A Year…

So, I broke protocol a couple weeks ago when I put a post on here about a craft, and I’m doing it again… but this one isn’t a craft.  For those who don’t know me well, I’m almost 2 years into making me a healthier, happier person.  A year into it I wrote a note about it and a friend recently suggested that I make it public because “you never know how it could help someone”.  I’m just a normal person, but if this post helps someone or inspires them to help themselves I’m all about it.

So… here it is.  Published Sunday, April 24, 2011.  Almost exactly a year to the date that I started.

 

A YEAR…

A year.  365 days.  8,760 hours.  525,600 minutes.  A year is a long time, and this week marks the week that I decided to make a change in my life.  I know exactly what day it was, I know exactly what students I had that day, and I know exactly where I was when I was just DONE.

DONE feeling like crap about my body.  DONE looking in the mirror and not wanting to smile at the person looking back at me.  DONE making excuses for myself.  DONE taking care of everything and everyone except me.

People who say, “It doesn’t matter what you look like – it’s what’s on the inside that counts,” are partially full of crap.  Yes, your heart, your soul, your faith, your personality, your sense of humor… those things are all more important than how you look.  Here’s the thing that gets me though:  unless you’re okay with your outward appearance, it’s nearly impossible for the important stuff to shine through. Controversial?  Maybe.  Do I really believe that?  Without question.

In a 25 minute car ride on the way home from teaching an 8:30pm piano lesson on Wednesday, April 28th, 2010, I had a heart to heart with my unhappy heart.  When I thought about it, my physical appearance – my weight, in specific – was making me absolutely miserable.  What’s on the inside IS, in fact, most important, but the problem was that what was on my outside was making my “inside” really unhappy.

I’m not an “excuses” type of person in most aspects of my life, but when it came to taking care of myself physically, I had A LOT of excuses.  My big two were:  “I’ve had knee surgery two times,” and (here’s the BIG one), “I don’t have time.”

That’s a simple one:  MAKE TIME!  You do have time, you just have to find it.  Do it for yourself.

I’m not writing this out as a “hoorah Amy!” post.  I’m writing this out to encourage the people who find themselves in the same boat I found myself in a year ago.  Cliché as it sounds, it’s a journey that I’m not yet finished with, but we’re getting there.  I’m down almost 70 pounds and 4 or 5 sizes, but most importantly, I feel better about me.

I’ve been thinking about this day for a while, and have decided to share a few things for those looking to embark on a similar “inside out” or “outside in” journey.

 

1.     LOOK IN THE MIRROR.  Why?  Because the person who is responsible is looking back at you.  My weight ballooned out of control because I, no one else, was eating things I shouldn’t have been eating and not taking care of myself.

2.     DECIDE.  Make a decision to make a change and don’t allow yourself to look back.  Take responsibility for where you’re at TODAY.  Not next month, not next week, not tomorrow… TODAY.  Delaying it just prolongs your unhappiness.  Be like Nike and Just Do It.

3.     TELL YOUR FRIENDS.  The night I decided that I was going to do something about my weight I called my friend Katie and told her what I had decided.  Whether or not she believed I was going to do it wasn’t that important to me.  I had told someone beside myself and that was an important step in holding myself accountable.

4.     TAKE BABY STEPS. I needed to lose at least 100 pounds, but that’s a pretty daunting number and it’s not something that happens quickly.  Start by shedding 1 pound, then 5, then 10.  Allow yourself the luxury of celebrating each small victory.

5.     JOURNAL.  I highly recommend keeping a food journal and writing down everything you eat.  Let people read it – chances are that if people are looking at it, you’ll stay away from things that you shouldn’t be eating in the first place.

6.     CHEAT.  Given the comment from #5 above about things you shouldn’t be eating, you might think that I’m not in favor of cheating.  Wrong!  I think it’s an absolute must.  What you need to do is learn to plan for the cheat.  Save calories, add a work out for the week… do something to offset it.  It feels good to be in control of it, and most likely whatever you choose to cheat with is something you enjoy.  (I, for one, am a fan of a small mint oreo blizzard from DQ.) 🙂

7.     WEIGH IN ONCE A WEEK.  Not going to lie, I sometimes freak out that I ate horribly and get on the scale to see how much I gained.  It does nothing for you mentally – don’t do it.  I’ve seen my weight fluctuate as much as 8 pounds within a few days, but invariably by my weekly Wednesday morning weigh-in it has settled out to be in line with where I should be in comparison to the previous week.  Weigh yourself once a week, same day, same time of day.

8.     WORKOUT BUDDIES.  My workout buddy and friend, Laura, has been an invaluable part of this process for me.  The girl is in excellent shape, and she taught me how to work out.  (I quite literally did not know how.)  Additionally, she and her hubby (who is a tough cookie!) get an email from me every Wednesday with my weigh-in results.  They’ve celebrated some big numbers with me, and have also shared my frustrations on other occasions.

9.     LEARN TO TAKE A COMPLIMENT.  (Side note:  I cannot take a compliment to save my life.)  People are going to notice, and they’re going to be nice and tell you that you look great.  I still don’t know what to say… is “thanks” what you’re supposed to say?  My standard response is “we’re getting there”.  I had a friend of the male persuasion recently tell me that he found me attractive.  It wasn’t a loaded compliment – just something he thought I should know and feel good about.  Rather than say “thank you”, I promptly asked, “Why?”  Don’t do that – not being able to take a compliment is actually really unattractive.  (That being said, tips on compliment taking would be much appreciated – I suck at it.)

10. GET RID OF YOUR TOO-BIG CLOTHES.  It feels SO good to get rid of garbage bags of things that no longer fit you.  I’m at 8 so far.  Donate them and don’t look back.  On the same token, be budget conscious as you shop while you’re downsizing… you’ll go broke buying outfits in every size you pass through.  With the exception of well-fitting bras (this is not a point of compromise in my mind), buy things that will fit for a while or that can easily be taken in.  Cardigans that get too big look cute left unbuttoned with a skinny belt over top.  Dresses that get too big can be cinched with a belt and a cardigan.  Jeans can start taking trips through a hot washer and a dryer set on “high”.  Workout clothes are supposed to be tight – buy them that way.

Anyway, those are just a couple things… I’ve learned a lot in the past year and I’ve surprised myself a lot too.  I’m capable of an awful lot, and you are too. 🙂

Hand-Stamped Tile Coasters

Yes, I’m fully aware that this is a food blog, but we’re going against the grain a little today and posting about a craft.  Theoretically, it ties in since you would use it when eating/drinking, but that’s a bit of a stretch I suppose…

Every year for Christmas I alternate between giving my co-workers a food or craft item as a Christmas gift.  This year was a craft year and I stole this idea from the mom of one of my mother’s students who gave one of these coaster sets to my mom for Christmas a couple years back.

I’m not lying when I say it’s easy.  It might, in fact, be the easiest craft I’ve done so far.  I’m 500% sure that it was easier than the etched wine glasses I did two years ago, right Laura and Stacie?! 🙂

HAND-STAMPED TILE COASTERS

Materials:

  • Unglazed, unpolished natural stone tile (I found these at Home Depot for about $4/pack of 9)
  • Rubber stamp
  • Ink Pad (I tried a couple brands and the only brand that didn’t bleed into the tile was Staz On)
  • Adhesive felt discs (the smaller version of the kind used on dining room chairs to prevent floor scratches)
  • Ribbon

Open packages of tiles and wipe surfaces with a slightly damp washcloth to get rid of grit.  Wipe dry with a towel.

About three tiles into stamping I quickly realized that it would be easier for me to press the tile onto the stamp as opposed to pressing the stamp onto the tile.  Doing it that way allowed me to see which part of the stamp I was using so that I didn’t go crooked or miss part of the tile entirely.  So, place the stamp face up and then ink it with the pad.  Turn tile carefully onto stamp, press, let sit for a couple seconds and then carefully lift off stamp.  Set it face-up to dry.

Once the tiles are dry (wait about 10-15 minutes to be safe) flip them all over and put adhesive felt discs onto the corner of every tile.  Stack in sets of 4 and tie with a ribbon.  It really is that easy, and they look REALLY good.  Depending on which tile you pick, they’ll even absorb moisture.  The travertine I chose absorbs moisture quite well.

A few pics for your viewing pleasure:

Here's a close-up of the tiles. Took this right after I stamped them while they were drying.

Backs of tiles so that you can see the little adhesive circles.

Finished product, all wrapped and ready to gift.

Canned Corn Relish

I cut, I canned… I CONQUERED!  Yesterday, I was flipping through the Better Homes and Gardens July issue and came across a recipe for Blue Ribbon Corn Relish.  The idea of canning, I must say, doesn’t thrill me; however, it looked so pretty in the jars that I figured I had nothing to lose and gave it a shot.  I did it!!!

I made a half recipe of what was given in the magazine and it’s both tasty and beautiful.  A half recipe gave me 7 half-pints and a little extra to put in the fridge.

CORN RELISH

  • 8 ears corn
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 1/2 c. celery, chopped
  • 3/4 c. red pepper
  • 3/4 c. green pepper
  • 1/2 c. onion
  • 1 1/4 c. vinegar
  • 3/4 c. sugar (heaping)
  • 2 tsp. ground mustard
  • 2 tsp. sea or pickling salt
  • 1 tsp. celery seed
  • 1/2 tsp. ground tumeric
  • 1 1/2 T. cornstarch

Fill canner with 6-7 inches hot water and set over high heat to boil.  Fill clean, half-pint jars with hot water and set aside.  Submerge lids in hot water as well.

Cut corn from cobs and put in large pot with 1 c. water.  Bring to boil and let cook for 5 minutes, or until corn is tender.  Meanwhile, cut peppers and onion.  Once corn is cooked, drain excess liquid and return corn to pot.  Add peppers, onion, vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt, celery seed and turmeric.  Bring to boil and boil gently for 5 minutes more.  In a small dish, combine cornstarch with 1 T. water and mix until cornstarch is dissolved.  Add cornstarch mixture to pot and boil until thickened slightly.

Fill jars to within a 1/2-inch of the top.  Wipe rims, set lids on top and tighten with canning rings.  Submerge jars, right side up, into boiling water and let boil for 15 minutes.  Remove from water and set on counter.  Tops should “pop” within minutes of being removed from water.  Leave rings on for at least 12 hours, wipe jars, and put away.

Homemade Hot Fudge

Mom and Dad’s 30th Anniversary party is Saturday and I’m a busy bee getting all the food prepped… with a little help from friends, of course.

Dessert will be ice cream sundaes with an array of toppings, and rather than pay $8-9 for 3 jars of hot fudge I decided to make my own.  Super easy, and it takes just like Smuckers!  This recipe is out of the PR Cookbook.

HOMEMADE HOT FUDGE

  • 1 1/2 c. milk
  • 1/3 c. cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/3 c. sugar
  • 3 heaping T. corn starch
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Combine milk, cocoa, salt, sugar and corn starch in a sauce pan.  Over medium heat, bring to boil, stirring constantly, until quite thick.  Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla.  Violá!  Hot fudge.

I keep this in mason jars in the fridge.  Reheat when needed.  DELISH!!!

Apple Dip

My brothers are big fans of that caramel apple dip you can buy at the grocery store, but it’s usually not on sale.  I went searching online and found something super-simple, delicious, and cheaper than the caramel.

APPLE DIP

1 8 oz. package cream cheese (low fat works)

1 c. peanut butter

1 c. brown sugar

1/4 c. milk

Combine ingredients, chill and serve.  Delicious!

Homemade Kettle Corn

It’s officially fall – one of the best times of the year, and not just because Grey’s Anatomy is back on!  A co-worker brought in kettle corn recently, my favorite fall treat, and it reminded me just how much I love it.  Consequently, while watching Grey’s last week I had a craving for kettle corn.  Trader Joe’s carries Kettle Corn in a bag, but the nearest Trader Joe’s is all the way in Orland and it’s not very economical to drive all the way out there just for popcorn.  I decided to go online and to see if there were any recipes.  I tried a few and came up with the best combination.

(Please bear in mind that we have one of those Whirly-Pop Popcorn makers.  I don’t know how this would work without it because the sugar would burn.)

HOMEMADE KETTLE CORN

  • 1/4 c. popcorn or olive oil
  • 1/4 c. white sugar (I tried brown and don’t recommend it – disgusting)
  • 1/2 c. popcorn kernels

Put oil in hot Whirley Popper and put in 3 popcorn kernels.  Once they pop the oil is hot enough to add the sugar and kernels.  Spin the handle constantly to keep the kernels and sugar moving and shake every 15-30 seconds.  (FYI – use a potholder for the hand that’s not on the crank and make sure the pot holder isn’t hanging down too far.  I’ve both burned my hand and started a kitchen towel on fire while making popcorn on the stove, albeit not recently.)

Once popping has slowed to every second or so, remove from heat and remove lid of popper.  Shake contents and salt lightly.  Shake again to mix it up and salt one more time.  Spread onto a cookie sheet.  After popcorn has cooled, break apart and serve.  YUM!  Hope you like it!