Thursday, December 29, 2011

Resolving Not To...

Each year end, for years now, I have set goals and/or made some resolutions.  I suppose the thought of starting January 1 with a clean slate of possibilities sucks me in.
I have never given much thought to that process until this year, and only very recently at that.  At the end of a recent  Muay Thai class the Sensei  in charge told us to turn to our partner and tell them one goal we had set for ourselves at the beginning of 2011 that we had accomplished.  This didn’t surprise me because they often say to us “Goals You Set Are Goals You Get” during the end of class wisdom section.  Mr. Helen immediately turned to me and said getting his Third Degree Black Belt was the goal he set and achieved.  He then looked at me and waited….and waited… and waited  - until I looked at him and said, “Honestly and shamefully, I have not accomplished one single thing I set out to do this year.”  The minute the words came out of my mouth, I knew something would change for 2012. Why spend time feeling bad about not meeting goals?  Especially when no one but me is putting pressure on me to do so.
Not long after that was when I was challenged to add up my running mileage for the year and did so, only to discover how little I ran in 2011 compared to past years.  My first thought was “another failed goal” because I used to always have a loose goal of running 100 miles a month, or 1200 miles a year.  But as I reflected and reviewed the notes in my running journal I realized that:
 1.  I had never actually set that as a goal this year.
 2.  I had run pretty decent mileage considering that I had a couple of months where my total mileage had been 15 miles or less because if the issues with my hip and SI joint that I started the year with and which ultimately took until August to heal.
3. I did no racing this year and it’s race training that usually pushes my mileage up, and
4.  It’s never too late to set a goal if you want to, and it doesn’t have to be January 1.
After a bit more reflection, I began my quest to run 800 miles by December 31st.  (I’ll let you know in early 2012 how this worked out.)  In the meantime, I  also noted that I accomplished many other things that I had not even thought about January 1, 2011.  Such as really rocking the Zero Excuses Challenge and finally seeing a weight loss trend that hopefully will find me in better health and smaller sizes in 2012!
Somewhere in the midst of all this I decided I would not set big resolutions or goals for 2012 but instead would let things that needed to be goal oriented come as they may and work on them as needed.  Then on December 23rd, I tested for my Muay Thai brown/green belt .  It turned out to be not only humbling but eye opening.

Showing pad striking skills - see my belt in motion?  That's a good thing because it'means
I was rotating my hips correctly.

I am not normally a person who is afraid of being in front of people but for some reason having to perform  my Muay Thai combos and/or weapons in front of others, really bothers me.  Really, really, really bothers me.  To make matters worse, I was the ranking belt testing that evening.  Don’t you know the Sensei asked me to do something that put me front and center.   Mr. Helen and Little Helen were standing right there with cameras pointed.  I knew the material backwards and forwards…. and  I lost it.  Ooooooh, it was bad, bad, bad.  I suuuuuuucked! It was so bad that if they were awarding the belt based solely on that night, I am fairly sure I would not have gotten it.  Fortunately, they also base it on what they see in class, and in class I don’t have performance anxiety.  To make matters even more stomach turning, when my name was called and I went forward, my Sensei said, "There are probably a lot of you who don't know this but this amazing woman is the one who keeps Sensei Mr. Helen going."  Which immediately made everyone scream and yell and clap because they love Sensei Mr. Helen and immediately made me feel bad because I'm sure he was embarrassed by my poor showing. In any case, I am officially one year away from getting my Black Belt – assuming I can get the material down and actually show that I know it.

Smiling in huge relief that it is being handed to me...

Now I find myself having decided that I was not going to set goals or make resolutions, needing to make one.  So here it is and as simple as it sounds it is going to take hard work and dedication, which ironically is my 2012 motto:
In 2012, I don’t want to suck.

That's it, and it's not just Muay Thai related either.  It's also my wish for all of you.  2012 the Year of Not Sucking.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tuesday Ten: These are a Few of My Favorite Things

10. This tea tin sent to me by a great friend who knows I love all things royal!

9. Mama Helen and Little Helen with our guest dog for Christmas Day, Bugsley.

8. The slippers Gracie picked out for Little Helen & me to wear on Christmas morning - Santas for me and Penguins for Little Helen:

7. My sister-in-law Margaret (long-time peeps know she's the one who introduced me to Mr. Helen) with her three handsome boys. The middle one in the striped shirt is my godson.

6.  My new enameled cast iron dutch oven!

5. The look on Gracie's face as I opened the gift that she insisted that her mother buy me just from her.  She kept saying, "You're going to love it!  It's going to be your favorite gift!"

4. My Twelve Days of Christmas Waterford Crystal champagne flutes.  My boss (who passed away) and his wife started the collection for me 6 years ago.  I have them all now and it has become a Christmas tradition to have a champagne cocktail.  This year it was "Rudolph's Nose."  Also, my Christmas china which you can see in the background.

3. Mr. Helen and his siblings.  Pam and David were very much missed this year but as it goes with grieving it was a bit better than last year.

2. The granddaughters and one great granddaughter (the little one in front) on Mr. Helen's side.

1. The fact that I'm on a roll - and I plan to keep it going right into 2012!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Festive Wrapping

This week has turned out so differently than I expected.  The good thing is that because I pushed myself to get things done just in case my White House Tour did not get cancelled, I will end up having some free time, which is a nice thing.  Maybe I'll get out and treat myself to my once-a-year Skinny Peppermint Mocha at Starbucks!

My nail tech says that when it comes to me, old OPI colors never die, they just go to my house to retire.  My holiday color:  Ruby for Rudolph (which is a retired holiday color that I had at home).  So pretty!
I had completely decided not to bake at all this year - a combination of lack of time and the thought that we really did not need any junk in the house.  Mr. Helen acted so disappointed when I told him that I have to admit I felt a bit guilty.  To make matters worse, in years past he has been given boxes and boxes of cookies from people at the dojo and work - not this year.  The poor man is cookie deprived.  Ya'll have seen him, he can "afford" a cookie no problem.

Then Marisa wrote a post about all the cookie baking she did and asked "What is your favorite holiday cookie to bake?"  I told her it was our rolled sugar cookies that we frost and decorate.  After I answered I realized I enjoy making those cookies not for how they taste - although they are delicious - but rather for the memories associated with them.

For all of Little Helen's life, right up until she moved far away, I would make those cookies and have them cooled and ready to frost and decorate when she got home from school.  Then she and I would sit down and put on The Carpenter's Christmas Album and decorate and sing at the top of our lungs. We actually did that so many years that the "album" changed to a "cd."

Anyway, all of these things came together like a big ball of Karma and now I'm thinking that on Christmas Eve I will make Mr. Helen those cookies.  Little Helen will be home by then... maybe she'll want to help.

The 2010 Snowmen
This is the first week that I haven't been eating strictly Paleo since I started the Zero Excuses Challenge back in November.  I have tried to keep in mind that I should try to have those things after working out hard, so my first foray back into grain world was some of this on Wednesday morning after my run (which was my 3rd workout within 24 hours so I think that qualifies as hard enough!):

Oh my goodness, this blend  of whole grain oats, wheat, rye, barley, triticale and flaxseed is just delicious. With 120 calories and 5 grams of fiber per serving, it's nutritious as well.  I also think it would be spectacular as a substitute for oatmeal in an oatmeal cookie recipe, or for granola.  I ate it with a scrambled egg and it kept me full for hours.


You people are crazy.  I tell you I've been fussing about my haircut and almost every single person who commented asked for pictures!  Is this a misery loves company thing?  Seriously.  But I'm a good blogger friend and if my hair makes you feel better then I guess you should consider this your gift from me this year.  I had to go lock myself in the ladies room at work to attempt this so forgive the backgrounds  - and the blurriness because someone started knocking.  See the sacrifices I make for you guys?


Speaking of gifts, I hope everyone who celebrates is having a wonderful holiday season and realizes that the best gifts probably don't come wrapped in festive paper.  I'll be taking a blogging break for a few days to enjoy time with my family - and to bake those cookies.  Peace and blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday Ten

10.  One of the recent searches that led someone to my blog was "big ass in pantyhose."  I can't even imagine which post provoked that and probably don't want to know!

9.  .... and miles to go before I sleep.  On a friend's dare I recently added up my running mileage for 2011.  Since I didn't have any set goal I hadn't been keeping track of the total.  I discovered that if I push myself I might just make 800 miles for the year. But it's going to require me to be a running fool between now and December 31st.

8.  Mr. Helen got his 3rd Degree Black Belt on Saturday. (See the 3 stripes on his belt?)  Here he is with our Kyoshi - the woman who has been the "other" woman in our lives for the last 10 years.  She went into martial arts when women were few and far between and put up with a lot of grief but mostly just shut the boys club up by being a world class martial artist. She's a Sixth Degree and yep, she's only about 4'11" tall but you can bet nobody messes with her.

7.  The show was fabulous as usual... and we had the most unusual thing happen when the belt presentations were going on.  The 1st degree candidates were being called up to be given their belts by the Shihan.  One of the recipients went up and they bowed to each other and all of a sudden he pulled the belt back and stepped backwards.  She didn't move a hair - even from my view I could tell she was stunned.  Then this happened:

Her boyfriend arranged to surprise her with a proposal!  It worked, she was shocked as all get out and the crowd went wild. I can't believe I managed to get these photos but I did -  I'm a sap for romance! We saw them later when we were out to eat and she told me that the day would go down as one of the biggest life changing days of her life.

6.  Monday morning when I got up at 4:15 (hit the snooze!) and my toes hit the floor I thought, "huh, it feels really cold." Turns out it was 14 degrees.  I went outside and decided that I think 20 degrees is going to be my limit for running in the cold and dark.  So my running partner Pitbull and I went outside to the treadmill in the 22 degree garage and did 3 miles of speedwork at a 3% incline.

5. This morning I got up and it was 45 degrees, which was warmer than it had been all day on Monday.  I hit the roads for a 5K which I managed to finish in 32 minutes.  Still not my best speed but I can see that 10 minute mile on the horizon!

4.  I'm probably way too old to wear a dress like this but boy is it gorgeous... it has everything I love - pink and bling.

3.  As of today it's looking like my planned trip to see the White House Holiday decorations is off.  Poor Little Helen called me crying last week saying she got an email stating that the two times we picked were probably being cancelled and offering her other times.  Of course,  I was flying down so it's all messed up.  I tried to talk her into going but she said she doesn't want to go without me.  While I'm disappointed, for once I'm going to be a glass half full person and believe this has happened for a reason and there will be another opportunity in the future!

2.  This is what I've been going through since last Friday:

The funny thing is Mr. Helen keeps talking about how much he likes my bob and how bouncy it is.  OY.

1.  I don't know about you but I've spent year after year after year setting goals and probably failing at reaching as many as I made.  My resolution for 2012?  No goals.  Simply, I will do the best I can in whatever circumstances arise. I will however, have a motto (thanks to my boyfriend Dolvett):  Hard Work, Dedication.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Zero Excuses Challenge Week 6: The Finale!

I started the Zero Excuses Challenge with no particular goal in mind because really, I didn't expect anything at all to come from it. As I'd already been trying fairly diligently to lose weight for almost 2 years, I didn't  want to set myself up for disappointment once again.

So I just sort of stumbled in and gave it the college try if you will.   Now, I find myself here at the end of week 6.  Time sure does fly when you're hungry and sore all the time - ha!  Just kidding.  Well, mostly kidding.

I had another week where I just sort of automatically did the program - but I didn't feel like I was losing weight.  Maybe because I had 2 dinners out - 1 unexpected and 1 planned.  For the unexpected one I order a big salad that fit right in with my eating plan.  For the planned dinner, which was my annual office outing, we went to one of my very favorite Italian restaurants.  I gave myself permission to have whatever I wanted, and I did:  a square of foccacia bread dipped in olive oil, a salad and this: Fettuccini si Ettore: Fettuccini with fried eggs, roasted red peppers and crispy pancetta.  A napoletana favorite.   It wasn't actually fried eggs in it either.  The eggs are whisked and then blended with the pasta to create a sort of glaze - almost like a carbonera without the cream.  This was my first taste of pasta in over 2 months and it was delicious.  I had no regrets at all.

That was on Wednesday and Thursday morning I got right back on plan and carried on.  Still, I wasn't sure what to expect when I stepped on the scale.  So, I focused the camera, stepped on and closed my eyes, only to open them and see...

Another 2.2 pounds lost this week and a total of 12.4 for the entire challenge.  I was so happy and emotional I didn't know whether to laugh or cry!

I want to give some credit to my doctor because she adjusted my thyroid medication and if it is acting properly, I should lose weight.  I will also give credit to the Paleo food plan.  For me, with the insulin resistance they discovered, eating much lower carb than I had been was something my body liked and has responded to.  Even with one meal a week for three out of the six weeks, that wasn't Paleo,  I continued to lose - and I found it extremely easy to go right back on plan.

But I give the most credit to ME.  Because I jumped in with both feet and stuck out both the food and the exercise plan.  I love cardio, I do not love strength training… yet this plan with a couple of ST exercises a day worked for me.

Tami asked me if the eating plan got easier and if I found there was enough variety.  Yes, the eating plan got easier and the variety is whatever you make of it.  As with any eating plan, whatever you decided to put into it is what you’ll get.  Because I am not one to buy prepared foods a lot, I spent a lot of time prepping and cooking food so that I could grab and go during the week and stay successful.  Just last week I tried Lori's gluten free, grain free, sugar free Paleo-style Banana Bread Breakfast Pudding and holy yum!  That sucker is delicious.  The only change I made was to add an extra egg white to up the protein a bit more.  Every eating plan I've ever tried, I've kept something.  That recipe will definitely be the something from this challenge... although I have to admit I am thinking about adding a tablespoon or two of mini chocolate chips to it and making it a dessert pudding :)

Debby asked me how I will proceed from here. I am going to say that my plan right now is to reintroduce some carbs from grains – but I will be eating low-glycemic.  To be honest, I have never stopped missing my oatmeal, or brown rice, or even spaghetti. I also miss various kinds of beans and low fat cheese.  Not that I crave those things, but I do miss them. Adding them back in will be realistic for me to create a long-term plan from this.   I also think some of the hardcore Paleo stuff is nutty (sorry, Rich).  Personally I’m not a fan of using lots of artificial sweeteners or other crazy ingredients.  So some subtle changes with the intention of staying lower carb.

I also have been mulling over doing something similar to what Lori does:  Paleo weeks, i.e., grain free, alternating with the low glycemic weeks.  A girl has to have the occasional cupcake after all!

I will also continue with the exercise plan. Rich's recommendation after this six weeks, is to take a week of rest from the six-days a week strength exercises.  Then you start the plan again at week 3 using heavier weights.  I have decided to extend my plan through the end of this week because next week I will also be on break from Muay Thai so I figure I can give my body a really good rest between Christmas and New Year's and then go at it again.

The main destination for me from here is that I want to keep the weight loss train rolling right into Goal Station.

Happiness List (in no particular order):
  • Lost 12.4 pounds in 6 weeks
  • Started the program using 5 & 8 pound weights, ended using 10, 12 and 15 pounders.
  • Started the program doing walk/jog or jog/run intervals, ended doing jog/run and run/sprint intervals AND saw my steady state run times go down.
  • Stuck to the food program for a full three weeks before I took an indulgence meal on Thanksgiving.  Went right back to the program for another 2 full weeks before I had another indulgence.
  • Went down 1 full size in clothing!
  • More importantly, fit into smaller JEANS.
  • My waist is making an appearance again! 
  • Started to see some definition in my arms that wasn’t there before.
  • Last Friday, someone walked up to me at work and said, "Are you losing weight?"  WOOT!
  • Got to work with Rich Kreps, who really does have a great program.
  • Shelley.  What I haven't said before is that the Zero Excuses people originally contacted Shelley and she told them no thanks and to get in touch with me.   Maybe she knew this was just the push I needed?  In any case, I can’t say enough about having someone or finding someone who is in maintenance mode - who has been there, done that -  and can help get you through the freak out moments.  Everyone needs to have their own Shelley – but you can’t have the original, she’s mine!
  • The Zero Scale:  seriously I do love this product, especially the total weight feature.  Even though I haven’t used it yet, I also love that it does have the ability to give me my actual weight… which one day I will see when I think I’ve hit goal!
I’m also hoping to report sometime in early February that all of this has kept me off Metformin. I’ll definitely keep you posted on that.

Ultimately, I can sum up this challenge and life change by echoing our dear Pam:  "IT'S ALL GOOD." This challenge is not the end for me, it's just the beginning!

If you’d like a Zero Scale of your own, this is the last week you can use the discount, which expires at the stroke of midnight on December 22, 2011.  When you get to the website to order, just put the word ZERO in the promo code box to get that 15% off.

Who knows?  Maybe having a Zero Scale would be just the push you need to reach your own goal in 2012!

The Zero Scale was given to me for participating in the Zero Excuses Challenge.
All opinions of this product are my own.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Zero Excuses Challenge Recap

In 2009 I arrived at blogging as a 49 year old hypothyroid woman approximately 30 pounds overweight and pretty miserable.  I spent the next two years fussing around and trying every which way but loose to get some weight off.  It worked – for a bit – but I guess when you keep gaining and losing the same 5 pounds you can’t say anything is working.  Then, from October of 2010 to November of 2011 I gained 15 pounds – while trying to lose weight - which made my doctor send me for extensive testing and to a specialist.  The news was discouraging:  my thyroid had shut down again and I was showing insulin resistance.  

Here I was, a 51 year old hypothyroid woman with insulin resistance, now approximately 45 pounds overweight – blech!   In a case of serious karma, I had been contacted by the PR firm for the Zero Scale and asked if I would be willing to participate in a six week challenge run by Rich Kreps, of Zero Excuses Fitness.  They sent me some information about Rich and his clients and when I replied in the affirmative, they overnighted me the Zero Scale.

The Friday before the challenge was to begin, I received the exercise and eating plan and had a phone conversation with Rich that resulted in him decided that ‘I’ was going to be his challenge. But what Rich didn’t know is that while I’m a stubborn hard headed lady it would work to his advantage (and mine!). Once I said I would do his silly little challenge, there was no way I wouldn’t give it my best try.

I’ll admit I emailed Shelley to whine and told her I was terrified of the diet.  I knew from past South Beach Diet experience that I would miss my carbs from grains.  In a way that only Shelley can, she calmed me down and I moved forward into the first week.

Much to my delight, the exercise plan was easier than I thought, which I give full credit to Muay Thai for.  All that functional fitness had made me stronger than I realized.  Even the diet wasn’t that bad, though my legs definitely could feel the lack of grain carbs when I ran.  At the end of that week I was rewarded for the hard work and diligence with a 3.6 pound loss!

Week two rolled around and motivated by the first week’s loss I charged forward, but soon ran head first into cravings that were literally making me feel crazy and like I was going to jump out of my skin!  I left the mall and stores several times due to food smells or displays that were so distracting I could not concentrate.  Really, I was miserable and wanted to give up, but deep down, I’m not a quitter so I soldiered forward.  Imagine my complete dismay when I got on the scale and my loss was .2!  I cried and stomped around my house for a while then I texted Shelley and emailed her.  Thank goodness she had the forsight to remind me that even the contestants on The Biggest Loser, who do nothing but live in a controlled environment have terrible week 2 weigh-ins.

I decided I’d give it one more week and not a minute more!  Imagine my surprise when, in week 3, I seemed to hit my stride. Even with the Thanksgiving holiday and my first non-Paleo indulgence, I lost 2 pounds! Maybe there is something to the theory that it takes 21 days to create new habits?

After that, I really was on a roll, right up to this week, the last week of the challenge.  So how did I do? Well, you’ll have to come back Monday for the final results and some answers to the questions you have been asking.

Have a great weekend – with Zero Excuses - and don't forget, if you want to have a Zero Scale of your own, just type the word ZERO in the promo code box when you order for a 15% discount.  Don't delay, the discount is only good until midnight on December 22, 2011.

The Zero Scale was given to me for participating in the Zero Excuses Challenge.
All opinions of this product are my own.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Winner Winner Football Pick Dinner!

When we started doing the Football picks I made a list of restaurants I wanted to go to.  Most of them were either restaurants that we don't go to often or ones we've never even tried.  The restaurant that we went to for my win was one we'd never been to before.  We kept hearing rave reviews about it and several times when Little Helen came home she told us we should try to place just based on the type of restaurant.  Though she's never been there she guaranteed us the food would be good.  Now here's the really sad thing about all of this:  this restaurant is literally about a 1/4 mile from our house!

When I won, I decided the time had come for us to go there and told Mr. Helen I wanted to go for a late lunch.  We got up Saturday morning and while I worked out he went to the rehearsal for his black belt show.  Once he was home we tackled the house cleaning together and then got cleaned up and went grocery shopping.  I was trying to get as much done as possible so I'd have Sunday free for wrapping gifts.  Finally, around 2:15 we headed out... and we walked!  While the area we live in is considered a city for this area, it really is sort of a suburban city and it's not very often that we walk to dinner.  It made me feel very cosmopolitan.

We arrived at our destination and the first thing I noticed is that they have decorated a bit for the season.

Pollos a la Brassa is a Peruvian restaurant and their specialty is Peruvian style rotisserie chicken along with many other items as we would soon see on the menu.

I had to remind him I was the winner!

There was very simple seating inside but it was super clean and decorated to the hilt.  In fact I was greatly amused by the mixture of  Peruvian and Christmas decorations.

This guy watched me eat.

Once I perused the menu, I decided I would allow this meal to be non Paleo - only the second one since I started the challenge.  I chose the half rotisserie chicken with rice and beans with a side of plantains, because Mr. Helen and I decided we would share our food.  He chose a dish called Bistec Encebollado: top round steak thinly sliced and smothered in garlic.  Topped with onions and tomatoes and served with white rice.


So yeah, even though we shared and even though Mr. Helen ate all that beef except the couple of bites I had, we came home with a full meal worth of leftovers  All for $26.00, including the Diet Pepsi I drank.  This was quite the find and as we strolled home we wondered why we waited so long.  We will definitely go back as we've already picked out other items we are wanting to try.

I'm glad I enjoyed this so much because I lost the picks this week, siiiiiiiigh.  Seriously, Mr. Helen picked every single game correctly except 1!  I suppose it's only fair for me to pay this week since he's getting his 3rd Degree Black Belt on Saturday and wants to go out to dinner to celebrate afterwards.  I just hope he picks something as yummy as this.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Zero Excuses Challenge Week 5: Deja Vu All Over Again

Five weeks in and I'm rolling peeps.  I won't lie, the five day-a-week 4 am wakeups (I sleep in to at least 6 am on Saturdays) so that I can get my coffee and be working out by 4:45 are tough but the results have been worth it!  It's deja vu all over again with another 2.2 pounds gone - woot!

I have to tell you though, I had two victories over the weekend that almost made me happier than seeing those numbers on that scale.  The first was that I ran my 5 miler on Saturday morning in 53 minutes!  I know for a fact that the increase in my speed is a direct result of the weight loss.  I am working on getting back to a 10 minute mile and under - something that is totally doable as long as I keep the weight loss train rolling.

The second thing was that I fit back into my one size down jeans!  JEANS!  Jeans that I couldn't even button 5 weeks ago.  When I pulled them out just to see, they slid right up and buttoned.  I didn't even have to lay down on the bed lol!  To me jeans are an even bigger victory than last weeks slacks.

So now I head into the final week of the official challenge excited about the victories I can look forward to this week.

Speaking of excitement, I have some BIG news to share with you guys.  You know how I keep telling you that you can have your own Zero Scale with a 15% discount as long as you order by December 23rd?  That still holds true but if you really want a scale you shouldn't put it off because this product is about to blow up nationally!  Last week, Rich Kreps of Zero Excuses Fitness, our trainer and nutrition consultant for the challenge, drove to LA for a taping of The Doctors.  The Doctors chose the Zero Scale as a product to be featured in their two part show on having a healthy New Year and the scale was given to each audience member.  If only a small percent of the people who ultimately watch the TV show order the scale, they will sell out.  Now obviously with that sort of nationwide promotion, they don't need to offer a discount.  So don't delay!  The discount that I am able to offer you will go away as of December 23rd.  Get your Zero Scale 15% discount by typing in the word ZERO in the promo code box.

The Zero Scale was given to me for participating in the Zero Excuses Challenge.
All opinions of this product are my own.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Busy Till I'm Dizzy!

The upcoming weekend will be jam packed with events and trying to finish up my Christmas shopping.  Mr. Helen will be giving his speech tonight at the dojo, talking about his black belt journey and what it means to him to be receiving his third degree belt.  There is a potluck following the speeches.

Saturday will the the usual craziness of exercise and house cleaning followed by finishing up the shopping if it's the last thing I do, and best of all, my football pick winning meal!  We are tied for wins now and I can't help but brag that I beat his butt by 4 games this time.

Sunday, I must wrap.  I must just sit down and do it until it's done because it's the only chance I have without Mr. Helen being all up in my grille at home. He took the following Sunday off and the Sunday after that is Christmas - ACK!

I'll leave you with a laugh.  You've seen this Nativity before when I showed you some of my decorations last year.  I always put it where the little nieces/nephews can touch it because it's made of resin... though Gracie did manage to break one of the angel's wings when she was around 2.

Conversation when she was at my house last week, in which Gracie shows that evidently she does not remember this set...

Gracie (in the sweetest cooing voice):  Oh Auntie Helen!  You have a baby Jesus!
H:  Yes.  Who is that with the baby?
G: His mommy and daddy.
H:  And who else?
G:  The good fairy!

Hahahaha!  Close enough. I hope everyone has a great weekend, doing whatever makes your heart happy and light.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Reader Recipe Request

When I wrote the post about our Thanksgiving weekend, I mentioned an overnight breakfast casserole and noted that most of you probably had such a recipe.  Kristen, from Low Fat Dressing commented and said she'd never heard of such a thing and requested the recipe.

This is not a low fat or 'diet' recipe by any means - nor is it Paleo lol!  Even though I make some concessions and use low/lower fat items in it, we consider this a special occasion recipe therefore I have never calculated the nutrition facts.  It is yummy though and worth the occasional indulgence.


Overnight Breakfast Casserole

1 pound turkey breakfast sausage
8 slices thick white bread (I buy a bread called Texas Toast but you could buy a loaf and slice it thickly yourself)
4 T butter
2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar (I use reduced fat - NOT fat free cheese)
6 eggs
3 cups milk (I use skim or 1%)
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

If the turkey sausage is in casings, squeeze the sausage out into a non-stick skillet and brown, making sure to crumble so you don’t have lumps.  Set aside to cool.

Cut the crusts off each slice of bread and lightly butter each side.  Cut bread slices into cubes.

Spray a 3 quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Then layer bread cubes, turkey sausage, cheese.  Repeat.  (I get 2 layers in the dish I use.)

In a large bowl, whisk together the spices, eggs and milk, then pour it over the casserole.

Wrap casserole with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, preheat the oven to 350, remove the wrap and put casserole in the oven.  Bake for 35-45 minutes until the dish is puffy and golden brown on the top.

Let rest for about 10 minutes, then serve.  Makes 6-8 servings, depending on how big your eaters are!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tuesday Ten

10.  Thinking about the holidays and reading the laments of some of the single bloggers made me laugh out loud.  They're crying over spending New Year's Eve on their couch with Nutella, watching Dick Clark's Rocking New Year's Eve.  Are you kidding me?  That's like my dream date!

9.  Thing that makes me happy:  this dress.  Bought it about a month ago as a goal dress.  Nowhere near the size I was wearing but it was on a clearance rack for $20 and I thought that maybe I'd be able to wear it before next spring if I did OK during the Zero Excuses Challenge.  Saturday morning while trying to decide what to wear to the wedding, I thought, "Try it on and see how much further you have to go..."  IT FIT!!! (And it prompted Mr. Helen's lovely comment to me too!)

8.  It has been around 60 degrees every day since Thanksgiving here in Connecticut.  Yesterday, it snowed in Texas. Methinks the weather is upside down. 

7.  Thing that makes me happy: being at the wedding of my flower girl. I'm a sap for romance!

6.  I wish the department stores like Macy's would do late evening door busters instead of early morning.  The early morning ones are from 8 am to noon and that makes it near impossible for those of us who actually have to be in our offices to take advantage of the good buys.

5.  Thing that makes me happy:  my Zero Scale, specifically the total weight loss feature.  I just find seeing that total number so motivating.  Don't forget, if you want to be motivated the same way, you can get your own scale for 15% off by typing in the word "ZERO" in the promo code box when you order.  But this offer is only good until December 23, 2011.

4. December 21st  I am taking a tour of the White House Holiday decorations!  Little Helen got 2 tickets and asked me to come.  I am flying down, doing the tour and then she and I will drive back together for her trip home for Christmas. When she asked, my planning/administrative mind couldn't fathom doing anything so crazy.  Mr. Helen insisted telling me it was the chance of a lifetime.  That's what makes us such a good pair - his fly by the seat of the pants personality knows how to tame the planner in me.

3.  Thing that makes me happy: Gracie trying ice skating for the first time... look at that face!

2. Mr. Helen's family has decided to do away with the Christmas gift exchange.  Instead, everyone is going to put the money they would have spent into a pot and half is going to be donated to the Alzheimer's Association in honor of his mother and the other half is going to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund in memory of Pam.  Love this idea!

1.  Thing that makes me happy:  PROGRESS!  When I got home from work, Mr. Helen told me my slacks looked baggy.  I told him no they were just a bit stretched out from wearing them all day.  He replied that NO they are baggy.  Take some money and buy yourself some new slacks.  He doesn't know that I don't have to do that because I have several sizes waiting.  This morning, I got into my next size down bin and I'm wearing a pair of those slacks today!  Happy.  So Happy.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Zero Excuses Challenge Week 4: Feeling Fat

Fat is a state of being.  There is no doubt at all that someone who is carrying 100 extra pounds is fat.  In fact, recent statistics show that the United States is one of the fattest countries in the world – whatever the reason.  We see it on the Biggest Loser all the time when the doctor in charge of the contestants goes over their tests with them and shows them the inner fat that is crowding their vital organs, making them much older than they are in reality and threatening their very lives.

There is, however, a complete difference between being fat and feeling fat.  As you know there are fat acceptance groups in which the members who are overweight have great self-confidence and do not suffer from the feelings of inadequacy that feeling fat can give.  Feeling fat carries so many burdens with it, you have to wonder why we'd even entertain those feelings.  Additionally, my personal belief is that feeling fat is once of the greatest obstacles not only to losing the fat itself, but also to maintaining that loss once at goal.

Many of us read the lovely Lori of Finding Radiance who has lost well over a hundred pounds and kept it off.  She posts her exercise and her eats and her recipes and makes the rest of us sit there and think that we too want to be the well-oiled machine that she is one day.  Last week she had a tremendous post about accepting the mirror that shows just how much feeling fat can play with our heads - and our reality.  Go ahead and click and read it if you haven’t.  When you see the photo she posted you’ll be shocked that she would even begin to think that somehow she thinks – even temporarily – that how she looks right now isn’t quite right.  She had lots of great responses on that post too because we all understand that exact feeling.

While I am still fat statistically I have been losing weight of late.  (Woot!) I work out hard and have been following the eating plan given to me by Rich Kreps, the trainer for the Zero Excuses Challenge.  Why then did I struggle from Wednesday-Friday with feeling fat?  I’m not weighing myself but once a week so it wasn't a scale thing.  Besides with the awesome ZeroScale I don’t even know what that number is right now, only whether I’m losing or gaining.  Still, I struggled.  I thought it calmed down a bit on Thursday but that evening at Muay Thai I got partnered with someone quite thin and when we stood in the mirror side by side I felt like a moose - a cow - an elephant - GIGANTIC.  By Friday this feeling was full blown and I literally spent the entire day talking myself out of over eating because “I’m fat anyway, who gives a carp?!  I’m going to gain and be the cow that I was before and…..”  Well, you know the drill.  But I did not succumb even though it required me literally powering through by gritting my teeth and telling myself over and over again that I was not hungry and I would not feed my emotions. Hunger feeding = Yes!  Emotion feeding = Hell to the NO!

Wouldn’t you know Friday was the night Mr. Helen wanted tacos and while I was angelically fixing my Paleo taco salad he kept saying, “Don’t you want cheese?  Don’t you want tortillas?  Don’t you want a hard shell”  Finally after saying no thank you several times I told him that “Yes @#$%$##@!$#%^&*^^%!  I want all those things.  But I am choosing not to have them right now.  Thank you.”  He said, “Oh, sorry!  I forgot you are trying not to eat that stuff.  You are one of the strongest women I know Helen.  So proud of you!” Which made things a bit better.

But back to that fat feeling.  It’s the craziest thing that can totally sabotage everything you’ve done… all the hard work you’ve put in for a week straight… unless you refuse to back down and acknowledge that it IS JUST A FEELING.

With a pounding heart, I got on the scale for my weekly weigh in and got my proof that feelings don’t last but hard work shows itself out:

The truth will out as Mama Helen used to say.  And one day I will also no longer be statistically fat.

When we were leaving for the wedding we had to attend Saturday morning, Mr. Helen said, "You look gorgeous.  More beautiful than the day I married you."

That's me he was talking about.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Randomness

I feel like blogland has hit the proverbial holiday slowdown lately. Actually I noticed it a bit before Thanksgiving but it seems to be picking up this week.  I suppose it's a good thing that bloggers are out living their real lives, right?


I showed you guys a small photo of my outside decorations.  I thought I'd back up and try to get the whole view so you could see what it looks like when driving down my hill. 

When we first moved there, the only thing we put up was the snowflakes around the porch.  Then a couple years ago I found the little trees to line the retaining wall.  Then this year I got a great deal on the two deer and Mr. Helen found the garland with the colored lights tucked away so he added that.  It's not much, but I think it's festive.

The only issue is that I really don't think anyone but us really sees or enjoys our little light display.  Why you ask?  Well, we live on a one way street and exactly two houses before mine, this is what people see:

And I'm not even showing you the driveway here people.  That's full of animated snowglobes and the trees along the side have flashing candycanes. 

Yep, there's only 1 house inbetween me and that guy lol!  The neighbor inbetween says why bother and puts up a simple wreath on her door.  This year when Mr. Helen was putting the decorations out Christmas Wonderland Neighbor walked down the hill and said, "Oh, I see you're adding deer this year.  Are you trying to compete with us?"  HAHAHAHA!

This is the only time of year we actually have a bit of traffic on our little one way street.


Another busy weekend for us here at the Helen household.  Friday night I have got to try to do some Christmas shopping.  Got to.  Never before have I been this late getting started!

Saturday morning Mr. Helen has to go to rehearsals for the big Black Belt Extravaganza being held on December 17th.  That's when he will formally be presented his Third Degree Belt.  Before they get their belts, the candidates put on a show.

Then, we are attending the wedding of the young woman who was our Flower Girl.  How is it even possible that she has aged enough to be getting married and we are exactly the same?

Saturday evening is yet another annual fundraiser that we have been going to for a few years.  Called Giving is a Gift, it's like a holiday party with games and great food and the price of admission is a donation that goes to one of the local non-profits.  We generally try to buy things to be used at the Women's Center in their domestic violence shelter - body wash, deodorant and other personal hygiene items. We also like to put together a couple of bags of groceries for the food bank.  The event is great fun and we always leave feeling happy and vowing to do more the next year.
In between those events we hope to get some shopping done for Little Helen.  Sunday will be more shopping, specifically for Mr. Helen since he'll be at work and I'll be able to get the stuff in the house without him seeing anything.

Can't believe it's just a bit over 3 weeks until Christmas.  Not only is it the most wonderful time of the year, it's the busiest too!


On Wednesday I had Amazing Gracie for a couple of hours because she kept asking her mama if she could come over.  She said she wanted to pick what we did so we went shopping at Target (where I spent about $35 on her, sigh), I did her nails, we examined every. single. ornament. on the tree, ate shrimp cocktail and then we watched Elf.  All between 5:00-7:15!!  While we were watching Elf she picked up my iPhone and said, "Let's take pictures!"  Herewith is our crappy iPhone camera photo session:

"Let me stand by the tree first."
(Note the slippers on her feet: $9.99 at Target)

" Now I want to do a crazy pose!"

"OK Aunt Helen now YOU do a crazy pose!"

"Now show everyone we're watching Elf."

"It's my turn to show Elf!"

"Show me your favorite ornament."
"I can't Gracie, I love them all."
"Ok, then show all of them."

"Now I'll show you my favorite one... it's this birdie one with the birdies going round and round.  Can I please take it off and put it on my tree at home?"
"No Gracie, but you can look at it every time you come here."

If that doesn't give you a smile and put you in a better mood for the season and the weekend, well I don't know what will!