Category Archives: Alaska

New Perspectives

Hi, Sweeties! Remember those photos I promised you of my ziplining adventure in Alaska? Well, get ready because here they come. They actually are a pretty good illustration for some of the points of today’s post, so I thought it would be quite appropriate. Also, I’m sorry I’ve been away for so long. This post should explain my absence. 

I was excited about ziplining in Ketchikan, Alaska, but I didn’t know what to expect. Before taking the leap off of the platform, the instructor made sure I had the proper gear and an understanding of how to use it. I was harnessed up and the trolley attached to the harness was clipped to the line. The instructor explained how I should use my hand to steer the trolley if  I found myself spinning off to the side and needed to straighten back up. He also explained how to press down on the top, which works like a friction brake, when it was time to stop. Stopping proved to be the challenging part.

Geared UpEach leap into weight loss started with gathering gear and trying to understand how to use it properly. If you want to read about my journey in greater detail, please check out this page. Just to briefly summarize, you might recall that my experience went something like this:

Date: 2000 Weight: 340 pounds Gear: knowledge of fat content in the foods I ate, a well stocked kitchen and good walking shoes

Results: Loss of 110 pounds and gall bladder problems due to, according to my doctor, the restriction of fat in my diet

In 2001, I started law school, had to have my gallbladder removed, discovered that I didn’t have time to make all of my own food, and got out of my walking habit. I gained back 60 of the pounds I’d lost and ended up weighing about 280 pounds.

Date: 2005 Weight: 280 pounds Gear: Weight Watcher’s On-line tools, fancy food scale and all sorts of exercise gear, including a heart rate monitor to measure calories burned during exercise

Results: I lost 120 pounds and gained the ability to rattle off the points values for food like a superstar. I learned to really enjoy all sorts of exercises and discovered that my body was strong and capable. I also hit a plateau and became frustrated when my meticulous counting wasn’t providing results on the scale. 

I started this blog in January of this year and by March, I decided that I was sick of counting points and I was tired of beating myself up when the scale refused to budge. I decided that a change would be a good thing, so I switched to counting calories and started using the Sparkpeople on-line tracker in place of my ww on-line tracker. I thought that the new approach would be a bit more flexible and would shake things up a bit. I viewed it as a sort of transition to something that was less of a diet, and more like normal life. WW claims not to be a diet, but I never totally bought that idea. For a short time, I did revel in the flexibility of calories versus points. Calories are calories, and I didn’t need to use a calculator to convert things into points. That was somewhat liberating. The scale immediately dropped from 160 to 153 in reaction to the changes in my eating, and I started thinking about whether it was time to stop trying to lose and to start trying to maintain. That brings me to this:

Zipping AlongOnce you leap off of the platform and start zipping along, you build up speed and just sort of fly through the air. It’s a bit like cruise control. I think that dieting can be very similar. You just kind of zip along, counting your points or calories or whatever, and then you decide for one reason or another that it might be time to stop. That’s where things got tricky during ziplining, and that’s where things have gotten tricky for me with my weight loss. Here’s a photo of me getting ready to land. 

StoppingTo stop yourself, you have to use the friction brake. If you press down too early, you may have to use your hands to drag yourself along the line to the platform. If you press down too late, and the friendly instructor doesn’t use the back up brake, you could find yourself pulling a “George of the Jungle” and crashing into a tree. Each platform is actually built around a tree, kind of like a tree house. If you stop too early, you will make it to the platform eventually. Stopping too late has a worse consequence.

Unfortunately, the ultimate weight loss stopping point isn’t always clearly defined like the strong and sturdy tree. Yes, I set a goal weight for myself, once upon a time, and I haven’t reached it. However, I was basing it on a BMI chart that doesn’t know how much muscle I have in my 160 pound make-up. It also doesn’t know how much deflated skin I have. Yes. I do have some. I don’t think it’s possible to lose more than half of your body weight without that unwelcome side effect. 

I think my bottom line this year has been that I’m not unhappy at my current weight. Sure, I wouldn’t mind losing more, but I could be happy right here. Rather than letting the scale determine whether it’s time to stop, I’ve started looking at other factors too. I’ve realized a few things.

1) I’m sick of counting points/calories and of weighing my food. This was becoming a bit of an unhealthy obsession for me, and I’ve only become more obsessed and frustrated as the scale has stayed steady despite my best efforts. To quote the old saying, it might have been “like beating a dead horse.” 

2) Despite allowing myself treats along the way, I’m definitely suffering from diet deprivation and the backlash eating it can cause. I ate like nobody’s business on my Alaskan cruise. I ate until I was sick on more than one occasion. I had the feeling that I’d been freed from prison for one week in order to eat everything that wasn’t on the menu in the prison cafeteria. It wasn’t a pretty sight to see, and that’s when the scale jumped back into the 160s where it has been ever since.

3) While I have certainly felt deprived of certain foods, I think the bigger sense of deprivation was coming from the inability to go out with friends and to do things spontaneously. I spent a lot of time and energy wondering if there would be anything I could eat within my rules when I found myself out with friends. Often, I would just stay home. Sometimes I would find something that would work. Other times, I would toss my rules out the window only to feel guilty later about breaking them. 

4) My perfectionist tendencies have been making me crazy. By giving myself a set of strict rules or limits, I drive myself to stay within the framework I’ve created in order to avoid feeling that I’ve failed and to feel that I’ve succeeded. I was to the point of weighing the lettuce in my salad so that I could calculate the calories and subtract them from my daily allowance. Lettuce!? Did the scale budge thanks to those efforts? No. Did my frustration level grow? You betcha. 

5) I can’t spend the rest of my life weighing everything and counting calories or points if I want to stay sane, happy and avoid smacking into the tree of endless dieting despair.

6) I like sanity and happiness.

7) I need to figure out a way to “stop” that is not a restrictive diet but that will keep me from reverting to my old habits. As funny as it sounds, I need to learn to eat.

That brings me to the last three weeks and my absence. I’d been reading about intuitive eating throughout the blogosphere for some time now, and I had a vague idea of what it meant to eat intuitively. I decided it was time for me to check out some of the literature on the subject. Forever the student, I picked up a few of the more well known IE books. The two most useful ones I’ve read so far are: Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works by Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D., and Elyse Resch, M.S., R.D., F.A.D.A. and The Rules of Normal Eating: A Commonsense Approach for Dieters, Overeaters Undereaters, Emotional Eaters, and Everyone in Between by Karen R. Koenig, ICSW, M. ED. A useful website that lists the 10 principles found in the book by Tribole and Resch can be found here.

Both of these books really resonated with me. I think the basic idea is quite simple. You should eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied/full. If you are already an intuitive eater, that might sound quite obvious to you, but my eating was not typically driven by hunger or fullness. Aside from, perhaps, being driven by an effort to avoid hunger completely. IE is a more novel concept for me. Back in the heavier days, my eating was likely driven by emotions or boredom. In recent years, it has been driven by the external rules and limits I’ve imposed on myself. I’ve watched plenty of my friends use this “eat when you are hungry method” in their daily lives, with positive results. It makes a lot of sense to me, and it seems like a natural way of giving your body what it wants and needs.  

The books go beyond that basic idea with a number of other very useful principles. One of these principles involves legalizing foods that you have forbidden yourself. Vani had an excellent forbidden foods challenge sometime back, and I happily participated. I think I’m just beginning to understand why this is so important. It’s human nature to sometimes want the very thing you can’t have. If you know that you can have those forbidden foods, their power is greatly diminished. I’ve been experimenting with some of these foods over the past few weeks, and the funny thing is, many of the things I’ve really been sad to pass up over the past few years aren’t even that great. I had a pretty lousy cupcake from the store yesterday, for example. It looked pretty, but it wasn’t all that good. When I really concentrated on the taste and texture while savoring it, I realized that the frosting was too sweet. I think that’s the first time I have EVER determined that something was too sweet. Apparently, “Just Sweet Enough” has an even greater meaning than I had realized. 🙂 I’ve been amazed at the things that I have built up into some sort of mega treat in my mind only to find that they really aren’t that amazing after all. 

So, basically, I haven’t been cooking as much lately as I’ve started working through the principles in these books. I’m not sure what the scale is doing, but I do know that my pants still fit after three weeks. I’m trying to spend less time, energy and focus on food and the scale, and that has resulted in less blogging. I haven’t been sure how to explain what I’m up to, and I’m not sure this really does a great job. I would never want to discourage anyone from the path they’ve chosen, but I do think it’s important for me to tell you about my experience. I’m still not certain how IE will work for me, but my stress level around food and eating has already decreased by about a zillion percent. That’s right. A zillion percent. Math was never my strong suit. 🙂 That, to me, has made this effort worthwhile. I think it is also a good experiment to try to get a new perspective on eating, and I’ve been pleased with the results so far.

I’m not going away, but, at this point, I do not plan to post full days of eats anymore. I find that putting that much attention on the things I eat is not a good thing for me. I do plan to share plenty of recipes and reviews with you, as well as updates on how this IE process is going. I just hope you will understand why I’ll be posting less frequently and why my recipes may not all be “light” ones. I know that my body prefers healthy and nutritious foods, and there will certainly be plenty of that in the days to come. I do plan, however, to keep experimenting with previously forbidden foods, which could lead to some interesting kitchen experiments. 

This blog has been so useful for me during the past 7 months as I’ve tried to find a way to stop my diet merry-go-round and find a comfortable resting spot, and all of the supportive comments from my wonderful readers have really made all the difference. The ultimate goal, after all, is not to fit into a certain pair of pants but rather to be happy in life. That might look something like my post-ziplining mug:

HappySince one of my favorite things about this blog has been the opportunity to learn from many of you, I just have to ask: Have you had a period in your life where you counted calories/points/fat grams/whatever and then decided that there was a better way to find balance? What’s your story? Are you still counting? Do you have an exit strategy for when you get where you’re going? 

As always, I wish you all the best wherever you may be in your life’s journey. 

Before I go, I want to send a few birthday wishes. My little brother turned 30 on Tuesday. I can’t believe it!!! It’s really hard to believe that he just turned 30 since our mother is just turning 28 today. 😉 Here’s a photo of my mom and me during the Christmas holidays:

Mom and MeHappy birthday to both of you and lots of love! XOXO 

Now, I’m off to have an air conditioned work out in the gym. It’s a scorcher of a day, and I’m glad to have an indoor option. Ciao for now, sweeties and have a great week! 🙂

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Filed under Alaska, diet, Fitness, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story, Weight Watchers

I’ve Gone Bananas!

Hello to you, and here’s hoping that your Tuesday was more like a Tuesday than a Monday. Mine? It was Monday all the way. Ugh! I had a busy day, and it spilled over into my evening. I’m going to make this quick so I can get to bed and be ready to tackle tomorrow!

I have one more set of photos from my vacation that I want to share from our zipline adventure in Ketchikan, but I don’t quite have them ready. I have so many photos to sort through, it’s taking awhile! Instead of me in crazy zipping gear, here’s a quick mountain scene of the calming and majestic variety:

Beautiful!My vacation was so relaxing, and that photo is a nice reminder of the calm. That’s just the kind of scene I need after my hectic day!

Blue is known as a calming color, so keeping with that theme, here’s one more glacier photo too from my helicopter glacier adventure:

Calming BlueI was so taken with the blue water that I have a ton of photos just like this one. The glacier really amazed me. I do promise you some zipline photos soon (hopefully tomorrow), and then I think my vacation recap will be done. I missed y’all while I was gone, and I’m glad I’ve been able to show you some of the cool sights I saw while I was away!

Now, on to today’s menu! I put four servings of steel cut oats (1 cup dry) in the slow cooker last night with about 5 cups of water. I set it on medium low and left it all night. When I woke up, I had lovely, creamy oats ready to go into my bowl with some Jay Robb’s, raisins, cinnamon and brown sugar. I love this classic combo!

Steel Cut LoveI have oats ready to go for the next three mornings, and they will only need a quick zap in the micro. I love a little morning time saver like that! Speaking of time savers, I realized one of the benefits of keeping my little camera in my purse when I decided to buy some dried cherries out of the bulk bin at Whole Foods on Monday. Instead of searching for a scrap of paper in my purse and then scribbling down the nutrition info, I have this:

Paper SaverI’m glad I remembered the camera, and I’ll be using this trick from now on for sure!! Ok, back to today’s eats…

For lunch, I had a big salad full of crispy veggies (lettuce, celery, cucumbers, scallions and grape tomatoes) topped with a hardboiled egg, two slices of crumbled turkey bacon, an ounce of goat cheese and some Italian dressing.

Lunchie LunchI typically just prefer vinegar on my salad so the dressing is a bit unusual for me. I recently found these little packets on sale and decided they might not be a bad thing to keep in the desk drawer stash. It was nice to have something different, and it was great not to have a vinegar spillage incident in my lunch bag. I’ve had that before, and it was NOT pleasant. This isn’t really my favorite dressing, but, for 25 calories, it was pretty good! 

I also had the Wallaby nonfat Pineapple and Coconut yogurt that you see in the photo. This was a new flavor for me, and it was pina colada-esque, as I expected. I could tell that it was nonfat yogurt, unlike my favorite Wallaby– the Dulce de Leche species, and I definitely think I prefer a little fat in my yogurt. Still, I liked the flavor, and I’d buy it again!

My snacks this afternoon were pretty typical. I had some cherries (nom nom nom!!!) Such a treat!!

Sweet Cherries!I decided to follow those up with a salty snack even though I had a hankering for something sweet. This popcorn seemed to do the trick, and the sugar craving went away. Yay!!

PopcornLater on, I wanted some peanut butter. I realized that I often eat extra foods just because I think something needs to go with the peanut butter– vanilla wafers, crackers, celery, whatever. Sometimes, a spoon is the best accessory! I had a few prunes on the side, but I ate this like two separate snacks.

PB and PrunesI have a smarty pants camera, and it made me laugh today. I took the photo of the PB and prunes, and my camera highlighted one of the prunes and said “Did someone blink?” Maybe my camera saw intelligent life in the prunes? Oh well. I ate him so we will never know! 🙂

I had one last snack this afternoon. Can you find it in this photo? It’s hiding!

Search for the SnackI love recycling these pretty metal tea boxes by using them to hold my writing utensils. You can see one holding plastic eating utensils in the background too. I don’t usually keep string cheese in there, but I needed to have a little goofiness break. 🙂

When I got home, I grilled up a zucchini on the Griddler, made a quick micro baked sweet potato, and reheated one of yesterday’s salmon cakes. It was a very tasty dinner indeed!

Din DinI followed my dinner up with a bowl of the new gelato living in my freezer and topped it with some rescued broken graham cracker crust. Yum!!

GelatoliciousFinally, I tried one of the ginger chocolate covered bananas I made yesterday. I love the ginger!! I can report that this is a winning combination. The crystallized ginger pieces are nice and a little bit chewy, and they go well with the chocolate and the banana. I’m loving these bananas! I hated bananas as a kid because of the texture, and I wonder if I would have liked them frozen. It seems possible. I certainly like them now. Yummy!!

Ginger Chockie NannerI just finished my workout for the evening, and I’m looking forward to having Wednesday off from the gym. I’ve had some good workouts over the last week, and it has actually been nice to get back into the gym after my week away. Even so, I’ll be happy to relax tomorrow night, and I can tell you that my body will appreciate a break too! Now, it’s time for me to make a cup of tea and head to bed. I have another doozy of a day to look forward to tomorrow, and I definitely need my rest. Ciao for now! I’ll catch you later! 🙂

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Filed under Alaska, Bananas, Chocolate, diet, Fitness, Food, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

Snapshots, Salmon Cakes and Sweet Frozen Bananas

Hi friends! Happy Monday! As promised, I have a few pics to share from my trip again today. After that, I have a new recipe for you so stay tuned. First….

Iceberg!!

Iceberg! Dead ahead!! We got to see glaciers “calving” on several occasions. Calving is when big chunks of glacier fall into the water following an amazingly thunderous noise. It was definitely a sight (and sound) to behold! That, my friends, is the recipe for an iceberg. The water was so beautiful, but I was certainly not tempted to go for a swim!

Here’s a silly photo. While in Anchorage, I was petted by a bear!!

DSCN3264_2I can’t resist silly tourist type photo ops. Further evidence from Anchorage:

Cheese!Those pants are a bit big on me even though this was the end of a week of constant eating! Awesome! Have you ever given in and done the touristy photo op thing? Come on! Fess up! Sweetie wants to know! I hope my friend, Miss M, won’t mind appearing here with her pickaxe. 🙂 I just couldn’t get that moose to go any faster. I tried! While you might think these little photo shoots were the highlight of our day in Anchorage, I’m sure you will be shocked to hear that there was actually something even better…

KobukThe Kobuk had a sign in the window promoting their old fashioned style donuts, and, after a long bus ride from Whittier to Anchorage, that sounded like just the ticket!

Old Alaska HospitalityI love the teapot mural on the side of the building. So cute! I had an old fashioned donut topped with chocolate and a peanut butter bar:

SweetsThe bar was not what I expected. I had a nice surprise when I realized that it was like the cornflake cluster candies that my grandmother used to make at Christmastime. I’d say it involved cornflakes, peanut butter, corn syrup and butter. That would be my guess. It was soooo yummy, but the donut, well… drool.

So I didn’t have donuts today, but I did start off with a nice breakfast. I’m sorry to say that it isn’t very interesting to look at:

BrekkieI was in the mood for steel cut oats, and, since I had a day off, I had time for the 30 minute stove top method. I liked them so much that I’m going to put a batch in the slow cooker tonight so I can have more tomorrow. I like their chewy texture, and I usually have some in the pantry. I just don’t think to make them very often since they take longer. I can’t wait for breakfast! Today’s bowl was a classic. It had brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins. I also added a little Jay Robb’s for some protein sticking power. Three hours later, I was ready for an apple with some cashew butter. YUM!

Apple Cashew Butter Goodness

The bluebirds kept jumping into every photo today. I don’t know what got into them!

Not long after my apple snack, it was time for lunch. That brings me to the new recipe I promised you. I hope you didn’t think the iceberg recipe was it for the day! 🙂 As a kid, I did a lot of the cooking. We were on a pretty tight budget so stretching a can of tuna or salmon was definitely a goal. Add that to the fact that I was just learning my way around the kitchen, and the results were often less than stellar. I made countless batches of salmon patties that could probably best be described as gluey, bready, slightly fishy, hockey pucks. Thank goodness for ketchup! I had a can of salmon in the pantry today, and I decided to come up with a healthier and more grown-up version. I was very happy with the end result! Here’s the recipe:

Grown Up Salmon Cake

Sweetie’s” All Grown Up” Salmon Cakes

Ingredients:

cooking spray

1 14.5 ounce can of salmon, drained and flaked (if bones are included, do your best to sort of crunch them up while flaking the salmon… no reason to waste that calcium!)

4 ounces of jarred roasted red bell peppers, finely chopped

5 Reduced Fat Ritz Crackers, finely crushed (any crackers should work just fine)

1/4 cup of chopped scallions

2 tsp old bay seasoning

1/4 cup egg beaters

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees, and coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Combine all ingredients (except cooking spray) in a large bowl. Divide into fourths, and form each fourth into a ball. Press the balls out into patty shapes and place in the fridge to chill for ten minutes. Spray a nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Heat the skillet on high heat and gently place the patties in the pan to brown– about 2 minutes on each side. Here’s a warning: These have very little filler, and very little glue. It may take some patience and some care to keep them from falling apart during this part of the process. If it happens, don’t worry. you can reshape it a bit before it goes into the oven, and no one will no the difference. Believe me. I know. 🙂 

Place the browned cakes on the baking sheet, and then spray the tops with more cooking spray for a bit of extra crispness. Pop them into the oven for 15-20 minutes in order to heat them through. 

A little recipe calculator told me that these are 4 points each.

My salmon cake had flavor! It was moist, and did not resemble a hockey puck at all. Success! I’ve had enough good crab cakes since moving to the east coast to know that the less filling there is in a fish type cake the better. That’s why there are only a few crackers and a bit of egg in these. I love the sweetness of the jarred roasted red peppers. If you don’t keep these in your pantry, you might consider giving them a spot on the shelf. I love them in potato salads, pasta salads and all sorts of things– including these cakes. I topped my cake with some raspberry wasabi mustard, and tossed a zucchini on the griddler to have as a side. I loved my lunch!

After lunch, I took one of yesterday’s chocolate covered bananas out of the freezer, and it was even better with the banana actually, um, frozen! It also took a long time to eat, which is a great quality in any dessert.

Chocolate Covered GoodnessI’m so enamored with these that I scoped out the chocolate at Whole Foods today in order to find some to wrap around my two remaining bananas. I found this:

The GoodnessGinger+ Chocolate + Banana? You bet! I made a batch this afternoon, and I can’t wait to try them! I also picked up a new bar that I snacked on after my WF trip:

Raise the BarThis Kashi GoLean Crunchy Chocolate Pretzel bar was ok. I think I like Coffee Cake flavor of this line of bars the best so far out of the ones I’ve tried. Even so, it was pretty good, and I definitely  liked the pretzel bits. I followed it up with a blueberry Oikos:

Blueberry OikosThe bluebirds approved! These were on sale at WF today, and I picked up several. I love the blueberry Oikos the best of any of the flavored Greek yogurts I’ve tried. I found the Chobani fruit flavored yogurts to be too gloppy and gooey. I think this one is just right. I didn’t even add any crunch!

Close to dinner, I munched on another little treat from my WF trip. I love cherries, and I look forward to their appearance at the farmer’s market and the grocery store each year. They are, hands down, one of my favorite fruits. They are so sweet and juicy, and I also think they are just so darn pretty!

Just a Bowl of CherriesThese are like Sweetie Pie crack. I could eat them all day. So good!!

When it came time for dinner, there was really only one thing I wanted: Breakfast!!

Dinner BrekkieI had two slices of turkey bacon, a fried egg, some berries, and two Van’s 97% fat free waffles topped with a bit of maple syrup. Yum! These waffles are much better than any other frozen waffles I’ve tried. I will be buying them again. This was exactly what I wanted, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Dinner was, of course, followed by dessert. I wanted to swing by the Gelateria up the street today on my way to WF, but since I’m trying to really behave myself post-cruise, I decided to splurge on a container of gelato at WF. That way, I’d know the number of calories and be able to make a wise choice. It wasn’t a sacrifice. Not at all! I picked up a container of Ciao Bella Maple Ginger Snap Gelato. Oh my!! It was delish! 

Ciao Bella!I’ve never found a gelato in the U.S. that comes close to the scoops I enjoyed a couple of years ago while in Italy, but maybe it just tastes different when you are in Florence or Rome? 😉 This will definitely do.

There is a bit of a story about the crumbs on top. I bought a ready made reduced fat graham cracker pie crust some time ago, and it fell out of the top of the cabinet and broke into a bunch of pieces. The pieces were nicely protected under the plastic cover, but it was still a broken mess hiding under the lid. I decided to just crunch it all up, put it in a container, and use it to top ice cream, pudding, yogurt and whatever else comes along. I’m sure I could add some butter and make it back into a nice crust shape, but I’m happy with my crumbles. 🙂 

That’s it for today’s eats. I’m doing better with my sugar cravings, and I think that’s because I’ve been eating more fruit. Now that there are cherries available, well, that should help matters tremendously!

I had a great workout tonight in the gym, but I’m sorry I didn’t get my bicycle out this afternoon before the rain started. It is collecting dust, and I’m missing feeling the breeze through my bicycle helmet hair. I vow to take advantage of the next nice day that provides the opportunity. Now, I’m off to turn on the slow cooker so my steel cut oats will be nice and creamy in the morning, and then I’m off to bed. Ciao for now, bloggies!

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Filed under Alaska, Bananas, Chocolate, cooking, diet, Food, Greek Yogurt, Recipes, Salmon, Uncategorized, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

Alaskan Cupcake Gold, Hungry Animals and the Nats

Get ready for a grab bag of a post! It’s a bit here and there, just like I have been myself!

While walking past an ice cream store in Skagway, Alaska (and considering whether or not to make an ice cream stop…), my friend and I heard this conversation between a mother and child leaving the store. The kiddo had ice cream:

Kiddo: Mom, why didn’t you get ice cream?

Mom: Because I want a cupcake from Sugar Mamas.

What’s that? A cupcake? Yes please! I did what any good cupcake hound would do and tailed them down the block and around the corner. I was rewarded with this sight:

Sugar MamaInside this adorable pink store, my friend and I were treated to a selection of luscious looking cupcakes as well as some fun little treats for sale and a very friendly dog. I believe his name was Carlos. The pup took the time to ask my friend to toss his stick back and forth. I should have snapped his photo, but I have this one for you instead:

Lovely!Look at the icing!! You may be able to read some of tags in the case. There were carrot cake cupcakes, fresh strawberry cupcakes with sprinkles, and several other kinds. It was NOT an easy choice, and I wish I had gotten a few to try later after I realized how great they really were. We both chose the Not So Plain Jane white chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting, and it was one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever had. This icing was buttery and sweet without being overly greasy and heavy (I hate greasy buttercream!!), and the cake was perfectly moist and sweet. I’m so happy that I was eavesdropping at just the right time. 😉 If the carrot cake had been equally as good, which I suspect would have been the case, I might not have gotten back on the boat!!

Now that you’ve had a little dose of Alaska (and you can expect some more for a few days more…), let me tell you about the Saturday I spent playing tourist in my own backyard. Of course, when you live just across the river from NW Washington, D.C., it’s pretty easy to find plenty of things to do.

A friend of mine, we’ll call him Mr. T, got a big new lens for his camera, and he thought the National Zoo would be a good place to try it out. I don’t love the zoo, typically. I especially dislike the apes. The way they stare back gives me the creeps! Primate issues aside, the weather was nice and the idea of walking around with good company for an afternoon sounded pretty good to me. Off I went! 

I took a ton of photos, but I’ll just share a few. Since this is a food blog, here are Tian Tian’s eats for the day. 

BambooliciousMmm… bamboo. I will spare you a photo of the Magpie’s eats for the day. Watching him chow down on dead mouse was pretty disgusting, but to each his own. Here is an elephant munching on some grindage (points if you remember that movie…) with me in the foreground. I think my diet might closely resemble the elephant’s!

Elephant DinnerThis tiger was just lounging in the shade, which is what I felt like doing after walking around all afternoon!

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright...I think these flamingos needed a snack. They seemed to be having some issues, and the vibe was NOT a happy one… Low blood sugar?

Fighting FlamingosIt was such a nice day to be out and about, and I can’t wait to see the photos Mr. T took! I’m sure to be quite jealous of his new gadget!! The weather was so nice that we decided to go and catch a National’s game after the zoo. 

NatsThere was a pretty big crowd for a Nats game since the Nats were playing the Baltimore Orioles. There were lots of O’s fans in town for the game, and there was a lot of orange in the stands. Unfortunately, the Nats did not win 😦 , but we had a great time anyway! I’m not a big sports fan, but I do like going to baseball games. There’s just something about it! Usually, I pack healthy snacks before going to the ballpark, but since it was a spontaneous decision, all I had left in my bag was a little package of dried apple snacks. Those would certainly not do as dinner and wouldn’t even fill me up as a snack. What to eat? Well, here’s what I came up with:

Ben's ChiliBen’s Chili Bowl is a Washington, D.C. institution, and their chili is really great. It’s nice and spicy with lots of juicy beef and plump beans. I have found that chili can be a pretty healthy choice, and it seemed like a better option than many of the other choices at the park. As much as I would have loved a big boat of French fries underneath my chili, I just got mine in a bowl with a bit of nacho cheese sauce and some chopped onions on top. I added a bit of yellow mustard, because I kind of like that in my chili sometimes. Anyone else do that? Is it just me? 

Of course, I needed dessert. There were tons of ice cream options, but Cracker Jack seemed like a better choice. It also didn’t hurt that the nutritional information was on the side of the bag so I didn’t have to guess at the number of calories I was about to eat. I appreciate knowing things like that most of the time! This whole bag (3 servings) was 350 calories. 🙂 I was a happy– and full girl!!

Cracker JackI would have photographed my prize, but it was so LAME! I miss the lick and stick tattoos and the games with tiny plastic ping pong balls in a maze. My prize was disappointing, but at least my Jacks were good. 🙂 I wanted something else, but managed to settle for a camera shy fountain Coke Zero. I’m not much of a diet soda drinker at all, but I like Coke Zero. Since I rarely see it as a fountain drink option, I decided to go for it. What is your favorite stadium food– healthy or… not? I do love a good hot dog, and the new stadium has Five Guys burgers, which are always an enjoyable treat. 

Saturday was such a nice day! I managed to keep my eating on track while staying in motion. I worked out in the gym on Saturday morning, and followed that up with several hours of walking around. It was definitely the sort of active day I needed during my “cruise recovery” program. 🙂  As for my Sunday, well, it has been a pretty laid back day. I still need to go to the grocery store, so I haven’t really done much cooking. I did make a sweet little treat that I wanted to mention: Chocolate covered bananas!

First, I peeled two bananas, sliced them in half, inserted some skewers, and put them on a plate covered with waxed paper:

Pre-FreezeI popped the plate in the freezer to let the bananas firm up for about three hours. Then, I melted 3 ounces of 77% dark chocolate with cocoa nibs (yummy), in the microwave in a small pyrex measuring cup:

Melted ChocolateI used to use the double boiler method whenever I melted chocolate, but, unless I’m making something super fancy, I think the microwave method works just fine! I’d say that you need about 1 1/2 ounces of chocolate per whole banana. Put the chocolate in a microwave safe dish and zap it for 30 seconds. Take it out, stir it, and zap it for 30 seconds more. Repeat this until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Then, dip the bananas. I decided I needed to use a rubber spatula to make sure I got the chocolate all over the bananas. After they were coated, I put them all back on the plate and popped them back in the freezer. You can see that the chocolate was already pretty much hardened up even before the second freeze:

Chocolate Covered BananasYou can see the bumpy little nibs too. Yum! Theoretically, these should stay in the freezer for awhile to allow the banana to re-freeze after being dipped in the hot chocolate. Realistically, I decided that 10 minutes was long enough!

Yum!I considered dipping these in nuts right after they took a swim in the chocolate, but the cocoa nibs in this chocolate bar gave it a crunch so I decided I didn’t need anything more. These are so easy, and quick. I’m not sure why I never made my own! I’ve seen some pricey ones in the freezer section at my Whole Foods, and those just seem extra silly now that I know how easy they are to make. Plus, I get to pick the chocolate I want. 🙂 

That’s the scoop on my weekend, and I’m so happy to have a bonus day off. I need another day like today to get things back in order after my trip, and I’m happy to be able to sleep late too!

Before I go, Christina made a batch of my cabbage nests and topped them with, get this, GRAVY! Genius! I’m so flattered, and so glad that other people are enjoying my recipe. 🙂 This really is a versatile recipe. Remember my barbecued chicken pizza nests? How about when I topped a nest with a fried egg? I feel like the possibilities are endless!

Now that I’ve got you all caught up, I’m off to bed with a book, Underworld by Don Delillo, that I’ve really been enjoying. Since I don’t have to work tomorrow, I may stay up late with my book. I love when I’m able to do that! Ciao for now, and I hope everyone has a lovely Monday.

Happy Memorial Day!!

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Filed under Alaska, Bananas, Chocolate, D.C., Food, Recipes, Uncategorized, Washington, Weight Loss

Take a Hike!

In Juneau, I hiked on the East Glacier Loop trail in the Tongass National Forest. After trekking up several hundred feet, we were treated to this view of the Mendenhall Glacier:

Mendenhall GlacierWhen I scheduled my hike, I knew it would be good exercise, but I had no idea I was going to enjoy it so much! The day was kind of cloudy, and the air was chilly and moist. It was also so FRESH! There were only six people in our little group plus the guide, and I think we were all struck by the peace and quiet and the smells of the forest. There were lots of lovely views along the way, and there were several little things that really struck my fancy. If you are a foodie, I don’t have to tell you how great these are:

Fiddleheads!Fiddlehead ferns! They were growing everywhere. I wanted to make like a bunny and start nibbling!! While tasty, given my music background, I also love them for the resemblance to stringed instruments. Although, I guess these were around long before violins hit the scene. Hmmm…

There were also some cute little mushrooms, but I, of course, wouldn’t nibble on those without an expert opinion first. 

MUSH-roomsIt was a bit early (and cold!) for flowers, but these little guys were doing their best to get the party started:

Party AnimalsWe took a little side jaunt and saw this pretty waterfall near the end of the trail:

WaterfallEverything was just so lush and green! I got some good exercise, learned a lot from our knowledgeable guide, and now I think I might need to find more opportunities for this sort of hiking in my own backyard. Bliss!

After the hike, I went back to town and met up with my friends at the super touristy but super fun Red Dog Saloon.

Red Dog SaloonI clearly needed to refuel with a big juicy burger, potato salad and a Guinness. 🙂

A Necessity!Excuse the messy hike hair. 🙂 I’d been hoping to see a bear on the hike, but I guess most of them were still napping. I had to settle for this one at the saloon:

TreedFun!! Today, I hiked to work as usual, and I didn’t see any bears on that hike either! Although, work was a bit of a bear. I had a super busy day, and, as convenience would have it, I ate exactly the same things I had yesterday. That’s my way of saying that I didn’t have time to take photos. If you’d like to see today’s breakfast, lunch and dinner, just check out yesterday’s post. 🙂 There were a few small changes. First, I didn’t have any more dried apples so I had a date and a piece of light string cheese instead. Second… I ate my celery first today and then just ate the peanut butter straight from the spoon. Hee hee. Sometimes I want my PB in a concentrated dose, and the crunch of the celery was sort of addictive on its own. 

I did have some different things after dinner. In keeping with my goal of eating less sugar, I made another smoothie. These really are sweet enough, filling and satisfying. I’ve been mixing fat free sugar free butterscotch pudding mix into pumpkin this week, and loving it! I finished off my pumpkin today, but I still had a serving of pudding mix left. I started to wonder…

Butterscotchie Shake SmoothieI used to love milk shakes with caramel ice cream topping blended in. I decided to put the rest of my pudding mix in a cup with 6 ounces of unsweetened vanilla almond breeze, half a scoop of Jay Robb’s Vanilla Whey Protein and a few ice cubes, and then give it a zip in the magic bullet. I don’t know why I’ve never tried this before! The pudding mix made it extra creamy, and it totally reminded me of one of those milk shakes. This will not be the last Butterscotchie Shake Smoothie I make! Yum! What’s your favorite flavor of milkshake?? I always love smoothie inspiration! 🙂

I followed that up with this little plate:

Blue Plate SpecialStrawberries topped with a bit of Galaxy granola and a bit of dark chocolate dreams PB really hit the spot. I think I may have a vitamuffin before I head to bed because I should be able to sleep my way through any sugar hankerings that might result. All in all, it has been a great day! I’m so glad to have three days to get things back in order. I hope you are enjoying the photos from my vacation. I’m having a great time sharing them with you! I have a fun little outing planned for tomorrow, and I’ll tell you all about it later. For now, I’m off to hibernate like a bear until the morning. Ciao for now!

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Filed under Alaska, diet, Fitness, Food, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story

Back on Track

Here’s today’s Alaska photo taken while trekking on Mead Glacier in Skagway, Alaska:

True Blue

I got a lot of close up photos of the glacier while walking around on its surface, and this is one of my favorites. I never realized that the water was really and truly so very blue!

To get on to the glacier, I took a helicopter ride, and I got to wear a groovy orange safety vest!

Safety FirstI also had on some awesome boots that kept me from sliding into a crevasse and a ski pole type thing for a bit of extra stability. Stylish! I learned a lot on this vacation, including the fact that glaciers are pretty dirty, in part thanks to all of the mountains and trees they have chewed up, and also the fact that moss actually grows on glaciers. Amazing! Talk about determination! Check out this little fella:

Awesome Moss-omeSo cute! One of my favorite sights from up in the air was this view of Heart Lake. I’m sure the name is self explanatory!

Heart LakeI loved my helicopter excursion. It was so much fun, and the view from the sky was unlike any other! Needless to say, getting back to the grind has been a challenge over the last few days, and I’m missing the sights and sounds of vacation. I am not, however, missing the overeating! I started today with a bowl of my beloved oat bran:

BrekkieWhile on the cruise, I didn’t have the option of nuking the fruit along with the oat bran, so I just chopped up fresh pear to go on top. I realized how much I like the contrast in texture between the creamy oat bran and the crunchy pear. I may never cook my pears in the bowl again!  I also topped this bowl with a few chopped pecans and some cinnamon. There is some Jay Robb’s vanilla whey protein and a small smackerel of hunny mixed in too. It wasn’t very sweet, but it was, well– just sweet enough. I realized how out of control my sweet tooth has gotten while on the cruise, and I’ve decided to dial it back a bit. Don’t get me wrong– I’m not ditching one of my favorite things. I’m just going to try to have a bit less for a week or two and see what happens. Speaking of things that are sweet, I hope you checked out my new moose mug! 🙂

When lunch rolled around, I had a nice little array of eats:

Lunchy LunchSince I haven’t been back long enough to really cook anything, I decided to grab a Trader Joe’s Soy Corn Dog out of the freezer. I got a box of veggies yesterday in order to restock the fridge, and I made sure to get plenty of cucumbers and celery. They are perfect low calorie crunchies for a girl who’s trying to get rid of a cruise pooch! I had some hummus with my cucumbers, and then I finished off with a dessert of Wallaby Dulce de Leche yogurt (my fave!!) and some Fiber One cereal for even more crunch. 

I came back to lots of things piled up on my desk, and I had a working lunch. I hate not being able to concentrate on my food while I’m eating it, but that kind of lunch happens from time to time whether I like it or not! I had some tasty snacks during my busy day too, and I tried to focus on fruits and veggies rather than sugary bars when I was packing my lunch bag this morning. What did I have? Well, first, I had a half cup of canned pumpkin mixed with 1/4 package (8 grams) of dry butterscotch fat free sugar free pudding mix. It sweetens up the pumpkin and makes the texture a bit creamy. I also had some Emerald Cocoa Roast almonds on the side. I need a bit of protein in any good snack, and these did the trick!

Sweetie Punkin' and Nutty GoodnessI also had celery with peanut butter…

Perfect Pair… followed by a bowl of afternoon oats.

Good Anytime of DayI really like this flavor. I picked it up at Whole Foods just because it sounded good, and it turned out to be a great choice! It isn’t too sweet and the flaxseeds give it a little bit of extra tastiness.

I was at work a bit late, so I decided to have a little package of dried fuji apples too. 

FruityliciousWhen I finally got home, I made a huge salad using items from the veggie box (tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, celery and lettuce), chopped ham, goat cheese and a bit of balsamic vinegar. It was crunchy, fresh and light. What could be more perfect after a week of heavy eating?!

Big ol' SaladFor dessert, I decided to have a sweet treat, so I broke open one of the So Delicious mini neapolitan ice cream sandwiches. I really enjoy these, but they are definitely “mini.” The best way to eat them is one LITTLE bite at a time! After this treat, I headed off to the gym.

So Delicious!After I finished my workout, I wanted something else sweet, and I decided on a smoothie made with unsweetened vanilla almond breeze, vanilla Jay Robb’s and a few strawberries. This was very satisfying even though it wasn’t as sweet as some of the other options I considered. Taming the sugar monster is going ok so far!

SmoothI also had an apple with a bit of peanut butter to finish off my eats for the night.

Can't go wrong with this snack!All in all, I had a day of fresh eats, and I’m starting to feel better. I’m still suffering from tight pants and an inflated scale, but I know these things take time. I really appreciated all of the comments on yesterday’s true confessions post. You guys are awesome! Now, I need to get to bed. One more day and then we have a long weekend!! Thank goodness! I hope to get in the kitchen and make something good to have in my lunches next week. I missed my kitchen! 🙂 Ciao for now, bloggies and have a great Friday!!!

P.S. I’m still not caught up on blog reading, but that’s on the agenda for the weekend. I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone has been up to!

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Filed under Alaska, diet, Food, Weight Loss, Weight Watchers

True Confessions

It was just as I had imagined…

Glacier BayThis is a photo I took in Glacier Bay. I know that this picture doesn’t do it justice. Alaska was, in a word– breathtaking! I had such a great time, and saw so many amazing things that I hope to share with you a bit at a time over the days to come. Speaking of you, I’ve missed you! I haven’t had internet access this week so I haven’t been able to post, and I also haven’t been able to keep up with all of my bloggie buddies! I’m hoping my google reader hasn’t exploded! 🙂

It was a fabulous week, and I’m sorry that vacation had to end. I heard a man say “enjoy reality” as I was stepping off of the boat. His sarcasm was appreciated as I headed back to work and the daily grind, but he probably didn’t know that there are some things about reality that I really am going to enjoy. First of all, I will be happy not to have options like the one below staring me in the face every morning (and close by just about any other time of the day…):

Pastries!Don’t worry. I have some beautiful sights to show you, but, since food is the main event in my usual blog posts, I thought I might as well get the “true vacation confessions” part of my trip out of the way since I’m back on the wagon and trying to focus on the positives after a week of, well, pretty unhealthy choices.

In the previous post, I listed several goals for myself during my vacation. I can tell you that my pants are most definitely too tight, and a quick and ill advised impromptu hop on the scale revealed a number that even I wouldn’t have imagined. Having said that, I enjoyed myself and the food that I ate (even if I didn’t enjoy the over-full sensation I experienced on SEVERAL occasions… Food Aversion Therapy (FAT) reared its head more than once…) As predicted, I’m more excited than sad to return to my usual fare, and there is something to be said for that. How did I do with my goals? Here is my honest appraisal.

  • Make sure to drink the usual 100 ounces of water a day: I ordered 10 big bottles at the beginning of the week and worked on them all week long. I didn’t quite drink 100 ounces a day, but I got quite close on many days and even exceeded it on a few others. This is a goal that I like because I remember the days when I didn’t drink water at all. The fact that I make it a priority and typically enjoy drinking it now is evidence of a definite lifestyle change. I did pretty well with this one. Yay!!
  • Visit the gym each day: Well… I did better than I would have a few years ago, but I can’t say I did a very good job of meeting this goal. I didn’t make it to the gym on the days I was traveling to and from Alaska, and I didn’t go on the days when I had excursions. I went on Tuesday for an hour, and then I never graced the door again. There were a few days with no activity at all. My long hike in Juneau was definitely a work-out (and a fabulous experience, by the way…), but my other excursions, although active, weren’t quite as strenuous. It could have been much much better, but it could have been worse. I think that scheduling lots of fun physical activities is a big key for me on vacation. That’s one way to make sure I get some activity into my day without having to put in my usual gym workout. Lesson learned. 
  • Try to eat as much fresh stuff as possible: If the goal had been “try to eat as much fresh stuff as possible,” I would have scored 100%. Hee hee. All kidding aside, I definitely ate fresh fruits and vegetables at each meal, and I know that, in times past, I probably would have zipped right past them and gone straight to the pastries. Instead, I had fruit AND pastries… and bacon. 🙂 For example, a breakfast would usually resemble this plate that includes a pile of fruit salad as well as a pear in my bowl of oats:

BrekkieI was so glad that there were oats every morning as well as lots of cool things to add to them! The plate above was typically followed by something that looked like this:

Breakfast DessertCarbalicious! A typical lunch started with 2/3 of a huge plate of salad (mostly veggies but with a few goodies) and a sampling of whatever random offerings were on the buffet that day. 

Lunch PlateBuffets are so weird. Don’t get me wrong. I ate more than my fair share this week, and I enjoyed most of it, but I still prefer to have things that make sense together. A wonton, baked beans, curried chicken and pasta in cream sauce are unlikely friends. My problem is that I like to try everything. That also goes for the desserts:

DessertThat brings me to the fourth goal–

  • Remember that tasting is fine and cleaning the plate is not necessary: I hate to waste food, so I didn’t set out to be wasteful. However, things did get left on the plate if they just weren’t very good. There were a number of things I tried over the first few days that proved to be less than stellar, and I didn’t choose those again. Some days, however, there were so many things I wanted to try that I’d make a plate like the one above and nibble my way through. Sometimes I ate it all, but there were often some things that didn’t make the cut. I’m happy not to have a dessert buffet in my kitchen on a daily basis. Yikes! I’m glad that there were at least some fruits and veggies involved, but I was definitely craving a menu heavy in fruit and veg upon my return home. 
  • Don’t overdo it on things I could have any day: I realized that this goal wasn’t really very helpful in a cruise ship atmosphere because I could have almost anything on any day. That includes the desserts. I wouldn’t have them ALL on the same healthy eating day, but I usually manage to work a few in here and there. This goal sort of morphed into my eating all the things I wouldn’t have on any old day, and eating them in abundance. I tend to lose all reason with regard to eating on vacation, even though I’m fully aware that my choices have consequences. I could have made much better choices and still had a good time. I hope to remind myself of that fact in the future. I would also have had even more fun if I hadn’t felt stuffed and sluggish on multiple occasions. Note to self: pastries are available anytime and it isn’t necessary to try to eat them all during a one week period. 🙂
  • Be kind to myself: This goal really kicked in a few days ago when I realized that my clothes weren’t fitting correctly. Honestly, I’ve been beating myself up more than I would like. I enjoyed myself, but I know that I went overboard and let my sweet tooth run rampant. Instead of the “Love Boat,” I was sailing on the “Sugar Ship.” Vacation should be enjoyed, but that doesn’t mean eating everything in sight. Striking that balance is one of the hardest things of all for me, but I’ll keep working on it. 

Today I got back on track, had a great workout and renewed my commitment to healthy eating. Feeling stuffed into my clothes gave me a glimpse of what my future could be like if I stopped fighting the good fight, and it wasn’t a nice sight. I already feel better after a day of normal eating, and I’m sure that, as the days and weeks pass, the scale will move back in the right direction. If you are a person who struggles with these sorts of things the way that I do, you know that the most important thing is to get right back on the healthy path and look forward rather than wallowing in a slip up and exacerbating the problem. My feet are firmly on the positive path, and I know that I’m headed in the right direction.

Before I go, I thought I’d share one more photo from my trip. This is me on the ship as we are leaving College Fjord. It was truly a beautiful place, and I can’t wait to share more photos and tidbits about my trip over the next few posts. In case the smile on my face doesn’t give it away, I had a great time.:-) Ciao for now, and I’ll catch you later!

College Fjord

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Filed under Alaska, Fitness, Food, Uncategorized, Weight Loss, Weight Loss Success Story