon in a Ziploc Zip'n Steam bag, aka my new favorite thing in the whole world. I added some lime juice and dill to the bag to cook the fish in with the flavor. While that was microwaving (only took 5 minutes to go from frozen to piping hot and thoroughly cooked through - you really need to go buy these and I don't feel any sort of guilt over this endorsement because they are that flipping amazing!) I chopped up red bell peppers and cucumber and mixed it with some romaine and baby spinach for a nice salad. I was so proud I took a picture. See? :-)

Needless to say, my effort this past week has paid off. This morning I stepped on the scale, fully expecting to see the same numbers I've been seeing for weeks on end. This time, though, the number was different. The number, ladies and gentlemen, told me that I've lost 17 lbs!!! That's only 3 lbs. away from the 20 lb. milestone! Better yet, it means that I've broken my plateau! I've been giddy all day and so excited to share the news with you all.

Moving on. I am still 100% soda free! It's been 76 days, so only 2 more weeks until I reach goal. At this point, though, I really don't see a reason to keep count anymore. The reason being that I don't plan on chugging a 2-liter of Pepsi at 12:01am on September 17th. Really, I don't crave the drink anymore and I'm only tempted to drink a small amount for purely scientific reasons. Honestly. I'd love to know what kind of effect that crap would have on my body after a 90-day detox.

Lastly, I'm a curious person by nature and there's a question that's been on my mind lately: Who is reading this thing? I know I have 9 followers with blogger accounts, but who else? Unfortunately I'm unable to tell how many people have subscribed via the RSS feed, or how many people are reading this from links posted on Facebook, etc. Jot me a line in the comments section and let me know! :-)