Friday, October 23, 2009

Follow Friday

Sometimes people ask me how I’ve been losing so much weight.
I’ve lost somewhere around 25 pounds in the past 10 monts. [I don’t know the exact number because I’m on a scale hiatus as I train for races this fall. I stopped stepping on the scale once I reached the 20 pound loss because my goals had shifted from “lose 30 lbs by Thanksgiving” (something I am still striving for), to “Run. Faster. Longer.” When Mid-November comes around, I will probably start keeping track of loss again per week]

I have a long list of things that have helped me on my “get healthy” journey. I plan on going into these things more in-depth as time goes on, as I’ve gotten a few emails lately inquiring my “tricks & tips.” Ha. Sorry to sound cliché, but healthy food & exercise are key. [of course, there are TIPS to helping these things become part of your lifestyle- THIS is the long list mentioned above, which I will touch on later.]

But there is something I want to share that has helped me with my path to “healthy”.

When I first decided to stop being lazy and do something about my health, I joined an online community, Sparkpeople. From the Sparkpeople homepage: “SparkPeople is growing into one of the largest free diet and health-related sites in the world.”

I liked using sparkpeople for many different reasons. But that’s not what I wanted to share. [I promise I will talk about the goodness that is sparkpeople at some point, but not today.]

What I do want to share with you, is perhaps best summarized by a quote of my sparkpeople profile “my program” section:

“The one thing that has made ALL THE DIFFERENCE for me is accountability within my spark friends. And I've taken it BEYOND just the spark. There are two girls in particular whom I talk to EVERYDAY outside of the spark check ins that help me force the hard times, say no to icees, and celebrate the victories in my life. Having people who understand my struggles and have vowed to keep me accountable even outside of this web community has helped TREMENDOUSLY.
Get yourself a spark buddy: NOW.”

Meet Laura & Stef. They are each on their own “Healthy Living” journey, too- and they are both now chronicling their journey via blogs.

Laura and Stef and I met through sparkpeople, but I don’t consider them “spark friends” anymore. They are my REAL LIFE friends now. I’ve already met Stef in real life once, and the three of us will be spending some time together in Boston the first weekend of November. (we are running the Boston Luv 5K together on the 8th!) I am so excited for some LSH fun!

Laura recently decided to go back to school to become a RD- she is the woman who inspired me to turn my walking into running. She lives in Texas and has all the southern charm of peach cobbler, but with out the fat. She is a wonderful and dedicated friend, super funny, and all about living life the way SHE wants to, not the way the world may want her to; which I think is fabulous.

Stef just started a new job. She is in the middle of a move. She is getting married this summer. She is facing a world of changes and she is doing it with grace and style! Stef calls both Boston and New York home, and splits her time between both, often. She is an all-star at making weekends away healthy and this girl is known for lifting like a man to look like a goddess. (she is such a motivation for me to get to the weight room!) This girl has pizzazz and knows how to use it while she is facing a life full of changes.

These girls are real. Honest and Genuine and know how to bring it. They keep me in line and encourage me on my rough days (sometimes without even knowing it). I’m definitely a fan of both of their blogs: Go check them out.
Laura & Stef.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

In Disguise

Friday afternoon. At the corn maze. In disguise.

I've been sick all week.
I don't know what's going on, truthfully, but I know I haven't been myself.

Sunday morning, after a 4:15 AM wake up call to get Danielle to the airport on time, I went on a search for a grande soy two pump pumpkin spice latte. Can you believe no Starbucks were open at 4:50 AM? True story.

So instead, I headed home and realized I had been coughing all morning.
But I didn't feel sick.
But, since I had gotten approx. 4 hours sleep, I decided it would be best to take the morning off and battle away any kind of illness that was trying to come my way.

Woke up at 11:30. Met a friend for lunch at one of my favorite places, Smokey Bones BBQ, ran some errands, and came home to create my sneaky mac and cheese.

Monday morning, I woke up feeling fabulous. Thankful that I spent Sunday morning napping and ready to face my week. Until about noon, when suddenly, I felt dizzy and nauseous. Apparently, I started to look pretty bad too, because my boss, Jen, made me take my temperature and sent me home at 3:30 PM.

Tuesday morning, I woke up and felt a-okay; but I had strict instructions not to return to work until my fever was gone. And so I took my temp: 100.4. (this seemed to be a magic number in the blog world as of late. If i remember correctly both Megan and Lauren had 100.4 temps when they were sick recently.) But I didn't feel sick. So I talked to Jen, and was told to stay home and get some rest and fluids. So I went back to bed (hey- I'm not going to complain about getting more sleep), and woke up for lunch and lots of SVU.

Wednesday, I came to work, fever free and happy. HOORAY! I was a bit anxious about the piles of "to-do" on my desk, but I came in early (6:30 AM) and tried to knock out as much as I could. Until 12:00, when the nauseous-ness came on strong and I found my self suddenly losing everything I had eaten for the day. [was that TMI?]
But I didn't feel sick.
Of course, that didn't matter because Jen sent me home in a flash, and there I was, watching TV and reading magazines and taking a nice long nap. [which was nice at the time, but after waking up led me to be cranky with my mother whom called in to check on me (sorry, Mom!) and then have trouble getting to sleep at night time. And wake up every.single.time.i.heard.any.single.tiny.sound.all.night.long.)

and today I don't feel sick, still. And I am determined to get through the ENTIRE work day.

I have no idea what the heck was wrong with me yesterday- was it the flu? But I didn't feel sick. maybe it was something I ate- this is most probable. It would seem that now I am terrified to eat anything I ate yesterday morning, which is making me a bit sad, because I am now AFRAID of oats. and might maple peanut butter & co. peanut butter. and chobani yogurt. All of which are on my current "favorites" list.

Anyone else have any ideas?

Then Heather said, "Let's run."
So, I have not run. I was going to run Monday, until I went home ill.
I decided I would make it up Tuesday. But running with a fever scared me. What if I passed out. What if I passed out and no one is around. What if I pass out and then a dog eats me? [and i still haven't ordered my roadID.]
So then, I woke up yesterday knowing I was in for a GREAT run after work.
Until 12:00 came along, and I realized that I couldn't keep any energy in my belly.

especially considering that my first 5K is next week Saturday. EEK. [why am I suddenly terrified.]

I seem to have a little fear going on right now since it's been over a week since I've been on the trail. I don't know why. It's completely unrational. It's not like I forgot how to run. It's not like a week is going to take away all of the progress I've made completely. It's not like my legs are no long strong enough to carry me a few miles. Right?

regardless, I am scared. my mind is playing tricks on me and I am determined to fight it.

so, your job, if you choose to accept it: text me, twitter me, email me, comment me, call me: MAKE SURE I RUN TONIGHT. I may need some encouragement.

Then Heather Said, "Help!":
My first 5K is on Halloween. It's actually the TROY FAMILY YMCA MONSTER MADNESS DASH - 5K RUN/WALK. And do you know what that means? I need a costume. Costumes are HIGHLY encouraged- which is SO MUCH FUN, right?

My co-workers have suggested I dress up as some kind of superhero because, truly, who wouldn't want to run with a cape. While I agree, I also fear that my clumsiness may lead to my getting tangled in said cape and either a)injuring myself or b)injuring someone else.

I'm looking for creative costume ideas that would be relatively inexpesive, easy(ish) to run in, and not make me look like a total goon. So, help me brainstorm:

What should I dress up as for the Monster Mash 5K?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

One through Ten

Before I get started on crossing off the eleventh item on my 101 in 1001 in list, I thought I should take some time to discuss some completed tasks.

I made the list ten months ago and in that time I’ve completed ten things. [Apparently I’ve been procrastinating ;) ] Since I plan on recapping the 91 remaining items as they happen through out the next two years, I thought maybe I should share some highlights of the first ten “to-do”s I’ve completed.

A short blurb about each of the ten items I’ve completed so far [in no order]:

27. Make a Necklace:
Danielle graduated a year ahead of me from Lodi High School. She and I became best friends there. I don’t know when it was exactly that the best-friendness began, because in a town of 3,000 everyone pretty much knows everyone and we had been hanging out in circles that intertwined for my entire time in Lodi. We were both involved with Show Choir & Musical, and we bonded at sporting events, eventually becoming good friends and working together in the Wisconsin Dells, during the summers.

Early on in our friendship we realized we shared another similarity outside of jazz hands and leadership and dressing up like Ally the Alligator. We loved to craft. It started with scrapbooking back in the day, but eventually became a love for paper. [I can’t speak for Danielle, I suppose, but at least in my case, it became a love for paper.] Over the years we’ve tried our hands at a few other crafts along the way; and we even both got the same sewing machine for Christmas last year. [mine is finally out of the box, but still not threaded. Hmmm.]

During a few of the most recent trips I took to St. Paul to visit Danielle, we found ourselves at The Bead Monkey. Danielle made all of her bridesmaids super cute necklaces to wear at the wedding, so our first trip was to find a design we liked for her to give jewelry making a try. After they turned out sodarling, we found ourselves back at The Bead Monkey during my trip this past May, for a few other projects. We found a pattern and beading for my own wedding day earrings (which post broken-engagement became my “Wicked on Broadway” earrings.) and I also found some wonderful beads and trinkets to make into a sort of charm necklace.

My dear friend, former roommate and Maid of Honor, Kelly, had brought me back some beautiful beads from her trip to New Mexico, and I was so excited to make a necklace to display the mementoes. I took the trinkets from Kelly into The Bead Monkey, found some beads and charms to match and made a cute, long piece that I love wearing with a colored Tshirt and cardigan. [I’ll work on taking a photo of said necklace soon.]

37. Stand in Times Square & 29. See a Live Comic Show
For this past Valentine’s Day, my former fiancé took me on a surprise trip. It was sweet, and fun, and short, and memorable; a short day-long trip to New York City. It was my first official trip.

We went to breakfast, the Museum of Natural History (I have a great love for museums), Times Square to meet our good friend Joey for cheesecake and coffee at Roxy’s diner (I also visited the MTV store to get some “Team Lauren” buttons for myself and few friends who aren’t afraid to admit their love for The Hills), dinner at my now favorite NYC casual dining locale, Blockheads, and Comic Strip Live. [we saw four great comedians- including Sherrod Small, who is one of my favorite VH1 Nostalgia show commentators :) ] Followed by Coffee at a tiny 24 hour deli and a long drive back upstate. It was a wonderful surprise, a great trip and I am thankful for those memories.

57. Read Catcher in the Rye –
Catcher in the Rye had been on my “to read” list since high school. Finally, this past spring, I loaned it from the library and read it. Was not as impressed as I thought I should be, but that’s probably because I based my need to read it on so many pop culture references.

5. Get a Pedicure-The weekend of the wedding-that-never-was, my parents came up to NY, as planned. It was wonderful. We stayed in a lake house and took day trips to NYC and Boston (Rock of Ages & a fabulous walking tour were both delightful!). We kayaked, grilled out, indulged in a wonderful Itallian dinner at one my new favorite local resteraunts (so many fresh ingredients from the chef’s personal garden!), and lounged around. It was the perfect way for me to spend that weekend, with out a doubt.

The weekend started for me when I left work early on Friday, and took my mother to a local Spa & Beauty Salon. It was both of our first pedicures- and it was so much fun! I got to pick the color for both of our toes, and I had OPI’s Dutch Tulip and my mother had OPI’s Cajun Shrimp – both of which were delightful shades of pink. Perfect for a weekend of feeling like a wonderful, beautiful, independent woman!

51. Get a Bed-
This is not very exciting. Former fiancé and I picked out a “marriage bed” back in June. It was delivered in the very beginning of July. It’s now my bed. It has a headboard. It is comfortable. I like it. I need to invest in a new comforter or quilt or something- that will come, in time, I’m sure. Anyone have a brand they are crazy about?

The collaborative: 3. Get a New Cell Phone, 34. go to NY State Museum, 33. Eat Sushi, & 13. Drive My Own Car
After the wedding was officially called off, my dad scheduled a trip to come to NY just a few days later. Because God loves me, my dad was already scheduled for a training in NYC the following week. I am a firm believer that this was not coincidence. He was able to move his arriving flight up a few days, and come to Albany to help me breathe. He spoiled me, of course, made me feel like special again, and helped me to stand on my own two feet. We got a lot done that weekend, but we also had some fun and I really enjoyed having my dad come to my rescue.

My dad helped me go to Sprint and get my own phone plan. My former fiancé and I had been on the same plan for years, and I was ready to have my very own plan. With that, came my dad’s suggestion that I go “all out” and get a blackberry instead of a regular flip phone. BEST. IDEA. EVER. As you might remember, most of the time, I blog from my blackberry, and having it keeps me very connected with loved ones all across the country. I should note that they don’t refer to them as “crackberrys” for nothing. Blackberry = addicting.

My parents also helped me get my own car. When my former fiancé and I first moved from Beaumont, TX to upstate NY, we sold my very old, very unreliable car and just worked with one vehicle for 11 months. It wasn’t always easy, but it did mean only one car payment, and while just starting out in New York, that was helpful. We were planning on getting a car for me this fall, but clearly, that was no longer an option.

I am so grateful for parents who care about me and want to help me so much. I seriously would be lost with out them. I know that sounds cliché, but it is true. They have both helped me SO MUCH during the recovery of the break up, the getting my single life on track, and being able to stand on my own two feet, not relying on my former fiancé for anything. At first it was hard for me to accept help from other people, I felt it would make me weak. My boss, Jen, had a talk with me though, about how it was important for me to be able to accept assistance from the people who love and care about me; for me and for them. I can’t thank my parents enough for helping me in everyway they can. [THANK YOU!!!]

While my dad was here, we also got a bunch of other “business” taken care of- so we made sure to make time for some fun stuff too!
Two of these things were also on my 101 list- Sushi & the NY State Museum!

We went to dinner at a place called Hiro’s in Albany, and the sushi was FABULOUS. My dad made sure to help me pick out a bunch of new things to try. (my theme for my after-break up lifestyle was “try something new as often as possible!”)

We also took a trip to the NY State Museum. I had been one time before, and enjoyed myself but was a bit rushed through; with my dad, I made sure to take my time in the exhibits that interested me and learned so much. We had a blast.

This past Saturday, Danielle and I also took a trip to the NY State Museum- again, I had a great time. We spent a lot of time there – and didn’t even come close to seeing it all. A few of the exhibits we spent a lot of time in weren’t there last time, and I learned a lot.

If you are in the Albany area, I highly recommend a trip the NY State Museum (admission is free! Donations accepted.)

So now that we are all caught up with what I have done, it’s time for me to set my sights on what is left to do!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Top Ten Tuesday

1. Went home from work early Monday afternoon due to dizziness and feeling icky.

2. Woke up with slight fever. (100.4) did not go to work.

3. Instead slept a lot and drank lots of fluids.

4. And then woke up and watched Law & Order: SVU for quite a few hours.

5. Also decided to bake apple bread. (Thanks Kati for the recipe- I'll post about it soon!!)

6. I am really getting scared about my running a 5K in a week from saturday. I haven't run in quite a few days now, with Danielle being here and then being sick the last two days. We will see how my run goes tomorrow evening.

7. It looks like I may have convinced a friend to run with me, though. So tomorrow will be the first time I run WITH someone. Am v. excited.

8. I feel like I am boring and have very little to talk about. Perhaps because of my feeling crummy?

9. I am looking for a dvd of 20 minute beginner yoga workouts (more to come on why soon) - anyone have a suggestion??

10. What's the best book you've read lately? I'm collecting a list and I must know. :)

Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

Monday, October 19, 2009

An Ode to the Island of Rhode

In second grade, I attended Kolmar Grade School in Midlothian, Illinois and I had Miss Cuculich. She was a first year teacher, meaning that at the time that I had her, she was most likely younger than I am now. Wow. That's weird to think about. Miss Cuculich taught me a lot of things, as any good second grade teacher would.

There are a handful of memories I remember about second grade. I remember hatching chicks in an incubator in our classroom. I remember playing tag at recess. I remember having a whole month of theme days and I remember my mom helping out in the classroom. And I remember memorizing the states and capitals.

Skip five years down the road and you'll find me in a new town, state, and school. I was a seventh grader at in Lodi, Wisconsin. I remember a lot more about seventh grade than second grade. [ a lot of which I wish I could forget. urg. middleschool!] But one thing I definetetly recal is the moment I realized what Miss Cuculich wanted for us in second grade. She wanted greatness.

During a daily trivia question, my teacher asked, "How many states names begin with a vowel?" I got to work. Reciting states names in my head and counting on my fingers. When I took time to look around the room and see that EVERY HAND WAS UP but mine, I felt a bit silly. Was this some sort of joke? Was this the kind of question everyone in the country just knew the answer to? Did my parents transfer me to some sort of genuis geography-loving school? Was I ever going to live up? how many states DID start with a vowel?

No. No. No. and, well, No.
Oh, and 12.

Later on in the year, I overheard two classmates talking. Kid A was sharing stories about a family vacation out west. His friend asked if they had spend any time in Arkansas. My ears perked up.

ARKANSAS? Out West? WAIT. A. MINUTE. Arkansas even started with a vowel, which was apparently some sort of Middle School special interest here in Lodi, and apparently this boy had lost his mind.

Two days later sense was made, as one of the popular girls admitted she had never left the great state of Wisconsin. The lunch table broke out in 13 mini conversations of how many different states/countries we've all visited, trying to one up one another in "culture experience", as if we had taken off on these trips to our own accord and not in correlation with what our parents chose to do over our summer vacations.

That's when I heard it; over a dozen friends sing a song I had never yet encountered, as they kept track of family trips on their fingers. "Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California….." JUMP BACK. Where did this come from?

I was counting my own state to state experiences on my own hands, but not in alphabetical order. The fact that I had never been west of Minnesota didn't stop me from starting in the northwest corner of the map moving down the pacific coast in my mind, "Washington, Oregon, California… all the way through the Rockies, southern, midwestern, south Atlantic, and northeastern states, being careful not to forget Alaska and Hawaii.

Right then and there I realized a few things; a) I needed to head westward. b) I was thankful to have more states under my belt than a handful of girls [oh how scary it was to be on the bottom of the list for ANYTHING in Middle School!] c) Miss Cuculich wanted greatness for us.

Coming to this realization, Then Heather Said, "Thank you, Miss Cuculich." [who I am quite certain is now Mrs. Something or Another.]

Last night, I found myself thanking Mrs. Something or Another again as I was studying squash. Yes, squash. You see, I seem to be quite obsessed with fitting winter squashes into my weekly menu plans the last few weeks. (you may remember my making butternut squash fries and roasted mashed goodness last week.)

Whether you can name the states in alphabetic order, by region, or not at all, perhaps you remember a tiny little state, Rhode Island. A co-founder of Rhode Island, small and mighty, is a guy named Roger Williams. In 1643 he also published a work, A Key Into the Language of America in which he documented the English word "squash" coming from the Narragansett word "askutasquash" meaning "a green thing eaten raw."

I should note at this time I am very happy I am not eatting squash raw. It does not sound appealing in the least. And although, of course, now my curiosity keeps trying to tell me that perhaps I should just give it a try in order to honor the etmology and all, my logic is speaking otherwise. No raw squash.

Instead of raw squash, last night, I decided to be go out on a limb and try something new. I got adventurous in the kitchen.
I've been craving some comfort food lately, and when it comes to comfort, Mac'n'Cheese is where it's at. But I wanted to jazz it up with something festive- and what better than "a green thing eatten raw." Or rather, a pretty, orange squash I planned to cook.

And here's what I came up with:

An Ode to the Island of Rhode:
Sneak in the Squash Mac N Cheese Bake of Wonders
[notes and nutrition info to follow]

1 lb Butternut Squash, peeled & cut into chunks (about half-inch to 1 inches pieces)
1 cup vegetable stock
2 cups vanilla soy milk
cinnamon, cayenne, salt & black pepper
1 lb of macaroni ( I used whole wheat)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
3/4 cup ricotta (I used low-fat)
1/4 cup plus 3 TBL Parmesan Cheese
3 TBL breadcrumbs
1 tsp olive oil
cooking spray

Preheat Oven to 375

In a medium saucepan, heat squash cubes, milk and stock. Bring to a Boil, and reduce head to simmer.

As this is boiling, cook macaroni according to package directions. I like to cook my pasta a bit al dente, as it will be baked in the oven as well.

When squash is tender, remove from heat and mash squash. I don't have a potato masher, so I was doing some crafty work with a fork and large serving spoon.

Season with Cinnamon, Cayenne, Salt & Pepper. I added about 1/4 tsp of each, except for the salt- which was about 1/2 tsp. If you are a spice lover, go a bit crazy on the cayenne. I dare you.

When pasta is done cooking, transfer it to a large bowl. Stir in squash mixture as well as cheddar, ricotta, and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.

Spray your baking dish; I used a 9x13 pyrex dish. Transfer macaroni/squash/cheesy goodness to dish.

In a mug/bowl/cup, mix remaining 3 TBL parmesan, breadcrumbs and olive oil. Sprinkle mixture over dish of goodness.

Cover with foil & bake for 25 minutes.
Remove Foil and Bake for 45 minutes. Top of bake should appear brown and and crispy :)

*This did take a little bit of time: about 15-20 minutes of prep and an 70 minutes of baking. But it would be PERFECT for a vegetarian meal for a small group, a side dish for large group, or something to cook up for a potluck. I got 12 goodsized servings out of it - which is great for sharing, but A LOT for a single girl. I may try and half the recipe if I ever want to make this for just me.

A Few Nutrition Facts - For 12 Servings
Each Serving:
Calories - 165
Fat - 6.6 g
Carbs - 18.7 g
Dietary Fiber - 2.3 g
Sugars - 1.8 g
Protein - 8.8 g

Do you remember learning the states in grade school? Was it alphabetic, by region, by "coolness"? Can you list all 50 states today? [There is a Friend's episode where Ross has problems with it- do you?]

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