• Eating Differently

    I make no secret of the fact that I'm eating a little differently these days.

    For starters, I've cut out regular pop. I'm drinking some diet pop, but mostly water and tea. Carbonated water, like La Croix is how I get my carbonation fix.

    I'm also not eating pasta, and not much bread. I like both - don't get me wrong. I'm not about to go all anti-carb on you here. But I've noticed that personally, pasta just leaves me with a 'bottomless pit' feeling. I eat it, and it tastes great, but an hour later, I might as well have eaten nothing. I'm not a fan of whole grain pasta, so it's usually just not worth it for me. Bread, on the other hand ... I don't mind their whole and multi-grain counterparts so much. I don't eat a lot of them, but Kroger has these little multi-grain sandwich thins that are really good! I use them in lieu of toast, with a little pb2 and banana on top, or as buns for burgers.
    I do have a loaf of sprouted grain bread in the fridge, but ... bleh. I can stomach it, but there's no joy there. Even I have my limits.

    I've never been a big meat eater, and ironically, I'm eating a little more meat than previously - I'm just eating more chicken and turkey than beef. I find that I'm really picky about my meat, but when I find the right stuff (like the frozen chicken breast fillets from Food Lion), they're versatile and delicious.

    Fruits and vegetables are also more of a staple around here - I guess that makes sense, as I have to eat something, right? I've found kitchen gadgets that make the whole experience more fun. The Paderno Inspiralizer is great for making zucchini noodles or apple noodles - I hear you can make broccoli noodles from the stem, and I really want to try that! I picked up a food processor, and have discovered the fun of making a frozen yogurt type treat from frozen bananas and other frozen fruit. I also used it last week to make brownies with black beans, and cauliflower rice is next on my list.

    I'll be honest - changing the way you eat can be a chore. I'm extremely lucky that Matt is not only supportive, but he's just as eager to try new things as I am. A lot of things take a little more prep up front, even if they don't take any more time overall. For instance, instead of eating frozen pizza or getting delivery, we make flatbread pizzas. The flatout light wraps are a great base, and with a little bit of sauce, cheese, and turkey pepperoni, they whip up pretty quick and taste surprisingly good!

    If you can make the process one of discovery, and understand that while you're making the first changes, things are going to take a bit longer, eventually, things get a lot easier again. You can still have healthy, satisfying, tasty meals that aren't terribly complicated. I don't miss cooking up a box of pasta and dumping some sauce on it.

    This weekend, Matt and I are going to hit up the local farmers market and see what we can find there for produce. I like this. Not only is our new eating style one that makes us feel good and tastes great, but aligns with our ideals of eating more locally and sustainably.
    It's a win-win.

    Starting weight watchers was a great springboard for us to make these changes. Do you have to eat like this on weight watchers? Nope. You can eat at McDonalds every day if you want to. But for us, it's been a great way to expand our palettes.

    Also: Flavor Gods seasonings. They seem expensive, but they're actually cheaper per ounce than most of your standard, store bought seasonings - plus, they're all freshly ground, no added chemicals or preservatives.

    For anyone who has thought about changing up the way they eat, or trying something new, I just want you to know ... it's possible, and can be fun, too!

  • A progression

    Until sometime after I was married (I can't remember when, exactly) I did not leave the house without makeup. I was simply too self-conscious. These days, I'm no longer that worried about it. I wear makeup, but only if I feel like it. To me, makeup is not much different from painting, except that I get to be the canvas.

    I've been experimenting a little bit with before and after pictures, and thought I'd share the ones I took today.

    As an aside, I didn't mean to look progressively happier as the pictures went on. I just think I underestimated how sleepy I was in the first one!

    Hair as I woke up with it, no makeup.

    Hair after a few minutes with the flat iron - still no makeup.

    After hair and makeup.

    I'm not sure what takeaway there is here, if anything. We all look good and bad, depending on context? Makeup is fun? I think we all look pretty haggard in the morning?

    Anyway, most of my makeup (*except eyeliner and mascara, which are arbonne) is from Geek Chic Cosmetics, if you're interested. Not an affiliate link or anything, just sharing the love.

  • Inspiration


    I flipped through a few magazines this week and pulled out some things that I liked. It's nothing fancy, but whatever it takes to keep yourself motivated. Because most things we work for aren't just physical - it takes motivation and tenacity to keep going.

    What keeps you going?

  • The nighttime habit

    I've been reading a book on habits lately - more about that another time - and one thing that stuck out to me is the idea of a bedtime. Since I don't have a paying job, I don't have a compelling need to have a strict bedtime - even though I'm almost always in bed by 12:15.

    The author talks about getting ready for bed before being tired, so she can make the decision to go to bed easier. This too sounded funny to me. I hate getting into bed if I'm not super tired, it feels like a waste of time!

    But I'm really intrigued by this idea of habits and consistency. The problem lies at my feet. Quite literally.

    I have yet in recent memory to make it to bed before midnight without Mikenna becoming incessantly whiny. It's like there's a thirty minute window in which I can go to bed. Any earlier and she is upset and antsy. Try to stay up later, and she'll whine at me until I go to bed. Sometimes she whines from the bed, which is extra Mikenna-ish. 

    I can go through the same bedtime routine, but if it's at 11:30, it will backfire.

    Even going to bed "on time" isn't a guarantee of a smooth night. On a good night, Mikenna gets me out of bed once to pee. On a bad night, I'll have no idea what she wants and run through the gamut of possible Koo needs. Those nights are exhausting, and since I love sleep, I dread them.

    So even after I get to bed, I have to stay awake until I know Koo is settled. By then, I might be wide awake again. 

    It's hard to figure out a healthy bedtime ritual when so much of my sleep is out of my power. But I know it's not forever. 

    I can feel Koo's heartbeat through my feet as she's wedged herself against me. I do better with consistency in my life, but by golly, I'd rather have that little cuddle bug with me than all the sleep in the world.

  • Food identity

    I joined weight watchers a couple weeks ago. I have a harder time talking about this than I do my struggle with anxiety - though I guess the argument could be made that weight loss and food are part of my anxiety.

    Weight loss and food and fitness are all a tangle of emotional baggage for me. I'm in a better place with it all than I was even a few years ago, but it's still difficult for me to process, let alone share publically.

    I joined because I thought it would be a good kick in the pants - I've learned a lot about better food and exercise habits over the years, but putting them all together is another challenge. There's no perfect time to make changes, but I figured getting my medicine all straightened out was as good a moment as any.

    What's great about weight watchers is that you really can eat anything, so long as you're willing to spend the points on it. I haven't felt deprived at all, which is one of my strongest fears about structured diets. The downside is that you realize experts aren't kidding when they say that our portion sizes are out of control.

    Matt and I were looking at fig newtons one night at the grocery store. I toyed with the idea of picking them up, because boy ... I love some fig newtons. The serving size is two cookies. TWO. I'm pretty sure, left to my own devices, I can clear out a good twelve newtons in one sitting. I opted against picking them up because, while I could have them, trying to limit myself to two stinkin cookies seemed a lot worse than just not having them.

    On the whole, my diet is a lot 'cleaner' than I've ever had. We haven't done so intentionally, but have almost eliminated cheese and refined carbs from our daily consumption. The funny thing is that when I have a 'splurge' meal (usually a burger and fries) I feel like crap afterwards.

    That ticks me off.

    I don't want to be "one of those people" who snubs at eating out, or who makes bizarre food requests. (I'll have a beef taco, except I want chicken for beef, and no shell, and no cheese, and instead of lettuce can I have lentils, and actually...) I don't mind if others are like that, but that's not me. I apparently have very specific ideas of who I am.

    But if there's one thing I've learned in the past several months, just because I picture things one way, that doesn't mean that they'll stay that way, or that they should stay that way.

    If this food really does make me feel sick afterwards, logically, I should not eat it, right? It's not that I'm giving up tasty food - I made this cilantro lime chicken last week that was seriously one of the best things I've ever made. But my preconceived idea of who I am says that if the ability to have a McDonalds cheeseburger on demand isn't part of my life ... who am I really?

    It's a lot of emotional baggage for food.

    It's taken me quite a few years to get over the notion that my value is tied to the number on the scale. I guess the next project is to remove my self from the food I've eaten.

  • Me time versus wasted time

    I listened to a group of women try and distinguish between what wasted time was, and what could be considered 'me' time. No one could really hit the nail on the head, I think, because they were all feeling self conscious about the things they like.

    One person's "me time" can be another person's way of wasting time, but no thing is a waste of time. Whereas to me, taking time for myself is packing up some notebooks, netbook and heading out to a cafe for a couple hours, a young mom might find that candy crush is the perfect escape for a few minutes. Tonight, I'll probably watch InkMaster with Matt (it's a reality tv show about tattoo artists. Who knew?) but flipping around the stations mindlessly is a different thing.

    That word, mindlessly, I think, is the crux of this. Whether big or small, fancy or simple, it can be me time if it works for you.

    If it makes you happy, if it calms you down, helps you escape for a few minutes in a hectic afternoon, engages part of your brain, brings back memories - it's not necessarily a waste of time. But when you're doing something to avoid dealing with something else, just by rote, just because it's there - maybe it is.

    What things do you choose to do, because they give you joy, fulfillment or peace? What things do you do out of habit and avoidance? Are they the same things? (They can be!)

    Think about what you're doing, as you do it. Is it the thing you want or need to do in that moment? Or are you just going through the motions?

    Yet another example of mindfulness. Crazy how once you pick up on it, it applies to so much.

  • Painting time!

    Painting time!

    My mom has been looking for something to put on her barn for a few weeks now, with no luck. I had an idea, and decided to run with it.

    I bought this chunk of palette-like-thing (I'm real up to date on my lumber terms, aren't I?) at AC Moore for $12.99. If you're extra handy, I'm sure you could get the lumber and assemble something yourself for cheaper. I just don't think it's in anyone's best interest for me to wield a hammer or saw.

    I painted it a base color and then added some speckles of color ... because I could.

    Okay, fine. I wanted to make it look a little older without having to actually distress it. I used three colors, technically, though I mostly got rid of the blue color. Each color was 99 cents, and I've got tons left over.

    I also bought stencils for this project, because trust me, it would have turned out even more lopsided if I hadn't. That was a bit costly, but I hope to reuse them. (Quick, someone give me ideas!) If you've got a steadier hand, you can skip that and save a few bucks.

    I painted them using a can of returned paint - marked down to $2.50 from $12 something. I have a lot of brown paint now. Whoops.

    You can see the end result at the top of the page. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. I thought I'd gotten the stencils more even than I apparently did ... but we're going to call it "rustic".

    Not bad for the first time and ~3 hours (total, not counting drying times) work!

  • It's a season of self-care

    It's a season of self-care

    I've made no secret of my struggle with finding the right brain medicine these last several months. It hasn't been easy to find bright spots in the midst of feeling like a zombie, crippling anxiety, and so on.

    However, I can say this: it really hammers home the importance of self-care. It's easy to get frustrated with myself, because the things I want to do, and the things that I am physically or mentally up to doing aren't in the same vicinity. But I keep telling myself this isn't forever. It'll end. Do the sucky work now, and you will feel better.

    Life is a lot better when you're kind to yourself.

    I haven't said much about it, but Matt's taking care of himself, and I'm extremely proud of him. He's finally sought help for an old ankle injury, and is now in twice-weekly physical therapy. He's making slow, but steady progress.

    However, all this taking care of ourselves has come at a cost: There's been a couple trips that we would have liked to take, that we really couldn't justify. Taking care of ourselves, of our little family, has to come first right now. There will never be a time when you can set things aside and say, "Now, it is truly convenient for me to get this problem taken care of." Nope. You just have to find yourself worth enough to plow through and make the space.

    It's not that we don't love our friends and family. It's not that we don't value them. It's that we have to take care of ourselves.

    Oddly enough, when Matt and I were discussing a few weeks ago whether or not to make a trip out of state this past weekend, I said, "You know, I know it's a worst case scenario, but we don't know how this medicine thing is going to go. I might end up having to switch again, and then we'll be dealing with who-knows-what." and that is exactly what happened. So I'm really glad that we didn't put that extra burden on ourselves and go out of state. I feel guilty about it, but ugh ... I know it was the right move.

    I've found joy in little projects, like making (and painting) planters. They're quick projects that yield results, and I need that little boost. I love the long term projects, like novels, but I haven't really been able to handle working on them. Hopefully I'll be able to get back to stuf like that soon...but even if I can't, it's okay. I'll get there. Better to work on stuff with a healthy brain later than drive myself nuts trying to do stuff now.

  • How not to win a cat's affection

    How not to win a cat's affection

    I'm a regular visitor to the local humane society. I go because the new facility is pretty spiffy, which makes visiting easy, and because I love spending time with the animals there. Animals left in shelters are prone to depression, and the longer they're there, the more problems they can develop. I like to think that through visiting them, I'm helping them stay adoptable. It's proven that if the animals see people that they recognize, they're less likely to become or stay depressed.

    This pretty little girl is pretty new. She's curious, but skittish. I'm sure this is all very overwhelming for her.

    On a recent visit, I walked into the room as a few people were crowded around a bench. Hiding underneath, was this cat.

    "Pull that one out!" one girl exclaimed, "I want to see her." The cat shot to the other end of the bench, her eyes bulging in fear.

    The group was shocked and annoyed when this cat wasn't receptive to their attempts to grab her out from her comfort zone and be handled. They soon left.

    I went and sat down on the floor, visiting with some of the other cats in the room. I've found that the cats seem to really respond to people sitting down on their level. I suppose it's because we're less intimidating when we're not so big.

    This cat, C, watched me from across the room. She peeked around the plastic couch on one side, then skittered over to the other side and looked at me. I laughed and held out my hand for her. She hesitated for a moment, but then walked over and gave me a good snif.

    She sat there and watched me interact with a couple other cats, occasionally coming close and letting me pet her.

    As I prepared to leave, I walked over to the bench where C had been hiding. She hopped up on the seat, walked up to me, and put her paws on my shirt. She wanted to be picked up! I gently scooped her up, and she sat in my arms, purring, until I told her that I needed to go, and set her back down.

    Cats, like people, have their own personalities. Some of us warm up to anybody who crosses our path, and we'll go out of our way for attention. Some of us prefer to watch until we're comfortable. Some of us don't like crowds. This doesn't make us, or animals, better or worse. Just different.

    Oh, here. Here's another cat, for good measure.

    This sweet and energetic little girl knows me pretty well by now. This is the first time I've worn tennis shoes around her though, and she took that opportunity to attach herself. She's another cat who is pretty standoffish when she first sees you, but she climbs all over me now.

  • I'm Still Standing

    I'm still standing
    Better than I ever did
    Standing like a true survivor
    Feeling like a little kid.

     For whatever reason, this song has resonated with me the last few weeks. Holy cow though, the video is bizarre.

    I'm still here. Still standing. As of Tuesday, I'm finally on a different medicine than last month, and tentatively, this is working much better. I'm not having daily panic attacks. My brain is starting to feel clearer, and I have energy again.

    It's such a relief to be feeling better. I went on something of a cleaning spree late this week - still more to do, but it felt good to make my space feel less chaotic again. I also cooked a couple times this week - like, real meals and not even frozen pizza. It felt good, and I really am sick of eating out.

    I hope this lasts. I hope this medicine works for me.