Project Update!



Yard guy showed up this morning bright and early. Glad I am a morning person too. He got  all this done in just about three hours. He did so much more than I would have done.

The ground is totally uneven, mostly sloping upward away from the house. He worked hard on getting the top of the stones level, and having them evenly placed at ground level, which involved hacking away at some very stubborn gigantic roots.


He even moved a couple of my pavers that I had just put on top of the roots, and got part of the root out and made the pavers more level with the ground. I am so thrilled. I have some planting mix in a bag, and I can fill in the little lower area and put some bedding plants there. How fun to be able to plant things in the ground!


He ended up making it a little larger than I had envisioned, so I am happy about that as well.

Yard guy surveys his handiwork.

Yard guy surveys his handiwork.

I went to the nursery and paid for a “scoop” of dirt, and yard guy will pick it up and bring it with him next time. Then we can fill in the entire area and remove that old box from around the maple. I am hoping it will really improve with the added ‘breathing room.’


Isn’t it pretty?


A Little Chat about Weight Loss and Clothes

As you know, I’ve been losing a little weight. I have a range of clothing sizes in my closet. One day I was wearing my “these are just a little too big” pants around the house, and I changed into my “these are just a wee bit snug” jeans before I went out to a meeting. Honestly, I felt a little schizophrenic that day. Because when I am wearing the loose ones, I feel good. I recognize that I have lost weight, and I feel ‘thin’ for a little while. When I am wearing the tight ones, yes, it is nice that I can fit in those again, but I feel ‘fat.’

I think there’s a place for both types of clothes during weight loss. I hear some bloggers say that they will only wear their super tight clothes as a constant reminder that they need to lose weight. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wearing my loose clothes and enjoying the fruits of my labor. Its pleasurable to be able to feel the weight loss in this way.

On the other hand, I also hear bloggers saying they are not going to buy any new clothes until they reach X weight, or even goal. They sometimes complain that their clothes are practically falling off of them. That’s not right! Its unnecessary. Right or wrong, in this country, where we buy way more than we need, there are always practically new clothes available in the thrift store in almost every size. I am not even a good “thrifter.” I am impatient and get bored easily. But I can usually breeze through a thrift store and find an item of clothing or two that fits my new size (bigger or smaller :} )

Wearing clothing that is way too large or way too small is not self-respecting. And self-respect is something I hear a lot of women seeking to lose weight say they lack. Wearing clothes that fit and make you feel good about yourself is a simple and cheap way to start working on that.

P.S. Important recipe information! When you try a new recipe its always good to run it through the calorie counter yourself. Especially when it seems too good to be true. I routinely do that. So imagine my distress when I double checked the calories on the two recipes I recently shared (the Shut Up Brownies and the Banana Muffins) and then I got my bag of oat bran out of the freezer and noticed that stats on it were significantly different than what calorie count (and my little calorie book) give oat bran. It changed the calories in the brownies from 80 to 110, which is still a good deal IMO. So just double check the calories in your oat bran if you are planning to try these recipes. The oat bran I actually had was 390 calories per cup. The oat bran I used in the calorie counter was only 240 calories per cup.

Weekend Fun

Functional exercise! That’s what’s been going on around here the last few days.

Did I mention I have a new yard guy? (I love saying that!) Over the last couple of days he’s turned this:



Into this:



That means a LOT of functional exercise for me as I stack it all. There are two more gigantic piles of wood on the property for me to stack.

Then, after discussing with yard guy and a consultant from the nursery, I am finally going to make a planter bed around my oldest Japanese maple that has outgrown its pot and has roots in the ground. I am pretty excited about this project. (the rotted bench will be removed!)


Excited enough that I took three trips to Lowe’s and brought home three loads of those pavers. And unloaded all three loads, 6 pavers at a time, into the wheelbarrow, and then over to stack.

The dawrgums were quite enamored of the stacked stones.





Here’s the outline of what we hope to do. Yard guy is going to level the ground a little. And I do believe that I will let him move and stack the rest of those blocks. I think I prefer my little gym exercises!


I did go to the gym yesterday and swam 36 lengths. My real motivation was to get to sit in the spa! Ahhhhhh….


Balancing Act

Sometimes I feel like I’m on a very narrow balance beam. Other times I feel like I’ve got the whole floor to myself. Its a balancing act figuring out what to eat and how much to eat so I will lose weight the most efficient way possible without going so far that I will lose control and regain.

I admit that as time goes on, with this diet, I am a little more obsessive about it. Every night before I go to sleep, I write down my meal plan for the next day. And then the next day I will either write out the entire meal plan on my refrigerator notes, or I will write down each meal as it occurs. (This is not as hard as it sounds, It usually looks something like this:)

  • BF 250
  • LUN SH 170, veg 50
  • BAR 170
  • DIN fish 120, veg 50
  • SN — (usually its 200)

Quite a while ago I read a nutrition counselor that advised writing out a menu plan for the day instead of just tracking what you are eating as you go. I think that’s a pretty good idea myself. If I am feeling a little deprived, I can see that there is another meal coming that I am looking forward to. And if I am tempted to get a little extravagant with one meal, I can see that I will have to give up something else later in the day (so I usually don’t do that.)

I’m also balancing my protein intake throughout the day. That definitely keeps me from getting too hungry. Which is probably one reason that I am obsessive about “making my list and checking it twice.” Most of the time I am just not too hungry, so I feel the need to reassure myself that I am not eating too much.

One more balancing act–while keeping the majority of my choices whole foods, I admit to allowing in a few lower calorie processed products. Here’s a few of the latest that I picked up:


That is the best sugar-free syrup out there. It has 20 calories per 1/4 cup. I don’t ever use a quarter cup on my pancakes or french toast. I got the Smuckers SF marmalade to try on my Simple Snow Peas and Shrimp. I have used Better’n Peanut Butter in the past, but gave it up for my own homemade nut butters. So why would I buy this? Well, convenience. But also because it has half the calories of regular peanut butter. I wanted to see how it worked in my Spackle 2.0. Verdict? VERY good. It was also very delicious on half an apple. The last bottle is just a spice blend that I really love: Montreal Chicken.

Here’s another little shortcut I tried. They had these bags on sale for 98 cents. I know it would still have been cheaper to buy the whole vegetables and chop them up, but I thought the convenience might help me to eat vegetables a little more often. And sure enough, it did! I need a steamer. But since I don’t have one yet, I just put half the package in boiling water with a little salt and some Mrs. Dash spice. Only 60 calories for half a bag.


I was looking for something in my finder on my computer and I came across a recipe that I did not remember at all. They were called Shut Up Brownies–I just searched the original blog for them and I see she published it in 2008–that has to be the very first year I was blogging! Anyway, I gave them a try. And at first, I was all, ‘These are NOT brownies,‘ even though I was impressed with their size for 75 CALORIES. And then I was, “These are stinkin’ good for 75 calories.” “I could eat two of these for breakfast for only 150 calories!!!” Whether you call them brownies or muffins, they are very tasty and very filling.


I regularly check in on Suzi’s blog, because she always has some interesting low calorie snack items. Last night she mentioned frozen yogurt trail mix bars. I googled it, and came upon this recipe (don’t know if its the one Suzi used.) I had some Fage greek yogurt that I wasn’t using, and some yummy Shelley granola that I wasn’t using, so it was a perfect time for me to try this. I did not follow the recipe, just the directions. I used 1 1/2 cups of yogurt, 1/2 cup of granola, and 1/4 cup of dried cranberries. Cut it into six pieces, and they are only 90 calories each.

Here they are, all packed up and ready to go back in the freezer.


Lastly, I had some VRB (very ripe bananas) sitting on the counter, and I decided that today was the day to mash them and make some more banana cubes. I filled two ice cube trays, and there was still a little banana left in the bowl. I estimated it to be one large banana. I decided to experiment! This was a really delicious experiment. These little muffins were only 80 calories each. They have a different texture than those shut up brownies. They are very moist, more like clafouti? Anyway, I was quite pleased with myself.


I can stop baking and experimenting for a while now. I have quite a nice stash of low calorie snacks in the freezer. More time for quilting!

You Can Always Do Something.

I thought I’d talk a bit about how my exercise has changed over the past few months to accommodate  my aging? injury prone? body. The main point I want to make is that you can (and SHOULD) always do something.

Over the years I have always been very inspired by stories of people with severe physical  limitations and how they found a way to exercise. SO INSPIRED. There was just never really any justification for NOT exercising. Not even morbid obesity. If a person without legs could walk, how could I possibly excuse myself?

That said, it has been a little frustrating challenging to find new ways to exercise as various body parts break down. First there was the back. I went to P.T. and was careful to not do exercises that would exacerbate the injury that was already there. I could still pretty much do a full range of strength exercises, and of course I continued walking and occasionally running. I added in some swimming, which I really enjoyed. Last summer I made a goal to swim 2.4 miles and I did it! I’m thinking that this year I will try to do that at least 3 times during the swimming season.

And then the decrepit knees came along. That has been very frustrating, since walking fairly long distances (3-5 miles) was my norm. And that just wasn’t pleasant any more. When I finally went to the doctor and he gave me permission–in fact, encouraged-me to stop doing weight bearing exercise, it was a relief. I had already started increasing my swim time before I saw him, and he was an avid cycler, so he encouraged me to do some biking. He mentioned the word aerobic in that conversation (which included some talk about losing weight.) Oh, aerobic. I kinda had forgotten about that. I don’t like to sweat… So I started getting on the bike at the gym. In conjunction with watching The Food Network, I really enjoy my time on the bike. I do intervals and try to challenge myself.

At the same time, I went to P.T. for my knees, and that was the end of the heavy weight training for my lower body. Instead, I do multiple reps (like 60-100) of much lower weights. Its still a pretty good challenge. If I keep up with the P.T. exercises, walking is now fairly comfortable for shorter distances. I was happy to keep doing my regular heavy lifting for my upper body (remember my goal to do a 100 pound bench press?)

Well, yeah. THEN something happened to my elbow/arm. I could still use it to push, but I couldn’t even reach to pick up a glass. No strength at all, and it hurt like the dickens. My brother said its probably tendonitis. I consulted the internets and they said rest for 5-6 weeks was the cure. So there went my upper body strength training. I just stopped cold turkey. But you know what I started doing recently? I don’t know what made me think of this, except I probably just needed to move a bit–I started doing those arm circles that they made us do in jr. high gym class! Those things are pretty hard to do!

Oh, and the latest thing I am trying (and loving) is sprints. So far it seems like its okay on my knees and my back. I read this blog about running, which was pretty entertaining, and she quoted Mark Sisson, who mentioned having debilitating osteoarthritis at age 28. Well if he could run sprints, I guess I could.

The idea of these 30 second sprints does remind me of Tabata intervals. Which is something else I could add back in. And core exercises. I definitely could add some of those. Oh, and stretching. Maybe some yoga? Pilates? Definitely, you can always do something.

What I Ate

What I ate–I’m referring to last weekend, when I took a 4 day trip out of town to that quilt workshop. I was really looking forward to “getting away.” I put that in quotes because, why, exactly, does a person who lives alone need to get away? Exactly what was I getting away from? Four dogs?–don’t answer that question!

ANYWAY, that was my intent. It was a short trip, both in time and in distance, but I wanted to relax and enjoy myself. Hmmm. So just exactly how relaxed was I going to be with food?

Those of you who read often will know that I am very good at traveling with food. I always like to get a hotel room with a microwave and refrigerator, and I usually google directions to any restaurants that have good low-cal food (Baja Fresh!) and local grocery stores.

This time I decided I wanted to be a little more relaxed about my food. I took some pre-portioned homemade yogurt, and some of Shelley’s famous granola, some fruit, and I also took some of my low-cal baked goods for breakfast. I had one serving of that wonderful ‘tropical slaw’ left, and I couldn’t leave that behind, so I stuck it in the bag. I brought some of my Quest protein bars, and some dark chocolate and commercial microwave popcorn. That was way more food than I was going to need, but it gave me some choices.

I knew they were serving a delicious catered lunch at the workshop each day. And I knew I wanted to eat dinner out one or two nights. AND, I knew I would get frozen yogurt at least once. So yeah. For a person whose been consistently dieting for 3 months, I was definitely planning to be a little more relaxed about my food.

Added into the mix: this was the first time I would be “recognized” as “The Healthy Quilter.” The Quilt Life magazine had just come out, and Alex Anderson (co-creator of the magazine) was the workshop teacher. That was making me a wee bit nervous. Was everybody going to be looking at me and thinking “who made her the queen of quilt health?” or “LOOK at what SHE’s eating!” (answer: no. Not very many people paid any attention at all.)

So this trip was a mixed bag. I made some really great choices–the side by side salad at Baja Fresh the first night. They give you so much grilled chicken that I saved half of it. The next night I mixed it into that tropical slaw that I had brought along. Ooh, that was a very good idea.

I ate that microwave popcorn two nights, but I really don’t like it any more. I much prefer my own paper bag concoction. So I trashed the rest of it.


This was my snack tonight–6 cups of the paper bag microwave popcorn, 1/2 a serving of M&M’s (110 calories) and a diet coke.

One day after the workshop I needed to stop at Safeway for something. And they had a Chinese food bar where you could get a bit of this and that. It looked so good, and I did get just a bit of this and that. Not too much of any one thing. It looked way better than it tasted. Oh well…

The lunches at the workshop were just delicious. They had wraps one day, and wonderful salads another day. The third day they had sandwiches, and they all had mayonnaise (yuck) on them. I ended up just picking out the meat and tomato and tossing the rest. They had some homemade potato chips that were quite tasty. I also trashed them just so I wouldn’t eat all of them. I did not, however, trash the desserts…

photo copy

Alex saw that I had a brownie on my plate and got out her iPhone to take a pic of the evidence and send to Ricky. So I obliged by posing with it.

One of the hardest things for me was that in the afternoons they had some of that dang trail crack (trail mix with nuts, raisins, and M&M’s) on the back table. It is so hard for me to resist that stuff. I did pretty well. But I wondered if my table mates (who all were fairly normal weights) had the constant ongoing inner conversation that I had. I don’t think that’s normal.

One day I got some frozen yogurt, and even though it was not very good, I ate it all :{{ The last day I was there I found another froyo place (Menchie’s) and it was TOTALLY WORTHY! Got one for the drive home.

Back home, and I went right back to my healthy diet. No problems. No lingering cravings. I was very happy to be eating food that I enjoy that makes me feel good. I did notice that eating that much sugar made me feel bad. I wish I could describe it better. And the weirdest thing is, (and I remember this from ‘the good ol’ days’) when you are feeling bad from eating the sugar, you think that eating a little more will make you feel better. Hmmm. Did I just describe the thought process of an addict???

So there you have it–the good, the bad, and the somewhat ugly. I realize that this is a long boring ramble about “what I ate.” But I wanted to share the real life of a person who is maintaining a large weight loss and is even currently losing weight. Some people still seem to want to know.

Where I Was

IMG_9158Spring really is in the air, isn’t it? To me, the first sign of spring is a few little birds singing. Aren’t birds amazing? How do they last the winter? Some of them never leave, I know it. And I never hear them complaining about how cold it is, or how there is not enough sunlight. They just get on as good as they can. And at the first warm rays they’re so happy they start to sing. Oh, if I could only learn something from the birds.

So I went out of town for a few days to a quilting workshop. I was really looking forward to it because the workshop is held in that wonderful nursery that I told you about last fall. It is just a beautiful place. And I fell under its spell again. And because I finally (after only 27 years of living here) have hired someone to help me with the yard work, I got very enthusiastic. And I bought THREE TREES!!! I do love a pretty tree.

I bought something called Henry Lauder’s Walking Stick. I guess this is a shrub, not a tree. The structure just fascinated me. I couldn’t resist.


And then I saw the blossoming cherry trees. Where I worked, there were two very old and beautiful cherry trees with the biggest fluffiest blossoms I had ever seen. I loved taking a walk in the spring and just standing under those trees. I so hope that this is the same variety (its called Kwanzan Cherry). And even though, in my lifetime, it probably won’t grow to be as big and spectacular as those other trees were, it will be so fun to have one of my own. There is something so hopeful about a tree.



And then, I was just about to escape, and I saw this GLORIOUS tree right by the check out counter. The shape of it is so beautiful and graceful. And it is covered with those fascinating little soft pussy willows.


(look at the tree, people, not at my cabin!)


I have some thoughts about travel and dieting and food, so if you’re looking for that type of chatter, come back in the next day or so, and we’ll have a conversation about that!