I Am That Girl Now

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Well, that's better.

I talked with my Hub over lunch, after discovering that he's gone public with the fact that he's exercising. He told me that if he really didn't want to do it, he wouldn't do it, and I couldn't make him; he wants to do this, he just needs someone else to kick him out of bed and steer him to the treadmill. He says he'll be cranky in the mornings and full of thanks in the afternoon, like today.

Okay. I can do that.

In other news, I'm trying to cut our grocery bill down dramatically, and mostly this is making me grumpy. Okay, "dramatically" is a bit of an overstatement. But there's no reason that we should be spending this much money, and when I look at what we actually use for food, the amount we spend seems out of proportion to what we're using, and we have a ton of stuff in the freezer and cupboard that isn't in the rotation of actual food preparation, it's just there. We have a wretched ton of meat in the freezer, and as such I'm taking a month off of buying any meat. I'm also putting together a list of what we actually do use, and what we need to keep on hand at all times in order to have a functional kitchen. Everything else = extra.

On the one hand, this is good. On the other hand, this is a pain in the ass. ARGH.

Cut for length-- click to read more.

My nerves are all shot.

My Hub requested that I bug him about exercise once the moving-furniture thing was over and he was no longer sore. I have done as he asked, and, bless him, he agreed to put on Thumper the Heart-Rate Monitor and hop on the treadmill this morning.

Unbeknownst to me, he decided to start Week 1 of C25K, and admitted afterward that "it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be." Yay!

He's doing okay. I'm kind of a nervous wreck.

I am just not cut out to be the motivational force for someone else's project, and I don't feel like it's a very good idea. I've got way too many memories of my dad goading me into exercise when I was younger, and I lack perspective to figure out where the line is between helping and being leaned on too much, and where the line is between helping and goading. I'm spending most of the time appending disclaimers to my actions so that I can ease my guilty conscience a bit, but I don't know if that's undermining my job. Argh.

On the other hand, my Hub informs me that since half of him wants to do this and the other half would like me to fuck off and go buy him a pizza, I'm going to have to prop up the other half for a while here. He asked me to do this, and then he told me again today (between complaints) that he wants me to keep it up. And granted, this is the first day back for him back on the horse, so it's possible that after a week or so he'll fall into the routine and stop depending on me.

I am trying not to flip out. It will be okay. I keep telling him that any time he wants me to stop this, he just has to say, and I will stop, no questions asked, and that I'm proud of him no matter what. And I'm trying very hard to be gentle and encouraging. And it's encouraging that he has already located the high horse that goes along with exercise, teasing me this morning that I "wouldn't be so tired if [I]'d gotten some exercise." Har.

I am going to cook meat for my Hub tonight, because I don't think that I should have him do two things he's not used to yet in the same day. Chicken and steak are thawing in the fridge, along with some fish for meee. I'm thinking that when one is trying new things (tofu! egad, he ate tofu!), it's a good thing to be reassured soon after that the old things are not going away. Steak for the Hub tonight, and I'll put together some shrimp stir-fry for the rest of the week.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

That crackling sound you heard was hell freezing over

My Hub just ate tofu. Enthusiastically. He didn't give it the skeptical eye or anything. And believe me, he was plenty skeptical when I told him about it on the way home, and sort of sad because he was hungry and all he had to look forward to was tofu.

He liked it.

I'm stunned.

Granted, I worked my ass off for this reaction. My sister the vegetarian, whose boyfriend is not a vegetarian, said that what she does is to cook vegetarian food that's so tasty that her boyfriend is happy to eat it. I sort of stuck together two different recipes from my light Chinese cookbook, tasted the sauce and adjusted it, and the tofu was wrung out via the weights-and-paper-towels method yesterday so I chucked it into the sauce and it sucked it up like a sponge. The original recipe said to pan-fry (very light on the oil) the tofu without such treatment, but I wanted all the help I could get. I started up some microwave rice, pan-fried the newly-juicy tofu, took it out, steamed some broccoli, cut up the mini-peppers, and opened and drained a can of mushrooms. Stir-fried the broccoli, peppers, and mushrooms with some minced garlic. Took the veggies out of the pan, put the sauce in (granted, I had to turn off the flame and hold the pan up off the burner because I got it a bit too hot), stirred in a cornstarch slurry, tossed the tofu into the thickened sauce, plated the whole thing up and voila!

It was very colorful, which I think helped a lot; my Hub commented on how pretty it was with surprise in his voice. The sauce was good, which he was also happy about, and everything went together well. I'm very, very relieved.

Day four. Which means that if I feel like it-- and I probably should, to give my poor beleagered Hub a break-- there should be some meat in the next few days. At the very least, I ought to make sure he gets some meat.

This is going pretty well so far. Good grief.

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It's the process, it's the journey

Maybe it's that my parents are getting older, and my grandmothers-- the only two representatives of my direct family line in that generation-- are both getting more and more health problems, but the health thing has gotten more important to me this year than ever before. I talk a good game, but you know how it is: at the end of the day, so very often it's all been about the size of my ass and how I feel about the size of my ass and what I'm doing about it, or not doing about it. Like so much else, the most frightening thing has been letting go of my ass-centric approach to exercise and eating.

(Which is not to say that I am done with the process. I think I've made it slightly past the tipping point, so that right now there's more concern about actual health and enjoyment than concern about my ass, but I cannot honestly claim that I'm done with this process, or that I didn't sigh and shake my head when I got on the scale yesterday and saw the same ol', same ol'. Just FYI.)

The thing is, I seem to be grasping that my 30s are probably going to be the high point of my physical health, since I shamelessly wasted most of my 20s, and that the better I do in my 30s, the slower the decline will be for the rest of my life. Barring, of course, the puckish sort of acts of God that tend to strike whenever anyone over-prepares for the future, but I still don't think that my time will be wasted because, hell, I'll feel good now.

I don't want diabetes, like my mother-in-law has; I don't want osteoporosis, like one of my aunts; I don't want breast cancer, like a dear friend of the family; I don't want dementia, like both of my grandmothers; I don't want macular degeneration, like one of my grandmothers; I don't want high cholesterol, like my parents. I know that the likelihood of becoming an old lady drooling in a nursing home is high, particularly in my family, and that the odds are better than not that I'd spend the years prior to that having to juggle too many pills. I'd really like to increase the chance that I wouldn't have to do that, though. There's a slim chance that I'll end up being one of those mothers and then grandmothers that sails through life with bright eyes and sharp mind, who has fewer physical problems than most and who keeps up with the world instead of retreating. I'd like to increase that chance. My grandmothers didn't get to have that life, one of my aunts is losing her chance, and it's looking like my mother won't get it, either (knock on wood, I'm still hoping that she'll surprise us and still be her daffy, random, roughly practical self at the age of 90), but dammit, I want it.

I have the following goals: sing, write, run, and eat well, and to do all of them for the sheer joy of it. Kinda getting two of those in gear; I need the others to stay balanced. There's something about my fear of judgement that drags me to a halt where singing and writing are concerned; I forget how much I love hearing my voice ring in my head and how much I love engrossing myself in a story that only I know, how lovely it is to play with lilting a phrase and finding a good place for a dramatic crescendo, how damned good it feels to have just the right word fit into place or have a character turn into somebody I want to hang out with.

I want to restructure my day so that my evenings are all about doing the things that I love to do: preparing and eating a gorgeous meal, spending some time kicking back with my laptop and book concept, singing, cuddling on my lovely husband. I want some little luxuries in my life, like some sinfully comfortable pajamas and a lush bed set that will actually stay on the bed and a bedroom that doesn't look like a second-hand store just exploded. I want to relax.

And, while I'm at it, can summer come soon? Or at least spring? Please? I'm so tired of it being dark and cold. I love Chicago, but winter always makes me realize just why people move to California.

And now, for random stuff:

Have you noticed the new weight-loss target group? Men. According to the commercials, it seems that the driving reason for male weight-loss is the same as female weight-loss: male sexual desire. Women are given commercials saying that they'll be more desireable if they lose weight; men are given commercials saying that their equipment will function better if they lose weight, and lose the erection-destroying health problems that come with the extra weight. On the one hand, I'm shaking my head and rolling my eyes over the continuing LOSE WEIGHT SO YOU CAN HAVE MORE SEX standard for these commercials, but there's a bit of a silver lining in the fact that hey, at least the bastards are starting to tie health into it.

We had an absurdly splurgy brunch on Sunday, in celebration of our anniversary, and as a result all we had for dinner was salad and pears for dessert. Which would be sort of sad, if it had been salad like a drive-through side salad and a piece of fruit on the side, but instead we had dandelion greens (we like them; how 'bout that?) tossed in a home-made low-fat dressing, served in our gorgeous (and seldom used) wooden salad bowls, with thin pear slices arranged in a daisy-shape on the top, and with bits of goat cheese and chopped walnuts. The baked pears were the decadent ones I mentioned a few days ago, served in little white ramakins, with the strawberry sauce on top. I am making a mental note to get more frozen berries the next time we hit Trader Joe's, because they are just so absurdly easy to make sauces out of. Dinner was simple, but terribly elegant. Neither dish would have been out-of-place at a good restaurant. It made me all swoony.

We're thinking of using the remainder of the strawberry sauce-- unsweetened, remember-- to make a strawberry vinaigrette. Oh, the loveliness!

My Hub has announced three or four times now that the produce box was a great damn idea. It's forced us to try new things, we're getting a fabulous variety of things, not too much of any one thing, and the produce is excellent. Yay! I love it when I go out on a limb and things work out.

I was driving with my (drunk) Hub in tow on Saturday night, and his alcohol level brought out his need to give suggestions about what to do and when to do it. He's usually fine with my driving, but he gets really hyper when he's drunk. We also have very different driving styles, what with him growing up in the 'burbs and me growing up in a small rural town, so his suggestions were all about being a more aggressive driver. I followed his instructions at one point, almost got hit by another car, and realized that I'm really not comfortable with driving that way. Yes, I drive like an old lady. I do not care. There are few times in my life that I'm in enough of a hurry that I'd rather risk my neck than wait in traffic for a wee bit. Upon that realization, I informed him that I wasn't comfortable driving the way he wanted me to and that I'd really appreciate it if he stopped telling me to. (Which was a better way of expressing my first mental reaction, which was shut the hell up!) He stopped talking and then woefully decided that he was an asshole, and apologized profusely, and finally we got it straightened out.

The point of this: yay, I gained an understanding of my own comfort zone and the limits thereof! Yay, I decided to stick with what feels good to me instead of giving up to the noisy pressure from the passenger seat! Yay, I immediately expressed this to my Hub instead of spending a lot of time fretting about it! All good things.

We've been married a year, now, and I'm starting to get used to how this works. The constant adjustment, the development of habits and hobbies that are ours instead of just one or the other, the limits and the way to stretch them a bit. It's a slow process, marriage, like geology or evolution. I guess the only thing to do is to develop a long-term approach to it, so that drastic changes are diminished and small, incremental changes create big results. Much like everything else, I guess. My days of gauging all changes by short-term measurements seem to be over.

Maybe I'm just finding the methods I'm comfortable with. Maybe I'm figuring out what my inner rhythm dictates. Maybe, like I theorized once a long time ago, I'm not really a Type A personality, I'm a stealth hippie. (Hell, who am I kidding. I am, in fact, the Stealth Hippie. I just have a deep love of electronics and the ability to act like a Type A when I have to.) Maybe I'm finally getting rid of the fear that life is going to pass me by if I don't do everything right now, and starting to accept the fact that life is what I'm doing, and how I feel about it.

I don't want to spend my time being scared and dutiful. I want to do what I love.

On the other hand, I must now go and do something that I merely tolerate: my job. Later, sweeties!

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Eeee, produce!

We have organic produce! We do, we do! We even have a vague idea of what to do with the dandelion greens! Hooray, hooray!

I do like this place. It's the Newleaf Natural Grocery, a tiny little storefront place the size of our living room, but happily stocked with a lot of neat organic groceries. I restrained myself to merely eyeing the place, making notes for later, purchasing a shitload of organic rolled oats (sold in bulk, $0.89/pound, thank you) and paying for our produce box for next week. They have you purchase each week's produce box the week beforehand, so that before they order the produce they know how much to order. Zero waste, unlike regular selling styles where you have to factor in the cost of the unsold rotting stuff.

I'm still tickled by the fact that I can save money and support small business at the same time. Yay! Also thrilled by the fact that most of my grocery budget is now being spent at Trader Joe's, Newleaf, and (for select items) Whole Foods. My Hub has dubbed me The Stealth Hippie, since when we started going out I wasn't even dieting, and organic food, yoga, an aversion to processed foods, and now vegetarianism are all things that crept in over the past two years. He's still shaking his head over the whole vegetarian idea, but he has to admit that it's not that far off from what I was eating in the first place, and that as long as I'm still eating fish (he loves fish), he doesn't foresee much of a problem. And, he says, he's proud of me.

My Hub had requested pancakes, and so when I ended up getting up earlier than he did this morning, I made some with some built-in nutrition: banana-nut pancakes, with no oil (since the banana made it moist enough, no problem) and whole-wheat flour. The banana was one that had gone pretty brown before I thought to toss it into the freezer, and so I plucked it out of the freezer this morning, peeled it, nuked it, mashed it up-- what was left to mash, that is; the fun thing about freezing fruit is that the cell walls get slashed to bits by the ice crystals, so it ends up as mush-- and mixed in some stevia (for extra sweetening), fresh-grated nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla. Added that mush to the near-regular pancake batter, folded in chopped walnuts, and voila! banana-nut pancakes! My Hub, who is a big fan of banana-nut muffins, was thrilled. The damn things didn't really need syrup, either; I ended up just folding one in half and eating it dry.

I'm not counting calories, or fat grams, or even tracking my food. Then again, I'm not driven to eat too much, and not only have we had a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream sitting lonely in the freezer for days and days, but-- this is even more extraordinary-- we've had a 2-liter of diet soda, half-gone, sitting in the kitchen for more than a week. I say it's more extraordinary because I have a tendency to go through diet soda like a house afire; I buy a 2-liter and go through it in a single evening. It's a "safe binge". Haven't done that this time. Hell of a thing.

It's been a long slow crawl back from my crash & burn in September, just adding in things piece by piece, but I think it's working. It's extraordinary, but I think I'm finally getting what I've always wanted but that seemed impossible to get: a desire to eat healthy and to exercise that isn't linked to weight loss. I want to eat well because I want to eat well, not because I want to lose weight; I want to exercise because I want to exercise, not because I want to lose weight. And, yeah, I'd still very much like these damned extra 15 lbs to go away, and the inches that came with 'em, but that's sort of incidental; more importantly, I want to be able to run a 5K again, and maybe a half-marathon at some point in the next five years, I want to eat healthy and simply and stay this comfortable with it. If the pounds go away, that's good, and I'll appreciate having access to the just-reached-goal-weight section of my closet again, but if not, if I stay this size but manage to keep up the healthy eating and the exercise, that's fine.

Happy happy happy. I think I'm going to have meat tomorrow, since we're going out for our anniversary, but hey, today will have been the second day this week of complete meatlessness. Cool. Very cool.

My poor parents. They were puzzled enough when my sister became a vegetarian; when they find out about me they're going to wonder what the hell they did that made us turn out like this. Heh.

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Vegetarian testing... testing... 1 2 3

So, I talked to my Hub, and he's cool with the idea of me going vegetarian. Like everything else, we'll be working it out as we go along.

Today, just for the hell of it, I figured I'd try out a meatless day. Breakfast: granola with yogurt. Lunch: sushi, salad, pear and yogurt. (It was delayed, and I was hungry.) Dinner: broiled whitefish, steamed asparagus with lemon, and baked pears with strawberry sauce (recipe to follow later, because YUM).

I'm actually really pleased. I don't know when my head started equating this sort of eating with elegance and luxury, but simple, produce-full foods like this give me a kind of happy comfort. The closest I can come to explaining it is that I feel like I'm eating like a rich person. Everything I ate all day was just so damn pretty, and simple and filling and lovely.

Hell, that's huge. Closing in on two and a half years of healthy living, and I seem at least to have transformed my idea of the good life. It is, it seems, possible to become That Girl after all.

So, that's one day. What plan I have thus far is to shoot for three days of vegetarian eating per week, and then move up to a goal of five per week, and then eventually flip over so that I only eat meat on rare occasions. Slooow transition period.

I stocked up on bulk TVP (textured vegetable protein) granules at Whole Foods. Generally I don't buy a lot at Whole Foods, since there's the dual problem of things being more expensive and things being so damn cool and prettily displayed, which makes me want to buy everything. However, they've got bulk grains and whatnot, and bulk TVP, which is significantly cheaper than the kind in the small bags. (Mental note: also bulk rolled oats and steel-cut oats, the prices of both of which appear to be a nice bit less per pound than buying boxes of the stuff.) TVP is already cheaper than ground beef: current prices for the cheapest ground beef at PeaPod is $3.29/pound, and I bought bulk TVP for $1.69/pound. Half the price already-- and that's with the TVP still dry. Calculating generously so as not to overly offend the beef, that's going to end up with the TVP at a quarter of the price of the ground beef. It's half the protein content of ground beef, but on the other hand, pretty well fat free. What the hell, I'll take it.

Also, I've had TVP in dishes that my Hub ate in the past, and he never seemed to mind. This is promising.

I promised my baked pear recipe, and here it is-- seriously, you must try this.

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Take 4 ripe pears, peel them and core them and slice them up into eighths. In a small baking dish, whisk together 1/2 cup water, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, a small pinch of salt, a small splash of vanilla extract, and a bit of ground cloves (mine's fairly freshly ground, which I recommend). Put the pears in, and arrange them so that as many as possible have one side sitting on the bottom of the dish. Bake for 20 minutes, turning the pears over once if you like. (I forgot to turn mine, and they turned out just fine.)

In the meantime, grab some frozen strawberries. Nuke them for a few minutes in a microwave-safe bowl, and they'll disintegrate. Add a splash of red wine and a pinch of sugar, and then smoosh it up with a fork or (my proud method tonight) using a stick blender. Voila: strawberry sauce.

Serve the pears with a nice drizzle of the strawberry sauce over them. The pears are sweet, the strawberry sauce is tart, and it has all sorts of fragrance from the vanilla and cloves and fruit. Very yummy. So yummy, in fact, that my Hub, who has a tub of Ben & Jerry's tucked away in the freezer, completely forgot that he had the option of ice cream. Hooray!

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Well now

I actually came home on Tuesday, full of stress and ready to either cry or beat something up, and headed directly for the treadmill. Actually used it as stress reduction. Hell of a thing.

For the hell of it, I brought along my heart rate monitor (which I have named Thumper) today so that I could occasionally close my office door, put on my sneakers and strap on Thumper, and rock out to music on my iTunes. The glory of my job is that nobody notices I'm here in person, only via e-mail, and so I regularly have large chunks of the day when nobody even walks by my office. Stress reduction via silly dancing is still a classic, and, hey, what the hell, I need a little extra motion in my day.

I'm breaking up our grocery bill into several different categories: meat, produce, dairy, grains/pasta/bread, taste sensations (things where a little goes a long way and really kicks up the taste of a dish, like vinegars, garlic, herbs, spices, strong cheese, and so forth), and treats. I have it in my head that if I cut back on the meat and get us more dependent on other (and cheaper) protein sources, that will give us more money for piles of vegetables. Which, in turn, means that we'll have less meat per meal (and, I'm hoping, at least two or three nights a week of vegetarian meals-- that's thus far a theory), and a ton of veggies, and that is definitely of the good.

As part of this process, I've signed us up for weekly produce boxes from a grocery store that specializes in local (if possible), organic (if possible) produce. We'll be getting a mad variety of fruits and vegetables every week for $15, since in essence this means we'll be getting the benefits of buying in bulk without the boredom factor, and for a bonus, we'll be supporting a small business and local growers. We'll get to try lots of new things. I am well and truly pleased and really, really can't wait to get my hands on our first batch of fantastical veggies.

I'm still eyeing vegetarianism. My sister and best friend are both vegetarians, and they both are dating/living with guys who are definitely not vegetarians. My Hub is most definitely not a vegetarian, and as far as I could tell his main objection to me going veggie would be that he'd be worried about how this would impact his ability to eat lovely meat foods. I'm thinking that before I broach the subject with him, I should figure out some options.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that I'm not as keen on meat as I am on the way meat is prepared. I'm thinking that I should do some experiments with trading out the meat in some recipes for tofu or extra veggies, working in beans and whatnot. More investigation is definitely in order. This is going to be interesting.

More exercise, more veggies, more water. Slow and steady, yo.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

The rambly state of my life

Lordy, lordy, lordy.

We're busy at home, re-arranging the entire apartment two rooms at a time. Which is a mess, and stress, and means that I have lost two weekends in a row to this, with little else to show for it.

We're busy at work, and I'm stealing time to update because it's been one emergency after another here for weeks at a time, and I'm desperately tired of it.

It's bitterly cold here, and yet we keep walking places, bundled up with three or four layers of clothes. My Hub keeps turning on the electric radiator instead of putting on socks and a sweatshirt, and I'm thinking that a discussion about the electric bill is coming up soon. Yes, I have turned into my father, why do you ask?
On the up side, I got my exam for life-insurance purposes this morning, and in spite of the indignity of having to pee in a cup and the ick factor of having blood taken (I'm terribly squeamish about my veins; I sometimes think that I put on weight just to encase them in a protective sheath of fat), I learned two fun things. First of all, I'm an inch taller than the last time I was measured, which was something like fifteen years ago. I can only assume that either I had a lousy measurement that time, or that I got the number wrong in my head and have been quoting it wrongly ever since, or that I had a tiny growth spurt in late adolescence. Five three and a half in my bare feet! Huzzah!

Second thing was that I was weighed, wearing clothes, and that came out lighter than the last time that I weighed myself naked. Either I'm losing weight in tiny increments (possible) via the I'm Doing The Best I Can Under These Circumstances plan, or I'm at least maintaining. I'm not gaining, and haven't gained since October: this is good. I'd very much like to get rid of these excess 15 pounds, but I'd rather have them creep off at a snail's pace than to do something drastic (which, as we all know, makes me crazy). So, that's okay.

The life insurance, by the way, is another step we're taking toward the eventual possibility of having a baby. Easier to buy insurance for me now than later, and lord knows that if something goes wrong with the pregnancy I'd want my Hub taken care of, particularly if he ends up with a baby and no wife. I don't think that would happen, but it's comforting to have a solution in place, anyway.

I made another Kathleen Daelmanns recipe for my Hub yesterday, involving the complete dismantling and skinning of a whole chicken. Seriously, I stripped off the skin (and yelped "Oh my God, now the chicken's NAKED!"), stripped the meat off the bones, stuck all the bones in a bag for future stock preparation, and cooked the meat. Egad. I'm still kind of weirded out by that, though. Every time I dismantle a chicken I have to sit and think for a while about whether or not I really want to keep doing this carnivore thing. Vegetarianism has started to look very, very good. I have very few qualms about dismantling vegetables and legumes and fruits and mushrooms. My sister and my best friend have both been vegetarians for years-- ovo-lacto-- and I keep thinking that really, that sounds about right. Dunno. I might start leaning that direction, see what happens.

I've honestly been trying to remember the exact information for my slaws, but what the hell, I threw them together to taste, so you can, too. For the beet & carrot one, I used shredded beets (raw and peeled, although about half of the ones I had on hand were pre-roasted so I used those, and it wasn't a problem), shredded carrots (peeled first), coarse salt, fresh-ground black pepper, a bit of olive oil, a bunch of freshly grated ginger, red wine vinegar, and three components from a mashed-up orange: zest, juice, and pulp. There may be something else in there, but that was what I had; combine everything but the veggies first and taste it until it seems like something you'd like. You may want to rinse and drain the shredded beets, because OH MY GOD the beet juice gets everywhere, it's like a crime scene.

The other one was shredded carrots, shredded radishes, and shredded peeled broccoli stems (which I had on hand, and which I'm inordinately fond of), with much the same sauce, only I used sesame oil instead of olive oil, and didn't have the orange involved. It's total confetti, red and pink and orange and pale green all over.

I must make zucchini hash again, now that I have such a swift way to make it. Oh, and definitely must try the parsnip/spinach/artichoke cassarole again. Hooray for the food processor!

My Hub is on-again, off-again when it comes to exercise, but he says he's going to get on track with it when we're done hauling shit around in the apartment. Fine by me. I'm going to see if I can get him on the treadmill for ten minutes tomorrow, with the heart rate monitor on, just so he can get a more realistic picture of how hard he's working. Either way, he's been helping out in the Let's Eat More Vegetables campaign, particularly since he's very fond of slaw, and carrots are dirt cheap.

Did I mention that our Garbage Stock (i.e. made from the scraps of veggies and random raw chicken bones) turned out well? It did. It has a gorgeous gelatin-y thing going on when it's chilled, and it's easy to scrape the fat off the top, and it turns back to liquid almost immediately upon being heated. We've been using it in everything. I think we may never buy actual chicken stock again, this shit is so easy and convenient to make.

I'm still muddling along on the diet and exercise front. It's good in some spots and iffy in others. I'm comforted that, in spite of my indulgances with ginger cookies (oh GOD I love ginger cookies) and Valentine's Day chocolates, I seem to have been keeping on track with exercise and general food choices well enough not to have gained anything and-- maybe?-- to have lost weight. I am not going to get weird and mental about this. More fruits and veggies, whole grains over processed, small amounts of meat, small amounts of healthy fat. It gives me just enough leeway, I think, so that I can go back and forth in the endless battle with the mental aspect of food and the sneaky treats and occasional binges don't make me gain.

I signed up for a martial arts class taught through the park district, cheap enough that if it turns out I don't like it, I can bail without too much guilt. Also signed up-- again!-- for swimming lessons. I signed up last year, only to have the rug pulled out from under me with a work committment that kept me from attending; this year, though, both me and my Hub are signed up. Six weeks of once a week for swimming, twelve weeks of Mondays & Fridays for the martial arts. I hope I like it. My Hub used to do judo, back in college, and there's a judo school not too far from here; if I end up liking martial arts, I may have to check that out, and get him to come with me. And if not, twenty bucks for a twelve-week class is still a very good investment.

I'm kind of rambly, I know. Hell, I should get back to work.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Quick, to the Batmobile!

Crazy busy lately, both at home and at work, but I just had to say this: I love my new heart rate monitor. (Omitron, available at Amazon for about $35.) Seriously, this is the first time that I'm actually putting two and two together and figuring out what bodily sensations go along with pushing myself too hard at exercise. Well, I take that back: I knew. But on the other hand, it was really easy to dismiss it as being a wuss, or being lazy. With biofeedback confirming my suspicions, it's a whole different thing.

This thing is AWESOME. I mean, I really wish that I'd got this thing last summer when I was on my downward spiral, because I had no reason to kick myself, and maybe an unbiased, purely factual bit of input from a machine could have kept me from getting all wacky in the head about my fitness. Then again, at that point I was probably already skewed sideways to the point where I might not have believed the machine, or used it to kick myself in some other way. Ah, well, that's the past.

At the moment, I'm below where I'd like to be in terms of my cardiovascular fitness. My heart rate goes up to about 170/180 when I'm running along at just 5 mph, and since I'm just on Week 2 of the C25K program (a.k.a. the "How Meg Gets Her 5K Groove Back" program), I'm only running for about a minute and a half at a time. According to my calculations, 171 bpm is 90% of what should be my top bpm. Eep. I gotta say, I can't wait for those numbers to come down. I'm trying very hard to run a bit slower, in an effort to keep from doing myself any damage.

My Hub's situation is... odd. He keeps hurting himself when moving furniture or getting sick or something, and it seems like a hideous imposition to ask him about if he's planning on exercising when he's so sore... or if he's planning on getting back into it at all. I'm terribly curious, but I don't want to push. (Ya don't ask someone else to climb Mt. Everest for you, they do it for themselves.) I've been trying to figure out a delicate way to ask. I should probably forget delicate and just get it over with.

In other news, we hosted a party in which our guests willingly and eagerly partook of a whole bunch of fairly healthy foods, including two kinds of slaw (I am getting damn good at those, I must say), broiled fennel, and berry cobbler. All from recipes (some mildly tweaked to flavors I liked better) from the Kathleen Daelmanns cookbooks. I've been doing a victory dance every since, because I've never seen vegetables served at a party that weren't a) raw, with dip, or b) a salad. I guess a slaw is technically a kind of salad, but there was no lettuce involved, and frankly, I got people to cheerfully eat vegetables so I'm waving aside all technicalities.

And oh, the COLOR. Such vivid color on the plate in the middle of winter is just all kinds of decadent all on its own. Ooooh. So pretty.

Oops, gotta run. Like I said-- very busy! I miss you all!

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I kinda wish I had my therapist again

I've been thrown for a loop here, folks. I've been twitchy and edgy and weird all week, and I think I finally figured out what's going on.

My Hub has gotten the bit between his teeth on several things lately. Fitness isn't the only thing; he's also in a fever to rearrange the apartment and to shake up the finances. He's started clearing things up and maneuvering around, and I've been sort of shrinking into a corner and staring, startled by the sudden movement.

I think I'm mostly freaking out because I'm no longer in full control of the situation. Most of this stuff I've been doing alone, ever since I was in college, and even when Hub and I became a thing I was still in charge of them. Currently my Hub is charging full steam ahead into all of this stuff, and it feels like all my carefully built plans are being yanked around and broken and pulled away from me. I'm definitely freakin'.

Thing is, I'm pleased that he's doing this. I'm happy with the idea of having a full partner in this stuff. I just am not comfortable with the pace of change, not comfortable at ALL, and in reaction I've been withdrawn and motionless. Which, you know, doesn't help matters.

Clearly what needs to happen is that we need to sit down and sort this stuff out, figure out some way of harnessing his energy to my planning capabilities, and move on from there. What's stopping me? The only thing I can think of is that I'm scared that my stuff won't be important anymore, that my ideas of how things should proceed will get pushed aside. I'm very good at being the solo control for anything, but ask me to be part of a team and weird things happen.

Conclusion: I need to figure out what I want, and make sure they're on the table, and not wilt under the least pressure and let 'em go. If I'm going to be partners with my Hub, I need to be a partner, not a grudging follower. Gotta go toe-to-toe.

In other news...

Well, let's see. I seem to have a good grasp of soothing myself at work with hot tea and hot cocoa, which is good. I've caught myself several times thinking I was hungry when the sensation was, in fact, higher up than actual hunger and actually indicates nervousness (particularly when put together with all my other twitchy symptoms), and worked to calm myself down instead of eating. I bought chocolate thingies at Trader Joe's and yet I have only gone nutso on 'em once, since, and yet they're STILL not all gone. I've also left them out for my Hub's availability, rather than hiding them away as my secret little treat. When my Hub was having, as he called it, a "cheese and tomato evening", which usually means that he's so stressed that he wants a calzone, I talked him into getting a slice from the pizza place around the corner, and then we went home and I made dinner-- pork tenderloin and two veggie sides, which he raved over. (Thank you, thankyouverymuch.) I'm chugging through the first week of C25K, adjusting it so that I'm still doing the same time intervals, just at a higher rate of speed than will challenge me. I love getting off the treadmill just dripping with sweat; it is such a good, good way to start the day.

On the other hand, we have been spending money like we've got Brewster's millions-- as fast as if we had a time limit-- and we're only about a month away from having to start working two new things into our budget. My Hub, who is blissfully unaware of what the math means, keeps suggesting yet another expense. I am losing it on this one. We need to do a serious sit-down discussion on this, but the pressure will be on me to explain the math to my Hub, who is not very mathy. The pressure here is

Also, my damn oral surgeon's appointment keeps getting delayed due to emergency patients, which is fine for them but I swear I keep feeling like I'm on the verge of becoming an emergency patient myself. My mouth hurts, dammit. I'm tired of it hurting. I would like a consulation, please.

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

I am the queen of vegetable hash

I cannot stop shredding vegetables. I've got the big box grater and tonight I shredded up two small zucchini, two carrots, and some parsnip, threw 'em in a clean dish towel to squeeze some of the water out, then threw 'em in the pan with chopped onion, chopped garlic, basil, salt, pepper, scallions, and the remains of the chicken from the other night (which has now been used for every meal since). Salt & pepper & a bit of parmesan cheese, and that was our dinner. My Hub was thrilled with it, and I'm pretty proud. We had a bit of toasted bread on the side, and that was pretty much the whole thing right there. Oof, I'm full. Vegetables are fabulous.

I'm telling you, shredded vegetables are possibly the easiest way to get 'em on the table. Once they're shredded, they cook crazy fast, or-- if you're making slaw, which I highly recommend you do-- they soak up flavor really well. We've been going through beet slaw and carrot slaw like mad lately, to the point where I am completely out of carrots after having several pounds of them in the fridge last weekend. If you've got a green veggie side already, and you put some carrot or beet slaw on there, too, then you've got two bright colors on the plate that aren't brown or beige, and it's astonishing how nice it makes the meal feel.

(Bonus about the slaw: it lasts all week and doesn't need to be heated up. Instant veggie side dish.)

I'm currently baking a lasagna, sort of by the seat of my pants, because we hadn't made a bring-along for the week's lunches and time was rather of the essence. I very nearly froze up and didn't do it, because we were out of spinach and the only other obvious choice for an add-in-- the zucchini-- had just been used up in tonight's glorious veggie-hash experiment. Finally I just said, "Oh, fuck it" and put a ton of mushrooms in, along with some olives and fresh oregano and fresh thyme and frozen basil (those little cubes of basil from Trader Joe's are the BEST THING EVER) and garlic and onion and salt and pepper and I forget what else, but there was a lot of tastiness in there. Browned up the ground turkey, cooked the lasagna noodles, slopped/layered the whole thing together with some cottage cheese (my Hub has something against ricotta, and what the hell, skim cottage cheese is everywhere) and a bit of a grate of parmesan cheese, and now it's in the oven. Eventually it'll get topped with cheese and broiled a bit and then I'll let the damn thing cool and chop it up for lunches, but in the meantime I am going to sit here and drink some beer and watch what appears to be the Superbowl. (I voted for the Puppy Bowl on the Animal Planet channel, but alas, the actual game has apparently been interesting this year, so my Hub wants to watch the whole thing.)

It's been a weird weekend and the apartment is more in chaos than it was at the beginning of the weekend, but the bare basics necessary for another week of work have been covered: laundry and lunches. I hope that work is calm enough tomorrow that I can get some of the chaos dealt with tomorrow evening.

Thanks for all your help re: C25K. I'm going to start Hub with a warm-up week of sorts, 30 seconds running/90 seconds walking, and then the next week get to the actual program. I'm planning on impressing the importance of stretching and warm-up/cool-down periods on him, so hopefully he'll make it through without hurting himself or scaring himself off of exercise.

Ah, there's the timer. Must deal with lasagna some more. Later!

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Saturday, February 04, 2006

Voila! ...and some C25K questions.

As the housewares order leaks slowly into our possession, I am now the proud owner of an actual immersion blender. Sadly, tonight we are roasting a chicken. (I'm rather keen to find out how this works out, though, 'cause I've never roasted a chicken of my very own before.) I've been trying to figure out exactly how these two things ought to get together, but nothing anywhere near good has come to mind.

I had a brilliant plan when I woke up this morning: I would exercise and then I would reorganize the kitchen. Then came the part where I prepared the chicken for roasting (seasoning and stuffing herbs under the skin hours in advance), and ended up sticking my whole hand underneath the skin of the breast and thighs. The chicken, much to my dismay, ended up looking like it was wearing an odd little shirt. The problem with cooking whole chickens is that it brings me face to face with how bodies are put together, which makes me think about how my body is put together, and thus drives me into pondering my own mortality. It made me feel very odd when I took a jog slightly afterward, because parts of my tummy and rear still move around out of sync with the body parts underneath them.

I kind of got thrown off my day at that point, and I'm not sure what the hell happened. That said, we ended up having zucchini hash, beet slaw, and lovely roasted chicken for dinner, so hopefully I can get used to the whole-chicken manipulation and do this again at some point.

Confession: I have really fallen down on the job where my running is concerned, dating back to September when the depression really started going berzerk. Since that point, I've been less prone to push myself, and thus there's been more walking and less jogging on the treadmill. When I was home for Christmas, my sister the marathon runner went on a nice little jog with me and I had to stop, several times, in order to walk. It would have been terribly embarrassing if it wasn't for the fact that my sis isn't the type to expect things of me; to her, I'm just her beloved sister, and she's willing to do things with me that she's not as good at as I am, and vice versa. (Ah, I do love her.)

I've been putzing around on this for months now, but now I have to set a good example for my Hub, and so rather than toss myself head-first back into trying to jog the whole half-hour, today I started Couch to 5K. You know, that was nice. I got a good workout without murdering myself. It was just the right amount of pushing. I did put the treadmill at an incline, so that it would be more like I was running outside and less like I was on a treadmill, but that was the only way I changed up the plan. Very, very nice.

My Hub found my print-out of the C25K plan and is considering it. He insists that since I'm "the expert", he'll trust me on this. This makes me nervous. He's starting from the ground up, and is at that stage where he's going to dread doing it no matter what, so I'm not sure what the hell to do. I didn't get around to trying to run for quite some time, but I suspect that a) since he is determined to do something that feels like progress as soon as possible and b) switching out the jogging/walking does make the time go faster, it's better to get him started.

Any advice? Seriously, this is the first time I've done C25K, and since I'm not coming at it as a beginner, I really don't know what I'm getting him into. He has no experience in running, and is at real beginner status both in running and in fitness in general. He can walk up to seven miles (as evidenced in our repeated treks all the way downtown), so he's got a pretty good base for a fitness program, but... I just don't to lead him into killing himself with exercise or getting so frustrated that he drops the whole thing, you know?

There seems to be a lot of C25K folks out there. Did you repeat some weeks? Was it awful? Is it okay for a beginner? Please tell!

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Thursday, February 02, 2006


First off: We have tried the Homemade Pizza Co., and they are good. Particularly, OH MY GOD, the salads, but the pizzas are also quality. Yum.

Here's the twist: we didn't finish the pizza. We got two, because we couldn't agree on which one to get. I ate two pieces, my Hub ate four, and we shared a small salad (pear slices, blue cheese, candied walnuts, balsamic vinaigrette, YUM), and now we have a lot of pizza sitting in the kitchen.

This just doesn't happen, folks. Usually I'll have four pieces, and my Hub will have up to twice as much. Every. Single. Time. In the bad old days, we used to plow through vast amounts of pizza. Not tonight.

Also, no meat on these pizzas. Thin crust. Whole wheat. Usually any of those things will be an issue for my Hub, but this time through, he was so thrilled with the pizzas that he didn't mind at all. Wow. But mostly, I'm shocked at myself, because I'm done. I'm full-- not stuffed. I had two pieces and just kind of forgot to get more. Holy shit. We've got the rest of the pizza put away in the fridge, wrapped up for lunch tomorrow (and possibly dinner).

Here's another thing: for two days in a row, I've found treats in the break room, tried them, found them wanting after one bite, and pitched the rest. I wasn't hungry, I didn't want 'em, I tried 'em and then extravegantly chucked the rest in the trash. I've identified that I have a tendency to want just a liiiiittle something extra first thing when I get to the office and first thing after lunch-- and now that I've got the option of drinking a mug of sugar-free hot cocoa with a little instant coffee mixed in, that seems to satisfy the urge. It's not that I'm actually hungry at these points, I just have a little mental urge that needs to be satisfied, and this seems to do it.


In other news, the official total of meals that the Chinese take-out covered for us this week: 5 1/2. Four of those were from my small Szechwan chicken and the little thing of rice. I'm not sure what surprises me more, that there were leftovers at all or that there weren't only leftovers, but leftovers of leftovers, that neither one of us plowed through the food on either night. Totally extraordinary. Wonderful.

I think the slow and gentle approach is starting to edge me into normalcy. We'll see. But now, it's so very much time for bed.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Is today the revolution? Should I put on my shoes?

One of the many reasons that I love my sister is that she has the magical ability to knock me out of a cold rage by saying something pertinent but hilariously funny at just the right moment. At one point a few years back, I was having a weekend full of pure fury and informed my sister that I was having class rage. She perked up and asked, "Is today the revolution? Should I put on my shoes?" Shoes, apparently, being necessary for all the marching that a good revolution would entail.

I always think of that when I'm having days like this.

I love my friends. I do. It's just that there are days that I'm so envious of their lives that I have to bite my tongue to keep from getting snappy with them. Okay, it's not their lives, it's their financial situations. I try to remember that I've got it good in so many ways, that I've got the best husband ever and two very sweet cats and a great family, both on my side and on my Hub's side, and that we're safe and warm and fed and healthy. We found each other young enough to have a few years of us-time and still get around to having kids before we get too old. We get along and we work really well together as a team. There's nothing that I really and truly need that I don't have. I gotta remember that.

It just wears on me. I forget, you know, that I'm living in a whole different earnings bracket than most of my friends. I forget, and then something happens to remind me, and the jarring difference between what I worry about and what they don't have to worry about... well, it really wears on me. Bills, student loans, retirement funds, insurance, and trying to figure out how to save for a house of some sort and trying to find a point where we'll be able to afford to have kids without completely screwing everything up. I can deal with those worries. I just don't know how to deal with the fact that other people, people I know and love, are comparatively living in the lap of luxury. The envy just kind of grinds me down into an angry little nubbin, and I hate feeling like that.

I get the same damn thing when it comes to naturally thin women. I know that it doesn't help me at all to get angry, but sometimes I just can't help it. I hate that I have to put so much thought and work into something that comes so naturally to other people.

Envy is just no good. I have to deal with this, because I sense that somehow the key to loving myself for what I am and forgiving myself for my faults has something to do with forgiving other people for having different lives, having more money, having different bodies. If I can relax and let go of the resentment that other people have better luck in some things, then I'll be okay with what I have. I think.

Gotta keep my shoes off. No marching today.

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Men are from Mars, that's for damn sure

Today's Hub adventure: having given himself extremely sore legs from his treadmill experiment, he proceeded to give himself very sore arms with weights. Then he came into the other room, where I was doing yoga, and said, "I think that the time has come for me to admit that I don't know what the hell I'm doing. I should do some research."

I sent him over to ExRx.net, which covers pretty much everything ever having to do with exercise. Hopefully if he won't listen to me, he'll listen to the professionals. I've seen this pattern of behavior before-- not just in him, in me, too-- and, once he's assimilated the information for himself, he'll be good to go.

In other news, I made an executive decision last night and ordered Chinese food. We were both exhausted and a downward spiral was beginning in which my Hub will default into "I MUST HAVE PIZZA" mode. There's a place called ChinaLite that I've been wanting to try for quite some time; they're all about light sauces, going light on the oil, no MSG, and using the freshest ingredients available. Nothing deep-fried, nothing greasy. Totally on the same scale of affordability as the other places around here, and, as an added bonus, we could order online. (Which is quickly becoming a requirement when it comes to ordering out.) They showed up in less than 30 minutes with a metric ton of extremely tasty food, most of which ended up in the refrigerator because we were full. I ordered the small Szechwan chicken, I swear, and yet when it arrived the dish without the rice weighed FOUR POUNDS. We barely put a dent in our food.

My Hub was very dubious about ordering Chinese, since he's recently been burned by ordering what he refers to as "corn syrup pork" at Panda Express, back when I was taking a sick day. He's very fond of good Chinese food, but reacts very badly to middlin'-to-bad Chinese food. He just ordered a salad in this case, assuming that they couldn't screw it up too badly. Then he tasted the dumplings and my Szechwan chicken, and declared that this was now our official Chinese restaurant forever and ever (with the exception of Moon Palace down in Chinatown).

God, I love it when the healthier things are tastier. Granted, I think that our tastes have really been changing. All we need now is for a healthy pizza company to start up around here and we'll be golden. We can cook our own, of course, but I long to be able to order a pizza of moderate size with a whole-wheat crust, nonfat sauce with just the right amount of herbs and spices, topped with fresh basil, fresh tomatoes, grilled portabello mushrooms, and dotted with goat cheese. I'm drooling just thinking about it. It must be lunchtime.

...Wait, holy cow, I think I just found the answer: Homemade Pizza Co.. They make it, you bake it.

Savory Pie
Inspired by the flavors of Provence: Roasted red peppers, marinated artichokes, carmelized onions, our mild Chèvre and imported Kalamata olives.


Spinach Pie
Mounds of fresh spinach with Feta cheese, sundried tomatoes, roasted garlic, pine nuts, and a hint of oregano over an olive oil glaze. Imported Kalamata olives if you wish. A pizza you'll crave.

Whole wheat crust available. Oh my God, I think I'm in love. Chicago has everything. I can never move. Eeeee!

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