Monday, November 29, 2010

Mixed Nuts

Did you grow up with that tradition?  Mixed nuts in shells put out on the table along with a couple of nutcrackers and nut picks?  I did and as a child, it was a signal that the holidays had begun!  Besides, I think mixed nuts are a great holiday symbol since that's what so many families are full of.  I have a nutty Aunt/Uncle/Cousin/In-Law, don't you?

Nowadays, the signal has changed to me in the kitchen, making pies and (this year) one spectacular cake.  I got up Wednesday morning and was baking and filling pies by 7 a.m.  At 1:05, I was done.  (That's why I take that day off of work.... can you imagine trying to start all that at 5 p.m.?)  Then I ran around like a mad woman doing a bit of cleaning and adding a blanket to the guest room bed for Little Helen, who is always cold.  Jumped in the shower and got dressed so I could be sitting in my manicurist's chair by 4 p.m.  Treating yourself to a manicure is a really lovely way to reward all the hard work you've completed.  Ahhhh.

Thanksgiving Day itself we got up at the crack because my sister had called and said the Turkey Trot people needed help with setup because they'd had more than the usual number of  pre-registrations and were behind processing everything.  We were greeted by several bulletin boards that had this:

If you click on that you'll see it's there's a photo of my sister's family.  Pretty emotional but we were all so amped up, we were able to hold ourselves in check as there was work to be done! Mr. Helen and I proceeded to cut an entire case of oranges into 1/8ths.  It took us a full hour and 15 minutes to cut those oranges up! The knives we had were so dull that one of the staff members ended up driving home to get sharper knives.  I ended up with a battle scar - one end of the knife was digging into my finger which I didn't even notice until the end when some orange juice ran on it:


I never knew cutting up so many oranges could be fun, until I had precious four year old Gracie standing on a stool inbetween Mr. Helen and me "helping" us.  Funny how the little things like that will be the memories of this Thanksgiving. That and the fact that usually only around 500 people trot.  This year there was a record breaking crowd of 900!


We jumped in here somewhere and took off on the three mile trot.  I have no idea how long it took me - I didn't even wear a watch, let alone my Garmin.  It was COLD here Thanksgiving morning - and overcast - and windy because we were near the water. By the 8:45 start of the trot it was all of around 35 degrees.  But crazy people here?  They trot and DIP.  Not me.  Since the event was being held in Gary's memory, my sister was determined right up until the end... and she just couldn't bring herself to fully do it so here's what she did:

As you can see from the folks running away from the water in the background, there were people who actually did go in, including Gary's two brothers!  Here they are getting their nerve up:


 and here they are after their successful dip!




Remember the mixed nuts I mentioned above?  I'm just saying!

For our actual Thanksgiving celebration, we had 30 people and it ended up being a great time for us all.  The last time these families had been together we were laying Gary to rest.  It was so wonderful to have this time to cherish and honor his memory.  Very healing.



Gracie using her "cell phone" to take a photo of her cousin Samantha


My sister and Little Helen, only four years apart in age



"Uncle, can we please have just a little bite?  Pleeeeease?"

Oh, and that cake? It was THE hit dessert. People do love their pie on Thanksgiving (and four ENTIRE pies were consumed - I made six) but let me tell you this cake not only looked spectacular, it tasted spectacular too. As well it should have with the half a pound of butter involved.


Browned Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake

The evening ended with fireworks that Jacob had been given on his birthday
You know the uncles were more than happy to light them up!



Best of all?  He lost a tooth!
We want him to lose the other one so we can sing, 'All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth..."

Funny, I had been dreading this holiday a bit because we have been in mourning for so long,  It turned out to be one of the best Thanksgivings I can remember in recent years.  This year, I can truly say, I

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Holiday Haiku

Happy Thanksgiving

Little Helen has arrived

See you next week, peeps!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tuesday Ten: Lessons Learned

1.  I did just fine at the two birthday celebrations over the weekend.  Ate just enough, made the best choices out of what I was faced with and re-learned some good lessons, one of which was:

2.  Sometimes I just want to eat more because something tastes good.  It's no big emotional thing going on or some deep hidden reason.  It's just because it tastes good.  I know this because:

3.  There was a really delicious pasta at the Saturday party.  My plate consisted of about a 1 1/2 cups mixed salad, 1 piece of foccacia bread, 1 spoonful of the pasta.  When I started the plate, I was stomach-growling hungry.  Everything tasted good, but especially the pasta.  When I finished the plate, I wanted more of the pasta, simply because it was so good.  I said it out loud and the whole table of ten chimed in with how good that pasta was so:

4.  I got up and went a got a plate of just the pasta.  Now mind you, the plates they gave us were small -  salad plate size.  But still, I had served myself the plateful.  I went back to table and my phone rang.  I had to take the call but the room was small, noisy and crowded.  So I grabbed my jacket and stepped outside.  I was outside for about 6 or 7 minutes and when I came back in and sat down I realized:

5.  I actually felt full and though I knew the pasta would still taste good, eating it would be overeating and then I wouldn't feel good physically or emotionally.  So I pushed it away and that was that.  Additionally,

6.  I turned down the cake at the Friday party.  Mr. Helen loves cake so he jumped right up to get some when they served it.  I asked him for one bite of his and it really wasn't  that tasty so I just didn't get any.  I ate the cake on Saturday.  It was very good.  I enjoyed every bite because I was not overfull. So glad I didn't eat the second plate of pasta! Plus I was reminded of lesson number two:

7.  You don't have to eat food just because it's there.  On Thanksgiving, there will be lots of good tasting food, some of it things we only make for the holiday.  Some of the things I like, a lot.  Some of the things I don't really like all that much but have as spoonful of because it's there.  Which results in feeling stuffed.  Which I don't want to do.  As I was pondering my strategy,

8.  I read Lori's blog with her own Holiday Week Thoughts and was immediately thankful that she continues to blog her maintenance because she reinforced what I was thinking - and that reinforcement came from someone who is already a success story!  As I thought about her post, I decided,

9.  For the first time that I can remember, maybe ever, I am only going to eat the food I truly like.  For me that means no mashed potatoes, no sweet potato casserole, no turnips, no whipped squash, no bread stuffing.  But will include homemade cornbread stuffing, homemade rolls, and cranberry relish instead of jellied cranberry sauce with the can rings still imprinted in it.  If I'm not too full, I might even have a piece of pie, but ultimately,

10. If I don't have pie Thursday, I can have some Friday or Saturday or whenever because it doesn't have to be Thanksgiving if I really want a piece of pie.  What matters most is that I walk away on Thursday as satisfied emotionally and physically as I was this past weekend when I learned that second helpings are not equal to happiness but seeing a family member turn 80 is a really good thing.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chop Chop!

It seems like Mondays have turned into recipe sharing time on this here blog.  Maybe it's because of all the cooking I do on the weekends. 

I love vegetables, but this is the time of year when I find it hard at times to eat as much of them (and of fruit!) as I should.  I'm a summer girl so my favorite fruits and veggies are summer based.  By now, the lettuce and especially tomatoes aren't so great and I begin to dread salads.  I like squash but only up to a point and what else is there?  I try to eat some veggies at lunch every day or for a snack - so unless I'm going to dip some baby carrots in something or eat a salad, what's a girl to do. 

All of a sudden potato chips sound like the perfect vegetable to have with my lunchtime sandwich.  Uh-Oh.

While digging through the recipe box for another veggie recipe that I wanted to make as a side dish to have with some grilled chicken, I came across this one for a salad I tend to make quite a bit in the summer but then gets pushed off the menu.  I had the ingredients on hand so this week I'm ejoying a bit of summer as a side.

This takes a bit of work because of all the chopping but it's so worth it.  A really simple recipe that is just loaded with flavor but has such a clean taste.

Chopped Veggie Salad

2 cups English cucumber (~ 1 cucumber)
1 cup red bell pepper
1/2 cup green bell pepper
1/2 cup red onion
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 T red wine vinegar
1 T extra virgin olive oil

All the vegetable should be chopped into a dice.  As you finish each one, throw it into a large bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper then drizzle the red wine vinegar and oil on top.  Stir well to combine.  The longer this sits, the better it tastes!

Per 3/4 cup serving:
Calories: 50, Total Fat: 2.7 g , Sodium: 204.4 mg , Carbs: 6.8 g , Fiber: 1.7 g , Protein: 1.1 g

Coming tomorrow:  how I managed the challenges of the weekend!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Controlling the Challenges

‘Tis the season you know.  Challenges abound: the sheer volume of food at everything, family (dys) functions, financial, spiritual.

I’d venture to say most of the weight loss type group meetings over this past week have been focused on What To Do About Thanksgiving and The Holidays.

I’m making pie for 30 people. Making that many pie crusts alone is a huge challenge as it’s really not my forte. I’m actually hoping to get them made this weekend, so that come next Wednesday all I have to do is fill them and bake them off.

Side Question: What DO you do? Do you do the best you can with foods you only have during the holiday? Do you make all ‘special’ dishes that are fat free/low calorie/low carb? Do you take it as a splurge day and eat whatever you want? Do you just not care about food that much? (Is that even possible?)

As it turns out, I have a weekend filled with challenges, followed by a week filled with more.

Mr. Helen’s cousin, who is really more like another sister, is turning 60 and her son is throwing her a surprise party tonight. Number one, I’m challenged by what I’m going to wear. There is no theme (I wish there was as it always makes it easier if I can just get a costume!) so anything goes. I imagine people will be dressed in everything from jeans to dresses. Number two, it’s a PARTY. This means food, lots of it, and cake and beverages of the alcoholic variety. (Of course it will probably be a cash bar which makes it a whole lot easier to not overdo. Because I’m cheap.)

Saturday, Mr. Helen’s uncle, who happens to be the father of the above mentioned cousin, is having a Surprise 80th Birthday Celebration. In fact, said cousin is the party planner. Number one, I’m challenged by what I’m going to wear. For goodness sake, I’m probably going to be seeing mostly the same people as I did at the Friday event so I can’t even repeat the outfit! Number two, SEE ABOVE with the addition that we paid $25 each for our meals. (Of course, because he’s turning 80, the thing is being held at 3 in the afternoon so that makes it fairly easy to just say no to the booze.)

Yes, that’s right. This weekend, Shelley will be competing in a running Half Marathon and I will be in the midst of an Eating & Drinking Half Marathon.

Additionally there is next week’s Thanksgiving O-Rama. Little Helen is coming home and will want some of her favorite things and of course I will make them.  Plus it always seems when she's home that there's just "more."  Plus all that damn pie. Sigh.

I know things like this can be seen as character building and an opportunity to Do The Right Thing. But really, if we could work it out, I’d prefer to build my character another way.

On the other hand, there is another type a challenge – the word challenge defined in a way that can be very, very good. This definition sometimes involves challenges that go around blogland that help folks get and stay motivated on their journey - like South Beach Steve's Hot 100. A couple of weeks ago, I have gave myself a mini challenge of weighing less on December 31 than I did on November 1. No particular number, just less. I know Kate decided that she wanted to do that too and has lost four pounds already!

But staying motivated through both types of challenges can be hard. We all know I’ve been referring to the life stressors I’ve been going through lately. Challenging to say the least – motivation killing too.

Thankfully, once in a while, something/someone/some word comes along and strikes a chord, the light bulb goes on and with renewed vigor you face your challenges: all kinds.

Lori made a comment on the Tuesday Ten blog that rang my bell and struck some chords.

Chris said, "Hello Horse" and a lightbulb turned on.

And, I saw this. And I bought it.

Shoulder Detail

Bodice Detail/Pintucks


 Hemline Detail

The Dress

Perfect Shoes!
Look how the ruffle on the toe matches the hemline of the dress.


Right now, it fits OK but for great fit I need to stick with my challenge of weighing less on December 31. And I need to face the 60th/80th/Pie/Thanksgiving challenges with grace and determination, fueled by (bloggy love and beautiful dress) motivation. I think if I do that I might actually look rockin' in a photo... maybe I'll have a Rockin' New Year's Eve!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Control What You Can

Once in a while I read something in a blog or hear something on a TV show that I already know, but for some reason it is said in a different way and really resonates.  Some of the comments made to me on yesterday's Tuesday Ten really resonated.  I thank you all for your thoughts and support.  I don't know that I can adequately tell you how much it means... and you gave me a lot to think about.

This morning while pounding out a 5 mile run on my treadmill (it was pouring rain! and thundering and lightening!  in November!) I was watching The Biggest Loser.

Bob started talking about one of the contestants who has absolutely NO support at home.  She comes from an Asian family and some of it is cultural but there are are some other factors that are in play as well.  Literally, prior to getting to the ranch, this young woman never got a single word of encouragement or support from her parents.  As she put it, the other contestants were hearing "Yay, you've gone to the ranch!  You want to help yourself!  How can I love you and help you?!" from their families and her family's response was "You'd better not come back from that ranch unless you've lost at least 100 pounds."  Big difference there.

This was the week when the contestants get videos from home.  Guess who didn't get one?  Her fellow contestants felt so badly that they ended up making her a video to let her know how incredible and special she is.  When it came time for the weigh in, Bob was worried - as he put it

Chronic stress is not good for weight loss. 

Seriously.  Never mind the chemicals that are released that inhibit weight loss, most of us tend to overeat when we are under constant stress.

But do you know that young woman rocked the scale, losing 9 pounds and having the highest percentage of weight loss this week, beating out several very large men!  Jillian said it was because she took what was going on in her life and turned it to her advantage.  Which reiterated to me that chronic stress can be beaten, it's all in the choices you ultimately make.

You see, over the last couple of weeks, I think I realized that since April of 2009, my life has been nothing but thrown. No rest for the weary, no time between deaths to grieve properly, constantly under the threat of losing my job - and I work for half our income, not for pleasure. Just bombarded with stuff all the time. I honestly cannot remember a time in my life that was THIS stressful, except maybe 25 years ago when I was going through my divorce and trying to stay off welfare and trying to feed my little girl for a week with a box of macaroni and two hard boiled eggs.

With the addition of some new stressors, over the past two weeks, I have been swinging wildly between really good choices and really bad choices.  Some days the stress has been so bad I can't get past the pit in my stomach nor the lead in my legs.  Running has been the one thing I've managed to stay consistent with, so feeling like I didn't even want to run was odd for me.

Changes need to be made and probably will require faking it until I make it.  As I perused blogs on this morning, I came across some good advice from Chris, over at A Deliberate Life.  This is what she wrote a few lines down in her post on Tuesday:

When life knocks you for a loop.
Control what you can.

Um, yeah.
 
What can I control?  How much food I am eating, how much exercise I am getting, how much sleep - or if not sleep, rest I am getting.  What I wear each day, how fast I drive, the people I choose to associate with, my attitide towards people I come in contact with.
 
A lot of the rest, well it's probably not up to me.  As Chris said in her post,
 
If you had a bad week, let it go and focus on today.
a bad week didn't get you fat...bad months, bad years got you fat.
That and the inability to climb back on the horse.
so, without further ado,

Hello Horse.  

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tuesday Ten: The Reasons

1.  If Shelley can do it, I ought to be able to.  You know why?  Because Shelley is close to my age and has all the "things" to deal with that this age brings, both physically and lifestyle wise.  If you haven't done so yet, go congratulate Shelley.  Today is her anniversary!

2.  I'm sick and tired of bad photos.  Where I look like a pregnant grandmother.  Seriously, someone sent me one from over the weekend and I need an intervention of some sort.  How I picture myself in my head is not the reality of the photos.

3.  Besides myself, there is a specific person I want to see that I CAN DO THIS.  (They don't believe I can or ever will.) Then I want to get in shape and really be a bad ass (or maybe have some sort of cosmetic surgery type thingy). That'll show 'em!

4.  I think if I manage it, some of the aches and pains I have will go away.  And I know for sure that I'll be able to run faster.

5.  I would also be a better martial artist and might even be able to do some of the fancy flying kicks that Mr. Helen does.  Because I'd actually be able to lift my butt up off the ground.

6.  There are all those health issues you know:  blood pressure, cholesterol, thyroid.  Most certainly some of that should improve once I get there.

7.  I want to feel as pretty as people tell me I am.  Because I don't feel that way and I while I am grateful to have people who love me, I know that my friends are blinded by their love for WHO I am and don't see the reality of my appearance.

8. I want to stop thinking about this stuff.  All. The. Time. I'd like to just be.

9.  I'd like to feel proud of myself for a change. Like Shelley is today.  Did I mention you should go congratulate her?

10.  If you haven't guessed, these are all the reasons I want to lose 35 pounds.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Seeking Comfort, Part 2

We are having some unseasonably warm weather here in the Northeast, which I have been happy about, especially since Minneapolis got a foot of snow over the weekend.  I ran for the third day in a row this morning - got to get those runs in while the weather cooperates.  Although my run this morning was in the dark and not in the lovely warm sunshine like on Saturday and Sunday.   And I was super slow.  In fact all three of my runs have been slower than usual.  I'm not surprised though as I find that stress weighs my legs down too.

I have done better with the stress/comfort/carb overload eating over the past few days and I actually found myself craving good vegetables over the weekend. This resulted in roasting asparagus and brussel sprouts and eating some right out of the oven while I was making a couple other dishes for the upcoming week.  It also resulted in trying a recipe for a soup that a friend had given me but I had never gotten around to making.  It is so delicious and satisfying and comforting, I just knew I needed to share it.

Curried Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Soup

2 tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, sliced 1/4" thick
2 T curry powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cans light and fat free chicken broth
1 cup water
2 medium (8 oz) sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 cups frozen cauliflower florets
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup frozen cut leaf spinach

Heat oil in a large pot. Add onions and carrots, saute until onions are tender. Stir in curry powder and garlic, saute about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Stir in remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover pot and cook for 15 minutes or until sweet potato is tender.

8 servings, 1.5 cups per serving.
Calories: 156.7
Total Fat: 2.7 g
Total Carbs: 28.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 6.5 g
Protein: 5.6 g

The photo looks foggy because of the steam coming up off the soup!



Friday, November 12, 2010

50 + 50

Does not equal 100.

I'm 50 years old.  Beginning with today, there are 50 days left in 2010.  I like the roundness of that, though I don't care for the roundess of my belly or thighs right now.

All that bright and shiney hope from January 1 is now down to 50 days left.

There are choices to be made.  Tough choices.

What can I accomplish?  Where will I be come December 31?

What about YOU?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Seeking Comfort

Did you know that the brain chemical serotonin is the one that keeps you in a good mood, if the levels are correct? Scientific studies show that when that chemical is produced it has an actual calming, anxiety reducing effect, and helps to provide you with a sense of well-being.

Exercise can increase serotonin production – which probably explains the term “Runner’s High.” And pasta, cookies, and other such ‘comfort” foods are the foods we tend to seek, because carbohydrate is the food that increases the production of serotonin in the brain.

So it seems, as a person trying to lose weight, that the best thing to do when stress strikes would be to take a long walk, or go for a run, or “Shred.”  The idea of that does sound great to me, but the truth is, it’s somehow much harder to get your ass moving than to bury your face in a plate of white pasta or to eat an entire box of Mallomars.

Additionally, eventually both the runner’s high and the food induced good mood will disappear because both of those are temporary fixes. This explains why, ultimately, someone invented drugs that would do the job of getting that serotonin pushed out and making the levels stay steady enough to keep the mood elevated. As we all know, when we are not stressed and are feeling happy and have a sense of well-being, it is pretty easy to stay on track.

I learned all this 15 years ago when a much-loved family member was diagnosed with depression caused by a chemical imbalance. During the process we found out that the 40 pounds he had gained over the year before his diagnosis were because he had pretty much stopped eating anything other than carbohydrates – and lots of them. Since it was our family’s first experience with anything like this, I wanted to face it without fear and to simply understand.

The reason any of this even comes to mind is that I have found myself wanting to sleep a lot, and eat bowls of spaghetti. I’m serious - all I want to eat is carbs these days, which tells me my brain is looking for some relief. However, I know bowls of pasta and slices of Wonder bread are not the answer, so on the days when I’ve been able to get past the knot in my stomach to eat, I have been gagging down including quality proteins and vegetables. But it hasn’t stopped me from wanting the carbs. Not one bit. I can be completely full and find myself wishing I could snort spaghetti like a drug.

Mr. Helen has been a very happy camper these days because he has always loved carbs in every form and I’ve been making them more than usual lately. Instead of having to get up and get himself a couple slices of bread to go with the meat and veggies I’ve made for dinner, the carbs have been right there on the table too.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against carbs at all, especially as a runner. But I know I don’t need to eat as many of them as I have been lately. I do prefer some sorts of carbs over others – i.e., pasta over potatoes – so my solution lately has been to switch to my less preferred carbs making it easier to control the portion.

As I made this dish on Monday, I thought that it would be a good recipe to share with you all, especially since the holidays are coming. The first time I ever made this was for a fancy Christmas Prime Rib dinner. It’s a nice easy recipe that will free up one of the burners on your stove. I hope you enjoy.

Crockpot Smashed Red Potatoes
Serves 6-8

3 lbs. small or baby red potatoes, cut into halves or quarters to make uniform size
4 gloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 tsp. sea salt
½ cup water
2T olive oil
½ cup whipped cream cheese with chives
¼ cup milk

Put the potato pieces, garlic, salt, water and olive oil into your crockpot. Give it a stir. Put crockpot on low, cook for 4-6 hours or until potatoes are tender. Turn crockpot off. Using a potato masher, smash the potatoes until they are somewhat chunky with smooth spots. Mash in the cream cheese with chives then give it a stir until blended. Add the milk and stir, adding more if the consistency is too thick.

If you have a crockpot with a removable crock, you can actually get these done and they can rest while you finish dishing up your meal.  These also reheat really well and if they seem too thick just add a little more milk when you reheat them.

Just FYI, if you’d like to read some lay person friendly info on food and mood:

http://www.faqs.org/nutrition/Met-Obe/Mood-Food-Relationships.html

http://www.musingsonmind.org/featured/hungerandhappiness

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tuesday Three, Because That's Long Enough

Regular readers know I am a summer lover. You can then imagine how I felt when I woke up yesterday morning to snow. Albeit just an inch or so, it was enough to delay schools and make driving to work really crappy. And no. I did not think it was pretty. This is the earliest I can remember us getting even a dusting. I’m sure you can only imagine my mood as it stayed wet, windy and cold all day. I pretty much spent the day fantasizing about winning the Powerball and moving far, far away.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This little episode brought to you courtesy of Pay Attention!

Sunday I was in my freezer and noticed I had some frozen pizza dough. I decided to take it out and use it to make some breakfast pizzas this week. Monday morning, I broke off a piece of the dough and it felt weird, not like my usual dough. Odd. I actually ended up rolling the dough out a bit because it wouldn’t stretch properly. Baked it a bit, then brought it to work with the toppings I wanted to finish it off. It never did rise. I bit into it and it tasted good. Really good. But different from my pizza dough in a way I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I sat at my desk eating my pizza trying to remember what dough recipe I’d used (because I’ve been experimenting as I have never found one that I just love). Thought, “Well I need to figure this out because this dough did not take to the freezer well even though it tastes really really good.” Just as I was taking the last couple of bites of the pizza, I realized why the damn dough tasted so good. Because I had used pie crust dough. For crying out loud. I probably ate the equivalent of a couple pieces of pie crust. Gah. Pay Attention!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’ll be running in our local Turkey Trot & Dip this year. (Yes, I said “dip”). For reasons foreign to me, people run into the water at the end. I have no need to cool down because it’s usually only around 35 degrees. While I generally get up and run on Thanksgiving Day, I usually don’t run this event, because it means getting up and out and driving 10 miles to get to it. But, it’s being held in memory of my brother-in-law this year and benefiting Jacob & Gracie’s scholarship fund, so how could I not? I have to say that this is a genuine Trot. There is not one “racey” thing about it… no timing, no pressure, a big basket raffle afterwards, and if you switch from the 3 mile trot to the 1 mile walk nobody knows or cares because everyone pays the same fee! The two moms – mine and Gary’s, both in their 70s - are doing the one mile walk. I overheard them talking about it and you’d think they were training for a full marathon. Mom keeps talking about how she’s trying to put in some extra time at “The Curves” (yes, that’s what she calls it) so that she’s in better shape. This will be the first time that Mr. Helen, Little Helen and I have all run together. Considering that I’ve already eaten half a pie’s worth of pie crust a full two weeks before Thanksgiving, I probably should commit to running the 3 miles as fast as I can. You think?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Check Up from the Neck Up

Today is November 8th.  Exactly one week ago I was posting about not putting things off until January and giving November and December my all and finally (maybe) seeing the results I want to see spiritually and physically.

I had actually seen someone call it "NO-Excuses NOvember" and claimed that as my own mantra!

Then, life very rudely interrupted my plans. 

I had two pretty encompassing things happen last week, one in my professional life, and one in my personal life.  I can't/won't go into detail about either but suffice it to say, I am sufficiently derailed.  No excuses, just facts.

Right now, I'm either eating too much, or eating too little.  I let some wine creep back in and while that shouldn't matter it does.  Most especially on the days where my stomach was in knots and I didn't want to eat, the glass of wine was appealing.  It made me feel temporarily relaxed.  A glass of wine a once or twice a week is one thing, a glass of wine everyday is another.  Because alcohol slows down metabolism,  Period.  I have to stay away from that stuff.  That's just how I feel about it, for me.

Yesterday, because Mr. Helen works on Sunday and I have a long day alone, I spent some time thinking about how I can't seem to get my head wrapped around the things that happened, therefore I can't get it screwed back on straight.  It frustrates me to no end how these things affect my well-being.  Honestly, I've even found it hard to want to run.  When I have run, it has felt like a such a struggle that I keep cutting my runs short.  So now, I've got both food and exercise affected.  Not good people, not good at all.

I suppose if I was going to give this a name, I'd call it toxic stress, verging on a real depression.  Because really what I want to do is climb in bed and stay there.  In fact, I tried that yesterday but then, of course, because of the stress, I couldn't sleep or even rest at all.  It's a vicious cycle.

I'm not looking for any advice here, I just needed to lay it out.  To admit that I've got some real serious stuff going on and as of right now, there's no easy solution to any of it. To say that I am once again amazed at how the mental stuff and the head stuff can waylay the best laid plans of mice and men.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Picture This

Let's start todays post off with some photos.  Just because I think they're precious and it's my blog after all.  As you know my niece Grace is our "full of personality girl."  These are from her last dance recital.



She was mad at her mommy because my sister wouldn't let her stand there and do her own dance while another group was on the stage. But come on, you've got to love the fact that she is blinged out for her recital with her hairbow and bracelet!


This one is from Halloween.  It's both the kids.  Look at Gracie's face.  Evidently she was sick and tired of pictures and just wanted to get on with it.  Oh man, can I tell you that in addition to loving this little girl (and her brother) more than I can even express, I totally feel her.  My sister even says she's going to start telling her now that when she wants to run away from home, she should go to Auntie Helen's, cause nobody understands her like I do.  May I present the Hunter and the Princess Cheerleader.


Finally, a local nature trail did a family/spooky version of a nature walk for Halloween.  My sister was asked to be the Good Witch Glenda.  They couldn't have picked anyone better - and here you can see why those kids are so darn cute - they have a gorgeous mother, if I do say so myself!



I haven't had much to say this week.. maybe the Tuesday Ten took it all out of me.  Speaking of which, based on your suggestions and reminders, I am choosing Idris Elba as my fifth (with specific thanks to Janell for reminding me about him).

So no deep Friday thoughts to leave you with for the weekend.  Just hoping to have a good one myself and hoping the same for you.

That is all.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tuesday Ten

1.  Confession: I'm the Halloween Grinch. Does anyone besides me realize that Halloween IS NOT A HOLIDAY?

2.  So glad it's election day. I hope everyone will exercise their constitutional right to vote. I went early and will be thrilled to turn on my television tomorrow morning and have it free of political advertisements. Seems like it has been worse than ever this go round.

3.  Spa day was magnificent, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Lots of good things came out of it for me, including a new term I'd never heard. I was in the waiting area at one point and heard a woman apologize for not being able to formulate a sentence. The attendant said, "Oh, that's normal. It's called Spa Head."

4. I don't know about you, but I want to be a blogger who has a success story. I don't want to continue to write about the same five pounds or the fact that I can't get a grip. That's what November is going to be all about for me, firming up the grip.

5. Great minds think alike.  Ben of Ben Does Life (he's the guy that had the running off a hundred pounds/weight loss video going around blogland a month or so ago) is training for the Las Vegas Marathon.  He weighed in yesterday and decided he wants to weigh 6 pounds less than he does right now before the marathon.  He proclaimed November "No Excuses November."  So again I ask you, what will YOU have accomplished by December 1, January 1?

6.  NOT ready for the freezing weather we've had the last couple of nights.  Seriously friends, we've had February weather in October!  Sort of hard to get used to when just a couple weeks ago we were having June weather in October.  I'd settle for just having October weather at this point.

7.  30 people for Thanksgiving.  Thankfully not at my house.  But still, that translates into a whole lot of pies I'm going to be making.

8. Remember the "list" from the TV show Friends?  It was a list of five celebrities who you'd sleep with. There would be no objections from your spouse or significant other because they could have their five too.  Ever thought about it?  I have. I'm still looking for my fifth...
  • Denzel Washington
  • George Clooney
  • Giles Marini
  • Carlos Ponce

9.  On spa day, I was taking the yoga class that was part of my package.  At one point the instructor made us turn towards the mirror so we could check alignment.  Normally I hate watching myself in the mirror because all I see is flaws and fat.  For some reason, I looked at myself balancing in a sort of warrior pose and saw that I was not the fat ugly monster I picture in my head.  I almost started crying when I saw just a woman doing yoga.  No doubt about it, I need to lose some weight.  But, I am not as fat and gross as I've been perceiving myself to be.  I am not as unattractive as the picture in my minds eye.  In fact, I left that class feeling that even though I will never be one of the world's great beauties, I am beautiful.  Now, I just need to lean into that and soak it up.

10.  Saturday night we went to watch some of the senseis from our karate dojo participate in Muay Thai fights.  Earlier in the month, our kyoshi called and said if we wanted to volunteer to work the fights, we wouldn't have to pay for tickets.  We declined because we wanted to actually see the fights. As we were getting ready I remarked to Mr. Helen that I hadn't figured out what I could have contributed  - until just that morning.  He asked, "What?  What could you have done?"  With my newfoud confidence I replied, "I could have been a ring girl!  The old guys need some eye candy too!"  He responded, "Yes, but you know how little boys feel about their candy and maybe I don't want to share mine!"  Wonder what he'd think about my list?

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Places You Could Go

I love new beginnings, fresh starts, day ones.  I think we all do to some extent.  I’m feeling particularly hopeful today and I’m wondering if it’s the convergence of November 1st falling on a Monday.  Like it’s a completely new, clean slate.  My day/week/month to do whatever I want to with…

This got me to thinking about all the people who start falling apart around Halloween and just don’t/won’t/can’t get it together so today, instead of approaching this month with tenacity, they give up until January 1st.

Just think, if you start or restart or restart again, TODAY, you could accomplish so much in the next 61 days!  Or if that seems like too long of a haul to contemplate, what if you broke it down into smaller segments, like I do when I run more than 10 miles?  What could you accomplish if you committed to being your best self and working what ever plan you’re following for just this month.  Even if you took Thanksgiving “off” and worked it for 29 days instead of 30, what would you have accomplished? Then what if you did that again in December?  Even if you took Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day “off” where would you be after 28 days of being the best you possible?

For one thing, you’d be 57-61 days closer to whatever goal you’ve set than if you wait until January 1st.

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In my never ending quest to figure out how to incorporate variety in my diet and to actually have some beef once in a while, last week I came up with a beef and broccoli stirfry that knocked Mr. Helen’s socks off.  This man does not pack a lunch – ever.  Since he works in a Naval Commissary, he usually goes over to the deli and eats whatever sandwich they’re sampling that day.  He loved this so much he took it for lunch on the days when he was going to be at Karate/Muay Thai for 3 straight hours.  That convinced me to share the recipe with you.

Beef and Broccoli Stirfry

1 pound boneless top sirloin
1 cup beef broth
1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1 T corn starch
2 tsp. dark sesame oil
1 T grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups broccoli florets
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 cup julienned carrots
Trim any excess fat from sirloin then cut diagonally across the grain into very thin slices. If you want to get them paper thin, throw it in the freezer for a few minutes before slicing.  It turns the outside of the meat a little dark but doesn't harm it and makes it so much easier to slice!  Like this:


Chop all your other vegetables and get them ready for the stirfry, like this:





Combine the broth, soy sauce, and cornstarch in a small bowl. Stir until cornstarch is dissolved. Set aside.
Heat 1 tsp. sesame oil over high heat in a large nonstick skillet or wok. Add the ginger and garlic, stir-fry for a minute. Add beef, stir fry for 5 minutes or until pink is gone. Remove from wok and set aside.
Add remaining 1 tsp. of oil to wok then add broccoli, onion, and carrots. Stirfry for 7 minutes or until veggies are crisp-tender. Return beef to wok and stir in beef broth mixture. Saute 2 minutes or until thick and bubbly.
Serve over rice.

The little "dots" in this photo are red pepper flakes because I like my food spicy!

Makes 4 huge servings, or 6 smaller ones. Based on 4 servings:
Calories: 330.1
Total Fat: 12.0 g
Cholesterol: 102.1 mg
Sodium: 840.1 mg
Total Carbs: 15.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.4 g
Protein: 39.7 g