Monday, April 25, 2011

Ready, Set? You Bet!! - Week #10

Is it just me, or is the hardest part of exercising getting out the door? If I can just do this, I have proven that I can win the inner battle over "Sofa? Blanket? Book? Nap? Chocolate?". Once my legs start moving, my muscles warm up, and I hit my stride, I am good to go, especially when combined with some great self-talk: "I'm doing it!", "I am strong!", "My mind controls my body!", and "I love this!"

"All things are ready, if our minds be so." (William Shakespeare)

Here are a few of my newly-found "secret" techniques for keeping my Four-Times-a-Week-Commitment-to-Run:

1. Decide once and for all that you will exercise on your scheduled days regardless of the weather. Don't allow what you see outside your window to be an excuse! Some of my favorite runs of late have been in shards of hail, dumping rain, or strong headwinds, because I feel SO STRONG when I push through what could easily be a big fat reason to stay inside. A pleasant, sunny day is definitely the exception in the Pacific Northwest at this time of year ... as long as we have a few key pieces of gear, we can brave most yucky days. (More about gear in a minute)

2. Keep on top of laundering your and your family's exercise clothes. Even with just three of us living in our house right now, I have a small mountain that accumulates every other day: my husband and I are both running four times a week, and our daughter is on the school volleyball team and a club soccer team (a combined weekly total of six practices and three games). It helps us to have a two-section hamper in a basket right next to the washing maching so that those soccer socks, shinguards, and running clothes can be dumped immediately upon entering our home. I love Tide Sport detergent with Febreze for washing these loads. Sometimes I will run an exercise load through the "soak" cycle (with a small dose of Tide) first, if the clothes have been hampered a few days too many.

3. I find it the very best to exercise in the morning. When I don't (like today), I have it hanging over my head and it becomes drudgery (like it did). My best system is this: lay out exercise clothes, socks, shoes the night before on the dresser. Get dressed in these as soon as I'm up ... don't leave the bedroom in my PJs! Then, that psychological "first step" has been taken toward conquering the "I don't wannas" that will surely rear its ugly head later in the morning.

4. On exercise days, eat a healthy, hearty, carb-rich breakfast about 45 minutes before you plan to hit the road. This makes SUCH A DIFFERENCE for me in strength and endurance. Trying to exercise on an empty stomach is like trying to drive a car on an empty gas can only go on fumes for so long. Remember, "breakfast like a king!" A couple of my favorite pre-exercise breakfasts are:

Two whole-wheat waffle squares (with flaxseed and cinnamon in batter)
A little real butter and drizzle of real maple syrup
A cup of fat-free milk
Half a sliced banana (on top of waffles)

A bowl of oatmeal cooked in lowfat vanilla soymilk (with cinnamon)
A tablespoon of flaxseed sprinkled on top
Chopped, defrosted frozen peach slices or defrosted mixed berries
A cup of fat-free milk to drink

5. Look at your clock and commit to being out the door 45 minutes after you've finished breakfast. Sometimes I even set my kitchen timer as an extra reminder. Then, spend those intermediary minutes doing something enjoyable: check your email, catch up with a friend on the phone, write a couple of notes, read a chapter in that good book, or even watch part of a TV show you've DVRd. The point is to help yourself look at exercise as a happy, natural part of your morning routine. (My non-exercise days -- Tuesday and Thursday (and Sunday) -- are when I try to shower first thing and hit the ground running with errands / shopping, housekeeping, helping in the office at my daughter's school, church meetings, Visiting Teaching, visiting my parents ... you know, all the stuff that fills our typical days.)

6. Ask your dog: "Do you want to go for a run with Mama with your leash??" Once I ask Harry this Question of All Questions, he will plant himself between me and the door and stare me down with his big, brown, expectant eyes until I go get the leash off the hook in the laundry room. I actually like this little song-and-dance that he and I do on exercise days: it helps keep me honest. A dog's one-track mind and enthusiasm for "going somewhere" is a fabulous incentive to help get us out the door.

"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other thing." (Abraham Lincoln)

Now for some thoughts on GEAR from a woman (me) whose husband must surely by now own stock in the local REI. (If you ever want to rock-climb, cycle, fly fish, do anything behind a boat, climb a mountain, do anything on a board in the snow, or even skate on a longboard, come on over...we've got stuff you can borrow.) I have recently been converted to the idea that having the Right Gear for running (or any activity) can make a world of difference. Here are a couple of things that I am liking:

A. Oh, BTW, my husband is also a podiatrist, and he is right-on when he preaches about having good running shoes to avoid potential injury. Our local running store is a great place to make this investment -- the trained salespeople spend a chunk of time with you videotaping your gait on their treadmill, measuring your feet, and talking to you about your running history and future goals. Then they will fit you in a couple different brands of shoes and have you take a lap around the outside of the store to see how the shoes really feel when you're walking or jogging. My recent purchase: New Balance 760 Stability, and I LOVE them.

B. I am a big fan of Nike running pants made out of the Dri-Fit material. Of course, because of "shakeage", I also wear a Spandex layer underneath! (TMI??!)

C. I find that I either throw on my NorthFace fleece jacket on a cool day, or my waterproof shell on a wet day, before I run out the door. Either can be easily stripped off and tied around my waist if necessary. So much better than the old days when I'd work-out in big, thick cotton T-shirts, sweatshirts, and sweatpants.

D. Dr. Husband also is a big advocate of polypropylene socks, as opposed to cotton socks. They breathe much better and don't tend to rub and cause blisters. I always receive a couple pair of these in my Christmas stocking from Santa.

E. Other accessories that I occasionally use: a lightweight cap with a brim to shield from sun / rain / those shards of hail, lightweight running gloves for cold days, and a reflective vest / blinking lights for running after dark (only with a buddy!!). I keep these things all in one place, along with my ipod, sunglasses, and the free running watch my husband won recently, to make "gearing up" as quick and easy as possible.

"The principle is competing against yourself. It's about self-improvement, about being better than you were the day before." (Steve Young)

These are some of my secrets for successful, regular running or exercise. Not all will apply to, or interest you, but I hope that one or two do! How do you "prepare to be successful" in your exercise endeavors? What are your secrets??

postscript. I hit the big 2-0 last week and am holding strong, despite far too much Easter ham and that darn slice of cheesecake. It is just three weeks exactly from today 'til my birthday, and my goal is to have lost 30 pounds. I'm revamping my plan of attack and upping my game this week. I'll report in next Monday and let you know what's working.

Happy running / climbing / walking / working out!!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Couscous Greek Salad AND Basic Vinaigrette Dressing

"Cooking is a way of offering love. Food that is cooked with love, guided by knowlege of the ingredients being cooked, and served in an inspiring atmosphere becomes healing ... Most disease is traced ultimately to incorrect diet. The cure for such wrong eating is not better drugs, nor necessarily in better restaurants, but in reclaiming our oldest right and duty, to cook for ourselves and those we love. Though right diet may not always be enough to correct diseases, few diseases can really be alleviated without it. Moreover, right diet is the essence of disease prevention and the foundation of a happy and healthy life." (Harish Johari)

Greek Couscous Salad

Here is the couscous recipe that was such a big hit at last week's luncheon. It really is just the recipe from the back of the box, with a couple of embellishments encouraged by my friend Julie: chicken stock instead of water, fresh parsley, and TOASTED almonds. My mouth is watering as I type this ... I am making it again today!

1 package Near East Couscous Original Plain
2 c. water
2 t. Better Than Bouillon (chicken flavor)
1/4 t. freshly-ground pepper
1/2 t. salt
2 T. FRESH lemon juice
3 T. olive oil
2 large tomatoes, medium-diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
3 green onions, sliced 1/2"
2 T. FRESH parsley, chopped
1/2 c. feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 c. sliced almonds, **toasted

Prepare to couscous according the the directions on the box, adding the Better Than Bouillon to the boiling water for a more delicious, savory flavor.

Dump prepared couscous into a wide, shallow serving bowl. Toss with lemon juice and olive oil. Add vegetables, toss, and cover and refrigerate for four-ish hours. (If you're "under the gun", you can serve it all right away. It just won't be quite as tasty ... the flavors won't have had a chance to "meld".)

Before serving, toast almonds in a small, dry nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Toss gently until they become fragrant and lightly-browned, and remove from heat.

Add feta and almonds to couscous, toss, add a little more salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy the yumminess! (6 servings)

Basic Vinaigrette Dressing

Guess what?? This old, handwritten recipe card has been in my collection for 25 years, given to me by my wise mother when I got married. I had never made it until recently, and now it is my favorite salad dressing, hands-down. I make a fresh little batch every couple of weeks.

1 c. olive oil
6 T. red wine vinegar
2 T. finely-chopped purple onion
2 T. Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t. salt
1 t. Worcestershire Sauce

Put all ingredients in a small Mason jar with tight-fitting lid, or fancy salad-dressing-shaker-jar-thingey. Shake vigorously to combine ingredients. Flavor is better if made in advance. Refrigerate.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Eighteen on the 18th - Week #9

My daughter has gotten me hooked on following a darling blog called "martawrites". (Check it out on blogspot!) Oftentimes on the 12th of the month, she will post a list of twelve ideas, and call it "Twelve on the 12th". Being that I'm obsessed with lists, and also Marta's clever ideas, I look forward to those listy posts. And in honor of her, I offer up my own version of that idea ... here are my Top Dozen-and-a-Half notes scribbled this past week in my inspiration journal, in obviously no particular order:

1. I brought a salad to a luncheon today, and had three women ask (beg!) for the recipe, saying that they are going to make it TOMORROW. If you have never tried couscous (koo-skoos: "a type of North African semolina made from crushed durum wheat"), or have never heard of couscous, now is your chance with this foolproof recipe for a Greek variation, with tomatoes, feta cheese, green onions, celery, and toasted almonds. A two-ingredient dressing of lemon juice and olive oil makes it lip-smackin' good. I will post the recipe soon, and hope you try it. Thanks to my foodie friend Julie for her couscous tips.

2. I am working on another list, this one tentatively called "Embarrassing Things That Happen When You're Overweight", and promise to post it when these things stop happening to me. Then we can have a good chuckle together. (Oh, by the way, I lost the optimum TWO POUNDS last week, bringing my grand total to 19, in eight weeks. That is one pound away from 20, which I can't wait to be able to say!)

3. I have tested this theory out: It is better to say a morning prayer at 4pm than not at all. One afternoon, I realized that my day felt "flat" and uninspired, and I was just schlunking (?) through the hours. I realized that I had forgotten to make time for my morning prayer. The first chance I got, I returned to my little sacred space, and took a few minutes to talk with my Heavenly Father. I then put my thirteen year-old in charge of making dinner and headed out for an overdue run. As I was cooling down and walking Eileen's hill, the sun burst through the rain clouds, the Carpenters' "Sing a Song" came on my ipod (another story), and I couldn't hold back my big cheesey grin. That song took me right back to Fourth Grade Chorus, standing on the risers in my long dress and platform sandals! Harry looked at me funny as I belted it out as enthusiastically as I did back then: "Sing, sing a song, make it simple, to last your whole life long. Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear, just sing, sing a song!" That marked the beginning of a really great rest of the day. Prayer got it going in the right direction.

4. This is becoming my new motto: "Why put off 'til tomorrow what you can do today?" I am waging war on procrastination.

5. Never underestimate the romantic nature of a moonlight(or early-morning) run with your sweetie-pie. This has become one of the BEST THINGS my husband and I do together.

6. If you haven't already, get friendly with FARTLEKS. ("Fartlek": "a training technique, used especially among runners, consisting of bursts of intense effort loosely alternating with less strenuous activity") On Wednesdays (FAST RUN DAY), I try to work on my "speed" (don't laugh, it's a relative term) by dedicating the second mile to fartleks: for me, this means running easily to a telephone pole, then speeding up to the next pole, running easily, speeding up, etc. I really do think this is helping, even though it is my least favorite run of the week.

7. Get a really fabulous large, shallow bowl to display your fruits and vegetables in. I found a beautifully beat-up, rustic one at a roadside produce stand, and my mom hints that I may wake up one morning and find it gone. (Covetor!) When I come home from shopping, I put as much as will fit in the bowl in the middle of the kitchen table: apples, oranges, lemons, avocados, onions, bananas, zucchini, etc. I find that my family will more often grab a piece of fruit from the bowl than when they are stuffed in the back of the produce drawer in the fridge. Plus, it looks so lovely and reminds me to use everything up.

8. I am trying to ACTIVELY LOOK for the stepping-stones placed before me each day that will propel me along my "get healthy and fit" path. Last night, as I looked back at my day, these are what I identified as its stepping-stones: Kris and Kelli's wonderful compliments, a specific quote in Brent's talk in Sacrament Meeting (which I found on and printed off), and the fact that a formerly-too-tight pair of Adidas pants now fit nicely. In their own ways, these things all served as motivation to keep moving forward. I am convinced that each day presents such "stones" if we train ourselves to look for them and embrace them.

9. My mom's words "Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper" have been ringing in my mind lately. I want to try actually using different-sized plates and bowls at these meals to encourage developing this habit. I know that I lose weight more easily when I eat very light dinners. Once again, Mom was right.

10. From Skip Hellewell's "Word of Wisdom Living" blog (paraphrased): "we should never bring entire bags of candy, cookies, or other sweet treats into our homes. Rather, indulge by choosing ONE PIECE of candy at a candy shop, or ONE COOKIE from a bakery." I really love this idea, and this coming someone who could polish off a one-pound bag of M&Ms with not a lot of problem.

11. Lynn G. Robbins (of the Seventy) gave a "sit up and pay attention, Macy" talk two weeks ago at General Conference, entitled "What Manner of Man and Women Ought Ye to Be?". I'm going to study it in-depth this week. Join me!!

12. Eighteen points make for a mighty long list! Are you getting bored??!

13. We have a really hard time finding a bottled salad dressing that we like. We have quite a few in the door of the fridge that have accumulated, that no one is using ... these dressings are going on a one-way trip on trash pick-up day, because I have discovered a really simple, homemade vinaigrette dressing (with variations) that I LOVE. I will post this recipe soon. Try it and tell me what you think!! Plus, there's no funny business going on in the ingredient list ...

14. I can't recommend highly enough the new biography of Pres. Thomas S. Monson, "To the Rescue". I look forward to reading a chapter before bed each night, and can almost hear Pres. Monson's voice as I read his reminiscences from his boyhood years.

15. My husband's good advice for when we all hit weight loss plateaus: lengthen the duration of exercise. We start to burn fat 20-30 minutes (with 70-80% effort) into a cardio workout. My goal by my birthday in May is to be running five miles on my Long Day. I just did my first 5K-length run on Saturday night, which was a big deal! My man also encourages me to drink, drink, drink water and eat larger meals earlier in the day. He is my BIGGEST FAN, I love him, and COULD NOT do this without his support.

16. I know I sing the praises of Starbucks' treats regularly, and here I go again! They have a selection called Starbucks Petites, which are three or four-bite goodies, all ranging in calories from 120 - 190. The Lemon Sweet Squares are 120 calories with 6 grams of fat. The Birthday Cake Pops are 170 calories with 9 grams of fat. There are also mini cupcakes, mini cherry scones, and mini Red Velvet Whoopie Pies. They just make me smile looking at them. I've only tried the cake pop, but the Lemon Square is my next planned-for indulgence with a cup of herbal tea.

17. I made homemade Beef Barley Soup this week! Another simple, wholesome soup recipe which I will share in an upcoming post. I have come to love from-scratch soups ... they are true comfort foods, and when they're made with healthy ingredients and lots of vegetables, they're filling and delicious with unlimited variety.

18. We had our first meeting with our entire 12-person (6 couples)Ragnar Team tonight. It should be illegal to laugh that much! We chose our race legs, talked about team shirts, told funny stories from last year's race, and got nervous already about this year's. It is great to have this BIG GOAL fixed in my summer plans. Team "One More Hill" is ready to roll!

Friends, enjoy your Easter weekend! Much love to each of you, and until next time...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Secret Prayer - Week #8

"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." (Matthew 6:6)

Prayer has truly become my lifeline as I am nearly two months into my Excellent Adventure in getting fit, losing weight, and feeling vibrant and healthy. I wanted to show you WHERE I say most of my "formal" prayers, as this small, three-foot-wide spot in our bedroom has become sacred ground, where miracles have and are taking place. This formerly unused space now plays a key role in the successes I am having as I stretch toward my goals.

I had seen this little antique Chinese stool while out shopping with my mother in December. I can't explain why, but it just spoke to me: "Buy me!, You need me!, Aren't I beautiful?, We could do great things, you and I!" I didn't take its advice immediately, but as I started to gear up for my Adventure, my mind kept returning to my new little stool friend. A couple of months later, one week into my fitness journey, I drove an hour north and purchased it, and it now sits right where you see it, between my side of the bed and the window.

First thing in the morning and last thing at night, you will find me right here, perched on my stool. I always have my inspiration notebook with me, ready to capture any spiritual promptings I may receive. Morning prayer is more of a consecration of the day ahead, always with a specific pleading for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Evening prayer consists of "returning and reporting" on the important things that I had planned to do that day. I am absolutely certain that my Heavenly Father is intimately aware of me and hears my prayers. As I pour out my heart to him, I feel guided to do specific, PERFECT things that I know I just wouldn't think of on my own. When I am courageous and ACT on these promptings, wonderful, surprising things unfold during my day. I am learning to more faithfully follow the whisperings of the Spirit, proving time and time again that He knows so much better than I what is good and needful for me.

"There is an hour of peace and rest, Unmarred by earthly care;
'Tis when before the Lord I go, And kneel in secret prayer.

May my heart be turned to pray, Pray in secret day by day,
That this boon to mortals giv'n May unite my soul with heav'n."
(Hymn #144,
Secret Prayer)

There is conscious thought that goes into making this little space ready for prayer in the morning! I immediately make the bed, because for me, my mind can be open, uncluttered, and at ease when things around me are neat and tidy. I throw back the curtains, and with any luck, some rays of sunshine will penetrate the sheer linens underneath. I always open the window a bit, too, both for the fresh, cool morning air and also for the sounds: birds chirping, rain falling, or whatever else nature is presenting that morning. I switch my light on, grab my notebook and pen, and settle in. I start to consider the day ahead: What things are on my calendar? How can I put "first things first" this day? How can I best serve my family? How can I be efficient but not too busy so that I miss an opportunity to help someone? What are my personal goals for the day? What part of my home should I focus on cleaning/organizing? How will it FEEL when I meet my challenges head-on and charge through the hurdles that will come before me? How can I be more kind and loving? ...

After contemplating in detail the day ahead, (spiritual creation) I will fold my arms, bow my head, close my eyes, and start to talk to my Heavenly Father. There is something so REAL and PERSONAL about praying out-loud. This is kind of new for me, but when I am able, it really does make a difference. Some days my prayers are long and pleading, other days they are brief and to-the-point, and still other times they are a long run-on sentence of "I am so thankful fors..." My prayer conversations ebb and flow from day to day just as do life experiences shared regularly with a cherished friend. I realize how far I have come from my nightly rote prayer as a little girl: "Now I lay me down to sleep..."

I follow with quiet, meditative time where I might jot down impressions or ideas in my notebook. Its pages hold things like: details of today's exercise plan (route/intensity/length), meals to prepare, shopping lists, inspiring quotes I want to memorize, future blogging ideas, someone special to connect with, notes to write, phone calls to make, powerful verses of scripture, a record of my weight loss and measurements to-date, songs to add to my ipod, and other Notes to Self. I come back to these pages many times during the course of the day, and am a crazy-woman about CHECKING THINGS OFF. I have learned that the Spirit speaks to me very clearly when I am putting pencil to paper, and therefore it is worth it for me to invest time in this practice each day.

After visualizing the day ahead, I try to spend some time in the scriptures while I'm still there on my stool. I don't rush this ... I'm not trying to reach a quota or finish a chapter, but rather am searching for personal inspiration for my life at that moment.

"But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.

"Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you."

(Book of Mormon, Alma 34: 26-27)

I WISH that we were sitting face-to-face, and that you would share your ideas about personal prayer with me. Does this practice make a difference in your life? Do you have a favorite place to pray? How do you hear the voice of the Spirit? I think that we would agree together that prayer is one of our greatest blessings from a loving, very present Father in Heaven.

Now, just a few notes from the previous week:

1. I am 17 pounds lighter than I was seven weeks ago! The scale rewarded my efforts and showed a two pound loss from last Monday, which caused me to momentarily whoop it up this morning!

2. I am very conscious of my first short-range goal that is rapidly approaching: to lose 30 pounds by my birthday on May 16. If I can stay focused, motivated, and inspired, I believe that I will be able to achieve this. If I do, I may just celebrate with homemade strawberry shortcake WITH whipped cream, thank you very much.

3. The best compliment I've had in a long time: my sweet, supportive husband told me the other day that I've got the sparkle back in my eyes that he fell in love with years ago. He hadn't realized I had lost it until it appeared again lately. I attribute this to inner peace, relief from my arthritis, and just feeling plain ol' terrific about the journey I'm on. Three cheers for 'a sparkle in the eye'!!

4. Today, being that it's Monday, was "Easy Run" day. That meant my two-mile loop in 25 minutes, which a couple weeks ago was my "Long/Harder Run". Progress! And guess what? I felt STRONG, and it was, in fact "easy"! Yes!!

5. My diet is still sugar-free, except for the very worth it bite of Eileen's homemade strawberry ice cream I sampled last week. I will finish this eighth week out, and then re-evaluate.

6. We are signed up for dairy home delivery from Smith Brothers: organic milks, organic brown eggs, locally-made butter, and Ron's "run recovery" chocolate milk. A cool thing about this is that the milk is delivered within 24 hours of milking. We get our silver metal porch box on Wednesday! I'll let you know what we think.

7. Later this week: my Inspiration Ribbon-Board, personal review on Yurtopia's earbud enhancers, and a recipe or two. Come back and visit!! Onward!!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Nutty Jumbles

These yummy, chewy, nutritionally-dense little guys make a great snack-on-the-run. They mostly consist of nuts (three kinds), just held together by a simple egg white and brown sugar syrup, but to me they taste a little Toll House Cookie-esque: must be the brown sugar, vanilla combination. Greasing the foil with a tad of real butter adds to that flavor, too. Earlier, my husband asked if they had caramel in them! He's eating another right now.

Keep cookies in an airtight container and they will stay chewy and delicious for days. Recipe from Williams-Sonoma The Kid's Cookbook.

Nutty Jumbles

1 T. soft butter, for greasing baking sheets
2 egg whites
1/2 c. firmly-packed light brown sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 c. chopped almonds
1 c. chopped pecans
1 c. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil and lightly grease with the soft butter.

In mixing bowl, combine egg whites, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Stir with fork. Add nuts and mix again until mixture is well-coated.

Drop by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Flatten mounds slightly. Place one baking sheet in oven and bake until nuts are well browned, 12 to 14 minutes. Bake the second sheet of jumbles. Cool completely on baking sheets, then peel jumbles from the foil.

Makes 24 cookies

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Zucchini Soup

This soup recipe (from The Essential Mormon Cookbook by Julie Badger Jensen) meets all my requirements: simple, fresh ingredients, lots of vegetables, and dee-licious. My family is always surprised how much they love this soup, being that zucchini is its main ingredient! I have adapted it slightly.

The recipe makes a small batch, just enough for three main-dish servings, so I would suggest doubling it for bigger families or to have leftovers. This is perfect to make in the summer when your garden is producing lots of zucchini, or when your friend's garden is producing lots of zucchini. Or, bite the bullet (like I did last week) and pay $2.49/lb. for your fresh zucchini now ... it just may be worth it.

Zucchini Soup

1 c. chopped yellow onion
2 T. butter (I use 1 T.)
3 c. sliced zucchini
2 t. Better Than Bouillon
2 c. water
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
1/2 cup half-and-half

Optional toppings: grated cheddar, crumbled bacon, sour cream.
(I find that a little taste of just one of these on top of your bowl of soup is plenty. A little freshly-ground pepper finishes it off.)

In medium soup pot, saute onion in melted butter until it just starts to caramelize. Add sliced zucchini, water and Bouillon, and bring to a boil, stirring gently. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Cool slightly. (I don't do this) Pour mixture into blender and puree it. (I use my small hand-held Braun pulsating mixer, and do this right in the soup pot. I like to puree about half the soup, leaving the other half chunky.) Stir in half-and-half, return to pot and reheat but do not boil. Garnish as desired.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I Think My Scale is Broken

I literally jumped out of bed this morning! I had been so diligent last week in my get-fit goals, and I woke up just KNOWING that I was going to be a little lighter ... I could feel it, and was so excited to post my new weight loss achievements on this here blog.

Well, my heart sank something big when I looked down to see the same old number on the scale's dial. The number that has been staring me in the face every morning for seven days. HUGE SIGH. And another HUGE SIGH. And a slow head shake. And, let's be honest here, a big wave of discouragement.

While I was praying a short time later, I opened my eyes for some reason and saw my soft measuring tape hanging on the ribbon-board beside my bed. I felt a distinct impression that I needed to take new measurements, as it had been four weeks since I last recorded them.

Fast-forward to some giddy jumping and repeated shouts of "Aaahhhh!!" as I measured my waist, stomach, hips, bust, and upper arm to find significant differences in inches!! This is the motivation that I needed, and I was immediately back in the game mentally. I ran downstairs and threw on my new cute puffy black coat (that snapped closed - but didn't quite come together to zip - a couple of weeks ago) ... that beautiful zipper just sailed up to my neck, with not a pull or a tug to be found anywhere. VICTORY IS MINE AFTER ALL!!! I don't know what the deal with my scale is, but I AM making progress, darn it!

The above photo embodies three points that make me happy today:

1. The measuring tape, which I have kept symbolically in my sight;
2. My cute pup;
3. My cute pup's wet paws, which bear witness of our Easy Run through puddles today.

Here's the obvious dumb thing about the photo:

1. It shows my limited understanding of editing my blog posts. I thought I had rotated the picture, and now, I don't know how to fix it! Stuff like this drives me crazy. (Like on my last post I typed "2010" instead of "2011" then published it before I caught it, and had to let it go. Can someone help me??! haha)

Are any of you old enough to remember the Go-Gos? The girl band from the early 80s? I LOVED them, and still occasionally sing this song in my head "...I am a girl of a hundred lists! From what shall I wear, to who I have kissed. Check items off, let nothing to be missed, yes, I am a girl of a hundred lists!" Like Belinda Carlisle, I adore lists. They just break everything down into nice, manageable little groupings. In honor of the awesome Go-Gos, here's another list: this time, Things I Want to Try in the Near Future:

1. Tracey's homemade Whole Wheat Artisan Bread, which she blogged about with a wonderful tutorial;
2. Missy's homemade Spelt Bread, which pretty much tastes as good as cake. I am completely impressed with her perfecting of this awesome skill;
3. Smith Brothers Dairy Delivery from a local town - milk is delivered to your home within 24 hours of milking, has no growth hormones, is organic, and is packaged in fiberboard instead of plastic. It costs more. Still deciding if it's worth it. Have any of you tried this??
4. Bountiful Baskets, a wonderful chain of neighborhood produce co-ops which gives you a varied basket of local, in-season fruits and vegetables for $15. My daughter in Utah loves it, and my friend Lorri has just joined here, and included the words "portabello mushrooms" in today's facebook status update. So cool.
5. A container garden in my side yard: tomatoes, herbs, lettuces.

Here are a few yummy dinner menus from our kitchen last week:

Homemade Zucchini Soup**
Whole-grain crusty bread
Fresh green and purple grapes

Fajitas: chicken breast (marinated in homemade lime marinade, sauteed with purple onion and orange/yellow pepper slices), avocado, corn tortillas
Black bean and corn salsa

Homemade Minestrone Soup (with 1/2 portion sausage and lots of veggies)
Sliced oranges

Tomorrow I'm going to make Couscous Salad, with green onion, lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, and grape tomatoes. Never bought couscous before, but Julie makes it and it's yummy. I'm also going to try healthifying my family's favorite Shepherd's Pie, by using ground turkey instead of ground beef, making simple mashed potatoes (no sour cream and just a touch of butter), using fresh green beans and 2% cheddar on top, sparingly. We'll see!

A few final notes:

**This week I will post the recipe for the EASY zucchini soup, and another for "Nutty Jumbles", a fabulously healthy snack.
*In the hopefully near future, look for another "Know This Woman" interview, this time with a dear friend who has become something of a local Word of Wisdom / Health expert.
*Many of you have said that you aren't able to post a comment on my blog! If you attempt, it will prompt you to first set up a Google Account ... this is just registering your email address and entering your PRIVATE password, and a "display name" (what name you want to display on your comments). Once you've entered that info, you can leave comments on any blog you like. It's super easy!

Let's finish today with an inspiring quote from Elder Dallin H. Oaks' fabulous talk in Saturday's session of General Conference:

"When we have a VISION of what we can become ... we can cut and carve ourselves free from addictions and hindrances that keep us from achieving our righteous desires."

I'm so excited to go back to study this talk, and also Elder Christoffersen's and Elder Rogers' (I think this is his name. You know, the one about "To Do versus To Be"!). Super great stuff.

Friends, how I love you all. I want you to know that I think about and try so many of the tips you share with me. Thank you for "championing my cause". I wish I could post all the wonderful comments HERE that you post on facebook or by email so that everyone could benefit from them. Let's keep at this business of getting healthy TOGETHER!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

(This is a photo of me, taken last Saturday after my run. I wanted to wear my Ragnar medal in addition to the shirt, but the banging would have hurt. At the end of five weeks of the Experiment.)

Notes from Today's Run -- Saturday, April 2, 2010

WHO: The Faithful Doodle and me

WHAT: Longer Saturday Run (Today 2 miles in 25 minutes, with warm-up and cool-down walks) Began in baby hail storm, but ended under a perfectly-timed sunbreak. I'd like to think the heavens were saying "Yessss, Macy!"

WHEN: Between Saturday General Conference sessions. Planned for in advance, had clothes ready to go.

WHERE: My regular loop. (Need to start mixing it up)

HOW: Slow & Steady With No Stops. Listened to Ron's crazy, shuffled mix on my ipod: Blondie, Los Lonely Boys, Daughtry, Lenny Kravitz, and ended with Garth!) Kari said last night, "How did you ever run without music?" and I'm beginning to understand what she meant.

WHY: Because Saturday is Longer Run Day. And I'm becoming a girl who keeps commitments to herself. And I feel powerful when I finish. And I have faith that eventually running is going to make a difference. (and I sorta love it.)

**Have you been out yet today to exercise?? If not, do it!! I promise it will make you feel terrific. 'Til Monday, friends!