Monday, July 30, 2012

57 By 57

Sprague Lake - Rocky Mountain National Park
Estes Park, Colorado - June 5, 2011

Thought I'd borrow an idea from BlogFriend, Betsy From Tennessee, and post a picture from last year's summer adventure in the hopes that a sparkling alpine lake with snow-capped mountains in the background might drop the sweltering temps a few degrees.   Sorry, Betsy, it didn't work when you did it and it isn't working today!!  Guess we'll all just have to be patient - fall is coming.

Moving on to "cooler" things.............

I'm hoping to hear a collective rendition of Happy Birthday from all parts of the country when I just casually mention that today is the day.   Yep, I become 57 years young at approximately 10:54 a.m.  I was born on a Sunday morning, and my mother always laughingly told me that since we were good Baptists, I was born between Sunday School and Worship Service!!  

But the news is much bigger than the fact that it's my birthday.   A few weeks ago, when I realized I wasn't going to quite make it to goal weight by my birthday, I set a smaller goal to have lost 57 total pounds by my 57th birthday.   I didn't say anything about it because truthfully, I am so close to goal, it didn't matter, but when I realized the numbers jived, it sounded like fun.   And yes, this morning (actually, yesterday morning), the scales rewarded me with that elusive 57th pound.

Now, I want to hear that collective rendition of YOU GO, GIRL from all corners of the earth!  I am so proud of myself and it feels so good.  What FEELS different this time is that I believe I am in control.   I am not approaching maintenance with fear because I am content with the way I am eating and don't intend for that to change.  The last time I was at this point (in 2007), I was already scheming about things I was going to eat and restaurants I was going to visit.  Of course, I was going to keep it all under control and thought I had it all together.   And for awhile, I did!   I stayed at goal weight for more than a year before I got lazy, picked back up some bad habits  and well, we all know what happens!   This time, I'm not scheming.   There's nowhere I want to go, nothing I want to eat or any plans I'm making that are different from the way I've been living for the past eight months.  And that's a good feeling.

What am I doing to celebrate?   Why hiking, of course!   By the time you read this, I will be well on my way up the mountain for another great day on the trail.  Bill's summer class has finished, but he needs to be at school one more day then he'll be out until August 15th.   We have a couple of fun things planned for this week to celebrate my birthday and then several days next week at a cabin in western North Carolina with friends from our college days.   It's our last few days to celebrate summer before he returns to school for fall semester.  And we plan to enjoy every moment!

I'm having a virtual birthday party!
What gift of wisdom will you bring?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Aim High! Climb Higher! Go Further!

Along the Appalachian Trail looking into North Carolina - GSMNP
July 23, 2012

We started walking along the Appalachian Trail from Newfound Gap located on the Tennessee/North Carolina border.   It was 9:00 a.m. and the air temperature was quite pleasant at 5100' elevation.  Zap the humidity and it would've been perfect.  Stopping for the traditional trailhead picture at this sign is always a bit daunting............

..........but I quickly reassured my hiking bud that I had no plans to hike all the way to Katahdin, Maine that day.   I've got several pictures taken at this trailhead and I'm always reluctant to stand behind anything that mentions a heifer, especially a sweaty one.  I've done that trail and looked all day, but never saw a heifer much less a sweaty one.   But I digress - that was not Monday's hike.

Today, we were headed to spend some time at Charlie's Bunion.   Doesn't that sound infinitely more interesting than sweaty heifers?   It can never be said that those responsible for naming trails in my mountains are not creative.  Most of these names have a story behind them.  Knowing those stories make the hiking that much more special.  As for Charlie's Bunion, read about it here!

This four-mile section of the AT is one of those with which I have a love/hate relationship.  Some days, I love every hill, rock, view and payoff.   Other days, I swear I"ll never do it again.   Some sections look like this...................

while others are steep, rocky and muddy.   Such is the case for the first 1 1/2 miles as the trails climbs 1000' before leveling out briefly near the smooth, peaceful section you see in the previous picture.  Your reprieve, however, is short-lived because immediately after cresting Mt. Ambler (at 6100', the high point of this hike), the trail DESCENDS 500' of the 1000' you just climbed!

But the long range views are beautiful and despite low lying clouds and even a brief rainshower, the sky began to open up gifting us with moments like these...................

 View off the Tennessee side.  Mt LeConte is just off the picture still in the clouds!

People flock to Charlie's Bunion in large numbers, so the chances of getting a picture of it with no one sitting, crawling or stupidly teetering over the edge of it are slim.  But I got lucky - VERY lucky!


These two pictures were taken just seconds apart, but as you can see, by the time I made the picture on the right, a couple had scrambled their way onto the bunion!   Ironically, the trail itself all day seemed more full of people than I'd ever experienced, yet this was one of the few (if EVER) times I've gotten a shot of the bunion with no one on it!

View from atop Charlie's Bunion

We had decided to hike the half mile past Charlie's Bunion to the next trail junction.   No particular reason although it was new trail for me, but I am so glad we did because once we left the bunion, we saw only two other hikers until we rejoined the spur trail to the bunion on our return trip.  Had we not gone further, we would have experienced virtually zero solitude on this day.  

I hike for the peace and solitude it brings to my soul (and for the exercise), but I will say that it was such an uplifting thing for me to see so many people out on a trail especially on a Monday.   Although we didn't make it all the way to Katahdin, Maine, it was wonderful day and a terrific hike that felt as comfortable as putting on old gloves.  

Trail junction marking our turnaround point - We ate lunch here!

View off the North Carolina side near the highpoint of the trail.

It was 76 degrees when we arrived back at my car and a sweltering 98 degrees (plus 150% humidity) when I pulled in my driveway.   Technically, 76 is a very warm temperature for Newfound Gap, but heck, I'll take it!!

Summer hiking for me will always involve aiming high.  On Monday, we chose a path that that not only allowed us to start high, but beckoned us to climb even higher and offered the excitement of going further.   Reminded me of this journey I began last November.   Or for that matter, maybe the journey I began in October of 2006 when I made up my mind that I would not live my "golden" years as an overweight, unhealthy female.

Last November, I aimed high.   VERY high!   And I was afraid.   Very afraid!   Much had changed in my body since March, 2008 when I last saw my goal weight reflected back at me on the scale.  I knew that my ability to lose weight was going to require a lot more effort and the results were going to be much slower.   Quite frankly, I didn't know if I could do it again.  I almost did some bargaining with myself along the lines of compromise.   You know, the kind of compromise that "settles" for something that seems doable, yet is really a copout.  

But I said NO!   My aim was higher than "settling" for a better weight.   I wanted THE weight that I'd seen before.   And in retrospect, thank goodness I disallowed the option of "settling"  from the very beginning.  

Along the way, I made the decision that not only did I want to "aim high," but I wanted to challenge myself by "climbing even higher."   By the end of December, I knew that the 17DD was THE plan for me - FOREVER!   I also knew that Cycle 4 - Arrive (the maintenance phase) was not something I wanted to embrace.  Basically, it removes all restrictions plus advocates "free" days which I've never supported.   For me, that's a recipe for disaster.  

I will live in Cycle 3 which allows virtually all foods, but still requires controlled portions and limits one to two fruit servings, two carb servings and two probiotic servings each day.  I do not plan to add back sugar or white flour.   In fact, I am and will describe myself as being almost 100% gluten free because the fact is, that's the truth.   But the one that really continues to amaze me is the fact that I am also almost 100% dairy free.  I don't miss, need, want or crave any of those things.   It doesn't bother me when others around me are eating any of those things.   If you'd told me this about myself a year ago, I'd have laughed.  And that is the part where I am proud to say that I "climbed higher" by making changes that surpassed my own expectations and then made those changes permanent.

And now, I want to "go further."  I am ounces from goal weight and hope to be able to scream  from the rooftops in Monday's post that I AM THERE!  That's when the "going further" begins.  I want to still be there and still be maintaining not only the weight, but the new way of eating as well.  I want to be there six months from now, one year from now, five years from now, etc.  

This time feels different.   The standards I set for myself were high.   I challenged myself to climb even higher and now, unlike last Monday on the trail, there is NO TURNAROUND.  You just keep walking day by day, meal by meal, bite by bite, further and further.   

And guess what happens??  

Eventually you get to Katahdin, Maine!!

Please come go with me!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Friends Close By, Friends Across the Country!

Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire
May 27, 2012

It was a fun week that started with a much anticipated return to the mountains and ended with yet another blogger meetup.   Everyone blogs for their own reasons and some bloggers have no desire to ever take their writing beyond the words they write and the online friends they make.   I am so respectful of their choices and always honor that.  On the other hand, many bloggers are anxious to meet in person when circumstances work out for that to happen.   Every single real life encounter I've had with another blogger has been a joy I wouldn't trade for anything and this one was no different.  Becca and I realized fairly quickly after we found each other's blogs, that we lived VERY close to each other.   But as irony would have it, our SPOUSES met before we did!!  Turns out they teach at the same college!!  Becca'a husband normally teaches at one of the satellite campuses, but his summer class has been at the main campus and again, what are the chances that his class would meet in the classroom directly across from Bill's office?  Once the two of them met, Becca and I figured we'd messed around long enough and promptly set our own date to meet for coffee!  Becca blogs at and I can assure that once we sat down at Panera Bread, there was not one single lull in the conversation. When I got back in my car and realized 2 1/2 hours had passed, I was blown away.  I would've told you it was much less time that that. It FLEW by! Through this blog, I am confident I have gained yet another friend and I am so grateful.  Gaining real life friendships wasn't something I planned for or anticipated, but has proven to be one more delightful surprise brought to me courtesy of Gains and Losses!!  Oh and did I mention the fact that Becca is a AVID hiker!!   Ohhhh, the possibilities................   

Meeting Becca got me thinking again about my Friend In Every State Project.  This wasn't or isn't something I plan to focus on, but it is something that is important to me so I thought it time for an update.  If you aren't familiar with the project, please click on and read the above link!  In a nutshell, when I was a little girl, I always had the dream of knowing somebody in every state  (I've always been a travel geek!).  I had a huge map of the US on my wall and tried so hard to find pen pals whereever I could.   Not so easy back in the late 60's pre-internet!   I'd long forgotten about the dream until I started realizing how many states (provinces and countries) from which I was already corresponding with fellow bloggers.  And so the goal to find a blog friend in every state was born!

If you read Gain and Losses regularly and have not identified yourself, please let me know in which state you live!  As promised from the beginning, this is just something fun for me.  I will never do anything with the information other than enjoy your blog (if you have one), hope that you will continue to enjoy mine and from that, try to learn more about what life is like in your neck of the woods.  Yes, I love meeting other bloggers and yes, I love to travel.   But I promise I'll never appear in your state unless you invite me!!!

You can find specific information about ALL states by clicking on the link above,  The following list are the states in which I do NOT have a friend (or at least one who has identified themself).  I know people are reading from most of these states, but am most anxious for it to be a reciprocal relationship.  Truthfully, I want to be reading at least one BLOG from each state, Canadian province and as many countries as possible!




























If you see your state here, PLEASE leave me a comment and tell me if you are a regular reader and the state in which you live.   If you don't want to leave the info in a comment, send me an email at  Be sure that I have a link to your blog so I can follow along with your story.   If you already are a regular reader and you follow a blog in one of these states, do me a favor and put a bug in their ear.  Yes, I could go searching and eventually I'd find someone in every state.   But before doing that, I really want to see what happens by just patiently waiting!

I'd love to reach this goal by the end of the year.   Help me fulfill a little girl's dream!  (How's that for shameless begging?)

When this posts bright and early Monday morning, I'll be well on my way to a favorite hiking trail.   It's an oldie, but goodie that I haven't hiked in several years.   It's also at 5500', so hoping for cooler weather.   Look for a report in a few days along with the next installment of  "what sort of controversy can I stir up today?" 

What made you smile today?


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ain't No Mountain High Enough!

Mile High Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway - North Carolina
July 16, 2012

Yes, it is true!  I have concluded that there "ain't no mountain high enough" to escape this heat and humidity.  I've always considered myself quite lucky to live at the foot of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park where our climate is very temperate with few extreme weather conditions, yet within an hour, I can be at 5,000 feet and at least a 20 degree variance in temperature.  But as we all are experiencing, this year is different.  Mt. LeConte, the highest peak in the Smokies has broken ALL TIME record highs and so have all the other weather reporting stations in the park.  

I tried waiting out the heatwave, but oh how I've missed my mountains.  My hiking boots were crying from neglect and my backpack simply sagged against the closet door where it rests between hikes.   So when a friend and I decided to hike this past Monday, the first thing we said to each other was, "how high can we go?"  Ultimately, we chose a rather non-descript trail out of the Balsam Mountain area of the park.  

My hiking bud is seriously working on completing all of the "official" trails in the park and I'm playing with the same goal.  This seven-mile trek on the Rough Fork Trail would be new trail for both of us.  Technically, the trail is considered easy and is basically flat for the first 2 1/2 miles with a fairly steep final mile until the trail intersects with the Caldwell Fork trail.  I had passed this intersection back in April with my hiking friends, Gene and Judi, and on that day wondered when in the world I'd ever have an opportunity to come back and hike that obscure piece of trail to complete the mileage.  The trail begins at 5100' and ends at 4100'.   I won't go so far as to say it was cool because it wasn't, but compared to the temps when we arrived back home late that afternoon, it was nice.  The humidity, however, was brutal!

It was my friend's turn to drive which gave me the added luxury of being able to fully absorb all my surroundings on the two-hour trip through the dreaded Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg nightmare, up and over Newfound Gap, onto the Blue Ridge Parkway at its beginning, then out Balsam Mountain road to the trailhead.   The forest, which I had last seen in late April, was thick, dark and dense which isn't my favorite way to see it, but the summer wildflowers are in full bloom and they are beautiful!   Damage from the killer storm which blew through the mountains on July 5 was evident all along the way although we were never in any of the areas that sustained the greatest damage. (Many of my favorite trails about which I've written and posted pictures remain closed with no reopening dates yet.  We are told that "thousands" of trees fell during that storm.) 

We arrived at the Rough Fork trailhead and after getting the traditional trailhead pictures out of the way, eagerly set out to just hike!!  With no connections to other trails except at the junction 3.5 miles away, this trail is considered lightly used and in the midst of summer, we were concerned as to how overgrown it would be.  In some places, it was VERY overgrown, but for the most part, the trail was wide with a nice hiking surface.  This trail doesn't have any outstanding features.  In other words, you aren't hiking for a payoff at the end.   There is no waterfall, no epic views, no former homesite, no Starbucks (gotcha!!) and no fields of gorgeous wildflowers. But for a hiker who just loves to be in the mountains and walk, there was plenty to see if you just looked for it.  (Kind of like life in general, isn't it??)

Those of us who hike in the Smokies use the "brown" book, Hiking Trails of the Smokies,  as our official guidebook.   It told us that the Rough Fork trail follows an old railroad grade and to watch for old railroad ties and spikes as you walked along the surface.  Wish I could claim credit for spotting the first one, but I can't.  Nonetheless, that was a really cool moment.  Once we spotted the first one, we were able to pinpoint several in a row giving clear evidence as to exactly where the railroad had been.

Spike and railroad tie on Rough Fork Trail - July 16, 2012

But far and away, the highlight of our hike came at the junction with the Caldwell Fork Trail.   We were enjoying a snack when I heard my friend breathe a quiet, "oh my," (sorry Judi, it wasn't a bear) and when I looked up, there, in the middle of the trail about 20 feet away, stood a beautiful female elk gazing at us as if to say, "it's my trail, why are you sitting in the middle of it?"

 Female Elk on Rough Fork Trail - July 16 2012
(click to enlarge pictures)

She got tired of waiting for us to move off "her" trail, slowly turned around and with a last look back at us, meandered back down the trail.  It was a really cool thing to see!  They are so graceful!

We had decided to have a quick snack/water break at the trail junction and then retrace our steps back up the steep mile-long incline before having lunch.  By that time, it was very warm and we knew thunderstorms were likely in the afternoon, so we ate quickly and enjoyed the easy stroll back to the car.  

I couldn't have asked for a better return to my mountains.  They welcomed me with open arms and I could almost feel them mocking me saying, "you can run off and visit all those other mountains, but you'll always come back.  This is home!"

Enjoy a couple of pictures from the hike................

The red flower is Bee-Balm, a mid-summer wildflower.  It would normally be at peak right now, but like everything else, it seems to have bloomed early.  These were waning.

I loved all your feedback from my last post's link to the 12 Worst Grocery Stores in the US.   I also strongly agree with Karen@Waisting Time  who made the very valid point that quality could vary widely among stores in the same chain.  However, one thing seems universally true among those of us particularly in the south.   Food Lion was/is a HORRIBLE grocery store.  There is only one remaining in my area and it would be a last resort for me. I "googled" Food Lion and learned that as of January 12, 2012, there were still 1,127 Food Lion stores operating in the US.  I find that hard to believe!   I also agree with most of you that Walmart is a terrific and economical choice for anything EXCEPT meat and fresh produce.  I've learned this lesson the hard way more than once!!  

But I will have to say that we shopped at two of the stores that made this list while on our trip this summer and had excellent experiences in both.  While in Woodstock, Vermont, our closest supermarket was a Shaw's in nearby New Hampshire and we picked up a few things at a Stop 'n Shop while in Boston.  Both of these stores in their particular locations were brand new, large, beautiful, well-stocked and very customer friendly.  We had no complaints and I was visibly surprised to see them on that list.  I do agree that such lists can be damaging however, would also concede that there  has to be some validity to the criteria evaluated or the 24,000 people who were surveyed wouldn't have come up with these results.

Next post, I've got another list I found on the internet that I'm anxious for your opinion.  Nothing like a good controversy to keep things interesting.  

Where Do You Grocery Shop?
(I'm a Kroger girl with a biweekly trip to Sam's Club thrown in) 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Return To The Mountains

West Prong Trail - Great Smoky Mountains National Park
February 2, 2012

I am writing this on Sunday evening because tomorrow morning when this posts, I will be on my way to hike in "my" Smoky Mountains for the first time since May 1.   It is no secret that summer is not my favorite season to hike, but the mountains still call and when I can find someone willing to travel to the highest elevations, I am more than willing to go.  Even here in the valley, our temperatures have finally moderated to "normal" levels, but in the area where we will hike tomorrow, the predicted high is 67 degrees.  That's pretty near perfect!!  It will be a brand new trail for me and although it will take a while to get to the trailhead, the trail itself is a mere seven miles.  That's about the same as the longest distance we did while in New England, so I should be good to go.  I am so excited!

We spent a most enjoyable and quite productive day with MIL on Saturday.    The pantry had become woefully bare, so these..........................

 after a full day of hot, hard work, became these...............................

and these.........................

We canned 48 quarts of tomatoes!   In the past, we'd often spent a summer Saturday canning tomatoes with Bill's mom and dad, but had not done so since his dad died two years ago.   With the stock down to almost nothing, it was time to revive the family tradition.  We had a lot of fun, enjoyed some walks down memory lane and did a lot of laughing.   There'll be some good chili and soup this winter.    
After we finished, there was some of this......................

On another subject, Karen @ Garden Girl posted a link which I found very interesting so thought I'd pass it along.  Found here on the BBC News Website, by entering very basic data (age, height, weight), you'll be shown some interesting (and quite telling) information as to how your BMI ranks GLOBALLY and also in the specific country where you live.  I'm always interested in knowing what my personal BMI (body mass index) is and whether or not I am "normal," but can't say I'd ever thought about where my current statistics ranked among the rest of the population.  Check it out!

I came across another article recently that was of interest to me and I remember bookmarking it thinking I'd stick it in a post one of these days simply because I wondered how my blog friends might react.  (Obviously, I have no deep philosophical thoughts flowing out of my brain this evening, so the mishmash will have to do!  LOL!)   The article as seen here ranked the 12 Worst Grocery Stores in the US. It was first released back in early April and the survey had asked 24,000 people to rank 52 grocery store chains on a list of criteria.  Those who have read this blog for any length of time know that I have a love affair with grocery stores and thoroughly enjoy visiting new ones just to see what they have that is different.  Having just spent seven weeks in unfamiliar territory, I've visited a lot of new grocery stores some of which just happened to show up on this list.  Of the twelve stores, only one is found in my area (you'll be able to figure out which one when you read the list), but we actually shopped at two of the others while in New England. Both were new stores and very nice.  Needless to say, I was surprised to see them on this list.  So, I'm curious!  What do you think of this list?   Do you shop at any of these stores?   If so, do you agree that it belongs on the list or is a "generalized" list such as this unfair?  

Well, I've got a backpack to load and lunches/snacks to pack so that's all for now.  I'm excited to say that I'm inching ever so slowly, but ever so closely to goal and will be there soon.  Have a couple of new recipes that I'm hoping to try this week including the correct version of the now famous, Summer "Steel Cut Oats that is Supposed to be Quinoa" salad!!  (You'll have to read my last post to figure that one out!)

What Does Your Week Look Like?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

She's Back!

Quechee Gorge, Vermont
June 1, 2012

I've always been fairly good at being able to laugh at myself.   And that's a good thing, because I do plenty of things that are laughable.   So it's o.k. to laugh at me when I share some things that I've done recently.   In fact, it would make me really happy to think something in this post has made you laugh out loud or at least smile!!

Remember that woman who showed up in my kitchen last October?  Well, she's back!  In case you don't remember her or are new, here's the post in which I introduced her.  I've discovered that she shows up when being in the mountains or hiking takes a back seat for whatever reason.  Right now, it's just too hot and crowded.  In October, the crowds make it virtually impossible to easily reach most trailheads, so we patiently wait until November when they all go home.  Little do they realize that most of the time, November is at least as beautiful as October in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

At any rate, she's back, doesn't seem to have lost any of her enthusiasm for finding fun in the kitchen and is having a blast discovering new food blogs geared toward an eating lifestyle that weighs 30 pounds less than last October!  With Bill having jumped on the bandwagon (see this post), it's even more fun as we are able to share the things I prepare.   

Speaking of Bill....of course, in 1 1/2 weeks, he's lost five pounds while I'm struggling to get rid of my last four to "technically" reach goal. (I'll be happy to entertain any sympathy about the fact that men lose weight so much quicker than women!!) I say, technically, because I'm no longer stressing over it.   It's doubtful four pounds is going to make much difference in my size, so in my mind, I'm already at goal.  I did mention earlier that I'd planned to return to the 17 Day Diet - Cycle 1 for a few days to jumpstart a loss.   Tried that for one day and decided I'd rather lose these last four pounds slowly than do anything that might squelch the fun I'm having in the kitchen.  Yes, Cycle 1 WORKS, but there is no question about the fact that it's restrictive and bottom line, I just didn't want to do it.  I'll get there, probably not by my birthday, but it'll happen sooner rather than later and you'll be the first to know!

On to another subject.........

While on the trip, I had three hilarious NSV's (non-scale victories) and wanted to share them with you.   It's o.k. to laugh or think, a) what a hoot, b) she's lost her mind, or c) sounds more like the fashion police than a NSV!  Just as long as one or more of these makes you smile!

1)   On 2012 Summer Adventure - Day 1, I traveled from home to Dulles, VA alone as Bill wasn't quite finished with work responsibilities and my friend, Tish and I wanted to ride bikes again.  At the rest stop in Luray, VA, two older (like REALLY old) gentlemen were serving as hosts in the restored train depot/Visitor Center.  Very friendly guys and on a slow Sunday afternoon, seemed intent on persuading me to spend the night in Luray.   Loved their enthusiam and can only wish it was present in ALL tourism offices!   I had noticed a paved bike path/greenway running as far as I could see in both directions along the former rail bed.  Thinking I'd enjoy a quick bike ride, I asked about it.  Instead of answering my question, the older of the two gentlemen said rather loudly, "Ah-ha!! I knew you were a biker!"  It took me by surprise, but I quickly asked how in the world he knew that. (My car, with the bikes on it, was not visible.) He kind of backed off and said he couldn't tell me because, "we women get so offended over compliments."  After promising him I wouldn't be offended or report him to his "bosses," he said (AND I QUOTE), "you have biker legs."   Oh my gosh, that was two months ago and I'm still bent over double laughing just thinking about it.   I'm 56 (19 days away from 57) years old - I do NOT have biker legs!!   But doggone it, it almost made me want to spend the night in Luray!!

2)  One night when I must have been really, really bored (maybe it was one of our few rainy days), we were getting ready to do laundry and Bill's jeans were laying on the bed. (he wears a 34 x 29 jean)  Whatever possessed me to pick up those jeans and wonder how far I could get them on is TOTALLY beyond me.  Truthfully, I didn't think I'd be able to get them past my knees!!  But I did!   I got them on and zipped them up!  Tight??  Yes!!   But I could breathe and I managed to walk into the den where they must not have looked too bad because he couldn't figure out why I was whooping and hollering.  Once I told him, he promptly told me to take them off before I "stretched" them!  MEN!!  Geez - do they ever get it???  Actually he was grinning when he said that and he most definitely GOT IT!   This was huge!   Not so much the fact that I could get them on, but the fact that it FINALLY altered my perception of what I now look like!  And BTW, it was all I could do to refrain from immediately drafting a blog post entitled, "I Got In Bill's Jeans."

3)  We were hiking one day and had been pretty quiet each thinking our own thoughts when out of the clear blue, Bill says, "you need to quit wearing that shirt.  It's way too big, makes your butt look big and is just tacky!"   Well, thanks a lot there, dear husband who supports me in all things and is never unkind!  Again - kidding!    I have no better supporter than Bill!   He was more than right on this one!  I'd realized it myself, but the weather had been so unseasonably cool, it really was all I had.  It was a favorite go-to pullover for cooler days and had been for a long time.  Once we got home, it was banished and won't be seen again!!

Moving on from the NSV's to the admission which should probably never be written about in public!  Except for the fact that I enjoy laughing at myself!  This one can be filed under, "perhaps, Sharon should just stay OUT of the kitchen!"   You be the judge!

Didn't have any steel cut oats, so after we walked, I ran by EarthFare to pick them up along with a few other things.   As I was putting away my groceries, I went ahead and measured out the one cup of steel cut oats I would need before storing the rest in my pantry.  At some point, I made the decision to make the Quinoa Salad first. (anybody figure out where this is going????)   I made the quinoa (cough! cough!), fluffed it up nicely, drizzled with olive oil as directed and thought to myself, "that really doesn't look like quinoa."   I have only cooked with it once and that was a long time ago.   But I soldiered on, completed the recipe, tested it and pronounced it "good."   

It was only after I put the "Quinoa" Salad in the fridge and started looking around for that measuring cup of steel cut oats that I realized what I had done!  Yep, you guessed it!   We have a rather large bowl of "Summer Steel Cut Oats Salad" sitting in the refrigerator and the only quinoa I have is still in the pantry as uncooked as it was yesterday!  

The end of this story is that my lovely Summer Steel Cut Oats Salad isn't bad at all!  I warmed some for lunch today and paired it with (don't you like my Food Network jargon?) a ground turkey patty then enjoyed fresh raspberries for dessert!   Seems to me a combo that might next appear in a basket on "Chopped!"  (BTW, the Steel Cut Oats recipe was made and pronounced "excellent!"  I have verified that I did manage to use steel cut oats and not quinoa!!)

All right, COME CLEAN!   Every one of you has done something equally as crazy in the kitchen.   Tell me about it.   Only fair that I get to laugh at you!

Monday, July 9, 2012

New England Trip Wrap Up

 Sunset over Lake Champlain - Colchester, Vermont
May 12, 2012

It's time to close the books on our 2012 Summer Adventure, treasure the memories and get to work planning our next adventure.  New England had been on our short list of Summer Adventure destinations for quite some time.   Bill lobbied heavily for it LAST year, but I had remained skeptical for a few reasons, not the least of which was the fact that we'd be there in the middle of black fly season.  Not sure why I gave in other than I knew had badly he was wanting to return to New England and last year's trip to Colorado was my top choice, so it was his turn!  In the end, I'm so glad I relented as black flies never were a problem.   New England's weather has been as unusual and unpredictable as everyone elses, but in our case, this served to our advantage.  It was unseasonably cool which we like.  We thoroughly enjoyed every place we visited and for the most part, accomplished everything we set out to do.

Having learned some valuable lessons from past planning, I got started very early this year locating and securing our accommodations.   Lodging decisions take up a LOT of time because I am very picky. That is where we save the dollars that allow us to do this, yet it isn't necessarily "cheap" lodging I seek out. These places are "home" for a week or more and need to be comfortable with a good kitchen. We choose to cook our own meals to save money and maintain our healthy eating habits plus Bill just enjoys cooking, so only on rare occasions or one-night stopovers will we choose lodging that doesn't have a FULL kitchen.  I find most of our places on or as I love working directly with the owners of the places where we hope to stay.   But as you might imagine, this takes a lot of time and coordination with my biggest fear being finding that I've accidentally overlapped dates or left a stray night with no where to stay.  Starting this process very early gets me ahead of the game so most of the top choices are available for the dates I desire and many of the homeowners are willing to negotiate the listed rate in order to get a rental secured that early in the season.  ALL of our lodging decisions had been made and reserved by the middle of February this year!   

The other valuable lesson we've learned regarding lodging is to leave some flexibility in arrangements while driving TO our main destination area and our return trip home.  That lesson was reinforced this year.  Although the reservations I had made heading up to New England stayed the same, you might remember that our return trip completely changed a couple of days before we were scheduled to leave Maine.  With just a few clicks, I was able to cancel existing reservations and make new ones.

I'd be remiss if I didn't refer to the things that went wrong this year.   We have been very, VERY fortunate (and believe me, we don't take this for granted) in the fact that for all the traveling we have done over the past 30 years, we've had few things go wrong.   But this year, our luck changed and we truly got to the point that we were constantly wondering what in the WORLD was going to happen  next.  Some of the things, I wrote about.....but there came a point that we discussed it and decided that although we wanted the journal to be "real," we didn't want the focus to be on all that was going wrong.  Rather than dwell on it any further, here's a list of the things that happened.................

1)  We left our bike tire pump in Branford, CT  (It's really unusual for us to leave anything behind as we have a very careful system where we BOTH take responsibility for checking) Still don't know exactly what happened or where we left it - we just didn't have it when we got ready to ride in New York.

2)  Had a little incident with the bike rack in New York which we thought we fixed with bungee cords and duct tape.  Ultimately, we ended up ordering a new one through a terrific bike shop near our house in Southwest Harbor, ME.   The guys at Southwest Cycle were great!

3)  Our major issue with the car is well documented in this post!  We will be forever indebted to Girlington Garage in Burlington, VT for their kindness.

4)  I was sick much of the first week we were in Woodstock, Vermont.  Still not 100% sure exactly what it was, but I was miserable for several days.  While still in Woodstock, I ran into a chair and was fairly certain I'd broken two toes on my right foot as they IMMEDIATELY swelled and turned purple.  After a few minutes, I could move them and oddly enough, it wasn't long until they stopped hurting. By the next morning, I could get my shoes on.  But they sure were ugly and if you look real close, you can still see traces of the discoloration.

5) And speaking of feet, Bill is having a problem with his right foot and it was quite painful on a few of the days.  He was a VERY good sport, but there were a couple of times, he could hardly put any weight on it at all.  This issue still has not resolved itself completely although anti-inflammatory meds are helping.  I suspect he'll end up going to the doctor.

6)  For some odd reason (perhaps because he was up at 3:45 a.m. to catch a flight to meet me at Dulles), Bill made the decision to leave his car keys at home.  Once we realized we were traveling with only one set of keys, we tried to be extra careful about making sure they were in hand before locking the car.  So of course, I LOCK THE KEYS IN THE CAR!  And naturally, it was on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend!   Again, good fortune smiled on us as AAA had a vehicle within 10 miles of us and we had keys back in hand within 45 minutes.  (The kid who was driving the tow truck mentioned that normally he would have had to come 50 miles to Woodstock, but he just "happened" to have been dispatched to pick up the car he was towing in a town only 10 miles away!)

7)  And then, more car issues.   We were sitting at a traffic light in Ellesworth, Maine and the car died.  JUST DIED!!  I was driving and although it started right back up, I pulled into a parking lot and it immediately stalled again.   And again.  This went on for a few minutes and then as suddenly as it started, it began running smoothly again.   We had no more problems although given our record to that point, it took me a few days to relax!!  Our theory is this......we had just gotten gas about an hour before this happened.   Google tells us it could've been air bubbles in the gas, condensation on the gas pump or a host of other odd sounding explanations.  Who knows???

Despite all of those things, it was a wonderful trip!  We so enjoy traveling together and each trip becomes a collection of experiences and memories that we will treasure forever.   I am so very grateful that Bill and I both enjoy travel and even in the ways our personalities are uniquely different, we find ways to compromise so that both of us enjoy the trip equally.  Lessons learned from last year's trip were incorporated into this year's agenda and despite all the things that went haywire, I believe this was our best trip ever with respect to the mix of activity vs. rest, hectic vs. leisurely pace, driving vs. walking/biking and indoor activities vs. outdoor activities.

Lessons learned this year include:

1)  There are excellent auto-repair facilities everywhere.  Thanks to the convenience of internet research, user reviews and designations such as AAA Approved Auto Repair, I'll never fear what "might" happen again because I've proven that good people are all around.

2)  We continue to learn what a good team we make.   And when things don't go exactly as we plan,  ONE of us always keeps a level head and works hard to console the other.

3)  This may seem random, but another lesson we learned is that we can travel with very little.  When Bill retires, we plan to do a great deal of travel abroad and we hope to do it with minimal luggage (think one carry-on and two backpacks).  I won't go into detail, but we conducted a little experiment and realized that yes, we can do this easily and have everything we could possibly need.  In case anyone noticed that we always seemed to have on the same clothes in all the pictures, it's because we did!!  It was all part of the experiment and rest assured, those clothes were ALWAYS clean!! LOL!



TOTAL MILES TRAVELED:  Just over 5,000


May 6 - May 8
Residence Inn by Marriott Dulles Airport at Dulles 28 Centre 

May 8 - May 10
Residence Inn by Marriott Dover

May 10 - May 12
Branford, Connecticut

May 12 - May 19
Bolton Landing, New York

May 19 - May 23
Colchester, Vermont

May 23 - June 2
Woodstock, Vermont

June 2 - June 9
Meredith, New Hampshire

June 9 - June 23
Southwest Harbor, Maine

Springhill Suites by Marriott
Danbury, Connecticut

TownePlace Suites by Marriott
Winchester, Virginia

All of these places were excellent and we would not hesitate to stay in them again.  If anyone has specific questions about what we did or how I plan, please do not hesitate to leave a comment or send me an email.  I love planning our trips and I love talking about it!!

What will the 2013 Summer Adventure be??   There is no clear front runner at this point.    The list of places to explore just keeps growing.   But rest assured, there will be plenty to see and plenty to write about between now and next May.

As always, thanks so much for reading!!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Patience (and the Absence of Nagging) Pays Off!

Connors Nubble - Acadia National Park, Maine
June 16, 2012

Eating foods that are known to be "healthy" has never been a huge problem for me.  I love most vegetables and will choose fruit over many other items when looking for a snack.  I've never had a problem with extreme sugar addiction and from the time I first understood that my weight was going to be a problem, I've always known that white carbs would be my nemesis.   

As with all of us, there are exceptions.   Yes, there have been times when I've gone on a sugar binge and eaten quantities I can't even begin to recount.   Many a time, I've settled in with a good book, a BAG of chips, a BOX of triscuits and perhaps, a box of Krispy Kreme cruellers only to regain consciousness five chapters later and realize most of it is gone.   I've gone through the line at potluck church dinners and filled a plate with all that good stuff and before even sitting down devising the plan of how I was going to unobtrusively go back for the second plateful.  

But those ARE exceptions.   For the most part, the reason I have struggled with my weight for so many years is simply the fact that I eat TOO MUCH OF THE GOOD THINGS!  My "stop when full" button is irreparably broken and the good stuff just never stops looking or tasting good! 

My spouse, on the other hand, has a "stop when full" button that operates perfectly normally.  I watch in utter amazement as he pushes away a plate with one bite left on it saying, "I'm full."  Or throws away the bottom half of an ice cream cone, flippantly decclaring, "I'm done!"  Although he's gained a small amount of weight in the 35 years we've been married, he's never had a weight problem, nor will he ever.  His "numbers" are all excellent and we've come to the conclusion that he is very fortunate to have gained his mother's genetic makeup.  She is 81 years old, in excellent health and on no medication.  

BUT HE HAS EATING HABITS THAT CAN ONLY BE CALLED ATROCIOUS!!!  He most certainly does have a sugar addiction, will happily eat fast food six nights a week, would drink coke all day long if I'd buy it for him (I'm too cheap!) and classifies french fries as the only acceptable vegetable.  Maybe once in a blue moon, he'll eat a banana!

It has long been a concern of mine, but particularly over the last year as my weight has come off and my energy level has soared, I've noted that even as healthy as he appears, he is often very sluggish, sleeps a lot, and just doesn't display a lot of "umph."  His argument has always been that he's just tired from all the energy required to teach his class and run the department at this college.  And yes, he puts in an insane amount of hours, but I've long believed that much of the sluggishness is due to his diet.  

But you cannot nag!  We all know this whether referring to ourselves or someone about whom we are concerned!   Change can ONLY come from within.   We can be role models, we can gently express concern, we can share ideas, we can offer support or accountability, but the decision to change can only come from the individual.  

So you can only imagine how I very nearly fell off the top of Conners Nubble in Acadia National Park on June 16 (these are all important details - it's a significant event!) when out of the clear blue sky, Bill said,"do you think I'd feel better and have more energy if I cut out sugar and white flour like you have?"  

Now when you've been hoping (and yes, I'll go so far as to say, fervently praying) for a long time wanting something like this to happen, it's very, VERY hard to remain calm and simply answer, "yes, I believe that with all my heart. You've watched it happen to me."   What I wanted to do was jump up, start some sort of wild happy dance and begin proclaiming loudly that, "thank God, he'd finally seen the light!"   But I just went on to ask if he was thinking about making some changes.   The answer was yes and a promise to talk about it more later.   (Today's picture was taken just shortly after that conversation took place)

"Later" did come with a vague plan that he'd like to lose ten pounds and try the sugar free/white flour free eating for 30 days.  After that, we'll see!!  

I'm happy to report that the 30 days began this past Sunday (July 1) and will end on my birthday (July 30).  With no nagging, no coercion and no questions on my part, he has embraced this fully.  We are walking every morning at 7 a.m. something we traditionally do during the month of July while he's teaching his summer class, but he's already told me he's trying to figure out a way we can continue once his regular schedule returns in the fall.   He's already lost a couple of pounds and on Tuesday, asked me very sheepishly if it was possible that he could already be feeling better.  I replied with a resounding "yes!"  I am thrilled that he doesn't seem to have suffered any degree of sugar withdrawal which is amazing given the incredible amounts of sugar he's been eating with little balance from other food groups.  We're keeping him full of good stuff and maybe his body just forgot about the sugar!

My part of the agreement is to plan our meals (we'll share the cooking), pack his lunch (two meals on nights he has meetings at school eliminating the fast food runs), have plenty of snacks available and answer endless questions that start with, "can I have................?"  I think the thing I'm most enjoying is that we are doing it TOGETHER, something I have so longed for.   This is truly all about him, BUT how quickly I've realized how much easier and more enjoyable it makes MY choices.

As I said earlier, the good news for him is that his "stop when full" button works just fine.  He ate a small dish of ice cream last night at the home of good friends and enjoyed it a lot.  But told me on the way home that it was enough.  That's the philosophy I hope will stick once the 30 days are up.  I also hope the 30 days will be enough time to convince him that what you eat makes a huge difference in how you feel and the results he discovered will be motivation enough to make them permanent.  

He does read the blog and I wrote this with with his permission.   I am very proud of him!   Other than watching me struggle and work so hard to reach and maintain a proper weight, he has no background in healthy eating concepts.  This was a big step for him.   It was also a reminder to me that we are role models and we never know who is watching.  Changes in diet and commitments to a healthier lifestyle can SAVE A LIFE!  Be ever ready to talk about it when asked and eager to share your own story in a way that might encourage someone else.  You just never know when something you've said or done will hit home!

Are you and your spouse/significant other/best friend in this together or are you on your own? 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Revisiting The Mantra

Sugar Hill, New Hampshire
June 6, 2012

The first half of 2012 is now officially behind us.  Are you finding that as hard to believe as I am?   I always find myself somewhat at loose ends for the first few days following our Summer Trip!  So much time, energy and preparation go into the research, planning and execution of those trips that, once it's over, I tend to look around and think, "o.k., what now?"  Bill begins teaching his summer class almost immediately and we go from being together 24/7 to being apart all day with little time for transition.   And all of that is just fine!   It just takes a short period of readjustment for me and some time to gear up for the second half of the year.  

My 2012 Mantra (see this January post) is never far from my mind.  It became so important to me that I worked hard back in the winter to memorize it and train my mind to revisit each part daily.  And for the most part, that has worked.  Some of the points in the mantra have been easy and fun, others have caused me to recognize some areas that could use some work.  What better time than mid-year to look back, look forward and share some of those thoughts with you?

Here's the Mantra...........(read the linked post above to understand the background)

In 2012, I will:

Look for a SURPRISE in every day.
EXPECT steady results from a healthy eating plan and efforts to have a normal relationship with food.
RECEIVE love, friendship, gifts and kindness without question from those who choose to give it to me.
Embrace JOY with every thread of my being.
CELEBRATE my own successes as jubilantly as I celebrate those of others.
SHARE my life, my time, my money and my possessions in creative ways that are new and extravagant.
Right from the start, I will say that, "expecting a surprise" has become one of my most cherished habits.  There are no days which don't contain surprises and this extra effort to SEE them for what they are has been invaluable to me.   It is a habit I hope I never lose.  Surprises happen to us ALL THE TIME, but what I've learned is that if we aren't looking for them, our minds are far to occupied with other "stuff" to appreciate what is right in front of us.   Then at the end of the day, we complain that nothing good happened i.e. the day was boring, "everyone" treated me badly (I mean, really, EVERYONE???), the weather was awful, crazy drivers wouldn't get out of my way, yada, yada, yada........

It's not even noon yet and here's some of the surprises I've enjoyed today:  an unexpected rain shower early this morning, a phone call with a friend who moved away last fall, the cost to fill up my new car was $20 LESS than the last time, I already have my 10,000 steps for today - is that enough?  

I've also learned that the surprises don't always come in a good way, but they are still "surprises," and I'm trying to find a balance I've never known between focusing on only the less desirable surprises at the expense of the ones I enjoy.   To my amazement, it all comes out pretty even with the "good" ones outnumbering the "bad" ones more often than not.   I repeat - you just have to look for them!

You've walked with me through the expectation of steady results from a healthy eating plan.  And I've achieved what I believe to be a much better relationship with food.  I also believe that I have a very realistic sense of reality with respect to my own weaknesses in this area and refuse to take anything for granted.   I am enjoying celebrating my success.   The weight loss is evident, the compliments are flowing and this time around, I'm not fluffing them off and saying, "oh, it was nothing."  It IS a big deal and I'm proud of myself.

The "receiving" and the "sharing" aspects of the mantra are two I plan to spend some extra time considering over the next few days.   Over the past six months, a couple of key friendships have changed in ways that are no longer acceptable to me and I'm getting better at knowing when it's time to let go.  That creates room for new relationships to grow and I find those opportunities abounding in the form of lovely "surprises!!"  

Working the "receiving" and "sharing" part of the mantra is forcing me to focus on being more open as I tend to be very private and guarded until I know someone well.  But the mantra is teaching me that sometimes I get the cart before the horse and think the receiving should come before the sharing when perhaps, I should focus more on the sharing and patiently wait for the unexpected "surprises" that come from the unselfish concept of giving expecting nothing in return.  That's when the receiving really starts - when it's LEAST expected!

And having said all that, I believe I'll bake those yummy crab cakes I brought back from Maryland, enjoy them with a pasta salad (whole wheat, of course) from Gina@Skinny Tast I whipped up yesterday, then sit back for a couple of hours with the book I could hardly put down long enough to write this post.  It's hot as blazes outside, but cool as can be in here and there's nothing I HAVE to do for the remainder of the afternoon.  Bill has a rehearsal tonight, so gee whiz, don't even have to plan for dinner.

How's that for an afternoon of EMBRACING JOY WITH EVERY THREAD OF MY BEING?

I would LOVE for you to pick the one aspect of my 2012 Mantra that YOU like best and tell me how you already have or could apply it to your day.