Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Year of....

Status Quo.

That's what 2014 turned out to be for me, even though we had the excitement of Little Helen's engagement and I started a part time job.  Pretty much, things stayed the same.

Of course there was also the inevitable deaths of our loved ones and friend's loved ones, including one awful month where there were six.  I attended three of the funerals.  Though 3 of them were somewhat unexpected and young people were involved, I suppose that's just a reflection of the time of life that I am in.

According to Facebook, my highlights in 2014 were Holidays, Home, Patio Paradise and Running.  Sounds about right!

Like many folks I have been mulling over the last year and thinking forward to 2015.  I wouldn't mind if things were status quo in 2015 as well but I know we have some exciting times ahead.

The Chinese are saying 2015 is the Year of the Goat.  At the Helen household it will be the Year of the Wedding.  Yes, we were informed yesterday that the date is set for July 25, 2015!

My personal goals are to get some bills paid off - we are seriously hunkering down financially as Mr. Helen's retirement is just around the corner in 2017.  That sounds far off but experience tells me it will be here sooner than later.

I'd like to throw Mr. Helen a birthday party, as he will be turning 60 in May.  I think that's something to be celebrated.

I want to continue my non-dieting quest for good health and well being.  I've had a couple of weeks break from the Neila Rey programs, but this tends to be the time of year when I'm so busy that I'm glad to exercise 3 times a week.  I'll definitely be starting another round of Neila Rey tomorrow.  It makes me happy that I've found something besides running that I'm willing to do.

In the midst of the extra eating/drinking/holiday frenzy I found myself in a bookstore (while buying a giftcard) staring at diet books. Not a good thing as I was feeling pretty crazed from all the extra everything.  But I held firm and I'm glad.  As irony would have it, my sister shared something by Anne Lamott that put me firmly back into the right mindset.  Feel free to skip this as I've copied it here in it's entirety so I can refer to it the next time I get the urge to act crazy.
This is the Anne Patricia Lamott Anti-Diet that I posted at this time last year. This year, I post it with an added urgency, as the new Viking Diet is upon us, the latest and hottest It diet, and since you may feel vulnerable and somewhat battered after the last few days/weeks/years of festive family get-togethers, or estrangement, you will be susceptible to its promises. And yes, young Canute, if you are enjoying the noble Viking lifestyle, raiding your neighbor's grain stores and salted venison lockers, this may in fact be the perfect new diet for you. Are you giddy with relief that Whole Foods carries so many foraged vegetables, and moose meat? Then step right up. Help bail out the ever-struggling diet industry, while you're at it. But otherwise?
We need to talk.
I know you are planning to start a diet next Thursday, January 1st, I used to start diets, too. I hated to mention this to my then-therapist. She would say cheerfully, " Oh, that's great, honey. How much weight are you hoping to gain?"
I got rid of her sorry ass. No one talks to ME that way.
Well, okay, maybe it was ten years later, after she had helped lead me back home, to myself, to radical self-care, to friendship with my own heart, to a jungly glade that had always existed deep inside me, to mostly healthy eating, but that I'd avoided all those years by achieving, dieting, binging, people-pleasing, multi-talking, and so on
Now when I decide to go on a diet, I say it to myself: "Great, honey. How much weight are you hoping to gain?"
I was able to successfully put on weight during my last book tour by eating room service meals in a gobbly trance in 13 different cities. So that was exhilarating, as I may have mentioned several hundred times that I have had the tiniest, tiniest struggle with food and body image for the last--well, life time. Hardly worth mentioning.
And then, after book tour, I accidentally forgot to starve myself in December, or to go back to the gym, which I've been meaning to do since I had a child, 24 years ago.
So I am at least five pounds up--but thankfully, I do not currently have a scale, because as I've said before, getting on a scale is like asking Dick Cheney to give you a sense of your own self-worth every morning.
I can still get my jeans on, for one reason: I wear forgiving pants. The world is too hard as it is, without letting your pants have an opinion on how you are doing. I struggle with enough esteem issues without letting my jeans get in on the act, volunteering random thoughts about my butt.
By the same token, it feels great to be healthy. Some of you need to be under a doctor's care. None of you need to join Jenny Craig. It won't work. You will lose tons of weight quickly, and gain it all back, plus five. Some of you need to get outside and walk for half an hour a day. I do love walking, so that is not a problem for me, but I have a serious sickness with sugar: if I start eating it, I can't stop. I don't have an off switch, any more than I do with alcohol. Given a choice, I will eat candy corn and Raisinets until the cows come home--and then those cows will be tense, and bitter, because I will have gotten lipstick on the straps of their feed bags.
But you crave what you eat, so if I go for 3 or 4 days with no sugar, the craving is gone. That is not dieting. If you are allergic to peanuts, don't eat peanuts.
So please join me in not starting a diet January 1st.
It's really okay, though, to have (or pray for) an awakening around your body. It's okay to stop hitting the snooze button, and to pay attention to what makes you feel great about yourself, one meal at a time. Horribly, it's yet another inside job. If you are not okay with yourself at 185, you will not be okay at 150, or even 135. The self-respect and peace of mind you long for is not out there. It's within. I hate that. I resent that more than I can say. But it's true.
Maybe some of us can try to eat a bit less, and walk a bit more, and make sure to wear pants that do not hurt our thighs or our feelings. Drinking more water is the solution to all problems.
I'll leave you with this: I've helped some of the sturdier women at my church get healthy, by suggesting they prepare each meal as if they had asked our beloved pastor to lunch or dinner. They wouldn't say, "Here Pastor--let's eat standing up in the kitchen. This tube of barbecue Pringles is all for you. i have my own" And then stand there gobbling from their own tubular container. No, they'd get out pretty dishes, and arrange wonderful foods on the plates, and set one plate before Veronica at the table, a plate filled with love, pride and connection. That's what we have longed for, our whole lives, and get to create, now, or or on the 1st. Wow! And God bless you all real good, as my pastor always says.
As irony would also have it, I have a nutritionist friend I've known for years via Sparkpeople, and whose specialty is working with people who have medical issues that affect their ability to lose or gain weight.  She has offered to work with me to see if we can figure out why my metabolism seems shut down.  10 years ago (this July) when I was first diagnosed with thyroid disease, I wished we lived closer so she could help me figure things out.  Now through the amazing technology available, she has set up a way to do it online.  I've decided to take her up on her offer simply because she has promised me, no dieting.

So that's where I'm at right now... looking for my happy new year via the great Anti-Diet of working on awakening around my body, paying attention to what (food & exercise) make me feel good about myself, and learning to love myself and others right where we are.


Happy New Year, friends.



Monday, December 29, 2014

On the Fifth Day of Christmas...

I cleaned the house then collapsed in exhaustion lol!

As I mentioned in my prior post we had four straight days of festivities from Christmas Eve to Saturday.  It looked like Santa's bag exploded in my living room on Christmas morning... as usual too many gifts exchanged, even though we said we were cutting back.  It really was a bit ridiculous.


Ridiculous but fun! In the end, we all managed to get some things we really wanted, some of which were surprises.

Ever since Shelley surprised me with a pony tail running hat, I have wanted a running jacket to match - and I got it!   Mr. Helen also bought me a Road ID, which I have been wanting for years but just never bought myself.  When the one he ordered came in, he realized he had bought the wrong size so he ordered two more bands in the right size and until I showed him, didn't realize he had managed to beautifully coordinate everything!  I told Mr. Helen that Shelley will be so proud to see this.


I also received a pair of boots I've been drooling over... so very indulgent I never expected in a million years that I'd get them.

They are so cute and warm and comfy, they are the perfect run around town doing errands type of boot.  I was astonished and Mr. Helen was happy that he surprised me so thoroughly.

I also got something I've been wanting for a long, long time from Little Helen - a Bose Bluetooth speaker.

Additionally, she decided that Mr. Helen and I were way overdue for a new sound system of some sort.  I think the fact that nearly every CD we tried to play skipped probably was a huge clue.  This also has Bluetooth capability so we are finally updated to the new technology.

I love how small and portable both of these items are so we will be able to move them around the house and out onto the patio.

Here's a shot of the appetizers we put out - Little Helen actually volunteered to make the platter up and it came out so nice.  In front of the apps are my signature Rudolph's Nose Champagne cocktail.  In the background you can see a box that has Twelve Days of Christmas appetizer plates which was a surprise gift from Little Helen.  As you know my champagne flutes are Waterford Crystal Twelve Days of Christmas as well so we each used the plate that coordinated with our glass.  Everything about this coordination appeals to the perfectionist streak in me.



Little Helen's fiance decided that he wants to have a yearly traditional photo in front of the tree.  They also managed to color coordinate again this year.

The happy couple who are making us a bit nuts by not having anything settled towards a wedding. Sigh.

As you can see from the opened gifts behind them, I could probably fill a blog or two with all the gifts, but let's just finish here by saying it was a very nice holiday.

While it was all fun and great times with family, I have to admit I was happy to wave goodbye as Mr. Helen went to work and Little Helen and her fiance went back home.

It's funny how used I have gotten to it being just Mr. Helen and me in the house.  We have a certain way that we live and even having just a couple extra people, it feels a bit crazy after a few days.  A completely different routine as well as we stay up later and sleep in later. Not bad necessarily, just different.

Once everyone was gone and I had the house to myself, it took me just about four hours to scrub things down and get the house back into some type of order.  Plus 7 loads of laundry! The Christmas decorations will actually stay up until New Year's Day this year and I'm fine with that.

Only three days until New Year's Day anyway, right? I actually love the week after Christmas leading up to the new year.  I find myself reflecting on the past and looking towards the future with bright and shiny plans... and maybe a wedding in 2015?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Wrapping it all Up!

I finally sat down and wrapped the last gifts last night.  It felt good to get that done.  At this point I'm pretty much out of time to shop or do anything more since I'm working my last pre-Christmas shift at the mall tonight.

This past Saturday, I made my family traditional cut-out cookies and decorated them, along with my favorite cookie, which some of you might know as a snowball, and per Little Helen's request, some fudge. Years ago I made about 10 different types of things but that's' more than enough for us now.




Based on last Sunday's shift I expect I'll be straight out until the mall closes and I walk back out to my car.  I sort of dislike being that busy as I feel I don't even make eye contact my with customers, but rather just stare into a computer screen processing gift cards and collecting money.  Oh well, that will be wrapped up after tonight as well, then I get four whole days off from both jobs.

We're having our luncheon at work today and then tomorrow we work only 4 hours during which mostly nothing gets done.  I was tempted to just take it off but since the other 4 hours are a 'gift' it's worth it to come in and not have to use vacation time, as I plan on using vacation time for January 2nd to have another long weekend.

I've got my menus together and a game plan to execute them - thankfully I can do quite a bit of prep during my free Christmas Eve afternoon.  Biz, I know it will make you happy to read what I'm doing!

Christmas Eve we will have my famous to my family Chicken Parmigiana with Angel Hair Pasta, Marinara, Salad, and Italian Bread. Christmas morning, I am going to make homemade cinnamon rolls that I prepare the day before and just bake off.  I'm using my own recipe, but Alton Brown's method, which you can see here.  We always open our gifts leisurely so I generally plan to have an appetizer style lunch - just a few nibbles to get us through to our main meal.  This year we are having shrimp cocktail, an olive display, proscuitto and mozzarella roll, and Ina Garten's Parmesan and Thyme Crackers.  I started making these crackers a few years ago and now they are a must for us!  I generally serve my signature Champagne Cocktail with the appetizers.


Rudolph's Nose
(makes 1 drink)
Ice
1 ounce vodka
1/2 ounce triple sec
1 ounce cranberry juice
1 ounce cherry juice
2 or 3 frozen raspberries
Brut Champagne

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice and cherry juice. Shake, then strain into a champagne flute. Drop the raspberries into the glass, then top with sparkling wine.

For our main meal, we are having a Tenderloin Roast with Gorgonzola Sauce, a brown sugar cured Spiral Ham, Two Potato Gratin, Green Bean Casserole, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, and homemade rolls.  Dessert will be Christmas cookies.

That will be too much food but rest assured after Christmas Day I am not cooking so everyone will appreciate the leftovers.

There will be some extended family gatherings as well after Christmas so it will be a busy and fun time.  Now, we just wait the arrival of Little Helen and Fiance for the festivities to begin!

To all my blogging friends near and far, whatever the holidays you are celebrating, I hope they are filled with the people and things you love!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday Meandering

I had a nearly perfect winter run this morning.  It was only 25 degrees, but there was no wind, which is a miracle.  Once I started running, I heated up fast and just really enjoyed it.  I say nearly perfect because the only thing that would have made it better would have been sunshine.  But there's not even sunrise at the time I'm running!

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Speaking of running, our friend Shelley did the half marathon she's been training for and rocked it!  No injuries during the training season and no issues during the race!  Afterward, in a Facebook thread she and one of her buddies were talking about how their Garmins showed 13.3+ miles instead of 13.1.

As I mentioned to Amy, Garmins themselves have a +/- percentage of error, always. Then there's the fact that unless you can figure out how to run the course exactly as it was measured, you'll see a difference.  This morning I was reminded that the satellites that we get our GPS from have something to do with it as well.  They must reposition them or something because the loop I ran and which always measures 3.12-3.17 miles, measured 3.07 this morning.  Of course to get satisfaction, I had to run until I hit 3.1.  Only a runner cares about that.

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The late shifts have started at the mall for me.  I was home by 10:30 last Thursday but could. not. sleep.  I was pretty wiped out on Friday.  Thankfully I only have two more late shifts like that - tonight and the 23rd.  I am a bit concerned about the shift on the 23rd though as it's the last full evening of shopping before Christmas (the mall closes at 6 pm on Christmas Eve) and I'm working all by myself. Yikes!

Here's why:  Part of my job at the guest services desk is to sell Visa and American Express gift cards, as well as the pre-loaded gift cards for various stores.  Yesterday during my 6 hour shift I did $8,000 in sales.  Think about that.  Nearly half of that amount was cash and the rest was charges.  At the end of my shift I had to reconcile all that, plus account for all my gift cards left, not to mention the voids I had.  It usually takes me about 10 minutes to reconcile and cash out.  Yesterday it took me 40.

With the mall closing at 10:30, I suspect by the time I cash out, it will be 11:30 - or even later - before I'm home.  Thank goodness this madness only lasts for a couple of weeks!

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Kristen, who occasionally writes at Low Fat Dressing, tried my Crockpot Bolognese recipe over the weekend and loved it!  I'm telling you, if you're busy, give this method a try.  The sauce is delicious and you can be wrapping gifts - or as in Lori's case, doing house rehab while it cooks!

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Last night Barbara Walters did her most fascinating people of 2014 special.  One of her choices was Oprah Winfrey.  I don't remember the exact wording of the question but Barbara asked Oprah even with all she's done, when she would feel like she was settled or accomplished.  Oprah answered not until she made peace with her weight issues.  

Seriously, that totally and completely fascinates ME.  Rich and famous people, they're just like us.



Monday, December 8, 2014

Crockpot Bolognese - So Delicious There's No Photo

I meant to get back here last week to post this recipe and just couldn't find the time.  My free time is very precious these days, especially with the holidays in full swing.  So, I find myself prioritizing and unfortunately the blog fell by the wayside.

When I started making the bolognese I realized that basically for my entire life growing up, this is the sauce my mom made.  Probably a poor man's version because I don't ever remember her using more than one kind of meat or cooking it for hours.

I made this because I happened to know that Little Helen's fiance likes it and I wanted us to have something to eat for dinner after we went and looked at another wedding venue, but I didn't want to have to fuss with dinner when we got back.  It worked perfectly as all I did was cook some fettucine and toss a salad.  Mr. Helen contributed garlic bread.  

It was certainly a hit and before I knew it, it was all gone so this recipe is being given to you with no photo.  

I actually looked up a bunch of different methods for bolognese, which is bascially a meat sauce, heavier on the meat than the sauce, that is cooked for a long time.  That was when I decided I would slow cook it in the crock pot and I combined a bunch of different recipes to come up with this one. Thank goodness I wrote down what I was doing as I went along!

Helen's Crockpot Bolognese

2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
2 stalks celery, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
1-2 carrots, finely chopped (3/4 cup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds combined ground beef, veal, pork (or use meatloaf mix)
1 cup milk
2-28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 cup beef stock
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 T oregano
1 T basil
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. marjoram
1/2 tsp. black pepper

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat and add the onion, celery, and carrot.  Stir frequently until tender, about 10 minutes.  Add minced garlic and saute another minute until garlic is fragrant.

Add the ground meat and cook until it loses it's pink color and begins to brown.  Pour the milk over the mixture, increase the heat to high and cook until the milk has evaporated.  Transfer the mixture to a 6 quart slow cooker.

Add the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes and all the spices.  Stir well to combine.  Put the cover on the crock pot and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Notes: I made this a day ahead because I always feel sauces taste best when they have a day to sit This also allows you to skim some of the fat off the top before you reheat it.

You could use red or white wine in place of the beef stock.  My future son-in-law does not drink so I always hesitate to use alcohol when that is the case.

This sauce is much meatier than a traditional marinara with some meat added.  If you have meat lovers in the house, they'll love it.

This makes a lot.  My crockpot was nearly full.  But the great thing about this sauce is it can be frozen and used later for baked ziti or a lasagne, or even to eat again!

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Since I have no photos of the sauce, how about some photos of my Christmas tree and outside decorations? While Mr. Helen had done the outside right after Thanksgiving, this past weekend was our only time to go to the tree farm to get the tree.  It ended up pouring rain!  We decided this would be a tree cutting to remember, especially as Mr. Helen has mandated that next year Little Helen will be married and therefore we are getting an artificial tree!  Maybe that's why we got one a bit bigger than usual... or maybe it was the pouring rain forcing us into a quick decision.  In any case, it got cut and decorated and once again, we feel like it's the best one ever.

My new yard decoration.  I waited five years for it to go on sale and ended up getting it half price!



I even managed to get a few things wrapped!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What's Up Doc?

I am just in a routine with life right now (or rut, depending on how you think about it).  I feel like it's all work, sleep, exercise, eat, work, eat, sleep, REPEAT these days. There are pros and cons to that I suppose.

The Thanksgiving Holiday was fantastic and fantastically busy around the Helen household.  We spent T-Day itself with Mr. Helen's side of the family.  I contributed homemade potato rolls, this delicious roasted butternut squash and red potato dish, and Ina Garten's Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake.  Mr. Helen loved the vegetables so much he asked me to make another batch to go with our "leftover" turkey dinner.  (It's not really leftover, I just make us our own turkey breast every year to have a dinner and sandwiches.)

Friday we avoided all shopping and spent the morning lazing around waiting for Little Helen to arrive, followed by a trip to the winery to pick up our Grape Nuts shipment.  This might be becoming an annual tradition with us!

Saturday, Little Helen and I went out to Macy's briefly just to check out the door buster deals and I think I found my upcoming holiday party dress.  I leave the tags on thereby leaving my options open!  Mostly we wanted to shop local for Small Business Saturday - we weren't really shopping for anything in particular, just wanting to support the small businesses.  I found this adorable miniature Nativity ornament carved from alabaster at our Fair Trade store - for only $4.98 I couldn't resist.



In the afternoon we went and looked at yet another venue for the wedding.  They are just having a super hard time deciding.  They really did love this place, so fingers (and toes) crossed.  I am worried at this point they are going to run into other obstacles like being able to coordinate a caterer, photographer, and all the other miscellaneous things with the date.  We really feel like our lives are on hold so we wish they'd make a decision!

Sunday I worked for four hours at my part time job and then came home and took down all the fall decorations and replaced them with Christmas stuff.  It was a particularly balmy day so Mr. Helen took advantage of the fact that he had the day off and got all the outside lights done as well.  This weekend we'll get the tree and then that's done.  I have only begun to shop and I can see it's going to be a bit tedious this year as I try to fit it in between the two jobs. The mall has regular hours for this week then beginning next week the hours extend.  I am NOT looking forward to getting home at 11 PM but thankfully that will be over soon!

I am one of those people who love when a Monday and a 1st of a new month happen on the same day so I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on where I am emotionally and physically right now.  I have to say emotionally I'm just in a pretty good place.  I feel much more content than I have in a while, even with the uproar of two job and the wedding.  Maybe it's because I'm slowly learning to let some things go and also learning to better care for myself.

Physically I'm still having issues with my back.  Frustrating because I honestly feel one more shot would do the trick for me (I have that almost there/healed feeling) but they changed our insurance plan this year and each time I get the shot I will have a co-pay of $500 so that's not in the cards right now.

Other than that I think I mostly have mid-life stuff going on - various aches and pains for whatever reason, inconsistent sleep, and what seems to be some arthritis in both of my thumbs (that's my next doctor appt.).

Exercise wise, I am almost done with Neila Rey's 90 day strength program.  This program was not linear like my 30 day challenge because I decided to purposefully have some no exercise days.  But I am doing her workouts at least 5 days a week and doubling some of them up to try to stay on track.

Running is fine - like most runners I have good days and bad.   The Neila Rey program has had me walking at least once a week for a totally low impact day and that has reminded me how much I enjoy walking for exercise.  Thanksgiving morning I did 3.2 miles in 45 minutes.  That's a pretty good clip for a walk.

Eating wise, I continue to allow myself to have whatever I want and continue to find I just don't want some things nearly as much as I thought I would.  I am not losing weight, but I'm not gaining either and while that is a major victory, I've decided that without counting or prohibiting, I am going to try cutting portions a bit more.  Almost like a challenge to see how little I can eat and be satisfied and fuel enough for exercise.  I'm hoping it will bring about some weight loss but I'm just not sure how my middle aged, hypothyroid body will respond.  I have a HUGE desire to weigh at least 30 pounds less than I think I weigh right now (haven't been on the scale in a long, long time) before Little Helen gets married, so it can't hurt to try that. I'm not afraid I'll go overboard or feel deprived since that feeling has just disappeared for me when it comes to food.

Also, I think I have become the crockpot queen as of late.  That appliance is saving my butt with all the working I'm doing and it's keeping us eating healthy.  I made a crockpot bolognese that we ate on Saturday evening and Little Helen's fiance turned to her and said, "Get this recipe, it tastes so good it's in the spiritual category."  She looked at me and said, "Add crockpot to my Christmas list."

Stay tuned - I'll share that recipe later this week.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Crockpot Beef Curry

When my northern Maine mama married my southern Kentucky papa, the first thing he did was introduce her to ways to cook food without boiling or creaming it. So I grew up with a very southern diet and my parents were smart enough to introduce us to all sorts of foods and flavors. I especially love ethnic foods with all their spicy goodness... Italian, Indian, Chinese, Thai, Middle Eastern, Greek - you name it and I love it!

When I lived in Zambia, I was fortunate enough to make friends with some Indian ladies who taught me how to make curries.  I made them all the time there because the ingredients were easy to get.  To this day, when Little Helen visits Zambia, she brings me back curry powder.  It is usually hand blended and sold in the Indian grocery stores there and there is nothing like it.

Once I moved back to the USA, for some reason I didn't make curry as often and once I started trying again, I felt like I'd lost my touch.  About 18 months ago, I started making Beef Curry as I figured that might be one that Mr. Helen would eat (he loves beef).  I kept changing things in the recipe and this past week the curry I made had Mr. Helen saying, "This is it.  Perfect."  So I thought I'd share the recipe here... it's a nice dish to make around Thanksgiving just to have a break from all the turkey.

If you're scared to try curry, this is so easy because it's done in the crockpot.  Also, if you haven't figured it out yet, Beef Curry is pretty much the Indian version of beef stew!

Crockpot Beef Curry

2 pounds of cubed stew beef (usually top round)
1 pound white potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
1 14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1 medium red or white onion, diced
2 T tomato paste
2 T curry powder, hot or mild
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh black pepper

Put everything in the crockpot, give it a stir and cook it for 5 hours on high or 10 hours on low!  Serve over white or brown rice.  Makes 8 servings.


Notes:

I use mild curry powder because Mr. Helen doesn't like really spicy hot stuff.  If you do, use the hot curry powder.  You could also add cayenne pepper or chilis to the spice mix.

If you like, you can also add carrots to this curry.  I don't because I usually roast my carrots, so that I have them as a side dish for other things I'm cooking during the week.  But I ate many a curry with carrots in Zambia.  You can also leave the vegetables out completely and just make the beef.

Anyway you make it, this is a warm, delicious, and filling dish!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Talking Turkey

This is how much daughters control their fathers.  For years Mr. Helen's youngest sister has been hosting Thanksgiving at her house.  Each year she asks us to come, however, we live an hour away so we have to choose between going there or staying with my side who all live within a 15 minute radius from us.  I was willing to swap off each year but every year when I'd ask he would reply that he wanted to stay closer to home.  This year, Little Helen informed us that she and her fiance would be spending Thanksgiving with his family - who happen to live about 15 minutes from my sister-in-law.  She then says, "You know dad, if you would just be willing to go to Auntie's house this year, you'd get to see us."  He immediately replied, "Ohhhhhh.  OK Pumpkin, whatever you want, we'll go to Aunties."  Seriously?!!

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Speaking of the approaching holidays, my company closes the offices for the day after Thanksgiving, meaning you don't have to report to work.  However, it's not a paid day unless you are salaried or if hourly, use a vacation/personal day.  Of course if you don't want to do that, you're welcome to come to work but not required to.  My boss just told me that he is going to do the same for Christmas this year since it falls on a Thursday.  Color me deliriously happy!

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Here's some good news what with the holiday eating frenzy approaching:  You can't gain wait from overeating for just one day. This is probably the same thing that comes into play when someone is actually dieting and they have a cheat day they continue to lose weight.  On a personal level, having lived with Mr. Helen for well over 20 years now, and watching him eat/overeat/undereat, I know it's true.  You really don't gain weight from overeating just one day.

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I can't believe Thanksgiving is a little over a week away.  I feel completely unprepared for it this year - a combination of working my part-time job and just not having as much free time to do things and the fact that I'm not making one single thing I would normally make.  Since we're going to my sister-in-laws, she called and told me what she wanted me to bring and yeah, I'm on the hunt for recipes. Guess what Debby?  NO PUMPKIN CAKE this year, unless I somehow find the time to make it just for me and Little Helen.

Hey who knows, maybe I'll find some fantastic creative recipe for Butternut Squash that I can share here after it's all said and done.

Speaking of recipes, stay tuned if you like curry.  Over the last 18 months or so, I've developed a Crockpot Beef Curry that will make you want to slap your mama.  Even Mr. Helen, who can be hesitant when it comes to curries, absolutely loves this one.  As I now feel it's nearly perfected, I thought I'd share it as an antidote to all the turkey coming up!

Finally, here's my yearly reminder:

Monday, November 10, 2014

Best Ever White Chicken Chili

The weather is definitely turning with much cooler nights and bright sunny days for the most part.  We've actually had a couple of days that could qualify as winter weather as well, including this past Saturday. When I went out to run at 8:30 in the morning, it hadn't even hit 40 degrees yet.  Color me surprised then when I ran past this!

Yep, a November Hydrangea hanging in there.  What with the freezing temperatures we had overnight the past couple of nights and that arctic air that's in the midwest heading this way, I'd say they'll be gone the next time I go by.

Cool weather always makes me want soup and heartier food in general.  I really struggle with getting fruits in this time of year as well, since I tend to like summer fruits.  Since Thanksgiving is on the way, cranberries have been on sale and I thought why not make a batch of fresh cranberry relish to serve as my fruit.  It has been working out well - I love this combination of apples, pineapple, orange and cranberries - delicious all by itself or sometimes I put it over a bit of plain yogurt.

I also attempted a White Chicken Chili - a soup I've never made before.  I looked up a bunch of recipes online and sort of mixed them together to come up with a batch that would give me 4-6 servings as I knew Mr. Helen wouldn't eat it and I didn't want to have lots leftover.  If I do say so myself, this was super easy - ready in about 35 minutes and oh so tasty!

Best Ever White Chicken Chili
serves 4-6
  • 16 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 cups chicken stock ( I like Kitchen Basics brand)
  • 1  small can white beans (Cannellini Beans), do not drain
  • 1 small can diced green chilis, do not drain
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
Put the chicken stock in a dutch oven or large sauce pan.  Add the chicken breasts and bring to a boil then lower heat to medium and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until cooked through and tender.

Remove chicken to plate and shred with two forks.

In a small skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat then add the onion and garlic to saute until clear.  Add in 1 tsp dried oregano and saute until fragrant.

Add the onion mixture, white beans, chilis, cumin, chili powder, and black pepper back to stock.  Bring to a boil, add shredded chicken then lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes to blend flavors.

Notes: I used regular chicken stock so I felt the soup was plenty salty.  This is delicious with some tortilla chips crumbled into it as "crackers."  Other add-ins could be shredded cheddar cheese, diced avocado, chopped cilantro - so many possibilities.

So easy and delicious!


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Throwback Thursday

Me, in a friend's wedding in 1984.  It cracks me up that we all had sort of the same mullety hairstyle - gotta love an early 80's perm.

Young women never truly appreciate their own beauty... I actually thought I was fat and dreaded standing in front of everyone.  I guess if I could teach girls anything, it would be to appreciate every single stage of their beauty.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Can We Auto-Correct Humanity?

I've been thinking about his a lot lately...



Thursday, October 23, 2014

Update About Nothing Much

Honestly, that's how I'm feeling these days.  Life is just ticking along and not too much exciting or new is happening.  I'm fairly well settled into my part time job and my next challenge will be when the mall extends its hours for the holidays.  That starts the first full week of December and the hours get longer and longer until the days right before Christmas when I won't be getting home until around 11 p.m.

I've already learned that I can't get home at 9:30 p.m. and expect to get to bed and be asleep in time to wake up for 4 am.  Yes, I can function on 6 hours of sleep but like many middle aged women, I don't actually sleep the whole time I'm in bed - on those nights I figure I'm getting somewhere around 4 hours of real sleep even when I set my alarm for 6 am which is my drop dead you have to get up time.  You can understand why I'm dreading the extended holiday hours, right?  Thankfully it will be only a couple weeks and be done.

Much to my disgust, this mall is opening at 6 pm on Thanksgiving Day and will stay open until 1 am then close and reopen at 6 am to 10 pm for Black Friday.  I will not work that.  I refuse to support Thanksgiving Day greed shopping, especially since this is not a particularly religious holiday and people of all beliefs and ethnicity's celebrate it.  In my opinion, there is just no need at all for this.

I'm still doing the Neila Rey 90 Days of Strength Program and at this point, I don't even have to do it every day.  I've gotten strong enough that if I need to, I can do 2 workouts together.  That has come in handy now that I often take a weekday morning off after working at night.

I'm also seeing the signs of strength in my running. I have a treadmill interval run that I like to do where I walk for 1 minute, jog 1 minute, run 2 minutes and sprint 1 minute - repeat for time or miles or whatever I'm feeling that day.  When I started doing that my sprinting pace was 6.0 (10 minute mile).  This morning as I did it I was doing the sprints at 7.0 (8:34 min. mile) with a 2% incline.  That's a huge improvement!  The strength is translating to outside walking and running as well.  I  now often walk at 13:15-13:30/minute pace (for shorter walks) and have finally gotten my running pace down below 12 minutes when I do an all running workout.  Never thought I would be happy with that but I am.

By the way, if you've ever been on a treadmill and wondered how the miles per hour translate to minutes per mile, here is a handy dandy Treadmill Cheat Sheet!

There's a hill near my house that is about 3/4 of a mile steady incline.  Often I've had to walk on that hill but the other day I did a workout I've named Telephone Pole Sprints.  As I approach the hill at the first telephone pole, I run as fast as I can to the next pole.  Then I walk a pole, then I sprint.  Repeat until I'm all the way up the hill.  Imagine my delight when I saw that my overall running pace was better than when I just try to run then walk if I need to.  That means my sprint sections were fast!

Ya'll know I cook a lot but with working the new job nearly every Sunday, I finally hit the wall and couldn't batch cook because I'm really left with only 1 day off per week to get all the rest of it done - leftover housework, laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping and miscellaneous chores.  I was so tired this past weekend I decided I just didn't care and we could have sandwiches for Sunday "dinner."  As I was getting in my car to go home Sunday night at 6:30, I got a text from Mr. Helen: "I'm putting hamburgers on the grill, what time are you leaving there?"  WOOT!  I was delighted and shocked because he also works every Sunday. Guess who is feeling a heck of a lot less pressure to get the cooking done?

I mean, when I'm home, I don't mind cooking at all but I'm not going to pressure myself any more over it. On Saturday night, I actually managed to throw together a pizza and a Greek salad.  Mr. Helen loves pizza and is appreciative that I'll make it.  In fact I'm pretty sure he prefers my homemade pizzas to ones we could buy.


And I  was home on Tuesday night so I planned a treat for Mr. Helen - I made plantains and Johnny Cakes like we get in St. Martin to go along with our barbequed chicken and coleslaw.  He was so excited when he saw the Johnny Cakes that he grabbed one and devoured it.  But when I asked him how it was he said, "Not bad."  Believe me he got a lesson the the difference between "not bad" and "pretty good" after that lol.  But he ate 4 of them so I think they were pretty good.  I ate one and thought they were nearly identical to the ones we get in the Caribbean, but I don't get the same delight and satisfaction as he does out of them so maybe I don't know anything about a Johnny Cake.  Anyway, here's a picture of them.


As you can see he isn't really suffering as he's getting things he loves when I do cook.  It won't hurt him to wing it sometimes, right?

Speaking of food, 'tis the little bite sized candy season, and it's all on sale.  As I explained to someone, I can't just choose to not have it in my house because Mr. Helen likes it and eats it reasonably.  My way of dealing in the past was to not have it sitting out, or to put a couple pieces in my calorie count.  Of course, I'm not counting calories anymore so I was a bit apprehensive when the first candy came home (sometimes it's him that buys it.) I am joyfully telling you I am not having a bit of problem with it.  I'm not eating it just because it's there and when I have had some, the amount has been reasonable!  Very exciting for this long-time dieter to know food can just "be" and I don't have to let it control me emotionally one way or the other!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tuesday Ten

1.  I did my very first box jumps during my workout yesterday morning.  Granted I don't have an "official" box so I had to use an old Reebok step (remember step aerobics?) but it worked fine.  I did 5 sets of 10 jumps, which is harder than it sounds, especially when combined with other exercises.  I'm proud of myself!

2.  The kiddies were with Grandma Helen this weekend so went over to see them.  Our buddy Jacob has turned into a pre-teen - he's already zoning us out lol! Gracie talked us into going outside where she proceeded to show us her ability to jump her razor scooter over the curb and then got Mr. Helen to push her in the swing.  Nothing like Uncle love.


3.  I did my first full 8 hour shift at my part-time job on Sunday. In the I can't believe people category, I must have answered the phone 25 times throughout the day where the question was, "What time does the mall close today?"  I'm amazed by that because somehow they had to look up the mall phone number.  My guess is the internet which means the mall hours were probably right in front of their face.

4.  We are having a spectacular foliage season around here.  Mr. Helen and I have not had a chance to do our annual foliage drive and now I'm worried that the storms at the end of the week are going to mess up our chances by knocking the leaves off the trees.  Doesn't Mother Nature understand that I  need to go get my apple cider donut and the foliage run is my excuse?!!

5.  I took these photos when we went to the Harvest Festival at our local winery last weekend.  Once again the weather was gorgeous and we had a really fun day with friends eating snacks, sampling wines and listening to good music.  One of our friends reached under the mesh and ate a couple of the grapes which he declared delicious and sweet.  Going to be some good wine soon!


6. I was looking at a recent photo of myself the other day and realized I'm getting the old person spread.  Did you know that as you age your nose spreads out on your face and your ears get bigger. Yeah, that's happening.

7.  Had some really good luck with warranty returns lately.  Both my headlamp (that I run with) and my wireless printer died within the last month.  Finally had time to call the companies involved and because I registered the warranty, I didn't even have to provide proof of purchase.  Brand new items coming my way.

8.  You know why I need my headlamp?  Because even though I'm an "urban" runner and there are streetlights, sometimes the lights are burned out.  Sometimes there just are no lights.  And, back to that aging thing, my eyesight just isn't what is used to be in the dark.  This morning I was chugging along a one way street and thankfully a car came and illuminated a dark area for me because this is what was there:


In case you can't tell, that is the broken off metal stub of a street sign of some sort.  Thankfully crews working in the area putting in new sidewalks noticed it and tried to flag it.  But do you realize how easy it would be to trip on that thing?

9.  Speaking of running, yesterday it was 39 degrees when I went out. I ran in long pants, long sleeved shirt, vest, and light gloves.  This morning it was 62 degrees and crazily humid.  I ran in shorts and a short sleeved shirt.  Schizo weather.

10. Little Helen turns 35 today.  It's really weird when your child turns the age that you feel you are!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger

I did this workout on Wednesday:

5 pushups - 5 squats
5 pushups - 10 squats
5 pushups - 15 squats
5 pushups - 20 squats
5 pushups - 15 squats
5 pushups - 10 squats

Repeat five times with up to 2 minutes of rest in between rounds.  I decided instead of resting by doing nothing between rounds, I would hop on my treadmill and walk for 2 minutes between rounds. When all the rounds were finished, I ran to make my total distance 2 miles.  The entire workout took me 50 minutes.

While sitting at my desk on Wednesday afternoon, I started feeling achey in both legs just above my knees. Wondered why that was and then realized it was probably the squats.  So I added everything up and saw I'd done 150 pushups and 375 squats over the course of the 5 rounds!!!

Surprisingly, though they felt worked out, my legs were not all that sore today which proves to me I am definitely getting stronger.  I've been doing various Neila Rey programs for 68 days now and I'm thrilled with the results I'm getting, especially with my upper body.  It's really starting to shape up.

I'm also seeing some new definition in my ab area.  I told Mr. Helen that if I can just get the fat off my mid-section, there are real abs under there.

Having said that, I'm frustrated with the fact that my clothing size isn't changing.  As I am staying off a scale and not on a hard core diet, that really is the only way I'll know if I'm losing weight.  I continue to eat healthy and just feel like I should be getting much better results in this area than I am.  I suppose the only thing that doesn't drive me right back into a diet/calorie counting/tracking mode is that every time I think about doing that it makes me feel a bit crazed.

Also making me feel edgy is an acquaintance who started a locally well known but very, very strict diet program.  She asked me if I wanted to join with her and even as I was explaining to her that I have no intention of ever doing that sort of dieting again in my life, I was thinking I "What the hell?!!! Do I look fat to you? Are you telling me I need to diet?"  Asking someone to support your own efforts is one thing but this was another altogether. I just don't think, unless you are BFF's with someone, that you should be asking them to diet.  To add insult to injury after her first weigh-in she let me know that she lost 8 pounds her first week and then asked me how much I'd lost.  Jeepers!  I just calmly told her I'm not getting on a scale right now.  Maybe I should have asked her if she thinks I should.

This is a person whose daily eating went something like this: a Nutrigrain bar and a Coke for breakfast, takeout of some sort every single day for lunch, a bag of chips, candy bar and another Coke for snack and then at least 4-5 days more takeout for dinner.  So, even as my brain reasoned that OF COURSE she lost 8 pounds eating healthier (and around 1100 calories a day), I was a teensy bit jealous.  Not to mention that she doesn't exercise regularly!

Yeah, it all makes me feel a bit wonky.  Even though I know I'm doing the right things, it gets harder and harder to even want to do that when the results just aren't coming yet.  Even as I try to just love and accept myself and my hardworking body exactly as I am right this minute, I don't want to be fat and fit, I want to be two sizes smaller and fit dammit!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fuzzy

September is the cruelest month for me.  It almost feels like a big let down after a big event (summer).  The darkness comes on so quickly and I don't get to see my beautiful sunrises as I run in the morning.  The weather is schizophrenic fluctuating from 50 to 80 degrees at any given time which makes my closet look like an explosion has gone off as I have to keep out summery stuff but dig into the fall/winter stuff too.

I have an acquaintance who absolutely hates autumn because all she sees is death.  Even the beautiful colors of the leaves changing before they fall off the trees does not sway her opinion.  While I don't feel quite that strongly about it, I recently realized that each year around this time I feel a sort of melancholy.  Of course it also doesn't help when we have a string of grey, grey days (no sunshine) like we've had this week.

Add all of that into starting a new part time job, dealing with Little Helen's upcoming wedding, and some flux going on at my full time job and I feel like my focus has suddenly gotten fuzzy.  It's like when I take my contacts out or glasses off at the end of the day - I can still see some things and shapes but nothing is clear.

Fuzziness around my health and well-being is not good for me.  That's a state where I find it too easy to veer away from good choices and that can be a slippery slope.  Planning to "sleep in" and not get up at 4 am to exercise after working 3 straight 16 hour days is probably a wise choice.  But getting to bed at a decent hour and then hitting the snooze over and over until it's too late to exercise is not.  I say that because, for me personally, exercise is not generally an issue in my healthiness quest - it's food that generally gets me.  Not wanting to exercise is a definite red flag.

Over the last week I have been craving carbohydrate heavy items.  One day it took nearly all my willpower to not make a huge pot of spaghetti, put butter, salt and Parmesan on it and inhale it.  At least I was able to reason with myself on that front.  But the very fact that I am craving carbs like that tells me that the September melancholy has gotten in deeper than I'd realized.

I'm actually proud that I've recognized this before it has gotten too far.  I guess I need to find my glasses and refocus.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday: So Much Miscellaney

Summer came back this weekend!  Oh my, we had just simply gorgeous 80 degree days with no humidity and blue, blue skies.  Perfection in my book and record breaking on top of it.

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I get so flustered when my workout doesn't go well. Saturdays really are my chance to run longer and do extra body weight exercises if I want.  My run this past week just sucked.  No other way to say it. It almost made it worse because the weather was so gorgeous, but it really and truly was one of those runs I was glad to be done with.  So much so that I cut it shorter than I had intended when I started out.  And you know it was bad when I wasn't even upset about cutting it short.  Just super annoyed that on a day when it all should have come together it just didn't.

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Little Helen and her fiance came to town so we could have a meet-up with his parents.  They live about an hour away from us so we met near to the middle between.  It was a nice get together and gave a bit of insight into his personality.  His mom is a great story teller and we got to hear some doozies from his childhood.  After our lovely lunch, we went and visited a couple of possible wedding venues.  It's really so very fun and exciting.  Now if we could get the happy couple to pick one and set a date lol!

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Little Helen brought me this gorgeous piece of pottery.  She bought it when she and her fiance went and spent a week in Maine with his parents.  It's from Edgecomb Potters.  I love it so much, I hope to add some pieces.  Perfect excuse to take a long weekend and go to Freeport or Portland.


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My part-time job has been sporadic so I'm still not feeling like I'm in a good routine yet.  This week I start running shifts myself with a person there to help if I get stuck on something.  Next week I'll be put into the schedule on my own.  I have to say, not much has changed since I was there 11 years ago and I still don't mind doing this work, even after a long day at my full time job. Good thing because my plan right now (unless I win the lottery) is to work this job for at least the next 3 years, when Mr. Helen retires.

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I went to the doctor for followup on my back issue.  The first two weeks I had absolutely no pain at all. Then at the beginning of the 3rd week, I woke up with a dull ache.  While it hasn't become stabby like it was before and it's not (yet) waking me up, it feels kind of like it did when all this started a couple years ago. He told me that it's not uncommon for a person who had let things go and get as bad as mine to need a second injection.  However, because he's conservative, he wanted me to try a prescription anti-inflammatory to see if it controlled the pain at night - which is the only time I have it.  If not, paperwork is all set and all I have to do is call and I can have a second injection. I'm not really a great pill taker and especially not too fond of strong anti-inflammatories.  I also don't want to be on any sort of medication like that long term, but I'm willing to wait and see what happens.

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My morning runs are all in the dark now.  Depending on the route I take, I need to wear a headlamp - not my favorite thing to do but necessary to avoid the bumps, cracks, iron hangers, acorns and other miscellaneous stuff in the road and on the sidewalks.  I'm also back to wearing my reflective vest every day, hoping to avoid all the idiots who think because it's dark they don't have to stop at red lights or stop signs.  Defensive running rules the day now. I think the thing I miss the most is getting to see the sun rise.  We've had some real pretty ones this year.  This morning after showering and going downstairs to get my lunch together, I opened the window shade that looks out onto the patio.  The patio was glowing pink.  I grabbed my phone and ran outside because I just knew it had to be a beautiful sunrise.  Great way to start the week!

Photo taken with no filter

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Suddenly It's Cool and Dark

As expected life is busy, busy, busy these days what with training for my part time job in addition to all the usual stuff.  I can see it's going to be an adjustment period to figure out how to deal with meals and the household chores.  I'll be glad when I feel adjusted already!

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On my last post Fran asked me about paying for Little Helen's wedding.  In fact, we are not paying for the entire thing.  Little Helen has lived on her own for 15 years and so is not a super young bride with no assets.  Her fiance is also well established.  However, we do want to contribute some and so will give them a lump sum of money to use as they please towards expenses.  I think this approach is fairly common, especially when the bride/groom have been living on their own for a while.  I do know some people (most recently a co-worker) who put themselves in debt and take out loans to pay for their child's wedding.  That is not something Mr. Helen and I would ever do, especially with thinking towards retirement in a couple short years.

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It suddenly turned cool and fall-like around here which prompted me to make these glazed baked pumpkin donuts over the weekend.  They are absolutely delicious!


I will say that by the second day they were more sugar soaked than glazed.  I'm not sure why but maybe they need to be left to the air, rather than stored in a container. I'm going to contact the blogger who originally posted the recipe and ask her if this happened to her. Also, the next time I make them, unless we have company,  I will make a half recipe because it makes a full dozen and of course, that's way too many donuts for just us.  

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Seems like we really have gone into fall - overnight temps in the low 50s and even in the 40s by week's end. September is always the hardest month for me to stay motivated with my early morning workouts.  It seems like a matter of days between going from shorts, short sleeves and beautiful sunrise runs to utter darkness and long sleeves with capris or pants.  That initial step out the door where the cool air hits sometimes makes me want to turn around and go back in the house.  I've been sticking to my Neila Rey workouts and if I get all hot and sweaty before I run, that makes it even more challenging. This morning I spent the 15 minutes I was having coffee with the dueling devil and angel on my shoulders alternately trying to talk me out of even working out and pumping me up with how great I'll feel when I'm done.  I know I'll be acclimated in a couple weeks but right now it's hard. 

And yeah, I did the workout and a 5K run so the angel won.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Secret I've Been Keeping

It has been 11 years since I've worked more than one job and I'm about to take on a second job again. I stopped working that job because when I got my current full time job my boss often wanted me to work overtime (which would make me late for the second job) and since I didn't want to inconvenience anyone and my full time job was my bread and butter job, I let the second job go.  I've always said, if I had to work a part-time job again for any reason, I'd like to go back to that job, which was working at the customer service desk at the local mall.  Generally, I'm not much of a people person but for some reason, I always really liked that job. Call me crazy, but when I recently realized I needed to look for some part-time work, I started visualizing myself in that job again - just like I'd been taught in our wellness workshop.  I even made a graphic and uploaded it to my vision board. On the practical side, I started looking to see if there were any openings.  This has been going on for all of July, most of August and into September.  I went and picked up applications at other places but just didn't have the heart to apply for any other jobs. At the end of August, I decided I'd look one more time, and if the job wasn't listed I would just have to apply to work at Marshall's or Home Goods or some other retail establishment.  Of course you know what's coming - it was listed!  I immediately filled out the on-line application and then followed it up with a phone call to the Guest Services Manager who asked me to come in for an interview.  They finally called me this week and offered me a position as a "Guest Services Associate" and I will start next week. The best news is that they are pretty much letting me work exactly when I want to, meaning I will get to keep my one shared off day with Mr. Helen, and the manager is quite understanding about me maybe needing entire weekends off occasionally.

There are many reasons why I decided to take on part-time work again, including the fact that Mr. Helen is seriously talking retirement in a couple of years and we have some definite financial goals we want to make before that happens.  Additionally, next year Mr. Helen turns 60 and I want to throw him a party, plus in a couple more years we will celebrate our 25th anniversary and want to do something special for that.  A little more income will speed things along.  But the reason that finally pushed me to seriously look again is related to the secret I've been keeping...

Little Helen is engaged to be married!!  We've actually known since the end of July (she called while we were in the Hamptons visiting my sister) but they asked us to keep it quiet until they had told some friends personally.  Now that they've done that and the engagement announcement will be in the paper on Sunday, I can share my good news with my blogging friends.

All the romantics/traditionalists will love this... he actually drove to our house on July 5th when he happened to be in Connecticut (and Little Helen was off on a girl trip) to ask us for her hand in marriage.  Then he told us he was designing her ring with a family jeweler.  She has a moral objection to diamonds ever since she saw the movie Blood Diamond so he had to be creative. Here is her gorgeous ring - it's blue and white sapphires.

She got quite the romantic proposal too - he took her to an inn at the Jersey Shore and proposed on the beach.  He even had flowers put in the room for their stay!



So, we are planning a wedding, possibly for about a year from now, and that's why I'm going to work a part-time job.  We probably can't pay for the entire wedding but we want to help - it's totally worth it to work a little extra to help this happy couple!


Of course, with all this extra activity in my life, I have no idea how it's going to affect writing Doing A 180. Please bear with me as I adjust to all my regular responsibilities and chores at home, two jobs outside my home, and wedding planning!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tuesday Ten

1. When I got up last Friday morning, after my back injection on Thursday, I felt a bit like I'd been touched by the hand of God and miraculously healed.  My alarm went off at 4:00 am as usual and as my feet hit the floor I realized - NO PAIN!  I definitely had slept better, but after 2 years of not sleeping well I think it's going to take me bit to get out of the habit of waking up every time I turn. Still it was amazing to wake up and realize I wasn't feeling the stabbing in my back, have my feet hit the floor - still no stabbing,  and actually be able to put on my running clothes normally without creative contorting, not to mention lift my legs properly and walk without shuffling!

2.  I did experience some of the side effects of the steroid as well - some flushing/warming which felt similar to a hot flash but not quite as intense and I also felt a bit jittery 2 days in.  That might also have been contributing to my inability to just sleep.  But my back is feeling so much better I am willing to work through this.

3. Workouts have been a bit challenging because I've developed a mild case of shin splints. I haven't had those since I first began running in 2003.  I guess they've come on just because I have so drastically changed and upped the intensity of my workouts. Even just walking it takes my legs a bit to warm up and for me not to feel the shin splints - but I'm working on them.  My cryocup has been my best friend lately. I wish I'd thought to invent that thing as it is a miracle worker - ice and massage at the same time!

4. After telling Mr. Helen I absolutely, positively was not going to make dinner on Friday night, I came home and made pizza.  SIGH.  Honestly, I think it was because I went grocery shopping before I came home from work and the sticker shock got to me.  Plus I knew we would be getting takeout on Saturday.  Pizza was good even though I didn't want to make it.


5.  On Saturday I decided to combine 2 days of my Neila Rey workouts because as I said before, I am looking for a rest day a week.  One of the workouts was more of a stretching workout and the other was to do squats.  So I went out an ran in the crazy August September humidity then I came home and figured I'd do my squats mixed with sprint intervals on the treadmill so I could get in 6 miles all together.  5 intervals of sprints and 6 sets of 25 squats, followed by the arm stretches, calf raises, cat stretches and 4 more sets of squats mixed in.  I was pooped but exhilarated at the same time.  My workout clothes were as wet as if I'd been in the shower.   As I grabbed my workout sheets and my exercise log so I could write everything down, I flipped to the page for the squats and saw that I was only supposed to do 100.  I had done 250!!!  That meant I took an ice bath because I was so worried about what my legs would be like on Sunday.

6. I've been feeling thinner and so I decided to try on a dress I hadn't been able to get into all summer.  I had figured that I needed to lose about 10 pounds to get back into it but since I'm not weighing myself again until the end of my 90 day challenge, I didn't have that as a measurement to work from. But, I've been feeling thinner.  Maybe it's the inches lost, maybe I lost more weight in the last week but whatever - it fit - WOOT!  It was a delightful outfit to wear in Saturday's humidity.

7. Overnight Saturday the humidity broke and we woke up to gloriously blue skies and sunshine.  It would have been a great day to work out but I took my first day of rest in 35 straight days.  And I thoroughly enjoyed it! Mr. Helen had the day off so we decided to have a few hours at the beach.  I'm guessing it will be one of, if not our very last beach day this year.  The weather folks are already predicting we'll need sweatshirts by the weekend.

8. I don't know what has happened to old Helen but I know there's a new Helen in town.  I jerked awake Monday morning and it was 5:30!  That's a whole hour and a half late for me to get up.  I jumped up, changed into workout clothes and went downstairs - and the coffee maker hadn't turned on automatically!  I decided I was not going to let the powers that were trying to ruin the start of my week win, so I turned on the coffee pot, grabbed my Neila Rey workout for the day and spent 25 minutes doing that.  Yes, it meant I had to do my cardio after work (which I'm so not a fan of) but the fact that I chose the Body Weight Training over cardio?  That's pretty much a miracle.  The fact that I worked out at all when my normal routine was completely out of whack is a miracle too.  Usually I would have waited for the coffee and vegged on the sofa until 6 am then gotten in the shower. There's definitely a new Helen in town.

9. I've been craving a Reuben Sandwich.  Last Friday while grocery shopping I went so far as to buy lean corned beef and Swiss cheese with the intention of having a panini for dinner.  As I was unpacking groceries I realized I forgot to buy rye or pumpernickel bread and I could not bring myself to make it on any other kind.  Problem solved:  Monday for lunch, I made a basic salad with lettuce, spinach, tomatoes and cucumbers, then topped it with the corned beef and Swiss and a good Russian dressing.  This salad was so good!

10. I've got a big secret I'm busting to share but can't quite yet... now aren't you dying to know?