Happy New Year

Its no good. I was going to do a thorough review of my year, telling you of significant events in my life, and linking back to my most “significant” posts. I wrote 92 posts last year, so WordPress informs me. That’s less than 2 per week, but its still a lot of posts to review. My eyes are glazing over.

Let’s see if I can make it as pain free as possible, and summarize my year from memory.

I went to Haiti. That trip was easy and difficult at the same time. I have surprised myself by planning a return trip to Haiti this coming February. More on that later.

Other travel included a wonderful trip to Ohio, which included a visit with blog icon Lynn! Interesting to me is that I already have all my travel plans for 2014 made, including most reservations. And part of the plans include another blogger visit! More on that later.

I was successful at losing 25 pounds (that I had re-gained in the previous three years.) I’m very happy about this. I know that I would be having a lot more arthritis pain if I had not lost this weight. More on this later (what? Its a new year, and you KNOW we’re all going to be talking weight loss and maintenance for a few weeks : ) )

A major garden re-do took a lot of my time this spring and summer. Of course, MLG did most of the work, but I still did a lot of the lighter work. I love the garden. It looks kind of sad right now, but things are in place for a very pretty spring show.

I quilted. A lot. I joined a national organization for art quilters. I do have some goals to be more organized with my quilting and to enter some exhibitions, and to try to set up an Etsy shop to offer some of my quilts for sale.

Just two weeks before the end of the year, the construction for my new studio started! When the contractor left today, there was siding and windows already up. I can’t believe its going so fast.

I’ll write more about these last three things as they unfold in the new year.

And as my new sign says, I spent a lot of time taking care of the doggies. And loving most every minute of it.

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Happy New Year to one and all! Stay healthy, and I’ll see you on the other side.

Recipe Review: Chai Tea!

Winter seems like the perfect time to review this recipe. At first glance, you might think its not worth gathering all those spices to make your own Chai tea. Let me try to convince you that it is. Most of the spices I found at my local grocery store. A couple of them I found at the local natural foods store. I have one small container devoted to my complete supply of Chai spices. Once I gathered all of them, they’ve lasted me a couple of years. Your house smells unbelievably delicious while you’re brewing the tea, and the smell lasts for hours afterwards.

Your other choices for pre-prepared Chai tea are the stuff in cartons or powder in boxes in the grocery store that are usually loaded with sugar, or teabags that have very little flavor. Or you could go to Starbuck’s and blow 200-300 calories on a Chai tea latte. Or you could spend 20 minutes making this base brew for Chai tea and have 4-6 servings. Originally I made it with agave syrup in the blend, but now I make it without any sweetener, and just add a little splenda before I drink it. If I made a 2 cup serving (Starbuck’s Grande size) it is only 30 calories (for the unsweetened almond milk.)

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Its just the right treat for a cold winter afternoon by the fireplace!

A Gazillion Calories in a Single Day

Isn’t that a song or book title?? Anyway, that’s what Christmas day felt like. I decided early in the day that that was the way it was going to be. It was very fun, but I still have to work at not having guilty feelings or negative thoughts about eating whatever I want. I did only eat a small dinner, since I was pretty much not hungry from all the other treats I’d been eating. And by the time I drove home that night, I was SOOO ready to start my regular healthy eating the next day. I made a plate of goodies for my contractor and that pretty much cleared the house of Christmas treats.

Yesterday, I went back to my normal eating habits and logged all my food in Lose It. I ate every 3 or 4 hours, and made sure I had food that I enjoyed.

The thing is, its become more and more clear to me, that it is my INTENTION to eat healthily and stay as fit as possible. I have a very clear vision of what I want my aging life to be. I also have a very clear vision of what I do NOT want my life to be. Its been a while, but its still very clear in my mind how I felt every day when I weighed a hundred pounds more than I do now. I can imagine how that old body would feel with 9 years of aging on it.

So onward into the new year. I’m sure there will be lots of new (and old) advice and hopes for starting a newer, healthier life. I guess my wish would be for everyone to think clearly about living a healthier life, instead of a life at a certain weight or wearing a certain dress size or looking a certain way. None of those things has anything to do with a good life.

Its a Cookie Kind of Christmas

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This Christmas, it seems, I have loosened up my relationship with cookies.  I read with admiration my friends that are abstaining from the Christmas goodies. I have done that plenty of times myself through the years. But not this year. In the interest of truthfulness, I thought I’d share with you what I’m doing.

I noticed about a month ago that I was developing some rather obsessive behavior in regards to food. I mean, more obsessive than my usual obsessivity… I wondered if it was a backlash to my fairly restrictive diet for the past year. And I also noticed that I had become bored with my bedtime habit of writing down my menu for the following day. I thought about how I could remedy this without going backwards in my efforts to maintain my recent weight loss, and my effort to lose a few more pounds.

I decided to give another calorie counting website one more try. I’ve never been happy with negotiating these websites. They seemed difficult to use, especially with all the cooking I do. But this one is a goodie! I am totally enjoying it. Lose It is very easy to navigate, and very easy to add my custom foods to. It remembers “my foods” so all I have to do is type in a few letters and a list of recent choices comes up. It also has cute icons for each food. So if I type in Strawberry Cheesecake Protein Smoothie, first a strawberry icon shows up, then it changes to cheese, and finally it changes to a piece of cake! I can easily change it back to the strawberry icon. Its not necessary to have an icon for the food we eat, but it is fun.

Lose It gives you a daily calorie goal based on your weight. So as you lose weight, your calorie goal changes too. My calorie goal is about 1250. As you log your food during the day, it subtracts that amount from your calorie goal, and gives you the amount of calories you have left for the rest of the day. It has the option of logging your exercise calories so that you have a larger amount of calories to eat. I’ve never done this before, but I decided to log my exercise only on the days that I exercise for a whole hour at the gym. I thought that this would give me some variability to my caloric intake, and maybe would juggle my metabolism a bit. These extra calories came in handy for Christmas goodies, and also motivated me to take time to go to the gym if I was planning to celebrate that day.

Back to the cookies. I allowed myself to choose one favorite treat to make for Thanksgiving, and one to bake for Christmas. And I made my annual fruitcake for my mom. I either give away most of the goodies right away, or I wrap them well and put in the freezer for later distribution. I designate a couple of each cookie to keep for myself. I told my friend I felt like a squirrel. I have my little stash of cookies from my baking and from various friends wrapped carefully and put in my freezer. If I have calories at the end of the day (and I make sure I do!) I choose one or two to indulge in that night. I have some really light but delicious meals that I can choose from so that there are enough cookie calories left over. My turkey salad is a good example of this. Just romaine lettuce, with some turkey, laughing cow light, and my low calorie cranberry sauce. With the cheese and the sauce, no dressing is needed.

This seems to be working well for me. I have stayed on course according to Lose It, and have even lost a few pounds. I’ll report more about this after the new year.

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(About my Christmas decorations–I thought I was not going to decorate at all this year. Every time I went out to the storage shed and looked at the big plastic bins full of Christmas stuff, I just felt overwhelmed and left them all out there. I even bought a little live Christmas tree, but I thought it was going to get left outside too. Then one day I decided to just look in one bin. I chose a few of my favorite sentimental decorations and brought them in the house. In less than a couple of hours, I had enough decorating done to enjoy the season. Isn’t it funny how we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by circumstances or too many choices? When all we have to do is just ONE THING. Feel free to apply this to your weight loss efforts as we go into a  shiny bright new year : ) )

Recipe Review: Darn Good Spaghetti Sauce

 

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I’ll just quickly say that the title says it all–this spaghetti sauce is just darn good. What I really like is the thickness and chunkiness of it. That makes it more satisfying to me. It more than makes up for any lack of oil or meat in a sauce. I like it over regular spaghetti, whole grain spaghetti, or over a sautéed veggie mix–zucchini, carrots, onion, and mushrooms. at 110 calories per generous 3/4 cup serving, its a darn good deal!

You can vary the original recipe–cook some chopped onions instead of adding dry, or use a different brand of marinara sauce (or just tomato sauce and your own spices!) The most recent batch I made without the meat. That gave me more flexibility when it came time to use it. It freezes very well, so works for the type of cooking I enjoy most–about one quarter of the time I actually cook dinner. The rest of the time I am just “assembling” a meal.

Yikes!

Today I am taking a day off. I am having a day where I can completely relax and do what I want to do. And stay in my cabin and enjoy the warmth of the fire and my three little dogs (Noah is on vacation at the trainer’s for a few days.)

I needed this day. I know you are thinking, she is retired, isn’t every day like this? No it is not. And especially this past week (has it only been a week???) Last Saturday I met with a contractor and signed a contract to have my old covered deck turned into a studio room!!! I’ve thought about this since I moved into this cabin 27 years ago, and I started saving money for it over ten years ago. Part of me still can’t believe its happening.

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See the yellow part of the cabin in the picture above? That is just old fiberglass siding that was on the side of the covered deck. That’s where the studio will go.

The contractor said he’d be ready to start work on Wednesday. Oh my. That meant I needed to clear out at least 10 years’ accumulation of stuff that was being stored out there. I should have taken a picture of all of it. Then you would really know why I needed a day off! Here’s what it looked like after I cleared it off.

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Wednesday morning the work started. I had several errands to run. When I came home at noon, this is what I saw:

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And when I came home at 3pm, this is what I saw! Its kind of shocking actually. That was my main entrance/exit to my house.

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So I know other remodels require a lot more decision making than this, but my mind has been swirling with doors! windows! lighting! flooring! paint color!! I even had trouble sleeping last night thinking about the decisions I need to make.

I’ll keep you updated as things go along. When the studio is finished, he is also going to add on a small “mudroom” out the front door. I was almost more excited about this than the studio. Its always a huge chore to bring the dogs in and try to dry them off a bit  when its raining. And… if the money holds out, he is going to put new flooring in the main part of the house (living/dining room,) and paint that room too.

Have a good weekend, and don’t work so hard that you can’t enjoy the peacefulness of the Christmas Season.