Thursday, May 28, 2015

First Come Flowers...

Three days in a row...this has happened...

A big thank you to my "Lovely Ladies Losing It." Without this week's challenge to get in 30 minutes of exercise each day, I am sure that were would have been at least a day or two that I turned off the alarm and burrowed back under the covers. It has been frustrating to see how far my fitness has regressed. As frustrating as it is to feel like I am starting over, I do take a measure of pride in knowing that I keep trying. I am doing something about it and I will get back to where I was if I keep pushing through the frustration, excuses, tiredness, more excuses....

In other news, the garden is looking good. . My first planting of lettuce is almost finished...I noticed a few of the lettuce varieties are starting to get bitter. Thankfully, I planned ahead this year and the second planting will be ready in a week or so.

Most of the plants are blooming. Today I am sharing some pictures to tide us over until the rest of the harvest starts coming in

Zucchini blossom. I can't remember if it is yellow or green squash. Every year I am full of hope that I will have that over abundance of zucchini that drives you to dropping off bags of it on unsuspecting neighbor's porches in the middle of the night. However, each year I end up getting a few squash and then my plants croak. Maybe this will be the year :)  I have heard zucchini blossoms are delicious, but I have never tried them. Most of the time I have seen them served battered and fried. Obviously, I like fried foods, but fried flowers seems like such a waste when there are so many other things to fry...potatoes, cheese. If you have a good (healthy) recipe I might be willing to sacrifice a bloom or two.
Potato blossoms. I have three different varieties of potatoes planted, but like the zucchini I lost track of which ones were planted where. I am hoping the flower color gives me a clue.  We have these purply flowers and some white ones. I planted red potatoes and two types of white.
Cucumber blossoms. I am always amazed how you can look through the cucumber vines one day and the next find a giant cucumber. Was it hiding or did it really just grow overnight??
Marigolds. Of course, I am not expecting anything to eat from these flowers :) I plant marigolds with the tomatoes to keep away aphids. And they are pretty.
Pea blossoms. I remember as a kid one of my favorite scents from Avon was Sweet Pea. I haven't smelled it in forever, but seeing the pea blossoms takes me back to those days. pea.  I am so excited to see this baby pea. I love garden fresh peas. They are best eaten soon after picking - the flavor and texture don't hold up long, which is probably why you don't see them in the produce department. For some reason I didn't get very many plants from my seed this year. Maybe I have a bad batch of seed. I will definitely buy new seed next year.
Tomato blossoms. This is the reason we plant a garden. NOTHING is better fresh from the garden than tomatoes. There is no comparing the flavor.
Baby tomatoes. These are our Sun Gold cherry tomatoes - hands down tomato favorite. Sadly, it will still be weeks before these babies are ready.

Dill - so pretty in the morning with the dew. I need those potatoes to be ready soon so I can make delicious dilled potatoes.

I might have pulled these carrots a little early. I didn't think they were ready, but my neighbor mentioned she had already pulled hers. So I pulled a couple - note to self, I don't need to do things just because the neighbor does :)  It may be that I didn't thin them very well. I have a super hard time killing plants. My husband actually just reminded me this morning about when we were still dating and I had him get rid of an almost dead houseplant (or as he said I "took a hit out on that plant"). I just couldn't do it. I wasn't amused when I found it a couple months later behind our shed.

Yes, we are those people.  My sister actually bought these for my husband. I am not sure how long it will be before we can eat them. There is a bit of an issue with the shape of the macaroni - my husband is an original shaped macaroni purist.  Apparently the other shapes don't taste the same :)

I have been working like a maniac all week on the Great Purge of 2015. I am going through the house room by room, closet by closet, box by box (you get the idea) to find items I can let go. Tomorrow is yard sale day. It is disconcerting how much money has been wasted on stuff :(  I hope to recoup a few dollars. The money I make from the sale will be put in the paint fund. While we have the carpet pulled up and before we install the new laminate floor we plan to do some serious painting. Picking colors should be interesting. When I painted the rooms originally it was all my choice and now I am have the husband factor to consider...

I am trying the Friday afternoon/evening yard sale this time. When I see them on my way home from work they do seem to be attracting customers. Unless I sell out Friday, I will try again with the traditional Saturday morning sale. After the sale, the leftovers will be donated. There would be a great picture of all the totes
full of stuff being accumulated in the shed, but I can't get it off my phone now. Just imagine a heap of great stuff you would love to buy if you were closer :) 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Why Is It Moving???!!!

Last weekend my husband was out of town and I made plans with a friend to meet for dinner. My only request was that we went somewhere my husband wouldn't go. There is a restaurant in the town where we both work that we have been wanting to try. It has an eclectic menu and is a little pricey. My husband is not a very adventuresome eater and was thrilled for me to go enjoy a new place while he was safely out of town with a pizza delivered to his hotel room (Side note - he ended up getting a horrendous headache and was too sick to even eat the pizza he had ordered - poor guy.)

If possible, I like to look over the menu online before going to a restaurant. I am super slow at deciding what to order, so for the sake of whomever I am with, getting a head start on the decision making process seems like the polite thing to do. One of the items, I was intrigued by was Okonomiyaki - a  Japanese pancake (crepe-like) topped with royal red shrimp, bacon, cabbage, Kewpie mayo and HM bbq. (I am still not sure what HM bbq is...maybe HM means homemade.)  It was on the appetizer menu and I decided to order it as my entree. Turns out there were a couple of things the reviewers on Yelp forgot to mention when they raved about its yumminess.

When the plate arrived at the table I was overwhelmed by a pungent odor...not a pleasant aroma...a pungent odor. I guarantee you that had my husband been there he would have immediately left the table and refused to come back until the restaurant had been sterilized from top to bottom. When the waitress saw my face she offered to take it away and bring me something else. I almost took her up on the offer, but I feel guilty about a restaurant wasting food and me not paying for something I ordered just because I didn't care for it. Now if it is burned or otherwise poorly prepared then I figure it was already wasted before it got to the table and I don't have to pay for it. So I decided to try it. I figured it just had to taste better than it smelled. Then as I am looking at it gathering courage for the first bite, I think I see movement on the plate. My friend suggested maybe there was a draft.  Didn't seem so and the movement continued. The waitress comes back just in time to hear my exclaim "WHY IS IT MOVING???!!?"

Warning: This video is NOT for the squeamish.

The waitress patiently explained that the dish was topped with bonito flakes -  Japanese name for dried, fermented and smoked skipjack tuna (hence the odor). Because it is so thinly sliced the flakes are see-through thin and nearly weightless. The heat of the dish causes the flakes to writhe about from the rising steam. There is something seriously disconcerting about movement on one's plate..I am still slightly traumatized

So, did I eat it, you ask?  Yes, I did. It was actually quite tasty and nothing like the smell. I didn't finish it though, partially because I had other dishes to try and partially because the sauce started to become a little overwhelming. Thankfully, the other dishes were much less traumatic.

The restaurant is known for their Brussels sprouts so I had to try them. They had a lemon vinaigrette and that mound of Parmesan on top. I enjoyed them, but as sometimes happens dishes get overrated in reviews (in my opinion). The serving wad huge and I ended up finishing it for breakfast the next morning (my Brussels sprout hating husband was still out of town.)

The cheddar biscuits with honey butter and cherry jam were delicious. I am ashamed to admit the waitress offered to send some of the butter home with me and I accepted. I have been rationing it since Friday. It may be the most delicious butter ever.

All in all, it was a great dinner/evening. Excellent company, good food and an outrageous story to tell. What more could I want?  I realized on the way home what the writhing Japanese dish smelled food flakes times 100.

The weekend continued with a bit of an eating out feeding frenzy. My niece and I had lunch together. In her defense she didn't know the "Big Dawg" meant she had ordered a gigantor hotdog.  I had a Rueben and fries. On the plus side, I only ate half of it. My niece didn't even eat half her hotdog.

Monday morning we took the dogs shopping at Petco. We had decided to get Millie a frisbee. Her fur-cousin is a very good frisbee catcher. Millie is a good fetcher and I am hoping she enjoys the frisbee. While we were there Millie (or maybe my husband) decided to work on her birthday list. Sadly, none of these toys would last more than a few minutes with her mighty jaws.

I am pretty sure we haven't taken Millie in the store since she was a wee puppy. And we certainly hadn't taken both dogs together. I was nervous. But Millie was very good - probably because the store was relatively empty and no one paid any attention to her. She gets so excited when people stop to pet or talk to her. Zommie,on the other hand, decided to pee on the floor as we were checking out, That was nice.

Continuing with the weekend of stellar eating, we stopped at White Castle since we were in the neighborhood. We took our food to the park and had a little picnic. Mmm...cheese fries going down the hatch. I would have been happy with just the cheese fries and wished I had skipped the burgers, but unfortunately I didn't realize that until after I had eaten the burgers.

After we ate, we let Millie try out her new frisbee. She did a great job retrieving the frisbee and looked so cute carrying it. We have some work to do on training her to catch it out of the air.

For those of you hoping for an inside view of her mouth here it is. An enormous tongue and a full set of chompers. Unlike the rest of us, she isn't embarrassed to be photographed with green stuff stuck in her teeth or hanging off her tongue.

Looks like frisbee and a trip to the farm wore our pup out. I found her sacked out in our bed. Of course, her precious self had to use all the pillows.

After all that stellar eating and watching Millie run at the park, it is little wonder why I gained 2.4 pounds this week....ugh!  I did great on my 5 fruits/veggies challenge during the week and then fell off the wagon over the weekend. If anyone, has any sure-fire ways to keep on track over the weekend I would love to hear them!!

However, I am happy to report I am putting the weekend behind me and getting back on track. I met my lovely little niece for an early morning walk. And then had this deliciousness for breakfast.

For lunch I put a new twist on our leftover barbecued pork steak. I warmed up the pork steak, sliced it and wrapped it in garden fresh lettuce with peppers and radish. It was even better than I imagined when I was rummaging through the fridge for something healthy for lunch. My pathetic pups waited in vain for me to share.

I am still trying to work those fruits and veggies even though this week is officially 30 minutes of activity per day. We are signed up for a 10K in June, so my activity is going to be lots of walking. We did the same race last year when we started out weight loss efforts. I was hoping to do it again this year and be able to report a vast health and time improvement. I can't do that, but I can say I am excited about doing the race and will continue to work towards my long term goals.

Happy Wednesday!
Pretty Strong Medicine

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What Am I Eating?

This morning we walked 2 miles with my niece. Yes, she is still getting up at 5:30 a.m. to walk with us before school :)  I hadn't been walking in a couple weeks. It felt good to be out there again.

This post could have been titled "Dead Things I Saw on My Walk Today."  However, without the pictures I don't think it would have quite the impact. And I just couldn't make myself take pictures of a bunch of dead stuff. During our little over two mile walk we saw a squirrel, chipmunk, frog, bird and a bunch of worms. I suspect most fell prey to cars.

So instead of pictures of all that gross stuff, I thought  a What I Ate Wednesday post would be much more appealing. Safe to continue...I promise no roadkill.

I have been hearing delicious things about Panera's Strawberry Poppyseed & Chicken Salad. I haven't tried it yet, but I did make this knock off based on what little I know about Panera's salad . I used fresh lettuce and spinach from my garden, basil garlic grilled chicken, strawberries, blueberries, sweet peppers and red onion with balsamic vinaigrette. I finished the meal with a side of toast. On a side note, this turned out to be a safe place for me to eat toast. Normally when I eat toast I can't stop myself - serious trigger food.  It was the perfect accompaniment to the salad and I only had the two small pieces.

When I grilled chicken for dinner I made several extra pieces to use for salads in the next few days (see above).

My go-to breakfast is unsweetened cereal, but sometimes I just want something different. Below is a recent breakfast of egg muffins and watermelon. The egg muffins are a variation of this recipe from Skinnytaste. The muffins each have about a 1/4 cup of veggies. It is a great used for leftover (inadvertent or purposeful) grilled veggies. My favorite combo so far is asparagus, peppers and broccoli. I made a batch of twelve one morning. I ate two and put the rest in the fridge for breakfasts/snacks later in the week. They keep very well and are a convenient and delicious way to get veggies into your breakfast.

Okay this one is a little weird, but I have heard it about it several times. Since my radishes are producing like crazy and I am kinda obsessed with them at the moment, it seemed like the right time to try. I buttered a slice of Italian bread, spread a little butter and topped it with slices of fresh radish and a sprinkle of salt. It didn't quite live up to the rave reviews I had read. Perhaps I didn't have the proportions down. I was concerned the radish would be overpowering so I sliced them very thinly. In retrospect I think more radish would have been better. I would be willing to try again, but am content with plain radishes and a separate piece of toast - did someone say toast?

As I've mentioned our challenge group is working to get in 5 servings of fruits and veggies every day. I had a Lean Cuisine at work that needed to be eaten - Chicken Fried Rice. For the record when Lean Cuisine says "fried rice" they mean boiled white rice with a sauce. It was okay, but definitely not the naughty fried rice I have come to love. Because the entree didn't even have enough veggies to count as one serving I decided to add two cups of frozen chopped broccoli. It certainly wasn't gourmet, but it was very filling and counted as two veggie servings.

We rarely eat steak, but I happened to be in a meat market yesterday and they had some nice rib-eyes on sale. I have been trying to master my steak cooking techniques. I have temporarily given up on grilling them and have made them the last couple of times in a screaming hot cast iron skillet. You sear them on both sides and then finish them in a super hot oven. We like our steak medium rare and I have had much more success with this method than any else I have tried.  The side of Spicy Garlic Green Beans is courtesy of a recipe by shared by Mary at Runs to Get Waisted. Start by slightly cooking the beans (to retain color and crunch) then toss them with sauteed, garlic, shallots, red pepper flakes and some lemon zest. I used lime zest because that is what I had - loved the brightness of the lime. The next time I make the beans I will probably used less oil for the sauteing, but overall delicious flavor.

The next dish was the biggest hit of the last week. In fact, my husband dubbed it one of the best things he has ever eaten. I was watching BBQ Addiction with Bobby Flay and when he made this recipe for Sticky Glazed Chicken Thighs in Butter Lettuce I knew I would try it. The sauce is sweet and spicy with a somewhat surprising ingredient - orange juice. When I first mixed the sauce ingredients together I tasted the mixture and was very concerned we weren't going to like it - the orange juice was overpowering and seemed a little bitter. However, you cook the sauce for about 15 minutes and during that time the magic happens as flavors meld.
To be honest, my husband was not too excited about this recipe and planned to eat something else. However, being a trooper he took a taste and immediately filled his plate. I was eating mine as the lettuce wraps and I could barely make them fast enough before he swiped the rest of the meat. He ate his chicken as is with a little of the extra sauce. I love lettuce wraps and eating with my hands, so it was right up my alley and another great way to enjoy your veggies.

Now that I have made you all hungry, back to that walk minus the roadkill. I start walking about 5:20 a.m. I love watching the world wake up.

It was about 6 a.m. when I got home. What a difference 40 minutes make. 
Poor tree fighting for its very life...I think someone was a bit heavy handed with the tree trimming!

I switched my weigh-in to Monday for the purposes of our challenge group. Monday morning I was down .6 of a pound :)  

Pretty Strong Medicine

Monday, May 18, 2015

5 a Day, Flowers and Dental Hygiene

Week one of our 4 week challenge is complete - 100 oz of water per day was consumed by me. I admit it was a little more difficult than I thought. I figured it would be a breeze since I drink water almost exclusively. The weekend was especially challenging. I imagine it was for the same reasons we all struggle with staying on track on the weekends. Our schedules are so much looser and of course, we want to treat ourselves. Without having that "drink so much before work" pressure by afternoon I was behind. I am proud to say I did complete the challenge and managed to lose .6 of a pound in the process. I plan to continue keeping track of my water, but not push myself quite as hard. I am aiming for between 70-100 oz. per day.

Our challenge group has moved on to Week 2 of our 4 week challenge. The goal for this week is to eat 5 servings of fruit/veggies each day. Personally, I am trying to eat more veggies than fruit because fruit is a super easy grab and go for me. Veggies take more planning.

I did not plan so well when I had this giant sandwich for lunch (actually,I brought half home for my husband). I was so stuffed and none of it counted toward my fruits and veggies.

I ended up having a salad for dinner to get in 3 cups of greens and more fruit. The lettuce and spinach were  from my garden. I have had two good pickings so far and have had enough to share with my sister and a friend. My husband took the opportunity to remind me that fruit has no place in salad. And although I vehemently disagree, this particular salad did have a little too much fruit (a cup each of cantaloupe and red grapes).

Sadly, I didn't have room for the mac n cheese my husband and niece were having because I was cramming for my fruits/veggies challenge. I know, I know, that is the point - fill up on good food. There is definitely something to be said for focusing on adding things to your diet ( diet meaning the food you eat) not what you are taking away. Perhaps, if you are eating good healthy foods you will just naturally have less room for the junk.

In the spirit of fruit/veggie week I found myself at the local Feed and Seed store to pick up some more plants for the garden. I love this Rainbow Chard. I had a few plants a couple of years ago and forgot about it until I saw the plants today - so pretty.

I bought purple and white eggplants. Someone forgot to tell me I don't like eggplant. One of these days I will like it. right? I do think it is one of the most beautiful veggies though with its smooth shiny skin..

I also bought a few pepper plants - sweet red and yellow bell, banana and a poblano.  The will join the jalapenos already planted.

This afternoon, I caught Millie behind the couch with a couple of "treasures" she snatched from the trash can. I swear the radish was mine and the M&Ms were my husband's! Nice to know we are teaching our pup balanced eating :)

I am loving iris season. When I bought my house almost 10 years ago it had a bunch of iris in the front yard. Those iris are still there and I have since added a few colors. One of these days I need to dig them up and redo the beds, but for now I am enjoying their bold colors!

It has been a rough week for our little Zommie. Last Thursday we noticed her face was very swollen. My husband took her to the vet and they found an abscessed tooth. They treated her with antibiotics, gave her pain medication and scheduled a dental visit. Here she is on the way to the vet with no idea what is in store. I felt so guilty.

During her dental visit they cleaned her teeth and removed 18 "bad" teeth. Yes, you read that right  - they removed 18 teeth. I didn't even know she had that many!  I feel terrible that she had that mess in her mouth. And that boys and girls is what happens when you don't brush for 14 years! The vet said she will heal quickly and be back to her normal food in about a week. I was pleasantly surprised how spunky she was when be brought her home. So much so, I felt extra mean keeping her in her crate to rest. I think Millie really missed Zommie today and isn't entirely happy that she is not available to play tonight.

Ironic little side note about our little Zommie. We always say if she were a person she would be dental hygienist. She sneaks up as close to your face as possible. Then when you open your mouth to tell her to move she quickly tries to lick your teeth.

Hope your week is off to a good start.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Community Hope Center 5K

Several of my husband's co-workers recently competed in a Biggest Loser type competition. Over the course of 12 weeks, the participating employees lost a combined total of 169 pounds!! My sister lost 20 of those pounds - she has definitely found her groove :)  Additionally, I think we can say she has become a runner.  Last Saturday some of the employees participated in the Community Hope Center 5K to celebrate their accomplishment.

Pre-race family (and friend) photo. Guess which one is my husband :)

For those of you who like to play "Where's Anna's Husband?" For the record he is not #8 in the middle of the picture - that guy is 72 and placed 9th go, dude!!

This was a tough race for my husband. He had a cold with a cough that made sleep pretty difficult. Although he has been getting up every day to go walking with our niece, he hasn't been running as much this spring. I think that is about to change for both of us. As much as I want to take pictures and cheer, I don't want to be on the sidelines.

Looking good - I can really tell how much weight she has lost :)

And down the stretch they come...
My niece and her friend ended up coming in first and second in their age group :)  The girls purposely held hands as they crossed the finish line because they wanted to "tie"yet the official times showed more than a 10 second difference.
This was my sister's second 5K that she has been able to run the whole way. I don't remember her exact times, but in March she ran a 5K in 38+ minutes and this race she ran 5K in 35+ minutes - shattered her PR!

My Facebook challenge group has started a set of  four weekly challenges. The first week the challenge is to drink 100 oz.of water per day and to lose 1/2 a pound. I almost exclusively drink water so I thought it would super easy. I have been surprised by how much of a conscious effort I have had to make to drink the full amount. I drink a couple of glasses before work. At work, I normally drink most of a 16 oz. bottle of water in the morning and most of a second 16 oz. bottle in the afternoon. To get in 100 oz. I have had to finish both the morning and afternoon bottles and add in a third. Then when I get home I drink a couple more glasses of water. I try to finish well before bedtime - and I think you know why :)  I keep two 48 oz. bottles of water in the fridge and last night my husband poured me a glass of water from the "wrong" bottle. I ended up "having" to drink extra water because I just couldn't leave the bottle I normally have to finish with water in it. That's not obsessive, is it?

Several of us, in the challenge group have been struggling with our food. I have noticed this week that the water drinking has made me want to eat better too. I am actually been trying to reacquaint myself with MyFitnessStranger -  "the app formerly known as MyFitnessPal."  I have done well during the day, but the evenings still need work. However, it is a big step in the right direction. I was eating out and snacking (and not the good for me kind of snacks) way to much during the day.

I am not saying that drinking a 100 oz of water a day for three days has fixed everything, but I feel like I am doing something productive and it puts me in a more positive frame of mind.  In turn that makes me want to eat better. Who in the dumps thinks "oh hey I feel like eating better"? Having a little something to be proud of can be the catalyst for gaining confidence to do more.

I can confirm the "snowball effect" is real. I have noticed it when I clean house. If I just plan to spend 15 minutes cleaning, it almost ends up being longer. Once this is clean, I want to clean that. Now that I am consciously drinking water I "want" to eat better and eating better makes me think about exercise. I am going to finish out this week focusing on the water and working on getting my eating in check. Then next week's challenge is to get 30 minutes of activity a day. There will be walking :)

This week I discovered a new deli in a local grocery store. I was intrigued by a kale and Brussels Sprout salad. I don't think I had ever had kale before and the salad did look delicious. The salad had a little viniagrette, parmesan cheese and sliced almonds. It was good. While at the deli counter I noticed butternut squash/goat cheese lasagna. Last Thanksgiving I made a butternut squash lasagna that I loved, so I immediately wanted to try this one. It was very tasty although I am a little on the fence about goat cheese.

It was the type of meal that would give my husband a stroke if he saw it on his plate. It did remind me that this is no reason I can't prepare foods that I love (he hates) and bring them to work for my lunches. 
My husband drew the names last night for the blogiversary giveaway....

Congratulations to the Winners!

Prize # 1 - One Crazy Penguin
Prize #2 - Desiree - Finding the Skinny Geek Within

We will be in touch about getting your prizes to you :) 

Thank you everyone for all your support and encouragement!. Your comments over the past year have made all the difference in me continuing to work toward my goal.