August 29, 2010

My move towards a healthy life

I've briefly mentioned this before, but this year I started what I am calling a "Life-Style Change." Hokey I know, but it's better than "diet,” referring to fad diet, or weight loss plan. I call it a lifestyle change because I realize that this can't just be a temporary thing, it has to be something that I do for the rest of my life. So far, it's been about 8 months of serious change and about a month of "just kind of getting into it" (December of last year). In December I finally was able to accept the fact that I was the heaviest that I had ever been and was just sick of being like that. My lifestyle change consisted of a change in my eating habits and creating an exercise plan, I wanted to be an overall healthy person. My original goal was to loose 25 pounds by the summer, meaning that I had to loose on average a pound a week, this goal ended up not being enough of a challenge so I increased it to 30 pounds and set a waist measurement goal.

The first thing that needed to happen for this change was my acceptance that it was entirely my fault. I finally stopped making excuses and was able to take responsibility; being fat as a child is usually the parent’s fault, being fat as an adult is the adult’s fault, in other words my fault. I now believe that this is the crucial step forward; you can't completely change and be successful unless you are willing and able to blame yourself and stop making lame excuses.

"I don't have time"

"I don't have money"

"I've tried diet/exercise and it just doesn't work for me"

These are all poor excuses. There are free places to work out such as trails, sidewalk, parks, even your own yard and you don't need fancy equipment, your own body weight can work great for resistance exercises. As for time, it can be hard, but if you have time to surf the Internet or watch TV you have some time to work out and eat properly. Finally, if you know what you're doing and are actually trying your hardest, it will work. I have used all of these excuses in the past but in the last 8 months I've dropped almost 35 pounds and many, many inches and I've also eaten my fill on a cruise and at a few parties during that time, you just can't do this all the time.

People always ask me how I managed to loose the weight and then are disappointed when I say eating right and exercise, but really it works. When I started, I went to the gym twice a week, and then I joined a fun and laid back yoga class (included in the membership) to add a third workout. The first few months that I went I used the machines and eventually found one that I didn't mind, the elliptical; finding a cardio machine that I didn't hate really helped encourage me to go, the built in TV as a distraction didn't hurt either. Try to find something that you don't hate and as you get better on it, you will probably find yourself enjoying the workout, once you reach that stage re-try some of the other cardio machines and you might find that you don't hate them as much either. Each month I would add one more workout session to the week until I was working out pretty much everyday; I now enjoy working out, so it's actually not as bad as I know that sounds to those who never go to the gym. In addition to working out, my life change involved cleaning up my diet, as in what I eat.

To reach my weight loss goals and my goal to be an overall healthy person, I had to make a few changes to what I was eating and many changes to how much I was eating. I always thought that I was a pretty healthy eater, and people would tell me that too, but there really was a lot of room for improvement. I really love food and portion control was my biggest issue; I would eat too much food, I still eat a lot of food but I try to only eat a lot of the good stuff and only a bit of the "bad" stuff. I started buying ground turkey and chicken instead of beef for making pasta sauces and chili since you don't notice the flavour change too much and switching my other meats to leaner cuts and types, which included more chicken and fish and less beef. I would make sure that I made less carbs, my true weakness, and instead tripled the amount of vegetables that I was making so that I could fill up on that instead. I was already eating 6 or more servings of vegetables but I managed to increase it. Since carbs do add a lot of calories to the diet, I began to change the types of carbs that I was consuming by switching to brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, whole grain bread (from whole wheat) and by adding quinoa and more beans. I didn't even think that I liked beans until eight months ago, the more ways I prepared them, and the more I like them. I found it hard to find free recipes that I felt fit into the healthy category and would be something that my husband and I would enjoy; I have been experimenting, creating and modifying recipes, some have been really good and others have been terrible but I haven't gotten bored with what I am eating which is good. One of the best things about my changes in food choices is that when I make healthy veggie and bean filled dishes I can eat until I feel really full but I don't get that gross bogged down, can't move, sleepy feeling.

All of these changed that I have made fit into my life, that's why it has been working and I have been continually loosing weight over the last eight months. If I had to cut out all junk food and wasn't able to take a day or two off from the gym every once and awhile I know that I would have quit long ago. It may be a slow loss in the eyes of some but it took me years too put on all that weight and to loose my previous level of fitness and I realize that it may take a year or more for it to all come off. Once the weight is off I won't be able to quit and go back to my old ways, I will have to maintain what I have been doing to stay in shape and keep off the pounds. I didn't make these changes for instant gratification, I don't want to start in on the cycle of weight-loss and gain like many fad dieters, I feel like this can and will work, not just for me but for others too. My life-style change and plan is basically what doctors have been telling us over and over, but now I finally feel like admitting they were right.

Lemonade on a hot day

I'm not going to lie, I copied this recipe down from a bottle of lemon juice. I like it because I always have lemon juice on hand but I don't always have lemons (the juice keeps forever). Lemonade tastes way better if you use freshly squeezed lemon juice though.
3 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup real lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar

Pour ingredients into juice jug, stir and enjoy!

This recipe can easily be doubled, I doubled this and I just about overfilled my 2L juice jug.
What I really like about making lemonade myself is that you can adjust the sugar, I like it less sweet than the store bought stuff (or the stuff in a can).

August 24, 2010

Makin' some cornbread

We're having chili for dinner tonight so I figured I would make some cornbread to go with it.


3/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/4 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil

1. Combine cornmeal and milk, let sit for about 10 minutes

2. Add liquid ingredients, then add dry, stir until it's just mixed*
3. Divide batter into greased muffin tin (should fill 12) and bake at 375 degrees F for about 15-20 min.

*Make sure not to stir too much, otherwise it will not be fluffy, it wil be harder in texture

The longer you let the cornmeal soak in the milk, the less gritty the texture will be. I usually make this in muffin tins but it can be made in a loaf pan. Corn or chiles make good add-in's if you like. I've also made this vegan before (when I didn't realize that I didn't have any eggs), instead of an egg use 1 1/5 tbsp margarine and a little bit extra oil, they turn out pretty good.

These are done when a toothpick comes out clean.

These aren't that healthy but I really like cornbread with my chili.

August 23, 2010

Dress project complete!!!

Well, I have finished my dress project and frankly I am pretty darn proud of myself. Sure, it doesn't look anywhere near perfect, but I think it's as good as it gets (without me screaming at the dress and ending up hating it) and I figure my next project will look better (practice makes perfect right?). I had to finish it on my other machine as my seafoam machine is still jammed (I think I'm going to have to take it to a shop to be repaired).

This first picture makes the dress look better than it really is: This dress is definitely too big, I have lost a lot of weight since I actually started this dress (months and months ago, I only just posted about it recently because I didn't have the time to earlier). I figure 10 pounds ago this dress would have looked quite a bit better on me. I took it in as much as I could though, I really thought it would be enough. I probably should have taken everything apart and recut it, oh well. I need to work on my darting, some of them are okay, others, not as good. I think it was because I was trying to take in too much with the darts.

Here you can see some of my dart issues: Also, my zipper is absolutely horrible, terrible, awful looking. This also needs work. Some of it looks alright, but other parts are really bad. Afterwards I thought I probably shouldn't have followed the instructions in the pattern and just done it my own way. I really think I could have done a better job, but The dress already wasn't going to fit that well and I just didn't want to rip the whole thing apart again. I broke a needle trying to do the zipper and it flung up into my face, made me not a happy camper. I actually like the dress though, even with the zipper and fitting issues. I would wear it out of the house, I'm just that proud of the dress. My husband said "it looks homemade," I'm not really sure if that's an insult or not, but oh well, I mean, it actually is homemade (or should I say handmade?).
The picture above show how the dress actually looks. A little off (the hem wasn't quite done when I took this, it's now fixed, but you can really see the fit and sewing issues here).

I was going to try and make a matching belt for this dress, but after looking at the results I don't think that I will. I'll just use one of the black ones that I already own if I want to belt it.
I feel that I learnt quite a bit from this project, especially since the second half went together a bit easier than the first. I'm feeling pretty confident about trying something else, I haven't decided what just yet but I won't have a chance to start on anything else until September, so stay tuned.

August 22, 2010

Another unproductive weekend...

We ended up going camping. This summer has been very unproductive for us; we have only been home for a couple weekends making it harder to get much done.

This camping trip was very close to home and was in a national park. We pretty much just went hiking and had a fire (we made some yummy fire roasted chicken to eat with a salad).
Our first hike was a long one, 13.4 km, but we managed to complete it in less than 3 hours (the estimate given was 3.5-4.5hrs). I think we did well, last year this hike would not have been possible. I felt great afterwards; a bit sore, but happy that all that cardio is paying off. We didn't really see any animals on the hike, only heard them, which is probably good since bears, moose and bison are all pretty mean. We did see this cute frog on the path. My husband almost stepped on it.On the way back to the campground we drove past some bison, the park is basically a bison preserve. The pictures aren't that great since I took them from inside the car, bison have been known to charge.Overall a great trip...

August 20, 2010

Freezing fruit

I came across some red currants at the grocery store the other day, you don't see them too often there, and you usually have to go to the farmers markets to get them. They were a little pricey but I figured, what the hey. I probably wasn't going to get around to eating them this week so I decided to freeze them.

I learnt a good freezing method from my grandma, my mother just washes fruit then chucks them in a bag where they then all stick together and you have to pound the bag to get anything out or defrost the whole thing. This is especially terrible for mushier fruits like raspberries, they would always become a big mushed blob, still tasty but not very nice looking and there was always a bag full that we would have to go through at once.

Here is the better way to freeze fruit:
Step 1: wash the fruit (and if needed cut into the size preferred)

Step 2: cover a baking pan with parchment paper (in this case I was out so I used tin foil, this will also work)

Step 3: spread fruit out on pan, try not to have them touching too much

Step 4: place pan in freezer and wait for fruit to freeze (usually one a couple of hours)

Step 5: scoop fruit up and place in a freezer bag, make sure there is as little air in the bag as possible before sealing. It’s probably best to label the bag as well…

This works great because now you have individual frozen pieces of fruit (or berries) that you can easily grab out of the bag as you need them. It takes more time and effort but if you just want four perfect raspberries to use as a garnish you can easily take them out since the fruit isn't frozen together.

August 19, 2010

My first garden harvest of the year

Well, yesterday my husband was asking me about my little garden and if anything had grown yet, so I made another trek into my garden, past the thistles and way in the back I found green beans! Well, actually most of them were purple beans. I wanted to grow them because I thought they looked cool. Look at them!!

It turns out they turn a boring dark green once cooked, and taste exactly the same as green beans. I know those brightly coloured veggies often look the same as the non-bright kind once cooked but I was holding out hopes. I mean purple potatoes stay purple after cooking, so there has to be some other veggies that do the same. Right? Right?I had planted dark red carrots but something ate them before I could pick them (I'm guessing one of many jack rabbits that I've seen running around the neighbourhood - my fence has one small gap, just large enough for a rabbit). Oh, and it is slugs making all those holes! I found a gross fat one, yuck!

Purple or not, the beans still tasted yummy; they had that delicious fresh from the garden taste that is lacking from the store bough stuff. I can't wait until the rest are ready to pick...

August 15, 2010

My poor, poor garden

I have a tiny little veggie garden in my backyard, it's only about 1.5m x 2.5m. We have quite a few large trees in our backyard so there was really only one good spot for it. This is only our second year in our house and the second year for my little garden. Last year I did pretty well, this year not so much. Something is eating my garden!!! My beans and potato plants all have holes in them. It's been raining a lot this summer, so maybe slugs? It's too bad because they are among the few things that grew well this year, hopefully they're still okay.

I never noticed how pretty the flower are on green bean plants. You can also see the destruction on the leaves in this picture.

My lettuce and onions are doing fine, my carrots somehow disapeared, my peppers didn't even germinate and my damned radishes when to seed. I've decided that I am no longer growing radishes. They are so freaking hard to grow. Last year they just shot up and went to seed (no bulb on the end), this year same thing! I read an article on radishes this spring and I figured that I could do better this year, it said that radished need to be thinned out really well, so that's what I did (I didn't do a good job of that last year). I really thought that I was in the clear, however, the article also mentioned that hot summers will also make them go to seed really quickly (guess what we had?).

I also have a couple of potted plants outside, which always seem to do well. I just grow various herbs and tomato plants in these. It's pretty easy, there's no weeding (not that I really weed my garden that well).

Did you know that a magpie will eat a tomato? I didn't until they started stealing them off the plants right before my eyes. Damn birds, now I have to watch carefully so that I can pick them just before they are ripe.

August 13, 2010

My dress adventure once again takes a turn for the worst...

Well, I had some time on the weekend so I figured I would get back to my dress project. I really wanted to get a lot done, but I did not, at all.

I managed to sew the right side of the dress up, and stitch the one side of the lining and I started on the arm holes, and that's as far as I got before my machine jammed.
Here's what I have so far (the colour's a little off in the picture and it looks a little odd as I have it draped over my machine cover):

As for my sewing machine, it's horribly, horribly jammed. I can't figure out how to unjam the damn thing. I found a thread and I thought that I pulled it all out but I was obviously wrong. The wheel is still stuck. The only option that I can think of is to find a tiny screw driver and to take the internal working apart to find the damned little piece of thread that must be somewhere in there. Errrrrrrrrrggg.

Maybe it's not me, maybe this machine is just evil...Probably not though. I really hope that it's not done for. I really like this machine and I got it as a gift.

August 6, 2010

A retro apron

Well, I have a picture of one of the other aprons that I made last Christmas!

This one was for my sister-in-law.
It's a 1940s inspired "neck-tie" apron. It was quick and east to make, as most aprons are...
This is a close up of the fabric, hopefully you can see the cute cherry pattern. I bought extra of this fabric to make something for myself (which I still haven't done).

August 4, 2010

Avocado and Tomato Salad

Avocado is one of my favourites, its so creamy and almost rich tasting. I probably eat it at least once a week. It's one of the few "odd" vegetable that my husband enjoys (he calls most vegetbles odd, except the few he ate growing up - corn, broccoli, carrots, you get the idea).

This salad is a bit on the acidic side but it is oh so delicious and I feel it qualifies as "healthy."

Avocado & Tomato Salad

Serves two or three, easily doubled

2 medium tomatoes
1/3 red onion
1 large avocado
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar (maybe a bit more, I usually eyeball it)
2 tbsp basil
1/2 tsp garlic, minced

1. Slice the tomato avocado and onion.
2. Mix oil, vinegar, garlic and other spices and pour over the sliced veggies.
3. Salad can be served immediately but is best to let it sit for a half hour or so (this allows for the flavours to come out).

I added this picture to show how I cut up the avocado. I slice it in half lengthwise, then I twist it to separate it. I then slice it still in the shell (you can kind of see this in the picture), then I peel off the shell (you can de-shell it then slice too).

Also, an important thing when picking avocado is the firmness/squishiness. If its really squishy, it's probably bruised. If you can easily push your fingers in a few millimetres it's probably best for a mashed dish (guacamole), if it has a bit of give but is mostly solid it's good for slicing, if it's rock solid leave it on the counter a few days to ripen it.

After looking at these pictures, I think I need to work on my food photography, my skills are lacking...I also really need a new countertop for my kitchen (top photo)...

August 3, 2010

My first "major" sewing project

I am not much of a sewer but I have always wished that I was. I have sewn a few things over the years, mostly stuffed animals, a purse or two and quite a few aprons, but really all of those are very simple and easy to make and whenever I ran into some trouble I would ask my mother for help.

I have decided to make my first piece of real clothing all on my own without asking anyone for help. I have picked a very simple sheath dress pattern, McCall's 5972, view B (with the collar, bottom right on the picture).

It's a simple dress, pretty classic I think. I picked it because it appeared to be for a beginner and looks wearable.

So far it has been going very slowly; I don't know how people find time to sew. I probably should have started this in the winter when it is cold and nobody wants to go outside rather than in the very short lovely summer, oh well.

The project took off with a bit of a rocky start. It appeared as though the tension on my machine wasn't set right, after about 15 minutes I finally realized that I hadn't threaded the thing right, another 20 minutes later I figured out what I was doing (I've never used or seen a machine with a knob to wrap the thread around! It's an old machine and I don't have the instruction manual). I'm a little embarrassed to admit the issue but I can't be the first person to make that mistake, right???

After the threading embarrassment I began to sew the dress bodice and soon began to make mistakes. I sewed darts on opposite sides of the bodice front piece (I think the phone rang and I was distracted), I then sewed the wrong sides of the bodice together (darts facing up on both sides). I of course picked out a fabric without a "bad" side (who would have thought this would be an issue?). I now have two fabric pencils to mark the sides (I wish I had thought of this before all the sewing and ripping of seams).

I put the piece down after fixing my mistakes and left it for another day, of course when I went back to it, I started messing up again. I got the collar on alright, then I sewed the lining in on the wrong side. So I ripped it off, then I realized that I of course sewed the linner together incorrectly (the good sides are facing out like they should be, but the seam at the shoulders is bad side up).


So, I am going to leave this baby alone for a little bit longer. I am not sure why I keep messing up on such silly little things. At work, I have to pay close attention to little details and don't have these kinds of issues. Maybe I should only sew after a good sleep?

I have very little completed on my project, but I will get back to it as soon as I have some free time.

to be continued......