November & December Catch Up!

Can you believe it’s been MONTHS since I’ve posted a real post? I’m talking meat & potatoes, not just some cute link or something? I have been a busy gal and time has flown by! I apologize for neglecting you, but I promise that this project has been in my mind. So, let’s catch up, shall we?

November

Chicken Challenge Shepherds Pie. SOOO yummy!

So remember when I began my Chicken Challenge? It was a month of planned meals that would happen based on cooking big on one day, then minimal prep throughout the week. Well, I made it two weeks. It was not the brightest idea to get excited about something like this during a month where eating is a national holiday. However, it was an awesome experience for the two weeks I did it, and I had many more leftovers than I planned. I think perhaps doing something like this every other week would be more suitable for our lifestyle, given that we go to dinner with friends and when we do follow the cooking plan, we are more apt to have leftovers because I eat like a fricken’ bird. Oh, and I also need to incorporate supplemental proteins. I love chicken, but it gets to be too much. After my surgery, I ate so much of it that I reached a point where, like a baby eating something it didn’t like, I found myself unconsciously spitting it out when it was in a mouthful of Lean Cuisine pasta or something. It was like an unintentional aversion. The addition of other meats will probably help the chicken go down a little easier.

We’re kind of a big deal….

So speaking of poultry, let’s talk Thanksgiving. I had it planned to the T, and it was great. The night before, we began the drive to Grandmother’s house, knowing that we’d stop near Allentown for a gig with my new band, Fake MacKenzie. I was actually really excited to start playing with a new Irish group, and what’s great is that we actually get booked (read: paid) often. We have 5 gigs lined up for St. Pat’s weekend, so come check us out. 🙂 Anyway, the traffic was nuts, the gig was awesome, and I got the Gram’s at 2:30 in the morning. The next day I was up and cooking, and it didn’t stop until we ate. But it was wonderful. I got to spend time with my niece and nephews, and even took her and my young cousin to see The Muppet Movie with M. It was amazing!

My cousin, niece and M at the movies

December

Me, in the big box our sofa was delivered in.

As soon as we got home from Thanksgiving, it was right into Christmas mode. First up was planning our annual Ugly Sweater Party! This year, there was a lot of sprucing up of the house because I’m just in super nesty mode, so we bought some new furniture. As you can see, the couch box was pretty huge. The party went off without a hitch, and we had a lot of fun. There were insane amounts of food, but it wasn’t too hard to keep things in check because we had a nice balance of healthy and totally bad-for-you food.

Most people eat cookies at Christmas. My nephew prefers his hand.

Christmas was spent with my family. It was great to see the babies again, because they are adorable. My youngest nephew, Keimani, is just about 6 months old, and he is changing every day. He’s a little flirt, and I love him to bits! M is still a little apprehensive to hold him, but we’ll get there soon. I cooked a lot over Christmas, but we had lasagna on Christmas Eve which is not a tradition, just something my grandmother always threatens after the big hoopla of Thanksgiving. This year, it actually came to fruition and it was really great. We had a lot of time to prepare, so I had extra time to build a gingerbread house with my sister and niece. On Christmas day we had Jewish Christmas with M, who was raised Jewish, and we went to a Chinese buffet for lunch. I got great presents, I gave stuff that people loved, and it was a wonderful occasion.

Rudolph noses with my girls 🙂

New Years was spent with a few friends at a bar in Old City. No drinks for this girl, since a charming perk of having this surgery is that alcohol is absorbed like 20 times faster than before. So basically in the course of sips I am way tipsy, but then because it took so little to get me there I sober up super fast. All this equates to not being worth trying to get drunk. But I’m always a reliable DD, so that works out. 🙂 We rang in the new year, and now it’s the year that we’re getting married! I can’t wait, and neither can M, as illustrated below:

"I'm marrying you this year, so that makes you MINE!" ❤

So now we are 4 months away from the wedding. FOUR MONTHS! How does that happen so quickly? We are putting together the invitations this weekend since my MOH will be in town. They have been a true labor of love, but I’ve also ended up with an invitation that looks like it costs much more than it really did, thanks to imagination, and a lot of man hours in MS Word. We are still battling out what to do with our wedding cupcakes, as the first vendor we considered thought 8 weeks was a reasonable time frame to wait on getting a quote to us. Our second vendor is still a little lax on the response time, but we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt since it was the holidays.

Past that, we are now entering crunch time to get everything settled, so my stress is amped. So to alleviate that stress, I’m trying to put some new year’s resolutions in place. Here they are, in no particular order.

  1. This year, I will run a 5k. I know I’ve said this before, but I regularly (read: pre-Fall) run 5 miles or so at a clip, so 3 shouldn’t be a problem. But I need to just sign up for one and do it. I’d really like to get this knocked off the list before the wedding, because I feel like the accomplishment would be a nice self esteem boost.
  2. I want to wear a size 8. I am currently a 10 that is getting a little loose. I can, most likely, wear some things in an 8 that would look just fine, but I’m talking size 8 boot cut jeans from the Gap. This is my goal, and should I begin working at #1, I believe this will be attainable.
  3. I will stop drinking soda at home. I am trying to phase soda out all together. I drink diet, so it’s non-caloric, but I just think it’s not good to have. Also, I’ve read studies that say the chemicals in diet drinks may be counterproductive to weight loss, so I’d like to nix it all together. By not allowing myself to drink it at home, I think I will hopefully wean myself from a 30-year habit.
  4. I will pay off my credit cards. This is a big one. I have been working pretty steadily toward paying off the balance I have on two of my cards. When I was unemployed in 2010, I relied on the cards a little more than I should have and I have been chipping away at that debt since. I’m pretty sure this will be paid of soon anyway, but I would love to have this done before the wedding.
  5. I will take care of myself more. I don’t make a lot of time for myself for stupid stuff, like painting my nails. I get a pedi like every other month, and that’s about it. And it’s not about the expense of having someone else do it, it’s just the time commitment of going and the upkeep. But I’ve decided, I will make time to do a face mask, or paint my nails, or do a hair conditioning treatment or teeth whitening – basically, non-essentials that I keep putting off. I will do these things not only for the outcome of having done them, but to just spend a little time with myself and to allow me to shut my mind off from work, wedding and stress, and just enjoy where I am.

    My attempt at festive nails for NYE. It's like champagne and fireworks had a baby.

I’ve thought a lot about where I am right now. I try not to mention it a lot, but the relationship I had before M was one that I wanted to go somewhere. When I realized it wouldn’t end where I’d wanted it to go I had to leave. In retrospect ending that relationship was sad, not so much because of the loss of the guy, but more because of the loss of the life I was so close to having: the house, the cars, the friends. Things vanished when it ended, and I just missed that life because it was one that I’d always wanted. But just the other day, I came home and sat on my new couch. I stared at my wood floors that we’ll refinish together after the wedding. I looked at the end table I’d rehabbed from Craigslist. And as my kitties jumped up next to me to snuggle, I realized that I had that life, the one that I mourned. The difference was that this time, it was all 100% real, complete with a man who wants the same things that I do. It was a really humbling experience to realize that, though the road didn’t look like I thought it might, it still got me to my destination.

We're getting married this year!

I’m really happy for everything that 2011 brought me. I got a new job. I planned an amazing wedding. I made a home with M. And now, in 2012, we will begin our life together. I couldn’t be more blessed, and I can’t wait to continue to share the blessings, both obvious and in disguise, with you this year.

Happy New Year! – A

January 3, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , . 2011. Leave a comment.

The Chicken Challenge

Lately, I’m feeling a bit pissy about my food habits. Yeah, I said pissy, so what? It’s true. I have been a mess since my schedule has really kicked my buns. Snacking after dinner is an issue for me. I’m also finding on Saturdays when I have REALLY long days teaching that I am making bad food choices. I’m selecting foods that just aren’t right for me, and I’m also subject to the constraints not being able to cook or refrigerate my choices at school. Enter Wawa.

Wawa is this glorious chain we have on the east coast that makes the most incredible food that you will ever get at a gas station. Yes, I said gas station. They have the best sandwiches, soups, and salads. And although they have some healthier options, temptation is hard core in that place. I may get a healthy sandwich and apple, then I find myself putting baked chips or starburst next to it on the counter. Sure, treating yourself now and again is good. But it should be just that – a now and again thing. Like Tom and Donna from Parks and Recreation, they take the time to say “Treat yo self!” once a year. 

Ok, so back to it. I have noticed a slow in my weight loss and have been hovering in the same 5 pound range for about a month. I am only 25 pounds away from my “dream” weight and although I’m not SO stuck on numbers, it would be a nice milestone to reach, especially for my wedding. So I have decided the only option is to focus in on what I can control. Right now I still have about two weeks left of band which means a few more bad Saturdays. I have resigned myself to the fact that these are circumstantial and will come to an end when band ends. 

That leaves after dinner snacking. I think perhaps I don’t eat well enough at dinner and then allow myself to go nuts later. But I am also a busy chick and don’t really feel like cooking a Norman Rockwell-worthy dinner by the time I walk in the door. I did, however, recall a sorority sister I will call B. She is a mother to a very rambunctious 2-year-old boy, a nurse, and a wife. Pretty much a superwoman, right? What’s more, she’s just recently relocated, because moving is so easy, and I’m pretty convinced her husband, a doctor, works nutso hours. Yet she is always posting awesome recipes and comments on Facebook about her food for the week. Turns out, she cooks big once a week or so and eats well the entire week. I asked her for a few sites that she frequents and she recommended Smitten Kitchen and The Pioneer Woman. The recipes looked great and inspired me to see if I could take it a step further. I started perusing my local store ads and I found roasting chickens on sale for 99 cents a pound, and so the Chicken Challenge was born!

So here are the rules:

  1. I will cook 4-5 pounds of chicken each Sunday. We will have a dinner of roasted chicken on Sundays only.
  2.  I will make the leftover chicken into 5 meals, one for each week night, in the categories of soup, sandwich, salad, pasta and general meal.
  3. I will prepare as many of the components as reasonable to the week night recipes on Sunday.
  4. No genre of food will be repeated back to back, so I will not make tacos one night and then mexican lasagna the next night.
  5. All week night meals will require 15 minutes or less prep time and 45 minutes or less heating/cooking time.

For our purposes, I ended up purchasing chicken breasts since we’re not big dark meat fans in my house. Not only that, but they were also on sale for 99 cents a pound, so we made out like bandits! I also bought a bunch of other stuff that I thought I would need based on the recipes I dug up and wanted to try. I spent about $130 at the store late last night with creepy late-night cashier guy – I was shopping at 11 PM because I didn’t want to miss such a good price on the chicken that expired at midnight. Anyway, the meal plan I put together in Excel calls for Sunday dinners of roasted chicken and then 5 weeknight meals for 4 weeks, or 24 meals total. I assume will probably pick up another $20 or so in extra stuff I forgot, but that comes out to $6.25 a meal, where there will undoubtedly be leftovers for lunch the next day. So as it turns out the Chicken Challenge will most likely be cost-effective as well as healthy.

This will all begin on Sunday, so we’ll have an entire month of chicken. I’m looking forward to putting the final touches on the plan and seeing how it goes. M is just happy that I’m happy, and though I’m sure he would prefer it to be red meat, I think he will survive. And who knows, if this goes well we could change this to ground turkey next month. Wish us luck!

Thanks for reading! – A

November 4, 2011. Tags: , , , , , . 2011. 3 comments.

Insecurity, Insanity and the Dress(es)

This past weekend I went to Baltimore with M. to celebrate his birthday and to attend his sister’s fundraiser for a non-profit that she works with. Being that I had nothing suitable to wear, I purchased a dress at H&M that was reasonably priced and cute. It also forced me to bare my upper arms a bit as it was technically sleeveless, though there is a generous ruffle to cover my shoulders. I have decided that instead of trying to surgically deal with the extra skin that I will give it time to sure up a bit more, and thusly need to make my peace with it because it will be attending our wedding. This dress turned out to be a great test run to loosen the grip on the insecurity rope.

We had a WONDERFUL time at the fundraiser, but what I think I enjoyed more was the response to the picture of us (above) that I posted on Facebook. Everyone was obsessed with the dress and how well I looked in it. Perhaps it could be that this is really a good feature of how much weight I’ve lost, but whatever it was I’ll take it!

I decided to build on the momentum by finally starting the Insanity workout yesterday. I’ve been planning on it for weeks, but it’s formulated to start on a Monday and I just couldn’t seem to do it. Well, I did. The fit test was only 35 minutes but it kicked my buns! I’m excited to continue on it, so I even took some before pictures. My goal is to take pics with each fit test (you do them every so often through the program to track your progression) so that I’ll have a total set of 4 to contrast and compare by the time the 63 days are up. It’s difficult so far, but I’m excited to work it out because I’ll be dress shopping in a few weeks with my Maid of Honor in Boston!

Now here’s where that H&M dress comes back into play. The straps with the ruffles really got me thinking that maybe I want a wedding dress with a strap or two. I’ve previously been looking at strapless because it’s what I think is most pretty, but I don’t necessarily like it on ME. Who knows, maybe a strap really is the key to me feeling comfortable in a gown. So now I feel like my entire dress theory has been turned on its side. Looks like the MOH has her work cut out for her in a few weeks. 🙂 Anyway, sorry this was so short but I’ve been a busy gal working a lot! Hopefully I will have some fruitful pictures to show you in a few months of my Insanity makeover. And hopefully my new bod will look hot in the dress of my choice – if I can ever choose!

Thanks for reading! – A

May 24, 2011. Tags: , , , , . 2011. Leave a comment.

Thank you to the MIL!

Since I have had unique relationships with mother-figures through my life, I have really enjoyed forging my relationship with Mama M, my future mother-in-law. Initially I was super careful to present myself in the best possible light – afterall, she’s giving me her first born! But the more time we’ve spent together, I’ve felt myself relaxing a bit and I’m able to show the real me. Turns out, I think she likes it. 🙂

So even though I doubt she reads this, I’d like to send a big thank you to Mama M. Last night M came home and handed me a check that she gave him toward my wedding dress. She had mentioned to me that she was going to put a bit toward the dress effort, and I was very surprised. It was really touching because, though I do have a mother, a grandmother, and a “surrogate mother” in the form of a great aunt, it’s nice to have a local Philadelphia branch of the mothering network. I’m really thankful for the relationship we’ve been building and I’m really fortunate to have another wonderful woman to add to my life.

Thanks for reading! – A

May 12, 2011. Tags: , , , . 2011. Leave a comment.

Ode to My Skinny Caramel Macchiato (and Dan)


Every morning you are made by an artisan named Dan.
The swirls of caramel on top of your foam indulge me.
An occasional drip of caramel makes it to the side of the cup,
And your double shot of espresso gives me heart palpitations.

How can I stay mad at you, Dan, creator of sticky fingers and caffeine highs?
You have made me a slave to the green mermaid, but I cannot turn away.
Each day, I see your smiling face. You call my name, and we thank each other.
You are my Starbucks guy. You make my macchiato. You make my day.

Ok, I’m not as insane as you think. This drink, the Skinny Caramel Macchiato, was introduced to me by another blog, Pampered with Paige. Anyway, not only is this little bugger DELICIOUS, but a tall is only 110 calories! It totally gets me going in the morning, has a nice sweetness to it, and has turned me into one of those people who can drink warm beverages when it’s 75 and sunny. Now I have enough energy to get my work done, plan a wedding, and maybe even blog now and again. Plus, M is sweet enough to throw some duckets onto my Starbucks card once in a while to let me know he supports my love of caffeine. Isn’t he a peach? ❤

So go out and try one. Tasty, but they won’t blow your calories for the day.

Thanks for reading! – A

May 10, 2011. Tags: , , , , . 2011. Leave a comment.

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