The Skiddish One

Because I love all of the cats in my family equally, I am posting some pictures in honor of the current oldest kitty in the family – ALABAMA.  She goes by the nickname Bama-Rama, resides in Erie, PA, and we think she is 15 years old.

We rescued Alabama from a no-kill shelter with her cage mate and adopted sister, Lola. We do not know Alabama’s back story, but that she was in a cage for almost a year until we adopted her.   She enjoys a stress-free life these days, spending them on her princess pillow in the master bedroom and watching the squirrels on Bird TV.

She is skiddish, but will sit on your lap if you sit still in a place and are quiet. I think I scare the living daylights out of her, so she much prefers this lap to mine:

She may be a petite cat, but she will fight her way to the food dish come dinner time! She is the farthest left next to her sister Lola and the late Pudge.

Give a shout out to Alabama!

Losing Weight in the Real World, vol. 3, “Shopping the Perimeter”

LWITRW 2 update: How did week one of “weekend only treats” go, you ask? Yeah, it didn’t. I actually forgot that was going to be my game of attack this week… On a positive note, Monday is the start of a brand new week – including Lent – so I hope to be inspired to do better!

In honor of today’s topic – the grocery store – here are some fond memories from  Snowmagedon 2010 – the weather event that brought the federal government to a standstill. I couldn’t find fresh anything, save some cucumbers, celery root, limes, and 2 sad little oranges, all shown below.

Let’s be honest. When the shelves are fully stocked, the grocery store can be a daunting place. Isles upon isles upon isles of food, sneaky prices, clever gimmicks,  coupons and promotions for everything…you catch my drift. There is a lot of good advice on how to tackle the grocery store like: (1) Don’t shop on an empty stomach or (2) don’t shop without a grocery list or a meal plan or (3) shop primarily sales. For me, the best advice I have received is to “shop the perimeter.”

Think about the layout of a grocery store. Every store I have ever been in (with the exception of the “Touch Me” stores in Ukraine) is set up the same way. Along the outside perimeter of the store are fruits and veggies, dairy, eggs, meat, bread, fish, bakery, deli and checkout. With the exception of the bakery and arguably the deli, almost everything you need for healthy balanced meals is located on the outer rim. To be fair, there are healthy options hidden within the isles. Notable items include rice, beans, canned/frozen veggies, and pastas.  But really, the outer loop is where it’s at.

It is easy to get caught up in the isles at grocery stores. I know – it happens to me all the time. Especially when I have the pleasure of going to a real grocery store – like Wegmans or just about any grocery store in the ‘burbs. I find sauces I have never seen before, exotic candies from my days in Europe, every type of cake mix ever created, instant dinner ideas that take only 10 minutes to cook if you add meat….and I want it all.  This is where other’s advice comes in handy – eat before you shop, have a game plan, and stick to the sales.

The next time you run to the store, stop and think about which isles you frequent the most. If you are not patroning the perimeter, give it a try – it may help you in your quest for healthy lifestyle and weight loss. It has been a life saver for me!

Do you have a grocery store strategy?

To Be Healthy

When I started my weight loss journey three years ago, my stated goal wasn’t  to reach a particular weight but “to be healthy.”  What does “to be healthy” even mean?  I interpreted it to mean I wanted to be at a healthy weight for my height and age group.  And I still do.  But, here I am stuck at a certain weight again, I am looking more and more to my non-scale victories to keep me motivated.  Usually, this revolves around clothing sizes and clothing fit.

On Sunday, I tried on a size 14 dress pant from Ann Taylor… and it fit.  I was beaming ear to ear, and I called my mom right away to share the good news.  I have officially reached the promise land of pant sizes!  Size 16s are hit and miss in many stores in DC, but 14s are always abound.  So I was pleased with myself and my progress on my “healthy” goal.

But I think I have an even bigger indicator of my health than just weight or clothing size- my fitness level.  As I was biking home (love, love, love my CaBi membership) from my early morning running
group, I realized that every day I am working out I am achieving my weight loss goal of being healthy.

Three years ago it took me 25 minutes to walk a mile on the treadmill; I was drenched in sweat and sore for two days – from walking.

Now:

I can run a 10:30 minute mile pace for a 5K, and longer.
I purchased a bike and without previous distance riding experience, I rode 10 miles.
I can make it through an intense 60 minute anger management class (kickboxing) feeling great.
I can hop in a pool and crank out a 45 minute swim session.
I have 5Ks, 10-milers, and triathlons on my calendar this year.

I have a strong network of family and friends who support me – whether it’s by working out with me, entering races with me, helping at my races, or encouraging me to keep on keeping on.

When I told someone I was training for a triathlon, I was not given a weary sideways glance.  I look and sound like an athlete.  I am an athlete. If that doesn’t fit the description of my weight loss goal of being healthy, I don’t know what does!

What does “being healthy” mean to you?

Recipe Review: Slow Cooker Chicken Pot Pie

SLOW COOKER CHICKEN POT PIE

Adapted from Woman’s Day

Ingredients:

3/4 c dry white wine

2 tbs flour

1/2 c water

salt and pepper

1 c each chopped celery, onion, and carrot

1 c chopped mushrooms

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs chopped into chunks

1/2 c each corn and peas

dill and thyme to taste

Directions:

Mix wine, flour, water, salt and pepper in a bowl. Add celery, onion, carrot, mushroom, chicken to slow cooker. Pour wine mixture into the slow cooker with the veggies and chicken. Add spices. Stir.

Image

Set on low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours. With a half hour remaining, add corn and peas and stir.

SET IT…AND FORGET IT…until its time to eat!

Image

Serves 4. I like to serve with some squishy bread.

Review: The original recipe was kind of bland, which is why I added the thyme and extra veggies. Overall, I love a good slow cooker recipe – especially one that is a comfort food and includes some vino. I have made this a few times, and plan to make it again. 

Losing Weight in the Real World, vol. 2, “Sweet Tooth in a Salty, Savory World”

Some people like cheeses.  Some people love chips and pretzels.  I can’t resist sweets.

Image

I have heard others say they have a sweet tooth.  I have yet to meet someone with a sweet tooth as wicked as mine.

  • Entire cake?  Give me 1 day and it will be gone.
  • Jar of frosting?  Devoured in 20 minutes.  (Also called the Frosting Incident of 2011. I cried.)
  • Half gallon of ice cream?  Don’t look away, I will eat it all and claim it was melting.
  • Box of oreos? Bitch, please, that is for amateurs.

I can only name one treat that I think is too sweet – baklava – and truthfully, its less the sweetness and more the nuts that I don’t like.

Since I started losing weight, I learned this addiction to sugar was neither normal nor easy to deal with.  Some weeks I am doing great – no desserts and I don’t crave any.  Then, it starts with a cookie or a candy bar, and my life goes to hell.  Every day I want one, some days I want two.  God forbid should a special occasion come up or I get a sudden urge to bake.  50 pounds ago, this wasn’t an issue.  Now, getting down to a much healthier weight, the problem is harder to deal with because a binge session can set me back weeks.

So, how am I dealing with it?  Well, so far, my methods have been failing me.

1. The Denial Method

Having no sweets for extended periods of time seems to end with a terrible binge session…and the binge session ends with either tears or feeling gross or both.

2. Reward Method

Lost .2?  Treat!  Tracked all day?  Treat!  Shitty day at work? Double treat!  Holiday?  Treat!  Got up to go to work?  Treat!  The reward method begets rewards begets rewards.

3. Mini Treat Method

I have tried the little snacks – that seems to end up with me eating the whole box, and then incredible overwhelming feeling of guilt.

4. Healthy Dessert Method

Fruit and dairy just doesn’t seem to do it for me…when I want something sweet, nothing short of processed sugars and butter will do. So I will eat my fruit and dairy and then hunt for something “more substantial.”

Fear not, LWIRW folks, LP has a new method up her sleeve to try.  

I am going to call this “Weekend Only Treats.”  

Sustaining from treats 5 days of the week, and allowing myself moderate treats (ie. 1 slice of cake) on the weekend.   Hopefully this will prevent the binging and bring some moderation into my world.  It’s worth a try, because I have learned that losing weight will never be a destination, and will always be a journey.  Sweets are just part of the rocky road of life….mmmm….rocky road ice cream….mmm.

Recollections of the Worst Interview of My Life

Seeing former PA Senator Santorum (current Republican White House hopeful) on TV the other day suddenly reminded me of when I interviewed for a staffer position with his DC office.  I had just graduated from undergrad in May 2004 and was waiting on a country placement from the Peace Corps. Applying for a Staff Assistant position in Senator Santorum’s office was my “back up” plan.

It was my first “real” job interview – and the worst one I have had to date.

My best friend and I drove to DC the day before the interview. I did a cursory hour long review of the Senator’s website and a quick glance at current events and I called myself ready. Despite my lack of preparation, I felt I was more than qualified for the position so I had a lot of confidence in my educational background.

On the day of the interview, it was a balmy 88 degrees in the nation’s capital. I was sweating in a tank top and shorts much less the suit I was wearing. My interview was scheduled for 4pm, so my friend and I had lunch at Union Station to kill time. I ordered the worst possible choice of a meal before an interview – cheap Chinese – and proceeded to roll a piece of General Tso’s chicken down my shirt.  I tried to cover the stain with the jacket, but the stain was too much for my confidence to handle. I caved and purchased a new shirt at a store in Union Station.

After I put myself back together, we slowly made our way over to Capitol Hill. I tried to not get sweaty – that didn’t work. I was dripping with sweat 5 feet out of the air conditioned train station. My friend and I spent almost 45 minutes hunting for the correct Senate building – this was before the smart phone age, mind you. Who knew there were more than one office buildings and they weren’t all beside each other?

After sweaty LP found the correct building, the next step was security. I placed my purse and binder on the scanner and walked through, and my friend did the same. However, my bag did not appear on the other side of the scanning machine. I stood there and patiently waited. Still no bag. The security guard became suspicious and questioned me as to why I was not moving. I told him that my bag did not come through. They had to turn the machine off and dismantle it to retrieve my bag…the outcome was brutal. The strap was mangled and the leather was snagged. The guard offered to write an incident report, but it was 3:35PM and I still needed to figure out where I was going. My friend and I agreed to meet in the cafeteria after the interview.

When I found the correct office, I was greeted by a staffer who handed me some paperwork to complete. I assumed that it was the standard name, address, home town rundown. Not even close. It was a full blown test that I needed to complete in 15 minutes before I could interview.

Page 1 – questions on my state representative and state senator

Page 2 – quizzed me on Senator Santorum and Pennsylvania (what is the state beverage?! For the record, it is not beer.)

Page 3 – questions on my personal beliefs.

I thought I was almost in the clear when I turned the page to find …

Page 4 – a grammar test in font size 8 (punctuate this sentence, find the misspelled word, identify the synonyms).

I thought it could not get any worse, when…

Page 5 – Name that elected official.  It was a page of about 50 faces that I have never seen before and I had to identify name and state. It was bad. Really bad. I could not even find PA’s other Sentator because 4 guys in a row looked identical.

All this had happened before I could sit down with an interviewer. I don’t remember how the interview itself went. I do recall the interviewer was skimming my test while he asked questions, Senator Santorum and I had a Penn State connection, and the job would pay about $25,000 per year.

Somehow, I received a call back from Santorum’s office, but I never returned the call. I realized at some point during the test that I was not cut out to be a Capitol Hill staffer…well, that and I had heard back from Peace Corps so I had a new adventure in my future.

Have you ever had a terrible job interview?