Saturday, January 28, 2012

I-Spy once again

My friends are all on round two of the baby-making process.  I've vowed not to make any second-quilts... 'cause good lord, my friends are fertile & I'd never keep up.  But one friend had her first baby while I was abroad, so I felt like making something for her baby #2.

Over the summer I'd participated in a character-print swap on the quilting board of Ravelry.   And I found the bright bright colors in a fat quarter pack at the Fabric Depot outdoor sale.  It was 8 fat quarters for something insane like $10.  I couldn't pass that up! 

It actually took me a while to figure out the best way to put together this I-spy.  There are so many different ways to do an I-spy, but since the pieces were already cut for the swap, I was a little limited in my options.  Also - I was trying to get the quilt done on my Christmas break between Spanish classes, so I couldn't do anything too labor intensive.

Here's what I came up with.  Bright, colorful, not too fussy.

The backing is a solid piece of green fabric that I found on sale in the new Fabric Depot 'indoor sale' room.  Good lord I love that place!!!

I just love making I-spy quilts, you can use them for a matching game, or to tell a story.... it *almost* makes me want to spend some time with an actual kid.

So many cute fabrics!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Pop Rocks Socks

I knit up another pair of ankle-socks over my recent trip to Nashville.  I finished up one of them while on the plane and kinda guessed (incorrectly) at when to start the toe decreases.... figured it out it was too short when I got home and kinda fudged it until it was long enough. 

I can't remember what kind of yarn this is... I'm sure it was a gift, but I lost the tag when I wound it up into a ball.  The black and pink remind me of a pack of strawberry pop rocks... so there you go!

Pop Rocks Socks!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Eat (some of) the vegetables

Ok - my 'Eat ALL the vegetables' vegan experiment was interesting if not especially successful.

Day one:
I hadn't actually cooked anything yet, so despite eating some nuts, fruit, veggies, and fruit juice, I was starving until about noon.  Then I wasn't so much 'full' as full of fiber, and I will spare you the details.

I also experienced a pretty intense caffeine-withdrawal headache.  God bless aspirin is what I have to say about that!

The other challenge I faced was a last minute call from a friend who was visiting from out of town.  She wanted to meet up for dinner at Red Robin.  Oh lordy!  Talk about temptation, I LOVE burgers!!!  On the one hand, I showed a lot of restraint by ordering a Gardenburger, with no cheese, and had unsweetened iced tea.  But I also took full advantage of the bottomless fries.... and in the interest of full disclosure - there was ranch dip involved.

So on the one hand, I was successfully vegetarian for a full day.  Only a few dips of ranch dressing away from being vegan in fact.  On the other hand I was gassy, bloated, tired, starving, and headachy for most of the day.  I got a lot of cooking done (and ran like three loads of dishes through the dishwasher).  But beyond that all I did was lounge on the couch all day feeling crummy.

Day two:  
I woke up starving and started the day eating a whole wheat roll with some hummus, and a bunch of veggies and veggie/fruit juice.   Again, lots of fiber had the predictable results.

By noon, I was not only simultaneously hungry and bloated, but feeling tired and weak as well.   I had made the mistake of doing some weight lifting the night before, something I do regularly, nothing especially strenuous.  But instead of my arms feeling 'post work out sore' they felt like limp noodles, trembly and weak.  I had no energy or motivation to do anything other than lay on the couch.  But this was a three day weekend and I didn't want to waste it.  I had things I needed to get done.

Forget it.  Experiment over.  I went out for sushi and felt better almost immediately.

I really can't say if it was the lack of protein or the lack of total calories that was wiping me out, but it was pretty clear that the vegan thing was just not for me.  I didn't want to completely give up, so I adjusted.  No meat or dairy for breakfast or dinner... but I could eat a normal cafeteria lunch for the rest of the week.  Friday however turned out to be all around crappy and any notion of a diet or experiment went out the window.

So what were the end results of this experiment?  I think my weight fluctuated a bit in the downward direction, but by today, I'm back exactly where I was when I started.  I certainly did NOT feel like my energy or overall health improved much... although I did notice that my skin felt really good the first two days.  And by eliminating meat and dairy from two of my meals, I did increase my overall fruit and vegetable intake from an average of 2-3 servings a day to a consistent 5 or more.  That can't be a bad thing.

Going forward I think I'm going to focus on the much more realistic goal of eating 5 fruits and vegetables a day, and eliminating most dairy from my diet.  I'll see how that goes for the rest of the month.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mushroom Barley Bake

One of the staples of my vegan experiment was this Mushroom Barley Bake, easy to make and very hearty.

1 large (or 2 small) onion chopped 
1-2 cups sliced/chopped mushrooms
1 cup barley
3 cups vegetable broth
olive oil

red chili flakes

Saute the mushrooms and onions in olive oil.  Don't overdo it, just saute them until the mushrooms release a bit of water and the onions become clear.

Coat your casserole dish with olive oil, transfer the mushrooms and onions over, add the barley and mix it up a bit before adding the broth.  I add a good bit of sea salt and red chili flakes, but this is the kind of dish that you can season any way you like.  Some fresh herbs would probably work really well.

Bake at 350F for 90 minutes.  I think I had the lid on for half of the time, but I can't remember if it was at the beginning or the end.  Use your judgement.

Here it is right out of the oven.  As with virtually everything I cook - it freezes well so this is a good one to make a double batch of.  This is a great vegan/vegetarian dish, but also makes a hearty side dish to roast chicken. 

Ok - not the most beautiful dish around, probably should have thrown a sprig of parsley on it.... but I promise that it's yummy.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Eat ALL the vegetables!

In an effort to meet my resolution to lose weight I've decided to do a bit of a diet shake up.  At the moment I eat rather a lot of meat and processed food... not to mention sugar.  While intellectually, I know that 'diets don't work', I've never really been on an official diet and I can say unequivocally that THAT doesn't work either.  So it seems I should at least experiment and see if I can find something that works for me.

For comparison's sake, here's a sample of my current diet:

Breakfast:  Cheese bagel from the cafeteria.  Snapple if I'm tired... and I'm almost always tired.

Snack: Whatever's in the break room, sometimes a donut or a cookie, or a slice of pumpkin bread.  There's not always a snack in there... probably every other week or so, significantly more around the holidays.

Lunch: If I had my act together the weekend before I will have made myself a sensible lunch that involves chicken, rice & veggies, often with butter, sometimes in the form of a coconut based curry.  Generally nutritious food... but my portion sizes probably need some work.  But mostly I head to the cafeteria and have some kind of sandwich, burger, or wrap.  So we're talking bread, meat, cheese, mayo or some other kind of spread, and possibly a handful of veggies/fruits. 

Snack: More often than I care to admit, I resolve my afternoon job-related stress by heading to the cafeteria for a pastry, soda, or ice cream.  Not every day, but a few times a week. Sometimes I remember to bring fruit, but I don't always remember to eat it.

Dinner:  Again, if I've had my act together I have something like... again roast chicken, rice & veggies prepared, or possibly soup with bread and cheese.... lots of bread and cheese.  However, I live in an area rich with restaurants, so I often stop off for sushi or pizza.  And when I have class - most of the meal preparation gets sacrificed in favor of homework.

Beverages:  My beverage of choice is Dr. Pepper.  But I've made good progress over the past couple of years in replacing that with tea, either hot or iced.  Tea is a great beverage, the only problem is that I drink it with sugar.  I use far less sugar per serving than what you'd find in Dr. Pepper... but I drink GALLONS of it, so it ends up being a bit of a wash.  

Basically I eat a ton of bread, meat, cheese and added fats, with a few fruits and veggies, and lots of sweetened beverages.  Not an ideal diet, and it's led to far from an ideal weight. 

The new plan: 

I've decided that at least for one week I'm going to go more or less vegetarian.  No meat, no dairy, no eggs, no refined white sugar, and limited bread products the majority of what I will eat will be vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, and visibly identifiable whole grains... like barley kernels - not the stuff they're putting in Fruit Loops these days.  I'm not going to be super strict about it and inspect every ingredient of everything I eat, but I am very much going to try to stay in the spirit of it. 
Step one was to clean out the fridge & get rid of any remnants of my old diet.  Not too tough since I just got back from vacation and haven't been shopping in a while.   Step two was to spend some quality time in the produce section of the grocery store.  

Step three is to prepare a few vegetarian meals to go in the freezer, and to make up individual portions of the rest of the veggies, so that it's easy to just grab & eat.  I'm not magically going to have more free time... so I need to make this easy or it'll never fly.  

On the menu for this week:  Roasted vegetable soup with whole wheat onion rolls,  mushroom barley bake, hummus with raw veggies, oatmeal with dried fruits & nuts, and uh.... I'm going to have to take a look in my cookbook to see what else I can come up with.  

Wish me luck!

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 Goals

For 2012 I'm going to focus a couple of really important goals. 

1. Start Grad School
I've still got a few more things to complete the application process.  And there are two more pre-requisite classes I'll need to take.  Then I should be set to start in the Fall.  My biggest priority this year will again be taking classes, doing homework, trying to get good grades, and trying my best to pay for it all without going into debt.

2.  Weigh less at the end of 2012 than I do right now.  
I know, it's such a classic resolution... and a classic failed resolution.  But it needs to happen. And I do have a bit of a plan.

I'm already participating in a "Healthy Team - Healthy You" program at work, and this will continue through January and February.  There is also a "Healthy Steps" program at work where you can record your workouts or health education activities to earn points.  Earn a certain number of points and you can earn $200 at the end of the year.  I was signed up for 2011 but stopped recording my activities half way through and didn't accumulate enough points.  So one of my sub-goals for 2012 will be to complete this program and earn the $200. 

The other thing I'm going to focus on is food.  I have really cut back on the amount of soda and fast food I've consumed, and I want to build on that.  I'm going to allow myself either fast-food or soda about once a week for the year... I've given myself 52 cards, and will toss one of those cards each time I eat fast food (for the purposes of this goal, the sushi-go-round near my apartment will not count as fast food, but the cheeseburgers at my work cafeteria will) or drink soda (and for the purposes of this goal, any sugar-added bottled beverage will count as 'soda' - Snapple for example; but brewed tea or coffee that I add sugar to will not, 100% fruit juice does not count either).

I'm also going to try to focus my diet more on fruits and veggies and eat according to this pyramid.  Fewer processed foods, less meat & dairy.  To do this I'm going to spend less time cooking and baking and being a foodie.  It'll be a process. We'll see how it goes.

That's as much as I really need to focus on this year.  Although I do have one other crafty goal. 

3.  12 projects in 2012.
I'll count knitting projects, quilts, embroidery and pretty much any other hand work.  I'm going to focus on finish up my current WIPs.  I'll do a WIP inventory in a future blog post.

So that's it, those are my goals for 2012.  Pretty big goals but I'm hoping that they will lead to some pretty big improvements in my life. 

2011 Report Card

So, how did I do on my resolutions for last year?

1. Take care of my health.  - get a new doctor, get new glasses, get some exercise, quit drinking soda.

Did okay with this one.  I went to the optometrist, got new glasses, got a new doctor, and even went to the dentist.  The dental appointment was fairly traumatic, and I most certainly won't be going back to them.  But after putting it off for a good year and a half, I get points for going.

I did not quit drinking soda entirely, but I think my consumption of soda and fast food is down from it's all time high of daily/ several times a week.  However, most of the time I avoided soda by drinking Snapple or some other calorie loaded sweetened beverage.  Which is kinda like swapping smoking heroin for smoking cigarettes... yeah, it's better but....

Exercise - I'd thought about joining a gym and starting to swim again, but never got around to it.  I did however buy a bike over the summer and that has been a big improvement in my life.  I ride to the store, I rode to class, and occasionally I just ride for fun.

Overall score for this resolution:  B

2. Get in good financial shape. - save some money

I did, in fact, save some money this year.  Not much, but some.  Did not accumulate any debt.

Overall score for this resolution: A


3. Creative aspirations. - Show a quilt at Sisters Outdoor Quilt show.

I have to say, completing this resolution made me extremely happy.  It was far more gratifying than I would have thought.

Score for this resolution: A

4. Philanthropy. - give money to charity

I signed up for an automatic contribution to the Oregon Food Bank, and I made a small donation to the Red Cross.  I gave, but I didn't give much.  And I didn't do any volunteering this year.

Score for this resolution: B

5. Take the next few steps on my career path. - gear up for Grad School

This is where the bulk of my focus has been this year.  I have been working my tush off in my Spanish classes to fulfill the pre-requisite for the graduate program.  I took Summer term off to save my sanity, otherwise I'd be done with Spanish by now.  So that part is still in-progress, although on track to finish up before the graduate program starts in the fall.  Spanish is NOT easy for me, but I put in the hours, wrote up the flash cards, and studied as much as I could, and have As in each Spanish class as my reward.  I still don't feel like I can actually speak Spanish... but at least my transcript looks good.

In November, I went to an information session at Portland State University for the Applied Linguistics department - Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and I have begun the application process.  I still have to request one more letter of recommendation and revise my essay.  The application is due on Feb. 1, and I'm on track for that.

Overall score for this resolution: A+ 

Extra Credit:

Not so much resolution oriented, but I did a few cool things this year.
- Flew down to Las Vegas to celebrate a friend's wedding.  Although this doesn't really fall under any my resolutions, I think staying in touch with friends from far & near is important.  It was also super fun!

- Visited Costa Rica with an educational tour group.  This one falls under my overall life goal of traveling as much as possible.  This was my first visit to Central America and I got to do a lot of cool things like river rafting and staying with a local family - communicating exclusively in Spanish. 

- I got a really good review at work.  My job is obviously not my dream career, but it was good to know that despite the fact that my focus was on my Spanish classes & pursuing my future career, I was doing well where I was.

- I joined a "Healthy Team, Healthy You" program at work.  It's mostly a way to get a discounted rates on my insurance next year... but am actually going to the meetings and tracking my pedometer readings etc.  I don't have a ton of confidence in the ability of this program to improve my health... but it can't hurt.

Factoring these extra credit points, I give myself an A for the year.  Most aspects of my life are right on track!

There's always room for improvement of course... so that's what I'll focus on in this new year. =)