Biking to Work

Right now my coworkers and I are experiencing some driving pains, as the streets all around our office are being torn up and repaved before winter. There is a LOT of construction going on, and there are pieces of equipment and cones everywhere. Yesterday when I left work, I was very confused about where I was supposed to go, even with a flagger standing in the middle of the street to assist! Luckily, I work earlier in the day on Mondays, so I got to work before the road work started and left before most people in the office buildings lining the street were ready to head home.

I knew that today would be worse, since I would be arriving for and leaving work around the same time as most of the other people. If there’s one thing that makes me crazy, it’s being stuck in traffic, especially traffic that is just not moving. I had an important meeting scheduled for today, so there was no way I could just work from home, I had to come to the office. But I decided that I didn’t have to drive, I could ride my bike instead.

I love my bike. I’ve had it for just about four months now, and in those four months I have gained a lot of confidence. This morning was a new milestone for me, my first solo ride. I decided to drive as far as Log Boom Park, then ride the Burke-Gilman trail a little over six miles to my office.

I had taken the route before and was comfortable with it, and it was a beautiful morning for a bike ride. Bill went to the park with me to help me unload my bike from my car and make sure I got started out all right (have I mentioned that he is the best fiancee ever?). I kept my ride leisurely, averaging a pace of 10mph, both because I wanted to enjoy the experience and also because I didn’t want to get super sweaty! My office does have a shower that employees can use, but I didn’t want to have to re-wash my hair.

It took me just over half an hour to arrive at the office, which was considerably less time than it would’ve taken me to get through all the road work to park!

Even though the road construction is still going to be a pain (I can’t bike to work every day, there are days I will need my car during the day), I’m glad that it pushed me to try biking to work because I really enjoyed the new experience. Sometimes great things can come out of minor inconveniences if we use them the right way!

 

Slow and Steady

Like a lot of people, I had Monday off from work. Isn’t it funny how short weeks can somehow feel like the longest weeks ever? Maybe it’s just because we’re cramming five days worth of work into four days, but for whatever the reason I always feel like these four-day weeks have a tendency to just drag on.

Although this week feels like it will never end, I’m still amazed at how quickly the year is flying by. Kids are going back to school this week, and Halloween decorations are already out in the stores. While I adore the holiday season, I am not ready yet! I need more time!

I realized as I thought about how quickly the year has gone that it’s been awhile since I wrote anything about weight loss or my renewed desire to be healthier. Truthfully, there’s not a lot to report: I only lasted about a week and a half on the meal plan that my friend so enthusiastically designed for me last May. Even though she did her best to make it something fairly simple and easy to follow, it didn’t take long at all for me to feel restricted. When I cheated and had a hot dog at a baseball game, she scolded me for my weakness, and I felt like a total failure. I rather passionately declared that I quit, and swore to myself that I was not going on ANY meal plan again.

Over the summer, I pretty much entered into a screw-it mentality when it came to food and just ate whatever I wanted. Naturally, this approach had the opposite of my desired effect, and I gained a few more pounds. To be honest, I was just so sick of worrying about food and weight that I really didn’t care…that is, until my clothes started getting tight and brought my free-for-all eating to a screeching halt.

A friend of mine recently started marketing the M3 Body System from Modere, encouraging friends to take the M3 Pledge. What that means, is that you take a 90-day pledge to use the three products every day, and pick three lifestyle changes to commit to. It seemed fairly simple to me, so I agreed to give it a go. I chose to commit to avoiding fried foods, walking 7500 steps per day, and drinking 60oz of water per day. The steps and water I was already doing rather habitually anyway (I am one of those people who genuinely loves plain old water, especially when it’s cold!).

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Pause for a picture of my face

On Modere’s website and on the Facebook group my friend added me to, there are raving testimonials that THIS is the program that was clicking with people. For me….eh.  I completed my first month on the M3 last week and was down four pounds, which I was happy about for sure, but the results were nowhere near what I expected. In August I returned to my beloved Zumba class on Monday nights, and I started keeping a food diary again, so those things may have had more to do with the weight I did lose than the M3 products did. In all fairness, there were days when I didn’t get in my 7500 steps, and I haven’t been very faithful about taking the Sync before dinner because I have a hard time squeezing it in between my evening workout and my dinner. I did try taking it after dinner, as some recommended, but I consistently noticed that I would weigh more in the mornings when I did that. I have enough product to finish out September, and I may order the Flourish and Slim products by themselves going forward, but will not be purchasing the whole system again since the Sync is mostly going to waste.

Even though a four-pound weight loss seems minimal at best, it actually made a big difference in how I feel and how my clothes fit (I did break down and buy a couple of pairs of jeans on Poshmark in a size up from what I had been wearing previously). Truthfully, all that matters to me is looking and feeling good in my clothes, no matter the size on the tag.

Right now, I’m happy with my Monday night Zumba classes, and Bill and I are trying to get in as many weekend bike rides as we can before the weather gets really rainy. I love long rides, and would like to go over 50 miles before I put my bike away for the winter (so far, my longest ride has been 45 miles). I do feel better when I exercise regularly and so I’m trying to get a decent workout four times a week. My eating habits are far from perfect, but I’m finding that keeping a food diary is helping me to be much more mindful of what I’ve eaten all day.

So, small progress. I’m trying to be content with the slow but consistent weight loss I’ve been achieving since the beginning of August, reminding myself that I cannot undo three years of bad habits and lose three years worth of weight gain overnight. I am trying to remain motivated while staying kind to myself. For September, I am going to try to keep to a consistent workout schedule and keep tracking my food, which seems to work really well for me.

So, that’s where I’m at…I’ll try to remember and post another update in October. Everything in moderation, including weight-focused blog posts, amiright?

 

Salted Caramel Muffins

Happy Tuesday! I’m feeling so refreshed after a relaxing three-day weekend, and I’m excited that the weather is starting to cool off and fall is nearly here. While warmer summer temperatures make me hungry for lighter fare like salads, once the days begin to get chilly my urge to bake returns. I could happily spend all of fall and winter in my kitchen, whipping up yummy treats (although I am usually discouraged from doing so, as most of my baking is NOT healthy!).

On Sunday, I really wanted to make a nice breakfast at home, but was pretty limited on ingredients. Rather than change out of my cozy pajama pants just to run to the store, I whipped up muffins using things that I already had in my kitchen. Although I wasn’t sure how my concoction was going to turn out (when Bill asked me what I was making, I replied honestly, “Probably a big mess”), I’m very pleased with the recipe and got a couple of requests to share it.

One of my favorite things about this particular recipe is that since it is so low in sugar, these muffins are relatively guilt-free while still being tasty. I couldn’t help sampling this one before I snapped a photo of it!

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Salted Caramel Muffins

What You’ll Need 

1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup Oikos Salted Caramel Greek Yogurt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Spray muffin tin with nonstick spray if not using muffin liners
  2. In a large bowl, combine flower, baking powder and salt. Whisk to combine; set aside.
  3. In a second large bowl, combine egg, sugar, milk, canola oil, Greek yogurt, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth and combined.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring gently until smooth and combined.
  5. Using an ice cream scoop or measuring cup, evenly distribute the batter into the cavities of the prepared muffin tin, filling each to about 3/4 full.
  6. Bake for 5 minutes at 425F. This initial baking period with higher heat will help the muffins form their domed tops.
  7. Lower oven temperature to 375F and continue baking for an additional 15-20 minutes, until tops are set and lightly golden and a toothpick insterted into the center comes out clean.

 

 

August Birchbox Review

 

This month’s Birchbox theme is ‘Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop’, and it is filled with great products that stand up to a busy lifestyle. We’ve been having a heat wave here in Seattle, so my box arrived just in time to stock me with product samples that can withstand both the higher temperatures and my crazy summer schedule!

This box was one of my very favorites so far this year, it was filled with samples that I just loved!

stila Matte About You Liquid Lipstick in Patina

My first foray into using a liquid lipstick wasn’t exactly a positive experience (it was a bright red shade and NOT flattering on me!) so I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved this sample. The Patina shade I received is a soft pink and pairs perfectly with my lighter summer makeup routine. 

Davines Your Hair Assistant Blowdry Primer


I’ve tried Davines samples before, and I love their products! I’m desperately trying to grow out my hair, and I rely on heat protectants to keep my hair healthy and able to withstand a bit of heat styling (right now I’m addicted to flatiron beachy waves!). Not only did this blowdry primer smell nice, it didn’t make my hair sticky or greasy. It’s reasonably priced and I would definitely buy it!

derma e Purifying Daily Detox Scrub


I confess, I am addicted to face products. The skin on my face is very sensitive, and I do my best to take good care of it I loved this product, as it left my skin super soft while not being overly abrasive or scratchy. It’s only $15, which is a ridiculously good price for a product that works this well!

Davines Your Hair Assistant Prep Shampoo and Cream Conditioner   

I have to admit, as much as I love this brand, this product was not my favorite. Both the shampoo and conditioner smell amazing, and the shampoo lathers nicely. However, it left my hair feeling a little stiff and dry, and I had to use quite a bit of detangler to comb through my knotted hair after I rinsed it. For the price, I can get shampoos and conditioner that leave my hair much softer.

Manna Kadar Cosmetics Daydream Palette

The sample I received was a highlighter and bronzer, and I really like both! The colors compliment my fair skin tone nicely and I get good color pigment without having to cake on the powder.

Liz Earle Brightening Treatment Mask

I confess, I was a little hesitant to try this sample as it bears the warning that it is not for sensitive skin. However, after reading good reviews about it I decided to go for it, and I was pleased that it left my skin glowing and didn’t cause any redness or adverse reactions. I get enough samples like these that I probably won’t spring for a purchase, but I did like the way this product made my face look.

Hiking Mt. Pilchuck

It’s hard to believe that we’re almost halfway through August! Summer is winding down, although it’s been so warm out lately that it’s hard to believe that fall will be here soon.

Although I absolutely love the city of Seattle and all it has to offer, sometimes I crave fresh air and mountains and wilderness. Luckily for me, one of the best things about living in the Pacific Northwest is that both the city and the mountains are an easy drive from my home in Edmonds.

Last weekend, Bill and I got our mountain fix by hiking up Mt. Pilchuck. The trail up to the summit is fairly short, 2.7 miles, but it is STEEP. I admit that I found it extremely challenging, although well worth it – the views are breathtaking!

I thought that we were incredibly prepared for the hike. We brought along our day packs, filled with bottles of ice cold water and Cliff bars to snack on along the way. I remembered the sunscreen, but quickly wished I had brought bug spray – the bugs ate me alive along the way!

We had a blast and are already scouting out locations for our next hike!

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Bill and I at the summit

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Fire lookout at the summit

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Life with My Terminally Ill Cat

When I was 19, I went to the local animal shelter “just to look” (any other pet owners out there know how that goes?). I played with the cats that were up for adoption. They were cute but I was able to resist. But as I was leaving, the volunteer who had showed me the cats told me that she had one more, in the back. The cat had been there too long and was scheduled for euthanasia, but was healthy. The volunteer asked if I’d like to see her, and of course I said yes. She brought out a beautiful Siamese, who proceeded to meow at me and perch on my shoulder like a parrot.

I was in love.

I adopted that Siamese that day, without hesitation, without even checking with my then-husband about whether he was agreeable to my bringing home a pet. Two days later, after she had been spayed, I brought her home. I loved her instantly. My ex named her Angel. When he and I divorced, Angel and I stuck together and she made me smile in spite of my sadness, patting my face and meowing at me if I cried, snuggling up with me at night. She was always one of the bests parts of my life. I got older, added additional cats to our little family, and moved to Washington with those cats in tow.

 

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Angel in 2004

Three years ago, Angel in for a routine vet checkup and found that she would need to have her teeth cleaned. There is nothing abnormal about this, but because of her age (11 at the time), the vet asked if I would like to do pre-op labs just to make sure there was no reason that Angel couldn’t handle the anesthetic for her cleaning. I readily agreed, knowing myself well enough to know that if I declined the blood test and something went wrong, I’d never forgive myself.

I really thought it was just a silly precaution. I really thought I was being a paranoid cat owner and that I was wasting my sixty dollars to satisfy some kind of irrational fear. I never dreamed that the blood test would show anything wrong with my sweet girl.

But it did.

Angel’s kidney levels were elevated, and she was diagnosed as being in early stages of chronic renal failure, or kidney disease. I changed her diet, switching her to a senior diet with kidney support. I took her back monthly for blood tests to make sure she was stable. After several months of this, her kidney levels remained the same, and ultimately I decided that as long as she was doing well, we could resume normal semi-annual checkups.

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In 2013, after her surgery

Angel is now 14 years old. Her kidney function remained stable until her most recent blood test, which revealed that her kidney disease had worsened greatly since her last checkup the previous fall. The news was rather grim: she would need to be given IV fluids under the skin every other day (eventually, it will be every day), and be given potassium supplements twice a day.

When the vet’s office called and told me, I tried to pay close attention to what they were telling me and to stay calm and objective about the whole thing. But as soon as I hung up the phone, I started crying. Even though I had known for three years that this would eventually happen, it always seemed like something far down the road, something I didn’t need to worry about.

When we first started her treatments, Angel perked up considerably and was more like her old self again. Three months later, we are again noticing that she is having some quiet days, where she prefers to curl up in a patch of sun on the special blanket I put by the back door for her. Her next blood test is tomorrow and I honestly don’t know what to expect. On the one hand, I feel like I should stay positive, but on the other, I know that the news will not ultimately be good, and I’m trying to be realistic and prepare myself.

Over the last three months, I have learned to accept the fact that my beloved girl, the sweet kitty that came into my life when I was only 19 and has been my best little friend ever since, is not going to get better. I am focusing on giving her the happiest life possible in the last months of her life. I pay attention to her good days and her bad days, because I know I have to be careful not to let her get to a point where she is in pain and suffering.

Having a terminally ill pet in the house is an adjustment. Twice a day, I administer medication that Angel does not like, all while telling her that it will make her feel stronger. Every other night, Bill and I sit on the bathroom floor, and he holds Angel in his arms while I start her IV and give her fluids under her skin. I do my best to comfort her, and he does his best to comfort both her and me, for the few minutes it takes for her to receive the required amount. There are frequent vet visits that must be scheduled. I dread those seemingly endless minutes, the time dragging on and on, while I sit first with her in the exam room and then by myself when a vet tech takes her back to have her blood drawn. In the days after her appointments, I anxiously await the test results, both wanting the vet’s office to call right away and wanting them not to, because they call me back faster when the results are bad.

Bill and I recently took a much-needed vacation, which I was only comfortable with because my amazing friend takes care of my cats for me and was unfazed by Angel’s newfound treatment routine. She texted me and let me know when Angel was having bad days, but knows my girl well enough to be there for her and to take care of her when she’s not at her best. If I didn’t have someone who could do all of it, Angel would have had to be boarded at the vet’s office in order for me to go anywhere.

We’re doing the best we can. For now, Angel is happy and that’s all that really matters. Now more than ever, she brings a smile to my face when she shouts at Bill to let her go outside, or sits with him in his armchair and kneads his stomach with her front paws (he says she likes to squish him). I watch her as she chases bugs on our back patio, and I laugh when she sits on the back of the couch and licks at my hair the way she always did when she was younger.

There is no real timeline, the vet cannot tell us how much longer she will be with us. Every cat is different, and there’s just no way to know. And so we keep her happy, and spoil her, and if nothing else I know that her life with me is good.

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Summer Blackberries

It is now officially summer, my very favorite season (although fall is a close second). Summers in the Northwest are SO very different from summers in the California desert that I grew up in. Whereas in sunny SoCal, the temperatures rise into the hundreds, here in Washington the climate stays mild and I feel that the state is truly at its best on warm sunny summer afternoons.

Something I was not used to at all when I moved to the Seattle area is that things grow wild and free here, delicious things you can eat, like berries. This was quite unheard of to me, that one could simply step off the road and into a blackberry bramble, and have a snack of freshly picked berries.

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All along the North Creek Trail near my office, blackberries grow wild and are ready for picking unseasonably early this year. After weeks of watching them slowly ripen, I could tell that the blackberries were ready to be eaten. A few of my work buddies and I have taken great pleasure in gathering them up on our walking breaks. Today we filled two big bowls with the delicious blackberries, with plans to turn them into blackberry crisp, or slump, or jam, or all of the above.

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Tomorrow’s forecast predicts rain, but Wednesday is supposed to be sunny, which means we’ll have more blackberries to pick!

Bike Love

After deciding that I wanted to be healthier, I treated myself to a bike. I had been mulling over the idea of buying one for quite awhile, but I’ve never been an avid cyclist. I didn’t own my first bike until well into my childhood, because the neighborhood I grew up in was not bike-friendly. We didn’t have sidewalks and there was no good place for kids to safely ride. Even after I did get a bike, I couldn’t really venture off and have adventures riding it. After I learned to drive, that was really it for bike riding.

Here in Washington, there are a lot of different bike-friendly trails and places to ride, and I grew more intrigued. I have several friends that really enjoy a good long bike ride, and I finally couldn’t stop myself. I took the plunge and bought my very own bike. I chose a Trek 7.3 fx, and I absolutely love it.

Once I had purchased the bike, it was time to get out on a trail and ride the thing. To say I was nervous was an understatement. I had no idea how I’d feel after a ride, how far I could go, or what kind of rider I would be. Bill also bought himself a bike, so we took them out to the Burke-Gilman Trail and rode a few miles just to get comfortable and see what adjustments we needed to make. While I was reassured that I could still ride a bike, I was definitely nervous to take it out for “real” rides.

Last Saturday, we met up with friends and rode a total of 23 miles on the Burke-Gilman and Sammamish River Trails. About halfway through the ride, it started raining, so we were pretty soaked by the time we got back to our car. But it was FUN!

I didn’t die.

I didn’t pass out.

I didn’t even get cranky.

And I LOVED riding my bike.

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Being on a bike makes me happy. I may not be the most skilled or fastest cyclist on the planet (far from it, actually), but I felt really great by the time we finished that 23 miles. I am so proud of what we accomplished. I’m looking forward to spending my summer outside, enjoying my new bike and exploring trails.

A Heavy Sort of Blog

Weight and weight loss and healthy living and diets have been on my mind lately. This is probably largely (heh) because I stepped on the scale this week and I had to really face the fact that I have gained just about twenty pounds in the last three years.

It’s not that I simply was blissfully unaware that the number on the scale was climbing. I’ve noticed the evidence, when workouts are harder than they used to be, when I’m saying yes to foods I used to easily say no to, when a once-cute outfit now won’t zip in the back. I’ve previously acknowledged that I was struggling with re-gaining the weight I had previously lost. I tried diets like Medifast and Dukan to get myself back on track, had mixed results, and ultimately ended up weighing more than I did before I started the diets.

What I learned years ago, what I know even though my actions say otherwise, is that diets don’t work. There is no shortcut, there is no quick fix, not when it comes to weight loss or really to anything else in life. Yesterday I read this article about the contestants from Season 8 of the Biggest Loser, which talks about how the majority of them have gained back some or all of the weight they lost on the show six years ago. What’s worse, their metabolisms are now burning far fewer calories than the average adult their age.

While this information could be defeating (if my body is going to actively work to gain my weight back, why bother trying to lose it in the first place?), it’s also a very extreme example. These were very overweight people, who took extreme measures to lose drastic amounts of weight in a very short time. The study’s results would have been more well-rounded if it had also followed other groups, like a control group of overweight people who didn’t diet and a group of people who incorporated exercise and changed their eating habits very gradually.

I look at the BL contestants and I see this six-year study as more proof that diets do not work. They couldn’t maintain their eating or exercise rituals long-term, so slowly old habits crept back in. That is normal, but also devastating because their metabolisms were now even less effective. This is also seen in eating disorder patients: when someone eats so few calories and exercises so much that they push their body into starvation mode, their metabolism slows to a crawl to preserve every ounce of fat available so that the person doesn’t die. This renders their bodies less efficient at burning fat and calories when they do begin to eat more, making fat storage unavoidable.

There are still a lot of gaps in the science. I know that in order to lose weight, I have to run a calorie deficit (burn more calories than I consume). But where’s the sweet spot where I’m not harming my metabolism by doing so? Does that sweet spot even exist? Was my weight three years ago just not sustainable, no matter what choices I made?

All is not lost, though: there are also several BL contestants from various seasons who HAVE maintained healthy weights. Maybe they aren’t as thin as they were at their season finales, but they are active and they have a healthy relationship with food. To me, that is the goal to strive for. And while it may be completely possible that I couldn’t have kept myself at 125lbs over the last three years, it’s also possible that the majority of my weight gain is attributed to poor diet and not being active enough. Those are conditions I have control over and can change.

To get back on track, I reached out to a close friend of mine who is a personal trainer and something of a health and fitness guru. Awesome chick that she is, she jumped at the chance to help me out, and constructed a four-week meal plan for me. Because she knows me so well, she was able to include a lot of the foods she knows I enjoy, since I’m a lot more likely to stick with a new plan if I like what I’m eating. What she set me up with is NOT a diet. She didn’t cut out fat or carbs, I get to eat balanced healthy meals that will fill me up and give me energy. Realistically, what she designed for me is a way of eating that I should be following the majority of the time anyways, and is remarkably similar to the way I ate before I gained weight.

I know it won’t be easy, but I have a lot of support and am determined to be healthier.

 

April Birchbox Review

This month’s Birchbox theme is Spring Awakening, and the box was filled with samples that were definitely refreshing after the cold of wintertime!

My box came in the mail the day before I left for Hawaii, which worked out perfectly because I got to take all my little samples with me and enjoy them during my vacation.

Vasanti Brighten Up! Enzymatic Face Rejuvenator
This exfoliating face wash was perfect after a day of enjoying sun and sand on the beach! It kept my skin looking clean and refreshed, even after being exposed to sun, salt water, and sand all day. Plus, it smells light and clean, perfect for freshening up for a casual outdoor dinner or luau.

Supergoop! Daily Correct CC Cream SPF
This was another product that I was so happy to have for the beach. It’s lightweight, unscented, and works as a primer with a built-in SPF 35 sunscreen (regular sunscreen makes my skin break out!). I was able to put this on before heading to the beach, or wear it in lieu of my primer when I wore makeup around town. My only wish was that the sample had been bigger!

Davines OI/All in One Milk
Of all my April samples, I think this one is probably my favorite. I am incredibly fussy about my hair right now because I’m trying to grow it out. Having this leave-in cream to spray into my hair after I showered was a lifesaver after a day at the beach! It supports hair growth (which I desperately need right now), protects from the UV rays I was getting an abundance of in Hawaii, and leaves my hair soft and smooth.

Davines OI/Shampoo and Conditioner
For as in love as I am with the All in One Milk, I wasn’t as in love with the brand’s shampoo and conditioner. They smell really nice, which I do like, but the sample was a one-use portion (even on my short hair), so I couldn’t really tell much of a difference between these products and my regular shampoo and conditioner. I did like them, but I probably wouldn’t seek them out to buy them just based on these little samples.

Acure Organics Lip Lush in Birthday Suit
I’m something of a lip gloss/chapstick addict, and have been since I discovered my beloved Lipsmackers back in the ’90s. I was happily hooked on the Pina Colada Liplicious from Bath & Body Works until those jerks discontinued it. This Acure Organics Lip Lush was a nice new gloss and I did like it a lot. It isn’t sticky and doesn’t make my lips overly oily-looking (as Jen Lancaster points out in her book Bitter is the new Black, no one wants to look like they’ve just licked an oily dinner plate. Since the gloss was nude-colored, it went on over my lipstick without distorting the color, which I also liked.

Juliette Has a Gun Anyway Perfume
I am extremely picky about perfumes and fragrances, and this little sample made me very happy. It’s a light, citrusy scent that I felt was perfect for a night out in Maui. The scent lingers without being overwhelming. At $100 a bottle, it’s a little pricey, but I would definitely consider splurging on it for summer!