31 March 2014

Week 12 - On the Rebound

ENDING WEEK Twelve (still 12 to go)

Posting early in the day cuz I had a nice weight loss this week. Yahoo! Seems when I don't lose or there is a gain, I procrastinate posting til later in the day. Hard to let me and you all down.

A bit hard to see through the reflection of my camera taking, but I weigh in at 162 today. That is a whopping 1.6 pound loss and so encouraging after last week. I just hope the scale is reading right, cuz that seems like a lot.

I also cleaned the scale with water (rather than just dusting), so no embarrassing dust in the photo this time.

I had a really honest week of calorie counting. My daily goal is 1,200. Here's what I ended up with.
     Mon - 1,076
     Tue - 1,040
     Wed - 993
     Thu - 1,102
     Fri - 1,317 (cup of black cherry ice cream tipped the scale)
     Sat - 1,154
     Sun - 1,057

That averages 1,105 per day. I haven't really felt starved. Stomach must be shrinking. Not so many cravings either. Don't think I can do two weeks in a row like this though.

Me and my diet buddy are getting close to the under 160 mark. Trying to think of a good reward, something that is not food related. Any ideas?

29 March 2014

Grand Rapids Foodie Trip

Recently went to Grand Rapids, Michigan (about an hour drive north from home) to handle some business with our Apple iPad. While we were at the shopping center we stopped by William-Sonoma. 

W-S has a wide variety of specialty spices, beaded honey and infused salts. Porcini mushroom infused salt is my fave so we replenished our supply. I love it on pasta, mashed potatoes, veggies, veggie burgers, popcorn and the like. See that empty spot on the shelf? Well, we got the last jar...again!

While we were at the mall, we also noticed an olive oil store that was going out of business. Peeked in there. Nothing really seemed that on-sale even though the sign said 70% off. But we did buy a sun-dried tomato infused olive oil and a jar of pesto sauce.

We've been hearing about a new downtown Grand Rapids market. It is not a grocery store, but small vendors who have come together to form a co-op style market under one roof. As we were so close we decided to check it out. The facility is brand new and includes a large open building and a covered sidewalk area where in warmer weather farmers will sell their produce. It is fabulous, even without the outdoor market area operating. 

The inside has many vendors that sell mostly food but also kitchenware or kitchen-related items. The first place we stopped was a cheese and wine shop. They have all kinds of cheeses, a cheese oriented lunch bar (great grill cheese sandwiches on the menu), and they offer cheese classes and tastings.

Recently we attended a wine event at Zazio's at the Radisson Hotel in Kalamazoo and purchased a vermouth from La Spinetta Winery (in the Piedmont area of Italy). It is called Contratto Vermouth Bianco and tastes more like a liquor than something to combine with another alcohol to make a cocktail. Silly us, we originally bought it for the label but loved it so much, we were wondering where to buy it in the future. THIS is the place. They have a lot of unusual and new-to-us liquor choices.

Next on the "tour" was a coffee vendor, a produce stand with fresh and organic items, a fish monger with an excellent variety of fresh fish, and a meat market with fresh and frozen options. Here there were some of unusual choices like bison, frog legs, and venison that you don't usually see at the big grocery stores.

At the end of the aisle was a bread baker. They also have a traditional style pizza oven. Not a lot of sweets here, but really great looking breads. Sweets came later in our tour. On the other side of the aisle was a fresh pasta market with spaghetti sauces and other pasta related items. See the fresh pasta drying here.

Next stop was the spice store. We bought another Porcini mushroom infused salt, so we could do a taste test later. Turns out we liked the W-S version better, but both were good. We also bought some chives and Vietnamese cinnamon. They had a nice variety of teas and tea utensils here, too.

Around the corner was a Thai take-out food stand (will go there next time), a florist, and an oil vendor. Mike bought some Mandarin orange infused oil, which he uses in Brownies. At the end of that aisle was a prepared meal store. They had all kinds of pick-up-and-go meals to take home to heat-and-eat. Lots of comfort food type stuff.

Next to that was a Grocer's Daughter chocolate shop. If you recall, we talked about the original location for this store up in Leelanau, Michigan, at the top of the lower peninsula. We discovered this place years ago and always go out of our way to stop there to pick up truffles and dark chocolate bark seasoned with sea salt. We were happy to see a branch here, so close to home. Of course, we bought a bit of chocolate for later.

By that time we were pretty hungry after looking at all the great food options. We decided to have lunch at the next stop, which was a Mexican take-out stand. We both got burritos and rate them one of the best we have had in Michigan. The facility has an area set up with tables and chairs and lots of windows. We enjoyed our hearty lunch there in this warm spot looking out at the freezing cold piles of snow.

We continued down the last few vendors, past a popcorn place with many flavors to choose from. But we opted for the sweet shop next door. Lots of homemade style cookies and pies and other bakery delights. Loved their giant pink mix master. Can't tell by the photo, but it was almost a yard high. And the gals dress in pink aprons. Very cute. We bought Snickerdoodle cookies for our dessert (sugar cookies mostly, but with cinnamon).

On the second level were cooking classrooms, including a miniature sized one for kids. Also, a greenhouse area. It is not fully underway yet, but will be a community garden come spring. In the photo in the background you can see downtown Grand Rapids. So refreshing to have this type of endeavor in the heart of the city.

We really enjoyed our afternoon. Highly recommend it. And we'll be back when the weather gets warmer and the outdoor vendors are in full operation.

24 March 2014

Week 11 - No Loss - No Gain

ENDING WEEK Eleven (still 13.6 to go)

Well, holding steady this week. Last week was a surprise that I lost almost 1-1/2 pounds. This week was a surprise that I did not lose any.

I did have two splurges this week. I previously mentioned that I won a large pizza with six toppings at our fave pizza joint in town (Erbelli's). Well, the certificate was burning a hole in my pocket and finally, after about a month, I just had to go get it. I had double artichokes, mushrooms, garlic, and fresh mozzarella. I could have eaten the whole thing at one sitting, but let it ride over two days, without eating much else. Mike left it all to me and he ordered his fave feta-artichoke-spinach-mushroom calzone (a folded pizza). 

Also had a Scrabble Saturday with some girlfriends (we do this about once every 3 months) and I had 3 glasses of red wine during 3 games. But all in all my calorie count of 1,200 per day evened out over the week. 

I think, however, the situation more had to do with this dang coughing cold that has hung in there for the second week. I have been guzzling cough syrup day and night. As sweet and syrupy as it is, it is probably packing a wallop number of "uncounted" calories. I tried to find out just how many, but was unsuccessful. The packaging has a bar code, but it did not list any nutrients or calories when I tried scanning it.

Oh, well, hopefully this too will end and I can just be eating good, natural, nutritional food.

I do need a little cheerleading team though, as this no-loss day has put me down in the dumps. If you want to subscribe to this blog or just send some words of encouragement anonymously, it might help. Thanks to all those out there silently cheering as well.

17 March 2014

Week 10 - Cold Feet

ENDING WEEK Ten (13.6 to go)

I was a little afraid to get on the scale today. Have had a bad cold this week, so eating lots of comfort food--macaroni and cheese, hot brandies (for my sore throat), Girl Scout cookies. All was in moderation, but I still feared the worst.

A pleasant surprise when I found I lost 1-1/2 pounds for the second week in a row. Yahoo! I've been drinking a lot of extra water, so maybe that helped.

I'm afraid of getting to cocky as I have lost four weeks in a row now. But I have a diet buddy who is keeping me on my toes. We are almost head to head with our progress, with a little back and forth. She's in the lead right now though, so a great inspiration to stay the course.

Also, I'm not as hungry as I used to be, which means my tummy is "shrinking" and not expecting so much. That's a good sign. Now if I can think with my tummy instead of my eyes, I'll be in good shape.

10 March 2014

Week 9 - Blur Factor

            ENDING WEEK Nine (15.4 to go)
I don't know if it was my old eyes or my photo (in)-ability, but this is how the weigh-in shot turned out today. Could have been the change from standard to daylight savings time or that I just got a bad night's sleep the last couple of nights. One night Mike said I was sleep talking and hollering out "Call the police, call the police." Don't know what that was all about, but probably the weight check police!!

OK, so the photo is not so good, but you can see the all important number and the happy scenario that I lost about 1.5 pounds this week. Yay!

I might add that it was not without effort. I was under the target 1,200 calories every day but one. That one day was a complete downfall, going over by nearly 500 cals. I had to take a sweet treat to my photography club on Tuesday and Mike made dried cherry and walnut oatmeal cookies that morning. Before I got out the door to the meeting, I had eaten six cookies plus one at the meeting at 119 calories each (for a total of 833 cals just in cookies).

The other hard part was that a few weeks ago I won a free large pizza with six toppings of my choice from our favorite pizza place here in town--Erbelli's Bistro (www.erbellis.com/menu).

They are just one of two places in town that offers artichoke hearts as a topping. I usually get double artis!! Anyway, it has been almost impossible not to take advantage of this. Every time I see a pizza commercial on TV (and there are a lot of them), my mouth starts watering.

I thought today would be the day (after weigh-in, of course), but seems I can hold off a bit longer. I'm swelled with success and don't want to take away from that.

03 March 2014

Week 8 - Tracking

ENDING WEEK Eight (16.6 to go)

Adding to my process -- www.MyFitnessPal.com  is an online diet and fitness program. It uses a food (and exercise) diary and calculates calorie intake. I've used the calorie counting method in the past and it has been successful for me. A huge amount of food items, as well as fast food eatery items, are in the food "dictionary" already. If something is not listed, however, you simply scan the barcode on any product for easy entry and it will be added to the dictionary.

I will not be displaying this info in the future, but here are six days of my diary as I start the program. Tuesday was fairly easy being the first day and me being gung-ho about the process. My suggested max is 1,200 calories per day and I had 86 left at the end of the day.

Wednesday was also good. I didn't really try to cut it so close, but my total was only one over max.

Now I'm getting into the groove. Actually had 194 calories left at the end of the day. And I wasn't hungry at anytime!

Friday was a bust. Went out to eat to Ouzo's, a Greek place, with my sister and our hubbies. Between the feta on the salad and a half order of spanikopita (spinach pie) and half order of saffron rice I still went over by 447 cals. Or maybe it was the two glasses of red wine. Dang!
Saturday was not so bad, but not good, as I was still over 32 calories. I did not eat much, but I attended a Ladies of the Vine (LOV) wine tasting. This month was hard ciders and fruit "beers." Also had my leftovers from the Greek joint. 
Sunday is my hardest day to stay on board the diet wagon. I know I will be weighing in on Monday, but it is just such a comfort food day. All in all, I still had 146 calories left. And the weigh-in shows it with 1-pound plus loss. Yahoo!

So if you look at the above I averaged out only 54 calories over my weekly total--higher on some days, but lower on others. (Well, that's if my math is right. Not my strong suit.)

The other good thing about this system is your key nutrition categories are evaluated. There is a recommended total amount of carbs (50%), fat (30%), and protein (20%) calories for the day. I usually end up with a bit too many carbs and not quite enough protein. Makes me watch my food values a little more when they are laid out though.

I like this program for several reasons--easy to use, does all the work of finding the right food, reminds me where I am at throughout the day, and gives me a slice of how close I am to an ideal diet.

Also if you look at each individual food, it will give the total nutritional breakdown. So if you need more potassium, you'll find that a banana or spinach will give you that.

Just one more tool to keeping that weight under control. And it is FREE!

2/16/2014 - Orchids and Pearl for K's BD

Woke up to birthday mimosas and coffee and leftover quiche. Still good the second time around. Then headed  southeast for a birthday day in the city of Columbus, Ohio.

Luckily we had another day of good traveling weather. First stop was the Franklin Park Conservatory. To get there the route took us through downtown and we admired the old and new buildings along the way.

From the outside the conservatory does not impress, but inside was warm and wonderful. Today an orchid exhibition was the highlight. So many color combinations and shapes and sizes of orchids. Colors from pale yellow to brilliant pinks and purples. Sizes from thumbnail to clenched fist. Single plants overflowing with hundreds of blossoms. This display was a feast for our winter eyes.

We wandered through the Himalayan Mountain display with its cool atmosphere. Then worked our way to the Palm House which was almost sweaty tropical. There was a Pacific Island Water Garden, warm and lush and included a lovely Chihuly red/orange/yellow glass sculpture. There was a sculpture garden and desert room with many species of cactus.

A Bruce Munro glass and light show was also showcased, but most effective in the evening with lights aglow. Another trip. In the daylight hour, I especially liked the clear glass "flowers" amongst the snow in an outdoor display.

Another display was that of a miniature hamlet with railroad. We recently viewed a TV special on the mastermind, Paul Busse, of these museum quality villages and we were excited to see one in person. We were not let down. All the buildings and landscape are made from natural materials--each so unique. That, intertwined with fern and flowers and greenery, was lovely. One could observe and see something new for hours. Hard to take in every detail and hard to walk away from this one. To read more about this artist, go to:  www.gardendesign.com/ideas/art-botany-Paul-Busse .

We finished browsing and headed to our next stop. We planned a late birthday lunch at the "The Pearl." This was recently rated the best new restaurant in Columbus. And, again, we were not disappointed. We arrived early, so decided to start at the bar.

This is no ordinary bar. Our mixologist was Carly. She said she did not think of herself as a bartender, but more as a alcohol chef. We agree.

First, they serve many classic drinks--Box Car, Grasshopper, Manhattan, several Southern punches, etc. They also make their own specialty mixes in house in an infusion locker, such as their Bloody Mary tomato juice. That's what Mike and Jim ordered. Along with this drink (served in a  mason jar) came a short bottle beer. "Delish," they said.

I ordered a classic ramos fizz. We used to drink these at Sunday brunch at the Moss Beach Distillery near our home in Half Moon Bay, California. Fond memories there. We would sit outside on deck chairs overlooking the blue Pacific. It was often quite breezy and they supplied blankets if you were too cold.

This drink today was made to perfection (raw egg white and all). Carly saw that I really enjoyed it and volunteered to make a new drink she was experimenting with that also included egg white. It was wonderful (and gratis). Citrus inspired and a refreshing treat on a cold winter day. Then came a gratis appetizer of Jalapeno corn spoon bread served in a small cast iron fry pan. It was warm and fluffy light and not too spicy from my "delicate" palate. 

The bar set-up itself is so interesting. Bitters and flavor additives are stored in small medicine type bottles and delivered to drinks with eyedroppers. The place looks more like an chemistry lab than a typical bar. So fun and fascinating to see the various alcoholic concoctions constructed and developed.

Four o'clock rolled around and we were escorted to late lunch. I have been on a weight loss regimen, but not today. It was a tough decision on what to order. Mike and I first thought we would share a Shellfish Tower which included a tall mound of oysters, clams, and shrimp, but came to our senses!!! He ended up with a dozen raw oysters on the half shell and I got a pound of peel-and-eat gulf shrimp (shades of Key West and Charleston).
I also had a spinach salad to be on the healthy side. I think J & K got catch of the day.

My shrimp were the largest I have ever had. Absolutely stupendous in size and taste. The only thing that might have made it better would have been some cheesy grits. It was hard to finish my plate, but the others helped out a bit. Mike was in heaven also with three types of fresh oyster. He slurped those babies down in a frenzy.

For birthday desert we had their fresh pies made daily--cherry and house special brown sugar pie. I don't have such a sweet tooth (salty is usually more my style), but I could have eaten a whole brown sugar pie all by myself. SOOOOOO good! This was a fabulous gastropub and we definitely recommend it. To read more, go to: www.thepearlcolumbus.com .

We finally could not fit in another bite, so we waddled to our car and back to East Liberty. The rest of the evening was pleasantly spent remembering the "old days" backed up with a few more celebration cocktails.

2/17/2014 - To home. Nothing special. Dry roads til about the Ohio-Michigan border. Then the rain-sleet-snow started. Roads slick, so we took our time from there. No ice slip-and-slide til we were a block from home on a side street. Back to reality and back to our sweetie cat Bella.