Monday, February 25, 2013
As I mentioned in previous blogs, I ate fast food for a couple of weeks while we were preparing to move. My skin, hair and nails seem to be so much healthier since I've gone back to eating my homemade food. Tonight I had a grilled flank steak, rice, and salad for dinner.
I haven't been getting regular workouts. Not on a treadmill or elliptical, anyway. However, carrying boxes down 3 flights of stairs during the move was definitely cardio + strength training. Since we've moved, I've been taking care of most of the household stuff because DH is working so much. Unpacking where I can, and trying to clean up the yard. I raked the backyard yesterday, which seemed to be full of leaves from the fall. Ugh. Did you know that raking the lawn works the triceps muscle? It's true, so says my sore triceps. All this raking may very well help me complete my pull up goal! No, I haven't forgotten about it. Have you?
The neighborhood where we moved has a very nice cycle and walk path, which we haven't had a chance to explore yet. We've been so busy, but the weather has also been crap. When I first started my weight loss journey years ago, I rode my bike for a hour every day after work. I'm so looking forward to resuming that. My bike needs a little tune-up before it's road ready. I need to do that soon because spring is right around the corner. I'd rather be biking on the road then working out in a gym, but gyms do have their advantages - no bugs! I'll have to stock up on bug spray before the summer.
Couple of pictures of life in our new house, coming up.
I am planning on doing a little gardening in a few weeks. Mostly just planter vegetables to start. I'd really like to build a custom raised bed garden, but I've had no time to plan it out. This past weekend I quickly put some flowers in a pot, though, just so the patio doesn't look so empty.
The cats are settling in. They are loving the sunny windows! It's fun to watch them explore the rooms. Even with all the space where they can go, they want to be where ever we are. Especially Shadow, who wants to be inside any box that I happen to be trying to unpack. Maybe I would already be done with unpacking if I wasn't shooing her away every time I open a box!
This afternoon a couple of birds surprised me by taking refuge from the rain under our covered doorway.
Things haven't settled down to the point where things are routine, but they are getting there. I'm looking forward to March, and hope it will be more relaxed than February.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Some people believe in a higher power that influences our lives. Some believe in karma. Some believe in random chance. I'm not sure what I believe some days, but I think things happen they way there are supposed to. I haven't always made the best choices in life, but all the ups and downs fell into place. If my life hadn't fallen apart at one point, I never would have moved to Seattle. If I hadn't moved to Seattle, I wouldn't have met my husband. If he hadn't lost his job, we wouldn't have moved to Savannah. If we didn't move to Savannah, we wouldn't have the house we do now.
How we found the house is even more boggling. When we decided to start house shopping, we drove through neighborhoods to see what was available. In one subdistrict, my husband spotted a house on a hill and said, "If I could choose any on this block, I'd pick that one. But there's no way it will go for sale." We looked at 5 or 6 houses with realtors, then narrowed our choices down to our top two. We were getting ready to make a bid on one, then something inexplicable happened. The house my husband spotted as the one he'd most want went up for sale. To be honest, I wasn't as keen on it as my husband, but we decided to set up an appointment to take a look.
We took a walk inside, and it was 'the one'. It had a lot of the features of other houses we liked, but it was all combined into one. We put a bid on it the same day it first went on sale. I got to learn about offers, counteroffers, loans, appraisers, and all the other fun stuff that goes with buying a house. We eventually came to an agreement on the offer, and we were on our way to home ownership.
We met the owners at the closing, and discovered the strangest twist to this whole saga. My husband is British from a very small town near Birmingham. When people ask where he is from, he usually just says Birmingham because few people would recognize his hometown. When we met the owners, though, the conversation went something like this:
Mr. Owner: "Hi, I'm P."
Husband: "Hello, I'm D." (Hand shaking goes on.)
Mr. Owner: "I detect a bit of an accent there. Are you from the UK?"
Husband: "Yes, I'm originally from Birmingham."
Mr. Owner: "I am from the UK, too, not too far from Birmingham. From Dudley."
Me (extremely surprised and blurt out): "Actually, D is also from Dudley! He just usually says Birmingham because that's most recognizable!"
Everyone in the room had dropped jaws. It was a stunning revelation. It might be a small world, but this was just the weirdest of coincidences. Everything seemed to line up as though we were supposed to have this.
When the cats moved in, the reaction was mixed. The black cat was scared and tried to hide. I think she was afraid that we were going to drop her off and disappear on vacation, like we usually did after a car ride. The fluffy one instantly loved it and purred from room to room. After we started moving stuff in, the black cat seemed to realize, "Oh...we're all staying! Ok, this sunny spot is mine. Purr, purr!" It's been a love affair with the windows ever since.
We're still getting acquainted with our new home. Today we made our first home improvement, which was replacing incandescent bulbs with high efficiency CFCs and LEDs. The kitchen is my favorite room in the house. As I'm chopping vegetables, I think to myself, "Wow! I can't believe this is my kitchen!"
Some of you asked for photos. Here is one of the realtor's photos:
Hubs and I have both been so busy, we haven't had much time to relax or enjoy it, though. The kitchen and bathroom are the only rooms that are put together - all the others have boxes all over them in various levels of disarray. I don't have my clothes fully put away into drawers. We won't be able to replace furniture for a few months, so we'll continue to eat on our fancy fold up table and patio chairs. I won't be showcased in Martha Stewart Living anytime soon.
We exchanged phone numbers with the previous owners at closing. I hope that we'll meet up with them again - they seemed like nice people, and we had a lot of things in common. I told them they are welcome to come by at any time - they know where we live! I've already met a few of our new neighbors, welcoming us to the neighborhood. For the first time since my husband and I moved here almost 3 years ago, I feel like I'm finally home.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
This move has been a good illustration of how dependent my weight loss maintenance is on a well organized and stocked kitchen. Before we moved, I cooked down 90% of our fridge/freezer and pantry so we would have less to carry. Kitchen cookware was packed away. Without cookware and a supply of food, I relied more heavily on fast food.
I knew going into it this it would be a short term thing, but I didn't like it. Some people use cheat days to eat fast food or junk food, but I don't. I maybe have a Chick-fil-A a couple of times a month, mostly because I like their Diet Lemonade. I honestly like my lifestyle of fresh produce and meats. Several burgers that were overcooked or sat too long under the heater at the franchises reminded me of how much I prefer my own food. Fortunately, I didn't suffer any bouts of food poisoning this time. Eating weeks of fast food bloated me with water retention because of the extraordinary amount of sodium in processed foods and soda.
I finished organizing my new kitchen yesterday. Pots, pans, plates, glasses, knives, and food were all put away into their new homes. Fridge and pantry haven't been fully restocked with my staples, but I put a few things in to make meals. Last night I baked my signature pastry-less breakfast quiche, which I enjoyed this morning. I made a quick cooking beef and broccoli stir fry for dinner. I packed my lunch for today, which consisted of a roast beef sandwich, soup in a thermos, string cheese, and fruit salad. My fruit salad was fresh grapefruit, pears, and apples.
As I sat on a campus bench eating my lunch, I reflected on how much I prefer having time to eat a home prepared meal in the sunshine over the hurried driving with burger wrappers strewn on the passenger seat.
Monday, February 18, 2013
Sorry I have been gone for so long, but the husband and I have bought a new house! Well, it's not "new" new, but it's new to us! I've been so busy juggling school and closing on the house that I haven't had much leisure time to write.
To be totally honest, I've been eating like crap for the past month. To save us time and money with the move, I cooked down almost all of our freezer and refrigerator, which was good. It was fun and interesting to come up with meals with only the things I had on hand - it was like a real life version of "Chopped". But the bad and ugly are my lunches have been mostly food on the go, which meant fast food. Darn it if those hamburger wrappers aren't designed for eating and driving. I hate being so busy that I've had to do this, and I'm really looking forward to things slowing down soon. Which won't be until March because we still have to clean our old apartment, unpack boxes in the new house, and I have end of the month exams.
Fortunately, it seems that my weight hasn't changed much. I'm only guessing because my clothes still fit. I haven't stepped on a scale since earlier in the month. But I really have to get off this fast food rush soon, or I know there will be consequences. There always are.
Despite the craziness with organizing the house closing and the move, I've managed to keep my grades up. I'm really glad that I took a light load this semester. We didn't anticipate buying a house, though we've been looking for a while. The right house popped up at the right price, and we jumped on it! I would have had a really tough time managing my school work plus all the details with the house if I had taken on more. I've taken advantage of opportunities to get work done ahead of time.
After next week, things should start settling down. Spring break will be coming soon, which will give me time to start work on my home gardening. I should also have my kitchen in order to cook healthy meals, instead of burgers in wax paper.
The owners did an almost complete remodel on the house, so there's very little left for us to do. We just had to buy a refrigerator. You all know that I love to cook, and I'm so excited about the new kitchen. It's got granite counter tops, built in stove, and stacking oven and microwave - I almost feel like I'm in a cooking show kitchen! There are a few spacial oddities about it that I probably would have done differently if I were designing it, but overall I'm thrilled about it. I can't wait to start cooking! Right now it's got boxes all over it, so we've been eating supermarket chicken.
I don't have internet hooked up at the house yet, so sorry if I don't get a chance to respond back to your messages right away. Hope you all had a great February!
Friday, February 01, 2013
My husband and I recently got into a disagreement over the price of chicken. Was the $2.29/lb Coleman organic chicken we buy at Costco really better than the $.99/lb conventionally raised chicken? Was there a difference in taste, or were we just buying it for the ethical peace of mind?
My husband said there would be only a minor difference in taste. I asserted that chicken are what they eat, and if they eat better, they should taste better.
Interestingly, around the same time we had this dispute, America's Test Kitchen came out with a list of their favorite roasting chickens. Their recommended was a Bell and Evans air chilled brand. I never heard of this before, but I found it at Whole Foods in Charleston for a whopping $4.49/lb. Yikes!
I bought the cheapest supermarket chicken and the Bell and Evans for my own home taste test. I roasted and prepared them the exact them way, seasoned only with salt, pepper, and butter under the skin. I gave my husband a thigh piece (the most flavorful part) from each chicken and awaited the verdict.
The Bell and Evans chicken tasted like chicken. The $0.99/lb supermarket brand tasted like...well...flavorless chicken.
Reading more in the ATK chicken comparison revealed the reason why. It's not just the feed given to the chicken - which is most certainly a major factor - it also has to do with how the chicken is stored prior to packaging for sale.
The details are straight out of a PETA horror ad. Conventionally raised chicken are thrown into a big holding tank full of water after being de-feathered. This is part of the reason why salmonella contamination is so prevalent in chicken. They are all stewing together in a 'bath'. Being submerged also causes the chicken to become saturated with water, which dilutes the flavor.
Air chilled chicken, on the other hand, are tied and hung individually inside a giant refrigerator. They don't come into contact with each other, and they aren't over-saturated with water. Hence, they retain more chicken flavor.
The Costco Coleman organic chicken we buy isn't air chilled, but it had better flavor than the supermarket chicken. We couldn't tell a big difference between it and the Bell and Evans, so we're sticking with it for our regular shopping. After the taste test, my husband decided the organic chicken was better value after all.
This past holiday season, I found the same to be true with our turkey. My husband and I made an organic turkey for Thanksgiving. It was incredibly flavorful and juicy. The Butterball we had at Christmas tasted mostly of salt and water, and the turkey 'flavor' wasn't as intense.
Experts debate on whether organic is healthier than conventional. They say their nutritional analysis shows no difference. Maybe that is true, but when food tastes better, we are more likely to choose to eat healthy.
As for the ethics, I couldn't hope to broach the topic nearly as well as Michael Pollan's "Omnivore's Dilemma". Knowing about the mistreatment and poor handling of chickens is enough to think twice about whether we should eat it. However, the reason it is a dilemma is because none of our choices come free. If we eat conventional battery raised chicken, we're supporting poor living conditions of animals. If we become vegetarians and eat large quantities of quinoa, the new 'superfood', we're contributing to rising prices of a staple grain for impoverished Peruvians who can no longer afford it. Organic undoubtedly costs more, is difficult to scale, and is inaccessible for millions of low wage Americans. Pollan also points out that the term organic doesn't necessarily mean natural.
The one thing we all have in common is we must eat. We don't have an option not to. If foods are compared to tasting like chicken, which chicken are we referring to? Water saturated and flavorless? Or real chicken, which many of us seem to have forgotten.
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