Monday, May 30, 2011

After a week in paradise, reality & recovery...

So, the party's over... our 25th anniversary trip to Hawaii is done, and it's back to real life...
Like piles and piles of laundry...
We came home to a huge pile of mail... there were some nice surprises in the pile: the lunchbag I won in a sweepstakes, a refund check, payment for some puzzle-proofing assignments, and some gift cards I had ordered from MyPoints, but there were a few bills and a bank statement showing a pretty low balance that brought me back to reality: it's time to get back to a very disciplined lifestyle, in many areas of life: eating, exercise, and spending! 

So, I guess I won't be getting a birthday present for our pet goldfish's 5th birthday... Sorry, Nemo! You'll have to settle for wearing my tiara for a while... (this is what we found when we got home... the girls gave Nemo the royal treatment for her birthday):

So, I'm working on a plan... just taking it day by day. For each day, I will have five goals:
  • To stick to healthy eating
  • To get in at least 30 minutes of exercise
  • To drink plenty of water (5 bottles)
  • To keep my purchases to the bare minimum... planning meals around what's in the freezer/pantry
  • To work on getting my Etsy shop open and stocked - working on a craft each day
Current Project: Granny Square Purses

I also want to develop my blog more. I have a few product reviews in mind, just need to find the time to fine-tune them!

June is right around the corner, so I'll start my new resolutions today, and carry them through the month of June. At the end of the month, I'm hoping I'll be able to say the following:
  • I'm back down to the lowest weight in more than 20 years
  • I don't wince when I look at the checkbook balance and worry if I can pay the bills
  • I have my Etsy store opened and I sold something! 
  • My blog made more than last month! (considering I made $8 in May, that shouldn't take much!)
I'm off to a good start! I uploaded about 200 pictures from the cruise to various photo sites and used up from credits I got for free prints, ended up paying $5 for the whole lot of them PLUS a personalized mug with some pictures from the trip... but don't tell Ron! It's a Father's Day gift! 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Home Again...

Well, after about 24 hours of travel, we are back home again, after a wonderful 25th anniversary trip. Things went well for the first two plane trips, from Honolulu to San Francisco (where Ron had a bowl of chicken stew in a sourdough bread bowl) and San Francisco to Chicago, but we got "fogged in" at O'Hare. The plane we were supposed to take to Buffalo at 7 AM got diverted to Indianapolis, so our flight home was delayed to 8, then 8:30, then 9, then 9:30, then 10, and then 10:30, but it was almost 11 by the time we took off. We got home at 1 PM, and the girls had dinner pretty much ready, in the crockpot. We exchanged stories while we had dinner, then headed to the living room to hand out gifts... Connie's birthday presents, and the souvenirs we brought home for the girls (t-shirts, necklaces, and pens... Candy loves her pen with a sea turtle on it!)

Now it is almost 9 PM, about 36 hours for me with only brief, uncomfortable catnaps on the plane and in the airport. I'm hoping to sleep soundly through the night and get right back to Buffalo time.

We came home to a beautifully clean house... the girls were very busy yesterday! They did a great job of making their own meals (including a campfire meal) and doing the shopping and all. I guess we'll have to leave them alone more often!

Just a few last minute notes from the cruise...
Our waitress, Staci, was wonderful! With Freestyle crusing, you're not assigned to a restaurant or a table, but we made a point of requesting Staci's table whenever we went to dinner. She got to know us, and made sure I got my gluten-free meals the way I needed them, and brought us plenty of hot water for a cup or two of tea after dinner.

I thought this was funny... outside the doors, we had a little sign that said "Welcome". It wasn't until the day after we got on the ship that I realized that the sign had a little knob to rotate the sign, and change it to "Turn down room", "Make up room", or "Do Not Disturb." I guess we weren't the slowest ones on the ship, because on Saturday morning, when we were getting ready to leave, I overhead a man saying that he just figured out how to change the sign on Friday night!

There was a strange sense of deja vue on Saturday morning. On Saturday the 21st, we stood on the balcony of our hotel room and watched the ship come into port. On Saturday the 28th, we stood on the balcony of the ship and watched as we passed by the hotels.

Our favorite airport of the trip was San Francisco. Ron loved the models of World War II airplanes hanging from the ceiling, and he's still raving about his delicious bowl of chicken stew! Any any airport that offers free wi-fi to its customers gets brownie points with me!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Rise and Shine on Kauai

On Thursday morning (Happy Birthday, Connie!) we sat on the balcony and watched the sun come up over the waves. We sailed into Kauai closer to shore than we have ever come on any island. As we cruised past a golf course, I thought that if a golfer stood at the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean and hit a ball toward the ship, he would probably be able to hit it! As the tug boats tucked the ship into place, I thought I heard a rooster crowing. Then I heard it again... and again. I figured somebody must have a small farm with some chickens right by the port.

Sunrise in Kauai

We had a leisurely breakfast in the Aloha Cafe. I found a big pot of oatmeal, so I added that to my breakfast fare. I also had an omelet, made by Pam from Indianapolis. I told her that my girls went to school in Indiana, so we talked about Indiana winters. She couldn't believe that I thought Buffalo winters were worse in Buffalo.

We left the ship around 11:30 in the morning for our last shore excursion: Exploring Jungle Falls by Kayak. It was a very short ride in the excursion team's vans over to their harbor, but we saw lots of chickens. The driver explained that chickens have no natural predators on the island, so when some escaped from people's farms, they thrived in the wild. There were wild chickens everywhere! Another bit of wildlife trivia: Kauai has no snakes! That makes it a very popular location for film companies to film jungle scenes, since you don't have to worry about a boa constrictor putting the squeeze on an unsuspecting cameraman. I need to get out the movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and watch for the scene where Indiana Jones is running from natives and swings from a rope swing into the water where there is a plane waiting. We kayaked past that rope swing! They had to film the plane in another location... the river is way too narrow there for a plane!

Kayaking up the river to the jungle trail was quite a challenge, but fun. The only problem is that I got distracted while putting on my sunscreen. I was trying to listen to the talk on how to paddle and how to keep from tipping over and how to get into the kayak, and apparently I forgot to put sunscreen on my left leg. Well, my legs were stretched out in front of my on the kayak for the whole trip, so I have sunburn from my ankle up to my shorts line. I've been putting aloe on it, and hoping it doesn't blister and peel. When we go into town today, I'll have to wear long pants to make sure I don't get any more sun on it!

Just call me lobster leg!

So, we got to a jungle trail and walked along a trail for 10-15 minutes, hearing about some of the local plants, like the kukui nut. I found out that it has a few other names: the candle nut, the prank nut, and the 1-2-3 nut. The "Candle Nut" name is due to the fact that there is a high oil content in the nut, and if you smash it down and light it like a candle, it will give you light for a good while. The "Prank Nut" is because the nut in the center looks like a macadamia nut, but their composition is very different. The Kukui nut has such a high oil content that it has a laxative effect... so if you empty out a package of macadamia nuts and put in kukui nuts, you will quickly find out who it is who has been eating your snacks! The 1-2-3 Nut is along the same lines.. as the guide explained it: "One nut will help move things along. Two nuts will clean you out. Three nuts... Aloha!"

We had to hike down about half a mile of stairs to the jungle waterfalls. Again, we got some talks about the local plants. There were fruit bushes beside the trail: None fruit (looks ugly, tastes awful, but is good for you, like castor oil), strawberry guava, pineapple guava. At one point, we found a bush with some ripe strawberry guava. Ron and I shared one (it was about the size of a cherry), and it was pretty tasty. Lots of seeds, though! We didn't swim at the waterfalls like some people did... the water was freezing! We just waded in and took some pictures (on the waterproof cameras, so it will be a while before we get those back). Then we had to trek back up the hill for lunch! Now THAT was a rough hike! Half a mile uphill... oh, my aching legs! We had a quick lunch (deli sandwiches for everybody else, a salad for me) and headed back to the ship, where we had a little time to clean up and rest up before dinner.

We were lucky enough to get a seat in Staci's section again. She's our favorite waitress. She remembers details and makes sure I get my gluten-free bread and that the little box filled with varieties of tea is well-stocked before it gets to our table. All of the regular selections for dinner last night had gluten, so I had a steak and baked potato from the gluten-free menu. Ron had a chicken breast with mashed potatoes. He said that Bethany, our household connosiuer of mashed potatoes, would approve of their mashed potatoes. For dessert, Ron had a piece of lemon cream pie that he said was the best lemon cream pie he'd ever had, and I had a flourless molten chocolate cake. It was good, but I liked yesterday's Creme Brulee with semisweet chocolate layer better.

The original plan was to go to the magic show after dinner, but we were just too wiped out. We came back to the room and collapsed. I played games on the laptop, and Ron "rested his eyes".

Today we have a quiet day in Kauai (well, as quiet as you can with roosters crowing every five minutes). We'll try to find some free wi-fi, and be back to the ship to set sail at 2 PM. We will sail through the night and leave the ship around 8 am for our flight back to Buffalo... via San Francisco and Chicago. It's going to be a long trip!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Big Island

It's 4 am and I'm out on the balcony again! I'm still not fully adjusted to Hawaiian time. I'm so wiped out by 9 PM local time, so I go to bed early, but then I'm fully awake at 4 am! Oh, well, I enjoy sitting out here with the ocean breeze and the sound of the waves.

We left Maui at 6 o'clock last night, and we are cruising to Hilo on the big island of Hawaii. Ron and I are going on a bike tour of Volcanoes National Park. I'll be sure to take plenty of pictures!
Yesterday was a quiet day in port for us -- no shore excursions. We had a leisurely breakfast in the main dining room, so things were a bit fancier than our quick breakfasts in the Aloha Cafe. Ron had Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon, and declared it the best breakfast he's ever eaten. I had a mushroom omelet and grilled ham, and when they brought me my gluten-free bread, I got apricot-mango jam. It was delicious! Of course, one of the first things that popped into my head was, "I wonder if I can find a recipe online to make this myself?"

We took a free shuttle into town, to the biggest mall on the island, and sat outside Starbucks sipping chai lattes, uploading pictures, and checking e-mail. I had about 300 e-mails to delete! Then we came back to the ship for lunch in the Aloha Cafe. They were serving up roast chicken at the carving station, so I made myself a nice salad and had chicken on top. I was chatting with the server at the station with hot dogs, hamburgers and pizza, and asked about gluten-free stuff. He said they have gluten-free pizza crusts, so when we go there for lunch on Wednesday, they're going to make me my own gluten-free pizza. Yeah, I can have Hawaiian Pizza in Hawaii!

After lunch, and my mandatory afternoon nap, I went to a class to make a kakua nut lei. Our Hawaii ambassadors, Kaleo and China, told a great bit about the history of the kakua nut.Then we used a wire needle to push ribbon through two dozen of the kakua nut beads, tieing knots between them, to make a necklace. I'll have to get Ron to get a picture of me wearing mine.

It was dress-up night for dinner, so we took a little extra time getting ready. We went later than usual, and the dining room was crowded, so we didn't get a table with our usual server, Stacey. We still had a delicious dinner - Ron had fish and I had steak. Ron had an apple bread pudding for dessert that he said was absolutely delicious. Too bad I couldn't try it... maybe someday I can work up a recipe for a gluten-free apple bread pudding!

We're getting closer to the big island. I can see lights in the distance. We dock around 8 am and leave for our biking adventure at 8:15! We have SPF 70 sunscreen!

Wednesday morning update:
Sorry I’m late… I actually slept until 5 am! I managed to stay up until 10 pm, watching the movie "The Blind Side" and reading the novel I downloaded from the library website.
So, yesterday we had breakfast in the Aloha CafĂ©, with their awesome breakfast buffet. We were supposed to meet up with the shore excursion staff for the bike tour at 8:15 am, so we wanted to have a hearty breakfast. It was raining as we ate, but the waiters were reassuring us that the rain would clear up and we would have a beautiful day in Hilo. It’s always like that, they said.

We headed out and met with ten other bikers. There were two sets of newlyweds, another couple celebrating their 25th anniversary, a couple celebrating their 30th, and another couple who weren’t celebrating an anniversary, just enjoying Hawaii. It was nearly an hour’s drive to the park where we would be biking, and it rained all the way. The driver kept saying how it would clear up when we crossed the summit heading into the park. It didn’t. Oops. When we got to the park and started walking around, it was still raining, so the tour staff handed out jackets. Half an hour later, we walked down to a lower parking lot to get our bikes and safety speech. It was still chilly and raining, so they also gave us gloves! We got sweet 21-speed high-tech bikes where you just flick one of four switches to go up or down. I spent most of my time cruising around gear 2-5, but I admit, on the "Challenge Hill", I got down to the "Granny Gear" of 1-2, and on a long straightaway, I was in 3-4 keeping up with the group. Eventually, the sun came out and we were able to peel off some of the layers of clothing. We hiked through a rainforest and through a lava tube and had our snack at a site where lava flow had destroyed a section of road. There were lava fields on both sides of the road (which was reconstructed once the lava cooled). I think that incident happened 14 years ago, but there were already plants taking root in the lava fields. We stopped at a big candy store on the way back to the ship. They had a big plate-glass window overlooking the work area, where ladies in hair nets and coverall aprons dipped chocolates. I had to get some pictures. It reminded me so much of the Lucy episode where Lucy and Ethel worked on the chocolate assembly line!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Morning in Maui

Ah, what a life. It's 4 am (10 am Buffalo time)  and I'm sitting on the balcony in my PJs with my feet up on the railing, enjoying a cool breeze and looking over the lights of Maui. LOL, probably the only thing that could make it better would be if I could check my e-mail and Facebook, but I'm too cheap to pay 50 cents a minute to get on the internet. Later today, Ron and I have a free day, so we're taking the free shuttle into town. We'll go to McDonalds or Starbucks, get a hot cocoa, and use their free wi-fi to check in.
So, I guess I'll back up to Friday. We had an alarm set to get up at 4:30, but I was up way before the alarm went off. Everything was packed and ready to go, so we just had breakfast and headed out the door to the airport. When we scanned out passports at the check-in kiosk, I got a message that I needed to pick up the help phone... our plane from Buffalo to Chicago had a 30-minute delay, so we would miss our connecting flight. The staticky voice on the other end of the line said that we would arrive in Hawaii at 7:30 pm instead of 3:30. When she put me on hold, I said to Ron, "Now we're getting there 4 hours later. Good thing we booked the night before... we would have missed the boat!" The reservations agent said, "I can help you. Tell them you're working with me." He searched and clicked and shook his head and searched and clicked some more and finally told us that we were on a direct flight from Chicago to Honolulu and we would get there at 1:53 PM Hawaiian time, nearly two hours earlier than our original flight.
The flight was long, and frustrating (United Airlines, when you have somebody on your planes for 8 hours, you could at least give them a pack of complimentary peanuts or pretzels). They were all out of the best option for a gluten-free lunch (a spinach-chicken salad), so I had to shell out nine bucks for a "turkey wrap" that had about two tablespoons of turkey and two tablespoons of shredded lettuce and carrots (the only parts I could eat) in a big tortilla. Oh, well, live and learn. We'll grab something in the airport for the flight back.
Our hotel, the Marriott Waikiki, was beautiful. We had a balcony room on the 11th floor, so we had quite the view of the surrounding area, including the beach. Norwegian Cruise Lines had an office where we were able to sign in and get a priority boarding pass. They also gave us beautiful leis made with real flowers.

View from our balcony.

We made reservations for a Pearl Harbor tour (leaving at 6:45 am, yikes) and strolled down to the beach for a quick dip. (Sorry, pictures of that are on the waterproof camera that won't be developed until we get back.) Brrr, the water was cold! I only waded in. The sun was intensely hot, and I was afraid we would get sunburns, even with our sunscreen, so we didn't stay out very long. We walked around a bit, checked out the Hawaiian ABC stores (there were two in the hotel and two more within the block or so where we walked around), and picked up some stuff for breakfast (the hotel doesn't give a complimentary breakfast, and we had to be out so early that we wouldn't really have time to go to a restaurant, so we got cereal, yogurt, a little carton of milk, a hard-boiled egg, some fresh fruit and a granola bar at the ABC store. The stores are little, but they have a little bit of everything!
The sun was still shining brightly, but my body was telling me that it was midnight in Buffalo, and it wanted to sleep! We managed to stay up until 8 PM, then collapsed into bed. I think we slept until about 4:30 am. Around 5 am, I gave up on trying to sleep any more and got up to work on the puzzle-proofing assignment I brought along.
Pearl Harbor was a very sobering tour. The grounds were beautiful, the museums and exhibits were very informative, but it was all so sad. At the USS Arizona memorial, there was a Pearl Harbor survivor named Sunny handing out little flowers to toss into the water as a memorial. I was in tears as I dropped my flower into the water, thinking of all the families who lost loved ones when the Arizona went down. 

As we drove around in the tour bus, I was amazed at the beauty of Hawaii: the moutains cloaked in clouds, the flowers everywhere, the birds, the waterfalls, the trees. We've only been here for two full days, and already I have about a hundred pictures. It's going to take me a while to get them all uploaded to Facebook and captioned next week!
The tour bus dropped us off at the pier. We could see a long, long line of people waiting to get in for the cruise. I didn't look forward to waiting in line... but then I discovered the joy of "Priority Check-in" from having a pre-cruise hotel stay... they opened up a door and ushered us directly into the building, where we went through security without a line. We were on the ship in about fifteen minutes. We got our picture taken with two cast members of the Polynesian show...LOL, it turned out really well, considering we had been travelling for more than 12 hours, but the picture is $19.95, and I'm too cheap to buy it! The rooms weren't ready yet, so we made our way to the Aloha Cafe and had some lunch. There were buffet stations all over the room, with a fruit bar, salad bar, hot entrees, pizza, tacos, soup, and dessert. I was able to find plenty of gluten-free options and had a nice salad with some chicken and fruit... topped off with a piece of apple pie with ice cream on the side. (I nibbed the apple pie filling out from between the crusts). By the time were were finished, our room was ready. I love having the balcony. We can have fresh air in the room instead of air conditioning. I went to sleep last night to the sound of the water lapping against the boat.
Sunday morning, we woke up around 5 am (still a bit on Buffalo time) and got ready to leave for our Snorkeling adventure. We took a bus to harbor and took a 9-mile (45-minute) boat ride out to a coral reef inside an underwater volcano crater. There were three ways to get off the boat: you could ease off into the water from the dive platform, you could jump off the side of the boat into the water (I think that was a 6-foot drop), or you could go down a slide into the water. We did the slide. It was FUN! The water was cold, and the waves were rougher than any snorkeling we'd done before, but the water was crystal clear. We snorkeled for about 45 minutes before I got seasick and needed to head back to the ship. Ron snorkeled at the second site (Turtle Town) by himself as I stayed on the boat with my head back and my eyes closed. I'm sorry I had to miss the turtles. Ron took plenty of pictures... I just have to wait until the underwater camera gets developed! There was a mix-up, and the gluten-free lunch that was supposed to be provided wasn't, so I skipped lunch (even with the dramamine a fellow traveler gave me, I still didn't feel much like eating), but by the time we got back to shore, I was feeling better.
We got back to our room to find a towel puppy waiting for us (photo 90), got cleaned up and got ready for dinner in the Liberty dining room. As we were getting ready, Ron said, "I could really go for a nice turkey dinner." Sure enough, when we got down to the dining room, turkey was on the menu! Even better, scallops were a choice for appetizer! The kitchen staff were accomodating enough to give me rice instead of stuffing to make my dinner gluten-free, so we both had a delicious meal! I even had a piece of flour-less chocolate cake with raspberry sauce.

So now I sit here on the balcon as the sun rises over Maui, looking forward to a quiet day of exploring and relaxing. Tomorrow we do a bike tour of a volcano park, so we're resting up today. After all, this is vacation!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I need a vacation!

Last night, when I crawled into bed, that's what I thought: I need a vacation. Actually, it was this morning when I crawled into bed, since it was after midnight. There is so much I need to get done this week. I stayed up until after midnight to finish reading a book that's due back at the library tomorrow. I could have just returned the book, and checked it out again to read after vacation, but no, I had to stay up late and finish. That's been the story of my life this week. We leave on vacation in less than 48 hours, and I'm still trying to finish up projects here and there (like updating my blog) instead of just doing the bare minimum that needs to be done. 



So, back to the book. I got excited when I saw that there was a new book in the Bug Man series. Nick Downs has written a series of suspense novels based on the character Nick Polchak. Nick is, shall we say, an unusual character. He loves the world of insects--he'd rather spend time with bugs than with humans! Nick is a forensic entomologist: he helps to solve crimes by studying the insects on and around dead bodies. These aren't the kind of books you read while you're eating lunch, but if you enjoyed the old Quincy TV show, they'd probably be right up your alley. The series started with “Shoo Fly Pie” and “Chop Shop.” Then there was “Plague Maker,” “First the Dead,” “Less than Dead” and “Ends of the Earth.” The newest book in the series was the one that kept me up last night, "Nick of Time." Nick is getting married, but days before the wedding, is drawn into investigating the murder of a long-time friend and fellow scientist. I loved the book, with its quirky humor and plot twists that caught me off guard. The end left me thinking that there is definitely another Bug Man novel on the horizon. Hooray!  If you want to read "Nick of Time," I would strongly suggest that you start at the beginning and get to know the world of Nick Polchak first. Have fun!  

Time to get back to my to-do list!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Just Keep on Keeping On

Today was the kind of day when I could get discouraged. All week long, I've been trying really hard to stick to healthy eating and exercise.

I have this poster on my fridge:
Each day, I'm checking off when I get in my exercise and stick to healthy eating and take my vitamins, etc. I've been getting in some great workouts and eating. So, today, after five days of A or A+ days, I figured I'd break my pattern of Monday weigh-ins and see how much weight I'd lost this week.

The scale was not kind. The scale said I'd GAINED three pounds. You know, usually that would be enough to send me off the deep end with an attitude like "I eat healthy all week and I still gain weight? Why bother eating healthy? I'm making chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast!" This time, I didn't slip into that thinking. I had my usual breakfast (two eggs and a strawberry smoothie), and headed off to work. I think I finally figured out the cause for the gain: we had homemade sauerkraut with dinner last night, and it was very salty. I was probably just retaining a lot of water.

I stayed the course with healthy eating today, and after lunch, headed over to my daughter's school for their "Race for Education." The kids do laps around the soccer field for an hour to raise money for school. I told my daughter I'd walk/jog with her. The weatherman predicted rain and thunderstorms for the afternoon, but it was sunny and clear and 80 degrees. After the first mile or two, it was getting harder and harder to keep up the pace. But, we just kept plugging away, and we did 4 miles.

On the way home, we were both hot and thirsty and tired and hungry. We stopped at the grocery store to pick up some fish for dinner, and I told Bethany she could pick out a treat. She picked up a single-serving cup of ice cream... Double Chocolate Fudge. She doesn't usually eat ice cream with a fork. It was the only silverware I had in my lunchbag.

It would have been easy to justify getting myself an ice cream, too. After all, I just worked out for an hour. I stuck to my diet for most of the day. I stuck to my guns, though... this was my treat: 

Hopefully by the time I do my official weigh-in on Monday, all the sodium will be flushed out of my system, and I'll have a good loss to show for this week's efforts. I'm learning. I'm getting there, one step at a time, one pound at a time. Today was a good day, despite what "Mean Old Mr. Scale" had to say to me this morning! 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Don't Underestimate the Power of Fifteen Minutes

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Fifteen Minutes

Yesterday when I got home from work, I was hungry. Really hungry. The trouble with that is, I’m trying really, really hard to lose a few more pounds before we leave on our 25th anniversary trip next week. So, I needed to come up with a healthy snack. I decided to make some Kale Chips. I was introduced to Kale Chips by my long-distance trainer/weight-loss mentor, Alysia Gadson, back in December.  She put up this video  of how to make them. They’re hard to describe… sort of like crispy, salty lettuce. They’re healthy and I like them, so I decided to toss a batch in the oven. Trouble is, they take fifteen minutes to cook.

Fifteen minutes is a long time to wait for a snack when you’re really hungry. I needed to keep myself busy, to keep from diving headlong into a bag of some forbidden snack. I emptied the dishwasher… still time left. I filled the dishwasher back up again… still time left. I washed the dishes that didn’t go into the dishwasher… still time left. I mixed up a batch of bread dough for dinner. Just as I tossed the last of the flour into the mixer, the timer rang. 

I couldn’t believe how much I got done in those fifteen minutes. As I sat down with my feet up, munching on kale chips, I thought about how many times I’ve wasted fifteen minutes or more, just messing around with computer games or mindless TV programs. At the end of those fifteen-minute sessions, I would often feel like I wasted my time, that I had nothing to show for it. Right then, I felt like that had been the best fifteen minutes of my day. I felt great about getting so much accomplished.  I tried to think of some things I could accomplish in a quick fifteen-minute time period:

  •  Exercise… in fifteen minutes, I could jog a one-mile route, which would be a great workout. Or, I could pick up one of my heavier kettlebells and do a swing workout (with a 25- or 35-kettlebell, fifteen minutes is incredibly long!). The Biggest Loser just came out with a “Power Walk” DVD that has four one-mile walks. They incorporate arm motions, weights and some other exercises. They may only be fifteen minutes, but they get intense! If you’ve got fifteen minutes, you can still get in a good workout.
  •  Take some “me time”… polish my nails, curl my hair, freshen up my make-up. The other day, I put on some new sparkly nail polish. I was amazed at how much that perked up my afternoon. When I looked at my sparkly nails, I smiled. I mentioned that to my husband, he said, “Why don’t you do that more often?” My answer was, “I don’t have the time to keep my nails looking nice.” It only took a few minutes, and it made me smile for a couple of days. I’d say that’s fifteen minutes (or less) well spent.  
I took some me time to get rid of my gray hair today... took longer than 15 minutes, but it was worth the time spent!

  • Tackle one of those chores you’ve been putting off… For me, one of those chores is cleaning up my desk and the table next to it. I tend to accumulate piles of stuff that I will sort out “when I have the time,” but I figure it’s going to take a long time, so I keep putting it off. Sometimes I’ll just set a timer for fifteen minutes and say, “I will concentrate on this mess for fifteen minutes. I won’t let myself be distracted. It’s only fifteen minutes.” A lot of the time, after fifteen minutes, I’m so close to finishing up the job that I just keep going and finish it… or it might even be done before the fifteen minutes is up! I kept stuffing my clipped coupons into an envelope for about three weeks, dreading how long it would take me to sort them out because I didn’t do it for a couple of weeks. It took me about five minutes.
  • Send a card or letter to somebody you haven’t contacted in a long time. I would say to send an e-mail, but I know if I get on the internet, I’m probably going to get distracted with something else! 
  • Get organized… take some time to plan out meals for the coming week, make a list of stuff you’d like to get done, a shopping list or list of errands.
  • Relax… When life is absolutely frantic, sometimes the best thing to do is just take a break. Put on some relaxing music, light a soothing candle, stretch out on the couch, and just give yourself fifteen minutes to do absolutely nothing.

Time for me to get off the computer and spend fifteen minutes with my 35-pound kettlebell…

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Want to try some new music?

Thanks to my win of a Rebecca St. James CD a few weeks ago, I got an e-mail introducing me to a new recording artist: 18-year-old Robert Pierre from Orlando, Florida.

    “Robert Pierre is an 18-year-old with a big voice and an even bigger heart; a talented 
    musician and a singer-songwriter who has managed to juggle a music career with his 
    high school honors course work. Robert grew up in a Christian home and knew about 
    Christ all his life, but it wasn't until he was confronted by a teacher in seventh grade 
    that he gave his life to Christ.    "He looked at me and asked me one simple question," 
    Robert explained, "He asked,''If you were to die right now, and were standing at the
 of heaven, and God asked you why He should let you in... what would you say?' 
    And all I could think to answer honestly was that He shouldn't..."  The Spirit used that 
    moment to bring Robert to a point of repentance and salvation that changed his life forever. 

    It was at that time that Robert committed his talents to the glory of God alone.  Soon, 
    the Lord began to open doors of opportunity for Robert to minister to people through music.  
    Robert has already released two nationally distributed records, with three singles hitting 
    the Billboard Christian AC Top 50 hit list.  In addition to performing at summer festivals, 
    Christian fund raisers, teen camps, youth groups and schools, Robert has toured nationally 
    with the junior high "Believe" Tour, the inaugural "iShine" Tour and the nation’s largest 
    Christian tour "Winter Jam 2010." This last year, he has spent his time writing and recording 
    his third record, titled “I’m All In,” which is representative of Robert’s passion for not only 
    talking about his Christian faith, but living sold out for Christ.  The project has been co-written     
    and produced by award winning songwriters and producers Matt Bronleewe and Jason Ingram. 
    Robert not only sings on this aIbum, but wrote on 10 out of 11 songs, played guitar for the 
    recording, and sang back up vocals.  

I had a chance to look up the lyrics of some of the songs on his album, including the song "Identity" that he wrote with Matt Bronleewe and Brian Hitt.  I thought the song had a great message for young people who are under so much peer pressure nowadays. I became a fan on his Facebook page. (He put up a thoughtful  "Happy Mother's Day" status on Sunday. That got an "aaawww" out of me.)

I also got a link to download four of Robert's songs for free. I have been listening to them on my computer all week, and thoroughly enjoying them. Over the weekend, my daughter Bethany (13 years old) put them on her MP3 player. She said, "I'm really looking forward to the bus ride on Monday, because I have all this new music to listen to!" When she got home, I asked her which of the four songs was her favorite. Her response? "I don't have a favorite. They're all great!" I agree! The download page says that his music is for fans of The Afters, Bruno Mars, Tenth Avenue North, Chris Sligh, and Hawk Nelson. I'm not very familiar with any of them except Tenth Avenue North, but I definitely liked Robert's musical style! 

You can also download four of Robert Pierre's songs for free, at this link: Robert Pierre MP3s

Oh, and one more thing. This was fun... it's a video that Robert uploaded to YouTube, showing off the unique water basketball skills of Robert and his friends. I have to admit... I would love to have a pool like theirs in my backyard! Pool Basketball Video

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Earning Points for Gift Cards!

I’m always looking for ways to help out with the family budget. I figure “every little bit helps,” so I make sure I take back my pop bottles for the 5-cent deposit, I faithfully clip coupons and check through the sales ads for local stores,  I try to make cute craft items to sell online, and put stuff we don’t need any more on ebay, etc. It all adds up. It won’t ever make me rich, but we have some wiggle room to splurge once in a while.
One way I earn some money is through the MyPoints program. I’ve been a member since 1999. It’s an online program where you get points for viewing ads, taking surveys, joining online programs, etc. For instance, they might send me an e-mail with an advertisement for Office Max. If I click on the ad, I get 5 points. If I make a purchase at OfficeMax while I’m there, I might earn 100 points on a $50 purchase, 150 points on a $100 purchase, etc. MyPoints sends me e-mails with links to and, and I get ten points per coupon that I redeem from those sites, plus a 25-point bonus for each calendar month when I redeem ten coupons. There are loads of websites that offer points per dollar spent when you shop online.
Five points (about 3.5 cents) here and five points there for clicking through e-mails. A hundred points or so a month for redeeming coupons. Fifty points for a survey, a hundred for those gifts I picked up online. It all adds up!
What can I do with those points? I can turn them in for gift cards. Right now, a $25 gift card runs about 3750 points. I tend to just let my points accumulate for a year or so, and then I find out that I have enough points a couple of $50 cards. Boy, it is nice to get $100 in the mail!
If you’d like to give MyPoints a try, please click on this link below. I get points for referrals, too!

My Points Program  <<-- Click here to get started!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Lessons from the Woodstove

It's May 7th... and we're still waiting for summer to arrive. There have been times in the last week when I would have liked to stoke up the woodstove. Morning temperatures have been in the 30s. Brrr! This morning, reading "The Spark" by Chris Downie, founder of SparkPeople, I read about "Building the fire." That got me thinking about our woodstove, trying to draw lessons about building a fire for weight loss from my knowledge and experience in building a fire in the woodstove.
Now, I'm not saying I'm an expert in building a fire in the woodstove. My husband Ron is the household expert. I'll admit, there are times when I get home from work, and the house is very cold... so I cuddle under a couple of afghans and wait for him to get home to stoke up the stove and take the chill off the house!
So, one of the first things is that you need to right materials to start the fire. You need some smaller, dry sticks, some matches, and (in our case) a little chunk of starter log (we're too cheap to toss the whole firestarter in every time we start up the woodstove... so we break each 6" log into a dozen or so pieces). If the sticks are too big, they're not going to catch on fire by the time the starter log is gone. If they're too small, they'll flare up and burn out quickly without starting the larger pieces on fire. Sometimes it's not convenient to get all the materials together. I might have to go out into the cold garage to load up on firewood. There might not be a starter log chopped up into pieces yet. Sometimes that's where cuddling up with an afghan or two and waiting for Ron to get home turns into a more favorable option.
Okay, application to weight loss...  I need to use the right materials: healthy eating and exercise. Sometimes it's not all that convenient. I might have to make a run to the grocery store for some fresh fruits and vegetables. I might have to get up earlier in the morning to make the time for exercise. They need to be the right "size", too. If a couch potato decides to run three miles on his first day of exercise, he'll probably be so sore the next day that he abandons the exercise program completely. Likewise, if a diet is way too limited and restrictive, the "fire" just isn't going to catch. Finding what works and sticking to it is key.
Patience and diligence are a bit part of starting the fire. It doesn't always start with the first match. I certainly have had my share of "restarts" as far as my weight loss journey is concerned. Just as I don't give up when that first (or second, or third) match sputters and dies, when I fail on my diet and exercise regime, I need to get right back in there and start anew. Procrastination, in the form of "Oh, I ate something I shouldn't have. I'll just start my diet on Monday, so I guess I can have ice cream with dinner after all"--is a killer to keeping the fire of enthusiasm lit. The key is to get back on track as soon as possible. If the fire in the woodstove goes out, the sooner I get back in there to light it back up again, the easier it is, because the heat of the previous fire is still there.
Build on your success. Once the fire has been going for a bit, and you have some nice glowing coals, it gets easier to keep the fire going. You can add bigger pieces of wood that will burn hotter and longer. It's like that with exercise, too. As you gain strength and endurance, you can exercise more, harder and longer, and burn more calories. Improvements like cutting your time for a particular running route, increasing the weights you can work with, or getting through a particular workout without feeling like you're going to die are great victories. Celebrate them! Announce them to the world on Facebook! Be proud of yourself! Stretch yourself! Challenge yourself! Done a 5K? Maybe it's time to train for a 10K or a half marathon!
It doesn't have to be huge successes you celebrate. Make small goals you want to meet. It might be as small as posting a list of things to do that day on the fridge: exercise 30 minutes, stay within _____ calories, drink 8 glasses of water, take vitamins. Those are the kind of little successes that build up to big successes.
Fan the flames... sometimes when you add some wood to the glowing embers, you need to add some oxygen to get the flames to burst to life. I think that the act of fanning the flames has a parallel in losing weight, too. I think when we get good feedback and compliments from others, that fans our flames. Support is key. Finding a good group of friends who will support you in your weight loss effort is essential. I have found those friends through SparkPeople, Facebook, and LiveFit Revolution. They cheer me on and encourage me to keep going, and I hope that I'm doing the same for them.
Don't neglect the fire... I'm guilty of this with both the woodstove and my fire for weight loss. I get so busy with other things that I forget to tend the fire... just as I get so busy that I don't make the time for diet and exercise. It's hard to get everything done, so sometimes you just have to get creative... like this:

I wrote out the outline for this blog while peddling on the exercise bike. I guess I can check "half hour of exercise" off my list today!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Weight Loss Journey Through the Years

For the last 30 years, I've been struggling with my weight. Frankly, in the battle of the bulge, the bulge was winning... big time!

2003 - highest weight
When I got married in 1986, I was about twenty pounds overweight. After my first daughter was born in 1988, it was closer to fifty pounds. I went on a crash diet and lost 50 pounds, but then I got pregnant again, and by the time Connie was born in 1990, I was right back where I'd been before. Eight years later, when I got pregnant with Bethany, I was even heavier, about 75 pounds overweight. In 2003, after a family vacation to Lancaster, PA (home of all sorts of all-you-can-eat Amish buffet restaurants), I hit an all-time high,108 pounds over my goal weight. 

I decided I really had to do something, so I started exercising. At first, I could only do 4 minutes on my exercise machine, but I worked my way up to 40 minutes, several times a week, and I lost 40 pounds. But then I hit a plateau, and got discouraged. I lost my fire and the weight came back.

Then in the fall of 2005, I caught a glimpse of a new (to me) TV show called "Biggest Loser." I went online the next day and signed up with the Biggest Loser Club online, and started following their meal plan and exercise system. I got into some online challenges and really started doing well. The weight came off, and I ended up taking off 60 pounds, but then I hit a plateau, and got discouraged. I lost my fire and the weight came back.

Sometime in 2007 or 2008 there was another big push with another diet that resulted in a weight loss of 60-something pounds, but--you guessed it---I hit a plateau, and got discouraged. I lost my fire and the weight came back.

2009 - back up to my highest weight again
So, in November of 2009, I was watching the Biggest Loser "Where Are They Now" special, seeing how so many of the former contestants from the Biggest Loser have maintained their weight loss with healthy eating and active lives. And then they focused on Erik Chopin, who had gained back much of the weight he lost. So much of Erik's story sounded like a page from my own life. He committed to getting healthy again, and so did I. At that point, I was back to needing to lose at least 98 pounds.

I started on December 1st with diet and exercise, and the first ten or fifteen pounds came off fairly quickly, but then things slowed down. By March of 2010, I had lost 20 pounds, but the scale stopped moving. I didn't expect to hit the plateau that soon! That's when I was discouraged. Getting discouraged scared me. I didn't want to lose my fire and gain back those 20 pounds.

Well, on Facebook, I follow several of the former Biggest Loser contestants. One of my favorites is Shay Sorrells. She is so helpful in trying to answer questions for her Facebook fans. She is an incredibly busy woman: she works full-time, has a family, and works out like crazy to maintain her weight loss, and yet she takes the time to answer questions for people on Facebook. Shay put up a post about her trainer starting a 6-week challenge for overweight people across the country, offering free online workout videos and free nutritional counseling. The trouble was, there was an age range... and the upper limit was 45. I was 48 at the time. I filled out the form anyway, hoping the age might just slip by unnoticed. I went to the trainer's website and ordered her DVD, just so I wouldn't be completely unprepared for what lay ahead. I went shopping and got myself one of those kettlebell things... a weight shaped like a cowbell, with a big handle on the top. My husband told me I was going to ruin my back swinging it. I hoped he wasn't going to be right.

One of my first kettlebell workouts

 So, apparently my age wasn't a problem, because a little bit later, I got an introductory e-mail, then a phone call from the trainer herself, Alysia Gadson, giving me an idea of what was coming. I got an e-mail with the nutrition plan (lots of veggies and lean meats, some fruits, some grains, and lots of water... lots and lots of water!), I anxiously waited for the first video to be uploaded to the website, and on April 19, 2010, I officially started with LiveFit Revolution.

I didn't really expect much the first week. After all, I'd been dieting for about five months, and I was stuck on a plateau. I figured if I could lose two pounds the first week, I'd be moving in the first direction. The kettlebell workouts were brutal! I would be wiped out by the end of the workout. That first week, I was so sore, it hurt to stand up and sit down. It was worth it, though.  I lost eight pounds the first week. I was shocked. I was delighted. I was on fire! The weight loss continued week after week, sometimes only a pound, sometimes two or three pounds. Within a few months, I was approaching "The Wall" --a weight I had approached several times in the past, but not broken through. I was so sure it was going to be like before... "I hit a plateau, I got discouraged, I lost my fire." 

It wasn't. I kept on going. My steady weight loss turned into a bit of a roller coaster ride... up a pound, down two pounds, up two, down three. I had discouraging weeks, but I got back on track. 
The picture my daughter made for me when I broke through "The Wall"

In November of 2010, I got to meet Alysia Gadson and Jason Lily, the founders of LiveFit Revolution, in person at a LiveFit Roadtrip in Philadelphia, PA. It was a great weekend, getting to meet about eight other LiveFit members from around the country. We did a kettlebell workout in the hotel conference room that gave Alysia a chance to correct our form, and we had a crazy cardio challenge on the Rocky Stairs of the Philly Art Museum. I learned that weekend that I'm capable of more than I tend to think I am. 

I also developed some deeper friendships that weekend, not only with Alysia and Jason, but with Michelle, Vicky, Brenda, Meg, Trish, Michael, Karen, and Cindy (oh, and Koda too).  Mary had to cancel due to a family emergency, but I hope to meet her in person some day. After all, we both live in New York... we can't be that far apart, right? LOL, I can probably drive to Indiana faster than I could drive to Mary's house! 

Anyway, lately, when I start to get discouraged, I know that I can reach out to my LiveFit friends for encouragement and support. Jason sends e-mails with his special "Jedi mind tricks", Alysia always has words of encouragement, and I have so many friends who have been going through the same struggles, who know just what I'm going through, and they're all cheering me on. 
After the Rocky Stairs Challenge

Alysia and Jason have built a wonderful program to help people change their lives. I'm fifty pounds lighter than I was last spring, and I have the confidence that I can finish my journey by losing the last thirty pounds. Why? Because I've learned that the formula isn't "Perfection = Results", it's "Commitment = Results". I've learned to eat healthier, I've learned new ways of exercising. I've learned to push myself harder than ever before. I've discovered kale and roast cauliflower and strawberry smoothies with just strawberries and Stevia. I'm learning how to say "I can" instead of "I can't" and how to forgive myself and move ahead when I fall. 

So, here's to a great first year with LiveFit, and I can't wait to see what the next year holds in store.
Doing a 3-mile walk/jog is a piece of cake now!