Wednesday, April 10, 2013
I've been gardening, and gardening, and gardening. It's been a learning experience and a good workout. My motto must be, why plant something once when you can plant it three or more times.
Iím working on my biggest yard ever and starting from scratch or something beyond. There are existing beds and messes that I need to clean up. After my success with pavers and a small retaining wall and plantings in the back yard (blogged about that last month), I decided to work on the front yard.
Without any idea of a game plan, I started work on the three front beds: in front of the porch, right side of the yard along the fence and the space between the walkway and fence on the left side.
Round one: The initial clean up --weeding and mulching--before putting out Christmas decorations. In the bed along the walkway, you can see the carcasses of the dead and already shorn bushes that I cut down to ground level.
Round two: I purchased some evergreen shrubs on sale to give the beds some structure. (Perennials will have to come later: too many projects in the mix and not a lot of money to spend.) Everything was very even, balanced and respectable.
And a bit boring. There was no ďwowĒ effect. The plants were small. (Small equals cheap in your basic shrub world, Iím learning.) Iíd hang out in the front yard and feel a bit dissatisfied.
So I went back to the hardware store and another garden center and found some great deals: $4 azaleas, a $20 fir-type tree that will only grow 8-10 feet and only requires 36 inches of room and never needs trimming/shaping, some nandina domestica, etc. I also got some wood, a few stones, some cheap cement pavers to put under the stone (so it looks more substantial without paying a lot more money for stones), buildersí sand, pond pebbles, etc.
I spent a lot of time leveling and digging and measuring and learning that good screws are important. (Decking screws are awesome.) The tree, once it grows, will balance out the porch and entryway. The nandina and bear grass, repeated in each bed, will balance out each other. The nandina will have red berries in the winter. The bear grass is trimmed for the winter and hasnít seen new growth yet. Should see some sprouts this week. The azaleas have white blossoms. Thereís white heather, lavender and two types of rosemary. I repeated the same lines with the wood border, the brick (salvaged) mowing edge and the rocks.
Where the flower pot is now, I plan to put a small bench. In fact, I want to make it out of twigs or sticks that Iíve collected.
Itís still not ďwowĒ. Everything needs to grow! But it should look nice.
Thereís still a bit to do and some tweaking. Iíd love to paint the porch, especially the water meter, but the owner mentioned he will do that. I do want to finish the mowing edge, work on the grass and install the solar path lighting.
Iím still undecided about the highest level in the bed to the right. With the tree so small, it looks oversized. Once the tree grows to its mature height, then it will be balanced. Iím giving it a little while to ďgrowĒ on me, but I may just saw off that top layer and use the wood elsewhere. I have more projects in the back yard and any scraps of wood would come in handy! What are your thoughts?
Here's a parting shot of the potted herb garden in the back (my project just this past Sunday).
*Edited immediately after posting to fix picturs, which showed up teenie tiny.*
Saturday, April 06, 2013
When I woke up on April 3rd, two full months using SparkPeople to keep me on track were officially behind me, and I was starting month three -- without hitting the snooze button.
I learned a surprising thing about myself along the way. I'm goal and reward oriented. I really want that "gold star" for the day, and I am really looking forward to some darn good rewards for good performance. So much so, that this week I've even started grading my performance at work. Five points for each morning and afternoon, fifty for the week. Any score above 45 for the week earns me a small treat, like a craft or gardening magazine -- something inexpensive but enjoyable. And perhaps maybe I should include chores in the mix? Getting a tulip bulb for every toilet cleaning gives a bit more to look forward to than simply cleaning the toilet again. And again.
My whole life will soon be structured around goals and rewards. I'll be very healthy, productive and broke. I'm 38 years old, overall a productive member of society, and fairly self aware -- at least not utterly clueless -- how did I not know this about myself before now?
So, two months and I'm feeling very good. My body is very happy with me and it's letting me know in lots of little ways, many of which I've remarked on before. Even when I caught a cold and should have been miserable, it tried to go easy on me and I felt great while sneezing and coughing. It's gratitude, I think.
For the stats, my wholly unreliable scale shows a loss of around about 24 pounds for the first two months. I completely expect that the rate of loss will slow. I hope so, anyway, it's kind of unhealthy to lose weight quickly. Most of my weight appears to be lost in my extremities: face, neck, hands, wrists, feet, and ankles. Add that part of the abdomon beneath the breasts and above the gut, too. (Basically, everywhere SP didn't tell you to measure.) Even so, 3.5 inches is off my waist, 3 off my hips, 2 off my right thigh, 1.25 off my left upper arm and a whopping 0.5 off my right calf. I'm right handed in case you were wondering.
ACCOUNTABILITY (IN DETAIL AND ABRIDGED)
Tracking: I was right in range for my calories 42/56 days; high 8/56; low 4/56 and didn't track 2/56 days (wrote accountability blogs each time). I try to be as precise as possible with my tracking, but really not worried about hitting the calories goal. As long as it's close the majority of the time, I'm happy.
Wheat-free: Achieved 56/56 days. (One more month until my first reward!)
Corn-free: Achieved 56/56 days. Even limiting my processed foods, the occassional corn derivative may have slipped in and likely has at least twice. But I didn't intentionally eat corn. I swear it's harder to avoid corn than wheat, and that's saying a lot.
Dairy-free (cow milk): Achieved 2/2 days. Weaned myself off cow milk products in March. Only get to count two days in April, so it's kind of easy to get 100%.
8 Glasses of Water: Achieved 35/38 days that I've been tracking this separately.
7,500+ Steps: My pedometers have broken, going to order another. I'll resume this goal once I have a means to track it.
Walking the Dog 1x per Day: Achieved this goal 41/43 days that I've been tracking this.
Extra Movement (Additional Dog Walking or 10-15 Minutes of Exercise): Achieved 31/35 days that I've been tracking this. Still getting this goal by walking the dog again.
Strength Training: Nothing formal. Spent four weekends gardening. Have you lifted a 60lb bag of sand?40lb bag of soil? Brick after brick? I think it counts.
Waking Up without Hitting the Snooze Button: Achieved 36/36 days! Grrr
Friday, March 22, 2013
Who goes through two pedometers within six weeks!? Wonky readings, messed up number displays, resetting at random. I can't figure out what I'm doing wrong with them, except perhaps purchasing such cheap gadgets to begin with. They were cheap.
Looks like I need to get a Fitbit or at least invest in a reliable pedometer. I've checked the message boards and there are a bunch of recommendations. If anyone wants to share their experience with various brands, please do.
Until it's actually ordered and on me, I'll just have to be more diligent in my Fitness Tracker to record my walking and make notes of non-exercise walking. Walking is an indicator of activity levels for me. If my activity levels drop several days in a row, it may mean that I'm going into hibernation mode. If that happens, then I need to take steps (no pun intended, ok, maybe so) to snap myself out of it.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Hereís a quick accountability summary of my first six weeks on SparkPeople. In general, Iím still feeling fine. Although the initial excitement and ďrah-rahĒ has waned a bit, my motivation is at a comfortable level and has become consistent. It is just the way life is.
Energy levels have been a little low recently, but coming around back to normal. I had started to get up an hour earlier just prior to the time change, so now with the clocks turned back itís as though I wake up two hours earlier. I am not and have never been a morning person. So that messed with some of my energy levels starting that Monday right after the time change. My body is now starting to get used to the difference and my energy levels are responding in kind.
All the good improvements from my last two summary blogs are continuing. People are noticing a difference, though they canít pinpoint whatís new. I just appear in better health, and I am. The puffiness is gone. My face, neck, hands, feet and upper stomach area (immediately below my bra) have slimmed down the most. Iíve lost about 18 pounds in six weeks. I say ďaboutĒ because my scale is a little wacky. It vacillates between 10 pounds and 25 pounds lost in one weighing, but consistently settles down at the 18 pound mark. Iím ok with a general knowledge that my body is appreciating my efforts.
Measurement time comes up again in two weeks, but my pants that were tight are looking a bit frumpy now. I have to be careful putting a pack of cigarettes in my waistband. Before SP, the pack was in danger of popping out the top if I breathed too deeply. Now, itís in danger of slipping through and falling out my trouser leg. How embarrassing would that be?
ACCOUNTABILITY (IN DETAIL)
Tracking: Consistent. Missed 2 out of 43 days using the tracking tool; however, I did write accountability blogs each time. Calories stay pretty much in range. I may go over one day and under another. Nutrients remain pretty consistent: around 45-60g fat, between 80-100g carbs, and between 80-100g protein. Over the last six weeks, my cholesterol spiked every time I had hardboiled eggs and my sodium spiked the last couple of days. For the sodium, I made turkey sausage and was eating that and also having Whole Foods hummus. I knew the sausage was sodium-laden, but I didnít realize the hummus was so very high in sodium.
Wheat-free: 100% achievement of this goal. Met it 43 out of 43 days.
Corn-free: Consistently good. Minor amounts of corn derivatives may creep into my foods, but nothing at levels that concern me. I've learned that I get nauseous if I have any, so that's a good indicator. Iím avoiding as much as possible foods that may contain those items.
Dairy-free: Still weaning myself off dairy this month. Iím relying on coconut, goat and sheepís milks; but I still have cowís milk kefir and the occasional cowís milk cheese. I have until the end of this month (2 more weeks) to wean it out completely.
8 Glasses of Water: Missed the mark 10 out of 43 days, most of the time by only one or two glasses. Many times, Iíve been over the 8-glasses mark. Need to continue improving my consistency here.
7500+ Steps: Iíve missed the mark 10 out of 25 days that Iíve been tracking this. Sometimes by not that much. Usually on the days I garden and the Mondays following.
Walking the Dog, 1x per Day: Missed 2 out of 30 days that Iíve been tracking this.
Extra Movement (Additional Dog Walking or 10-15 Minutes of Exercise): Missed 3 out of 22 days that Iíve been tracking this. When achieved, it is done by giving the dog a second walk. Iíd like to start incorporating more exercise vs. walking. But not too pressed with this. Keeping my activity levels up and nurturing good habits are more important to me than the gym at this time.
Strength Training: I've not done this at all formally. However, I did garden two weekends in a row. Hours and hours of strength training! Will be mindful to work this into my schedule.
Waking Up without Hitting the Snooze Button: 100% achievement of this goal.
Spoke with a co-worker and a friend about SparkPeople. In addition, most everyone I'm in semi-daily contact with knows that Iím off the wheat for good.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
I didnít track on Sunday because I wasnít sure of the amounts or the ingredients in the food that I ate. Using the tracker would have been a mess, and so I decided to take a blank for the day and write this accountability blog instead.
The day started around 7am with the usual coffee with coconut milk and a quick shot of kefir. I took the dog for a walk, returned the rented saw to the hardware store, and then began gardening around 9am. Around 11am, I had some sheepís milk yogurt with berries and almonds. Then back to gardening until around 3:30pm.
I was ravenous, especially after two days of hard work in the yard; but we were late for a party. I jumped in the shower and we rushed off.
At the first party, I had a small-medium portion of corned beef, lots of cabbage, half of a small potato, and a small Greek-ish salad with about 1 tbsp of homemade oil and vinegar dressing. Later, I drank two glasses of wine (approximate 5 ounces each) and ate some Irish cheddar cheese. Perhaps around 2 ounces of the cheese, not sure. They were cut into small, thin, odd-sized shapes, which made it hard to guess.
Several hours later at the second party, I was hungry again and had to sample the hostís cooking. So I ate a medium portion of corned beef and a medium portion of pulled pork cooked with apple and ginger. (A new recipe they prepared, very good. The ginger makes it tangy/spicy.) I also ate just a wee taste of cabbage and potato.
Then I discovered the green, minty M&Ms. I confess to having eaten quite a few. I told myself it was a trade-off. I could have M&Ms or more wine. I chose the M&Ms. I have a weakness for mint.
After all that, I was so tired when we got home that I went straight to bed without walking the dog again. Actually, changing into my pajamas before bed turned out to be an accomplishment. That is something I did not manage to do on Monday night when I fell asleep in my jeans and sweateróunder the covers, in bed.
So thereís my accountability blog.
By the way, here are a few unexpected results of the labor-intensive gardening that Iíve done the last couple of weekends. It stirs up my appetite, I get fewer steps on the days I garden, and Monday is very difficult. Iím actually tired a couple of days afterwards. Mondays after, though, are the worst: I donít get my steps and itís much harder to avoid wheat.
The time change has also messed with my sleep patterns and energy levels. So that may be another cause of my recent low energy and sleepiness. Other than that, I still feel fine. Iím moving a lot and eating well with few exceptions. And donít ask me to give up those exceptions, either!
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