The number on the scale is only one measurement

Thursday, January 29, 2015

 After a rapid five-pound weight loss the first week, I've only lost two more pounds in the following three weeks. And I've been doing everything right! And exercising, too!

This is what I tell myself.

The number on the scale is only one measurement. There are other measurements of success.

I'm sleeping better.

My skin looks better.

I'm getting stronger.

Digestive issues are resolving.

I'm treating my body well, and taking good care of it. It's happy ("yay! cruciferous veggies today, guys!!"). My body isn't cowering, saying, "brace yourselves, here comes an onslaught of white sugar! Man your stations everybody!" (Hey, whatever helps, right?)

A too-tight pair of pants fits better.

And what's the hurry, really? So I can be "done," and go back to "life as usual?" No. No. No. This is not a diet, dear Deborah, that you abandon once you reach your goal. (Um, that's the kind of thinking that got you here in the first place.) This is a lifestyle.

Even when you reach your goal, you will still eat this way, I remind myself. Unprocessed, whole foods, eschewing white flour and white sugar, because you know this way of eating is the best way to take care of this body you've been given. 

This gift, fearfully and wonderfully made

So I keep on . . . 

My favorite teacup

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sandi at Rose Chintz Cottage is celebrating five years of online tea parties (congratulations Sandi!), and has asked us to share our favorite teacup for Tea Time Tuesday. I have many teacups that I love, but this beautiful Lady Carlyle by Royal Albert takes first prize.

This was a Christmas gift from my daughter, so it probably looks familiar, as I just shared it. I have always admired this pattern, but this is the first Lady Carlyle piece I've owned. This is a vintage cup, made in England. The colors are gorgeous, and the pattern so romantic and feminine.

From what I understand, Royal Albert started outsourcing their china to Asia around 2002. The china made there is heavier, and not the same quality, even though the patterns look identical.  I learned this the hard way, ordering the Royal Albert Polka Rose teacup for what I thought was a great deal. As they say, you get what you pay for. It's a pretty cup, but much thicker than the older, made in England china.

I'm so glad my daughter knew to get me a vintage Lady Carlyle.

It's tea in front of the fire today with some pretty dried yellow roses in a blue transferware pitcher. 

I'm having some pistachios with my tea.

Nuts are a great snack, full of protein and fiber and good fats, and with a low glycemic index (they won't spike your blood sugar levels). They're also highly caloric, so you have to be careful.

I saw an interesting chart herewhich shows what 200 calories of nuts looks like. It was really eye opening.

Did you know that for 200 calories, you can have . . . 

8 walnuts halves, or
10 pecan halves, or
29 almonds, or
62 pistachios

Can you guess why I'm having pistachios?

I sat and counted them out just to see, for future reference, what 62 pistachios looked like. A little less than a cup. (Except I had my numbers wrong, and this is 69, so picture 7 less!).

Once shelled, they equal a little less than 1/2 a cup. Quite a nice little snack, and very satisfying to sit and crack them open in front of the fire.

You have to admit, she's a real beauty. Thank you, DD!

Be sure to stop by Sandi's and see all the lovely teacups that are being shared.

Cleaning up the pantry -- again

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Now that I'm embracing a lean, clean, and green, healthier lifestyle, I really need to have another look at my pantry.

It's gonna be a job. Let's light a yummy candle, and listen to my "Crooners" station on Pandora, featuring the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, and Peggy Lee.

So, now, the pantry. I've been down this road before (how did all this sugar- and chemical-laden food re-appear to take up residence?). Each time it gets easier, but I'm really ready to Make. This. Permanent.

Goodbye to white sugar, white flour, white rice, and white pasta. Goodbye to barbecue sauce with high fructose corn syrup in it (how'd that get in here?), seasonings with MSG (what?!), jams with corn syrup . . . etc. Some things will be donated to the local food bank, others tossed.

I hate to throw out food. What a waste. Really. Another reason to be careful what I buy.

The only sweeteners in the house now are honey, organic maple syrup, and stevia. In place of white flour, I have some almond flour and spelt flour in the freezer, but right now I'm not doing any baking.

My rule will be if I really want a white sugar, white flour treat, I will get it at a good restaurant or bakery. That way, I don't have to have any of the "supplies" for making it in the house. 

I can forego crackers, pretzels, ice cream, french fries -- lots of stuff. But homemade baked goods really seem to equal comfort and home to me.

So, either I have to re-define my idea of comfort, or come up with some tasty, yummy treats that use healthier ingredients. But if it doesn't taste good, forget it. But I'm thinking as I remove sugar, my taste buds will change and alternative desserts may taste better than I expected.

So, you know how one thing leads to another? After doing another sweep of the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, I'm ready to start in on my spice cupboard.

Etta James is singing "At last . . . "

Nothing unhealthy there, but wow. Some spices were six and seven years past their expiration date.

The expiration dates are so hard to find. Once you find them, they're hard to read! Out came the magnifying glass. And then I marked the expiration dates where I could easily see them.

Here's a few fresh herbs, dried from my little container garden.

And some fresh dill I didn't use up that I'm drying.

I need one of those indoor herb gardens with grow lights. Not enough sunlight this time of year for herbs to grow inside.

Oh, look what else I found. Cinnamon sugar? And powdered sugar in a shaker? Sorry, guys, out you go. Just plain cinnamon for me. Did you know cinnamon aids in weight loss? Lovely in some oatmeal or in a smoothie.

Oh, and all this stuff . . . 

My husband is mostly on board with this program, but he does like to have pretzels or a cookie occasionally, so he has his own private "stash." He also loves homemade soup, so I'm making him some ham and bean soup with a ham bone I found in the freezer today. It will be nice and warming after a long day's work. Salad in January in Michigan isn't always the easiest to take, and I don't want to make life too hard on him! And I can freeze it for his lunches.

Whew. Time for some tea.  Speaking of lack of sunlight, here's my light box, mandatory during these long weeks of cloudy days. I sit in front of it every morning for a half hour. Prevents seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

It's very bright.

I promised a couple people the recipe for my Berry Bliss Bar, a granola bar I showed in my last post. I got the recipe as part of a nutrition program I signed up for online, so not sure I can share it. But I can tell you it's mostly made of ground nuts, chopped dried fruit, cinnamon, and protein powder. I'm sure you could find a similar recipe online, or go to Tone It Up if you want more information on the program I'm doing with my daughter.

Thanks for sharing my journey with me, friends. I really love hearing from you all.

Berry bliss tea

Sunday, January 18, 2015

So I'm getting re-acquainted with herbal tea. With a little stevia or honey, it is a warm cup of non-jittery sweetness.

It doesn't upset my tummy or wind me up as my favorite black teas sometimes do.

And since I'm saving money not buying sweets, breads, and other high-sugar, refined carb items, I can spring for these beautiful berries.

Look, even Victoria Magazine is getting in on the (berry) act . . . 

Celestial Seasonings True Blueberry tea in a very old teacup from Czecho-Slovakia . . . 

In other healthy news, check out these lovely items coming out of The Beautiful Matters's kitchen . . . 

Homemade granola bar with oats, coconut oil, and dried fruit.
Satisfying salad, with a little balsamic vinegar dressing.

Six pounds gone, and holding . . .  

Joining the tea party over at Rose Chintz Cottage.

Getting and keeping it off

Thursday, January 15, 2015

It's now been a good month since I've been exercising regularly, and two weeks since I've been on a healthy eating plan. I've lost six pounds and feel ever so much better.

I'm not worried about whether or not I can lose the weight. I am concerned about keeping it off.

 For the past 15 years, I've been losing and gaining the same 15 to 30 pounds. Enough. Really. I  am heartily. sick. of. this. 

I'm 57 years old and I don't want to do this anymore.

Are you with me?

The key is a real lifestyle change. And I've known this for years. It's not a lack of knowledge. I could write a book on healthy eating. So why do I always seem to slide back into consuming processed foods and sugar and refined carbs?

I want to be healthy, fit, and into a routine that is relatively effortless so that I can once and for all, stop feeling every day that little nagging, shameful feeling that I'm too heavy and out of shape.

Mahi-mahi, on a bed of cucumber slices, with fresh mango salsa

So how can I ensure that this time I'm successful?

Here are a few of my thoughts.

* Certain foods just have to be banned. High fructose corn syrup and even corn syrup is highly addictive. Somewhere I read they act on the brain like cocaine. And I believe it. When I have jelly beans or gumdrops in my house, I will eat them until I literally feel sick. 

Instead of beating myself up for lack of willpower, I will simply say to myself that these foods, and anything with HFCS, are drugs, and not allowed in my house. A recovering alcoholic does not stock booze in the house if she wants to stay sober.

(and this stuff is sneaky -- Wheat Thins have corn syrup in them!)

* Have a buddy. I'm thankful my family is with me on this. It's so much easier when somebody else is on board with this kind of lifestyle change. My husband and I purged our pantry a year and a half ago. How did things gradually creep back in? We are working on this again together.

* It really is a mental game. The physical addiction to sugar can be broken in three or four days, but the mind is not so easily convinced. I have to think of certain foods differently. Lean meats are almost like medicine for me; they give me energy and I feel good after eating them. Refined carbs make me feel sluggish.

I'm trying to ask myself this: do I want to feel good for 5 minutes, or feel good for three hours? The cinnamon roll is definitely going to make me feel good for 5 minutes, but how will I feel an hour from now?

* Have lots of yummy-tasting foods ready. Berries are prohibitively expensive in the winter, but if I'm not buying all the other stuff, I can justify raspberries in January. A real treat. We made up some wonderful waffles (protein powder, egg white, banana, and cinnamon) ready to pop in the toaster. A batch of healthy granola bars. Lots of vegetables ready to grill or steam. Loads of yummy citrus fruits. A lovely mango salsa made from scratch.

*Keep it out of the house. Just don't buy it.

* Drink lots of water. This is a really tough one for me, as I've never been a water drinker. But the more I drink, the more tuned in I am to thirst, and the more I drink. Good for everything, including skin, digestion, mental health, you name it.

Long term?

Does this mean I can never have a homemade scone again? A piece of homemade pie?

This is where it gets tricky.

Over the past two years, I have successfully given up Diet Coke and bread at meals (always loved crusty Italian bread warm from the oven with butter). I've just told myself Diet Coke is poison, and that white flour and water just makes glue in the body.

So I've thought about what other things I could give up permanently, and what things I really would like to have occasionally.

Ice cream, crackers, french fries, potato chips (I love them, but hate the feeling of starting and not being able to stop), and store-bought baked goods can really go on the no-fly list. I wouldn't really miss them. I just eat them because they're there. And I've never cared for fast food, so that helps.

But homemade baked goods are the Achilles heel. Can I just bake once a month for a treat, or will that open the floodgates again? Can I modify my recipes so that they still taste good, but have far less sugar? 

And what do I do with all the guests we seem to have? My husband says that that's really how all the unhealthy foods crept back in, as we have lots of overnight guests. (I'm not sure we can entirely blame it on that!) I can't necessarily serve high-protein, sugar-free waffles to friends and family accustomed to white-flour pancakes and bacon!

I've got a ways to go before I am on my long-term maintenance eating plan, but I want to be prepared.

Have you been successful at keeping weight off? At making permanent healthy lifestyle changes? If so, how? I'd love to hear.

Healthy winter tea

Monday, January 12, 2015

Like millions of other Americans, I'm trying to lose a little weight and get into shape now that the holidays are over. Praying that this will last longer than the month of January!

Sugar and white flour are the big stumbling blocks in my own weight management program. It's difficult when I feel that home-baked goodies with tea is synonymous with cold-weather comfort.

I actually find it easier to avoid sugar and flour altogether than to find substitutes, but today I made up these gluten-free scones, made from a mix my nephews sent me at Christmas.

I made them in anticipation of book club tonight, since so many of my friends are gluten free. Of course, I had to sample one to make sure they were okay!

a little friend to keep me company

Isn't this forelle pear beautiful?

If you look closely, you can see they're smiling at me with approval because I've chosen to have a healthy tea!

I'm having tea today with the lovely ladies over at Sandi's Rose Chintz Cottage.

Time management (and a little bling)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Before we get into what might appear to be a dreary subject, please indulge me as I share a little Christmas bling that's still hanging around my home.

I have been eyeing vintage mercury glass Christmas ornaments on etsy and eBay. These ornaments were popular in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, and they're just gorgeous, and such beautiful colors. Many of the ones I was looking at were made in Poland. One particularly lovely set of pink and aqua bulbs went for $112 for a dozen on eBay. Ouch.

So when I stopped in the local antique market, I was ready to snap up these lovelies, 50% off, and a steal compared to some identical-looking ones I'd seen online.

I got this tree after Christmas, too, marked down. I have set it up on my dresser, and am going to keep it up over the cold, dark winter days to cheer me up when I exercise there in my bedroom.

Yes, that brings us to the point of the post.

Click away now if you get annoyed by people talking about healthy eating and the importance of exercise and time management.

Uh, normally, that's me.

But, remember when I talked last week about not having New Year's resolutions (too Draconian?), but instead thinking in terms of possibilities? Of dreams? Sounds so much lovelier.

But, as someone pointed out to me, if dreams are ever to come true, we do need to do something.

After all, I'm not going to lose 20 pounds just dreaming about it. I'm not going to get these creaky, stiff joints moving again just by thinking. And I'll never finish writing my book just by talking.

Part of the problem, besides motivation, is finding the time. Where, oh where, does it go?

I think that, for me, housework and blogging (in particular, visiting blogging friends) can expand to fill up all available time. I need to live in a relatively clean and organized house, and I want to continue blogging. What to do?

Set a schedule, dear reader.


I had a schedule when I was in school and I had one when I worked and I definitely had to have one when I was homeschooling three children. But since my youngest went off to college 3 1/2 years ago, I have let myself drift a little, enjoying simple pleasures and not worrying about such mundane things as schedules.

Have no fear. I'm not going all hard-core here. I will continue to linger over the beautiful. To enjoy the good gifts I am blessed with. To stop and be amazed by a lovely winter sunset. If anything, a schedule will help me enjoy these pleasures even more.

I can carve out time to exercise and plan healthier meals. Determine to close the laptop, and take pen to paper. Schedule in reading time, so I'm not up until 2 in the morning trying to finish a book club book. Stop sighing when I look at other blogs and wonder how these bloggers have time to make such beautiful creations, and why don't I have time to make pretty things?

I've been exercising for 4 weeks now. I know, I don't even know who I am anymore. And I've lost 5 pounds, mostly since the beginning of the year when my daughter got us on a 7-day super detox jumpstart thingy. 

Trying to go to bed and get up earlier, set a timer so that I don't spend hours online, and really thinking about what I'm trying to accomplish has helped. I've set up a schedule for myself to try and make room in my day for things I've dreamt of doing, rather than falling victim to "going with the flow."

When you're retired, it's very easy to think, "I'll do it tomorrow," because it seems there's plenty of time. But that time can slip so easily away, and those 20 pounds are still there, the book has never been written, the creative projects never completed . . . 

How do you make time to do the things you dream about?

Oh, and before I go, here is another little tree I'm leaving up for just a little while because the ornaments (vintage mercury glass) are new (to me), and I'd like to enjoy them a bit.

What should I read in 2015?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Hmmm . . . so many books to choose from.

Our book club has been meeting for three and a half years, and we have read about 60 books. Sometime, I'll list them all. But for now, I want to show you our ballot for 2015.

About a year ago, we wised up, and decided to each nominate books for the upcoming year and vote on them. Then we'd have a nice line up of books to read. No more, "well, what do you want to read next?" We had kept going for a while by just borrowing book club kits from the library, but those ran out, and we needed a plan.

Planning in advance allows us to find books used online, or place a hold or interlibrary loan request on a book. Because we often read up to two books a month, we want to find them either for free or as inexpensively as we can. Nobody wants to fork over full price at the bookstore.

But before we look at the list, let's relax and have a cup of tea.

Isn't this the cutest little tea infuser?

My daughter got this for one of her brothers for Christmas.

So, here is the list we are currently voting on, in no particular order, except that I am showing you my nominations first. Everyone's nominations were in by Saturday, and we have a week to vote for what we'll read in 2015. (We are still finishing up last year's selections, and will be ready to start with one of these books the beginning of February).

As you can see, it's quite a diverse line-up, with classics, science fiction, Christian, current best-sellers, and even a western.

My Nominations

Lila by Marilynne Robinson
Selected Stories of Anton Chekov by Anton Chekov
Letters to Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien
A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman
First We Have Coffee by Margaret Jensen
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
Henrietta's War: News from the Home Front 1939-1942 by Joyce Dennys

Other Nominations

The First Circle by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton
The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose
The Lonesome Gods by Louis L'Amour
Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose by Flannery O'Conner
Summer Morning, Summer Night by Ray Bradbury
Miracles: What They Are, How They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life by Eric Metaxas
Soul Survivor: How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church by Philip Yancey
The Shepherd of the Hills by Harold Bell Wright
Israel, My Beloved by Kay Arthur
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom by Graham Farmelo
The Shadow Lines by Amitov Ghosh
Nearing Home by Billy Graham
Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
Teach Us to Want by Jen Pollock Michel
Love and Treasure by Ayelet Waldman
Back Channel by Stephen L. Carter
What's in a Phrase?: Pausing Where Scripture Gives You Pause by Marilyn Chandler Mc Entyre
You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life by Eleanor Roosevelt
Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth
Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim
The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel
Nathaniel's Nutmeg: How One Man's Courage Changed the Course of History by Giles Milton
Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott
The Reason by William Sirls
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter van Tilburg Clark

There was one nomination I have to highlight. No offense to my friend who nominated it, but I'm hoping this is a joke. We're very proud of her for landing an engineering job after years of being home and homeschooling her children. But, seriously? Maybe she just wants to share the fun with us?!

Fundamentals of Automotive and Engine Technology: Standard Drives, Hybrid Drives, Brakes, Safety Systems by Konrad Reif

Oh, my.

Some of the nominations I have already read, and some I've never heard of. There's a few I definitely want to read, and a few I hope we don't read!

Which books would you choose? What would you add to the list? Are you reading anything interesting right now?

(Note to my book club friends: This is not the official ballot. Deb will be sending that out.)
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