Saturday, July 25, 2009

Does this mean I have to start getting up early??

Well, these last couple of weeks have been interesting. First, we received all our cruise documents in the mail – and even though we’ve been planning this trip since last November, it hasn’t really felt “real” until now. Now that I can actually SEE all the paperwork and realize it’s only ONE month away, it’s really apparent how quickly this trip is going to sneak up on me. I should probably start packing now. Otherwise I’m apt to forget something important…

Second, Rick and I managed to shave 12 minutes off our four-mile neighborhood walk – of course, in order to do that, we had to run parts of it. We walked on the uphill parts, and jogged on the downhill parts. I’m used to walking/running three or four miles at a time, but I usually do my workouts on a treadmill, which helps to absorb shock. Running on a concrete sidewalk is quite different – and my shins paid for it the next day. After a quick Google search on “shin splints,” I was confident that what I had was merely some serious muscle soreness. Apparently shin splints occur when the tendons in the leg actually begin to separate from the bone. (Ouch!) But, after a couple days of rest and light walking, my legs seem to be feeling just about normal again – so I’m almost ready to go run out on the sidewalk again… maybe just not quite as far this time. :)

Third, I turned 24 years old on Monday (at least according to Eric… and yes, Eric, that DOES mean you’re 21… normally I would stick to my assertion that you’re older than I am, but since you backed off the first age you mentioned – which I believe was 50 – I’ll let it slide… :)). I had a great birthday, ate some chocolate cake, and tried not to think about how every birthday moves me closer and closer to 40…

But the MOST interesting thing occurred Wednesday evening, when I finally (after two months of waiting) heard from the place I interviewed for a job back in May. It’s actually the same place I USED to work years ago, before Rick and I moved to New Jersey in 2000. So I was already familiar with parts of the job, although over the years it has morphed from a part-time proofreading job into a full-time job, with more writing and editing responsibilities. And I was beginning to think that either a) they were planning to hire someone else and were never going to tell me, or b) they’d decided not to hire ANYONE and hoped that I would forget that I’d ever interviewed for the job. But just when I’d resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t know anything for ANOTHER two months, I got a call from the recruiter offering me the job! And since the call came at almost 7 o’clock at night (a rather strange time to extend a job offer, if you ask me), I can honestly say I was NOT expecting that…

So I am about to rejoin the daily grind of the working world… and while I am excited, I’m also quite nervous and apprehensive, because I haven’t worked full time in about ten years. I’m already worrying about how I’m going to balance my new job with all the other things I need to do on a regular basis. Of course, this DOES give me a great excuse for a shopping spree – I’m heading out to buy some work-appropriate attire this weekend. Fortunately, Rick and I BOTH have jobs now, so I should be able to afford it… (or at least I WILL be able to afford it when we actually have paychecks rolling in a couple times a month… :))

I’m starting on Monday, so needless to say, this should be another interesting week for me! Hopefully I’ll have good things to report soon… Hope everyone has a great weekend! :)

Monday, July 20, 2009

On this day... 1969, we landed on the moon. (At least that's what THEY want you to believe. Oh, they're sneaky, those Theys...) I'm just kidding... :) I'm not one of those weird "the moon landing was staged on a movie set" conspiracy theorists. Can you imagine the unbelievably complicated plot that would've been required to pull off such a feat? It would be not unlike the unbelievably complicated plot that would've been required for "our government" to pull off 9/11 (which is another rant for another time... in fact, I think I may have already ranted about it somewhere on this blog... ah, yes -- here it is).

Anyway, July 20, 1969 was, no doubt, an awe-inspiring day. But I wouldn't know, because I didn't show up until a few years later... which, of course, cemented July 20th as one of the most historically-significant dates EVER.

Okay, maybe not. But I did get a cool dessert at dinner tonight:

You didn't think I'd have a nice, healthy smoothie for my birthday, did you? :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Another day, another smoothie...

Forgive me if this has turned into some sort of “fitness blog” lately – I’ve been reading a lot of blogs solely devoted to fitness and nutrition, so it’s a subject that has been on my mind. But I promise I’ll continue to talk about various random topics at random times for random reasons. (But not today… :))

I was thinking yesterday about how far I’ve come in my journey toward living a healthy lifestyle. When I was younger, I was never one of those really athletic kids… I was never fat, but I was never in shape, either. And gym class is probably the WORST motivator for setting up a lifetime of routine exercise. At least it was for me – when you’re the shy kid, and you’re constantly picked last for every team, and you’re constantly ridiculed for your less-than-stellar volleyball technique, all you want is to get away from that atmosphere and NEVER revisit it again.

But a few years after I graduated from high school, I realized that I could work out by MYSELF – no teams to choose, no humiliating attempts to hit a wayward volleyball, no one to laugh or point or whisper… it was just ME. So I started exercising – walking around my apartment complex, or doing Tae-Bo in my living room. I remember when I first started out, I didn’t even own any kind of “real” workout attire – I would just throw on a pair of cutoff shorts and an old t-shirt. Eventually, when it became enough of a habit that I knew I’d be exercising on a regular basis, I invested in some workout-appropriate clothing. And believe me, it’s much easier to go on a long walk in some nice, stretchy spandex pants than in a pair of old jeans…

But even with my decent exercise habits, my EATING habits were horrible. I think sometimes there’s an unconscious tendency to think, “if I work out, I can eat whatever I want.” And once you start getting into an exercise routine, you allow your eating routine to slip into “anything goes” territory. The truth (which took me years to figure out) is that exercise is GREAT – but it doesn’t burn a huge amount of calories, unless you’re training for an Ironman triathlon or something. It burns extra calories, yes – but not enough to eat a bag of cookies when you’re done and still expect to lose weight. And that was where I made my mistake – even though I exercised on a regular basis, I managed to gain about 30 pounds over a six or seven year period. I was eating too much “processed” food, going out to eat too often, and drinking too much soda and juice. I also had the horrible habit of snacking when I got up in the middle of the night to let Echo out – while she was outside, I would have a couple spoonfuls of ice cream, or pull a cookie out of the pantry. In the MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. How horrible is that??

It was when we were living in New Jersey, around 2001, that I realized my size 12 jeans were starting to get tight. Size 12 is like the last “regular” size you can buy – after that, you get into “plus size.” There were a few moments of panic as I came to this realization, but then I made up my mind: there was NO WAY I was going to move up to a “plus size.” After a lot of reading and research, it became clear that the only way to drop pounds and KEEP them off was to PERMANENTLY change my lifestyle. All the myriad of “diets” out there don’t work, because people will only stick with them until they see some weight loss, at which point they go back to eating the way they USED to eat. And that’s the key – obviously if you weighed X-amount of pounds when you were eating the way you used to eat, you’ll go right BACK to weighing X-amount of pounds when you eat that way again. It’s really so simple, and yet we have an entire “diet” industry that has made it seem so complicated…

So, knowing that it would be much too difficult to drastically change my diet overnight, I started very simply – I began ordering water when I went out to eat instead of soda, and drank mostly water at home instead of soda or juice. I also stopped my ridiculous middle-of-the-night snacking. And that was it. Those two small changes resulted in a ten pound loss almost immediately. So by the time Rick and I moved back to Austin in 2002, I had thrown away all my size 12s and hoped to never see them again.

Over the next few years, I kept making small tweaks like that – nothing too radical, so it was never a chore to maintain my routine. Switching to 1 percent milk instead of 2 percent… using less butter or oil when I cooked… keeping ice cream and cookies out of the house to remove the temptation entirely… making an effort to eat more fruits and veggies… And eventually, I lost those 30 pounds I’d gained.

Lately, even though I’ve managed to keep that weight off, I’ve been making an effort to get into better shape – hence my smoothie obsession and newly-challenging workouts. That’s one thing I’ve noticed – even though exercise alone doesn’t necessarily help you lose weight, it DOES seem to encourage better eating. If I get through an hour-long treadmill workout, I usually find that I’m less likely to WANT an entire tub of ice cream or a bag of cookies – because why would I want to completely negate all of my hard work?

Well, speaking of smoothies, I need to go make one for lunch... which will hopefully will give me energy for this afternoon's workout. And you know what? I'm actually looking forward to it... :)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Mmmmm... muddy puddle sludge...

Okay, I am officially addicted to so-called “Green Monster” smoothies (so-named because the addition of spinach or other greens gives these smoothies a lovely earthy hue :)). We’ve had a few “smoothie dinners” this past week, and I had just enough fruit and almond milk left for one more smoothie, so I had one for lunch today. Actually, today’s concoction resembled something akin to muddy puddle sludge, thanks to the handful of blueberries I added.

But I swear, these things taste GOOD! For today’s smoothie, I used a cup of almond milk, about half a tablespoon each of almond butter and flax powder, a tablespoon or so of nonfat plain Greek yogurt, a cup of raw spinach, half a frozen banana, half a cup of frozen pineapple, and a handful of frozen blueberries. YUM!!

I’m also totally addicted to Greek yogurt right now. I’ve never been a huge yogurt fan – not only do I not like the texture of some yogurts, but a lot of them are full of added sugar. And I don’t know how they make Greek yogurt – I guess they strain out all the liquid or something like that – but the end product is so good. I get the plain, fat-free variety, and I’d swear it was made with whole milk. Or at least two percent. And all it needs is a little honey and a spoonful of granola or fresh fruit, and it’s a hundred times better than Yoplait… (well, I think it is, anyway… :))

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned yet that we’ll be going on a Mediterranean cruise in August… so if I haven’t – we’re going on a Mediterranean cruise in August! My parents, Rick’s parents, my aunt and a good friend are all coming with us. And we’re especially excited because we coerced our very good friends Nick and Cindy into traveling with us, too – they have four kids, so it’s not exactly easy to drop everything and run off to Europe, even with several months’ notice. But they managed to work it out… they’ll be leaving the kids at a kennel or something, with big bowls of food and water (right? That’s what you do with kids, right?). Kidding! Just kidding! :)

Anyway… so we’re hoping that our “getting into shape” strategy will pay off enough that we won’t feel guilty about eating with reckless abandon once we get to our cruise ship. Well, okay, maybe not “reckless” abandon. Maybe just controlled abandon. Slightly irresponsible but not too crazy abandon. I mean, there WILL definitely be SOME sort of abandonment… but we’ll be sure to work out in the fitness center, too…

And now I’m off to add to the 5,493 steps on my pedometer…

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

July 4th pictures...

I'm a few days late getting these pictures up, but hope everyone had a happy 4th of July!! For the second year in a row, Rick and I watched a great fireworks display from our driveway. This is one advantage of living so close to the golf course -- sure, we have to deal with golf balls constantly hitting our house and collecting in our yard, but at least we're right across from the 4th of July fireworks display. And judging from the cars that start lining every street in the neighborhood before the sun goes down, I'm glad we don't have to find a parking place and hang out in the heat for an hour before the show. We can just relax in our air conditioned house, and then run out to the driveway as soon as we hear a "boom" outside. :)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

And oh yeah, we bought new running shoes, too...

Rick and I had a nice day yesterday – one of the last weekdays to get out and about before he starts his new job on Monday. So we started our day by heading toward downtown to try a new coffee place. (Well, not “new,” technically – just new to us.) It’s called Caffe Teo, and according to the sign hanging outside on the patio, it’s been voted one of the top ten coffee establishments in the country. They also serve some very yummy-looking gelato, which I have not had the opportunity to taste. Yet. (That’ll be a priority the next time I’m in Caffe Teo…) And I have to agree with the reviews – they DO have an excellent cup of coffee. Rick was disappointed that our “slightly dry” cappuccinos were actually heading straight into latte territory, but the TASTE of the coffee was quite good. That’s one of Rick’s pet peeves – when people make cappuccinos (which are supposed to be equal parts steamed milk and foam) more like lattes (which are just steamed milk and no foam). I’m not quite as picky, myself – I love a good cappuccino OR a good latte… but cappuccinos ARE fewer calories… when they’re made correctly.

So we got our cappulattes and sat out on the wooden patio, where small speakers mounted above the shop played selections from what sounded like a Bollywood movie soundtrack. Italian cappuccino enjoyed with Indian music – is there anything better?? (Well, perhaps Indian food enjoyed with some Italian opera… that would be good, too… :))

After coffee, it was time for lunch – so we headed down to Guadalupe and checked out Terra Burger. We’ve been wanting to try this place ever since we saw they were opening one up north, closer to where we live – we actually tried to stop about a week ago, but it still wasn’t open. So we went to the original, instead, which has been open for a year or so near the UT campus. It’s an all-organic burger place, where, I was quite happy to see, they also serve veggie burgers. I love a burger place that serves vegetarian alternatives. And I’m not even a vegetarian. But I do, as I’ve mentioned before, have a problem eating any kind of meat that has been ground up and smushed back together. And Terra Burger had quite a delicious veggie burger – I will definitely want to head back to this place again. Hopefully the new one is open by now…

Once coffee and lunch were out of the way, we went to the Central Market grocery store to pick up a few things. The last couple months we’ve really been making an effort to eat better and work out more, and I ran across an interesting tidbit of information the other day as I was perusing some diet/exercise blogs. According to many random bloggers, raw spinach makes a great smoothie additive – you can toss a couple handfuls of spinach in your blender along with other ingredients, and once it’s all blended together, you don’t even TASTE the spinach. But it DOES add lots of vitamins (and barely any calories – did you know a cup of raw spinach is only 7 calories??). So last night, instead of a usual dinner, I made smoothies – I have to admit I was a little apprehensive. I wasn’t sure if The Great Smoothie Experiment would work very well. But I brought out my blender, and then I added:

1 cup almond milk

1 tablespoon almond butter

1 tablespoon ground flax seed

1 cup spinach

1 frozen banana

1 cup frozen blueberries

1 cup frozen peaches

Then I hit “blend” and hoped for the best. When it was done, the concoction was a rather unappealing muddy blue color, flecked with dark specks of who-knows-what. But I poured it into two glasses, pulled a couple straws out of the cupboard (because smoothies just seem like the sort of thing you have to drink with a straw), and tried it. To my surprise, my muddy blue smoothie was really GOOD. Even Rick liked it…

And it was the perfect fuel for our nightly four-mile walk, which we’ve just started to do. I was already working out every day, usually walking/jogging between three and four miles on the treadmill. But Rick doesn’t like the treadmill – he prefers to walk on pavement. And for some reason, I’ve decided to go with him every night, even though I’ve pretty much been doubling my daily workout. And I don’t know if it’s the distance, or the fact that I’m not used to walking that far on a sidewalk, but I have actually been SORE the last few days. I think a little less so today than yesterday, so hopefully I’m getting used to all those extra steps…

And speaking of steps, I only have about 1000 today, so I’d better get moving…