Organization Spree!

Today I was finally able to go for a run! I went at some point last week, but it has either been too cold/rainy/icy to go since. The last time I went for a run I was INCREDIBLY slow (probably due to not running for like, a week) and even felt sick in the middle. Today I thought everything was going fine until I looked at my watch and it seemed that my pace had dropped precipitously. I then realized that the watch was about .3 miles behind my actual distance, but I figured it wasn’t a big deal and I’d just keep an eye on my watch in the future to see if it keeps messing up. When I got home and uploaded the workout, though, it corrected the distance. Because of it’s error, it added in a space of .3 miles where it said I ran something like 3:00 per mile, which was amusing. Hopefully it goes back to working correctly!

My run today was also interesting because of all the people out gawking at the river. It is slightly flooded right now (hoping we don’t get any rain for awhile so it can go back down) and covered in ice. Because it was sort of sunny and warm (mostly cloudy and 40 degrees) people were actually venturing out into the park and I swear I saw like 5 separate families taking pictures of the river, and most of them were taking pictures with tablets, which gave me great amusement. To be fair, I did take a picture of the river yesterday when we had super thick fog and it was really really creepy.

The dark thing in the mist is an island in the middle of the river. Keep in mind that island is close enough that Google Maps used to think I lived on it.

I also got to see a local stray cat that hangs around. There are three main cats, and this is the friendly one. He typically hangs out at a neighbor’s across the street but they must have been ignoring him today, because he followed me for a whole block and then when I got to my porch was like jumping all over me and meowing until Kris brought him (or her, I guess) out some food. Belle was apparently super jealous while I was standing out there with the cat and kept pushing the window blinds open to watch us. Then she wouldn’t stop sniffing me when I came in!

Observe my beautiful and well-matched running outfit.


Kris and I have actually spent most of the weekend re-organizing the house now that I am home for a lengthy time period. I think organizing/buying the new things that organizing entails helps us to deal with stress, too, which is another reason we are doing it. We have a lot of plans for what to do over the next couple of weeks/months:

  • Move my sewing stuff out of the living room in order to set up a bike storage area.
  • Get some sort of cabinet for the dining room to store extra kitchen stuff in.
  • Clean up our gross basement that never really recovered from the last flood so that we can store more things down there and perhaps put in a small gym/Warhammer play area.
  • Clean up the guest room so that it can be a Warhammer crafting/sewing area in addition to being a guest room.
  • Set up the office so that both Kris and I can fit in there.

This weekend we decided to tackle setting up the office. We started by moving all of the Warhammer and sewing stuff into the guest room, which is now a disaster zone and will probably have to be the next project. We then took the large desk that was in the office out to move to the basement for storage so that we could move in the desk I had been using for sewing, a filing cabinet that had been in the sewing area, and a new small desk that we bought. With a little bit of rearranging – and a lot of throwing away random old papers we had been keeping since 2007 or so – we were able to fit everything in.

“Before” (technically from the day we moved in, so it was WAY messier today):

After:

My area. This is to the right of the doorway . You cannot see this area in the before photo, the white bookshelf in the corner of this photo was where the desk was, and the big desk extended all the way to where the bookshelf is now or even past that point.

Where the old desk used to be. The taller bookshelf was moved from where Kris’s desk is now. He is using the filing cabinet as an ottoman.

Kris’s desk area as seen from mine. I am glad we were able to set up dual workspaces in such a tiny room! In the before photo, this area is to the left of the door and was where the taller bookshelf was.

The only thing that doesn’t really fit: Belle’s bed (it used to lay under the large desk). She only used it when she was scared, anyway. To give you an idea of how little she uses this particular bed, it was her first bed we ever bought her. She has gone through like 5 other beds in various parts of the house, and this one is still in near-perfect condition.

We also got a bit of a headstart on the basement – while looking for a cheapo desk for me, we found some plastic shelving units for the basement, and with that and the old desk, we were able to clean up the stuff were were storing in the basement quite a bit, giving us room to move around and clean so we can put in a full-size Warhammer play table. That will be a lengthy project, though, as the old tenant left a bunch of crap here and all of it was covered in floodwater and therefore needs to be disposed of. Some of this is really frustrating – my parents are going to give us some old weights, but they have no weight bench. There is a weight bench in the basement, but the floodwaters ruined it. This means I will have to throw it away and buy a new one. There are also two road bikes down there that are in terrible condition. I am hoping that if we wash them down we can perhaps selvage the frames, but I am afraid they will be rusted or ruined in some other way (they are so dirty/muddy I cannot tell). 

Speaking of throwing things away – re-organizing really shows me how wasteful we can be, even though we try very hard not to make needless purchases. We have so much stuff to take to Goodwill and throw away that it might take multiple weeks! If it was summer, I’d say we have nearly enough for a yard sale! Things we are giving away include a men’s leather coat (received secondhand; Kris didn’t like it); a waffle iron (purchased at a yard sale); and about 4 cups that match each other but nothing else (the others broke). In short, all nice things that people might actually want. We also have a bunch of Christmas decor we could probably get rid of – we have no less than three artificial trees (I’m allergic to pine), two of which are too small and one that is worn and needs replaced. I feel less bad about the garbage – things like Belle’s crate that she destroyed and old clothes with holes that are not worth repairing. It’s just frustrating because I feel like we must be doing something wrong to accumulate so much crap. 

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Birthday Weekend Adventures

Kris turned 28 yesterday! For his birthday, he got freezing cold weather! Well, he actually got a board game (from me) and money for Warhammer (from everyone else) but I will blame him for the freezing cold weather, anyway.

Look, I know it is winter but it is particularly bad out there. On Thursday night, we had a “bad” snowstorm – just 3 inches, but when your city has approximately zero snow plows that is a problem. Friday morning everything was still covered in snow (due to the lack of plows) so state employees like my husband got a 2 hour delay for work. I’m serious about the no plow thing, by the way. NONE of the streets have been plowed yet. Not even the Penn Dot building was cleared of snow!

So how cold was it? It was also so cold that Belle would barely go outside. She is a wimp in the winter but yesterday she could hardly stand 30 seconds in the backyard without needing to come inside and warm up in a blanket (we were finally able to take a real walk today). Furthermore, while I was walking downtown (had to go deal with the lovely bureaucrats at SSA because I couldn’t find my card) I saw a man in a full-on snowsuit, a big furry hat, waterproof boots and ice spike things walking around and felt like that much gear was probably appropriate. The worst part was that Kris’s car was in the garage (it was misfiring, but everyone is clueless as to what is wrong with it) and we had to walk there to get his car in the cold! Or maybe the worst part is that I can’t run because not only is it snowy but the air is also like 5 degrees. It has warmed up a little but this morning it was still so cold that I couldn’t get the ice out of the wheel wells of my car and it was crunching around in there for quite awhile until it warmed up enough for me to kick it out of there. Yuck!

Despite the unplowed roads, cold weather, the lost social security card, and the mysterious car problems, I think Kris is managing to have a half-decent birthday weekend. I was able to test out my new Kitchenaid making him a cake. For dinner I made a veggie lasagna, then we spent the evening drinking wine and watching Battlestar Galactica. A few notes on the lasagna recipe: I substituted more carrots for the onions; used fresh instead of frozen spinach (so I cooked it with the other veg); and I ran out of eggs so our ricotta was all alone. It still tasted fine.

Preparing to make the cake. Red velvet with cream cheese frosting! Yes, I used a box :/

In the mixer!

Blurry photo of veggie lasagna and garlic bread.

I am happy to report that the Kitchenaid works beautifully. I am excited to use it for many more things in the future! You may notice that there are no FINISHED pictures of the cake, by the way. This is because, as usual, I messed up the cake. No, seriously, I mess it up almost every year. The first year that Kris and I were together my mom and I dropped the whole damn thing on the floor; the first year Kris and I lived in Harrisburg, I burnt it to a crisp – to be fair, it was our first week in the place and I hadn’t used the oven yet (we moved here the day after Christmas in 2009). This year I was icing the cake and JUST when I was doing some finishing touches the icing pulled up in one spot and got red crumbs all over the place. Then, I put the lid on the pan, thinking it was high enough, but it wasn’t, so all the icing stuck to the lid. Oops. It doesn’t even taste that great – the edges were kind of dry. My lack of cake skills is baffling, considering I’m typically a pretty good baker – I can make difficult things like pie crust and sugar cookies with ease, for goodness sake! Ironically, my mother, who is not usually as good at baking as I am (she just doesn’t cook or bake very much – my dad cooked and I baked) is wonderful and making and decorating cakes. Oh well.

Today I am just hanging out here, doing some home workouts, messing around on the internet, and pretending that I am going to finally finish cleaning up the Christmas decorations (at least most are in a bin now) because Kris went to a Warhammer tournament and Belle and I had the place to ourselves all day. Tomorrow might be more exciting – after FOUR years of living in Harrisburg, I think we are finally going to get to go to a day of the farm show (it’s an indoor state fair)! I read there would be a bunny hopping contest tomorrow and now I MUST go. Hopefully I will have a happy report on this occasion tomorrow.

 

Christmas: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I really meant to have a post about Christmas earlier (like, on Christmas day), but let’s just start by saying that my Christmas this year was um… interesting. I basically felt like doing nothing for about 2 days afterwards and just really started being productive yesterday. I think at some point in there I cleaned my kitchen? I did try to take down the decorations, but they just sort of laid under my coffee table for awhile (most are properly put away now!).

Let’s start with the really bad new first, so that the post gets happier as it moves on: on Christmas day, right before we were going to eat lunch, my husband had a completely random seizure. He has had some medical issues in the past that can cause seizures, but he has never had one before so we really weren’t expecting it and so it was terrifying and confusing at the time. Luckily he is already a patient at a great neuro practice nearby so I am hopeful that they will be able to figure out what is going on.

In general, he is fine – he left the hospital after only 2 hours with a diagnosis of a sinus infection – but the whole incident has really thrown a wrench in all of our plans. In Pennsylvania, if you have a seizure, you cannot drive for 6 months, meaning that I have to shift my plans to finish up my PhD out in Indiana a bit so that I can stay here with him. I’m still trying to figure some details out but things are starting to fall into place and get back to normal. I must say I am surprised at how weird it is to have to drive him around – the first 3 years of our relationship he did not have a license so I thought it would be like riding a bicycle! Then again, this is me, and my return to bicycling was clumsy, so I am fairly certain I am going to forget to pick him up from work at least once. Sorry honey.

I was also surprised at how hard this incident hit me in terms of my weight loss maintenance. Typically, structure helps me to deal with stressful situations and I loosen up on my diet when trying to relax. For example, I somehow managed to stick with calorie counting pretty closely during Kris’s previous medical adventures, while taking exams that would determine whether I earned my master’s degree or not, and even at funerals!

I don’t think I’ve actually gained any significant weight, but this Christmas was the most off-track I have ever been. It started when it was snowy in the days leading up to Christmas – I was really down on myself about not being able to run and having trouble eating the low amount of calories that resting/doing super boring home workouts permits. I then decided that I would let up on calorie counting at my parents’ for Christmas because I was already slipping and it would be difficult to do there and I could get right back on track when I got home. I think I wasn’t TOO bad about what I ate there in general but to me not having the exact amount of calories quantified always makes me feel like I’m probably eating enough to gain 10 lbs a day.

Then, I went home on Christmas day completely stressed out and accompanied by 2 gallon bags full of homemade chex mix and no less than 4 dozen Christmas cookies.  Once again, reflecting on what I’ve eaten today in comparison to the days I wasn’t counting here shows me it wasn’t THAT bad, and I have been sticking with running the whole time, but I still felt miserable and off. I think part of it is that there are additional personal worries for me compared to past problems – I was really looking forward to the class I was going to teach, and this would have been my last semester with not only many of my friends I have made at school, but also with my roommate/best friend and her dog. I’m starting to calm down about all of that, though, which is helping.

The silver lining to all of this is that I have been reminded of what wonderful family, friends, and mentors I have. Everyone around me has been 100% supportive and helpful. It was especially nice to be reminded that my family is always there for me. Last time Kris had medical problems and I had to take time off from school they eventually came around but initially were far less understanding and supportive. I am also glad that I get to spend some extra time with Kris and Belle, who I would otherwise be missing terribly pretty soon (though I will probably have to spend a different period of time away from them instead). I have really had a lot of time to think about my priorities, and while spending time with them has always been high on the theoretical list, it certainly has renewed importance.


Apologies that the first half of this post was so depressing and self-reflective. I just felt weird not talking about it at all on the blog, especially as it is directly impacting my attempts to maintain my weight loss. If I’d had a perfectly normal Christmas, I’d probably be making jokes about how I have to burn off the few extra calories I consumed eating cookies, not reflecting on the reasons I didn’t count calories for about 10 days and how that made me feel  (it really felt much longer – to say only 10 days makes it sound like it wasn’t even that big of a deal!). Now on to the good things!

  • My mom and I made a bunch of wonderful Christmas cookies and homemade chex mix! Some were really messed up (not the chex mix, it was perfect, as always) but we still had fun. Our turtles, for example, failed because we cooked the condensed milk on high instead of low (we decided to call them sea monsters). My mom nearly had a panic attack over making sugar cookies. And my grandpa bought the wrong kind of Reese cups for the peanut butter cookies so they looked like aliens.

I actually have photographic evidence of this.

  • Belle actually opened her own Christmas presents! She never does this, which is weird considering that she is pretty destructive. She got some treats, a stuffed alien, and a stuffed horse head with red eyes that we have dubbed “demon horse.” We forgot demon horse there so there are no pictures. Here, we bought her a stuffed duck that she ignores. Go figure.

Opening presents!

 

She also got to BE a present!

  • Presents! Most of the presents I got for people went over well. Even my biggest “flops” weren’t that bad – I made Kris some custom etched beer glasses and they didn’t work so well, but he liked the gesture and I will be able to make more in the future when I am more practiced. I also bought “texting” gloves for my dad that don’t work for texting, but are still nice gloves. Now I just have to find gloves that are able to text, be warm and durable enough for someone who works outdoors in the winter a lot, and fit his aesthetic (read: camo). I’m sure I’ll have fun with that!
  • More presents! Kris and I also got a number of exciting presents! He did really well buying me a new flipbelt to carry my stuff while I run (it works PERFECTLY, I highly recommend. He also got me a couple of sweaters and blouses (he really prides himself on being able to find clothes for me, and because he does a good job, I find it adorable). We got a number of things for the kitchen that I will be able to make exciting stuff with: a wine rack, a crockpot, a food processor, and a KITCHENAID!!! EEE!!! (It is that exciting that it can make me go EEE in a mostly depressing post like this). We also got some new bedding (my parents got us a down comforter and we bought ourselves new stuff to go with it).

The new mixer versus our old one that was broken and only went one speed.

 

The wine rack. My mom was super worried I wouldn’t like it because it was from a secondhand store, but I think it is perfect!

 

Belle enjoying the new bedding (less than 2 minutes after it was put on).

Not Dreading the Dreadmill & Christmas Gift Lists

No “Food Friday” post today. My most exciting food moments of the week were going out for sushi (I love sushi, but I swear it is the only thing Kris wants to eat lately) and making snickerdoodle blondies, and neither one of those is particularly new or exciting. Sorry that there have not been many of these lately – I guess my eating habits have been quite boring lately!

Instead, I have sort of a double post on two things that really have nothing to do with each other. Enjoy, because I probably won’t be able to post much while visiting my family Saturday-Wednesday.


Less than a year ago, I was absolutely terrified of treadmills. Even when it got cold last winter and I finally moved my running into the gym I stuck to the indoor track for a few weeks. Then I attempted walking on the treadmill. And finally, I sucked it up and did a nice slow 5K to ease myself into it. They still aren’t my favorite thing, but now that I do not have access to one, I realize that I miss them because they allow me to run in bad weather conditions.

Due to the snow and ice, I still haven’t run – since Sunday! This is one of the longest breaks I have taken from running in the last year and I am not really enjoying it. All it does is make me feel lazy and introduce weird anxieties into my life like “what if I can’t run three miles anymore” or “what if I’m really slow now.” These thoughts make absolutely no sense (after all, it’s only been 5 days), but this is exactly one of the reasons that I run. I *might* be a ridiculously high stress person normally, and running really helps me to not be like that (instead I’m just a high stress person). I think this is especially telling because I’ve still been working out about 20 minutes a day at home. There is no way that I am getting out of shape or being lazy, but my brain is acting like I haven’t run in 6 months or something! Ugh. It must be obvious that I am feeling this way, too, because yesterday Kris basically okay-ed me joining a gym or getting a treadmill for the house for next winter when I am home full-time! Hopefully I can find some time/place to run when I am visiting my family – their treadmill is broken, and I could use my mom’s stationary bike to get some good cardio in, but it’s not the same.

I *should* be able to go for a run today, though. I’ve been able to tell that even if the park isn’t clean, the sidewalks along the roads mostly are, so I could run there if I absolutely had to. I don’t really like running on sidewalks, though, because I am more likely to trip and I have to contend with traffic at major intersections. It was in the high 30s yesterday, though, and should be in the 40s today, so I am thinking that most of the snow will melt and I will be good to go on my normal route. Either way, I really need to get out there – I am going to Kris’s office Christmas party tonight and I need to preemptively burn off cookies and beer! After I write this post I’m going to finally get dressed and take Belle for a walk so I will see what the state of things are then.


Now on to the second part of the post, which is of course basically a rant. Due to the impending holiday, I have been seeing gift idea lists for people who are into fitness and I must say that in my opinion, some of these are just TERRIBLE ideas. Now, many of these gifts are not inherently bad ideas – they would be good ideas for specific people, but they are not really appropriate for a list of random gift suggestions for a friend/relative who is a bit into fitness. They are the type of thing you should ONLY buy people who have specifically asked for them, not the type of thing you should buy people after Googling “gift ideas for health nut friend.”

First, we have meal/weight loss plan subscriptions. Yes, I have actually seen this suggested. Now, if you know someone who is on a specific plan (i.e. Weight Watchers) and you know they are thinking of discontinuing it for monetary reasons, this might not be a bad idea. But to randomly get it for someone who seems like they like to watch what they eat? No. Just no. First of all, it presumptuous because it implies the person cannot accomplish their goals without supervision/guidance (this is being nice to the gift giver and assuming that the person even has a goal that such a plan would be appropriate for, otherwise such a gift is just plain rude). Second, even if the person had expressed vague interest in such a plan, I imagine that unless the gift giver knows EXACTLY what plan the person wants to follow, this could really backfire. Like, if the person on the receiving end of this gift was thinking of trying Nutrisystem and you paid for Weight Watchers instead, you’ve put them in an awkward position. It’s like if your eldery grandparents with only good intentions went out and bought you a Microsoft Surface when you wanted an Ipad. It seems rude to return it for something that to the gift-giver is functionally the same darn thing, but you would really hate the gift because it wasn’t quite what you wanted, and then you feel like an ass. I hope this makes sense.

Second, we have the 80,000 gadgets intended to keep track of your bodily data, such as Fitbits with bodyfat scales that sync up to MyFitnessPal (or whatever). These are bad gifts for the reasons I already mentioned – a bit presumptuous, and what if you wanted the Jawbone thingy instead of the Fitbit thingy? There are two additional problems with such gifts, though. First, they constantly keep track of numbers such as calories, weight, and body fat. It is difficult to know whether a person can handle being constantly updated with that information or not. I am very good at dealing with calories, for example, but try to force myself to weigh once a week or less because otherwise I get very caught up with my weight. If I had some sort of freaking scale that synced up with all of my other data and constantly reminded me to get on it and was aware of every 5 pound fluctuation up and down I’d probably drive myself nuts (and I  mean this literally, there is not a word of humor in this sentence). I just can’t handle that, which is why I don’t own a scale. I weigh myself at gyms and other people’s homes so that I can limit myself. The point is that for many people, one or more of these numbers might be problematic, so don’t buy them this stuff unless they have specifically asked for it. Second, I have a feeling that these are things that are going to get rarely used by even the biggest data and fitness geeks because they just look ugly. Like, who is going to wear a Fitbit to work all day everyday? Maybe this is one of most “just my personal opinion” points here but I think if a numbers-cruncher such as myself thinks that looking silly isn’t worth it for a few numbers, there are not many people who are going to be willing to make that sacrifice.

So, what do I suggest instead? Stick with known quantities or things that aren’t offensive and presumptuous. If you know they are a runner, for example, you could buy them things like clothing/accessories, energy gels, or small things they could use at home like handweights or foam rollers. These types of things are easy to return exchange for inoffensive reasons (i.e. it didn’t fit, that flavor upsets my stomach) or are things that most people use (i.e. handweights don’t really imply that the giver thinks you need to lose weight/get fit to the point of a meal plan!). If you want to go for a more DIY route, make them some healthy holiday treats for a nice break in the sugar-cookie flood that Christmas is or do something like make them a display case for medals/bib numbers. If all else fails, just get them a gift card to a store that you know sells things for their hobby. It is less thoughtful than the other gifts, but it at least shows that you pay attention to their hobby, and is not necessarily NOT thoughtful. For example, my husband loves Warhammer, but everyone just gets him Games Workshop gift cards because we know we’d mess up trying to get him actual miniatures, so it is probably more thoughtful than a) getting him the wrong miniatures or b) just giving him like a Visa gift card and socks (except for runners – runners actually want and love all the running socks).

Have a happy holiday everyone, and hopefully I have a Christmas of running shorts and Clif bars rather than scales that follow me around!