Thursday, November 25, 2010

Saying Thank You

There are a lot of things in life that are hard and get us down - things like not having enough money, working super long hours, feeling lonely, realizing how tough a relationship can be, and feeling like everything is one step forward and two steps back (i.e., our dog is apparently un-housetrained again). But you know what? There is a hell of a lot more to life that is - excuse the expression - Fucking Amazing. This is not a huge revelation that everyone stops to think about what they're thankful for on Thanksgiving, but it's a valuable exercise and one I'm not about to abandon even though I'm not at home, going around the table and each of us saying what we're grateful for before the first bite of turkey may be taken. What follows is a brief list of the things, both big and small, that we are grateful for this year.

Our dog and cat, however annoying and frustrating they can be. They make us laugh and they bring us unspeakable joy.

Our new apartment, shortcomings and all. It is home, and will be, for a long time.

Our health, imperfect as it is. We are lucky to have the care we need and the privilege to attain it.

Books, books, and more books! The time to read them, now that college is over.

Boots. Because I love them and they keep my toes warm in this NY weather

Flannel sheets. 'Nuff said.

My jobs - both of them. I love my little guy and I love my new friends at the bakery. I also love the cookies and scones at the bakery job but I may love them a little too much.

All of the opportunities we've been given to further our education.

Our lives that have thus far been filled with so much love and will only be filled with more and more.

Cookbooks. Particularly Vegan Planet, my new current favorite from which most of our recipes are coming.

Each other (duh). There is nothing about my life that would be the same without Alix. She is the reason I am a better person now, the reason I have faith in life and love after losing both for so long, and the best part of my future. I love her, and even though she knows it, now you all know it too. Go crazy with it.

"Love wasn't a thing you fell in, but rose to. It was what stopped you from falling." -Darin Strauss

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Never Going Back Again

Well, the verdict is in...this is a permanent change. This is not a month-long trial. This is not an experiment. This is a lifestyle change that is making us into happier, healthier, more conscientious people. This is a life that I would be proud to raise my children in and an example that I feel like I can set for others. This is about so much more than losing weight or trying to look better naked (don't get me wrong, we're still hoping for both of those things). This is also about doing everything in our power to be alive and well for the next seven decades that Alix and I plan to be with each other. I think the determination set in yesterday when we began Level 2 of our program. It killed us. When Jillian says in the video, "I want you to feel like you're going to die!", I was right there with her. I wanted to collapse into an asthmatic crisis and never get up. But I didn't. I finished the workout and then, goddammit, I got up again tonight and did it one more time. And I'll do it tomorrow. And the day after that. We plan to do Level 2 for ten days and then Level 3 for the rest of the 30 days before assessing our after results and moving on to bigger and better things. New videos, sticking with the vegetarianism (and possibly venturing into veganism...stay tuned on that one), continuing to cook healthy meals, eat responsibly and sustainably, and generally improving on the half-formed versions of who we still are.

The dinner we made tonight was beyond delicious. It was called pappardelle with spiced butter and you can find the recipe here. It was spicy and smooth and loaded with asparagus and neither one of us could resist second helpings.

Anyway, regardless of what challenges come up or what obstacles we will run into (Thanksgiving, anyone?), we are determined to keep this going and I know we will do it. And that makes me proud.

Monday, November 15, 2010

When life gets in the way...

Tonight's work day was EPICALLY long. Not only was I scheduled to work thirteen hours, but then I got out more than a half an hour late because S. (father) got home from work late, thus making me late, and cranky, and tired, and more than a little bit annoyed. Knowing that they appreciate my willingness to stay does not make up for the fact that if I'm supposed to leave work at 8, and it takes me an hour and fifteen minutes to get home, thus getting me in at 9:15, I have to still find time to work out, make and eat a healthy dinner, shower, and oh yeah, maybe say hello to Alix? Did I mention I wake up at either 4:15 or 5:15 AM to get to work in the morning?

Needless to say, the making dinner and working out did not happen tonight. We ordered healthy vegetarian Thai food from the place around the corner, ate less than half of it, and will have the rest tomorrow. We also calculated our calories for the day (an annoying, time-consuming process), and came out around a healthy 1400 or so. Possibly more because of the Thai food, but takeout is a rare occurrence around here so we'll allow it. I snacked on whole wheat bread with the vegan spread, Greek yogurt, an apple with peanut butter, and grapefruit today. I also did a yoga dvd while Monkey napped but I didn't really feel like it did much. My plan for these long work days is to bring my 30 Day Shred or Cardio Max dvd's and do them while Monkey either naps, watches his Baby Einstein videos nearby, or giggles at his ridiculous nanny jumping and sweating all over the living room (probably the last one). To lighten the mood of this cranky post, I'll share the highlight of my evening with Monkey: a poop-tastrophe (poop + catastrophe = poop-tastrophe). Stop reading if you're afraid of poop.

Monkey gets really cranky and fussy around 7:30-8:00 PM. It is his witching hour, and nothing really helps except walking slowly around the house with him in the sling, being careful to avoid all the awkward corners and furniture alignments that one-bedroom NYC apartments are famous for. He is sleepy but won't sleep, he isn't hungry, but wants his ba-ba (pacifier), he doesn't want to play and will howl indignantly if I so much as think about setting him down (enter, the life-saving sling I now own), and he certainly, most definitely DOES NOT want to go to bed. So there we are, wandering the house, watching the Food Network on mute, when I catch a whiff of something bad. Steeling myself for the wrath that awaits me removing him from his cozy sling, I quickly unwrap him and lay him on the couch to change him. (The changing table has been converted to a bookshelf because he was scaring the bejesus out of me with his ability to almost rocket himself off the end. Hence, the couch is safer.) I grab my supplies, unwrap his diaper, and find, to my horror, that we have a SUTB situation (Shit Up The Back). Waaayyyy up. Envision this: Giggly Monkey is thrilled to have his manly bits uncovered and so is handling them with glee, poop has covered his front, backside, and halfway to his armpits, I am balancing him on his belly on the side of the couch while I carefully, carefully roll the poopy clothes over his head to avoid getting any more of it spread around. I toss the clothes in the hamper (Not. My. Problem.), and come to the executive decision that naked Monkey needs a bath. STAT. So in we go, gleefully splashing in his baby bathtub, getting a good scrub all over and then a cozy towel wrap, a fresh diaper, a lotion rub-down, and some fleecy frog pajamas. A few cuddles later, and my munchkin man is fast asleep....just in time for his dad to come home and wake him up. Again - Not. My. Problem.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

New Recipes

I made two more recipes from my Vegan Planet cookbook today and both were smashing successes. The first is a breakfast spread to go on toast or bagels (or fruit, I suppose). It's not too sweet, nutty and smooth and delicious, as well as protein-filled, low in fat and animal product free. I had it on a piece of whole wheat toast this morning for breakfast and it was satisfying and more interesting than plain nut butter.

Bagels-for-Breakfast Spread (Sweet)
4 oz soft silken tofu, drained
1 medium ripe banana, peeled and sliced
2 T almond butter
2 T pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
Combine all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors to develop. This will keep in the fridge for about 3 days.

Then, for dinner, Alix and I had another recipe from the same book, called Fennel, Pecan, and Watercress Salad with Orange Vinaigrette. It was amazing! The combination of textures and flavors was delicious and it felt good to have something so healthy and satisfying for dinner.

Fennel, Pecan, and Watercress Salad with Orange Vinaigrette
1 navel orange, peeled
2 large fennel bulbs, trimmed
2 bunches watercress, tough stems removed and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 T frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
2 T water
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
Remove the pith from the orange, then cut sections from between the membranes and set aside. Halve each fennel bulb lengthwise, then cut crosswise into paper-thin slices. Place in a large serving bowl, combine with the watercress, orange sections, and toasted pecans. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, orange juice concentrate, water, mustard, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until blended and pour the dressing over the salad. Toss to coat evenly and serve immediately

We loved this salad! We didn't cut the fennel very well so the bites were a little awkward, and the dressing was delicious, but a little excessive. When I make it again, I will add more watercress to use the rest of the dressing.

In other news, after working out twice yesterday, we were too worn out to do it today. Tomorrow we plan on starting our second exercise dvd program, called Cardio Max (another Biggest Loser spin-off) in addition to the 30 Day Shred workout. It will be our last day of Level 1, and then we'll be moving on to Level 2 of the Shred program. Wish us luck!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Venturing into Veganism

Today was a good day! After waking up, we had a healthy breakfast of yogurt (sadly, none of the high-fat stuff I have previously advocated) and blackberries, plus a glass of V8 and our handful of vitamins. After a trip to the dog park, we did our fifth 30 Day Shred workout and noticed increased endurance from our first day. While some of the strength moves are still very difficult, the cardio sections barely make us break a sweat and the abs exercises feel productive but not excruciating. Since we didn't work out yesterday (our shopping trip brought us home by 11 PM and we were exhausted), after I got home from work tonight, we did the workout again. It was definitely challenging to do the workout twice in one day, but still doable. I have already been able to consistently increase the number of push-ups I can do with every workout.

After our second session, I made a dinner of Pseudo Caesar Salad from the book Vegan Planet, by Robin Robertson. It was delicious, tasting like Caesar salad without the high-calorie dressing and it was devoid of animal products. I've included the recipe and a picture below, in case you'd like to try it out. With a little help from my mom and some Internet research, I was able to find miso paste at Fairway Market and the recipe came off without a hitch. All would have gone well today, except for the sad, sad fact that I work at a bakery that is famous for their huge, delicious cookies. Between my snacking at work, and the cookie I brought home for Alix, it was our one big slip-up. But improvement is the name of the game - not to mention, thank God I only work at Levain two days a week. We're still not feeling any weight-loss, which is frustrating, but we are feeling stronger from the workouts. I guess we'll have to give the weight more time to come off since we've just recently started eating throughout the day (normal people do that, right?).

Anyway, here's the recipe for the delicious salad. Any encouragement, advice, and support is greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading!

Pseudo Caesar Salad
Croutons (or French bread with crusts removed, cut into 1-inch cubes and toasted at 325 for 25 minutes)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T tahini paste
1 T mellow white miso paste (I used "mild" paste because I decided "mild" was more important than "white" and there wasn't an option for both)
2 T lemon juice
1 tsp tamari or other soy sauce
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce (optional)
1/3 c olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head romaine lettuce

In a food processor, combine the garlic, tahini, miso, lemon juice, tamari, Worcestshire, and olive oil until blended. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Wash and tear the romaine, then toss with the croutons and dressing. Serve immediately.

Good Eats (Healthy = Expensive)

The above equation isn't exactly a groundbreaking conclusion, but it is one that we were reminded of anew tonight during our grocery shopping expedition. This was an epic week for shopping, mostly because we're revamping our diet but also because we're still restocking our pantry after the move to the new apartment. We discovered tonight that our local grocery store (Fairway Market) is open until 1 AM, which is amazing because due to my work schedule, we cannot go shopping when normal people do, around 6:00 or 7:00 PM. In addition, Alix's and my anxiety goes into hyper-drive if we are forced to grocery shop in a store packed with angry, bitchy, self-entitled New Yorkers so shopping at 10 PM like we did tonight was perfect. Our second amazing discovery is that Fairway Market, which is huge already, has a second floor full of organic food!! We thought that leaving the land of Whole Foods would mean the end of our ability to purchase organic, but not so. Fairway is overwhelming and large, but navigable when we are some of the only customers, and the staff is reasonably helpful. The only item on our huge shopping list that we couldn't find was white miso paste, probably because we had no idea where to look for it or what it even resembled (it is for a recipe from my cookbook, Vegan Planet). Maybe we'll try another store?

Look how long our receipt is!
We spent $159.17 total, with no meat products on the list. The most expensive thing we bought was a bag of pecans for $9.23, the second in line was almond butter for $6.99, and third was a wedge of cheese for $6.70. The least expensive item was a navel orange for $0.89 , followed closely by individual grapefruits ($0.95 each) and bottles of seltzer ($0.99 each).

Our planned dishes for the week include lasagna, the pecan fennel watercress salad previously mentioned, a vegan Caesar salad, roasted brussel sprouts, pierogies with sauteed apples and onions, pappardelle with spiced butter, and leftover cabbage rolls (I hope to post pictures of all our meals this week for your mouthwatering enjoyment). Since I'm becoming more committed to packing food for my long work days, we bought essentials like grapefruits, berries, apples, the makings of almond or peanut butter sandwiches, celery, yogurt, and cottage cheese. Alix and I agree that eating much more frequently throughout the idea makes us feel weird and whale-like, but the reality is that it's more healthy to eat like this than it is to wait until 8 PM to eat anything, and then eat everything in the house. We're adjusting. Hopefully all this work, plus the workouts, will have some results. Not sure if this is related, but my belt was one notch tighter this morning than it's ever been. Small victories!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Third Time's the Charm

Today marks our third day of 30 Day Shred. For those of you counting, technically this is the fourth day since we started, but we didn't work out yesterday due to television obligations. As a side note, Alix and I watch very little tv but we are committed to two shows - Biggest Loser and 16 and Pregnant (or Teen Mom, whichever season is currently showing). Unfortunately, both are on Tuesday nights which equates to an epic three hours of tv since Biggest Loser is on from 8-10 and 16 and Pregnant is on 10-11. Sometimes we miss Biggest Loser depending on how late I get home from work, and it's undeniable that I am extra tired on Wednesday mornings from staying up so late, but I feel fine partaking of this small weekly pleasure. Anyway, I digress. Tonight was workout number three for us and it was surprisingly easy. I can't believe how much easier it has gotten since the first day! There is one strength move that still kills us: static side lunges with arm raises...with five pound hand weights. Ideally, we would own two sets of weights each, one of 3's and one of 5's, but I'm not really willing to shell out the extra cash and energy to go buy them. Besides, my goal is to work up to the static side lunges being easy-peasy with 10 pounds of added weight. So the plan from here on out is:

1. Don't eat dinner before working out. Tonight involved some serious cramping due to the tuna sandwich and tomato soup dinner that preceded it (Mama, you were absolutely right, I should not have eaten dinner first.)
2. Plan meals better during the day. For me, since I work 14 hour days, I need to pack essentially every meal in order to prevent an epic gorge once I get home. Tomorrow's planned meals are grapefruit, baby carrots with peanut butter, and PB&J. Then, come home, work out and eat dinner. Tomorrow's dinner will be pasta with homemade pesto and crumbled goat cheese feta with sliced tomatoes on the side.
3. Drink more water, pre- and post-workout.
4. Stop weighing ourselves obsessively and only do it once a week. Weight fluctuations are normal and may or may not reflect the work we are putting in.
5. Try out some new recipes from our healthier cookbooks. How does fennel, pecan, and watercress salad with orange vinaigrette sound?
Aiz not chewing...Aiz growing muscles.
6. Grocery shop with discipline! This means buying what we need for our planned meals, healthy snacks, calorie-free or low-calorie drinks and THAT'S IT. No more impulse purchases of challah, Nutella, or whatever else it is we chow on that is now off the meal plan.
7. Keep Puffkin (aka, Rupert) away from the hand weights. Apparently, they look like delicious chew toys.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Shred It, cont'd

So, Alix and I bought the hand weights that you're supposed to use with our new workout dvd today and it turns out - brace yourselves - that it's a lot harder with them than without them. We debated between buying 5's or 8's and dear-God-thank-you we bought the 5's. We did Phase 1 of the workout series again tonight and boy, was it hard. Second day workouts are always worse, because you're sore from the day before. Add in the additional ten pounds for every strength move, and we got one tough butt-kicking. We're recovering on the couch with the window wide open, sweaty hair hanging in our faces, and I'm not kidding when I say that it's actually hurting my arms to type. I knew it had been a while since my rowing days as a college athlete (and even longer since Alix's softball days), but I am more out of shape than I realized. We steeled ourselves for the ultimate test: before and after pictures. I desperately don't want to take the before pictures, but I know that if I do it will only motivate me more to finish the plan and be proud of the after pictures. We learned that side pictures are generally more flattering than front pictures.

Further adjustments to our health plan: we are keeping a food diary, and we are going vegetarian for the month (after tonight, because tonight's pre-planned dinner was cabbage rolls). How about you, readers? Anyone ever successfully put into place a weight-loss slash get-fit plan? How did it go? Any words of advice for us as we begin our journey?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Shred It

At long last, the workout/healthy body part of this life plan is being put into effect. After a serious delay due to a scary surprise health problem and a relocation to save our finances, Alix and I were finally ready to start our proposed plan: 30 Day Shred by Jillian Michaels. For those not addicted to the hit tv show The Biggest Loser, Jillian Michaels is a hard-core, nut-crushing, smoking hot trainer who whips 400 pound people into shape who then made millions of dollars by making dvd's that whip normally flabby people into shape. The workout dvd we now own and started today promises a weight-loss of up to 20 pounds in 30 days. However, we both know that this is marketing at its most improbable and is also not desirable - neither Alix nor I need to lose 20 pounds. So we're determined to actually do the damn thing for 30 days and see where we wind up. Each workout is only 20 minutes and there are three levels. We predict that we'll do Level 1 for a week, Level 2 for a week, and Level 3 for the last two weeks (we're ambitious, competitive, and driven when put to the test but lazy, sloppy, and inert when not). The pressure is on. If I can have abs like Jillian Michaels after 30 days, while also managing to show off some cleavage in a sports bra, then I will be one happy camper. (Can this workout dvd actually give me cleavage too? Because that would be cool.) Additional sources of exercise in our lives include carrying our 32 pound dog up and down 3 flights of stairs every time he needs to use the facilities (yay for a 4th floor walk-up apartment). In my case, I've also taken to carrying my smallest - but rapidly growing - buddy around in a sling instead of putting him in his stroller, which he hates. Monkey loves being hoisted around by his ever-buffer nanny, especially when it's in his cozy little sling nestled up against me. Did I mention he's 20 pounds? Something about this body of mine better be changing with all this effort! Now if I could only stop snacking on cookies while I work at the bakery...but hey, nobody's perfect, right?
Thirty days to look like this? I'll do whatever it takes.