PRINT this recipe

Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly and PDF

Monday, January 31, 2011

Snow Dazed and Crazed

I'm tired of the snow.  We all are.  I know we don't have nearly as much snow as last winter, or at least we didn't get as much snow from any one storm but we still have too much snow and it's too darn cold.  I can't ride or walk to work. Driving is difficult.  The second car we have, (my 91 year old grandmother's 17 year old Ford with 45,000 miles on it) is plowed in and won't be moving until a good thaw comes along or the warmer rains melt some of the icebergs.

This isn't my bike, it's one on my street.  This is what we're dealing with on a weekly basis, everything is flocked or iced over.  My bikes are inside, dry and safe.  The road bike's been in the basement for months; I can't remember the last time I went biking but my mid-section sure does!  The spring thaw cannot come soon enough.  I'm hoping to be out on the road by the Ides of March or day light savings time, which ever is less icy and won't leave my toes frost bitten.  I'm sick of giving SEPTA my money for a one mile ride that takes me 15 to 20 minutes to walk to and from and an additional 20 minutes of slow commuting.  My 2 mile commute only takes me 10 to 15 minutes on the bike.  I miss these small rides, they are my personal victory ride over driving or spending money.  I could put that 2 bucks towards a La Colombe cup of coffee or a Macchiato. 


Now if we could just get up our street safely.  It doesn't look like this anymore, it's icier, dirtier and just plain uglier these days.  Word is with the next storm blowing through, we'll have more snow covered in a thick layer of ice.  Just what we really need.  The bright side, only 13 more days until pitchers and catchers.  Go Phillies - I mean, it, go! Go and bring us the warm spring weather and the hopefulness that Baseball Season brings to my psyche each year.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Serendipity

Photo - Philadelphia Skyline composite - late 1980's from 1101 Market Street viewpoint

Last week I had a luncheon reunion with old friends from the first "grown-up" job of my life.  For several years in my early 20's, I worked for the Reading Company, as in the Reading Railroad (see Monopoly - Take a Ride on The Reading Railroad); The Reading Terminal Market, and various other entities related to trains, coal, and real estate.  Catching up with these old friends, some of whom I haven't seen since I left the company in 1991, and others with whom I've stayed in touch or been "friends" with on Facebook, was a reminder of how incredibly lucky I've been in my work life.  My current work-life is interconnected to my first office job, inasmuch as the work that I do today is a direct result of the skills set I learned over 20 years ago at Reading Company.
Let me back track a bit.  Working at the Reading Company was a complete accident.  I had been working in the food service industry - where I waitressed, bartended, bussed tables, catered, you name it. I had a terrible time of it. I was in my early 20's, probably 21 or 22.  I didn't have a lot of skills but I was a go-getter and eager to prove myself.  I applied at a temp agency for work and was hired on as a potential receptionist or administrative assistant.  Reading Company was my very first temp job.  I started out as a receptionist for the company, working the front desk at the main offices at 1101 Market Street, now known as the Aramark Tower.  Back then it was called One Reading Center.  This must have been 1988.  After the first day, I was asked back for another day, and then a third day, and then for the week.  The people were very friendly and since it was my first office job, I was happy that things were going well.  One week turned into two weeks and in the interim, I was also offered a job at another temporary agency as an employee in their agency's office, as their administrative assistant.  Since I wasn't sure how long the receptionist position at Reading Company would last, I jumped at the chance to have a full-time permanent job.  I was about to give my notice to both the temp agency that got me the Reading gig, and to the folks at RDG Co.  Next thing I knew, RDG Co offered me a full-time job, with benefits and a bit more pay.  And the rest is my work history.  I credit my being hired to a gentleman named Bert, with whom I hit it off and had a lot of laughs.  He took a shine to me and I feel if it were not for him, I might not have been hired.  For ever after, my life was changed.
 Photo - Top: Miss Mary - outside the Rdg Terminal Market - July 1988-89; to right: Bond Hotel (a fleabag flop house!) & Shops, 12th & Market Streets in the location that is now the Marriott Hotel.

I went from being a receptionist to learning about basic bookkeeping, HR work, benefits and office management.  I also learned so many other intangible skills, such as professional personal interactions; providing good customer service; the art of dealing with cold-call sales people and office supply "Pirates" (whereby a person calls from a boiler room, asks for the copier information and then tells you prices are going up and you need to "lock-in" now to get the best prices on toner supplies.)  I learned the fine are of business writing, a skill I credit to Tony S.; he would always tell me to write succinctly. I still  think about this as I edit my writing; it's worked to an extent, if Tony's advice hadn't stuck with me, these blog entries would be twice as long!   I stayed with RDG Co for over three years before I moved on and up in the world of bookkeeping and office management.  I went to work for Day by Day Restaurant and Catering, stayed a year and then took a job at the Pa Academy of the Fine Arts for 3 years;  Next came The American Music Theater Festival for about 4 years (now called The Prince Music Theater); spent a year doing special events and various things for The Foundation for Architecture (1998 Beaux Arts Ball was my crowning glory); I worked as a part-time bookkeeper for Becker & Frondorf and a few other organizations all the while I went to cooking school.  Then there was my sideline cooking career.  Being a cook/chef  broke my spirit and showed me the real  and not so glamorous side of the restaurant industry.  In 2004 I wised up went  back to office work; which brings me to my over 6 years with Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel.  Whew!  Each of my jobs, though technically hired as either bookkeeper or office manager, has required and allowed me to be more than just my job title.  Caterer and special events planner; HR Manager; personal assistant; secret keeper and confident.  I thrive in being able to be diverse and to do a variety of tasks at the same time.  In between, I've had 2nd and 3rd jobs, part-time evening and weekend work;  volunteer work, catering, special events work and the whole stint at Williams-Sonoma (sales, resident chef, etc.)  No one, not even I, can believe my varied and crazy resume.  Yet it's all true. My work life has been and continues to be full of interesting experiences, travels, people and right and left brain skill sets that defy classification.  None of this would have been possible and who I am today would not exist if it weren't for getting hired at Reading Company.  Being taking in, guided and mentored by the nicest, most giving group of people changed my life for the better.  I was literally a lost unguided soul, in a bad situation with the person I was dating at the time, and I had practically no means of support.  I had few marketable skills.  I hadn't finished college and had few ideas on what I wanted to do with my life.  All the people with whom I worked gave me guidance, trust, respect and a chance.  Each job thereafter (at least the jobs I stayed at longer than 6 weeks! I could write a book on the bad jobs I've had) has been similar.  I've been lucky to work for and with compassionate caring people.  All of my bosses and co-workers have been like family to me.  Now that's not something I think many people can say about their careers.  Serendipity indeed

Friday, January 14, 2011

Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins

I tend to not step into the baking arena often because I'm not very adept at baking and possess less skills when it comes to fiddling with baking recipes.  Occasionally I'll hit upon a recipe for muffins, fruit crisps or quick breads and they work well, no matter how many alterations I may make.  My version of a Deceptively Delicious blueberry muffin was an aha moment for me.  This recipe was born out of using what ingredients I had on hand and my desire to amp up the fiber, keep the muffins low fat, low sugar and make sure they were flavorful.  I scored on all points and I think I've hit upon another go-to muffin recipe.  These blueberry muffins are good for you, fairly easy to make, freeze well and best of all, taste great!

Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffin Ingredients:

  • Non-stick cooking spray or 12 Muffin/cupcake liners
  • 1/2 Cup Packed Light Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Light or Trans-fat-free tub butter/margarine spread
  • 1/2 Cup Low or Non-Fat Cottage Cheese or Ricotta Cheese
  • 1/4 Cup Low or Non-Fat Milk
  • 1/2 Cup Unsweetened Applesauce
  • 1 Large Egg - lightly beaten
  • Zest of 1 Lemon (about 2 teaspoons)
  • Juice of 1/2 Lemon (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1& 1/2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour (King Arthur is best, or use a quality, low-gluten whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 1/2 Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Wheat Germ or Flax seed Meal
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Cup Blueberries - fresh or frozen (if frozen, keep frozen)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 12 -cup muffin tin with the cooking spray or line with the cupcake liners; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the light brown sugar and the light butter/margarine.  Mix in the cottage cheese or ricotta, milk, applesauce and beaten egg.  Whisk to combine, then add in the lemon zest and lemon juice.  The mixture will appear to have curdled slightly (this happens because of the texture of the cheese and acid from the lemon.)
  3. In another bowl, sift together the dry ingredients - whole wheat and all-purpose flours, wheat germ, baking soda and powders and salt.  Whisk to combine the dry ingredients.  
  4. Slowly incorporated the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, folding in the dry in 3 batches.  Fold the first batch in, then add in 1/4 cup of the blueberries.  Fold in the next mixture of flour, adding in more blueberries, but reserving half of what's remaining.  Fold in the last of the dry ingredients.  Don't over-mix the batter, it should be lumpy.
  5. Scoop out the batter using an ice cream scoop and divide among the 12 muffin cups.  Top each muffin with remaining blueberries, submerging them slightly but allowing the blueberries to remain almost on top of the muffin batter.
  6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the muffins are slightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool the muffins for 5 minutes in the muffin tin, then turn them out and cool completely on a wire rack.
  8. Makes 1 dozen muffins.  These will keep for 3 to 4 days in a covered container in the refrigerator, or freeze for up to 1 month.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

One Pot Cooking - Pot Roast with Wine and Coke

Another one-pot medley for beating the winter blahs - along the lines of my Texas Brisket Barbecue mash-up we made last year.  Nothing beats the cold dreary nights that good comfort food.  What makes it even better is how easy and inexpensive this dish is.  Literally you just chuck all the ingredients into a Dutch Oven pot, set it and forget it.  In lieu of a complicated recipe here are the basics.  If you want to read a complicated recipe, open up your latest copy of Martha Stewart (isn't) Living, Sauveur or Bon Appetit.  For other easy recipes like this, look for my other One Pot Cooking recipes in my search bar to the right hand side of this blog.  I've got short ribs, beef braised in stout beer, pork and apples, and a variety of other low and slow, slow cooker or crock pot recipes and one pot meals.  

Pot Roast with Wine and Coke Ingredients:

  • A 3 to 4 pound Chuck Roast - if there's a ton of fat on the outside, trim some of it, but leave a bit for flavor
  • 1 Large Onion - cut into 1/4 inch half-moon slices (about 2 cups of onions total)
  • 3 Medium/Large Carrots - cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 Celery Stalks - cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 5 or 6 Garlic Cloves - roughly chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons of a Mixture of Smoked Paprika, Cumin, Oregano, Freshly Ground Black Pepper and Thyme (or use Penzeys Spice Mix called Barbecue 3000)
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce - dont' skimp and use the cheap stuff, buy some Lea & Perrins, it's the BEST!
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1-12 ounce can of Coke
  • 2 Cups Red Wine (I used Rex Goliath Cabernet Savignon, it's good & cheap)

Equipment:

  • 5 or 7 Quart Dutch Oven Pot with Lid
  • Oven - preheat to 425
  • Pot holders

Directions:

  1. Prep the vegetables - clean, peel and chop.  Put half of them into the bottom of the Dutch Oven.  
  2. Trim any excess fat from the Chuck Roast.  Pat the roast dry with a paper towel.
  3. Place the rest of the vegetables around and on top of the roast.
  4. Sprinkle the seasoning over the roast, tuck in the 2 bay leaves and pour in the Coke and Wine and Worcestershire Sauce.
  5. Put the lid on the pot, set the pot into the center of the pre-heated 425 degree oven, and go do something else for 3 hours.
  6. Check the roast after 2 & 1/2 hours.  If the meat is falling apart easily, remove the lid to reduce the liquid in the pot.  If the roast is not falling apart yet, cook for another 1/2 hour to 45 minutes.  The liquid in the pot should reduce down and turn syrupy. 
  7. Roast is done when it's falling apart and the wine and coke have been absorbed into the meat and vegetables.  Allow meat to sit and cool slightly before serving.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Serve over mashed or smashed potatoes, creamy polenta or egg noodles. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

2010 - The Year that was...


video
It's not a New Year without the annual, Running of the Suitcase!  What a great way to start off New Year's Eve.  

And then there's the annual look-back at the previous year.  When in doubt about what to write, do a flashback episode to recap the past year.  Sort of like a yearly episode of the Golden Girls.  You know, the ladies are sitting around the kitchen table, eating cheesecake and ice cream and one of them mentions something from their past and suddenly there is a screen wipe and we are catapulted back in time to a previous episode of some hilarity or mayhem in which they were engaged.  Yep, the infamous flashback show, a good way to take up time and make something out of nothing.  That's sort of how I feel about the past month of not blogging or recipe writing.  I'm reaching into my bag of tricks cause I feel that I've been in a fix and a cat's gotta have something to get herself outta a sticky situation.  Borrowing from Aimee P, who in turned borrowed this idea from All and Sundry, aka SundryMouring, I am revisiting my annual recap of the year, I bring you, 2010, The Year that was..? 
1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?  Adopted and raised a son, it's been a continuous adventure.
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? Not a one! I think I've given up on resolutions, though I hardly ever really make them.  I had hopes that I'd be a better person, not lose my temper so much, not be so reactionary in stressful situations.  Yeah, that was a great idea that went no-where.  
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes, a bunch of our friends had new editions to their families.  Our Village is growing and Nate's playmate pool is growing ever deeper.
4. Did anyone close to you die? Sadly, way too many people passed on this year.  The main people were Liz's grandmother, Lib Braden; my co-worker's husband, Jack Kramer, passed away too, after a long battle with cancer; our friend, Angel Oramas. When Jack Kramer died, the world lost a great man of character, charm, business acumen and a passion for life.  Lib Braden was an amazing woman who lived to see her 90th birthday and the birth of her two great grandsons.  She was a vivacious, gracious and compassionate woman who left a long legacy in her children's lives.  Angel was a complicated man, who left this world way too soon.  There were many other deaths this year too, people with whom I was acquainted or friends of friends.  It was a hard year when it came to death.
5. What countries did you visit? Who has time for travel?  We hit the beach in Cape May Point and saw the entire Island of Staten Island.  The furthest we traveled was to the end of the Jersey Shore and we didn't even see Snookie or have any Situations!
6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010? Sleep? Money? More time to get stuff done. Less of a temper.
7. What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? February 7th, Nate's Christening DayThe Great Snow Storms of  Winter 2010;   March 23rd - the date of my adoption of Nate - when I became his "Official" co-parent and other mother in the eyes of the State of PA.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Swimming in the Schuylkill River and actually enjoying it.  It was part of my sprint triathlon and I was dreading it for the past 2 years.  I was a mentor to over 20 women this year for the SheRox Triathlon; part of my mentoring included attending and running work-out clinics.  A swim clinic in July kept me in the river for over 2 hours, treading water and swimming with other mentees.  After that much time in the water, I realized that there wasn't anything to fear about the Schuylkill River.  On race day, I swam, slowly but successfully on the course and felt elated that I conquered my fear of swimming in open waters.
9. What was your biggest failure? On a shallow level, not keeping in shape, getting to the gym and doing as well in the 2010 Triathlon as I did in 2009.  On a personal level, not being a good enough partner to Liz and not being able to recognize how selfish I was all year.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Yes! Way too many colds/flu (and to think I even get the flu shot each year); pulled sciatic nerve, sever back pains.  My age is catching up with me.
11. What was the best thing you bought? Our new car - bigger, stronger, more of a mom-mobile! And as a second best expenditure of our hard-earned dollars, hiring a cleaning service to clean the house.  Thanks Dos Funny Frogs!
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? The Lame Duck Congress during the last months of the year - for passing several key plans in Congress.  Yeah on repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell; Yeah for passing Health Care Reform. YEAH for passing the SALT Plan and Nuclear Treaty with Russia.  And a small woot woot for some of the tax cuts, but mostly for keeping unemployment benefits going for the 9% of the population.  And oh yeah - YIPPEE to the Phillies for adding the Royal Flush to the Deck in re-acquiring Cliff Lee.  R2C2!
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? As usual, the media, politicians (from both sides of the aisle); The Arizona Governor; my mother  - she's been completely M.I.A. in my life and refused to acknowledge our son, her grandson.  Yeah, mom - you're 62, a grandmother and you have a daughter in her 40's.  Get over yourself already.
14. Where did most of your money go? Phillies tickets; diapers, formula, and other baby necessities.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? The Phillies not only had 3 of the best pitchers in all of baseball, but then they made that line up even great by adding Cliff Lee for the 2011 Season.
16. What song will always remind you of 2010? Tonight's gonna be a good night - Black Eyed Peas
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Sadder - it's that seasonal depression, not getting to the gym thing
b) thinner or fatter? a bit fatter - see above Though honestly, while my weight number hasn't changed significantly, I've stayed in same 165-169 range for over a year, my physique has changed from not working out.  At least I'm still wearing the same clothes and looking mostly okay in them.

c) richer or poorer? poorer - I'm earning a wee bit less and paying more for insurance (yeah, thank's for the health care breaks America!)
18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Personal and altruistic: spent more time with Nate and Liz; selfish: slept, worked out more, biked; had fun more fun - in that I wish I could have enjoyed the every day moments instead of lamenting silently to myself about what I might be missing.  Shades of my mother! YIKES!
19. What do you wish you’d done less of? been selfish, temperamental and moody, and watched less tv.
20. How did you spend Christmas? Christmas eve - at Church for Liz's marathon night of services. Spent the evening in the nursery, in the cool, dark night with Nate.  I put him to sleep around 8:15.  I found a lantern and sat in the nursery with him.  I could hear the Choir rehearsing and then at 9 pm, I could hear some of the singing from the Church sanctuary. After the 9 pm service, I heard the choir rehearse again and by 11 pm, I heard the trumpet solo and singing again.  In between I sat and read by lantern light and huddled under a coat to keep warm.  It was the most peaceful night I've had in years, unconnected to media, tv, or computer.  I read, listened and just took in the night.  Bliss.
Christmas day was busy! the morning I was at home with Liz and Nate. Then I went to visit my 90 year old grandmother; picked up friends from the airport.  Dinner at home with our friend, Dana.  Good friends, Donald and Steven came by for a late night drink.  
We spent the day after Christmas visiting our family.  The whole family came together at Liz's dad's house.  The two boys, Liz's siblings, her parents and their spouses.  Managed chaos and lot's of toys for the boys, great food and wonderful company.
21. Did you fall in love in 2010? Feh. No, I actually fell more in love with being a parent and with my darling boy Nate.
22. What was your favorite TV program? Boardwalk Empire on HBO.
23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? Oh boy, what a loaded question! Of course I do! But the answer I'll share is, once again, I'm really disappointed by the behavior of some people who should be close to me, like my family (of which I have so little of my own); I hate most politicians.  I'm trying hard to forgive and move on from the hurts that I feel have befallen me by others.  I read a blog post on ZerotoSixty, written by an acquaintance I know named, Barbara. She wrote about her mother, forgiveness and letting go of grudges.  I heard a similar essay by Ben Stein, letting go of psychic hurts and baggage, to free yourself and move on in life.  I'm no good at either.  I can hold a grudge for a lifetime and I NEVER FORGET a hurt, a snarky comment or an insult.  I'm trying to let them go and forgive but as for forgetting, that's a tall order. 


24. What was the best book you read? Books, those are those paper things that have a lot of words inside that don't move?  How is it that I read so little this past year that I can't even think of any book I picked up let alone opened?  I barely read magazines this year.  I blame it on the first year with a new baby.
25. What was your greatest musical discovery? Shelby Lynn.  Not really a new discovery, but a rediscovery of this amazing soulful talent.
26. What did you want and get? Adoption papers for Nate! A new cellphone.  A new car. 
27. What did you want and not get? Validation.  
28. What was your favorite film of this year? Haven't been to a movie in over a year and a half.  As for rentals, nothing stands out.  Bought Sex and the City 2 - because I love the series, but the movie was awful, in that I can't believe I'm watching this and I paid to keep it!  We watched The Kids are Alright.  I didn't like or love it, but I've thought about it for weeks.  I found it to be contrived, harsh and stereotypical.  But still there were some kernels of truth in it that just got under my skin.  The only movie I really liked this year that I saw, and it's last year's movie, was The Blind Side.  Perfect movie for Sandra Bullock, I thought she was lovely and amazing, funny and strong.  I want Nate to grow up to be like the little boy, SJ,  and I'd like to foster several youngsters and see them grow into determined, stable and well-cared for people.
29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? Turned 43. We hired the baby sitter to stay with our now 5 month old son and we went to James - a very good nouvelle cuisine for the Millennium restaurant near the Italian Market. It was our first big night out, with spirits, great food and a lovely dining atmosphere. 
30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Knowing for real what it takes to raise a baby, work full-time, be a loving partner and trusting your instincts.
31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010? Whatever didn't have spit-up or formula on it, and didn't need to be ironed, easy carefree and just this side of not being frumpy.
32. What kept you sane? Morning bike rides from April to September. Nate's smile.
33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Enough already with the stupid questions.  I barely like myself at times.  I did see Jennifer Hudson on tv, shilling for Weight Watchers. She looks good, damn good.  So maybe her?
34. What political issue stirred you the most? Health care reform.  I'm for it, but I'm not convinced it's going to work, last, or be helpful. 
35. Who did you miss? Our friends who live in other states; Rachel, Steven, Donald, Jenny (even though we see her at least once a month); our family who we don't see often enough.
36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010: Housework doesn't matter, don't worry about the dishes.  Try not to let your diet get the better of you (as a matter of fact, don't diet, just eat better and move more).  Live for the day because that's all we have.
37. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. I was about to list a playlist soundtrack I made for Nate's 1st year video and cd, but then I found a funny song I just loved this year, one that became a viral video sensation by Antoine Dodson.  "He's climbing in your windows so Hide your kids, hide your wife, hide your kids, hide your wife, hide your kids, hide your wife and hide your husband too..."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Healthy and Tasty Meals - what to pack for breakfast & lunch

Each January, I like so many other food writers and Weight Watcher devotees, make plans, vows and resolutions to eat healthy and clean.  Then the weekend comes along and it's back to the burger, fries, pizza and ice cream.  It's so easy to lose your way and get off track.  Packing my lunch every day gets boring and old real quick.  Heck, I'm practically out of good recipe ideas for blogging. Do you think I have anything new to share if I can't inspire myself with my meal choices?  So I'm rethinking my cooking and am about to streamline my ideas, keeping them simple and more option friendly.  Think mix and match.  Easier food prep, less ingredients and more fruit and vegetables.  

Here's what's in my lunch box for my meal tomorrow:  Breakfast - Non-Fat Greek Yogurt with fruit and whole grain cereal.  I love the FAGE (pronounces fayee).  I'll pair it with blueberries, grapes and orange/clementine segments, topped with some cereal like Kashi Hearts (sort of crunchy, sweeter, heart-shaped Cheerios.)  My lunch is a mixed salad of butter and spring mix lettuces, diced cucumbers, Fuji apples, carrots, some salad seasoning and a handful of nuts like pumpkin seeds and roasted almonds, with either a non-fat vinaigrette or a low-fat dressing.  On the side I have tuna fish with shredded carrots and hummus.  I use the lowest fat hummus I can find.  Good brands are Trader Joe's tahinni free, or the roasted red pepper dip hummus.  A sprinkle of celery seed and some freshly ground black pepper.  For an afternoon snack, I have some apple slices, carrots and low-fat cream cheese with a side of multi grain water crackers.  I'll have my coffee with skim milk and a large bottle of water.  Nothing complicated or difficult to make.  It's food I want to eat and don't mind eating several days in a row.  The thing about salads is you have to mix up the textures and tastes.  Sweet, crunchy, soft, and a variety in each bite.  Watch out for the hidden calories though, junky white pastas, full-fat cheese and dressings, preservative, salty fatty meats.  Just because it's a salad a) it might not really be healthy and b) it doesn't have to be boring rabbit food.  

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Seeking Inspiration and making good simple choices

I did two things tonight that I haven't done in a long time.  I went back to the gym for the first time in over 3 months and I watched the Biggest Loser, season 11 premier episode.  I've been lax about getting to the gym and have not ridden my road bike since October 1st.  I still ride to work almost every day, only the snow and ice stopped me from riding.  Still, it's not nearly enough exercise and I've been feeling logy and blue, in large part because I haven't been working out and getting the endorphin high to which I became accustomed over the past few years.  It's not that I haven't wanted to go to the gym, I love working out, lifting weights and lord knows I love to bike.  I am too lazy and tired in the early morning to wake up early and go to the gym and I just haven't figured out an evening schedule that works for all of us - the family and our babysitter.  The adjustment to our lives continues to be a challenge and my guilt at not spending enough time with Nate in the evenings before he goes to sleep has been a heavy burden on me.  So much so that I feel depressed and out of sorts.  Not a good recipe for being a happy parent and partner.  
So I went to the gym and started anew, just like everyone else is doing right now for the start of the new year.  I guess I needed to hit my new rock bottom to find my inspiration and drive again.  As difficult as it was to not work out super hard, I listened to my body and not my ego and started out slowly.  2 sets of 10 reps on my weight lifting machines, using less than 30 pounds on most machines.  I used 3 pound hand weights for my upper arm workout, the lightest amount I've ever lifted since I started the whole work-out routine.  I feel sore now and my 1 mile treadmill run felt like my first run ever; it took me over 15 minutes to do the mile - a new low considering that at best I run a 12 minute mile.  By the time I got home, Nate was still up and I had about half an hour with him before I rocked him to sleep.  Double yeah!  I worked out and had a small amount of quality time with my Nibblet.  I feel great!  Not as loopy as the highest endorphin high I've had,  it's more like a nice steady warm buzz.  

As for my television viewing, The Biggest Loser is a show that I've watched at the gym from time to time or would flip back and forth to on occasion at home.  Tonight's season premier showcased 11 couples, and one in particular was a former gold medal Olympic Grecco Roman Wrestler from the 2000 Olympics.  As corny and prescribed as this show has become there are still moments when it just gets to me.  In my most cold moments I have felt that what's the big deal about celebrating weight loss?  I was fat  and I did something about it and well, I was fat.  Yeah, it's been hard work and yeah, I've been down on myself for the past six months or so about having lost so much of my muscle tone and physique. I forget what it was like to work hard and to feel like the weight will never come off, that the first 10%, or that first 20 pounds is an impossible goal to reach.  There was a scene tonight with the heaviest man on the show who weighs over 500 pounds, where he feels like the amount of weight he has to lose, which is nearly equal to his dad, is IMPOSSIBLE.  The trainer tells him not to think about that, concentrate on today, on moving right now and not to think about the numbers, because if he gets that in his brain he'll never get to his goal.  And that's when it hit me - that I used to think about just getting through to the next day, that's how I lost the weight.  Not thinking about the grand total but just about doing what I could today because if I was lucky, I'd get to the next day and then the next week and month and with any luck, I would have lost weight along the way.  
It worked.  I lost over 60 pounds.  That's more than this bag of carrots! At my best moment, the weight loss was closer to 75 pounds.  But 4 years in and I'm still proud to say that I've lost over 60 pounds and I'm still a size 12.  My middle may be pouchier than ever and my arms aren't as toned but I've managed to keep myself from ballooning past 170 pounds and far below the 230 pounds (YES! That's how much I weighed) at my heaviest point in my life.  

Inspiration comes in the oddest of places and from people that you might not even know.  I'd like to get back to my peak again.  I might not reach it but I don't want to give up on myself.  Four years ago I never thought I'd be a slim person, who has done three sprint triathlons and biked over 1700 miles in 2010 on my road bike - with no one ride over 50 miles last year!  Not too shabby or flabby.  No resolutions this year, just some small goals to do more, try to get to the gym before my riding season begins in March/April and to be kinder to myself.