Sunday, November 30, 2014

a new start this week

Tomorrow starts a new chapter in my career.  I'm excited to start the new job, but at the same time I worry that I won't like it.  It's not like me to be unsure of myself.  I normally just make up my mind and go without looking back.  I think the fact that I chose the wrong job earlier this year really shook my confidence and made me doubt my judgment; I was convinced it was the job I wanted.  Two weeks into the job, I realized it was NOT what I wanted and have spent the last ten months trying to get out.  I'm very hopeful and somewhat confident that it will be just what I've been looking for:  I'm back in Management, I don't have to punch a time clock, my boss seems laid back, and the company seems very employee-focused.

So, this weekend I'm preparing for the week to come:  I'm making sure all my laundry is done, I went shopping and bought some food for breakfasts and lunches, I made some sausage and goat cheese egg cups, and I made sure all my new hire paperwork is ready to go for tomorrow.

I'm working three days this week and then I'm off for three days (I got them to include the time off in my offer letter).  Later this week I'll be visiting my cousin in Pennsylvania.  The plan is to see an a cappella show, do some Christmas shopping, have a pajama day, and watch some movies.  I also plan to write out my Christmas cards and watch the Def Leppard Viva!  Hysteria DVD I bought last year and still haven't watched.  I also want to visit the big candy store (for baking supplies, not for candy!) and Kitchen Kettle Village, if I can fit it in.  Oh, and I want to visit a friend of mine, too.

It's going to be a busy week!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

happy thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

I woke up this morning to snow on the ground and it looks so pretty.  Its pretty unusual to have snow on the ground at Thanksgiving in this state.  It's the perfect amount:  the ground is covered, but it's not deep enough to require boots or shoveling.

I'm headed to my sisters house for Thanksgiving dinner today and have a few things to make, so this will be short.  I'll post the recipe later.

Things I'm thankful for:
  • I can eat a little more now than I could six months ago:  More turkey for me!
  • My new job:  Yesterday was my last day at my current job and Monday I start the new one.  Here's to ending 10 months of unhappiness!
  • My kitties:  Even though they like to leave "gifts" on the carpet literally five minutes after I've vacuumed; meow loudly at the bedroom door to get out five minutes after they came in, and after I've gotten all warm and comfy; and knock everything over on my desk.
  • My family and friends:  They're always supportive and have my back, no matter what.  I'm very lucky to have that.  I'm glad I don't have people that want to run my life.  
  • My husband:  He supports me no matter what and makes me feel like I'm the most beautiful person he's ever known.  Even though I love our new house, it wouldn't be "home" without him; it would be just a house.   I couldn't ask for a better husband. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

today's lunch

Today is my last day at my current job! I'm pretty happy about it. I'm headed to our office in another town so I can drop off my keys. I decided to stop at Wendy's for lunch as a treat. Plus I didn't pack lunch today and the weather is crappy.  I don't usually eat fast food anymore so I have no guilt about eating it today. 

I ordered a #1, which is a single patty with cheese,  medium fries, and a drink. I stuck with water since I no longer drink soda. The cheeseburger was good, but I should've ordered the junior cheeseburger.  I was able to eat the whole patty, 90% of the bottom bun, and a bite of the top bun. The bun was just too much bread for me. (Never thought I'd ever say that!) I ate maybe 10 fries and that was it.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

mexican chocolate shake

As I mentioned last week, I'm trying to get back in the habit of having a protein shake everyday.  It should be easier now that I'm starting a new job and won't have to leave the house so early.  Instead of getting up at 6 am and leaving at 7 to be in by 8, I can now get up at 7, leave by 8 and be in by 8:30 am.  I know, some people are telling me to suck it up, that 6 isn't early, but it is when you've spent the last 17 years getting up around 7:30 and leaving at 8:20 to get in by 8:30.  It's a big adjustment to make.  But it won't be an issue anymore.  The new job starts on December 1 and I'm getting my protein shake mixes ready to go.

This is one of my favorite so far.  I love the taste of Mexican chocolate.  If you haven't had it, it's chocolate flavored with cinnamon at it's most basic.  It can also be flavored with spices or nuts.  I may experiment with that later.  I'm a fan of chocolate that has a hint of chili or other spices.  Not sure how that would taste in a shake, though.

I made this one yesterday and it was delicious.  It has a really rich cinnamon flavor.  You can use less cinnamon if it's not your thing, though.


Mexican Chocolate Protein Shake

4 oz. cold water
4 oz. fat-free milk (I use Simply Smart by Hood)
2 scoops chocolate protein powder, or whatever your protein container calls for (I use Bariatric Advantage)
1 TB almond butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1 TB Sugar-Free Torani Chocolate Syrup
3 ice cubes

If you're using a Bullet Blender, Ninja, etc., put the ingredients into the cup in the order listed above.  Blend until smooth.  If you're using a standard blender, reverse the order and blend until smooth.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

cinnamon vanilla protein shake

I've been really bad lately in terms of drinking my protein shakes.  I stopped buying the ready-to-drink shakes because I have a ton of protein powder in my cabinets.  For a few weeks I did good with getting up on time for work and had a few minutes to make a shake; however, I've been pushing it until the last minute in the morning and just don't have time to make a shake.  I'm starting a new job in a couple weeks, though, and since I'll be a lot closer to work and don't have to be in as early, I have absolutely no excuse not to have a shake.  

I've been trying to think of different flavors to put in my shakes, but I'm not that creative when it comes to concocting recipes.  What I usually do is scour the internet and then adapt recipes to my dietary needs or taste preferences or the ingredients I have on hand. (Sometimes I even combine recipes.)  This is what I did here with this shake.  I didn't have all the ingredients of the original recipe, so I changed it up a little.  I think this would work just as well with chocolate protein powder.  If you use chocolate powder, just substitute Sugar-Free Torani Chocolate Syrup, or stick with vanilla.  Your choice.

I think I need a smaller glass so my shakes look a little more substantial.

Cinnamon Vanilla Protein Shake

4 oz. cold water
4 oz. fat-free milk (I use Simply Smart by Hood)
2 scoops vanilla protein powder, or whatever your protein container calls for (I use Bariatric Advantage)
1 TB almond butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp Sugar-Free Torani Vanilla Syrup
3 ice cubes

If you're using a Bullet Blender, Ninja, etc., put the ingredients into the cup in the order listed above.  Blend until smooth.  If you're using a standard blender, reverse the order and blend until smooth.

Monday, November 17, 2014

a favorite childhood snack

Well, to be honest, I had A LOT of favorite childhood snacks.  That's one reason why I eventually had weight loss surgery.  But anyway...

I've been trying to think of something different to eat.  I'm getting really bored with eating.  I'm at the point where I want something, I prepare it, then decide it's not what I want.  So I make something else and then decide I don't want that either.  It's driving me nuts.  I suspect a lot of it has to do with my unhappiness at work.  And the other part is that I really need to start eating different stuff. I just haven't made the effort lately to eat something different.

I've really been missing peanut butter and jam lately.  I've been avoiding both of these things ever since my surgery because of the calories, fat, and what I thought was a high sugar content in the peanut butter. I recently discovered that peanut butter isn't as high in sugar as I thought it was.  That got me excited so I decided to buy a jar.  I also bought a jar of sugar-free jam.   Jam is really high in sugar so I don't buy it anymore.  I also didn't like the low sugar and sugar-free jams last time I tried them.  But I found Sugar-free Smucker's Blackberry Jam that's made with Splenda. I thought I'd give it another shot.

Since I rarely eat bread, I decided to put the peanut butter and jam on crackers.  It was good, although not the pure ecstasy I thought it would be.  I think it was the jam.  Even though it's sweetened with Splenda, it just didn't taste as good as the regular jam.  Or it could just be the flavor I chose.  Maybe I should have grabbed strawberry or blueberry.  Either way, it was still a good snack.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

chocolate chip cookies...without the brown sugar

I've said before that I often make recipes without some of the ingredients called for.  Sometimes it's because 1.) I don't like certain ingredients; or 2.) I just don't have the ingredient on hand and I know it before going in; or 3.) I'm lazy and don't read the recipe all the way through and then realize halfway through cooking, "Crap!  I need chicken to make chicken Parmesan?  What is this lunacy??"  It's usually #3, but today it was #2.

I had nothing on the agenda today.  At all.  Nothing.  I was trying to figure out what to do to keep busy and decided I wanted to make cookie dough to freeze.  I was a good girl and checked first to make sure I had the ingredients.  Sugar:  check.  Eggs:  check.  Chocolate chips:  check.  Brown sugar:  nope.  I checked online for cookie recipes and realized all the chocolate chip cookie recipes call for brown sugar.  So then I Googled, "cookies without brown sugar."  I found a few recipes and decided on one to try.  I read through the comments and most people seemed to like the recipe.  I noticed a few people had substituted coconut oil for the butter.  That got me thinking:  I had nearly a whole jar of coconut oil in the cabinet and hadn't yet found a use for it.  I decided to make the recipe using half coconut oil and half butter.

I started getting everything ready and then mixed up the butter, oil, and sugar.  I started to put together the flour, salt, and baking soda.  And...guess what?  I hadn't checked to see if I had flour.  Of course.  There it is.  I looked and realized I had no all-purpose flour, but I did have cake flour.  I looked online and found I could make a small adjustment to the quantity and it would work just fine, so that's what I did.  The plan was to freeze the dough, but, since I hadn't made this recipe before, I wanted to make sure the finished product is edible.

I used parchment paper on my cookie sheets. It's fairly foolproof.   I find that I have a tough time using plain cookie sheets.  My cookies either stick or burn, or they're too crispy when they shouldn't be.  Plus, cookie sheets just never clean up very well.  This way I get evenly cooked cookies and there's no cleanup. :)  I also used the fabulous Silpat baking mat my favorite cousin gave me earlier this year.

These cookies baked up very light in color and didn't really spread at all.  The finished product was soft and chewy and had a hint of coconut flavor.  I will make these again, although I might add some cocoa powder next time.  Recipe below.

I ate only one cookie.  That's my limit when it comes to desserts.  Any more than that and I start with the dumping syndrome.

As you can see, they don't really spread much and they're very light.  I cooked them for the full 11 minutes.
(Raw dough on the left, baked cookies on the right.)

If you want to make the original recipe, go here.  The recipe that follows below is how I made my cookies.

Brown Sugar-less Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 36 cookies, depending on how big you make them.

1 stick of unsalted butter, softened 
1/2 cup virgin coconut oil (I used Trader Joe's; it's much cheaper)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (1 bag) semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Note:  You don't have to buy parchment paper.  You can prepare the cookie sheets whatever way you normally do it.
  2. Cream together the butter, coconut oil, and sugar. Add the eggs and mix together. Pour in the vanilla and blend until combined.
  3. Pour the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and mix until combined. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix until combined.
  4. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Use a cookie scoop or a spoon to form tablespoonful-sized balls of dough. Place the dough on the baking sheet two inches apart.
  6. Bake for 8-11 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes.
  7. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

last night's dinner

Last night was pork with mashed potatoes, gravy and corn.  Corn is supposed to be a no-no, I guess because of the starch.  But I rarely eat it, so I'm not going to worry about it.

I'm not a big pork eater.  It has to be cooked just right with the right kind of flavoring.  I typically buy pre-marinated pork loins so I don't have to think about what to do with it, but I find them to be pretty salty.  Last night's loin was no exception.  It had good flavor and was juicy, but was a little too salty for me.  I believe I bought it from Aldi.

Yes, I'm still eating on a small salad plate.  I was able to finish most of this plate.  I had one slice of pork, about 1/4 cup of corn and maybe 1/3 of a cup of potatoes.  (I need to get back to measuring, weighing, and tracking.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

the week in review

Last week/this week isn't much better than the last time I reported, although things seems to be looking up.  A little bit.

As you know, we had to say goodbye to Riley this past weekend.  We're very sad, but we're starting to feel better.  It's a relief that we can go to work and not have to worry what's happening to him while we're gone.  We've been so worried that we'll come home to blood everywhere and find him dead on the floor.  The not knowing and the uncertainty was awful.  At least he died in the animal hospital, where they were able to do everything they could to save him.  Riley is buried out by the little pond in the backyard.  I plan on buying some sort of grave marker for him.

The water pump decided to go on my car.  I was having some whacky issues with the heater and now I know why.  Bob will replace that for me tomorrow.

My dad and I celebrated our birthdays together as usual.  We always do that.  I was born on November 6 and he was born November 10.  I'm 40 and he's 80.  Spending time with the family this weekend was really the only high point of my 40th birthday since I had to cancel my birthday dinner.  Riley had to be brought to the emergency vet that night.

So, did anything great happen this week?  Why, yes.  Yes it did...I got a new job!! Finally!  It's been a very long nine months at my current job and I'm so happy I'm leaving.  It just wasn't the right fit for me.  It's an awful thing to not like your job and know that you made the wrong choice.  Soul-crushing, as a matter of fact.  I give notice tomorrow.  I'll be happy to be back managing a department again.  And what's nice is that the commute is half of what it is now.

Hopefully this is the end of the storm that has been pouring on me for the last four months.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

R.I.P. Riley (my special little snowflake)

Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to Riley today.  He was only with us for about a year and half, but he was very loved and will be sorely missed.

It started about two weeks ago when he started bleeding from the mouth.  We had a few vet visits that ultimately resulted in hospitalization last weekend, a blood transfusion, anesthesia, and stitches (cut under the tongue).  He was hospitalized two more times, one of which was last night.  Blood work looked a little weird so it was sent to a pathologist.  They were thinking possibly hemophilia.  He needed another transfusion last night so we did it.  Bob got call this morning that Riley wasn't doing well.  By the time he got there, Riley was already gone.  Apparently Riley had started bleeding again and they couldn't stop it.

Riley is buried out by the little pond.  I guess that's where the "pet cemetery" is going to go.  It's a nice spot.  The sun shines on it all day.

Goodbye, my special little snowflake.  I'm sure you're running free, over the Rainbow Bridge, with my mom and all the other cats we've said goodbye to over the years.  We love you and will miss you enormously.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

i'm an XL!

I've finally made it...I can wear an XL!

I went to LL Bean tonight to look for a gift for my dad.  When I was there I couldn't help but try some stuff on for myself since I'm in need of warm clothing.  I started trying on jackets.  I wandered around the racks and my first instinct was to go for a 3X.  Then I realized I'm not that size anymore; it's taking awhile for my mind to catch up to my body.  So, I looked at 2X and figured it MIGHT be a little big.  So, then I went to the 1X section of the rack, hoping it would fit, but thinking it just looks too small.  Guess what?  It fit!  So then I tried an XL and thought there's no way that's going to fit me.  That fit, too!

I ended up grabbing two fleece jackets for myself:  one is light-weight (cream) and the other is a little heavier (pink - I'm a purple girl, but it was an outlet store so you take what you can get).

Oh, and I got a gift for my dad, too.  It wasn't all about me.  But it should be. ;)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

mini muffins

Some more goodies for breakfast.  I took this recipe and changed it slightly to make mini muffins. Instead if using sugar-free caramel syrup, I used vanilla syrup.  And I used frozen fruit since that's what I had on hand.

Mini Muffins

1 cup multigrain pancake mix
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup Torani Sugar-Free Vanilla Syrup
Frozen fruit (I used frozen blueberries and raspberries)

Mix pancake mix, milk, and syrup together until combined. Pour batter into a non-stick 24 cup mini muffin tin that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Fill about 3/4 way up.  Put pieces of frozen fruit on top. Bake at 350 for about 12-14 minutes.

Serve with butter or jam, whatever you prefer.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

mini pancake bites

Don't you just love when it's time to turn the clocks back?  Yeah, it gets dark later, but we gain an hour of sleep today and the day seems really long.

I took advantage of being awake earlier today and made a batch of mini pancake bites.  I'm getting bored of yogurt and peanuts on the weekdays, and one egg with a veggie sausage patty on the weekends.  I still enjoy it, but I need to mix it up a bit. Plus, I had bacon and sausage to use up.

I can eat about four of these.  I dip them in sugar-free maple syrup.  This is when I miss real maple syrup. It's just way too much sugar, though.

These freeze well, so now I'll have pancake bites whenever I want them.

You can find the recipe here.  I used Torani Sugar-Free Caramel Syrup.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

today's breakfast

Today I decided to have some hash browns with my egg and veggie sausage patty.  I was hoping I could finish it, but I couldn't.  I know it's a good thing, but I miss being able to clean my plate.  I know, it's all in my head.  It's just food.

I know, my food looks pretty dreary.  It really needs some color.

the week (month?) in review

It's been a rough month, so I figured it's time for a "week in review" post.

First, the good stuff:

I have FINALLY gone clothes shopping and discovered my pant size is a 16!!  I don't even remember the last time I was a 16.  Shirt size now ranges from 14/16 to 18/20, depending on the store.  I was going to shop online like usual, but then I figured I should try things on in the store because I might be wrong on my new size.  Boy, was I wrong!  So glad I went to the store. I'm happy to say I now own my very first pair of REAL skinny jeans.  And I look good...

I had an interview for a new job and it went well.  I am hoping I get an offer next week.  I'm so ready to move on from the current job.  It's really tough getting up at 6 am and driving 45 minutes for a job that is, at best, an "easy" paycheck.  An easy paycheck might sound great, but not when the work is boring and not very challenging.  Seems like a lot of my time is spent on admin-type stuff and I feel like I'm way underutilized.

I got to see my former coworkers from my old job.  It was so nice to have everyone together again.  It made me realize how much I miss working with them and getting to talk to them everyday.

I got to hang out with the ladies from the Stratford Cat Project.  We hung out with the kitties and had some great food and conversation.

The not-so-good stuff:

My mother-in-law had to have emergency exploratory surgery the other day and she's in ICU.  She seems to be doing well, though, so I'm happy about that.  It's a good thing she got to the hospital when she did, otherwise she might not be alive right now.

My white Persian, Riley, was admitted to the animal hospital last night.  Earlier in the week he had to go to the vet twice because he was bleeding from the mouth.  He had to wear a cone all week to stop him from excessively grooming (they thought it was a cut in the mouth or a loose tooth).  Then yesterday it started up again.  He was bleeding quite a bit.  Later on Bob got a call that he's anemic from the blood loss and they can't sedate him for a checkup until his red blood cell count is up.  Then we got a call at 4 am this morning that he had started bleeding again and lost a lot of blood, so they have to do a blood transfusion.  $800 for that!  But we want him around for long time and he needed it.  We'll figure out the money later.  Now we're waiting to hear what they find.

Something good and not-so-good:

We have an OLD house.  We're on well water.  We haven't been able to locate our well due to the age of the house.  We tried the town records, calling around to well drillers and plumbers to see if they've ever worked on the well, and the town even came out to try and trace the water lines.  Nothing.  One day a few weeks ago Bob was walking around in the family room and said that an area of the floor felt different, like there was a cutout or something.  We said we would pull back the carpet and check it out, but we never got to it.

Well, we lost our water again last week.  And then the power in the bedroom shut off at 4 am that same morning.  And then mysteriously went back on 20 minutes later.  Bob stayed home from work to deal with the water issue.  He decided to cut into the carpet in the family room to see if the well was under there.  Guess what?  It was!  It's a hand-dug well that's original to the house (see below).  Pretty cool.  The modern well head is there also...but it's about 8 feet under the surface of the well opening.  That means, in order to service it, it would have to be several people working on it so one could be lowered into the old well and the others can take care of the safety measures.  Plus, we would have to raise the well head.  And that means it will cost about $4,000 when the time comes to replace the pump, provided there are any plumbers or well people willing to do it.

The plumber came out that day for the water issue and it turned out the problem was a loose breaker in the electrical panel.  It was the one that controls the well pump and that's why we had no water.  Luckily that didn't cost us much.

Bob later went down to replace the breaker and discovered six breakers that were corroded or melted so he replaced them.  That explains why the power in the bedroom went out.

So, the good things in all this are that we found the well (nothing worse than the unknown) and we discovered a very dangerous electrical problem that Bob can fix.

Here's our well.  I had to buy a big area rug to cover the cutout in the floor.