Progress!

WordPress finally let me back in! I got an iPhone this summer and downloaded the app and it kept locking me out until I could not even get in in a computer! I have been continuing diligently on my journey, and wanted to share a quick update. The following picture is a before and after of me and Alex. Collectively we have lost just under 90 lbs!

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Updates and progress

I know I have been out of pocket for some time here, and I truly, truly apologize! I hope I still have some readers out there to notice my return!

The past several months have been…hectic. That really doesn’t begin to describe it, but it’s the quickest, easiest word to express how busy I have been, how little free time I have had, and to sum up the reason for my prolonged absence.

Between family visiting Georgia, weddings, work, holidays, work, pet illnesses, work, and a slew of necessary home improvements relative to pet illnesses, I quite literally feel as if I have not breathed in about 2 months. As is the story of my life, the things I love the most are typically the first things deemed un-essential during these times of extended business, and sadly blogging fell into that list. Regardless of when I publish a blog, I typically sit down to write them in the evening before bed, and lately bedtime has either come much later than I would like due to the aforementioned business, or much earlier than I would like due to crashing after a long, tiring, stressful several days.

Either scenario just didn’t leave me my blog time.

As things calm down, and I start living a relatively normal life again, I tried to make getting back on here a priority.

As this blog at the end of the day is all about the journey, I want you all to know that I have continued to be relatively successful in all of my goals here.

I have maintained my weightloss and even added a couple more pounds to it, I’m now on the south side of 30 pounds lost, having lost a total of 32lbs.

Although the time constraints have all but eliminated my workout time most days, I have managed to keep as active as possible, and at the very least control my caloric intake well enough to maintain and not gain.

Over the next few weeks I’ll try to catch up on any of the specific events or recipes that I haven’t been sharing, but I warn you- creativity in the kitchen was another hobby put slightly on the backburner over the last couple of months- in other words- you haven’t missed much!

Thanks again for the continued love and support, it was each of you in the back of my minds that kept me focused while I was away!

Cheers!

Whirlwind (kind of) beach weekend

The last 7 days of my life have been busier than I can remember being for a long time, and to be honest, that is saying something. This past weekend I went on a whirlwind weekend trip to St. Simon’s Island, GA for a beach weekend. A wedding beach weekend. And I’ll be honest, I stuck to my eating plan fairly well, but the wedding was off limits. I enjoyed the food without guilt, and I drank for the first time in close to 3 years (ironically, at the last St. Simon’s wedding…)

For those of you not from Georgia (and those who are, but who have been unfortunate enough not to discover St. Simon’s Island), SSI is one of Georgia’s “Golden Isles” (categorized along with Jekyll Island, Sea Island, and a privately owned “Little St. Simon’s Island.”) It is off the coast of Georgia outside of Brunswick just over the F. J Torras Causeway.

I love everything about this island. I’ve been several times for various events, vacations, and weddings, and I absolutely love going there. It is one of the few vacation spots that I’ve been where everytime I go, I feel like I have come home rather than gone away.

The island is small and easy to navigate, and there are lovely views, sites, shops, and, of course, restaurants. This past weekend I carpooled down with 4 other sorority sisters and had the pleasure of staying at the St. Simon’s Inn by the Lighthouse, which is a quaint little hotel just across the street from one of the Island’s main focal-points, the lighthouse.

It was the first time I’ve stayed on the main part of the island, right in the heart of things, and it was perfect! We were a stone’s throw away from the walking path along the beach, the pier, the shops and center of town, and of course, beautiful ocean views.

When we first arrived on the island and unpacked, we headed up to the village to hit up The 4th of May Cafe for lunch (aptly named because the three best friends who opened it shared the same birthday, May 4th) and I had the singularly most delicious grilled chicken salad I have ever had. I know that sounds insane, to rave over the flavors of a salad- but seriously. Their “Southwest Chicken Salad” included a bed of crisp romaine, a black bean and corn salsa (almost more like a pico de gallo w/ corn and beans,) tomato, cucumbers, and the juiciest, most flavorful grilled chicken I have ever eaten. Chunks of charred flavoring just coated the salad from the delicious and mildly spicy marinade on the chicken. It was topped off with some crispy tortilla strips, a pinch of cheese, and some ranch dressing on the side. Y-U-M.

After that we searched high and low for a shrug that fit me and wasn’t “Island priced” (things on the Island all appear in little boutiques and shops, and are definitely priced for its more affluent community…) and finally settled on a lightweight, light brown shrug from Roberta’s.

Finally, it was time for the wedding. Anna and her wonderful husband Brandon got married just behind the St. Simon’s lighthouse, using it as the perfect, most beautiful backdrop for their nuptuals. Anna was, of course, a most stunning bride, and they were so kind to include us in this most special of days.

After the ceremony we enjoyed cocktail hour just off the beach, behind the lighthouse, followed by a beautiful reception where I caught the bouquet for a second St. Simon’s wedding in a row. (Told you, there’s just something AWESOME about this place!)

The rest of the evening is a bit of a blur, but I’ll leave you with a few pictures (some incriminating, some just beautiful…)

Melting away excuses

I talked a while back about getting into a good groove with exercising, starting with walking. Alex and I started doing a 1 mile walk around the neighborhood everyday, and when the oppressive Georgia summers (you know, the one that started in March this year…) kicked into high gear, I transitioned to walking/jogging a mile indoors on the treadmill. Life started back up again, and it was getting harder and harder to make the time in the evenings to do the walking, and I really did not want to let that get in my way again.

The one single thing that has held me back time and time again as I have tried diet after diet, each one as unsuccessful as its’ predecessor, is simple: making excuses. Of course the excuses themselves are as many varied and different as the days are long, but the constant has always been excuses. That is what I was trying to avoid here. 

So I guaged my days, really looked at where my time was spent, where my time was wasted, and what exactly I could do to make sure that I didn’t let excuses get in the way again, not this time. Not when I’m making lifelong changes, not when I’m making progress, not when I can see the light at the end of the tunnel (albeit a very long, tumultuous tunnel, the light is there nonetheless.)

Last week I started walking on my lunch break. I always bring my lunch to work with me anyway, and between preparing it, and eating it, I usually have between 30-40 minutes leftover to do whatever I’d like. I typically use this time to play read articles and do some networking on LinkedIn, and I’ll occassionally use it to catch up on my Words with Friends turns that I neglect each night. Why couldn’t I use this time to walk?

And so I did.

At first I just walked, I had no idea how far I was going, how fast I was going, I figured something was better than nothing, and I kind of discounted it anyway because it was typically only a 20 minute endeavour. How many calories can one really burn in 20 minutes?

But then last Friday, I stepped on the scale. And in 1 week, I had lost another 4lbs. Just walking 20 minutes a day.

I know that this is not enough, and to get all the way to my goal weight (still another 100+lbs to go) I need to do more. But this works for me right now, and it’s still something. It’s still moving. Until I am back in a situation where time is a bit more normal and less luxury, I am moving.

Today I crept perilously close to more excuses. It’s a dreary, rainy day here in Georgia. Just before my lunch, there was a lull in the rain. I told my co-worker that I was worried about walking because I didn’t want to get caught in a downpour 1/2 a mile out and have to walk back in it, not to mention spend the remainder of the afternoon soaking wet. And then I stopped myself. Mid-sentence I told him, “Nevermind! I’m walking!”

Like most everything in my life, exactly what I was worried about happening did. The second I stepped out from under the stoop over our office door (like a perfectly timed percussion entrance, really) the rain started. Not hard, but constant. It rained the entire 20 minute mile, did not stop or slow one time. But you know what? It was exhilerating. I felt energized with each chilly prick of a rain drop. I was excited.

Today I walked in the rain. And, despite popular belief that I am, in fact, the wicked witch, I didn’t melt away. As I pumped my arms in harmony with the stride of my legs, breathing deeply first in, then out, as I walked the 20 minute mile through my office park I not only didn’t melt, but I felt accomplished and whole for the first time in a long time. While there is still work to be done, still a long way to go, I didn’t make excuses today. And as I walked around in the rain, a little part of my cheered victoriously as I watched another excuse melt away around me.

The 40′s

The 40′s don’t typically stick out as a remembered decade for me. I mean, I know some major stuff happened in the 40′s, don’t get me wrong. WW2 spanned half the decade, and we saw the advent of some pretty amazing things like the slinky, velcro, and yes, folks, even microwaves. But it’s no iconic roaring 20′s, no sock-hop and grease-laden 50′s, and certainly no totally awesome 80′s.

I certainly don’t mean to negate the contributions and tribulations of an entire decade, and I’m certain the there are plenty of people out there who do have significant connections to this particular portion of history. For me, though, the thought of that series of numbers, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, and 49 has never drawn any particular emotions for me. That all changed on Friday.

Friday morning, buck naked, after my first bathroom visit of the day (which is apparently the best time and state at which to weight) that series of numbers elicited one of the most emotional responses to any experience thus far on my journey to a healthier me. For the first time in my entire overweight life, I got to actually see my weight on the scale include some of those numbers. I’m sure they’ve been there before, but only during the initial upward climb. Before now I’ve never stuck with my plan long enough to see those numbers on the way back down. I’ve dabbled in the 260′s, even reached the 250′s several times, but never, ever have I gotten so far as the 240′s.

247.6 lbs.

To date on this journey I have lost 27.4 lbs. The single highest amount of weight that I have ever lost.

Seeing that number on the scale was like a reawakening inside of me. It reminded me what I am doing, and why I am doing it. It reminded me what this blog is all about, and why it is called “First Day of the Rest of Days.” Not because it’s catchy, or easy to remember, or clever and cute. It’s because every single day when I wake up, I have another change. A new opportunity to continue on this path. A chance to start over. A chance to learn from mistakes and keep moving in the right direction.

When I looked down and saw that number…it reminded me to keep working, keep moving, keep trying because every day is a new day, and another step closer to the day not only when I step on the scale and see the end number, but the day that I am proud of my achievements, the day that I can comfortably and happily do the things that I love, enjoy the people I love, and put the negative elements of my past behind me knowing I am strong and capable of really enjoying my future. I’m sure that sentence if one of the most horrible run-ons in the history of the English language, but I’m hoping in light of the circumstances you’ll all forgive me!

This is new and strange, and I don’t really like it

I love to cook. Always have, and I hope that I always do. I love to play and experiment and whip up delicious creations. I rarely struggle with recipes, and right now I’m struggling. This is a completely new and strange experience. It’s stressing me out.

Last weekend I went to Phenix City, AL (just outside of Columbus, GA) where my Diamond sister, Anna, lives with her husband Tim and their son Caden. For those who don’t know, a Diamond is the equivalent of a “big” in a sorority, but my sorority, Alpha Delta Pi calls them Diamonds. Our symbol is a diamond, and they changed the name in order to better create a sense of equality among the members. Everyone is a Diamond, no distinction between “big” or “little.”

While we were there visiting Anna, they took us to lunch at a place called Zoe’s Kitchen. It was the epitome of comfort food with a Greek/Mediterranean twist. Lots of wraps, pita sandwiches, hummus, all filled with delicious flavors- the perfect combinations of crunchy and soft, sweet and salty.

Each entree selection comes with your choice o several delicious sides. Tim selected their braised white beans with rosemary. The depth of flavor in these beans (he insisted I try a bite!) was out of this world. It was a bowl of beans. And it was also one of the single most delicious bites of food I have ever had. Creamy, complex, hearty and warm with this slight sweetness, almost like a shortbread cookie that has delicious bits of sweetness among the thick, bread-like cookie. No, those beans didn’t taste like shortbread, but the way the sweet fragrance of the rosemary crept out over the meatiness of the beans and completely enveloped every taste bud.

It was the type of bite you don’t want to chew or swallow. You just want to hold it in your mouth and taste it forever.

Ever since then I have been trying to recreate the recipe. There is surprisingly little on the internet in terms of similar recipes, so I’ve attempted recreating this one on my own. I’m so close. It has all the same flavors, all the same known ingredients, but it’s still missing something. You can taste the garlic, taste the rosemary, and the beans are creamy and cooked perfectly. Something is missing, though, and the flavors are just not marrying the way that they should.

I’m not giving up, but it’s definitely a struggle and I don’t like it one bit! I guess this is just part of the process. I’ll dive back in to my falvor bible, research the herbs, taste everything again, and throw on another pot tomorrow. Alex is probably going to kill me (he hates the smell and taste of Rosemary, the smell gives him a headache, the taste makes him retch) but I will press on! Any of you chefs with advice out there in cyber-land, I sure would appreciate some guidance!

New things to try and play with!

After work yesterday, Alex and I went a little out of our way to visit one of my favorite places, the Super H Mart. This is an Asian food megastore located right next door to the ITT Tech I used to work at.

The produce section alone is out of this world, but I love looking at everything. There are so many foods I never knew existed, so many flavors I’ve never even heard of. It can be alienating at first, especially since I can’t tell what I’m looking at half the time (most of the packaging just has characters, English, if there is any, is usually tiny and only on the back) but it is still a ton of fun.

Yesterday I got some new fresh produce to try including shitake mushrooms (I’ve eaten these, but never prepared them at home,) and Kubocha squash. In more familiar territory I also got some Romaine lettuce because it was only $0.99 per head, and some fresh Rosemary for the recipe I’m trying to replicate this evening (Braised white beans with Rosemary from Zoe’s Kitchen.)

After perusing around the rest of the store I picked up more Soba noodles (I still have 2 bundles from my #Foodiepenpals friend, Lauren, but after my delicious Shrimp/Spinach/Soba goodness, my whole family wants it for dinner soon) and grabbed a package of shirataki noodles to try, a large package of pre-shelled edamame, and a few little treats for Alex!

Definitely on the prowl for some new recipes, particularly any that include Kubocha! I can’t wait to get back home and get cooking!

Shrimp, spinach, and Soba noodles with garlic and white wine

One of the items in my first ever #Foodiepenpals box was Soba noodles from Lauren at Lauren Living Locally. Since I didn’t have Kale or Walnuts on hand to try the recipe she gave me, I decided to pair some great ingredients that I did have on hand. The result was Soba noodles with shrimp and spinach, and a garlic and white wine sauce. This recipe was for 1 person, so you would just need to multiply all ingredient amounts by the amount of people you want to serve. Both mom and brother sampled the recipe, and believe me- you’ll want to serve this one. It is ridiculously quick, simple, and one of the most incredible meals I have ever cooked solo at home!

Soba noodles with Shrimp, Spinach, and Garlic and White Wine Sauce

Ingredients

7-10 medium shrimp (I used frozen)

2-3 cloves of garlic, pressed (adjust depending on your tastes)

1 bundle Planet Organic Soba noodles

2 cups fresh spinach

1/4 cup white wine

2 tbsp Grape Seed or Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/8 cup butter or margarine (I used I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter and had no issues)

Preparation

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat with the garlic, salt, and pepper to taste. Once the oil is heated, add the shrimp and cook 3-4 minutes per side, until each side turns pink and becomes opaque.

In a sauce pan heat water to boiling, and add Soba noodles once boiling. Reduce heat and let simmer for 4-6 minutes until tender.

While noodles are cooking, remove shrimp from skillet and add butter and white wine to the same pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes over medium heat, until mixture begins to thicken, and then cover with a lid and simmer for 2-3 more minutes. Add the shrimp back to the sauce pan and let sit in the sauce for 1-2 minutes while you drain the noodles.You can add the spinach to the shrimp mixture to wilt slightly if you prefer, but I like mine with a bit of crunch, so I simply put it in the serving dish, mixed it with the still-hot Soba noodles, and let the spinach only wilt slightly.

I mixed the sauce with the noodles and tossed lightly with tongs. After adding a shake of some grated Parmesan, I dug right in to this exquisite dish!

Calories according to the MFP Recipe Tool: 476 calories, 62g of carbs, 10g of fat, 33g of protein, and 4g of fiber!

Amanda’s #FoodiePenPals post

So my first #FoodiePenPals recipient is a blog reader, but does not have a blog of her own. She graciously agreed to write a guest post outlining the items that I sent along to her! Her post is below, and you can find out more about #FoodiePenPals on my post, or at our sensational host, Lindsay’s blog!

I was so excited to get my first foodie pen pal!  I had been out of town and came back to a wonderful box of goodies from Ashlee.

The first thing I did was make a piece of toast and put the Billy Bee spreadable honey all over it.  It was so yummy and it did spread very easy.  I think this will be great over top many breakfast items.

Over the next 2 days I snacked on the Fruitzo freeze dried fruit snacks  Ashlee sent me apricot and kiwi.  Now here is the beautiful thing about foodie pen pals…I would have NEVER picked these out and if I have it would not have been these fruits but I LOVED the apricot.  I know for sure when I travel to CA for a week this summer these bad boys are getting packed.  They will travel well and the whole package is 100 calories which is a perfect portion size.  I liked the kiwi but it did get very sour (think green sour patch kid) so I might try another fruit next.

Now the next thing I used is the Vidalia vinaigrette, this was my boyfriends favorite foodie pen pal item.  I marinated chicken in this and grilled it.  Amazing and so healthy.  I eat a lot of chicken so I am always looking for new ways to spice it up a bit.  This was perfect.  I also think it will be great to make a stir fry.

Lastly, Ashlee sent me Garlic Clove Foods vegetable quinoa mix.  I have not had a chance to make this yet but it looks delish and I love quinoa.  I want to thank Ashlee again for such a great box!  It was so fun to try new food items!

Foodie Pen Pals!

So last month I read about the Foodie Pen Pals program from Dena at 40 Fit In The Mitt, and I just knew that I had to sign up! It’s a really fun program started by Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean  that matches bloggers and readers across the country get matched and send each other foodie-inspired packages. Now, first let me say this: KUDOS to Lindsay. This is not only the best idea ever, but she does an absolutely fantastic job organizing everything. There will be more about Foodie Pen Pals after my post for anyone interested in participating, but for now…here is my first box reveal!

This month my foodie pen pal was Lauren, from Lauren Living Locally. I visited her blog before receiving my package, and I was extremely excited to be paired with her! I just knew she would send me different, delicious treats, and for my first #Foodiepenpals box, she definitely did not disappoint!

In my box Lauren included lots of yummy goodies, including Almond butter from The Orchards inPomona,NY(something I have been dying to try, but never purchased because Alex refuses to try it!), Bread and Butter Pickles (again, much to Alex’s dismay! *More on that later!), Roasted Natural Sea Weed, Soba noodles, and a recipe for Soba noodles with kale and walnuts!

The absolute first thing I did was stir up the almond butter and gently spread it across a piece of honey wheat bread. Emphasis on gentle. The almond butter was much crunchier than traditional peanut butter, and had a prominent saltiness mixed in among the sweet. It wasted of delicious toasted almonds- I really cannot explain how delicious it was! It is definitely something I will continue to treat myself with, whether Alex partakes in it or not!

*When I opened my package I took out the most gigantic jar of delicious, home-made looking pickles that I have ever laid eyes on. Anyone who knows me and Alex knows that I love pickles more than most any food in the world, and the simple smell of pickles will send Alex into fits of retching that can last for hours. Seriously, I once ate a cheeseburger with pickles on it for lunch, and he could still detect pickles when I kissed him hello six hours later. The look on his face was quite possibly the funniest I have ever witnessed, and I could not have been happier to receive this glorious jar of pickles!

When I opened the jar and took the first bite, it was out of this world. A lovely crunch, with a soft, tart center- the perfect punch of sour, followed by that distinct, buttery sweetness. I am in pickle heaven.

The roasted sea week is the item I was both most scared, and most interested to try. Lauren warned me in her letter that they were an acquired taste, but I was determined to try them! They’re really not bad. I finally understand what contributes that flavor to sushi, as I never really attributed it to the sea weed before for some reason. Definitely not a snack I can eat a ton of at once, but it definitely is a nice alternative for a salty snack.

The final item was a package of Planet Organic Soba Noodles. I’ve never tried soba noodles, but have heard only good things about them. Not only did Lauren send me some, but she was sweet enough to include a recipe for soba noodles with kale and walnuts. I haven’t had the chance to try it yet (I haven’t been out to get the kale and walnuts) but I did try the noodles tonight with some ingredients I had on hand, and made a killer meal for dinner!

Remember to check out more information about #Foodiepenpals on Lindsay’s blog, and sign up to participate soon! Stay tuned for a guest post from my #foodiepenpals recipient, Amanda, in the next post!

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