health update, the last half year or so?

What the hell happened to last year’s health kick? Well, it kinda ran off the rails after I joined Automattic. My weight crept back up, I stopped paying attention to what I was eating, and my exercise routine was not so much a routine anymore. The results spoke for themselves — I felt gross and bloated, tired, not very happy. Boo.

So, in January I hopped (or, in my given condition, sluggishly oozed) back on the wagon, and now I’m feeling confident enough to tell you how things have been going.

January

  • Started Weight Watchers on a whim, after seeing one too many TV commercials. Was suspicious, but their “points” system makes it much easier to keep track of food, and the iPhone app is handy when we’re grocery shopping.
  • Also started playing Health Month again, because I noticed a lot of the habits I tracked last year have stuck — which is great! I regularly take my vitamins and floss my teeth. Maybe tracking some other healthy habits will help them stick, too. My rules involve drinking more water, hitting my target step goal, and remembering to track food.
  • Resumed a near-daily exercise routine, mostly Just Dance, and felt out of shape and silly, bouncing around like a monkey in my living room.
  • Went to Hawaii and put WW on hold (so much eating out) but did not come back fatter. Win/win.

February

  • Lost some weight. Did not feel too deprived while doing so.
  • Continued working out.
  • Added a new rule to Health Month — make an effort to get more quality alone time. I’m terrible about taking time for myself.

March

  • Lost more weight. Was warned I was losing too fast, so I started keeping closer track of Activity points, and eating them. I like eating.
  • Bought a food scale to more accurately measure portions.
  • 45-minute Just Dance workouts no longer made me want to die.

Now

  • I’ve lost 30 pounds since mid-January, over 35 total from after Gwen was born.
  • Fashion bonus: My jeans fit comfortably again.
  • Started Couch-to-5K. Just Dance is now easy, I need a physical challenge. It’s pretty hard to imagine me, jogging, but I’m sure stranger things have happened. I just can’t think of what…

Next 3 Months

  • I’d like to be able to jog a mile in less than 12 minutes, fairly comfortably, without needing to walk.
  • I need to set a new goal weight. I hope to lose between 12 & 24 pounds by the end of June.
  • Keep on keepin’ on.

may, a health update

May got off to a rough start with Health Month. The Vegas trip, a stomach flu (isn’t it always a stomach flu?) and the new job took their toll, and I made the mistake of trying to take on too many new goals at once. As a result, I was down to something like one health point by the end of week 1. Oh well. I finished the month strong and picked my rules for June a bit more carefully.

Since I have more freedom working from home, I’m experimenting with a part-time standing desk arrangement, which means I’m spending more time on my feet. So far I like it, although I’ll like it a lot more when I have an actual standing desk! Right now I’m using the kitchen counter which is not exactly ergonomically sound. Already this is proving fruitful for my activity level. I spend a lot of time moving around, doing light activities and taking short breaks in between tasks. Also: There may be random kitchen dancing.

No one told me a standing desk would make me a bigger dork…

Another thing that’s awesome about working from home? Lunch. Specifically, I have the time and resources to make a healthful lunch from scratch without the pressure of remembering to pack something the night before. No more soggy sandwiches, no more coordinating with coworkers for microwave time, no more frozen meals. I’ve eaten a BAS (translation: Big-Ass Salad) almost every day for the last three weeks. My new favorite lunch is mixed greens topped with some combination of grape tomatoes, avocado, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, turkey, sprouts, or green olives. I credit my mom with introducing me to the BAS lifestyle and I’m hooked.

And finally, I’ve started using arm weights a few times a week. I got my Fitbit Aria scale this month so now I can track body fat percentage. I’m hoping to build a little more muscle and improve my upper body strength.

The results? Well, there aren’t any to speak of yet, but that’s OK. I know I’m making better choices so I feel good about that no matter what the scale says.

health update, january

January is always a challenging month for me, personally. I’m not sure whose bright idea it was to start the new year in January–I’m hardly up for tackling major resolutions in the dead of winter. Wait until spring, then I might feel inclined to change my life, but this month is only good for hibernation.

In any case, I knew last week would be a wash due to Tim’s trip–playing chauffer to the girls meant no walking to and from work, and obviously I didn’t count on having a stomach virus. It was not a good week for exercise. I lost just over 10 pounds thanks to the flu, 5.5 of which I’ve gained back in the last week. But hey, that’s still a net loss of about 5 pounds, bringing the grand to-date total to 16 pounds lost. I can’t say I see the difference, but I feel better.

It’s hard to stay motivated now that it’s colder outside but I manage. This week I tried walking to Gwen’s daycare in the evenings, about twice the distance I’d normally walk in one trip (roughly 1.5 miles), but it’s very cold and a little treacherous due to ice on the sidewalks. On the upside, I’ve found it’s easy for me to walk that far now–that wasn’t the case three months ago! When spring comes it will be the perfect walk to end my workday.

Other than that, I’ve moved a lot of my exercise time indoors due to single-digit or lower temps. Tim is jumping on the “get healthier” bandwagon with me, and we’ve started playing Wii Sports in the evenings (I walk or jog in place between turns). I have yet to convince him to try Just Dance, but someday, someday. 😉

I’m still playing Health Month with success–it appeals to the overachiever in me. Despite last week’s setback, I haven’t had much difficulty following my rules, so in February I plan on tackling 6 rules instead of 3. I worry that I’m upping the ante too much too soon, but then remind myself, what’s the worst that could happen? Plus I’ve built in a bit of flexibility such that I get a free day each week.

One of the things I’ve been pondering is my motivation for continuing this project in the long term… what about it will keep me going after this has become routine? When the weight stops coming off? Or when I suddenly just don’t feel like doing it? My biggest fear is falling off the bandwagon and not getting back on. It’s funny because I’m really enjoying this new routine and you’d think the enjoyment would be motivation enough, but it’s not that simple. I suppose it just goes to show, even enjoyable things require effort.

Part of this means looking at past experiences and examining what caused them to fail, so I can make this round “stick.” A few points come to mind…

  • In the past, one failure meant total failure. Broke the no candy rule? Eat the whole bag. Forgot to exercise one day? Stop exercising for the rest of the week. I can’t let myself get bogged down with slippery-slope thoughts.
  • I have a tendency to let my actions (or lack thereof) have an unhealthy impact on my self-esteem. How much I eat, what I eat, what I weigh and how I exercise has no bearing on my worth as a person…. except in my mind. A single failure does not mean I am a failure. It’s a necessary distinction if I’m going to be successful in the long term.
  • I’m easily discouraged by big goals and I often fail to take into account the smaller steps and time required to achieve more complex things. I didn’t have the patience for “big picture” thinking in my early 20’s, but now I’m starting to understand the value of making small, incremental changes over time.
  • I have a tendency to set myself up for failure by being too inflexible. For example, forcing myself to do one type of exercise for a set amount of time every day. This is something I’ve become better at in recent months–finding alternatives when the usual routine falls through or when I simply want a change of proverbial scenery. Allowing the occasional indulgence such that I don’t feel trapped or left wanting.
  • And finally, boredom. If my mind isn’t occupied or if there isn’t a short-term goal to be met, I’m less likely to enjoy something, and therefore much less likely to continue doing it. Ever since I got a phone this hasn’t been a problem–there’s always a game to play or a show to watch, right at my fingertips. I’m surrounded by tech–“boring” can no longer be an excuse.

I’m happy to say I’ve reached the point where this new lifestyle is not a huge physical challenge for me. I feel much stronger than when I started this process back in October, and it’s nice to see a noticeable improvement. At some point I’ll want to step it up, but for now I want to continue enjoying the experience without pushing it.

The real challenge is a mental one. Committing to my goals while at the same time accepting the occasional failure and moving past it (better yet, accepting that an indulgence is just that–a worthy indulgence, not a failure!) It’s hard. Getting past that annoying little voice in my head that says “I don’t wanna!” from the moment I get up until the time I go to bed. I suppose what I’m really trying to figure out is where that voice is coming from so I can shut her up… or at least get better at ignoring her.

crockpot chicken stew with dumplings

CrockPot chicken stew

I’m a total CrockPot geek during the fall and winter. I try to make at least one meal per week in the ‘pot because it’s so easy and the ample leftovers make great lunches.

This is my favorite chicken stew with dumplings recipe–we’ve made it twice in the last month. It’s based on this recipe I found last year, and over time I’ve modified it to suit our family’s tastes. It’s really flexible… the measurements are not exact because I rarely measure anything, just toss it in and see what happens, but generally it requires about…

  • 3 chicken breasts, frozen or fresh
  • 2 11 oz cans cream of chicken, mixed with 1.5 c water (or you could substitute an equal amount of chicken stock, thickened with flour)
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp crushed rosemary
  • 1 c sweet corn, frozen or canned
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 c peas, frozen or canned
  • Your favorite biscuit dough, enough for about 9-12 medium-sized biscuits should do (I like a lot of dumplings!)

Throw everything except the peas and biscuit dough into the CrockPot and stir. Cook on high for 3.5 hours or low for 7 hours or until the chicken is tender. Then shred the chicken with a fork and drop in the biscuit dough in rounded dollops. At the same time, stir in the peas (they’ll cook fast), and continue cooking half an hour on high or 1 hour on low or until the dough is cooked through.

labor day weekend

big grinsWhat a gorgeous weekend! Totally makes up for the fact that last week was so unbearably hot. I say it every year, but summer is fast out-staying its welcome. I’m ready for a cool breeze and an excuse to wear fleece, and this weekend delivered on that promise.

On Saturday we drove to Freeport to see one of my absolute favorite musicians in concert. Now, I’m not what you’d call an “audiophile.” I don’t have an extensive collection of music, and my taste has been called into question on more than one occasion by an embarrassing number of people, including my parents, my brother, several roommates, and even my husband. I don’t make a concentrated effort to seek out new music. There are very few songs that move me to tears. In short, music is nice, but it’s not one of my “things” like it is for some people.

That said, there are a select few musicians who I get ridiculously excited about, whose albums I will always buy without hesitation, and who I’d happily pay good money to see in concert multiple times. Joshua Radin is one of those people. I’ve had a total crush on his music since I first heard “Winter.” When I heard he was coming to Freeport as part of L.L. Bean’s Summer in the Park concert series, I literally squealed like a schoolgirl.

The concert itself was wonderful. The weather was perfect, we had excellent seats, and the atmosphere was friendly and low-key. We got to the park several hours in advance so we could reserve our spot, did a little shopping at Bean’s, then just hung out. We watched the band set up and play a couple songs for sound check (if I hadn’t forgotten my camera, I could have gotten a picture with Josh at that point–so bummed! But he did wave and smile at me, so that was neat.) Ellie was so well-behaved, charming everyone around us. She didn’t make a peep throughout the whole concert… just laid her head on my chest and snuggled up. I cannot think of a more perfect way to spend an evening than with my family, listening to my favorite music and cuddling with my kiddo.

Yesterday we were treated to this beautiful sight for a few moments, and I’m glad I had the presence of mind to grab my camera before it faded. I did very little to enhance the photo, just a slight contrast bump and white balance adjustment.

rainbow

In celebration of our extra day off, we decided to take a little road trip to a local orchard for u-pick apples. Ellie had fun toddling between the trees and helping us throw the fruit into our grocery bag. I got a short video of her first apple-picking experience (she was more interested in eating the apples than picking them), then it was back home to make the first crisp of the season; so delicious!

shop business

numbers & fruits posterI am just now getting around to listing some of the new photos from last month in the Sixhours shop. I’ll be adding a few more sizes and variations in the coming days. Of course, you’re always welcome to convo me if you’d like a specific size!

And in Calobee Doodles news, I have a 16×20 poster of numbers & fruits that needs a home. It’s an extra from a shipping mix-up. It’s all boxed and ready to go, and I’ll even ship it for free! Head over to the shop to purchase if you’re interested.

because everyone else is doing it?

I will preface this by saying that I’ve already received the Christmas gift that was at the top of my list, which was for the S.O. to find a new, permanent job.  He’d been a temp at his last department for over a year and half, and when we got a positive call regarding the new job last week, we were, as they say, totally stoked.  All that finger-crossing really paid off.  So it’s already a happy holiday for us, and I couldn’t truthfully ask for anything more.

Regardless, t’is the season to spend money, and if I had a rich benefactor (I’m taking applications!) who wanted nothing but to shower me with gifts on Christmas Day, this is what I would ask for:

  • A laptop lunch box.  I want to try the bento thing for myself.  Having individual compartments for each of my lunch items appeals to my obsessively organized side, and this Lean Cuisine crap needs to stop.

  • A series of Sims 2 expansion packs.  I own the Sims 2 game, but I’m way behind on my expansions.  Currently I’m missing Nightlife, Pets, Open for Business, and the various “Stuff” sets. One cannot live on World of Warcraft alone, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I still love playing doll-house.
  • Subscriptions to various photography magazines.  I was going to include  JPG in that list, but it appears they’re already sending a free subscription for my being a former contributor.  Yay, free stuff!
  • An Apple iPod Nano, in pink, with companion Klipsch iGroove iPod shelf.  Let no one accuse me of having cheap taste.
  • Copious quantities of Stretch Island Fruit Leather.  I think I could give up chocolate if I had enough of these. Well, maybe not, but this fruit leather is still pretty tasty.
  • Anything from Philosophy that smells like yum.  The Candy Cane Suitcase set would do, or possibly the God Child set.
  • Chocolate Whipstick lip balm from Lush.  Chocolate and lip balm, two of my favorite addictions rolled into one.  ‘Nuf said.

Now that I’ve had my greedy moment for the day, it’s time to shop for everyone else.  What a pain… shopping for myself is so much easier!

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weekend recap

Happy Halloween, Voxers!

I’d been meaning to write about our Boston trip, but MMS caught up to me.  Unfortunately there are no documentary photos to go along with this, as I never got a chance to buy film for my Olympus XA-2 point-and-shoot, and I didn’t want to drag the big, digital Pentax *ist D around.  Apologies, though this entry is not entirely without illustration.

I have to admit, I went into this trip feeling ambivalent for a number of reasons:

1) It’s a long drive from Bangor to Boston, and we weren’t familiar with the area at all.  We actually stopped and spent the night in Portland, waking up early Saturday morning to head south instead of doing the whole trip down in one night.  This wasn’t the original plan, but was a good idea nonetheless.  We got lost in Boston even in daylight, so trying to navigate the neighborhood at midnight would have been hell.

2) I’m not a city girl, and the S.O. is even less a city boy.  We’re country mice.  I love the idea of living within walking distance of everything you could possibly want to do or see, but the crowds kill me.  2-3 days in the big city and I’m ready to see wide open spaces again.

3) I knew that we’d only have a short amount of time to explore, and while I certainly wanted to see some sights, the original reason we were there was to see my friend and her future hubby.  I hadn’t really thought about it until she brought it up, but we hadn’t actually seen each other in three years!  Where the hell does the time go?  Anyway, rushing around from one stop to another like regular tourists wasn’t going to work, ’cause there was much catching up to do.

4) Finally, we planned this entirely at the last minute, and spontenaiety is not my strong suit.  The fact that we went through with it at all is a tribute to the S.O.’s patience and my own ability to hold my silly nerves at bay.  I think I did particularly well considering I only flipped out at traffic once – a giant truck came flying up on our right side, and at the time I didn’t realize we’d moved from a two-lane high-way to a three-lane.  I thought said giant truck was trying to pass us in the breakdown lane, and this meant certain death for us in our tiny little Golf.   I’m such a dork.

Anyway, as is usually the case, I had absolutely nothing to worry about.  We had a great time and did quite a bit, all things considered.

First things first, shopping!  Because you can’t visit the big city without getting mall-ed at the mall (hah-hah).  We braved the weather and headed out to the monstrousity known as the CambridgeSide Galleria.  The S.O. drooled himself silly at the Apple store (iPods) and Borders (Sony’s new book reader), while my friend and I shopped for clothes (mostly for her, some for me).  I found the best scarf and hat at Old Navy, and thoroughly enjoyed my very first Cinnabon.  Yes, I said my first – I was a Cinnabon virgin until last weekend, and I didn’t know what I’d been missing.  I probably should have stayed in the dark, because if they ever bring Cinnabon to Bangor, they’ll have to roll me out of the store like Violet from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

But I digress.  After the shopping spree our legs and feet were quite sore, so we lunched at the California Pizza Kitchen, then headed to the science museum to catch an Imax movie about Greece history.  I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I was also an Imax virgin (giving my friend a second chance to look at me incredulously and say, “You’ve never what?!?”).  The movie was okay, but the experience itself was a riot.  Now I want to see all my favorite films on a 180-degree dome screen, just for the novelty factor.

After the film, we visited the Body Worlds 2 exhibit.  It was interesting, though I enjoyed it more for the art sculpture than for the human anatomy lesson.  I understood that these were real human body parts, plasticized, but everything still looked… well, like plastic.  I really had to admire the amount of work that went into each of the sculptures, though.  It’s an artform in its own right.

After the exhibit we crashed at my friend’s place, ordered take-out, and talked until all hours.  The next morning we got up early and headed out around 9 to explore Harvard and Harvard Square.  Taking the T was easy-breezy, and the S.O. only got panhandled once!  Good times!  I enjoyed my very first (so many firsts!) chocolate croissant from Au Bon Pain, then we wandered over to the Harvard Museum of Natural History (free admission to local residents, so my friend got us in at no cost).  I’m pretty sure I visited this particular museum as a child, but I didn’t realize it was so huge.  So many exhibits!  I particularly enjoyed the minerals exhibit, the glass flowers exhibit, and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.  I think we spent a good two hours wandering the place and still didn’t see everything, but by that point we needed to think about lunch, since the S.O. and I wanted to head back to Maine around 1 or 2.  I did stop at the museum’s gift shop before we left and bought a souvenir – Cranky – the most awesome little wind-up toy.  He’s currently sitting on my desk at work, holding up my tag from the natural history museum in his left paw.   I’m in love with him, and now I want an army of crazy wind-up toys from Kikkerland.

We also stopped at the Lush body shop in Harvard Square, where I almost lost my sense of smell from sniffing all the fancy soaps and washes and cremes.  Mmmm.  After fifteen minutes there, everything smelled like cocoa butter – my hands, my clothes, my S.O. (rawr!).  When we told him we were going to the Lush shop, the S.O. thought we were talking about a liquor store, and it might as well have been just that!  A place to get drunk on smelly stuff, mmmm, smelly stuff.  I passed on purchasing anything then, but I might have to order some Chocolate Whipstick lip balm.

Finally, we had a long lunch at UNO’s before it was off into the wild blue yonder.  All around, it was a great trip.  We didn’t get a chance to do everything I wanted (we never made it out to the pastry shops in the North end, and I would have liked to have spent more time at the museums) but I expected that much.  Next time we’ll have to take a couple days off from work and do a long weekend in the city, now that we know a bit more about the area firsthand.  Thanks to everyone who recommended things to see and do!

A quick gaming update:  The S.O. and I missed it since we were out of town, but our guild finally defeated Ragnaros on Saturday; this was only their second serious attempt, but they got him, even though half the “regular” raiders were off at Halloween parties or touring Boston (*ahem*).  Now we can officially say we’ve cleared Molten Core (though I’d like to see it for myself sometime soon!)  Since it seems the Burning Crusade expansion won’t hit the shelves until January 2007, it looks like we’ll all have a shot at trying Blackwing Lair as level 60’s.  Mmm, more dragons.

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calling all knowledgable bostonians

It seems as though the S.O. and I are headed to Boston for the weekend to catch up with old friends and see the sights.  That’s right, us north-country hermits are Beantown-bound.

The thing is, our friends are new to the area, and I’ve only been there a couple times (as a kid).  So, Voxers, what is there to do?  Preferrably activities that are A) inexpensive and B) don’t take all day, since we’re limited on funds and only in town for the weekend.

Of particular interest:  Museums, good art or bad art, shopping and/or window shopping, good restaurants/cafes…

Surely there is much fun to be had in the big city, it’s just a matter of finding it!

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an ode to diet coke

You know you’re having a bad chocolate craving when you check out the fridge at your workplace and think, “Mmm, chocolate low-carb Slim Fast… wonder how much they’d mind if I took one….”

Oh, wait, right.  Just because it says chocolate doesn’t mean it is chocolate, and just because it looks like a thick and delicious milkshake doesn’t mean it won’t taste like protein-infused poo.  I’m no food scientist,  but I do know my  chocolate, and there is no chocolate in you, Slim Fast.  You disappoint me so.

(On second thought, if I were to take it, I think I’d be doing the owner a favor.)

No, being that I’m not much for scavenging through other people’s lunches in search of treats, I’ll settle for my own drug of choice, in the form of Black Cherry Vanilla Diet Coke.

Compared to the Slim Fast, which could probably pass with moderate nutritional content, I can personally assure that BCVDC (it sounds like a disease!  “I have BCVDC!  It makes me twitch and talk really fast!”) has absolutely no nutritional content whatsoever, nor does it contain any trace of real black cherries or real vanilla (or real coke!  Drat!).  I can drink it freely, knowing that those pesky calories are no longer an object, knowing that no trace of real food substance will touch my tongue, even if I’m slowly giving myself brain cancer through aspartame poisoning.  Such a small price to pay for that sweet, caffeinated elixir!

I don’t know how I’d get through the 3 p.m. drag without you, BCVDC.

Ahem.  And on another subject, apparently I made the front page.  Lil’ ol’ me?  So thank you for those [this is good] votes, and thanks to the Vox gods for making it happen.  I’d also like to thank the Academy… and the Coca-Cola Company, for making such a wonderfully addictive product… and my mother and father… and Jim-Bob, my second cousin… and great Auntie Lou….

What, work?  Oh, right.  Work.  Yes.

(I almost forgot to mention it, but I’d been waiting for the Vox gods to make Haze’s banner into a full-fledged style ever since I saw it, and I’m so so glad it’s on my blog now!  Squee!)

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