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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Review: Kindred Spirits


Kindred Spirits
Kindred Spirits by Sarah Strohmeyer

My rating: 0 of 5 stars



I'm not even 50 pages in yet, and I've already cried through half the pages... It definitely starts out in an emotional way.



View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Steppin' Out Again



It's that time of year again...the time everyone dreads.  Yep, the time that I harass all of my friends and co-workers for their participation and/or their hard-earned cash.

Now, I rarely ask people for money (never for personal use...okay, only jokingly), but I make an exception once or twice a year when I participate in a fundraiser for something I believe in.  This time it's the American Diabetes Association®'s Step Out® Walk to Stop Diabetes®.  I think it's a good cause, especially considering that Diabetes has affected a number of my friends and family members, including my grandfather and my brother to name only a few.  I walk for them and for the other 25.8 million Americans living with Types I and II Diabetes.
http://stepout.diabetes.org/out11/so2011_300x244.gif
Come join me on October 13th at Lake Merrit in Oakland, CA for the walk!  In addition to the 3 mile walk around the lake, lunch will be provided as well as activities, music and a healthy living fair.

If you want to register as a part of my team, visit my team page and click the link at the right hand side of the page.  You don't even have to live locally to participate!  If you'd like, you can join my team as a "virtual participant."  By becoming a virtual participant, you will help the American Diabetes Association provide community-based education programs, protect the rights of people with diabetes and fund critical research for a cure.  Registration for the event is free, and while it is a fundraising event, you do not have to meet any minimum fundraising requirements in order to participate.

As always, donations to my campaign are highly appreciated and can be made using the newly installed widget at the top of my page (nifty new gadget!) or by visiting this link.  If you use the widget, you can search by "Tami'sTeam" with no spaces or by my full first and last name. 

To anyone that continued reading to the end, thank you so much for your attention!  That in itself is a form of support.

Thank you!!




Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Recap



Oh look at that!  That date can't be right, can it?  It's been two months since my last post!  Someone has been busy!  Honestly, I can't remember what was keeping me so busy during the month of April, but May was chock-full of business trips, vacations and other social occasions...

So, now that I'm back here, I'll try to catch you up (you 4 people that read me, that is).  While I've been remiss in my blogging activities, I've mirrored that in my WW vigilance.  My tracking has been sporadic, starting in late April with my friend's daughter's birthday party.  It's hard to track during parties (it can be done, and I've done it, but I got lazy) - there's excuse number 1.  Past experience has taught me that I need to track my food or I slip quickly into old habits...which I did.  As a result, my weight loss has been pretty much flat-lined for the last 2 months.


I'm still down over 15 lbs, so I'm not using this plateau as excuse #2 to stop trying!  Nope, excuse #2 was the last minute whirlwind business trip to Long Island, NY.  Traveling on-plan is tough to start with, and I didn't plan ahead.

Excuse #3 was the bachelorette weekend in South Lake Tahoe that immediately followed the business trip.  After 2 weeks of not tracking, the old habits were just waiting in the wings to take over.  I discovered Ben & Jerry's Frozen Greek Yogurt and the fact that I have no control with anything that comes in a single pint container.  Still a better binge than their regular ice creams, but heavy on the points...

Enter Excuse #4 - vacation in Florida visiting my old college roommate, Moriah.  We hit the beach, the zoo, St. Augustine and had an all-around good time.  (I'm hoping she did too, as I can only speak for myself.)

After that, I did half-arsed tracking for about a week before slipping again.  I managed to maintain during the week that I tracked, though I did use all of my weeklies.  I blame cheesecake, which has a direct correlation to my lack of control.  That cheesecake was fully tracked and accounted for, though.  So, that's something.

Excuse #5 was all of the recent activity surrounding my step-brother Mark's wedding this past weekend.  I got permission to work remotely last Thursday and Friday so that I could attend the rehearsal (I did half of the prayers of the faithful during the ceremony) on Thursday evening and the luncheon on Friday afternoon.  Naturally, much food was involved...not to mention the wedding on Saturday and the brunch on Sunday - none of which was tracked.

So, my WW week has reset as of today, and I am done with the excuses!  (Please hold me to that statement.)



Thursday, April 05, 2012

Kale Fail

Lately, I have seen an awful lot of hype regarding kale chips.  Recipes abound all over the internet - on the Weight Watchers site, AllRecipes, Skinnytaste...everywhere.  They've even made it into the grocery store in highly priced single-serve baggies.

I realize that I am probably late to this little party, but I figured that maybe I should look into this phenomenon.  I checked out some different recipes and noticed that they all seemed highly rated by the public.  That's a good sign, right?  Everyone says they were surprisingly delicious, and terms I saw included:  "to die for," "a healthier alternative to regular chips," "fantastic."  You get the picture.

So I picked up a healthy looking bunch of kale at the grocery store the other night and got to it.  I settled on this recipe from The Food Network, since it seemed nice and quick.  (Every recipe I found was for a different heat setting and time period.  This one blasts the kale at 425F for 15 minutes.)

First step - wash and dry the kale.  Done.

Second step - cut away the tough middle stem.  I chose to tear it, since I didn't want to dirty a knife needlessly.

Third step - tear leaves into small chip sized pieces.  I combined this with #2.  Warning to anyone who hasn't worked with kale before: look closely at those leaves - they harbor little green insects that almost look like they are part of the leaf.  I hope I got them all, but if I didn't, it didn't kill me.  (Or as my father would say, extra protein!)

Step four - toss leaf pieces with olive oil and seasonings.

Step five - wait patiently as your chips roast to crispy healthy perfection in the oven, stirring halfway through the roasting time.

After taking the "chips" out of the oven, I impatiently popped one into my mouth.  Definitely crunchy.  Fantastic?  An alternative to regular chips?  I think not!  It just tasted like you would expect a roasted leafy garnish to taste...like hot grass.  Crispy as it was, you just can't chew it enough to break down the fibers of the leaves...or is that just me?  I'd say that it was a waste of $1.99, except that I still ate most of the "chips," hoping they would grow on me.  They did not.  At least I got in more vegetables that night, and healthy oil (still going strong on my WW plan).

Okay, I will admit that I am not a big fan of kale, though I have made a good pea soup that used it as extra veggies (cut into thin strips).  I have no problem relegating this particular vegetable to the salad bar...as the greenery dividing the dishes.

*Sigh*  Am I the only one totally unimpressed with the kale chip phenomenon?  There have to others out there like me...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hidden Talent

I have a hidden talent.  I think it's hereditary, because my brothers and my mother seem to have it to.  This talent will really never get me anywhere in life, but it comes in handy while watching Psych and during trivia games.

What's this talent I possess?  The uncanny ability to recall obscure and bizarre scenes from old television episodes and commercials.

I told you it wasn't going to get me anywhere.

What brought on this revelation?  This new Verizon commercial:


Clever?  Maybe.  Original?  Oh, I think not...

Here's where my talent comes in.  Immediately upon seeing this ad (hearing it really, I was in the other room listening to the tv while making dinner), I flashed back to an old Saturday Night Live commercial spoof for Bad Idea Jeans.  (I can't embed the link because it's not on YouTube, but go watch it, I'll wait.)

After finding the Verizon commercial and watching it in full (before I posted it here), I saw that the two were even more similar than I had originally thought.  I suppose that's one way to save money on marketing...I wonder if SNL or the original writer got any credit for this idea.

Of course, my real takeaway?  I miss Phil Hartman.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Muffin Madness

It's been nearly a month since my last post, which I just realized as I logged in for today's entry.  Where does the time go?  To the corporate overlords, plain and simple.  Work has kept me quite busy, and fairly stressed out lately.  While I've been keeping up my new year dedication (not a resolution - those are destined to fail) to healthier eating with a decreased reliance on convenience foods, I have noticed myself slipping a little bit this past week.  I hit fast food twice after work this week after avoiding those places for months (every once in a while, I would grab something that was pre-decided, but rarely).

I've also been trying to keep up my nails with fun color, since when I'm mentally exhausting myself during the work day, I like to look down at my nails and have something to smile about.  Is is weird that a good manicure can boost my mood during a tough day?

So, while I've been spending time at work and letting my nails dry, I haven't been keeping up the blog like I'd like to.

However, I have been inspired.  Gina over at Skinnytaste.com may not realize it, but I semi-stalk her.  Earlier this month, I was on a banana bread kick, and tried out two different recipes in single serve and two serving portions.  The problem I found with the recipe I made into 2 serving portions (using mini-loaf pans), was that I seem to be physically incapable of only eating half of the loaf.  Those are in the freezer and are a bit of a treat on those low-point days.

Onto the inspiration.  I was sitting at work toiling away and fantasizing about that banana bread, but wishing it were fewer points (the 2 servings together are 11).  I had also just eaten my lunch - 1C of oatmeal with chopped apple and maple syrup (easier to throw together in the morning than a sandwich, when there's nothing in the freezer).  I was thinking of making an oatmeal fruit bread, similar to my lunch but with leftovers.  Later that day, while taking a short sanity break, I checked Skinnytaste.com and found the recipe for Insanely Good Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins.  I already had most of the ingredients on hand, and had chopped up strawberries and blueberries in the fridge.

Naturally, I had to hit the grocery store to pick up some things first.  I didn't think I had enough honey at home and didn't trust the applesauce in my fridge to still be good.  Long story short, the baking was delayed until last night, at which time my berries were dried out and sad looking.  Quick change - apple pie muffins instead.  I substituted chopped up apple for the berries and added some apple pie spice to the dry ingredients.

 I'll admit that sometimes I get intimidated by lengthy ingredient lists, but this recipe is really rather simple and easy to follow.  
Ingredients ready for assembly
Since the first step in the recipe is to let the oats soak in the milk for about 30 minutes, it gave me time to prepare all the rest of the ingredients while the oven pre-heated.  Once the oats are sufficiently soaked and the wet ingredients are mixed, everything comes together quite quickly. 

Ready for the oven

Normally, I would worry about filling a muffin-tin to that level with the batter, but since the photos in the recipe page showed this level (and the finished product), I was okay with it.  And you may be wondering what all that liquid is on top of the muffin-tin.  One of the recipe steps was to spray the tin and liners with oil.  I had never done both steps before, but after reading the comments, saw this to be integral.  I used non-stick cooking spray.

Pretty!

This is the first time I've baked something that didn't rise up and out over the top of the pan to the point that you have to destroy them to remove them.  I guess actually following written instructions has its perks.  Of course, since it's me, I had to do something stupid during the process.  This time, when I slid the muffins into the oven, I realized that I hadn't moved the racks to their usual positions (I had planned on putting these on the rack in the middle position, but had forgotten that I'd moved that rack to the top position to broil something earlier this week).  My solution was to bake these on the top rack for the first 11 minutes and then move them to the bottom rack for the last 11.  Result - some of the muffin bottoms are a bit over-done.  I'm not sure if this is due to the rack issue, or the fact that while I was mixing the ingredients, the pan was on top of the hot oven waiting to be filled.  I need a larger kitchen, or more inclination to keep the counters clutter free.  Normal people probably will not get this result.

The first taste

The verdict:  Moist and tasty.  I will definitely be making these again, and trying different fruit combos.  It has a good oat flavor and a subtle sweetness.  The big apple chunks cooked up well, and there's a nice fruit to muffin ratio.  When I first folded in the fruit, I was afraid it wouldn't be enough, but it is.  

To circle back to spraying the liners with the oil...you do not want to skip that step.  These muffins come out of the liners completely with no precious points lost to the wrapper.  That is so important to a Weight Watcher's member, since I know when I have counted points for an item, I am eating every morsel, even if it means gnawing the crumbs off of that muffin liner (I'm not proud).  From the recipe comments, you will want to use liners because otherwise these tend to fall apart when removing them from the pan.  Other comments have remarked that the muffins bottoms tend to be rather wet, but dry by the next day (I didn't have this issue, but I'm "special").

I may be smuggling one of these in to The Hunger Games later for a WW-Friendly movie snack.  

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Why I'm Still Single

This will pretty much stand alone, with no need for me to add much commentary.  I recently re-joined Match.com, and what you are about to see is an excerpt from the profile of someone that showed up on the site as a possible match for me.  Read on, cringe, then understand my spinsterhood. 

*Warning.  What you are about to read has been copied exactly and no grammar, punctuation or spelling has been altered from the original form.*

"Wow this whole dating online has gotten way out of control. People wake up this isn't a fairy tell land where you can pick your perfect image of a person, then close your eyes and bam there they are. I notice how women tend to " Rule the Roost" on this site. Superficial and ridiculous wants and needs. OK women you all have a vocabulary for men " Douche bag, Tool, Meathead etc" well what about you. Im sure you know a few women out there with the same mentality. This is what makes a women super lame on a dating site. If your profile includes the following.......... Live Laugh Love......Seriously did you take that from your grandmas plaque hanging in her kitchen....Lame !! Passionate about life.........Hahahhah.....It's a dating web site who isn't ,your a prude...lol I love to laugh......Oh this one kills me, your super boring i can tell already. Is that the best you can think of ....wow! I am just looking......Is that why you made a extensive profile? Obviously your not to be trusted. Every picture has a shot of your boobs.........Did daddy not love you enough, you got serious issues. lol I just want a honest man...... hahahahahah wait i cant stop laughing hahahahahah.... These are just a few things.....Look stop trying to make a glorified Glamour magazine profile. Be your self tell us men what really makes you tick.... Have some creativity and use your brain.....Life is short don't be such a prude or you will be that single older lady that all us guys look at and say " Ya i remember her she's worthless" for we will not help you when you fall....... Now if you feel the need to vent please do .....lol.......I can handle the truth and some sarcasim....I wear boxer briefs not butt huggers.......who wants to play......"

~Back to reality again.  At least it's Leap Day, and I can ignore this match as an aberration that will hopefully only recur once every four years. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Kitchen Nightmares

I swear that if anyone decided to film my life for a reality show, I'd end up being portrayed as completely inept, dimwitted, and comically clumsy.  Really, these oddball occurrences only happen once in a while, but it does seem like I've been extra-blessed in the kitchen catastrophe department over the past few weeks.  Here's some of the wacko things that I'm talking about:

1)  I had a can of refried beans fall on my head a few weeks ago while rummaging around in a cabinet.   The can was on the counter over the cabinet where I keep my casserole dishes and tupperware.  My cat had been getting up on the counter and I think she must have nudged the can to the edge during one of her forays, because I can think of no other explanation for how that can could have possibly fallen on my head.  Other than poltergeists, and I really don't want to think about those in my apartment.  I also don't know how the can could have been perched that precariously on the edge of the counter without my noticing it.  Regardless of how it happened, it hurt like nobody's business!  The very bottom edge hit me right above my hairline and I did have a little bump from it.  Luckily, it didn't fall far before impact.

2)  I burned myself pulling a dish of homemade macaroni and cheese out of the oven.  Not the brightest, but also the most normal of my incidents.

3)  Last weekend I managed to burn myself while doing the dishes.  The tap water from the hot side has been scalding hot lately, which I knew when I started the dishes that day.  I must have had a lapse, though. While moving a pan under the stream I wasn't careful enough and ended up burning my wrist right under the thumb.  It hurt bad enough that I felt it through my whole body, stamped my foot on the floor and swore.  (Sorry Mom.  It happens.)  It was hot enough that it was a bit red and warm to the touch for the rest of the day (it looked like a mild sunburn, but didn't last long).  Right after it happened, I was so mad that I tested the water temperature with a meat thermometer held in the stream of running water.  150 degrees (beef, medium rare).  I had been meaning to report the temperature of the water to the apartment complex office for a while, but the burn prompted an actual irate call.  I also reported the broken garbage disposal, since I had to leave a message anyway.  Next day, the hot water is merely hot again, without being hot enough to physically endanger the young, elderly, or simple-minded.  The garbage disposal is still broken, but the drain is clear again.

4)  Yesterday, I had another dish washing incident.  I received a vegetable slicer for Christmas, and was cleaning the components for the first use.  I was planning to make scalloped potatoes with a giant sweet potato that I found at the store.  All necessary parts were washed, and I had taken special care not to come in contact with the extra sharp slicing blade (it ate up my poor sponge).  I was drying everything on my flour sack towel and made one last and nearly fatal (by which I mean not really even close to fatal, but not very bright) swipe with the towel, catching my middle fingertip right in the blade.  Amazingly, there was no blood on the towel.  But that sucker bled like a mother.  The cut wasn't that deep - maybe a millimeter - but it seemed like it bled forever.  And each time I thought it was finished, it started up again.  Then of course I started thinking too hard about it (Do I need stitches?  Should I see a doctor?  How clean is that towel?  What if it gets infected?).  I had to lie down and look away from it for a few minutes, to stop myself from giving in to the irrational panic and because I was feeling a bit faint.  Then, as I was getting myself a bandaid to keep myself from looking at the wound, and to keep from bleeding all over the place, I made the mistake of trying to assess the damage and started to feel faint/queasy again and had to lie down.  Did I mention that I hadn't eaten yet either?  That probably didn't help.  Anyway, I was so irritated at the slicer (and myself for being a dork) that I nixed the potato idea and moved on to something simpler and faster.

5)  Today, less actual physical damage to myself...but it did involve that vegetable slicer.  I decided not to hold a grudge against an inanimate object due to my own carelessness, and was preparing the scalloped potato recipe.  The white sauce was completed on the stove waiting for the potatoes to be layered in the pan.  I had already re-washed the blade component, without touching it, and didn't bother drying it.  I popped it into the top of the slicer and started slicing up the humongous sweet potato. This slicer has a container attached to catch the sliced veggies, and I was holding it in my hand instead of using it on the countertop.  Naturally, the whole slicer somehow catapulted out of my hands, crashing to the floor and distributing an even layer of perfectly sliced potato disks across the tiles.  I managed to keep a nice tight grip on the potato, though, and hadn't sliced more than 1/4 of it before dropping the container.  So, all was not lost.  Of course, it delayed my recipe prep and the white sauce ended up thicker than ideal, since it was sitting on the stove during this time and the aftermath.  I had to spread it over the potatoes instead of simply pouring it, as called for in the recipe.  The sweet potato produced enough liquid during cooking that it didn't seem to make a difference though.

Cut to my reality show after the inevitable editing process, and it goes something like the following scene from Frasier, only without the dating or the ironing:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Culinary Creation

In my quest to both eat healthier and cook more, I have been spending more time in the kitchen.  (This has severely impacted my FaceBook gaming schedule...but has also resulted in a loss of 5 1/2 pounds so far.)

I have found some great healthy recipes and have whipped some things up on my own.  I whipped up the following concoction last week, loosely based on the memory of a recipe for a Mexican meat dish.  Naturally, I cannot remember the name of that dish, nor where I found it.  My version uses ground turkey instead of ground beef, and is very lightly seasoned for versatility. I used it as a filling for soft tacos.


For lack of a better name (or any creative abilities), I have called this:

Turkey Potato Skillet

Ingredients:

1 TBS canola oil
1 1/4lbs 99% fat free ground turkey
1 large russet potato, peeled and cubed
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 28oz can chopped black olives

Instructions:

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add onion and cook until it starts to become translucent.  Add potato and cook for about 2 more minutes.

Add ground turkey to pan, breaking up the meat as it cooks.  Add seasonings to pan and stir to distribute.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until potatoes are tender and meat is cooked through.  Add olives to the pan and heat through before serving.

Serves 8
Serving size = 4 1/4 oz
WWPP = 4

Friday, February 10, 2012

Birthdays, Ball Games and Bad Baking

What a busy, busy weekend!  And the week has continued in the same busy fashion...  I am going to need this weekend to recover.
Saturday was my nephew's 2nd birthday, and my step-sister threw him a party.  He is very much into tractors right now, so that was the party theme.  My mother and Caroline created this cute cake for him, and he was very happy to see the vehicles on it.  (Every time he see's a tractor, and some other assorted large vehicles, he yells out tractor and gets very excited.  It's incredibly adorable, but I will admit to a bit of a bias, as his doting aunt.)



He got these tractor cookies, too.  I'm told they were a lot of work...  I know from experience that they were quite tasty.
Sunday, of course, was the superbowl.  Given that I'm not a sports fan, you'd think that I wouldn't give a flying fig.  But, I did have a party to go to where I could tune out the game and tune back in for the commercials.  The hostess's birthday was on the 1st, so I wanted to bring her a cake as a surprise.  She consulted me about what to buy or make beforehand, and I had to spoil the surprise to stop her from making the cupcakes she had planned.

I had stumbled upon this photo and recipe for a zebra cake a few weeks ago and had been itching to try it out.  I thought the superbowl party was the perfect opportunity to use my friends as test subjects, um, I mean, beneficiaries of my baking talents... The original recipe I had found called for olive oil and Sprite, and I was not too sure about that combination in a cake, so kept looking.  I settled on this one instead, since the ingredients looked more normal to me.

I ended up having to borrow a round cake pan.  I don't know how I can have at more than 4 different bundt pans and not have a single normal round pan...

I don't know that I've ever actually baked a cake from scratch before, being such a fan of the modified cake mix methods of The Cake Mix Doctor.  I was tempted to just use a white cake mix and a chocolate cake mix*, and pour the batter in the pan per the zebra cake instructions, but that would have resulted in way too much cake.  (Yes, I also realize that I could have used a single box of white cake mix, and added cocoa powder to part of that mix...hindsight and all that...)  I also thought that baking the cake from scratch went hand in hand with my resolve to eat fewer processed foods.

Anyway, after getting home from my nephew's birthday party on Saturday night, I made a quick trip to the grocery store and got to baking.  






Per the recipe, I started out by mixing the eggs and the sugar together until most of the sugar was dissolved.  Then the oil, milk and flavor extracts were stirred in, followed with the dry ingredients (except for the cocoa powder).   Very soon I had 2 bowls of batter ready for pouring.

In order to achieve the stripes on the inside of the cake, you need to pour alternate between pouring small amounts of each batter into the center of the pan.  This will create concentric circles of batter.  It looks pretty snazzy in the pan, if I do say so myself, even though I think I should have poured a bit more batter per circle.


My circles were decidedly off-center, but there wasn't really anything I could do about it.  It still looked sort of impressive, though not quite like the photos in the links to the recipe.  This cake rose a crazy amount over the top of the pan, mounding in the center, and it developed a gaping crack at the top.  I will admit that I improvised with the borrowed pan - it was only an 8" and not a 9" as called for.  I am blaming that for the huge crack and the fact that I had to bake it an additional 20 minutes before it was done.  (I may have also mixed too much air into it trying to get rid of the flour lumps.)

After baking, my apartment smelled wonderful, and I was full of pride about my scratch-baked cake...until we cut into it at the party.  Luckily, we didn't make it a giant deal with candles or singing.  Lucky for me, if not the birthday girl, at least.  This cake tasted terrible.  The texture was fine and it was moist enough, but it had no flavor.  None.  Okay, maybe a little bit, since it actually tasted like cornbread to me.  I might have enjoyed it with a generous smear of butter and a bowl of chili, but cake this was not!  I knew it wasn't going to be an overly sweet cake, based on the description on the recipe site, but that site also stated that it had a good mix of vanilla and chocolate flavor.  People had commented on that site saying how perfect the recipe was and that they even used the plain batter for cupcakes.  Liars!  I don't believe it!

So much for my lofty baking ambitions...  What a let-down.  Next time, I will have to enlist the help of my good friend Betty Crocker.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Early Days

I am so off of my normal schedule today...  I had a conference call to attend this morning at 7:30am.  Way too early!!  I usually start work in the late morning and work into the early evening, so I knew this would be a challenge and I was determined not to be late to the call.

Normally, I would have simply gone to bed a lot earlier, but I had a hair appointment last night that was sorely needed.  As I told my hairdresser, there was so much white at the top of my head that I looked like a really short snow capped mountain.  That may have been the teensiest bit exaggerated...but my roots were grown out over an inch and I can see the white (maybe I wouldn't see so much of it, if I stopped looking for it).  Anyway, the hair appointment was not something to be put off, and I didn't get home until 11:30pm.  By the time I got to bed it was midnight, and naturally I could not fall asleep.  Isn't that always the way?

I must have fallen asleep at some point, since the alarm jarred me awake at 5:30am.  I really had to drag myself out of bed.  It was an effort, but I was successful.  Yes, miracles do happen.  I made it to the office in time to get my coffee (serious meeting necessity) and ended up as the 2nd person to call the conference line.

As tired as I have been all day long due to the lack of sleep, it was kind of nice to leave work while the sun was still shining.  I made a detour to Target on the way home and found a gift for my nephew, who is turning 2 on Saturday.  A few other items somehow found their way into my cart, too, but most of them were things I needed (I made an effort to avoid the clothing/shoes/accessories area of the store since I didn't want to spend all evening there, which is entirely possible).

My victory of the day though (non-work related) is pushing myself to hit the treadmill when I got home.  So far, I have been only following the food portion of WW, and had not started incorporating the exercise part.  I know I can't keep putting it off, or I will plateau.  I'm down 5 pounds over the last 4 weeks, which is a better weekly weight loss average than I've ever experienced in the past.  I am fully convinced that it is related to me tracking 24/7 instead of just the 3 days before weigh-in.  Making the effort to follow the good health guidelines has to be helping, too.

That being said, I did hit the drive-thru yesterday for the first time in weeks.  I needed to grab something quick between work and my hair appointment (which is close to my home, but an hour from my office).  I checked out the nutritional information before I left work and stuck to my pre-determined order when I got there.  And then I kept my hand away from the candy bowl at the hair dresser's...

Previously, I would have let that trip to Burger King derail the rest of the week through the end of the weekend.  I am consciously not doing that this time.  Today I was right back on plan, including the exercise.  I pre-planned/packaged my lunch for tomorrow too.  I'm still hoping that I can maintain this motivation!  Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Scales & Pins

We'll start with the scale issue:

Since I've been back on Weight Watchers, I have pretty much been following the program online, and have not been back to the meetings.  I'm still debating whether or not to switch my membership to online-only in order to save some cash.  I hadn't been getting much out of the meetings for a while, since I don't find the current leader very motivating.  In fact, she's downright irritating and condescending.  However, I like the women that do the weighing in, and have thought of going back just to see if the meetings are any better...

The point of my rambling is that I have been weighing myself at home on my ancient scale with the old-school dial.  I want to get a digital one, so that if I've lost (or gained) less than one full pound, I can see the difference.  It appears that I've lost a full pound a week so far, but I'm really estimating based on the dial read-out.  The scale is a bit touchy, too.  My weight will fluctuate depending on the way I'm standing.  That doesn't make me feel very confident about the readout either.

So - any suggestions for accurate digital bathroom scales?  I don't need a lot of bells & whistles.

Now, onto the Pins portion of my post:

It's official.  I've joined Pinterest.  So...now what?

I created 2 pinboards to start with.  One will be dedicated to recipes that I want to make, with the other one dedicated to crafty-type stuff.  I figured that it would be a good way to keep track of the recipes I am interested in making without having to bookmark each one.

Aside from having pinned about 5 recipes and 1 craft, I really don't know what else to do with the account.  Does anyone else have an account (of my readers, that is)?  What do you use it for?  Do you have any tips or tricks to share?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Weigh In Wednesday

It looks like all of this cooking for myself business is paying off.  I am down another pound today for a total of 3 pounds gone in a 3 week period.  This is actually pretty incredible for me, since even when I was losing weight on the plan before (or rather, my version of the plan, which was cheating myself), I rarely lost a full pound a week.  So, I am hoping this trend continues.  It is certainly motivating.

Speaking of cooking for myself...I tried out a new recipe in my crock pot yesterday.  Originally, I had been searching for a crock-pot recipe so I could try out my nifty new Slow Cooker Liners.  I made chili last week, and still have 2 servings in the freezer for future use, so I didn't want a chili recipe.  I usually throw together whatever is on hand for a quick chicken or beef stew, but I didn't feel like either of those.  I also ruled out any recipes that require you to sear the meat first in a skillet, because I didn't want to do any prep work (also, I had planned to prepare everything the night before and toss it in the fridge, then set the slow cooker to cook it while I was away at work all day).

I settled on Cuban Style Pork and Sweet Potato Slow Cooker Stew from the Weight Watcher's website.  It was something a little bit different from my usual crockpot fare and I am a sucker for sweet potatoes.  I put together my shopping list and took a trip to the store on the way home from work.  Pork loin at buy one get one free?  Score!  (I do like free.  One package went right into the freezer and is destined for pasta sauce.)  Amazingly, I didn't forget anything from my list...

After combining all of the ingredients in my crock and nestling it all in my fridge, I signed on to my computer and read through some blogs before bedtime.  I saw this post and immediately realized that I forgot to use the liner!!  Naturally...

Wednesday morning I threw the crock into the base and turned it on before work.  There is nothing quite like coming home to my apartment and finding it smelling delicious (not a common occurrence, what with the cat and all), with a nice hot home cooked meal waiting for me.  

How it looked in the crock when I got home, after adding the lime juice and cilantro, but before stirring.

The recipe has very little liquid in it -  Only 1/4 Cup of orange juice and whatever liquid is in the can of diced tomatoes.  I worried that the meat was going to be dry and tough, but I had to add the fresh cilantro and lime juice and cook another 5 minutes before finding out.

What happened after I stirred...

I was afraid that the sweet potatoes would fall apart, based on some of the comments made in the recipe reviews.  They did, as you can see.  I don't know if they were cut too small or if I overcooked them by not setting the crockpot to revert to "warm" after the 7 hours of cooking time.  I was gone at least 8 hours, so they got at least another full hour on the low setting.  Next time, I will try to cut bigger chunks and actually use the "warm" setting (I don't know why I am always reluctant to do that).  

Ready to be devoured.  I am thinking of new plates...I'm getting tired of these.

It wasn't the prettiest meal, but it was certainly tasty.  The pork was not dry at all, but was fork tender and quite delicious.  I ate this with a tortilla on the side to sop up the sauce.  I can see myself making this again.     I was definitely not expecting this much flavor from a WW recipe, so it was a pleasant surprise.

Now, what to do with the rest of that orange juice...?  (I don't care for orange juice, so I know I won't drink it.)                   


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I Hate Technology

Alternate Title:  I Do Not <3 Computers
Alternate Title 2:  How Technology Ruined Both My Day and My Appetite
Alternate Title 3:  Rage Against the Machine

Warning - The following post contains a rant.  The views expressed in this post are solely those of the author during the specific time period of 2:00 PM to 3:27 PM Pacific Standard Time and are subject to change at any given moment.  By continuing to read the post that follows, the reader hereby agrees to hold the author harmless against any damages, perceived or actual, be they physical, mental or otherwise. The author also hereby acknowledges that the actual post that follows this warning statement is likely to be far less entertaining or interesting than the information preceding said post.  Reader acknowledges that she/he has chosen to continue reading at his/her own discretion.

Post:

I am so frustrated right now, I can't even describe it, but I'll try.  I have been working on this project at work for over a month now, with no set deadlines.  It involves a long and complicated series of Excel Spreadsheets in which I have to create mathematical formulas that make sense.  That's the overly simplified version of my task, but any of you that know me know that math is not my strongest subject.  On the upside, I'm getting pretty good at Excel.  On the downside, I am probably going to be totally blind by 40 if I don't learn to look away from the screen to rest my eyes.

That's not the frustrating part.  This morning I received an email that hardened up my deadline to the end of business on 1/28.  I'm not sure the sender realized that the 28th is Saturday, but I was trying to complete this spreadsheet portion of the project this week anyway, and if I need to work through Saturday from home to complete it, I'm not going to complain about the extra 24 hour window (don't tell my bosses that, though). 

That's not the frustrating part, either.  The frustrating part is that what happened next to completely ruin my day is almost certainly my own fault.  I was making great strides on the project this morning, nesting logical tests in my formulas, tightening up the math to really align with the original methodology...I know, blah, blah, blah technical speak, blah.  Whatever - I was making excellent progress on one of the difficult sections that I had hitherto tried to ignore until necessary.  I was determined to finish up that section before emerging from my cozy little office cave (only cozy because the closed door keeps the warmth inside) to heat up my lunch.  Oh, I was so close!!  Almost 2pm, getting hungry, with the end in sight!  Yes, I do normally wait that long before eating lunch - my work schedule is not the norm. 

All was right as rain when I needed to correct a character in one of the long and complicated formula calculations.  I think the computer froze for a second (taunting me, no doubt), and I reached for the back button.  I thought I hit it, but an error message popped up on my screen.  I closed the annoying grey window (duh, I was trying to fix that error), reach for the back button...hit something...


BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH

Okay, there was some rapid window closings before the blue screen hit, with the "Windows is shutting down," message thrown in my face, but still, the effect was the same.

Total despair.  I stare at my keyboard in shock and dismay.  I feel sick. What is that?  Did I hit something by mistake?  Did I save?  Wait...what?  Who?  WHY!?  WHY is the Power key so close to the Back Space key!??  Is this some computer designer giving the finger to every user out there because they think they're better than us?  (Hmm...probably not, but I'm not ruling it out.)  Honestly, I don't know if I hit that Power key or not, since it's quite a reach for my little pinky finger, which makes me wonder.  WTH happened if it wasn't me?

So, the power down may have been my doing, albeit accidental, though I have experienced this type of random shutdown in the past that I know wasn't self-inflicted.  I'm willing to accept possible user error for this...but I don't have to like it.  But that's not even what I'm the most irritated by.  Apparently, in my excel-induced hypnosis, I had neglected to save at each stage of my work this morning.  Knowing the company systems here, I usually save every time something is done right.  Apparently not today.  I know IT can't do anything for me, because they could only retrieve the data from the last save, which is what I already have.

And if it wasn't the Power key, then there is something seriously wrong with this computer.  I really do think this is the case, too.  It does weird things.  I've had my cursor jump to different sections of the page I've been on, without me tabbing or using the mouse.  (No touch pad on my desktop, either, so it wasn't a hovering issue.)  My boss's computer is even worse.  I've told her I think her office is haunted, mostly joking (ghost in the machine, right?).  Maybe it's been taken over by the Judoon and there's an alien in the building (I have some guesses as to who that might be).

Regardless, I thought technology was supposed to make our lives easier!  That is not the case today.  If I'd been doing this project manually, this never would have happened!  (Of course, if I'd been doing this project manually, there are a whole host of other problems that I'd be ranting about, but I digress...)  I was also irrationally angry at the computer.  Well, maybe it was rational.  I really wanted to physically harm this inanimate object - yes, just like in Office Space.  I was having visions of tossing it out the window, but since they don't actually open in this building, and are most likely plexiglass, it only would have bounced back to hurt me.  (I know this computer is intent on causing me harm.)

After confirming that none of my work was saved, I was seriously close to tears.  This was probably not helped by the fact that I hadn't yet eaten.  Close to tears and tensed as if for attack.  I had the old lady pursed up lips and everything.  I had to pop over here to get it out before someone at work tried to speak to me.  That wouldn't have been pretty.

So now I have to attempt to remember and recreate all of my earlier brilliance from the day, which is most likely lost forever.  I'm in a mood, and even though it could have been my fault, I still blame the computer and the poor design of the keyboard (in case that Power key was really depressed).  I mean, really.  Put the freakin' Power key as far away from the keys most commonly used as possible.  Like way over above the number pad or something.  Does anyone really even use that key to shut down the machine?  I never have. 

Phew, that felt rather good.  I have an appetite again.  I am still not happy, but I'm resigned (no - that doesn't mean I quit my job.  I may be feeling rather stupid at the moment, but not that stupid).  I'm still irrationally angry at the computer and resenting the fact that I have to do everything again and wasted an entire half of my work day on unsaved work.  And judging by how this day is going, I will probably end up having to appear for jury duty tomorrow, ensuring that there is no way I can complete my project by my deadline.  (This is a distinct possibility, as I do have a jury summons for tomorrow.)

*As a further example of how technology is apparently out to get me, after I previewed this blog post, the formatting changed completely without me entering any commands.  Technology looks out for itself...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dieting Differently

This go round with my diet, I'm doing a couple of different things.  You know, besides the obvious: trying to actually follow the WW plan.  I'm eating real cheese that melts like it's supposed to and half and half that doesn't have any partially hydrogenated oil in it.  Fat free half and half is an oxymoron anyway, and I have little tolerance for morons.  Instead of relying on foods that are created as "diet-friendly" (many of which have added sugars to compensate for the lack of fat), I'm trying to eat a realistic diet.  If this is supposed to turn into a lifestyle, it needs to be full of foods that I enjoy eating.  And believe me, I find no joy in fat-free cheese.

Don't get me wrong, if it's a naturally fat-free item, I don't have a problem with it.  I'm just trying to eat generally healthier.  I'm not doing away altogether with processed foods either, but I'm trying to choose more carefully.  

Conseqentially, I've been doing a lot of cooking for myself lately, and also a lot of dishes.  (Note to self - contact apartment management to fix the garbage disposal!)  I'm making more frequent trips to the grocery store for fresh produce, and actually eating most of it as opposed to my old habit of forgetting that it exists and finding it in altered states in the bottom of my crisper.*

I've discovered that my preferred cooking method for fresh broccoli is tossing it in some olive oil and roasting it in the oven, which really brings out the flavor.  I've discovered that trying this same cooking method with fresh eggplant doesn't quite work the same, as those little buggers are like sponges and soak that oil up before you can coat it at all and ends up burning to the bottom of your pan.  It still tastes good though.

I'm learning to enjoy oatmeal that doesn't come pre-sweetened and packaged.  I've started eating it as a snack...though I still prefer it with some pure maple syrup (1T = 1PP).  It even keeps me satisfied for a while.

Yes, I realize this simple eating plan of mine is not a very revolutionary idea.   It's definitely do-able, and I think encouraged, on the Weight Watchers plan.

The other thing I'm doing differently than in the past is related to the 49 extra weekly PP that each WW gets.  Previously, I would horde all of these points and give myself a "free" weekend.  That meant I wouldn't track my foods on the weekend and I'd allow myself to basically eat any crap I wanted.  Somehow I was fooling myself into thinking that my splurges were within my points, though they may or may not have been.  Obviously, that wasn't really following the plan, and is most likely the reason that I was not losing weight on the diet.  (Because I wasn't really following it.)

No more.  I am tracking 24/7 now, weekday or weekend.  If I've used my minimum daily PP allowance and am still hungry, I will eat something else using my Weekly PP.  That's what's they are there for.  If I don't use them, I don't worry that they've been "wasted."  Using the plan this way (as intended), I am not left feeling hungry.  What a concept, right?

Now, I hope this all becomes habit and I can keep it up.  I think my mindset is where it needs to be for success right now, I just hope it stays there.

*Clarification:  the veggies are in an altered state, not me, just in case there was any confusion.