Thursday, February 26, 2015

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Walls Are Closing In

The title of this post is exactly what I felt like as I ran on the treadmill this morning.  At one point I felt like I wanted to jump out of my skin, off the treadmill, and just stand in my garage and scream.  While it was a balmy 20 degrees in there this morning and I warmed up quickly, I just really want a good run outside.

Our sidewalks are still not cleared properly, especially at the ends... there are huge mounds of snow almost as tall as the stop signs.  In fact, the sidewalks are so bad, they were the subject of a local TV station's investigative team because people are having to walk in the roads, including all the walking students we have going to our high school.  To make matters worse, some of the roads are still not full width so you've got two cars and pedestrians, not a good combination.

I made plans (part of my Be Kind to Helen Lenten Reset) to drive up to a seasonal fruit and flower stand to park, then simply cross the street and run laps in the cemetery.  They always have their roads fairly clear and there is no traffic to speak of.  I went to bed Friday night so excited about running outside the next morning.  I knew it would be cold but decided I'd wait until about 8 o'clock to run so that the sun could warm things up.  At 7:30 I got dressed and checked my weather app to see the temp so I could figure out which coat/gloves/hat I would need.  This is what I saw:

The windchill was even worse. I very disappointedly resigned myself to running on the treadmill in the garage once again.  The temperature in there was, at least,  about 14 above zero.

And there doesn't seem to be any end in sight to these North Pole temperatures. We might get a day in the 30's but when that happens it generally snows and misery compounds.

I can't remember ever having to stay on the treadmill like this - we just are not getting the melting and clearing that we normally would.  Our average temperature this time is around 40 during the day, but this year it has been around 15.

The whole business is completely energy sapping, both mentally and physically, not to mention a motivation killer.  All I want to do is hibernate.  Not good. I'm not losing any weight, even working with the nutritionist and I told her I swear my body is in full revolt and determined to hold onto every last fat molecule to protect me from this ridiculous winter.

But I keep on trying because I know that to be kind to myself, I need to move.  It makes me feel better, even if it is hard to be motivated.  Simply put, I have to find a way to do better, or the walls might actually come down.

In other Be Kind to Helen news, I have been making an effort to get us out of our house on Saturdays even if only for a few hours.  Just to try and kill the cabin fever.  This past Saturday we finally got to the movies!  I accomplished this by going Friday night to turn in the discounted movie tickets I get through my job.  I was able to pick our seats and so all we had to do on Saturday was show up early enough to get Mr. Helen his popcorn.

We haven't been to the movies in a long time so we were completely shocked when we got in the theater.  They've reduced the size of the theaters and put in luxury seating.  So there are only 5 rows of 7 seats per row.  The seats recline and the floor is wood laminate - nearly like being at home. (This also explains the expensive ticket price of $13 for a matinee - and why I get the discounted tickets at work instead!)  At the end of the movie (we saw American Sniper - very good movie!), Mr. Helen said, "We need to come here more often."  So I teased him and suggested it was because of the seating and he replied, "Yeah, why didn't I pick a recliner for our family room?"  Ummmm, I did suggest that when we bought the new furniture but he said no.  I think he's having recliner regret now.  I agreed that we should go out more often - just no movies after dinner because with those seats, I'll be snoozing in a heart beat.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Next 40 Days

Otherwise known as Lent.  I did not grow up in a faith where Lent was observed per se, but as I've become an adult I have found that I actually like choosing a little something to practice over the 40 days. In fact, I have several friends who practice no "religion" at all but take part in changing something for the 40 days of Lent.  It is a great opportunity to self-examine I'd say.

This is what I've chosen for this year:

Just kidding.  And I saw the funniest thing on Facebook about Lent.  I follow Sonja Jones who was one of the runners-up for the last round of Biggest Loser and she reminded everyone that today is Ash Wednesday, not as Protestants have known it: "Ma'am, ma'am, ma'am!  You have something on your forehead" Wednesday. LOL!

In all seriousness, I have been giving this season some thought and while I'm not giving up anything, I am going to spend the next 40 trying to be kinder to myself.  Winter has definitely been beating me down and I've been letting winter win.  The funny thing about it is that none of the actions I might take because of winter (i.e., being cranky, overeating - especially carbs, skipping exericse, vegging in front of the TV or computer) are things that make me feel better or put me in a place where I'm living my best life for my best health.

So, let's just call it a Lenten Reset and go from there, shall we?  Day one of be nice to Helen season.

Monday, February 16, 2015

My Ridiculous February Weekend, in Pictures

Well not technically only the weekend as I'm starting with Thursday and ending with today. Extended weekend?

We're not only in an arctic air pattern, we're in a pattern where we're getting snow storms and squalls every couple of days.  View out my window at work last Thursday.  Look carefully and you can see the snowflakes, which were giant.  Thankfully this was only a squall so the roads were fine to drive on when it was time to go home.

Friday we had cold temps and sunshine.  It does help to see the sun and I'm lucky to have a wall of windows in my office.

Saturday morning I got up to work out and quickly checked the outside temp.  Not that I was going to run outside as we still don't have good access to our sidewalks, but because I know my garage will be about 10 degrees warmer.  I wanted to get a good run in for Lori's Heart Healthy Weekend event.  Even though I was stuck on the treadmill watching a couple TV shows, I got in a good run, which equals endorphins!  Yay for endorphins!

When I went to hang up my jacket after running, I found this (insert sad face here).  Columbia is a good company though and they warranty their jackets for life.  I have to send it back and they'll either repair or replace it.  I'm just afraid I won't get my pink back.  Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Got cleaned up and went inside to do a bit of cooking for the week and prep for our Valentine's Dinner that night. View out my kitchen window - yep, another snowstorm.  This one lasted until Sunday at noon.

While I was watching the storm I noticed something moving the bushes there on the left so I grabbed my real camera to zoom in and voila!  Birds in the bushes in the snow!

Even before the storm was forecast I had decided I would make us a Valentine's Dinner.  While it's nice to go out and have someone else do the work, it's nicer to stay at home and not pay the ridiculous prices.  Plus, I made a really easy dinner, Tenderloin Roast, Crockpot Smashed Red Potatoes, Roasted Asparagus (for me) and Green Beans (for Mr. Helen).  I bought a small truffle cake for us to have a bite of dessert and we opened a nice bottle of wine.  It was lovely.  Although I didn't put on makeup, we actually stayed dressed instead of putting on pajamas for dinner LOL!

Mr. Helen gave me this mini rose bush.  I hope I can keep it alive long enough to be able to plant it outside in the spring!

I had to work at the mall on Sunday.  The drive there was horrendous and it's only 2 miles away from my house.  Once I got there, the phone would not stop ringing with people calling to see if we were open.  I can't believe how many people wanted to be in the mall and then they were mad when they got there and several of the stores weren't open.  I made myself a chef salad to have as lunch and it took me 90 minutes to eat it because the phone would not stop ringing.  The salad was good, but seriously people!! I was so glad to get home last night.

This morning I got up to work out, sort of knowing I'd have to stay inside, mostly because I promised Mr. Helen I would.  First thing I did was check the temperature.

It's no wonder I feel like I'm losing my mind!  I did this workout in the family room with the fireplace going: 5 sets of 10 Shoulder Taps, 20 Squats, 10 Lunges (each leg), 10 Pushups, 5 Jump Squats, 20 T-Jacks.  Then I did 6 sets of 10 Plank Jacks, 10 Mountain Climbers, 10 Flutter Kicks, 10 Side to Side Crunches.  I finished up with a 14 minute Leslie Sansone Walk Away the Pounds Power Walk that I found on You Tube. The whole workout took me 49 minutes.  Better than nothing, right? And we're staying in the cold air pattern for most of this week with another snow storm forecast for tomorrow.

Spring can't get here fast enough!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tuesday Ten

1. We tried to go on a date this past Saturday, wanting to see a movie and then have a bite to eat, mostly just to get out of the house.  We do the movie first because if we eat first we'd sleep through the movie.  We got there and both the 1:55 and 4:55 shows were sold out already, all because our stupid theater has gone to luxury seating which means the theaters have less seats.  We will attempt again next Saturday but will go Friday night and get our tickets.

2. We ended up driving out to the winery to get our Grape Nuts shipment instead.  I was so aggravated about the movie that I probably needed the complimentary glass of wine they give us to calm down. While there I took this shot of the vineyard and put a "depth of field" filter on it.  It's bleak but sort of artsy, right?

3.  We went to our very late lunch after we left the vineyard so we got to the restaurant around the same time we would have had we gone to the early movie.  It was nice and quiet and we were the only people there for a bit.  Then, around 5 o'clock, about the time we were having dessert, people started filtering in.  As we were waiting for the waitress to come collect our money, I suddenly realized every single person in the restaurant was probably retirement age... say 60 and up. I guess it's true about the Senior Citizen Early Bird Special.  When I pointed that out to Mr. Helen he reminded me that he is turning 60 in May.  I told him I didn't care, we had gotten there early enough to avoid the Senior Citizen thing and be able to call our meal a late lunch lol!

4. Oh, and the food was delicious.  Mr. Helen got salmon cakes and I had short rib stuffed ravioli with a garlic sauce. We shared the dessert special too - a triple mousse of chocolate, mocha and white chocolate. This was probably slightly smaller around than a vegetable can and maybe 2 inches high.  Just enough for each of us to have 3 bites.  And beautifully presented too.

5.  I read an article about how hibernating in winter contributes to seasonal depression.  This is why I was determined that we were going to get out of the house for our Saturday date.  But you know, even though it ended up OK, it's like everything is so aggravating about going out and about.  It was spitting snow and the streets are still very, very narrowed.  Here's the street I drive down to get to my street, followed by a shot of my house as you come come down my hill. Narrow and aggravating.  It's why I just pretty much go to work then come home and stay home.

6.   At least I had Sunday off from the mall.  I worked out, showered then got back into "lounge wear" and didn't leave my house all day. I made us my world famous Braciole. Our neighbor gave us a jar of diced plum tomatoes straight from Italy as part of our Christmas gift so I used those to make the marinara.  It was extra yummy.  Since this weather also makes me want to eat ALLLLLLLLL the carbohydrates, I've been working on doing the half plate of vegetables thing.  Here's my Sunday dinner plate - not quite half but almost.

7. Monday's newspaper headline...

8. View out my office window, once I got to work.  Yes, I drove on unplowed roads that had a layer of ice underneath the falling snow to get to work. Thankfully Mr. Helen's truck is four wheel drive so I take that and drive slow.  Believe it or not, it snow showered all day so these roads were worse on the way home.

9. I think it's all the grey that gets to me, even with the 2,000 iu of Vitamin D that I take every day. I have to admit, I feel really bad for the people of Boston - they got two more feet yesterday, making 6 feet total in the last 30 days.  Lucy says it better than I can.

10. This morning as I listened to the news, the weatherman said that the shoreline of Connecticut usually gets 16 inches of snow for the whole season (December 1-April 1)  We've already had 37 inches. No wonder I feel crazed.  But I've also learned no matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow (thank goodness!). Hurry spring, hurry!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Oven Roasted Vegetable Pasta

Oh my, this is just some good pasta. I actually crave it sometimes. It's a great meal all on its own, or it's great as a side dish because you've got your starch and your veggies all snuggled right there together. Every time I make it, Mr. Helen the meat lover says, "When you say you're going to make this, I wish you'd just make spaghetti and meatballs and then you make it and it's so delicious I forget about the meatballs."  That's an endorsement right there.

I found the original recipe in a Food magazine.  As I have now made it several times, I've morphed it into my own variation, mostly because Mr. Helen cannot stand asparagus, called for in the original recipe.  So I changed up the veggies a bit, increased the amount of pasta used, made it more servings, and ultimately less calories.  That's the version I am sharing here. This actually comes together fairly quickly - fast enough for me to make it on a weeknight after work.

Oven Roasted Vegetable Pasta
1 Large Zucchini, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced about 1/2 inch thick (about 3 cups)
1 Large Summer Squash, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced about 1/2 inch thick (about 3 cups)
3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper (I like freshly ground)
1/2 cup sliced roasted red pepper (you can roast your own or used the jarred)
1 small onion, diced
2 large cloves of garlic, sliced
1-28 oz. can diced tomatoes, with juice
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano Cheese (or Parmesan)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil (think thin ribbons) - or 1 T dried basil leaves
12 oz. linguine

Preheat the oven to 425.  In a large bowl, toss your squashes with 1 1/2 T of the olive oil, sprinkle with some kosher salt and pepper, then spread out on a large 12 x 15 cookie sheet.  Roast in the oven for about 15-20 minutes.  Watch this because you don't want to over cook the squash.

While the squash is cooking, heat the other 1 1/2 T olive oil in a 3 quart saucepan.  Add in diced onion and saute for a few minutes until it starts to go clear.  Add in your sliced garlic and saute for 30 seconds or so until it becomes fragrant.  Add the can of diced tomatoes, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. If you're using the dried basil, add it in with the tomatoes to simmer.

While the sauce is simmering, cook your linguine according to package directions for al dente.  Drain the pasta and return to its pan.  Top with your roasted vegetables and the roasted red pepper strips.

When the sauce is done simmering, stir in the 1/2 cup of grated Pecorino Romano cheese.  Pour over pasta and vegetables. If using the fresh basil, stir it in now.

Toss everything together.  Serve with more freshly grated cheese.

Makes 6 hearty servings. 349 calories, 10.2g fat, 54g carbohydrates, 5.7g fiber, 12.3g protein


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Before and After

I thought I'd share some photos that show how drastic the snow is around here after Blizzard Juno (2 feet of snow) and Winter Storm Linus (4 inches of snow/layer of ice/4 inches of snow) which have walloped us for the past two Mondays.

If you've been reading you've heard me talking about how difficult it is to clear our driveway.  Except for the very beginning, which is our front yard and the very end which is the patio, one side of the driveway is our neighbors retaining wall and the other side is our house. Even with shovels and snow thrower, there is no where to put it.  So you have to push forward or backward, which means doing every shovel or throw at least twice.  Here it is after we cleared it for the first time during Linus.

And do you know just as we finished this, it started snowing again and continued to snow until almost midnight which meant my 5 am workout yesterday morning was shoveling snow so we could get to work.

We are really running out of places to put the snow and we have two more storms on the way. Nothing is melting because we are having bitterly cold temperatures hang on.  I have no idea where we'll put new snow if it actually comes so I'm praying the storms go north or south or anywhere but here!

This photo shows a picture of my small front yard on the left.  I chose this one for reference to the flag stake.  I told Mr. Helen we should remove it before the blizzard!  His solution was to take the flag off.  Sigh.

The next photo shows the patio.  I miss my patio! (Don't worry about the grill - it's so burned up we're getting a new one this summer.)  If you look closely at the photo on the right, it shows the patio table, with the top just barely visible.  That's how deep the snow is without us creating mounds from clearing it.  If you look even closer you can see snowflakes.

Another shot of the back of the house.  We are having to be careful about throwing any more snow here because the dryer vent is just to the left of this photo.

Finally I took this one yesterday morning as I stopped to fill up at the gas station right around the corner from the house.  As you can see, our streets were not in good driving condition, but life must go on so off to work and school we all went.  It looks pretty but it sure is a pain in the neck... and shoulders... and lower back!  

In other exciting news, we have another clipper coming tonight - "only" 3 inches or so will fall by 5 pm tomorrow, and yet another Monday storm.  I may have to start working on Saturdays to make up for all these missed work days!

My new mantra:

Monday, February 2, 2015

Go Away Linus

That's the name of the current snow storm in case you didn't know.

I know there are lots of places in the USA where more snow falls than what we get but here's the difference:  on coastal Connecticut it snows, then it will generally "warm up" to the upper 30's which causes it to melt and it goes away.  Often we won't get snow at all, even when it is snowing in the northern part of the state.  For some reason (global warming?) right here on the coast we have been getting hammered for a few winters now, and we truly are not equipped to deal with all this snow. The temperatures have not only NOT warmed up, we've been having colder than usual temperatures... so the two feet of snow that fell last week is still on the ground. The kids in my city are not in school again today which now makes 6 days without school that will have to be tacked on to the end of the school year.

Even though the snow was supposed to start over night, I wouldn't let Mr. Helen put my car in the garage like he usually does. That's where my treadmill is and honestly, last week my workouts were sporadic due to all the snow we got.  I just decided I'd rather have to clean the car off this morning than miss my run.

Why yes, I did enjoy my bodyweight workout and run this morning... and now I'm enjoying the fact that my boss called and told me not to come in to work.  So yay for a snow day!  Or rather I should say a snow/sleet/ice day because that is what is happening.  It has snowed about 4 inches and now it's turning over to sleet.  Then it will become freezing rain, then go back to snow.  The recommendation is to wait until later on this afternoon to clear off cars/driveways so that the ice is over a layer of snow.  And believe it or not, that makes it easier to clean it up.  Rather than chipping away at ice, you're able to move the snow and ice together.

In order to make it easier for us to clear our driveway later, once my run was done, we cleaned my car off and put it in the garage.

I took this photo right after I finally got back in the house - thought you might like to see how absolutely cute my "Shelley" hat is with my coat.  And look!  Shelley's mom decided I needed a scarf to complete the ensemble and sent this to me last week.  I love, love, love the whole look.  Thank you Judy!

Keep warm peeps.