Wednesday, February 29, 2012

a pathetic dressy bessy asks...juice, please!

One way I know that my schedule - and accordingly, my brain - is getting overloaded is when I have more than the usual ratio of days I unexpectedly discover midday that my underwear are inside out (it's a measure of my level of not functioning at 7 AM when dressing).  This week that's been more than not, AND I found at the end of yesterday that I had worn the inner part of my sweater set backward all day long.  So basically I'm rocking the Entirely Too Much just now.  
Seems like a good reason to get back to juicing...aggressive nutrition is especially important in times of stress, eh?  This is another very colorful recipe!  I promise, I shall not be PERMANENTLY stuck on publishing photos of juice-making, but it's all so new and interesting to me....

This recipe is called "Pineapple Cleansing Juice."

Start with:  1/4 pineapple, 2 carrots, 1 apple, 1/4 cup parsley, 1/4" ginger root, and it said 1/2 beet root, but it was little so I did a whole one.
Gorgeous carrot juice
The beet juice starts to pour out...

And LOOK how DARK the beet juice gets!
I did the parsley next; it seemed not to really process.  Then the ginger and the apple; almost no discernable difference.  Finally I tossed in the pineapple, and slowly... started gaining on the redness of the beet juice.

Final product!
This juice is DELICIOUS.  So sweet I could hardly believe it didn't have sugar in it.  The ginger gave it a nice kick.  Really, really yummy.  

Now, we'll see exactly what the "cleansing" effect is.  Hope I'm not about to spend all night in the bathroom...

I know, per usual....TMI. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

last 3 runs, bike commute, veggie mini-sermon, and tighter belt

This week will be my last 3 runs along the route I have taken since returning to Rock Island in late August.  I find that I really somehow "bond" with land when I spend a lot of time running, biking, or riding horses over it.  Some sort of physical connection that draws up comforting emotion.  I like my little mile-and-a-quarter slot of road.  This time next week, I will be in my new apartment just across the river, in a new neighborhood, working out where to run.  Ahhh change...

Meanwhile, yesterday I biked to a show in what will be my new neighborhood.  I went slow and easy, just enjoying myself, and proved that I can bike commute for work in 28 minutes, which included moseying easily enough not to sweat, as well as hitting almost every single light between here red.  Looks highly likely to me that regular biking to and from work is dead ahead on Karen's journey.  

I am really pleased to keep continually discovering that eating healthy doesn't feel like deprivation.  I kind of feel like I'm eating like royalty, most of the time as I feast on fresh fruits and veggies.  Saturday evening I made this great vegan dish that is brown rice, lentils, and a few other ingredients.  It has that "comfort food" feeling and it was very cheap and extremely easy to make.  Yesterday I built a taco salad, layering romaine, onions, bell peppers, green and black olives, lots of tomatoes, a nice pile of that rice/lentil stuff, and guacamole, greek yogurt, and Tabasco sauce on top.  It was as good as any bad-for-me alternative I might have chosen, and guilt-free to boot.  Nifty stuff!  

I'm currently reading a book called "Eat to Live" by Dr. Joel Fuhrman.  A friend shared it with me, with both a high recommendation as far as getting educated, and a warning that Dr. Fuhrman is quite militant in his views.  I was reluctant to open it for awhile, due to the warning.  But I'm finding it's a good book.  A lot of what I am reading there (all backed up with lots of case studies and science) is confirming the things I've been learning are so important:

  • Raw or only slightly cooked veggies and fruits are insanely good for the body
  • Animal products - (that'd be meat and dairy) are tied to a depressingly consistent string of nasty diseases that are on the rise and that we've come to basically accept as part of aging here the states
  • Most of the "grains" we tend to eat here are basically just an invitation to be overweight and have blood sugar issues along with heart health problems and such
  • And he hasn't said it yet, but I just KNOW he's going to come to the place of explaining how ingesting soda is basically intentionally taking in toxins
Most interestingly, he asserts that our main problem here in the states is malnutrition.  We stuff our bodies full of high-calorie, low-nutrition food  and our bodies scream for more nutrition.  Add to that the fact that the trifecta of fat, sugar, and processed flour is like a prescription for "make my body hungrier and hungrier" and this is why obesity and its many related health problems are hitting such a meteoric rise.  

He says we shouldn't eat LESS.  Many of us should eat MORE.  With the difference being that 90% of our calories should be from raw vegges and fruits, basically (that's the simplest possible explanation of the wealth of what I've read thus far).  

Anyway I would say I've been well-prepared to read him, with all the other things the Lord has brought across my path on the way to this book (which Dr. Fuhrman says will make you a nutrition expert if you read, and I believe that).  While I am STILL not ready to become a 100% vegan, the more I read, the easier it is to eat that way almost all of the time, with animal products just being an occasional treat and not a staple of my diet. 

In other news, my belt got smaller midday yesterday.  I am not making this up!  I put it through one specific hole in the morning, and by after lunch, it had to go one notch smaller!  Weird, eh?  But cool.

Happy Monday, all. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

pushing the bowl away, and pretttttty colors!

This morning I met a friend for breakfast before church.  Restaurants have been a place of weakness for me; I tend to order big and consume every morsel on the spot.  Part of the reason I was able to "take the other half home" on my recent La Rancherita trip was knowing I'd have the pleasure of eating it again later, and none of it would be "wasted."  This morning was a different challenge.  First of all, I ordered reasonably - we were at Village Inn, and I got a bowl of cranberry-nut oatmeal, canceled the muffin that comes on the side and replaced it with a single scrambled egg.  I could NEVER have ordered such a reasonable breakfast until very recently - it's one thing to do good breakfast at home, but isn't eating out all about decadence?  (This is why the Lord has had to do such a huge work in me over the last 14 months...thinking like that!)  

Secondly, I didn't eat it all.  The bowl of oatmeal was an ordinary bowl, which is to say HUGE compared to what I eat at home most days.  I made a mental AND verbal note that it was too big...and then....(insert drum roll)....I stopped at just over halfway through and pushed it away!  

*The crowd goes wild!*

Well, maybe it doesn't seem like a big deal to you, and if not, you were probably never nearly 150 pounds overweight, which is where I started this journey.  Trust me, IT'S A BIG DEAL.  We card-carrying members of the Clean Plate/Tight Budget Club really struggle to understand this concept:  I am not a human waste disposal.  It is *not* my job to ensure no food is wasted by consuming it all.  The food is just as "used" if they pitch it as if I had consumed it.  I love my body enough not to over-stuff it.  Little things like pushing half a bowl of oatmeal that I paid good money for away and sending it off to be's a Very Big Deal.

For lunch, I juiced.  This recipe is one of the 25 from that free e-book I recommended and it is called "Red Fusion Juice."  Get ready for some eye-popping colors!

 Ingredients:  half a head of red cabbage, 1 cup red grapes, 1 carrot, 1 red apple, 1 peeled lemon
 This shot is the apple juice (I thought the red peeling would color it, but it doesn't) while the lemon juice pours in.  Sorry for the blurry pics...I'm pushing things through the juicer with 1 hand and shooting with my iphone with the other.

Here comes the carrot juice (I swear it was brighter than this in person)!
 Red cabbage juice next - we're gettin' psychedelic here, eh?
 The grape juice was wimpier than I expected it to be...but it's hard to live up to that red cabbage zing...
 Layered again.  Today's effect destroys my yesterday's hypothesis that it was the sugar in the fruit juice keeping it on the bottom.  The apple/lemon juice rose to the top and stayed clearly delineated from the cabbage juice until I really stirred.  Now I'm REALLY curious what makes one stay on bottom...
 I wonder if readers are asking, "WHY does she show the garbage part?!"  It just fascinates me that THIS is all that's left of that whole big colander full of produce, ya know?  The inappropriate, sick-puppy part of me just notes that this is the part that woulda literally got pooped out (you owe me HOW many smacks now?!)
Stirred and poured into a quart mason jar.  I never would have guessed 100% natural juice could be so very bright.  If I had seen you walking down the street sipping on it, I'd have guessed it had added colors and sugars included.  

How did it taste?  WOW!  Flavorful, sweet, zingy.  Went down easy - no effort required to finish this huge jar. Nutrients are pulsing through my body even as I type. 

This is fun. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

juicy juicy

Well I've been swept up all afternoon with packing, which of course has had to start with sorting.  I do love the feeling that I get from my stuff being all in order! 

I ate massive salad and baby carrots and kiwi for lunch, not wanting to start such a big project running on juice only (remember, I start this with some apprehension).  But when I stopped for an afternoon snack, I did my first juicing.  This one is called "Blue Green Lemonade" - yes, I wanted to start with something that sounded friendly, you know? 

Here's how it went:

 Ingredients:  3 kale leaves, 1 cucumber, 2 pears, 1/2 cup blueberries, 1 lemon.  Everything was fresh except the blueberries - they're so danged expensive that I only buy them frozen (so as not to lose any to over-ripeness.) so I sat the cup of them in a bowl of hot water to thaw while I got everything else washed, cut the pears in half, and peeled the lemon.
 Interesting, the way the juice didn't want to mix.  I wish I'd have shot a pic of the pear juice, which I did was very pretty.  I did the green ingredients second, and they sat on top of the pear juice, and then I did the blueberries last and that sank right in to color the pear juice layer.  Your science lesson for the day:  apparently fruit juice, with all that natural sugar, is heavier than veggie juice.  Interesting to note:  I stirred it together (which you can see below) but it was quick to separate again to look like the picture above.  I had to keep stirring while I drank. 
 Here it is all stirred together.  Doesn't really LOOK like lemonade, does it?  And I need to dig out my quart mason jars, evidently, cuz this mix doesn't quite fit in the pint jar.
This is the container on the back of the juicer that catches all the non-juice parts of the fruits and veggies.  I am quite impressed with how dry this stuff is...the juicer really squeezes it to the max, I guess!  

I had a chance awhile back to buy this really cool stainless steel compost pot and I didn't, cuz I don't have a yard.  I'm wishing I had bought it while it was still on clearance, as it looks like I'm going to have an abundance of material...and maybe I could've saved it for the summer plot I'm going to work.  

But maybe that would just take up space.  For now, I have a garbage disposal and I washed it away.  I forgot to ask if I have one in the new place.  If not, at least this fruit and vegetable matter shouldn't toxify the landfills any further.

Oh yeah...I guess you're wondering how the juice was?  IT WAS GREAT.  Flavorful, frothy, sweet, went down easy, and I felt great about how I was treating my body.  If I could pick up HALF the healthy glow I saw in the 2 guys on "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead" or all the cute girls who blog about juicing...well, I'd sure like that.  

Bring on the glow!

Back to packing...

done didn't lap so gosh durn much, grocery superstar, and battling A.D.D.

I never knew I could be happy about getting poked in the gut.

Yesterday at work, I was in our "Country Store" taking care of some business, and one of the residents came quietly up beside me.  I didn't even realize she was there until she poked me right in the gut and noted in a celebrating-with-you voice that I have been losing some weight...and then all the other ladies in the store chimed in as well.  Why yes I have, and thanks for noticing!  

That was a nice follow up from the morning, when as I dressed in an outfit I've always worn untucked, due to the "dunlap" problem ("done lapped right over that there belt") that's been especially pronounced with those particular pants...I found I can finally tuck my shirt in!  WOO HOO!  I mean, my belts have been telling me for a couple of weeks that there is less belly on me, but having notably less dunlap - THAT is reason for celebration indeed. 

Last night I got groceries.  Buying groceries gets downright FUN at this point in my journey:
  • I know why each item I buy is good for my body.
  • Everything is so pretty - processed food is kind of "eh," but that stuff God made...dude, most of it is like art (and I had a cart full of food, but the processed part of that fit in one small bag - the rest of it was fabulous).
  • I can be excited about what I'm going to prepare, knowing it's not going to make me fatter, it's going to taste great, and I'm not going to fall into a food coma after pigging out on it.
  • Cooking/eating like I currently do calls out the creativity in me.  I should've blogged some of my lunches this week - just ideas I had to work with a mostly-bare fridge/cupboard and still come out healthy - it was all fantastic.
Now I'm all ready to juice.  To start, I will be working from a very simple 25-recipe book I got for free at this link, which appears to have a wealth of information of the sort I've lately been focused on.  Truth:  while the "I'm really learning to love my body" part of me is super excited about juicing, the old "whiner baby who wants to stay stuck in whiner baby mode" part of me is asserting that it probably won't taste good and we are nuts to try this.  Hush, whiner baby.  Hasn't this adventure been a great ride up 'til now? 

Quick note re: is a link to an interesting article, my favorite part of which is the business of being safer on a bike than on the couch.  

In other, non-nutrition, non-exercise news, I had an epiphany I didn't like this week.  I've been noticing ever since I moved back from Chicago that my adult-onset A.D.D. has been a lot more pronounced at work than it was before I moved away. It has been getting worse by this measurement that matters a lot to me:  finding errors I made and missed that I always would have caught and fixed in plenty of time, in the past.  I hate that measurement.  So this week after a meeting that contained 3 really stupid errors on a 1-page document I had made, I got desperate enough to push into the question of a solution.  I'm looking at things from a physical aspect, mental, spiritual, the whole shebang, and I'm not done looking yet.  

But the single first detail of my approach has already yielded huge results, dang it.  I've mentioned either here or over on the other blog that between highly focused tasks, I give myself 1-5 minute breaks to "reset," which really helps with the A.D.D. thing and also is an effective incentive program for me when I'm doing a task I don't love (as in, "no break 'til you finish this one, Karen.")  On those breaks I generally read a personal email or a quick news story or a bit of Facebook.  All I changed was:  I kicked out Facebook as a possibility.  My FB feed is always LOADED with links to really rich info (I'm not there for the games or the drama BS...I've got those apps/people mostly hidden on my feed) and I'm a junkie for it.  It seems that my brain latches too hard onto the FB feed, and that's been dragging my performance at work down to the tune of stupid editing errors and missed details and even the occasional forgotten task.  I cut out FB on Thursday, after being particularly appalled in a Wednesday meeting at myself.  I am both pleased and horrified at what a difference it has made, these past 2 days.  No more FB at work...not even in the little tiny increments I was indulging.  (And if you saw pics go up during my work time those 2 days, yes they did...those were shot and sent from my iphone, with no need to *go to* FB to do so.)     

Expect more entries today.  There be juicin' ahead!

Friday, February 24, 2012

snow, slush, wet feet, and joy

When I tried to check the weather this morning on my iphone while dressing, it didn't work.  I tried it 3 times, and it just kept failing.  Finally I got all old-school and opened the blinds (which won't tell temperatures, but a person can at least get an idea what's going on out there) see...SNOW!  I was 5 years old all over again, so excited to get out in it that I could hardly stay in the apartment long enough to get all my proper layers on. 

I suspected that it was probably warm out there, based on how pretty and un-windy it looked, and I was right.  Which meant I spent most of the run carrying my face warmer, which was too much to wear within mere moments of exiting the building.  I didn't climb the usual very steep part of the hill that takes me to the road - instead, I went over to the gentler slope where I come down.  Here's a nice picture of it that I took AFTER my can see both my up and down tracks: 

The fun of running with this much fresh snow, this early in the morning, is that it hasn't really been cleared much from the streets.  So the very steep hill street up which I walk when I come off this snowy bank was a river, filled with the sounds of the rushing water that invaded my mesh running shoes and had my feet soggy before it was even time to start the jog.  Up on the flat, nothing was running...except me...through standing water.  Yup, the whole street was a puddle.  The higher center was a tad shallower, but there was no "not running in water" option.  I'll tell you, that makes it a bit more vigorous workout!  

The cars were pretty patient with me over on the main road.  Running along the side was kind of not an option in a lot of spots, as the water would have been up over the tops of my shoes.  So I ran in the car lanes mostly, getting over just a tiny smidge as I met traffic, and they were kind enough not to run over me (as a friend who makes me laugh would say, thank you, sweet little baby Jesus!)  Being up out of the worst of the water, I was able (by pushing myself hard) to not lose time to the drag the puddles created, and I finished exactly on time.  Feeling pretty good about that.

So it's February 24 and this is the first day that I've had any kind of real issue about running in mesh shoes.  And it wasn't enough of an issue to keep me from doing it again, though I WILL probably poke around a little harder to see about something that might keep me dryer for spring, when I am sure puddles will just be a part of my mornings.  The good news is that though my toes got pretty durn cold, it wasn't anything past the point of what I could handle.

In other news, the missing part I had ordered for my juicer came yesterday!  Tonight I shall shop for veggies and fruits.  You may expect picture blogs this weekend.

Happy Friday, all!

Oh, wait, I wanted to share this gorgeous shot from my living room window this morning:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

water buffalo, t-tap, and refrigerate your syrup, people

I drank 20 ounces of water before 6 AM today.  Holy cow.

I'm very cyclical about water.  I don't understand the reasons for it, but sometimes I love water and can't get enough of it, and sometimes I just really don't want it, and have to make myself drink it (which I sometimes do, and sometimes don't).  In the past few weeks (really, since around the first time I made a green smoothie) I have been trying to be more intentional about water, despite not really craving it.  I've done better on a lot of days, though not all of them.  

Awhile back I said I was going to get a water bottle for when I run.  I haven't done that yet.  I just drink an ounce or 2 before I go, and an ounce or 2 when I get back.  I haven't wanted to make the time to shop for a bottle, and I haven't wanted to contend with the sloshing water bottle as I run, and...well...I just haven't wanted to, okay?

But this morning I finally got around to starting the thing I've been wanting to do on my non-run mornings:  the T-Tap program a friend gave me quite awhile back.  I had stashed it for "someday when I have a DVD player" but getting one hasn't been a priority for me at all.  More recently she gave me this little machine that is a DVD player with a screen and need to connect to any TV.  And last night I finally got my act together and found all of that and put it where it was easy to find.  I figured out what I wanted to wear.  Gotta cover all bases before bed, cuz remember I don't to thinking well at 5 AM.  

I like the T-Tap program.  It is not aerobic, it's more isometric, and she says this stuff about a lymphatic flush or something, which I haven't bothered to read up on.  But anyway, it made me sweat a little but not breathe hard.  It made my muscles work, for sure.  Really, it seems like the biggest deal with this lady is keeping everything in alignment, so she's constantly reminding about the positioning of the feet, the knees, tucking the butt and the abs, pushing the shoulders back, etc.  I'm sure I will get the hang of it in a few tries, but it was A LOT to keep track of this morning.  Interestingly, a lot of what I did made my knees do that "crackling like popcorn" thing that so scared the bejeezus out of me when I was doing wall squats at JPUSA.  It doesn't hurt, it just sounds quite ominous and feels exceedingly strange.  But this particular video is made for "people of weight" as in not those who need to lose 5 or 10 pounds, and she emphasized that what we are doing is rehabilitating the knees, which always take a whole lot of punishment for "people of weight"  (I  repeat it because I DO like that expression better than all the mean ways we talk about ourselves!)   

So the reason I drank so much this morning was because early in the video and all throughout it, she pauses and says to go take a sip of water.  I hadn't thought to have a water bottle ready (evidence that I don't hang out in exercise classes) but happily for me, the night before last I followed a strange impulse I had:  I took a bunch of glass bottles with screw tops that I was saving to recycle (they are from all-natural sweet drinks I buy at the health food section of my store) and I filled them with filtered water and stuck 'em in the fridge.  It's not really *like me* to do that - after all, I have the Brita pitcher in the fridge and plenty of glasses.  But I felt like I should do it, and I'm learning to follow those strange impulses because, like this time, they generally later turn out to have been apparently promptings from the Lord.  So when she said to go get a sip of water the first time, I was able to sprint to the fridge and grab a bottle, all ready to go, and not miss a second of my workout.  Cool beans, eh?  And though the workout wasn't cardio at all, those little sips added up, and I was sweating just enough afterward that I was more than happy to polish off the second half of the bottle all at once.  YAY for water consumption!

In other news, I realized the night before last that the recipe I blogged for rice pudding - the one about which I raved "it has no sweeteners at all" - well, when I was going through my cupboard and found to my surprise that I had opened my 100% pure maple syrup and pondered when did I do that?!  I came to the memory of following the recipe and adding 1/4 cup of it to the batch.  Oh boy I had quite the laugh at Automatic Pilot Karen, who can follow a recipe while watching a movie on her iphone and not even notice one of the ingredients she puts in!  I am fairly well amazed that none of you smarted off and told me how silly I was being!  For the record I DO know that maple syrup, even of the 100% pure kind, IS a sweetener.  It wasn't a knowledge problem, it was an A.D.D. issue, okay?  Eek.  

Last related note:  a friend shared with me that 100% pure maple syrup goes in the fridge after opening it, cuz it's not just a bottle of sugar like the other stuff on the shelf.  It's a real, wholly natural product, and needs the fridge so it won't mold after opening.  I looked on the bottle and she is right!  It says "refrigerate after opening."  Who knew?  Ah well, live and learn. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

fun day overcoming mulitple fears in the sunshine

I've been dying to try out Wilma's new seat, which I featured on this blog last month.  It came in a couple of weeks ago and I had it installed last Saturday.  Basically, not to be vulgar, but it's a "crotchless" seat, which I hope will solve the biggest problem of long bike rides:  bike seat pain.  

I've been both excited and filled with dread.  On one hand, the seat comes highly recommended by someone on a Chicago bike list I follow who has ridden "more than 10,000 miles" on one.  She swears by it.  On the other hand, I've read more than one review that says that nose of the seat between one's legs is necessary for balance, and that some people fall over when they try to ride without that. 

I'm not a fan of falling over.

So I was slightly sick to my stomach this morning as I got ready to go.  The day was gorgeous and my body was begging for the chance to get out and moving.  I was excited.  But I was also picturing how unlovely falling down might be, and reminding myself that I STILL HAVE my old seat, should I need to have it put back on.  

Good news:  the seat was a total success for me.  Maybe people with no butt might have trouble, I don't know.  But to paraphrase a terrible song, baby, I got back. My posterior is big enough and sufficiently muscled to hold onto the seat (WHY do you read this blog?!)  No balance issues AT ALL...once I worked up the courage to try.  Trying was hard.  If anyone here was watching out their windows, they had to be wondering why I was standing there straddling my bike in the parking lot and not moving for so very long.  

I only rode about 12 miles today, so I can't speak to whether the seat might make my butt hurt when I ride it a long way.  But even if it does...I'll take sore buns any day over screaming when I pee and not being able to tolerate the seam of my jeans between my legs for days after a ride.

Okay, okay, I'll move on from the TMI part and you can smack me the next time you see me.

My major objective today, other than seat testing, was checking out the 2 bridges between my workplace, where I currently live, and downtown Davenport, where I will live after March 1.  You see, I REALLY LOVE the idea of biking to work.  Starting the mornings outdoors would be good, the exercise would be good, and the ride home would be a great way to change gears, especially after the higher-stress days.  

According to google maps, it would take me 20 minutes by bike to get to work if I cross the Centennial bridge, or 30 minutes if I cross by the Rock Island Arsenal.  Neither of those numbers looks bad as compared to 10 minutes estimated drive time in a car.  But I have my doubts about the accuracy of the timing listed for the Centennial bridge for this simple reason:  I wouldn't be crossing on the road portion of the bridge, with traffic.  I don't think in this climate of people who aren't used to watching out for bikes that crossing with the cars would be a wise or safe thing to do.  So I'd be crossing on the pedestrian portion along the side, which has a heavy, safe, steel barrier protecting me from inattentive drivers.  

The Centennial is three quarters of a mile long, and you're going either uphill or downhill for the large majority of that distance.  The pedestrian portion is narrow...check this out (I stood at the little wide spot near the beginning and shot this):

While there was no one else walking or biking that portion of the bridge with me today, I DO see walkers and runners and bikers and such on it often when I am driving over it.  So that means I'll need to scootch over and let people pass me on what is already not a very wide space.  Add that to the incline question (hard to go up, and scary potential to go too fast in that narrow space on the way down) and I'm thinking I might always cross it the way I did today:  walking, pushing Wilma (I walked today to scout it out and because I wanted to see how hard the wind blows up there, but I just don't know that I can summon the courage to ride it).  A 3/4 mile walk amidst my commute is not probably something I have time for in the mornings.    

Nonetheless, it was a beautiful walk.  It's basically amazing that I could find it beautiful, if you recall my general fear of heights.  I have shared before on this blog that as I've learned to discipline my body, I am finding it works not only where food and exercise are concerned, but also where fear comes in.  Despite the physical cues that were making my stomach lurch, I was able to tell myself we are not going to respond to the fear - we are just fine and actually follow through, despite being 60 feet in the air over open water with cars making the bridge vibrate as they passed.  Ahhh gifts from the journey.   Here's a great shot of the river and downtown Davenport from the beginning of my crossing.

Here is a cool instagram I like from when I reached the other side (though I wish Wilma wasn't so hidden in shadow - I can't see the darn iphone screen very well when I'm out in bright sunlight):

I spent a little time exploring the Davenport riverfront bike path.  I have been south of the Centennial on that, but never north.  It's a nice path.  Eventually I came across a "bike path detour" sign that apparently wanted me to climb one of the terrifying Davenport hills (epic...they are epic!) so I turned around and headed back to try the Arsenal bridge.  

Here's the thing about that one:  I don't even like crossing it in a car.  Is metal mesh or grating or whatever, and car tires feel slightly not in control on it, to me at least.  I have crossed the bridge once on Lulu, after dark, with a bunch of other Rafiki riders.  I was terrified at the time, but the peer pressure helped and then there was the simple matter that I couldn't see what I was driving on.  I was concerned about trying Wilma out on it, because her tires are narrower by quite a bit than Lulu's, and that can translate to a less safe feeling for me on non-standard surfaces.  Okay, I say "concerned" but I mean so scared I was about to pee my pants.  I pushed Wilma up the ramp to get on the bridge, and stopped to take this shot (which came out really well, eh?) 

...but I was doing that mostly to stall for time, cuz I was so sure I was gonna fall and hurt myself on those hard steel edges that are absolutely everywhere (and yes, again I am in the pedestrian lane as I don't find it safe or wise to drive THIS bridge with the traffic, either).  

But the definition of "courage" isn't about not being's about moving forward through fear.  So I gathered up my courage and...after standing there unable move for so long that Arsenal security was probably about to come out after me, I did it.  Rode the whole long length (it's only about 1/3 of a mile long) in Absolutely Clenched Mode.  I didn't get less afraid as I got worse, especially as a couple of brisk winds buffeted me along the way.  By the last 20 feet I was actually praying aloud.  Still, I DID IT!  And didn't fall down.  And cheered and yelled when I came off of it, not caring what passing cars might think.  

Actually, if I'm going to bike to work, that's probably the one I'm taking (which I'll regret the first time they open the span for a barge and I have to wait and be late for work, but such is life, eh?)  Hopefully with practice I will get less fearful on it.  I think it would be a faster route for me, due to the issues I mentioned about the Centennial.  

After all of that, and still high on the fumes of my marked shrinkage this week and the bouncing up the stairs thing, I chose to have a green smoothie for supper instead of regular food.  It wasn't what I WANTED, but dude, you gotta grab momentum when you find it, eh?  And it didn't seem as nasty to me as the first one, so that's a nice development.

Hope you had a great Saturday!

Friday, February 17, 2012

bouncy bouncy bouncy bouncy fun fun fun fun fun!

I had to move all my belts in a notch this week.  That's an exciting development - it had been quite awhile since any "downsizing" had occurred!  I'm supposing the vegan thing probably pushed my body back into losing mode, though it's just a theory.

Checking the weather on my phone today after work, I discovered it was 52 degrees outside!  Oh golly. I hustled home to change clothes and grab Lulu.  It still gets dark pretty early, but I was able to squeeze in a very short, very slow ride down a long brick street (only about 4 miles and 30 minutes).  Yippee for unseasonably warm.  

But the biggest hooray I have for the day is this:  as I left for lunch, I realized I was *bouncing* up the steps.  As in, not plodding up, one heavy step after another.  As in, not pulling myself up by the handrail.  As in, getting a little air with each step up.  

It shocked me.  I can remember bouncing up the steps in my high school as a teen.  I can't remember bouncing up any stairs, EVER, since then.  This was as great as that day last May when I first stood on Lulu's pedals.  It tickled me so much that I had to try it again, on purpose this time, later in the afternoon.  Bounce, bounce, bounce.  All the way up 2 flights of stairs! 

So...I've been meaning to start doing some stairs maybe on my non-running days.  Maybe now with a lighter step is the perfect time to try it?  

We'll see.  


I played a getting-to-know-you game at my first small group meeting last night for church called "2 Truths and a Lie."  It's a fun game - if you haven't played it, the gist is each person tells 2 truths and a lie, and everyone in the group has to guess which one is the lie.  I've played this before at other small groups and find it to be fun, though coming up with the lie is always hard (2 people in our group told 3 truths!  LOL)  but I had the perfect one - NO ONE guessed mine right.  My 3 items were:

1.  I have a degree in Business Administration
2.  I run more than 7 miles per week
3.  I used to be a youth pastor

Most everyone guessed number 2 was the lie and I think somebody guessed number 3 - NOBODY got it right.  I KNEW this would be the case, since my level of fitness is still cleverly hidden under a nice thick layer of fat!  If you've known me all along, you know how much shrinking I've done.  But if you don't...I'm just another overweight lady, I reckon.  (And if you don't know, the lie was degree is in Latin.)

I haven't weighed since that doctor visit, but presuming I'm roughly at the same weight, I still have 75 to 100 pounds to go before I reach what doctor charts say my weight should be.  Happily for me, I'm not shooting to please anyone's charts or cause anyone to look and me and say, "She must be a runner."  Happily for me, I am seeking to let God teach me how to love my body, and my measurables for that today are:

1.  I am very pleased almost every day when I finish getting dressed and do the once-over in the mirror.  I am really having fun picking outfits and accessories and such.
2.  I find joy in doing things that are good for my body.  I like to move it.  I like to feed it stuff that will make it more and more healthy.  I care about what happens to it.  I'm not tempted to abuse it with bad food and such when I'm having a bad day.  None of these things were really ever consistently true before the last 16 months of the journey.
3.  I love the way my muscles feel when I run, and I love the amazement in me at what I can do out there on the street or on my bike.
4.  I even love the way I can feel my leg and butt muscles when I walk.  I might still LOOK like all cellulite there, but underneath I can feel the toning, and it feels good. 
5.  I am fascinated by the science of what to eat, drink, expose myself to or not.  I find I am becoming more and more a student of that, but it's in a recreational, fun way...not some frantic search to find the key to making myself look acceptable in others' eyes. 
6.  I care about my longterm health.  I have always taken it for granted in the past.  Working in senior housing makes me aware that I can't take it for granted.  Loving my body for real means looking into longterm health issues from every angle - NOT FROM FEAR, but from love.  

I like these barometers of loving my body.  Oh, I don't live in a rosy, all is perfect world.  I'd still like to see me slimmer than I am.  I still don't like the roll of fat that ploops over my belt most days, and I'm NEVER gonna like that cellulite.  I still really noticed when the 1 other runner who is sometimes out when I am out in the mornings...who is usually going in the opposite direction as me...came up behind me this morning and absolutely SMOKED me, ran by me like I was standing still...oh yeah, I was aware that I am no athlete of the year.  Still, 16 months into the journey, I love my body and myself about a hundred times better than I did on January 1 of 2011, and THAT is a gift.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

evidence i'm being created anew

This has been a week that has made me especially grateful for this journey of letting God teach me how to love my body.  

Take Valentine's Day, for instance.  My office was a parade of yumminess.  Someone brought homemade cake balls.  I ate one.  ONE.  Enjoyed it, had a cup of tea, and went on with my day.  Didn't go sneak another one when no one was looking, though they were unguarded on the counter in the hall.  I'd have ALWAYS snuck another one in days past.  Later there were other goodies in that same unmonitored space.  Truth:  I had one of each.  1 very small tollhouse cookie, 1 truffle, 1 petit four.  Each time the decadence came marching in, I had ONE and went on.  I even settled for a different kind of green smoothie rather than regular food for my lunch.  You might think it should naturally be easy for me to just take ONE of each goodie as they came through (and go light on lunch), especially when there were so many different offerings.  I'm here to tell you that before this last year, it would NOT have been easy.  Tasting something yummy would have made me obsessed with getting another one.  I'd have eaten myself sick and come home ashamed. 

The fact that I didn't is truly miraculous, especially considering that my day took a nasty turn when I had a v-day meltdown.  It wasn't pretty.  Here's the thing that leaves me shaking my head in astonishment:  I wasn't even tempted to come home and bury my feelings in bad food.  I made myself a beautiful, body-loving supper.  I didn't binge.  I didn't even struggle with WANTING to binge.  I had a good cry, distracted myself for awhile watching Beetlejuice on my iphone while cleaning the kitchen, and then spent some serious time in worship and prayer while working on a fun project.  Did I feel great?  No.  But I FELT.  And didn't numb out.  And didn't crave fat, salt, crunchy, sugar...any of it.  

So posthumously (of the day, since clearly it's the day and not ME that is over and dead) I'm awarding myself a "Happy Valentine's Day" greeting, cuz though it felt gruesome indeed, in the end I very much DID love this body and myself amidst the horror.  

Way to go, Karen.  Thank you, Lord! 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

...number two...

Somewhere around this time last year, I was following a friend's Facebook posts about running - or, as she calls it, "plodding," and getting more and more encouraged every day that maybe I, too, could do this running thing.  In the midst of looking into it, I followed many links for running-related sites she posted.  Poking around inside one of those websites (I have no idea which one now) eventually landed me on a humor page, where women runners posted all sorts of hilarious and variously disgusting terms for having the pressing need to poop , the funniest/grossest of which was "pushing cotton." (Oh yeah, here's your's entire blog is poop-related, so feel free to run away quickly, if you can't believe I'm going there or you were trying to eat breakfast while reading...)

I the heck are running and poop related?  I mean, really...why in the world did that page get created?!  I have learned in the time since from personal experience this certain truth:  running makes your bowels move (and FOR ME, at least, it does so in a way that walking and other less vigorous forms of exercise do not.)

This matters to me.  Some of my earliest memories are related to the issue of difficulty in that area.  I can recall my grandpa coming out of the bathroom after I had been in there (I think I was like 4) with a shocked look on his face, asking, "Who laid that boulder in there, and are they okay?!" 

More recently, a friend whose child is having toilet training issues explained one of the core problems:  he's very constipated, and it's very painful, and so he fights it and tries not to go at all to avoid the pain, which eventually lands him in a bad spot when his body just won't play along any more and he's not near the toilet.  It was such a merciful perspective on the "why" of his unlovely accidents, and in that moment the Lord really clearly spoke to my spirit and told me, "The same was true of you at that age," and all of a sudden I was finished with thinking I had just been a bad, rebellious, disgusting and awful little kid.  Pain avoidance - that was it!  If you've never sat in the bathroom gripping the countertop and breathing intentionally like you were giving birth and fighting tears and thinking that this time it's just not coming out, this time the doctors are gonna have to perform unknown and horrifying procedures to extract it, well, maybe this all seems overblown to you.  But if you've been there, you surely understand trying to avoid the pain.

Some things have helped over the years - fruit juice does, and prune juice REALLY does, if one can choke it down (that gets harder over time, or at least it did for me), and there are foods one can avoid as well.   But what I have found in this last year of loving my body is that healthy living is really the key.  If someone were to ask me how to approach this issue, I'd never advise any medicine first.  I'd say this:

1.  Drink more water.  It matters.
2.  Eat raw fruits and vegetables.  They help.
3.  Run or do some other really vigorous exercise.  

My little vegan experiment has added another one to the list:

4.  Limit meat intake.

Ergh!  I hadn't had much meat at all in a few days (the chicken in that burrito suizo was, I think, the only meat in a long time, actually).  This wasn't some big goal of mine...I've just been enjoying eating from the recipes in my new book.  Last night, I had sloppy joes (very lean ones) at my parents' house.  This morning, my body is telling me what a hard time it is having, moving that along.  Had I realized how bad my gut was going to feel this morning, I'd have gotten up in time to run, just to help errrr "move it along."  As it is, I'll just have to drink a lot of water and trust my body to do the rest, I guess.  

Ways we learn, eh?  They're not all comfortable.

Feel free to scream "TMI!" at me, the next time you see me.  But after all, you're the silly person that hangs around the naked blog...


Sunday, February 12, 2012

vegan tacos, a.k.a. Fiesta Fantastica

Okay, here is the promised picture blog on "vegan tacos", a.k.a. Fiesta Fantastica from the Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant Nutrition:

Chop one medium yellow onion.  Saute in a medium sauce pan with 1/4 cup vegetable broth and 2 medium cloves garlic, crushed.  (I actually just have a jar of minced garlic that I spoon out of, to tell the truth.)
When the onions are clear (about 5 minutes in), add 1 tsp each of cumin, turmeric, and chili powder.  (Ain't they purty?)  Note the turmeric stains  the bamboo spoon from the last turmeric recipe.  I now have this utensil reserved as "the one" to use with any turmeric-included recipe.  I had never even heard of turmeric before the vegan book - what about you?

(Blogger is losing its mind at spacing 19 pictures, so if the text isn't perfectly beside the right picture, that's why.)  

Add 2 3/4 cups vegetable broth, and 2 cups green lentils, dried and rinsed.  And oops I almost forgot the 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper.  Simmer for 40-50 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed (picture shows it at 10 minutes left to go.) 

 Okay now it's time to make the "Sweet Pea Guacamole."  Peel 3 avocados and remove pits.  Mash with a fork until less lumpy.

Add 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (confession:  I used juice from my little plastic squeezy lemon) as well as 1 tsp chili powder and 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper.  Mash with fork until creamy.

Put 1 cup thawed sweet peas and 1 (15-oz) can no-salt-added cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (those are white kidney beans from the health food section, in case you are like me and never heard of them before) and 2 medium cloves garlic all into the blender or food processor.  Process or blend for 10 seconds or only until mixed well but still grainy.  I had to stir and poke it a lot to get all the beans blended.

 Add 1/2 cup salsa (I chose Newman's Own, cuz I love that all profits go to charity - I was so busy choosing medium heat and chunkiness that I neglected to note that it was pineapple salsa.  Oh well!) and the avocado mixture to the batch and blend just long enough to evenly combine (20 seconds or less, with maybe some scraping down the sides halfway through.)
 This was our lovely feast!  The tortillas were whole wheat and I heated them in the microwave.  The 2 bowls of red stuff are tomatoes and red bell pepper.  The huge red bowl is full of chopped mixed greens - baby spinach, red and green baby swiss chard, and baby collards.  And of course you see the big bowl of lentils and the bread pan full of guacamole.  I put out the rest of that pineapple salsa AND the Tabasco sauce, cuz we LOVES us some Tabasco sauce on our tacos.  The bowl of white stuff is my one non-vegan "cheat" - unsweetened, nonfat plain Greek yogurt, which I find to be a fantastic sour cream replacement (there was a vegan sour cream recipe, but I just don't care.)

The little bowls on the sides of our plates are cold rice pudding and kiwi slices lightly sprinkled with sugar and frozen (a delectable treat taught to me by a JPUSA friend.)  The green drinks were all-natural kiwi lemonade that I picked up in the health food section of my grocery store. 

 Here is Mr. Caleb Swank, the son of awesomeness, just stopping by on the way home from his drill weekend.  I told him he really MUST star in this one, since he's been a major catalyst and encourager for my healthier food and exercise choices.  And he's one of the few people I can be confident will happily eat a vegan/vegetarian meal with me and not be freaked out by it. 

Here is his best smart-assed smile.  He ate 8 tacos, so I'm thinking he wasn't just being nice when he said they were great.  

I liked them.  The sweet pea guacamole is different - between the peas and my accidental pineapple salsa, it was pretty sweet.  I wouldn't want that EVERY time, but it was a fun change of pace. 

Overall, I'd call this vegetarian feast a success!


I'm in a bit of a cooking frenzy on this gorgeous sunshiny Sunday afternoon.  Got what is basically "vegan tacos" in process right now, to share with my son when he stops by (words cannot describe how much I love cooking for and eating with other people...if you ever want to totally make my day, talk to me about coming over for dinner...and then follow through!)  

There will be another picture blog later when the vegan tacos are done.

For now, I had to share with you this yummy-licious recipe I just made, called "Breakfast Rice Pudding," from the plant-based nutrition book.  My plan is not to eat it for breakfast.  I'll be putting it in little half-cup bowls for snacks and eating it cold from here forward...but just now I got to enjoy a steaming hot cup of it (which you'll see below), and I am AMAZED.  

Here is the basic recipe:

2 cups cooked brown rice
1/2 cup slivered raw almonds
1 cup raisins
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 T vanilla extract
1 T ground cinnamon
3 cups unsweetened soy milk

Combine it all in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes or until pudding thickens.  

First of all, know that it is richly, roll your eyes back in your head sweet...and punctuated with the crunchiness of the almonds and the little explosions of raisin goodness, it feels positively decadent.  It's wonderful hot, and I can tell it's going to be great cold as well.

If you don't cook, you might now know this, but 1 T of cinnamon or 1 T of vanilla looks like a misprint when first read.  These are both items I'd typically expect to add 1 t of.  It seemed really wrong to me.  

But I had noticed there's not a lick of sugar, honey, splenda...nothing to help it be sweet.  Even the soy milk is of the unsweetened variety (note:  I ran short on soy and substituted unsweetened almond milk for about 1 cup of the "milk" portion.)  I'm noticing a common theme in these recipes is HUGE amounts of some spices.  Here's why:  in non-healthy cooking, the way we jack up the flavor is add more butter, more cream, more oil, more fat, more salt.  All things that are asking for a heart attack, but DANG they make the flavor better!  So if we're not gonna toss a stick (or 2) of butter in a recipe...well, the huge portions of spice fill that void in a much healthier (and equally delicious) way, not to mention the added health benefit.  This page and this page  and a whole lot of other pages on the internet also tell the surprising health benefits of many, you see, they're not only NOT giving you a heart attack, but they also ARE adding quality and maybe even length to your life. 

Finally, this is a nice, quite low-calorie food that packs a nice nutritional punch, considering how sinfully sweet it tastes.  My half-cup servings will be about 140 calories, 4 grams protein, 2 grams fiber, 304 mg of calcium, 4 grams of fat, 12 grams of sugars. 

spontaneous lunch blog (yes, food pics, for you who love those)

Well, I hadn't planned on blogging my lunch today; it's not a "recipe" per se, just Karen having fun with food right after church, hungry and wanting something quick that didn't require much thought or effort to prepare.  But it came out so beautiful that I just needed to share. Here we go:

 While cooking up 3/4 cup of organic whole wheat pasta and watching a movie on my iphone, I washed up and chopped up all these veggies (I love chopping...really therapeutic and comforting to me).  The top plate is 1/2 a giant red bell pepper, a bit of purple onion, a handful of grape tomatoes, a huge handful of spinach, and 6 each of black and green olives.  

The bottom plate is half a head of purple flowering kale.  These are for 2 separate dishes.

Olive oil and garlic - I use WAY too much garlic.  I am sure my skin and breath will smell like it for a week.  To my friends, family and coworkers who will have to be around my stinky self, SORRY!  But on the other hand, it's delicious and so very good for the body. 
 Cook on medium-high, just a few minutes.  Like, 3 minutes for the kale and maybe 4 or 5 for the other.  

Add freshly cracked pepper and fresh ground sea salt to both dishes.  If I had been thinking, I'd have added oregano, basil, and parsley to the top pan before the veggies, but as I mentioned above, I was hungry and didn't feel like thinking. 

Add the pasta to the veggies and stir.
 Add a heaping teaspoonful of this or any other pesto.  Lino (mentioned in my last blog) taught me to love pesto as he noted that we eat too much of our pasta totally drowned in heavy sauce, and that a little bit of pesto adds a ton of flavor to a lot of food.  I probably could have gotten away with a heaping teaspoonful, but dude, I WAS HUNGRY and feeling quite greedy by this point in the process.

As I was plating this up, I realized I had made too much pasta.  I had measured the 3/4 cup when cooking, because one thing I know about me and pasta is that I'm going to eat every bite of it, no matter how much too much I make.  I was working at portion control.  I ended up stopping mid-plating and putting the rest of the pasta not shown here (about 1/3 of the pan) into a leftover container for another day - I needed to do that RIGHT AWAY, or I already knew for sure I'd be polishing the whole thing off.  This meal could have fed 2 people easily and in abundance, had one more element (soup? salad? dessert?) been added.

Per the "mindful eating" I mentioned last blog, I made a point (with gigantic reluctance) to turn off my iphone movie and leave all other electronica off as well.  I sat in silence with my plate, savored my food, thought grateful thoughts, and wasn't nearly as uncomfortable as I had been last night (though I'm not gonna lie - I was tempted with every single bite to lean over and turn the movie back on.)  Amidst appreciating what I was eating, I picked up this gorgeous little leaf and just had to take its picture.

If we can have food that excites the senses, loves our bodies in very tangible ways, and looks like a work of art...why the heck do we spend so much time stuffing our pie-holes with garbage that kills us day by day?  

I'm loving this journey.