Thursday, March 31, 2016

Greek Pasta Salad with Fresh Lemon Dressing

This is the pasta salad I made to add to the comfort meal for Mr. Helen after his awful pre-Easter workday. I modified the dressing from another salad recipe I've had for years and I think it made this salad!

Greek Pasta Salad with Fresh Lemon Dressing

Make the dressing:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T dried oregano or 2 T fresh oregano, chopped
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup lemon juice (if you squeeze fresh lemons it will be 1 1/2 to 2 lemons)

In a small sauce pan, over medium-low heat combine the oil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper.  Let the dressing simmer for about 5 minutes until the garlic just starts to turn golden - watch and don't overcook!  Remove from heat and whisk in lemon juice, set aside.

Make the salad:

12 oz. tricolor rotini pasta (or any shape you like)
1 cup chopped cucumber (I used English cucumber)
1 cup chopped grape tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup sliced black olives (regular, kalamata, whatever you like)
6 oz. good quality feta cheese (get the kind packed in brine), crumbled
1/2 tsp. Greek seasoning

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Drain but do not rinse and put in a large bowl.  Pour the dressing over and stir well.  Add cucumber, tomatoes, olives, feta, and sprinkle with the Greek seasoning.  Stir well to combine. Let chill so flavors will meld.

I am thinking next time I might even add some slightly steamed broccoli to this salad - or green/red peppers would also be good. This would also be a great salad to take to a picnic due to it's dressing ingredients that won't spoil easily.  I have a feeling this will be a regular item for us this summer.

I also took this salad, put it over greens and added 3 oz. of chopped chicken breast - making for a delicious lunch.

So many possibilities - just the sort of flexible recipe we love!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Don't Blink

Why does a four day work-week feel like it's 8 days long and if you blink, your three day long weekend is over? Followed by a Monday from hell...  Don't blink I tell ya!

The weather fully cooperated for me to get some projects done on my extra day off, i.e., it was rainy, drizzly and pretty cruddy most of the weekend.  And cold.  I'm ready for the cold to go away.

Friday morning, I got up, worked out, and immediately dove in to get some of the things off my to-do list.  As I told Mr. Helen, as usual I was overly ambitious and didn't get as many things as I wanted to done but at least I got some of my least favorite chores done.

  • Painted the hand railing going down to the family room.  That railing had not properly been re-set back into the wall since we bought our new furniture in 2014.  After we got our new washer and dryer a few weeks ago, I insisted Mr. Helen figure out how to put it back up and stabilize it.  He did but had to flip it around so there was exposed wood as it evidently had been put up then painted by the previous owners.  Such a simple fix but it feels so good to glance at it and see it correctly installed and painted.
  • Completely emptied my inside refrigerator/freezer and cleaned it from top to bottom.  As much as I hate doing this job, it really is a supremely satisfying job to finished as everything is fresh and organized afterwards.
  • Organized the outside full freezer, and the top freezer of the outside refrigerator.  Again, so satisfying to get that done.  The outside fridge will need to be emptied and cleaned but honestly it's been too cool for me to want to be out there doing that.  I'll do it in April when we do our big garage clean out.
  • Assembled the new shoe rack I bought over the Christmas season on an Amazon Lightening Deal.  I now have twice as much room for shoes to be out of their boxes.  I also put away my boots for the season. Even though we are having typical schizophrenic spring weather (60 one day, 35 the next), I really don't see it being consistently cold enough for me to wear boots.
  • Cleaned the "junk" drawer in my bedroom. 
  • Spring cleaned the upstairs bathroom:  this means I take a toothbrush to trim and anything else that needs detailing, and literally scrub every single thing down from ceiling to floor.
It was a busy day and I was amazed at how long each thing took me to do.  Of course, I slept in until 7:00 and didn't even work out until 8:30 so I didn't even get to working on those chores until about 10:00.  By the time all was said and done, it was nearly 5.  

On Saturday, I got up, drank coffee and read the paper and futzed around for a couple hours, then finally got out for my run, and ran 8.2 miles.  Came home, made something to eat, cleaned up, then made a chocolate cream pie for my contribution to Easter Sunday dinner.  My mother requested a graham cracker crust this year, and it was actually cheaper to buy a pre-made crust than to buy graham crackers.  So I did that but the filling is from scratch and the whipped cream is real!

Decided to get out and about for a bit just so that I wasn't sitting around after running that distance.  I like to keep my legs moving as I find I actually recover better than if I just sit around - or take a nap which is what I wanted to do.  I browsed some stores and returned some shoes I'd bought that were hurting my feet.  Had to take a store credit but that's no problem because as you know, I love shoes and will have no issue spending that credit.

While I was out, Mr. Helen texted me from work to say his day was hell on earth.  He normally doesn't work Saturday but was doing a coworker a favor and was regretting it.  He works at the commissary meat department (the grocery store on our local military base) and they ran out of bone-in hams. I guess people were beyond rude.  He's pretty tolerant but said if this was the attitude of people celebrating the resurrection of their savior, he wasn't sure who they were worshipping.  Ay yi yi.  He rarely requests anything specific for dinner but asked if we could have hamburgers and hot dogs.  Hamburgers are one of his comfort foods (pizza is the other), so I knew his day was rough.  I made a terrific Greek Pasta Salad for us to have with that.  You guys, I made this recipe up myself and oh my goodness, it came out so good that I wrote the recipe down and will share it later.  But here's a preview.

Sunday morning I got up and drank coffee and read the newspaper and lazed around for a couple hours, then went out and walked 4 miles.  Good recovery for my legs, and also good prep for eating Easter dinner, which was also a joint birthday celebration for my niece Sammie.  Actually it was quite a big day for her as she also celebrated her first communion. Here she is in all her seven year old glory and her finery - the dress she's wearing is 52 years old and was worn by her grandmother, her mother, and now her.  

We had a typical Easter meal - ham, roasted asparagus, our family's special potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, homemade rolls, plus roasted carrots, a Caesar salad, deviled eggs, and the pie and strawberry shortcake for dessert.  There was no shortage of food! Honestly, if my mother didn't host Easter, I'd be tempted to go out - and I know a lot of people who do, including Mr. Helen's whole family.  I really enjoy all the homemade treats but it is a lot work, isn't it?  Thankfully all I do is drop the ham off for Mama Helen to bake, and make the pie!

My sister makes this Caesar salad.  The recipe is a legacy from a old boyfriend.  This is better than any Caesar you'll ever get at a restaurant! We have included it for holidays so often it's now part of the tradition.

Look closely and you'll see Mama Helen turned the napkins into bunny ears.  She was so proud of that.

My niece had requested the shortcake as her birthday cake and everyone also enjoyed the pie!

Plenty of leftovers, which was nice as I was able to take a plate to Mr. Helen who was, unfortunately, working.  I hope this will give you an appreciation for the workers next time you have to run to the store on a holiday to grab that cream you forgot!

Great weekend and I'm so happy I was able to tick a few things off the to do list.  I know for sure I've got to get these projects done before summer gets here.  Next up, the big garage clean up.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

8 Miles then Brunch

Can I just say how happy I am that this is a four day work week?  I'm so looking forward to having Good Friday off.  Hopefully I put it to good use, though I'm tempted to do nothing.  I just have a bunch of nagging projects I need to get to and get done before summer gets here and I really should be using extra days off to do those.  One of my issues is that Mr. Helen keeps taking days off from work and it's quite difficult for me to do project type things when he is around.  He just won't let me get into anything without needing something from me.  But this weekend he volunteered to work for someone on Saturday so I'll have Friday-Saturday to do something.  I really should just pick a project, even though I'd rather go shopping and out to lunch with a friend.

I managed to run 8 miles this past weekend.  I've either been running on as flat a course as I can find or on the treadmill (depending on weather).  I want to run that distance a couple more weeks then I'm going to go to one of my old training areas and run it.  It's super hilly so I want to feel really confident in getting 8 miles in several times before I go there.  My goal all along has been to get back to a regular 10-ish mile run every Saturday.  Depending on the day, the weather, and every other thing that affects runs, I'm thinking it will take me somewhere between 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 hours to run 10 miles and though I don't even really care how long it takes, I do want to be conditioned for it.

One thing I've noticed during my cut back the food process is that I'm only eating a meal twice a day on the weekends.  I'm sure it's because I wait to eat until after my run. So by the time I run and clean up, it's more like brunch time.  I will say though that I eat hearty, i.e., I'd bet most of my normal breakfasts and lunches combined are around 600 calories (again, I'm not counting calories, I just kind of know what is what after all these years.)  I'd say my brunches are probably close to 500, so it's not like I'm really missing out on much.  If I feel hungry later, I just have a snack to hold me over to dinner.

After that 8 miler this past week, I attempted to recreate the dish I'd had at brunch with my sister the previous week.  I just have to say, it turned out fantastic, so I decided I'd share with you what I made!

Spanish Egg Skillet For One

3/4 cup prepared Spanish Rice (I made this kind without the oil they suggest)
1/2 link cooked chorizo sausage ~ 1 ounce (see note below)
1 egg
1/2 ounce shaved Manchego cheese
1-2 ounces avocado slices
Small cast iron skillet (or any oven proof dish)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Chop sausage up and stir together with prepared rice.  Layer in bottom of skillet.  Crack egg and put on top of rice.  Cook in oven for 12-15 minutes, until yolk is done as much as you'd like.  Top with shaved Machego and avocado slices.

Note: Spanish chorizo is already cooked.  Mexican chorizo is not cooked so you need to cook it first.

You can see the Manchego melted as soon as I put it on.  I should have let the dish cool a bit as it was too hot to eat right out of the oven and the Manchego really should be shavings on top. Still tasted great though! After I had this, I realized you could make this whole dish substituting a hot Italian sausage and shaved Parmesan and it would taste just as good!  I also think you could use a bigger skillet and make this for multiple servings.  In any case it was a delicious brunch and held me well until our early dinner in celebration of Mr. Helen's father's 88th birthday, where I ate pesto gnocchi with grilled chicken.

I wish I could eat like that all the time becase two really flavorful, delicious meals are definitely better than three so-so ones.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tuesday Ten: Spring Forward!

1. We were part of the freak warm up in the Northeast last week.  On Wednesday, Windsor Locks, CT hit 81 degrees!  That's a record of course.  Where I work it hit 71 and where I live it hit 62. The warmer weather stuck around until Friday night which was just amazing. I was so happy to open some windows and scoot winter germs out.  Plus I decided to take down all the winter decorations over the weekend.

2. I keep feeling quite astonished at how early we are getting spring this year.  It's fun to see my tulips and daffodils before April!  We haven't even raked anything yet.  I'll take the green sprouts, brown leaves floating around and all.

3. Unfortunately, it seems I didn't scoot the germs out fast enough.  I have been surrounded at work by sick people, then two weeks ago Mr. Helen started not feeling well and I was sanitizing everything in my house as well.  All to no avail as I started feeling the burning sensation in the back of my throat along with a slight headache Thursday afternoon.  I know I will feel better in 7-10 days but seriously, I really did not want to get sick. Plus this meant I only ran a slow 10K on Saturday as my get up and go was busy fighting germs.

4.  The main reason I didn't want to be sick, this past weekend in particular, is that my sister came to CT to celebrate my birthday.  We went out for a fantastic brunch, then to my favorite winery for Barrels and Brushes. A seasoned artist shows how to paint a particular picture.  They provide all the paints, canvas, etc. We sat in the barrel room at the winery with a glass of wine and painted!  Oh my goodness, this was so much fun even though I do not have an artistic bone in my body.

Plus we got to have some time with our beloved Jacob.  Long time readers will be astonished to hear that he's turning 13 in September!  Such a little man.  Gracie, of course, had a fit that she couldn't come but was reminded she got her alone time last month.

5.  On Thursday morning (before the throat burn), when I got up it was 58.  I skipped my run and did step aerobics, which I can't do in the winter garage - too cold and I'm too bound up by clothing. There I was in capris and a short sleeved shirt stepping away.  But let me tell you, as well as the running has been going, woooo buddy am I out of step shape - definitely used different leg muscles and they told me so.

6. My MCL is still hurty.  Fortunately it's just on side-to-side movements and/or if I have my leg flexed in a certain position for a long time.  Sometimes I wake up from the pain and then I'm sleepy and under the covers trying to reposition my leg so it will stop.  Doing this the other night, I gave myself a charlie horse in my calf. It was so stupid it was comical.  Anyway, annoying.  And I have the feeling this is going to be like the hamstring pull a couple years ago where it dragged on for almost a year.  Boo!

7.  Powered by Aleve Cold and Sinus D on Saturday, I did something I haven't done in a very long time - went out shopping and I was gone for nearly 4 hours.  I bought that new spring flag, some fun cocktail napkins (which we use on the patio all summer no matter what kind of drink), some shirts and things to wear to work, and a new outfit to wear to the brunch and painting on Sunday. Best part of all, I didn't spend a cent as it was all powered by gift cards,  Woot!

Brunch outfit: I had the shoes already and decided on these knit wide-leg pants and lace top with bell sleeves.  Is it wrong to say how comfortable this outfit is and how much I love it? May I also say I have great respect for clothing photographers.  This isn't the best shot but it was the best I could get lol!

8. After declaring we are having a staycation only this year, I found a really, really inexpensive hotel in Hyannis, on Cape Cod.  We love the cape but haven't been back there since our disastrous visit in 2010 when it rained every day and we left two days early.  Hopefully that won't happen but if it does we have until 3 days before check-in to back out.  Plus we won't go for a full week so some of our time off will still be staycation time. I figured why not reserve the room even if we decide later not to go.

9. I can't believe I haven't shared this Chicken Fajita recipe with you guys.  They are oven roasted and from the first time I made them, I told Mr. Helen I'll never make fajitas another way.  The things I do differently than the recipe is that I use fajita seasoning in place of the taco and I double the veggies.  They are quick and easy and can be scaled to suit your portion needs.  You can even use this as a basis for a nice rice bowl, if you prefer that over a tortilla wrap. Photo is the actual batch I made last week.

10. I'm on the losing trail again. Mr. Helen and I agreed that I had to lose all the weight I'd gained plus at least 1 lb. in order for me to get another $5.  And I did!  He said I almost doubled what I'd gained. Now he's decided that he wants to keep track and see if it's a cyclical thing being caused by hormones even though I'm quite menopausal.  I actually think it's funny how he's really getting into the statistics. In any case, I no longer wish to weigh the 135 lbs. of my younger years and every time I've tried to lose weight and couldn't get back there, I was never satisfied thereby leading to self-sabotage, mental anxiety, and more weight gain.  No matter where my weight ends up, this is truly what I'm aiming for: a Sanity Setpoint.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Just Say No

Unless you were living under a rock, you know that former First Lady Nancy Reagan passed away recently at the ripe old age of 94 and her funeral is tomorrow.  Friends said her mind was sharp as a tack though her body had failed her somewhat at the end.  Among other things, Mrs. Reagan was known for her Hollywood glamour - wearing designer clothing and all the famous people she entertained at the White House, her undying love for her husband, and the motto of her signature cause during her White House Years, "Just Say No to Drugs."

Because Little Helen was in elementary school during the Reagan White House, Just Say No was quite a familiar refrain around my house.  In fact, sometime in the late 1980's when I was once again trying to quit smoking, Little Helen informed me that tobacco was a drug and I should Just Say No!  It took me a few more years but eventually I gave up smoking for good in 1992 and have never looked back, nor regretted that decision.

All the Just Say No talk on the newscasts got me thinking about other things I've said no to and the effect doing so has had on my life.

As anyone who reads knows, 5 weeks ago I decided I would Just Say No to (extra) food.  I began to try cutting back on portions of the food I eat all the time in the hopes of feeling better and maybe even weight loss.  Not dieting per se and definitely not restriction of the foods I love. The first few days of that were eye-opening, in that I didn't realize how much snacking I had been doing.  As I became aware, simply asking myself, "Are you really hungry, do you really need this food?" most often the answer was no.  Over these 5 weeks, I've pretty much evolved to 3 meals and 1 snack, which of late has been a cup of blueberries. Overall, I've been feeling so much better that I have only minuscule regret to saying no to extra food.

I have also been saying no to alcohol (mostly).  I basically have always been a social or weekend partaker of the adult beverage.  There's probably nothing I love more than sitting on my patio on a beautiful summer day sipping a good cocktail or glass of wine, except maybe being at a beach bar having a good cocktail.  You get my drift.  Over the years, my intake has varied to weekends only, drinking every day while on vacation, drinking at least a glass of wine everyday - even when not on vacation, to complete and total abstention (gave it up along with sugar and desserts one year for Lent).  When I started on my Just Say No/less is better path, I made the decision that I would limit myself to one drink a weekend.  So one evening, one drink.  Instead of stopping totally, I did this because I know for a fact that I will drink occasionally.  I'm a firm believer in if you think you'll have it later, figure out how to have it now.  I have stuck to this, except for one glass of wine on my birthday and honestly, I did regret that as I felt crappy the next morning when the alarm went off at 4 am for my workout.

But before I ever thought of starting my Just Say No approach, I had been doing some research on alcohol and the thyroid - mostly because of the weight gain I saw last year and that was the only place where I could see anything had changed.  I won't go into details but if you'd like to see how those two things work together, just read this article.  Those same things happen if you have a healthy thyroid so I could only begin to imagine what was happening to me.

I honestly think the reason I lost so much weight my first week of "less" was 50% because of just saying no to alcohol, I really do.

Most recently, I decided to deactivate my account on Facebook.  There was some drama going on that someone was trying to drag me in to and I decided to just say no and let it go.  I figured people who I care about either have my email address, phone number, or both. It was a click of a button and I was off, at least for the time being.  What I have learned over the past couple weeks is that Facebook can actually be quite a time suck for me.  In fact, almost every single time I picked up my phone in the first few days, I automatically hit the Facebook app.  I was going to move the app but then decided I wanted to see how many times I would do that before I stopped.  I've also found that Facebook can become it's own little world, and the reality is most of the people who call themselves your friends, are simply acquaintances... and a lot of them won't even notice if you leave.  In fact, it took one of my very good friends a full week before she realized I wasn't on there anymore. While I will admit to also learning that I do use Facebook for other things, like getting information from business pages, I'm not truly missing it yet - and I seem to have more time for other things.

Just saying no to these things has brought me to a point where I'm feeling so much better mentally and physically.  Though I have no idea what is going on with my weight, I do know I feel invigorated when working out again and running has been going fantastic.  In fact, last Saturday I decided to tack .2 onto the 6 miles I'd done the previous week to make it a 10K distance.  Well, when I got to 6.2 I felt so good I kept running.  By the time I finished I'd run 7.2.  That's right 8 miles, I'm looking at you next.  I seem to be faster too, though not on every run but that should come as I regain running efficiency.

I guess I'm learning that this Just Say No thing is not about deprivation or negativity. I'm really glad because the minute I feel deprived of something, I tend to throw a hissy fit and set myself backwards (remember when I kept running even though my foot was broken?)

In fact, there are so many good things coming from this, I can't believe I didn't try sooner.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Think Spring

As expected, I had to pay out $5 at last week's weigh-in.  Honestly, it didn't upset me, it just made me mad that such a small deviation could contribute to me not losing any weight, or at least maintenance. I guess my body still isn't in the swing of letting it go. Even Mr. Helen said based on what he's seeing each week (remember he sees exactly what I eat, how I work out AND what is happening with the scale), he's beginning to understand why I get so frustrated. He even asked me if I was sure my thyroid meds are working correctly.  Sigh. Let's just hope it was a temporary birthday indulgence turn around and I'm back on track this week.

Speaking of birthdays, Little Helen and her husband sent me the most extravagant birthday gift - something I've been wanting for a long, long time.  

But what made this gift even better than getting the camera, is that the camera was part of a kit that included a wide-angle lens, a telephoto lens, filters, tripods, SD cards and so much more.  Opening the box was bit overwhelming!

What is great about the camera is that it comes with some automatic features, in addition to the ability to go full professional and handle all the settings.  I'm going to need some instruction, but it has been fun just taking photos of stuff around the house, using the close-up feature, the portrait feature and normal pictures.

Portrait shot of handsome Mr. Helen

I've been trying for years to get a decent shot of these candles.  I love it!

Took this because I thought it was funny that these two magazines, which are indicative of what we each like to do arrived on the same day.

Closeup of the tulips I bought trying to bring a little spring into my house.

I'm looking forward to getting into the nitty gritty of it all.  At the very least it will assure that some of the photos on the blog will be better lol.


Maybe because we have had the mildest winter I can remember in a long time, spring fever is in full effect here at the Helen household (see above tulips).  We had a dusting of snow on Friday but it didn't stick around and the weekend was full of blue skies and sun.  Unfortunately, that's what made it all the ruder when we walked outside and it was only 30 degrees brrrrr.  Still I'll take that over grey, snow, ice, sleet, etc.

I sort of wished I'd planted crocus last fall. Where I wouldplant them in the front yard is normally still covered by snow but this year there's nary a flake on the ground.  Maybe I should just get them and plant them hoping for another mild winter next year.

As usual with the weather looking better (50s all week!) I've been craving lighterfoods and have made some things that reflect that.  The price and availability of fresh vegetables is the bane of my winter existence.  It's so frustrating to try to figure out what to make to accompany our meals especially after a while when I'm sick to death of roasted squash.

But I made a couple of things over the weekend that are sufficing for now.  Chopped Veggie 
Salad seems to be one of the things I make whenever I want a taste of spring/summer and I think it's because the vegetables required are readily available most of the year.

I also got a bunch of asparagus for a decent price and put it in a lemony vinaigrette for snacking or to eat as a cold side dish.  If you like lemon and asparagus, try this out, it's great!

Asparagus with Lemon Vinaigrette

Put a 4 quart pot filled halfway with water and 1 tsp. salt on and bring to a boil.  While waiting for it to boil, prepare one bunch asparagus, by rinsing and breaking off the hard stems.  When the water is boiling, drop the asparagus in and bring back to a boil.  Cook for 3 minutes, While the asparagus is cooking, put cold water and ice in a large bowl. When the asparagus is done, drain it and immediately plunge into the cold water.  Let it sit a minute, then drain it again.  Mix together 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, 1 T extra virgin olive oil, and 2 T lemon juice.  Pour over asparagus then refrigerate. As I said, I either eat as is, or even chop a few stalks up for an omelet. If you really want to kick things up a notch, wrap each piece of asparagus with a thin slice of proscuitto, then pour the dressing over. Easy, simply, delicious.

The last dish I made is really a blast from the past but going through a cookbook looking for something else, I was reminded of it.  Green beans can be so much more than the canned Green Giants your mom served you.  This version tastes like spring.

Roasted Green Beans with Dill Mustard Vinaigrette
serves 6-8

2 lbs. green beans (use haricot verts or petite green beans and you can use frozen!)
2 T olive oil, divided
3/4 tsp kosher salt, divided
2 T white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. Dijon Mustard
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 T dried dill or 2 T fresh dill

Heat oven to 450.

Cook your green beans half way to crisp tender - i.e. boil fresh green beans in water about 6 minutes, microwave frozen green beans about 5 minutes.  Drain and put into a large bowl.

Toss the green beans with 1 T of olive oil and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt and pour out onto a large cookie sheet.  Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until lightly browned and tender

While the green beans are cooking, whisk together the 1 T olive oil, 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, sugar, black pepper and dill.

When green beans are done, transfer them to a serving bowl and pour the vinaigrette over tossing until coated. 

I actually served these with a pot roast - they were a true spring food - a bridge between winter and summer.

When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest.
Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Friday, March 4, 2016

I Think It's Funny

Just some things that have struck me as both ironic and ha ha funny over the last couple of weeks...

This dish towel that was recently given to me as a gift.


Where there's a will, there's a way.  We took Mr. Helen's sister and her husband out for dinner (a long overdue thank you for everything they did for Little Helen's wedding after party) last weekend to a fantastic upscale and yes, pricey restaurant.  The service and food were impeccable and it's the sort of place that we would only go to for very special reasons, but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I had the best gnocchi I've ever eaten in my life, anywhere.  It has sort of a cream sauce and a ham that had been cooked to crispness, almost like bacon but it was ham.

Crappy photo, seriously delicious gnocchi

My birthday happened to be a few days later and Mr. Helen who probably still had some sticker shock from that dinner told me he would be cooking.  Do you know my husband, who claims to not be a good cook, made me a bacon wrapped filet mignon, a piece of stuffed flounder, a piece of stuffed shrimp and most amazing of all, he roasted fresh red peppers because he found a recipe online that suggest that as an alternate vegetable.

It was delicious!  Of course the ladies at my job said if they were married to someone who cooked like me, they would pretend they couldn't cook either.  Hmmmm, I wonder....?


Why indeed?

I really tried to tamp down the celebrations and eating during my birthday week but try as I might, there were still extras.  I worked really hard at not eating all the food and all the goodies, but of course, I did have some.

Mama Helen made me a birthday dinner that featured a protein, two vegetables, and FOUR starches: homemade brown bread, mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, cheesy polenta.  I ate 3 of them and tried very hard to only have a dollop.  Then of course, there was the homemade coconut cake and chocolate ice cream.

The girls at work took me out to lunch because I had insisted I didn't want cake (which are usually not very special store-bought cakes).  I managed to keep that to a wrap sandwich and a side salad.  

Then of course Mr. Helen's special meal plus he had bought me a cupcake from our favorite Cake Lady.  Plus I had one glass of wine with my dinner.

The thing is, while I'm not sure I could have eaten smaller portions, because I really did try to eat "less", I suppose I could have flat out refused some of it.  But would doing that have made me happier?  I don't think so.

Though I know I don't want to get into a deprivation/diety mindset, in the back of my mind I had the thought that I might have to pay Mr. Helen $5 come this week's weigh in.  But then I thought, in real life there are special occasions, and times when I might eat more or have a treat and don't I want to participate? So, I did what I did.  I just wish a couple of meals wouldn't throw everything off.  I'm still wishing that - guess I'll find out tomorrow.