Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wacky Wednesday Weather

For anyone who might actually believe this is a recent picture of my backyard, I have some swampland in the Everglades I'll sell you real cheap! I had to dig deep in the achives to find something that would remind me what spring SHOULD look like!

It really is my backyard. The picture was taken on April 23, 2010.

I can't say one word about the wacky weather most of us are having that hasn't already been said, so my strategy is to talk about what I've been doing while shut up in the house and post some pictures that will remind all of us that spring WILL come.  All of the following pictures were taken in my backyard on April 23, 2010.  Hope you enjoy them.

What I find unique about the way this huge weather system is affecting us here in East Tennessee, is that it has literally been snowing non-stop for two full days, yet there is not one flake of snow laying on the ground.  Thankfully, the temps have remained above freezing, so other than some light accumulation Monday morning, there has been none.  The temps have also allowed roads to remain clear and simply wet so no traffic problems.  However, that's about all the positive I can find because the wind, windchill and non-stop precipitation has made it brutal to be outside and we have not seen the sunshine since (as Johnny Cash so eloquently sang it) I don't know when!  I wouldn't say I'm stuck in prison (Folsom or any other), but I haven't been out since Sunday afternoon.  And you know what?  I've enjoyed every minute of it!  For whatever reason, I've been as content as I can be and have accomplished lots so when the sun comes back out and the temps moderate Thursday or Friday, I'll be headed to the hills.  Not to far up in the hills, mind you, cause up there, let's just say there's LOTS and LOTS of snow!

So what have I been doing..........................

1)  Dreaming of Tulips - Time to renew Biltmore passes and dream of tulips, bluebells, roses, orchids, mums, etc.  We have been season passholders to Biltmore Estate for many, many years and would not trade them for anything.  It's a quick 90 minute jaunt from our home and an easy go-to when we just need to escape.  We go for the gardens and the trails.  I've been to a lot of gardens in our travels - few rival the displays found in Biltmore's garden and conservatory.

 2) Planning Summer Travel - Our Summer Adventure 2013 is going to look a bit different than in past summers.  Not ready to reveal details just yet, but plans have come together nicely and the planning process has been enjoyable these past few days.  Just a teaser....I'm hoping to mix in some blog friend time along the way as I'll be doing some solo traveling to give Bill more time at our destinations.  He's not the road warrior I am and being the introvert that I am, I love meandering down the backroads taking the longest way possible to where I'm going.  He enjoys some of that, but there comes a point he give me that look and I know it's time to get to the destination.  STAT!

3) Spending some time in the kitchen -  Yes, I realize most of you find that humorous, but every once in awhile, I do get a yen to get in the kitchen.  Monday, I spent almost all day in front of the computer planning travel, so Tuesday, I was ready to do something different.  Daily Garnish is a blog I have followed for at least two years.  Emily and I have NOTHING in common.  She lives in Seattle, is a trained chef, a vegetarian with ZERO weight issues and half my age, but I thoroughly enjoy her writing and have followed her through two moves and the birth of a child who is now over a year old!  I tried one of her recipes, Coconut Date Energy Bites, a few weeks ago and although I liked them, Bill RAVED about them.  You just never know what's gonna strike his fancy, but these certainly did.  I stuck a couple in his lunch one day as a surprise and he's begged for them ever since.  (Not to be crass or anything, but take a look at the picture and you can only imagine what sort of creative name Bill has come up with for these!)  So I made up a batch of those and then tried Debby's recipe for Frozen Yogurt Trail Bars.  Mine are a cross between her recipe and what she linked to as the original recipe.   The jury is still out on those - my ingredients didn't seem to work together as well as I'd hoped.  I also made a to-die-for Turkey Breast in the Crockpot last week and am looking for a good soup recipe to use the broth and leftover turkey.  So much fun to search for just the right recipe when I'm in the mood and have the time.  But it can also be totally overwhelming!

4) Learning how to use my new SmartPhone..... Yes, I realize that I am likely the last person in the free world to own and use a SmartPhone. Quite frankly, I really wasn't all that interested in getting one, but my old phone was so close to biting the dust and these days, you don't have much choice in the matter.  I don't have any problem with the phone.  I just have no interest in being connected all the time.  But now that I have it, by george, I'm going to learn how to use every last feature it has.  So reading the 176 page instruction manual and finding aps to download has been interesting to say the least.  And yes, I am totally serious.  The manual is indeed, 176 pages.  Did I read it?  Not hardly!  But I did find it interesting that you had to navigate to page 56 in order to find out how to make a phone call!  LOL!

5) Reading..............I mentioned that I was struggling a bit with overeating and fighting hard not to slip back into some old habits that have no place in my life any longer, so I am re-reading two books that have been highly motivational to me in the past.  One is The End of Overeating and the other is Made To Crave.  In addition, I am enjoying Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

 Couldn't resist leaving you with a picture of my handsome yard boy! Bet you don't have a yard boy that works all day in the yard and then comes in and fixes dinner! What I'd give for one tenth of his energy!  And no, you can't have him. He's all mine!

 Hope your week is as full of variety as mine has been.  Keeps us on our toes!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Exercises In Frustration

A Tranquil Spot In One of My Town's Best Kept Secrets!
Ijams Nature Center - March 16, 2013

It started one week ago today when I arrived home after a lovely hike with Becca in one of our beautiful Tennessee State Parks.  We'd had a wonderful day and with Bill still in Spain, I was looking forward to a hot shower and a restful evening on the couch finishing up a book.  But first, decided to catch up on today's blogs....WHAT!!   Google Reader is doing WHAT?   Going away??   And trying to do it sneakily overnight the night before!   The outcry quickly brought it back, but only with a warning that it would be discontinued as of July 1, 2013.  

I have been reading blogs via Google Reader for at least two years now.  I read a lot of blogs and I skim a lot of RSS feeds.  I have my Reader neatly categorized into subjects, relevance, priority, etc.  To say the least, Google's announcement did not set well with me.  What's next?  Blogger??

Much has been written over the past week regarding suitable alternatives and I've already made up my mind what I'm going to do, so no advice solicited here.  It was just the start of an endless comedy of errors leading to megadoses of frustration.  Despite my good intentions and determination, the will to write just kind of left me for awhile.  

These are not the sorts of frustrations that are life-threatening or anything about which you should worry.   Mostly issues with people, expectations, arrogance, life decisions, etc.  Just lots to think about.  

So what's a girl to do when she just needs to calm down, reflect and be reminded of all that is good?  I think treating myself to lunch was a great idea, don't you?

Wednesday's Lunch Spot
Sutton's Ridge - Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Complete with a thermos of this and a book - Two hours of heaven!

Thursday's Lunch Spot - Same thermos, different book!
Will Skelton Greenway, Knoxville, TN

I have let some excellent eating habits achieved over the past 1 1/2 years slip.   Not to the point of disaster, but definitely to the point of GET A GRIP!  Sadly, I'm learning that "treats" don't really have a place in my eating plan if they involve sugar or white flour.  Do they make me ill or bloated?  Not that I can tell.   They just simply make me want MORE!  I have learned that there are many things which I can easily substitute for those kinds of temptations which are still satisfying "treats" for me.  No need to give in or undo all I've worked so hard to achieve.  Not a hard lesson to learn.  I just wish I didn't have to keep learning it over and over and over again.

Anybody got any exciting weekend plans?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Weight Loss Wednesday: You're My Inspiration

Cades Cove - GSMNP
March 4, 2013

I considered subtitling this post "what do you do when boredom strikes," but changed my mind.   That, however, doesn't change the fact.  I admit it.  I am bored with the whole healthy eating thing right now.  I've been at it faithfully (and successfully, I might add) for 16 months this time around.  I found a plan that worked for me and that would be sustainable for a lifetime.  I worked the plan and lost the pounds I had regained from my original weight loss of 65 pounds.  And I have more or less been maintaining that since last summer.  

I know the signs and I know what has happened in the past.  Thankfully, I feel much stronger and somewhat wiser now.  That is reflective even in the fact that this is up for discussion BEFORE I have regained any weight.  But I find myself playing the mental games like 1) just relax for awhile and don't think about it, or 2) you've been so disciplined - it's o.k. to eat some of those things that are known trigger foods, or 3) this is just too hard, just don't worry about it anymore.  A willingness to let down my guard and "relax" for awhile is what has put me into oblivion in the past and I've awakened 30-40 pounds later to realize that "relaxing" really didn't work.  

None of the above are going to happen this time.  I feel strong and in control, but nonetheless, I am bored with food, planning, thinking about it, etc.  Heck, I'm even bored with EATING it!  So I'm looking for inspiration in places OTHER than the grocery store.  Probably no surprise that I would turn immediately to my friends in BlogLand.   As I thought about this and reflected on how grateful I am to be a part of this community, I was also reminded of some very unique ways that other bloggers have become an inspiration to me.

Many years ago, I was loved and mentored by an older woman with whom I worked.  She once told me that it was important to have a small inner circle of trusted friends to whom you were accountable.  In addition to those friends, she always talked about the importance of forming friendships with a wide variety of other people that were very different from me.  In other words, a friend who was much older, much younger, of a different race, complete opposite politically or of different religious beliefs.  Perhaps, someone from a culture that made me slightly uncomfortable, a friend of the opposite sex, a stay-at-home mom (since I was an embarrassingly aggressive career woman at the time), a child, etc.  You get the point!  I've never forgotten that and found it wonderful advice that has brought me friendships I'd never have imagined.  

What does all that have to do with finding inspiration when I'm bored with my healthy eating journey?  I'm so glad you asked!   That advice from long ago has come back to encourage me once again and I find myself looking at the faces behind the blogs I enjoy so much and it is there I find the inspiration that I need to keep on keeping on.  Here's what I mean...............

What would I do without the friends in BlogLand who are already maintaining, have kept off their weight for years and are bold enough to continue writing about their maintenance successes as well as their maintenance struggles?  

Five of those friends have just launched a new team effort called, AIM - Adventure In Maintenance.  Four of these women have been blog friends of mine for quite some time and the fifth I'm getting to know by reading her story from its inception.  You think that's not inspiring....well, think again.  If you aren't friends with these women, get acquainted with them now and be inspired.  Between the five of them, they have lost and maintained more than 500 pounds.

This list certainly isn't exhaustive.  Many other maintainers "inspire" me with their words!

And then there is inspiration of a totally different sort.  Very recently, two young women from my church have become bloggers.  One is a newlywed, the other a young mother pursuing a degree in music.  Neither have any problems with weight and most likely never have.  But both are an inspiration to me simply in their commitment to the things that are important to them.  Bethany is a vegetarian and is highly committed to keeping her meals interesting and exciting despite the rigorous schedule of a full-time student with a five-year old daughter and a husband who is also a full-time student.  She does NOT become "bored" with it!  Courtney follows no set eating plan of which I am aware, but I've known her and her family for many years, shared many meals with them and I can assure you that she keeps her trim figure by not overeating and practicing proper portion control.  They are both on a completely different plane of living than I am right now, but both are an inspiration to me in my efforts to maintain my weight.  (Here are links to both blogs.  Since neither are weight loss related, not likely you'll want to follow them permanently, but if you want to see two beautiful women both inside and out, take a peek!)

I could go on and on listing people and places where I find inspiration.  What I hope you'll take from this post is that when boredom strikes (and it will), that's the time to be creative.  Look for inspiration in the most unlikely places.  Look for it in the unfamiliar.  Look for it hiding underneath something uncomfortable.  Look for it in your fears.  Look for it in nature.  Look for it in music.  Just LOOK!

Guess what??   I'm no longer bored with the healthy eating journey.  
Think I'll plan some menus now!

From whom, what or where do you find inspiration when boredom strikes?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Friday Follow-Up: It's All Random

Jakes Creek Trail - GSMNP
February 25, 2013

With not much on my mind today, but a desire to write, it'll be interesting to see what comes out.......

It's been a fun week that started with my longest and most difficult hike since returning from Florida.  Gene, Judi and I hiked 3.7 miles from the Elkmont area of the park to Jakes Gap and then followed an old manway another mile to Blanket Mountain, the site of an old firetower and caretaker's cabin.  The operative word here was UP - 1700 feet of UP to be exact and that was just to the gap.  Another 600 feet of UP along an unmaintained trail that is threatening to become extinct.  There are no views from the summit of Blanket Mountain, but it's always exciting to find evidence of the past within the park and a fun source of conversation to discuss why that particular site wasn't chosen to be maintained while others were. 

From the Gap, we followed a faint, but easily seen trail (not shown on the map) to the right which led to the top of Blanket Mountain.

Picture on the left shows where we were headed and picture on the right is what remains of the chimney from the old caretaker's cabin.

Some terrific thoughts, feedback and questions came from my last post specifically about carrying water while hiking and my boots.   Thankfully, no one suggested NOT carrying water!  In my years of hiking, I have seen many woefully unprepared people much further back in the backcountry than they should've been given that they appeared to be carrying nothing in the way of supplies INCLUDING water.  I've had people that I didn't know well plan to hike with my group and when asked about the absence of water have said they didn't need it.  My answer is this, "you hike with me, you carry water."  

I mentioned that water is heavy and several of you agreed.  Some said they prefer carrying their water via a "camelback" or some other reservoir system which lets you spread the weight on your back and drink from a tube at any time.  Others suggested a waist belt with water on either side.   All are excellent methods and it boils down to personal preference.  Technically, the water weighs the same no matter which way you choose to carry it.  I prefer to carry one liter Nalgene water bottles in each pocket of my waist strap so my hips are carrying the weight.  If the hike is long enough that a third bottle is needed, I place another in the bottom of my backpack so that it also rests on my hips.  I love my backpack and consider it an investment, so I think it's just a matter of finding the right way to carry everything that puts the least amount of pressure on my neck.

My hiking boots are made by Vasque, a well known and highly respected maker of outdoor footwear.  They are the "Breeze" style and I cannot say enough good things about them.  Expensive?  Yes, but worth every dime.  These are the most comfortable shoes I've ever had and if I could get by with it, I'd wear them to church on Sunday mornings!!  This is a popular style and easy to find at most any outdoor fitter, Amazon, Bass Pro Shop, etc.  Trust me when I say my feet are a mess from Rheumatoid Disease, but at the end of a hike, my feet are usually what is the LEAST tired.  These boots  are 100% waterproof (believe me, that's been tested...LOL!) and have kept my feet dry as a bone.

Changing the subject entirely..................

I'm having lots of fun with the Two-Ingredient Crockpot Dinners and have tried several of the options you guys suggested.  We have not had a failure yet, although some combinations are better than others.  I loved Debby's idea to head to Trader Joe's and just wander the aisles looking for marinades and sauces that might be worth a try.  Believe me, TJ's is loaded with possibilities and I've had fun doing that.  

One week from today, Bill will leave for a week in Spain with his wonderful choral group of amazing college kids (I might be a tad bit partial here).  He is so grateful to be employed by a college whose administration understands the importance of experiences such as these for their college students.  Not every community college does!  Believe me, this is no vacation - there are days when they have THREE concerts.  And no day where there are none!  They work hard and come back exhausted, but overwhelmed with the experience they've had.  I will miss him, but have some adventures of my own planned for the time he is gone.

We spent last evening with my MIL and enjoyed cheering our Tennessee Lady Vols on to the regular season SEC Championship during their first year under new head coach, Holly Warlick, who succeeded legendary Pat Summitt earlier this year.  The Lady Vols were picked to finish FIFTH in the preseason polls, but we all knew they deserved better.  Holly may be a new head coach, but she learned everything she knows from Pat Summitt and any Tennessean will tell you she's no novice!  

No big plans for the weekend, but you can bet we'll find plenty to do and find a way to make it fun.

What Random Thoughts Are Swirling Around In Your Head Today?