Time For a Little Cleanse…

Several of my friends are doing some type of detox where they drink a gallon of dandelion tea (with a few other things mixed in) a day and eat paleo for a week.  I was interested, but when I searched dandelion tea to see if it has any drug interactions, I discovered that it would decrease the effectiveness of my anti-anxiety med because it changes the way things are metabolized in the liver.  It’s really important to pay attention to those types of things, folks.  Every time I try a new supplement or herbal remedy, I always check out any possible interactions with my prescription meds; I highly recommend that you do the same.

Anyway, I was bummed about not being able to participate in that detox; I know that the whole “cleanse” concept is largely a fad, but sometimes a “hard reset” can be helpful in jump-starting new habits and breaking through weight-loss plateaus. And I’m solidly in the middle of a plateau, and it sucks.

I decided earlier today that I’d do my own “Real Food Reset” and ratchet things down a bit for the next week or two so I can bust through the plateau and start feeling better.  There’s no crazy or unhealthy restrictions; I’m just going to focus on eating real, whole food and cutting out the extra stuff that’s making me feel bad.  Here are my parameters:

  1. No grains at all.
  2. No sugar (including honey and, for the most part, fruit).
  3. Minimal Dairy (I’m still going to do cream in my coffee and a *very* small amount of cheese).
  4. LOTS of veggies.
  5. Plenty of Healthy Fats (avocados, olives, grass-fed butter, coconut oil, etc).
  6. Drink 3 Liters of water a day.

One of the problems with going low-carb is that cheese becomes the go-to snack; hungry?  Have a string cheese.  Or a Babybel.  Looking for a sweet breakfast?  Ricotta with vanilla extract and stevia.  Also, cheese is my favorite food in the entire world.  I’m certainly not planning to give it up forever, but I do need a break for a bit so I’m not quite so dependent.

Tonight, we made some delicious chicken/veggie soup; I’ll write up the recipe and post it later.

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Also, I’m not a doctor, blahblahblah; I don’t even play one on tv.  I’m a rational, educated human being who is capable of doing research and creating a reasonable diet plan, and you absolutely shouldn’t do anything regarding any detox or cleanse just because I’ve decided to tidy up my eating.  I’m a Libertarian; do your own research, make your own decisions, and leave me out of it ;).

Wordless Wednesday to come tomorrow.  Work has been extremely stressful, so I’m hoping it’ll be a quiet enough day that I can notice and capture the small beauties that we often overlook.

Like coffee in a delicate mug with a kitten perched atop.

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It’s the little things.

Why I Should Never Be Left Home Alone

It’s because I do this thing where I get depressed because I’m by myself and don’t leave the recliner for the entire day except to go to the bathroom and make (gluten free) boxed mac & cheese (thank you, Aldi!).  And cry a few times.

10714_10152784645018143_5793002656857410775_nI know, it’s pathetic, but I’m not the type that gets tired of my husband and wants him to go away for awhile.  As a result, Saturday was a little lonely (although I did binge-watch The Golden Girls and the National Figure Skating Championship).  Friday night was excellent; I had dinner and watched a movie with a couple of my very best friends.  And by Sunday afternoon, I was reunited with my other half.

There hasn’t been much de-cluttering in the last few days; I didn’t do much while Joey was gone and the last couple of days have been pretty stressful, so we’re going to have to pick up on it a little later in the week.  I’m afraid we’ve lost momentum.  Our plan is to go through the bags of “keep” clothes and see if there are any in there that we’re ready to part with upon second review.  I also want to go through my bags of yarn, frog projects that I don’t plan to finish and toss ones where the yarn can’t be salvaged.  I think that’ll probably be a Thursday project.

I’m thinking of doing a couple of weekly features on the blog: Monday Meal Plans and Wordless Wednesdays.  Two of my goals for the year were to be more diligent in meal planning and to work on my photography skills (especially after seeing Tammy Strobel’s blog and photography work done solely with her iPhone).  I’ve been doing various photo-a-day challenges on my Instagram since October (and I’m creating my own for February), but I want to take more effort on those pictures in the future and make the most of the Galaxy S5’s excellent camera.  We’ll see how it goes.

I also found this website the other day; it’s got links to THOUSANDS of free online classes (from reputable universities!!) that you can take at your own pace (some for credit, but most not).  How awesome is this?  I’ve been thinking about learning some about web design, and this affords a great opportunity.

Peace out, folks.  Hope you have an excellent Hump Day tomorrow.

Grillin’ Out and Walking This Way…

I was thinking of the Aerosmith song and not Monty Python. I was also thinking that we have a really long hike to the bathroom in our new office digs. I used my pedometer yesterday and it’s a 0.07 mile round trip, so I could get an entire mile in if I make fourteen bathroom trips in a day. Unfortunately, that would both impair my efficiency and make people think I have a serious problem, so I think I’ll have to take the loss on that one.

I’ve gotten a couple of requests from friends who are interested in my weight loss/general health success to know what I’m eating, so I’m going to document tomorrow and post everything Thursday. I would today, but we’re low on groceries, so today isn’t very pretty. I’m working on a larger post about the gluten free thing, but I will go ahead and tell you that I’ve lost TWENTY POUNDS. I’ve experienced a host of other improvements, but I want to devote an entire post to that topic, so suffice it to say that gluten free is definitely for me!

We’ve been cooking outside a good bit lately…our air conditioner is on its last legs, so we’re trying to avoid heating the house any more than necessary. Plus, we can keep Indy outside and wear her out some so she’s not quite such a terrorist in the house. Last week, we did some pretty righteous burgers and grilled corn…

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We used the Udi’s gluten free buns…they were extremely dense. It was nice to have something that resembled a traditional cheeseburger, but I’m not sure it was worth it, so I don’t know that we’ll bother with buns when it’s just us eating at home.

Yesterday, we made sausage with cabbage and onions (German food!)…no specific recipe. We bought some turkey sausage links at Aldi, so we sauteed those with onions in butter and then added a bag of shredded cabbage and cooked it all down until the cabbage was tender. We used a half cup or so of chicken stock to deglaze the pan and enjoyed it al fresco while watching the puppy get stuck in the bushes and pee in the yard.

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It ain’t pretty, but it was good. The after-effects? Not quite as good.

Also, yesterday was Shelli’s seventh adoptiversary. I can’t believe it’s been seven years. I still love her so much that it hurts. She’ll always be my first child. Joey got her a pressed catnip cigar, and she totally cracked out on it for half an hour or so until she decided that Indy’s toys were more interesting.

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I’ve started getting the itch to knit again…I’m lusting over yarn and project photos on my favorite knitting blogs. It’s time to pull something out to work on. I have a scarf that I started in March…I think I’ll finish that up and (finally) learn how to block. I’m also slowly working myself up to being brave enough to try socks.

I know. I’m a rebel.

Insane in the Membrane!!

Man, I am losing my freaking mind.  To make a long story short, I’m switching from one antianxiety medication to another, from Cymbalta to Wellbutrin, and it’s proving to be one of the most difficult things I’ve been through in my life.  If I had ANY idea that Cymbalta would be this difficult to stop, I would never have gone on it.  My insurance doesn’t cover as much of the cost this year, and it’s going up $200 (and was already costing me $400 a year).  Per their website, it may cause dizziness, nausea, and headaches.  They fail to mention brain “jolts,” extreme depression and rage, and paranoia.  And the DTs can last up to two months. I’m just a little over two weeks off (and that was after weaning myself back), and the thought of six more weeks of feeling like I’m absolutely going insane terrifies me.  And the even worse part is that I can’t just take off work and get over it. I’m having to go to a job in which I deal with people in a high-stress environment, and I’m having to resist the urge to rip someone’s face off when they annoy me.  Add to that feeling like crying at the drop of a hat, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.  However, I am surviving and I have an incredibly patient husband and friends and family who understand and are helping cheer me up.  So, all in all, despite this mess, I’m still pretty freaking blessed too:)

So, this past week on Good Eats, Alton Brown did a show on Asian noodles which included a recipe using something that’s intrigued me for years now:  rice paper.  His Thai Shrimp Spring Rolls looked amazing on the show, and the rice paper looked pretty easy to work with as well, so I figured it was worth a shot.  I sent Joey to Grand Asia Market in Stallings, and he came back with lots of cool stuff:

like this adorable coffee mug with a kitten peering over the side.  He’s done his best to cheer me up during this time, and bringing me something that combines two of my favorite things (kitties and coffee) was a WIN.  He also came back with rice paper, though.  I substituted tofu for the shrimp…mostly because I don’t like the texture of shrimp unless it’s tiny and fried (make my fish fillet diamond-shaped, please!).  I drained and pressed my tofu, and then julienned about a quarter of the block.  Here’s what I ended up with:

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Check out the source link (the image isn’t mine, obviously, or it would be blurry with poor lighting) too, because it goes to another recipe for spring rolls.  Mine weren’t that pretty, but hopefully they will be the next time.  What a fantastic meal…it was light, but dense enough that it was filling.  Alton’s recipe says it makes enough for twelve rolls, but mine only made 8.  I also didn’t have any bibb lettuce to wrap them in, and I’ll definitely add that the next time because they were really gummy.  My favorite part was the dipping sauce, though. I’m making that sauce for anything asian that I make at home.  People, make these rolls.  Like, right now. 

Hopefully I’ll be able to make it through tomorrow without ripping anyone’s face off.  We always go to the antique show at Metrolina Expo on the first Saturday of the month, but we didn’t get to go today because of an incredibly irritating, hipster-em0-DB “rock fest” for the next generation of people who think they’re unique for having an all-day concert.  There’s nothing new under the sun, kids.  You’re not that special.  Anyway, we’re going to try to go back tomorrow…hopefully we can buy some stuff and offer the dealers some support since they were undoubtedly pissed at their customer base being turned away on their biggest business day.  /rant is over.

Off to watch more Good Eats.  I wish Alton Brown was my zany uncle.

2011: A New Year!

Today is going to be a good day!  It’s MLK day, so I’ve got the day off, and the morning is being spent like this:

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I can never pass up a Shellikins on the lap; it’s a rarity for me, since she usually wants to be on Joey all the time.  So, it dawned on me that, because things were so crappy, I’d neglected to post the resolutions I finally came up with for the year.  Here we go!

  1. Further My Education; (1) Graduate, (2) complete PhD applications
  2. Improve my health, fitness, and weight.  (1) reduce takeout to once a week, and make it last two meals if possible.  (2) Plan meals one week in advance. (3) eat mostly paleo and reduce refined carbs, (4) incorporate exercise every day!
  3. Lead a more peaceful life/reduce stress:  (1) Yoga at least once a week, (2) read Bible and pray every day, (3) have one fun outing with Joey every week, (4) establish morning and evening routines, both for myself and with Shelli, (5) incorporate 15 minutes of cleaning the house per day.
  4. Be a better friend/more thoughtful person
  5. Tighten back up financially, (1) the aforementioned reduction in takeout, (2), meal planning (getting our grocery/toiletries budget back down to $50 per week)

In an effort to improve both #2 and #5, we bought a Wii with the Wii Fit Plus package!  It was a bit of a steep up-front cost, yes, but when we did the math, we’ll save about $300 over the year over our memberships to our gym, which just isn’t convenient to us and doesn’t really fit our schedules.  I prefer to workout in the morning, but to do that, I have to get there at 5 am, right when the gym opens.  As much as I’d like to, I just can’t get myself up at 4:40 to be ready to leave at 4:45.  However, I can get up at 4:55 to do thirty minutes in the morning before I get in the shower!  Or even get up at 5 to do 30 minutes since it won’t really hurt to be five minutes later.

Here’s our home-screen:

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Initial thoughts:

  1. I do not appreciate that the little voice goes “Oooh!” when I step on the balance board/scale.
  2. It hurt to see my BMI and have the little voice tell me I’m obese and to imitiately change my Mii (avatar) into the chubby girl you see above.
  3. It’s TOTALLY awesome that you can enter your pet!  Shelli is just under 8 pounds, by the way, which is very healthy for her, so we’re not trying to change her weight with it.  However, she did NOT appreciate being held so that we could get her weight.  She got pretty pissed.
  4. It’s FUN!  It’s really nice to have something to work toward, and the games are great for a workout.  When I played it at my friend Katie’s house over the weekend, I was really sore the next day from the workout that I got…but it doesn’t usually feel like exercise because it’s a game.  Good stuff!

In other news, my prospectus draft has been submitted and I’ve gotten feedback, so the next step is revision and resubmittal, and then hopefully it’ll be good enough for submission to my committee for the meeting.  I’m feeling positive about it now rather than overwhelmed and my advisor is very involved in my progress, so I don’t feel nearly as lost.  Middle Eastern Lit has been interesting so far; I’ve read The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, which was thought provoking and made me uncomfortable with my own thoughts/beliefs and assumptions.  That’s the sign of a good book, my friends; confronting uncomfortable realities isn’t a bad thing.  Too many people shy away from it.

That’s all; Maury is about to come on!

Scenic Drive, Cade’s Cove, and Good Eatin’

Greetings from another morning at the Smoky Bear Campground!  I’m the only one up yet today.  I woke up at about 6:50 and tried to convince myself that I didn’t need to pee but it wasn’t working, so I went ahead and got up and showered and everything.  They’ve got a really clean bath house, and every time I’ve been up there to shower, I’ve been all by myself, so that’s nice.  Anyway, on to yesterday’s events:

We ate breakfast at Flapjacks (no photo, sorry…the seating was extremely awkward and the four women next to us didn’t seem too thrilled to be in such close quarters as we did, so I didn’t want to totally weird them out by taking pictures of my food).  I had the “Healthy Egg Breakfast,” which was two Egg Beaters, two multigrain pancakes, and a banana.  The banana was still green and tart (my favorite!)…but it was amusing that even the healthy breakfast came with this HUGE glob of butter on the side.  I took a tiny bit for my pancakes and then did my best to move everything on my plate as far away from it as possible.  They had good coffee, though.

After a detour to the Gatlinburg Welcome Center to get some info (I also met this woman in the gift shop whose ring tone was the theme to The Golden Girls.  Totally awesome.  She said that there are four of them and each of them kind of reminds the others of one of the characters and they all have the same ringtone.  What a trip), we hit the road for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to visit Cade’s Cove, where there was a scenic drive with lots of spots to stop.  Here’s a shot from the first overlook:

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We also stopped along the river and the boys and Shannon climbed out on some rocks to get pics of the waterfall, but I was too afraid to navigate the rocks in my Adidas flops, so I stayed at the top and watched them. 

The Scenic Loop at Cade’s Cove is 11 miles and it’s only 20 MPH all the way through.  There are also ten or so sites to stop at that, I’m sure if we’d gotten the booklet at their welcome center, would have had great historical significance.  The boys got more shots, but I got this one of an ooooold cabin.  See the little bird’s nest up in the corner of the window?  The whole place was empty, but you could walk through all the rooms and see how they lived.  The fireplace had been ripped out, but you could see where it was.  Pretty amazing.  We also stopped at several old churches and cemeteries. 

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We saw a coyote, four bears, TONS of wild turkeys, and lots of deer, too.  Joey got some pics of the coyote and deer, and James hung out the window and got lots of pics, so I’m sure I’ll have plenty to share once we get them all downloaded.

This is James and Shannon out on the rocks…Wordpress put the pics out of order and is being pissy right now, so excuse the out-of-order stories;).  There were lots of people tubing in the river, which we never could make sense of since there are so many really shallow and rocky spots.   There were also LOTS of women who felt the need to show loooots of flesh.

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This was another shot from the overlook.  Beautiful view!

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It POURED on us during the last part of the ride, so bad that we really couldn’t see much, so we headed back to the camper to make “lunch” (in quotes because we didn’t eat lunch until 5 and dinner until 10).  James grilled chicken thighs, Joey did diced potatoes in the skillet, and Shannon warmed some green beans (and I did the dishes afterward, so don’t say I’m lazy, Mom;) ).  James did an AWESOME job on the chicken and Joey on the potatoes as well…added a little BBQ sauce and we were in heaven.  No pic.  I’m growing very forgetful here on this trip about food pics, although I’m hoping it’s a sign of my relaxation.

Dinner was also pic-less, but not for lack of want.  See below:

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:).  Love campfire.  I roasted a Hebrew National hotdog over the fire until it was well-charred (like, I couldn’t really tell if it was done or not anyway because it was dark and Shannon finally said, “Melanie, the end is pretty black…”).  I had it with a few BBQ chips.  We sat out by the fire until 1 in the morning, and then hit the sack.

This is the best kind of vacation ever.  There’s really not much to do, we haven’t spent a ton of money (although horseback riding was a little expensive, but well worth it).  It’s also so wonderful to have friends with whom we can be totally ourselves, without having to be “on” all of the time.  If we talk, that’s great, but if we don’t, and we just sit in the car together or sit by the fire together, that’s great, too.  It’s been such a long time since I’ve had a chance to do this and just let things go.  Everyone needs this…we make our lives so busy, both intentionally (to mute our thoughts) and unintentionally (to try to please everyone around us).  We’re doing ourselves in.  The slower lifestyle is definitely the healthier one, and I’m going to take that to heart from now on.  My lifesyle has been unsustainable these past few years, and I’m going to stop that.

Well, I don’t know what’s on for today, but you can be sure I’ll photograph it and blog it tomorrow:). And a hummingbird just flew by as I was typing this….too bad I didn’t have any sugar water.  She was brave…probably would have landed on the table if I’d had it.  Good day, folks:).

Ash Wednesday…

So, this Baptist was found today at Saint Gabriel’s church at lunch, together with a friend from work, attending an Ash Wednesday service and receiving ashes.  It’s the first time I’ve ever done it; I’d talked about it last year, how I wished I had gotten ashes, and this year, when Anne came in the office and hadn’t gotten them yet, I told her that I’d like to go along if she went at lunch.

It was really an incredible experience; the much-abbreviated service was beautiful, very Scriptural, and very reverent.  There were four people, two clergy members and two laypeople, giving the ashes.  There was prayer, responses, and we left during the singing. 

Quite honestly, knowing that the ashes were there really kept my mind focused on Christ today…I found myself pausing before getting too aggravated or having a bad attitude.  We could all benefit from a tangible reminder of Christ’s suffering on our behalf every now and then, I think.

I’m giving up TRU TV for Lent.  For the three of you who are regular readers;)…you know how often we watch that channel; in fact, it’s just about always on when we’re in the house.  So, my reasons for choosing it as my “sacrifice” are twofold:  First, because we love it so much, it really will be a sacrifice for me, so I know that it will often be a reminder to me of  the price that was paid for our salvation…Second, because I know that I’ve been a very poor steward of my time in general, and TV plays a huge part in that.  I’m hoping, not to just give it up for this forty days, but to lose my attachment and to be able to let go of television so that I can focus on better pursuit (schoolwork, cooking from scratch, clearing the clutter in the house, etc). 

I’ve been feeling convicted lately about my own laziness…how I’ll come home, skip the gym, collapse in the recliner and watch TV for the rest of the night.  I’ve been given the opportunity to finish my Master’s while going to work, and rather than take the time that I have to get ahead with reading, I’ll wait until the last minute for no good reason.  I want us to eat a better diet (and we’ve improved here in the last two months), but I don’t take the time that I should take to prepare good foods.

In addition to my Lenten sacrifice, I want to focus on simpler foods to remind us of the poor and suffering people in the world.  Part of the Lenten Diet is abstaining from meat and dairy.  Since I already abstain from meat, I don’t have any changes to make there.  I don’t intend for us to abstain from dairy, but I do intend to abstain from our routine takeout and to eat more simple, bare-bones meals.

Anyway, I think I’ve probably droned on for a little too long.  I’ve just got so much running through my head right now;)

Here’s a Kins for you…distracted by the “Dirty Bug”…

On a tangential note, I had Joey take a pic of me with my ashes, but I have some zits on my chin that scabbed over and are unflattering, and the picture seemed to make THEM the focus rather than the rest of my face, so they are not included;).