The Spell is Broken (or Back to the Gym!)

Am I the only one who does this?  You stop going to the gym  for a good reason (hand surgery/dad’s death/out of the country, etc.) and then you get all gym shy, and just can’t make yourself go back?   Yes?  I’m the only one?  Well, anyway, TODAY I WENT BACK TO THE GYM!!!  Yahoo.

To be fair to myself, the incision in the palm of my hand is still very irritating, and the thought of putting a weight in that hand or using a bar/machine is just too much for me.  And my leg/knee is bothering me enough that I don’t want to do any more damage to it.  But as I told Shelley, if I can wash dishes with that hand, surely I could put it in the pool for the same amount of time.  So that’s what I did.  Got my suit on before I left the house, and just went straight to the pool.  40 minutes!  About half ‘running’ in the pool, and the other half swimming.  It felt so great.  It was really fun to run without my leg hurting.  I think I’ll go back tomorrow!

And now, back to my favorite topic, FOOD!   Most of these pics are not new ideas, but either involve a shortcut or a twist on a favorite recipe.

I made a batch of the Spaghetti with Bacon sauce.  That is a big recipe–12 servings.  I decided to go ahead and make the whole recipe because the sauce will freeze well, and I can use it during my Spa Week (more on that tomorrow!) and/or during my recovery from my second hand surgery (scheduled for Nov 1.)  The shortcut here is that I used the pre-cooked bacon crumbles that I got from Costco.  I don’t like cooking bacon, so these things really work well for me.  I usually have to put the bag of bacon in the freezer because well, you know–big food from Costco, and there is only one me.

While the sauce simmered, I chopped/sliced/diced the “big four” veggies that I like to have pasta sauce on top of–zucchini, carrots, onions, and mushrooms.

I used half a serving of Barilla Plus pasta with these veggies.  Honestly, I prefer the veggies, but old habits die hard.  I have to keep trying the pasta once in a while.  That Barilla Plus has more protein than regular pasta because they use “legume flour blend.”  They irritate me though, because their labeling is misleading.  They tell you they have 17 grams of protein in 100g.  Wow!  Oh, but wait.  A SERVING is 56 grams.  You’d be eating 380 calories worth of pasta to get the 17 grams of protein.  Might as well eat one of those great “high protein energy bars.” Okay, rant over. This really was very tasty!  There’s a lot of parmesan cheese melted into the sauce at the end.

Last night I got home late after a trip to the big city.  I went to Trader Joe’s and stocked up on some specialty items that I can’t get in our little town.  By the time I got home I was really hungry.  And tired.  These are one of my old favorites–carrots, not even peeled, cut into chunks, sprinkled with Mrs. Dash and salt, and a little butter/lite butter on top, and microwaved for however long it takes for them to get nice and soft.  LOVE LOVE LOVE these.  (I think it took 4 minutes in my current microwave.)

And fortunately I had indulged in one of my favorite TJ’s pre-cooked meals:  Rosemary Chicken.  310 calories for a small chicken breast and a good amount of rice.  I think their secret is cooking the chicken and the rice in chicken broth because it is really so moist and flavorful.

Today, another favorite–butternut squash fries.  I think I like these because you get a bigger volume for your calorie dollar than sweet potato fries.  Anyway, the shortcut here, for me, is partially pre-cooking in the microwave.  Just stick the whole squash in there.  I put it in in the morning for 4 minutes (2 min, turn, another 2 min) so it was cooled off by the time lunch rolled around.  It makes it SO MUCH EASIER to cut up  and peel.  SO MUCH EASIER.  Bake as usual  (for me, 375 degree oven, 15 minutes, turn, another 10 minutes.)  I like to eat them with just a little cocktail sauce.  Is that weird?

This is just yogurt with some homemade granola, using Shelley’s recipe.  No shortcut here, but its fun to vary the nuts and fruit that I add to the recipe.  This one has pepitas and pine nuts, and raisins and dried apricots that I cut into bite sized chunks.  Very satisfying.

No picture, but you all know the trick about making your oatmeal with unsweetened almond milk, right?  Only 40 calories, and it makes it so delicious and creamy.  Just substitute the almond milk for the water specified, and cook as directed.

That’s all for now, folks.  What’s this world coming to–posting two days in a row?

A Day in the Life of… The Monk

It has been brought to my attention recently that The Monk has gotten short shrift on the blog.  You guys are sworn to secrecy–DO NOT TELL THE OTHER TWO DOGS THIS–Mr. Monk is one of my ALL-TIME favorite dogs.  All time.  And believe me, that is a lot of dogs–over 70 if my count is correct (I used to raise and show dogs.)  So I decided to follow The Monk around for 24 hours and let you in on why there might not be so many pictures of him on the blog.  I tell you the truth, these were taken over a 24 hour period, and all of them are of completely separate events.  I took over 70 pictures to document this day–aren’t you glad that I thinned them down to the most important events?

Let’s see.  The day started at about 3pm yesterday afternoon.  I was probably looking at the computer or reading, so Monk was in the bed under the desk getting a good chew in.

Chewing is actually hard work, so after a short while he takes a little break.

He spends almost every evening in “his” chair.

And every night I pick him up and carry him upside down to bed (this was a hard picture to take, because The Monk probably weighs 20 pounds and I usually carry him with both arms–had to balance him in one arm and try to snap the pic with the other!)

Bright and early the next morning its time for breakfast.  Of course, her Majesty has been tapping back and forth between the chair where I am reading, her crate, and the kitchen for at least an hour, TRYING to communicate to me that IT IS TIME TO EAT ITISTIMETOEAT EAT EAT EAT WE MUST HAVE FOOD STARVING DOGS HERE HAVEN’T EATEN FOR DAYS WEEKS MONTHS FEEDUSFEEDUSFEEEEEEEDUS!!!  As you can see, when I finally get up to fix their food, Monk waits patiently like the gentleman he is.

After breakfast we all head outside to “take care of business.”  Monk stands by the front door insisting he doesn’t have to “go potty.”

Finally, he ambles over to the yard.  He is a man of action once he gets going!

Back inside for the morning chew while mom checks her email.

When I move to my quilting table, Monk likes to position himself under that table.  He discovered this place, and I gladly provided beds for them under there.

Lunchtime (at the computer) and he shares his bed with Sophie.

BACK outside for another potty break.

And a nice little siesta in the sunshine.  No need to overdo.

When I call the dogs in, the other two come racing.  Not Monk.  He carefully makes his way into the house, often walking the same pathway, just like the original Mr. Monk trying not to “step on the crack.”

And, tonight’s chew, after dinner.

And this last picture is just one of the reasons I love this little man so much.  He very willingly gives up the place of honor to Her Majesty 95% of the time.  But every evening when I am laying on the sofa, after a while he gets off his easy chair and comes over and politely ASKS if he can get in my lap for a little while.

So there you have it.  A special sneak peek into the life and times of a very special dog.  (and BTW, I realize I have given you more of a sneak peek into the reality of my humble abode than I normally would have.  All in the name of good journalism I suppose.)

What’s Going On?

What’s going on?  Not much, really.  In case you can’t tell, I’m not much interested in chatting about weight loss these days.  Weight loss?  What is that?  When does that happen?  How does it happen?  I still have some of that ‘weight creep’ hanging on, and I am working more and less consistently at trying to remove it.

  • Eating healthy?  Check with an asterisk. I guess I’d say 80% of my choices and portions are very healthy.  I’d probably lose weight if I could make that 90%.  At least that’s what Jillian Michaels says.
  • Exercising?  Check with an asterisk.  My hand strength is  back, but the incision is taking its sweet time to heal, which is VERY aggravating.  And that little ‘knee hurt’ that I mentioned a few weeks ago?  Maddening, really, that I could injure myself so badly from a few paces at a slow jog.  A jog so slow that Noah didn’t even break his pace.  But it was enough to jar something out of place.  So with only having one good hand and one good leg, I haven’t gone back to the gym.  I have continued to walk once or twice a day through the HORDES OF FLIES.  I’m sure these horrible little things have some reason for being, but for the life of me I can’t imagine what it is.

So most of my blogging’s been about the “and life” section of my subtitle.

The foodie speaks:

A few days ago I experimented with using Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Biscuit mix to make my blueberry scones.  Very nice!  A little ‘doughy’ in taste and texture, but I really like them.  Here’s the scones in progress.

At the same time, I had a massive yogurt making operation going on.  Multiple batches, and straining some of the yogurt to make my own ‘Greek style’ yogurt.  I wanted to make extra yogurt to share with my neighbor who shares her vegetables with me.

The finished scone:

And an inside peek to show you the berry to dough ratio!  I put two whole cups of berries in each batch of scones.

Some of the great tomatoes my neighbor shared with me.  I’ve been having them with a splash of balsamic vinegar and some chopped basil.  Very tasty!

As I mentioned, I’m VERY SUGGESTIBLE when it comes to food.  The other day I had planned on a piece of pre-cooked chicken breast and some left-over cooked broccoli for dinner.  That was as far as my planning went.  When reading the blogs that afternoon, Lynn mentioned sprinking some parmesan on her broccoli.  Mmmm.  Then Lyn wrote about some meat lasagne, which got me in the mood for Italian.  Hey!  I had some TJ’s marinara sauce in the freezer.  In about five minutes I had my chicken breast with some marinara sauce and topped with an italian cheese mix, as well as sprinkling some of the cheese on top of my broccoli.  This time being highly suggestible turned out healthy…

My breakfast clafouti, with raspberries in it.  To be honest, it looked better than it tasted.  Raspberries are too strong a taste for me, and so I ate it, but I picked out about half the berries.

And I have already mixed up dinner and have it waiting in the refrigerator.  Love to do this, because most days, by the time dinner rolls around, and the doggies have been fed, I am DONE.  Tonight I am going to finally have the   Apple-Bacon-Chicken Salad that Miz recommended. I followed the general recipe, but just mixed up a single serving.  I took a preview taste, and mmmm-mmm.  Thanks, Miz!  (Edited to add:  This was so delicious.  My easier quicker single serving: 3 oz. pre-cooked chicken breast chopped, 1 medium apple, peeled and chopped, 1 Tbsp pre-cooked bacon, 2 Tbsp yogurt, 1 tsp mustard, and I added 1 Tbsp roasted pepitas, which really added a needed crunch, and I didn’t have any green onions so I left those out.  Served it on a bed of chopped romaine.  Approx. 250 calories.Sorry, I ate it down before I took a pic!)

The Sophie Chronicles:

Since I started hand-quilting again in the evening, Sophie has been in seventh heaven.  She snuggles down right next to me under the quilt I am working on.  This is the most relaxed you will ever see Sophie.   She can almost forget all her worries about ruling the world.

New quiltworks:

I’ve been busy quilting!  This is the ‘quilt kit’ I made to work on post-surgery.  LOVED working on this.  A modern take on the traditional Double Wedding Ring pattern.

Love the backing fabric on this.

I really like this next quilt.  Very simple, but very cheery, to me.

I like the backing fabric on this one too!

These quilts, along with a few others, are on my Etsy site!   I’m getting better at putting the quilts on there.

Well, that’s all the news that’s fit to print around here.  Hope you all are doing well.  Keep making those healthy choices.


This is a photo essay from my trip to Africa last January that I never published.  As is obvious, I like shoes.  I was so touched by the shoes these little kids from the slums wore.  It was obvious to me, that even though this was a “soccer tournament,” most of these little kids were dressed in their best clothes for the American visitors.  Some of the little girls had a real sense of style and did the best with what they had.  You can see in the last photo that the pile of shoes that we brought with us was definitely the most popular with the soccer coaches, even though there was a whole roomful of sports equipment and clothing strewn about.

So last week I was at a meeting at church, and a young couple, who I admire very much, each had an idea for ministry that I got very excited about.  The husband happens to work at the same University hospital that I worked at, and he said that on a recent trip to the downtown area, he noticed the shoes of a homeless woman, and thought to himself that no one should have to wear shoes like that.  So he had the idea to collect good comfortable walking shoes and take them to homeless people on his lunch break!

Then his wife shared that she had been trying to figure out how we could set up a sponsorship program for the kids in a church in Haiti that our church has partnered with!

Both of these ideas are things that I feel passionately about.  Just that day I had been feeling so lost–what am I doing that is worthy? etc.  I know that there are some things volunteer-wise that I want to do that require the use of my hands, so that will have to wait until after I have my right hand surgery done.  But these two things are things I can do now!  I was so excited after that night.

Back to our regularly scheduled blogging tomorrow!

A Few Tidbits

Sorry I’ve been MIA for the last few days.  You probably figured out that as my hand improved, I would find more things to do besides type blog entries!  Here’s just a few pics from the last few days.

Friends?  Hard to tell.  Sophie comes and sits by Noah quite often.  When she’s not trying to boss him around, or refusing to play with him, or stealing his bone, I guess they could be considered friends.  Not exactly the character traits I look for in a friend…

One of the things I still can’t do with my hands is cut the dogs toenails.

Please! Will someone give me a manicure?

The other night I couldn’t find Monk anywhere.

The answer to the question "Where's Monk?"

The latest almost finished quilt.  Another thing I can’t do very well with my hand is use the rotary cutter.  So I will be waiting a few days to finish and put the binding on this quilt.  Then it will be listed on my Etsy shop!

Backing fabric flipped over:

Somehow Noah discovered the joys of the couch.  He started by just sitting his butt on the couch, thinking I wouldn’t notice.  Then he started jumping up on it to chew his bone.  That is not going to happen.  Don’t talk to me about doggie unions.  Some things in life aren’t fair.

Other news:  My stitches are out!  It felt a lot better to have them out.  They said I can swim and lift weights in another week.  And they said I could sew by hand.  I started working on some of my hand quilting that same night.  I haven’t hand quilted in 4 months!

I’ve been getting some good cardio walks in since my last entry!

Found a new recipe, Paleo Berry Cobbler, and it is definitely worthy!  No grains and no sugar. But definitely a dessert.  Check it out.  I made it with fresh peaches, and it was scrumptious.  If you make it into 6 servings, it will be  about 250 calories.  I would increase the ratio of fruit to topping the next time I make it, which will bring the calories down.    Don’t worry, I’m not turning into a carnivore.  But I like the idea of trying new foods (almond flour) and I like the idea of baking a dessert without grains and sugar!  BTW, the almond flour that I got at Trader Joe’s was extremely cheap compared to what I’ve seen locally.

I picked up some gluten free baking mix at the store today and am going to try making my scone recipe with that tomorrow morning.  I’ll let you know how that turns out!


Exercise Notes

Little by little, upping the exercise quotient again.  Just walks.  But going longer, and pushing myself.  I still feel very good, and strong too.  Guess what I noticed was missing, when I pushed myself on a longer walk.  Cardio…oops.  My legs didn’t  get tired of walking, but my breathing was pretty labored.  Not as in ‘my lungs hurt,’ but as in ‘Noah looking at me to see what the heck was going on.’  So as much as I despise sweating, that will be addressed.  I’m pretty proud of my blood pressure (106/72 on my day of surgery) and I don’t want to mess with that.

On a couple of my walks I even jogged for a bit.  Daydreamed about picking it up again.  But tonight my knee hurt a little.  These ‘hurts’ that I complain about aren’t the ‘ooh it hurts so good’ that you get after a heavy workout.  They are the ‘something is out of place and not working properly’ hurts. My goal in life  is to never have to have a knee or a hip replacement.  So I’m going to pay attention to what my body is telling me and be content with walking.  And goodness knows, if I do it right,  walking up and down the hills around here is plenty of exercise.  Add in the weights at the gym, and a swim or two, and I do believe I’ve got it covered.  As long as I do SOMETHING fast enough/hard enough to make it cardio.

I am still tracking my exercise on the President’s Challenge.   I am up to 24,000 points out of the 40,000 needed for the bronze award.  With 78 hours for the 18 weeks I’ve tracked it, that evens out to about 4.3 hours per week.  Not bad, but not up to my goal of 5-6 hours per week  (The National Weight Control Registry states that the majority of people who maintain their weight loss exercise an hour a day.  Most of them get that exercise by walking.)  Considering there was over a month in there where I was dealing with my dad’s health and then his death, that number is probably acceptable.

During my Biggest Loser sessions yesterday, they mentioned a Biggest Loser spa.  And I thought, that might be fun to go to.  Followed by, you could do that at home!  And thinking about how I prepared for this hand surgery by cooking ahead of time, and getting all the housework done ahead, I realized that gave me the luxury of a lot of extra time in the day.  So I wrote out a schedule of what it would look like to dedicate a longer period of time for exercise in each day, and I am going to put a ‘spa week’ on my schedule sometime in October.  I’m pretty excited about it.  Anyone want to join me?

Tomorrow I get my stitches out!  I’m anxious to see if I’m doing better than most people at healing (competitive much?) and to ask about when I can be safe lifting weights and swimming.  Swimming!  Can you believe that, as I write, a very cool wind is blowing through the window and rain is falling?  FINALLY!!

A Different Kind of Day

Today was a different kind of day.  I started my day same as normal.  And then I just didn’t feel like doing anything.  So I gave myself permission to do just that.  Maybe it was this poster I saw this morning.

I dunno.  Maybe I overdid yesterday.  Whatever it was, I stayed in my pajamas all day and was pretty content doing nothing.

Sophie got a little bored.





Noah was a good boy.



Sophie thought the picture needed some improvement.

Some of the recent eats:

I told you guys about this idea for fruit dip/spread a while ago.  This was the first time I made it.  Fixed dinner for my spiritual formation group last night–healthy taco salad (yumm) and strawberries with this dip.  It met with unanimous approval.    People were scraping their plates to get the last of it!   I had some leftover, so topped a white peach with a couple of tablespoons.  Divine!  Recipe for Creamy Fruit Dip.

Tried out that new recipe I mentioned the other day.  This was absolutely divine.  Maybe its been too long since I had the real thing.  But honestly, it tasted like coconut custard pie to me.  I made it this morning, and saved it for dessert tonight.  The rest is safely in the freezer.  Thanks again to the culinary genius of Georgie.  The thing about something like this is that yes, it tastes luxurious like dessert.  But the ingredients are healthy and are fueling your body while you indulge.  Its a win-win situation.

Dinner tonight was scrumptious.  I’m still trying to choose stuff that I don’t have to spend too much time chopping (what was I thinking of, buying a butternut squash,) and I’m still using paper plates (washing dishes is NOT fun) but I’m back to cooking obviously.  Leftover roasted beets, roasted green beans, and a piece of perfectly cooked salmon–yay me.  Too many times I get distracted and overcook it.

Been watching a marathon of Biggest Loser episodes today.  I feel a little guilty admitting to watching it, because I essentially disagree with most of what they do there.  But I pick up a few tidbits.  And today was particularly cathartic.   There was a father/daughter team on there that was particularly close, and I cried really hard a couple of times with their interactions.  And then that same father lost his brother DURING his time at the ranch and he was grieving, and I cried hard again during that episode.  I don’t cry much at all about losing my dad, so I guess I think its good that this happens once in a while.

And now I’m tired from doing nothing all day, so I think I’ll take a shower and head to bed. You all have a great weekend!

Eat Your Veggies!

This was the last of the giant batch of zucchini, corn, and onions that I cooked for myself last Thursday!  That means that five days later it still tasted fresh and delicious.  Last night I added a few cherry tomatoes and topped it with some shredded parmesan cheese, and called that dinner.  Completely satisfying, and filling too!

I used to think that cooked vegetables didn’t keep in the refrigerator, but I’ve learned that quite a few vegetable dishes make great leftovers.  When I worked I routinely cooked larger batches of vegetables so I would have stuff to take with me for my work lunches.

I had a question about cooking with olive oil, since I added a couple of teaspoons to these veggies while they were cooking.  Periodically I see negative things being written about cooking with olive oil on the blogs.  So I went to my ultimate blog expert–Georgie–who is an RD.  And she explained that it was the smoke point of olive oil that made it (and many other oils) dangerous.  The smoke point of olive oil is 400 degrees, so no danger of that happening, except the occasional time I forget what I am doing.    While I was on Georgie’s blog, I noticed a couple of really great veggie recipes that I have bookmarked to try.  Both involve pine nuts, which I just happen to have a few of–yumm.  Spinach with toasted pine nuts, and Cauliflower and brussel sprouts with pumpkin seed and pine nut topping.   I also found this recipe for Coconut banana protein bars, which has nothing to do with veggies.  But yumm, I will be making this one soon!  Georgie is really a wonderful reference tool for us healthy living/healthy cooking bloggers!

Anyway, while I am “convalescing,” I am being extra aware of what I am eating.  It would be really easy to succumb to the “I’m bored, must eat” philosophy.  Prepping all that food ahead of time really was helpful.  Continuing with the minimal sugar/flour thing makes it easier.  And writing down what I might eat for the day (subject to change without notice) and tracking my calories is really helpful too.  When I get the munchies, I look at what’s on the plan for the day and think, oh, in just an hour you can eat that.  I always include something that I consider a treat, like my lobars, or one of those chocolate peanut butter protein bars, or even some yogurt and granola.  I am very pleased with my food choices this week.  It could easily have gone another way.

I’m looking forward to a trip to the Farmer’s Market in our little town this afternoon, to get a few more veggies and some fruit too.

Do you have any special vegetable recipes that I need to try?