Making a Difference One Ride at a Time

This morning was beautiful.  I biked over to our local food co-op and had great breakfast and conversation with a friend (Hi, Kate!!) and then I biked in to work.  It sounds simple – biking and breakfast – but there’s so much more to it than that.

I got the traveller pannier that I ordered from Target in the mail yesterday (and I ordered it on Monday. They are so fast!).  Last night I assembled it and got it all ready for my morning commute, complete with laptop, u-lock, change of clothes, hygienic necessities and my wallet.  Then my stomach started to knot up.  I actually felt nervous about it all!  I think it’s because it felt more like a huge step towards a different way of life than I’ve ever taken before.  I’m making the commitment to bike in to work as much as I can, not just for exercise, but because I want to make a difference. 

I want to spend less money on gas.  I want to put less gas fumes out in to the atmosphere.  I want to show other people that a big girl can still ride a bike and look smashing.  I want my carbon footprint to get smaller and smaller.  I may not have the time to volunteer at soup kitchens or food pantries, but I do have the time to get up a little earlier in the morning and bike my butt to work.  And that’s exactly what I’m doing. 

One of the great things about working for Wolfram|Alpha is that we have vast amounts of data and tools to analyze all of that data.  When Jess organized our company’s participation in CU Bike to Work Day, one of the things that was done was a blog post all about biking to work and helping people to figure out exactly how much money they would be saving if they biked to work.  Here’s a screen shot of my figures.

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I could save at least $150 bucks every year just by biking in to work!  That doesn’t include biking to the Meijer down the road for the little things we need to pick up sometimes or biking to parks or cafes around us rather than driving.  I’m guessing I could save about $300 bucks a year just from biking around town.  Actually, since Jess and I share one car already, this would be our combined total.  If you’d like to figure out how much money you could be saving by biking in to work, check out the blog here.  Very cool stuff!

Jess and I have already made a lot of changes in the last three years to make the world a better, cleaner place.  We grow plants in and outside of our home, we went from two cars to one, we buy as much locally produced and organic food as we can afford, we participate in co-ops and CSAs, we recycle and compost, we try to buy all natural cleaners and biodegradable products for the home, we both have To-Go Ware that we use at work (I even brought it with us to Chipotle today in lieu of using their plastic forks!), and now we have bikes!  It makes me feel good to know that we’re doing our part to make a difference; one that affects us now in this lifetime, but also one that will positively affect the lifetimes of our children.

How do you make a difference?

What To Do With Your CSA Veggies

My best fried rice dish

Remember back when I told you all that I’m contributing a recipe each week to the newsletter of the CSA that my cousins are running? Well, it’s been going great! With all the traveling that I’ve been doing in the past month, I’ve been unable to really create new recipes with fresh ingredients they’re handing out, but I have been going through my recipe index to share past ones that use exactly the produce that they’re putting in those baskets.  They’re all tasty and delicious, so I have to share them with you again! They’ve made frequent appearances in my kitchen and will continue to do so.

Drying my herbs in the utility closet so they don’t go to waste!

The first recipe I submitted actually WAS a new, original recipe to highlight spinach. The Italian Spinach and Tomato Egg White Frittata. It got rave reviews too! I’m a huge frittata fan and have made many other variations in the past year.

The next week I submitted a recipe to highlight garlic scapes that I found on another site (since I was traveling again). It was this recipe for Garlic Scape Hummus and it looked wonderful! It’s from The Spiced Plate. I’m a big fan of garlic scapes.

Week three led me to share my Warm Curried Beef Salad recipe to highlight their carrot crops. No other vegetable compliments the flavors of this salad better than a fresh carrot!

For week four I chose to highlight cabbage and shared this Food Republic recipe for Sweet and Sour Chinese Cabbage.  In my life, I’ve only ever really had cabbage in random salads, soups or paired with corned beef.  This recipe inspired me to buy a cabbage at the market a couple weeks later so that I could do something else to highlight it rather than just making it an afterthought again!

Southwestern Black Bean Salad highlighted green onions in week five.  It’s not a huge part of the salad, but it’s definitely an important ingredient.  This salad also highlights corn and tomatoes, both of which are in season right now (at least in my town!)

Last week I shared Spanish-Style Shrimp and Garlic to highlight both their garlic and zucchini crops.  I LOVE this recipe!  It’s especially wonderful when you use raw shrimp rather than pre-cooked shrimp.  It turns out so succulent and bursting with flavor.  I even bought some shrimp on Sunday with this recipe in mind.

Last night’s CSA-inspired meat sauce over pasta wheels

This week I shared my recipe for Fried Rice with Prawns and Ham to highlight the carrots and onions.  This is by far my favorite fried rice recipe.  It’s full of flavor without being full of oil and the wild rice give it just a bit of nuttiness that blends perfectly.  I also describe the best way to prepare it so that all the vegetables lend their flavors to the rice in the best way possible, so make sure to read it if you haven’t yet.

Now that the month of weekend travel is over, I hope to be able to come up with new and fun recipes with the vegetables that I’m getting from my own CSA – The Wingfield Farm.  I’m splitting a half basket with my friend, Cass, and the amount is still plentiful.  And I’m enjoying the selection much more than the CSA I belonged to last year!  Yesterday we received our first basket and I got zucchini, onion, red potatoes, oregano, mint, basil, asian greens and a variation of chinese cabbage.  That was just what I took.  They also had yellow squash, dragon tongue beans, leaf lettuce and arugula.  AMAZING!  Last night I cooked up a semi-homemade meat sauce with the oregano, basil, onion and zucchini.  Basically, you take this recipe for Mighty Meaty Spaghetti Sauce, use half the amount of meat it calls for and replace the other half with finely diced zucchini and a whole medium diced onion.  Cook up the veggies for a couple minutes before you add in the meat and then right before you put in the sauce, put a dash of nutmeg in there.  It’s incredible.

Okay, well, that’s all for now and don’t forget to enter to win the RWWF Love and Gratitude Box!  The winner will be announced on July 10th!

Reaching a Milestone

I’ve lost 50 POUNDS!!

I’d say that’s worth a post of it’s own, right?  It seems like I’ve slowly been inching towards this goal, but goodgollygosh I finally made it!  I still have 100 lbs to lose, but here I am a third of the way through and I know I’ll make it to where I want to be.  And now I finally get to spend $200 on new clothes!  Well, my reward is listed as $150 on new clothes in my Milestones and Rewards post, but I got $200 in giftcards at Christmas that I’ve been holding on to for exactly this purpose (and now I can save that other $150 for new clothes in the winter since I’ll need them!)

First off, THANK YOU to everyone who “liked” my FB milestones yesterday on my RWWF page and my personal page.  It is extremely touching to know I have so many people in my support system.  And a very special THANK YOU to my wonderful fiancee who instigated the conversations which led me to deal with the fact that I needed to make some changes in my life.  She’s been there right next to me at every victory and every disappointment.  She’s been a wonderful motivator for exercise and her squeals of delight at all my tasty dishes (and willingness to photograph many of them) have made cooking and creating healthy recipes an amazingly fun and inspiring experience.  And another special THANK YOU to my wonderful parents who have always supported me in all my endeavors and even joined Weight Watchers together this year.  In fact, they’ve lost over 60 lbs combined and my skinny-minny dad even reached his Lifetime Goal a couple weeks ago!  How amazing is that?!?!  They keep me on my toes.

This hasn’t been a smooth journey, though.  It’s taken me a little over a year and a half to get off these first 50 lbs.  I’ve fallen off track with both exercise and tracking my points, but I always got back on.  That’s the important part.  I keep getting back on plan.  Weight Watchers (as reluctant as I was to start it) is really the right plan for me.  It fits my life.  I don’t even go to the meetings or subscribe to WW Online right now, but I use a free app on my phone called WWDiary to do all of my tracking.  It’s been a lifesaver.

Okay, I’m done with the thank yous and general life blah blah blah now.  I thought it might be fun to list out 50 things that have changed in my life during this first 1/3 of the journey.  Then I’ll be able to come back and look at it whenever I lose my motivation and reaffirm why I need to get back on track again.

1. I can shop in the plus size section of regular stores like Old Navy, Target and JC Penney.
2. My back is finally healthy!
3. My “front butt” is almost gone!
4. Smiles come with one chin, not two.
5. I have more energy.
6. Bedroom antics are waaay more fun (TMI?)
7. Sleep comes more easily.
8. I can run around with our dog and not get exhausted so fast.
9. Looking at myself in the mirror is a much happier experience.
10. I fit into chairs with arms more easily.
11. My skin is clearer and brighter.
12. My knees don’t creak much anymore when I go up stairs.
13. I can stand on my feet for much longer periods of time (important for when I actually DO go to culinary school!)
14. Clothes shopping gets more and more fun.
15. I actually WANT to do things like ride a bike and walk more than 3 miles in a day.
16. I can jump and dance around like a crazy person without worrying about pulling a back muscle (keep those abs tight!)
17. I am stronger physically.
18. I am stronger mentally.
19. I feel more satisfied by the food that I choose to eat.
20. I barely ever experience an “uncomfortable” fullness after a meal because I know how to stop myself from eating too much.
21. I chew more gum.
22. I am looking forward to swimming this summer.
23. I am generally more satisfied with life.
24. I have done two 5Ks with my baybsie and plan on doing at least 48 more!
25. I feel more accomplished.
26. Long trips in cars and trains aren’t as uncomfortable.
27. I found my passion in life: cooking!
28. I’ve learned how to reward myself with non-food things.
29. I feel less stinky.
30. Parks are much more enjoyable.
31. Losing 100 pounds feels like a POSSIBLE goal.
32. I’ve made great blogger friends with wonderful, inspiring people!
33. I can keep a bar of chocolate in my fridge for more than a day.
34. Going to the gym isn’t nearly as intimidating.
35. Other people in my life have started changing theirs for the better which continues to motivate me every day.
36. I’m looking forward to wearing my wedding dress!
37. I am not nearly as worried about how our wedding pictures will turn out.
38. I can reach all the places I need to wash in the shower without extra straining!
39. General check ups at the doctor aren’t as scary.
40. I eat a lot more fruit and vegetables and I love it!
41. I pee a lot more which helps to flush out all sorts of toxins.
42. I am more sociable with people in general.
43. Sweating isn’t such an uncomfortable experience anymore.
44. My body doesn’t have random aches and pains as much.
45. Moving into our new apartment was much easier since I’m stronger overall.
46. I’m more aware of the food I put in my body.
47. I’ve discovered so many delicious and creative ways to make food fun and exciting.
48. When I hug people, I feel closer to them because I literally AM closer to them.
49. I don’t get winded going up and down the stairs at work (since only take the elevator up in the mornings)
50. Life is exponentially more beautiful and full of hope because this is the right journey for ME.

Toughing It Out Instead of Stuffing It In

Angela:

I had a moment like this last night. It was a stressful week and a stressful weekend and although I took a sleep aid, I still ended up laying in bed awake for 3 hours. All sorts of thoughts were circling my head, tears were leaking out of my eyes and plans of making a midnight McD’s run for crappy food or raiding the fridge to eat away my emotions were starting to form in my brain. But I didn’t do it. I went to the bathroom, cried it out a bit, gave it to God, took a few deep breaths and finally went to bed. And dammit, I deserve two stars too.

Originally posted on Invisible Girl:

Me. I’m proud of me today. I wanted to eat a house, multiple times actually. Had it been covered in chocolate I might have surrendered, but as of 8:30 p.m., my house is still standing as are my neighbors’.

It’s been tough, but I keep circling back to my goals of 2012 that I posted earlier in the week. I do believe that it is worth the effort to take care of my body and soul, and I am convinced that sugar will be my life-long enemy. I’m not always sure about the beauty or the strength things I jotted down, but I think those goals are at least worth working toward.

As I sat in my office today at 1:30 p.m. with absolutely fucking nothing crossed off my to-do list, I tried to convince myself that a sweet treat from down the street would alleviate stress and increase my…

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Pie

Click here for this “Healthier” Choco PB Cheesecake recipe from Shannon’s Kitchen Creations!

Life has been busy, to say the least.  Therefore, I have not blogged in SEVEN DAYS.  Holy freaking crap.  I feel like a bad blogger.  So, I am apologizing by FINALLY putting up the recipe for the Chocolate PB Mousse Pie that I’ve been talking about for ages.

Although you get the recipe, there still is no definite picture… because the pies disappear too fast.  But it’s pretty self-explanatory.  PB, cool whip, choco syrup, in a mini pie crust.  But before I give you that, I have other things I want to say.

I’ve definitely hit a mini-plateau.  Despite my working out and tracking points, my weight is fluctuating within the same pound.  It’s okay though, I’m keeping up with the working out and people are suggesting that I try eating all my earned Activity Points (which I hadn’t been doing) to let me body keep up with itself.  So I’ll just keep working hard and tracking…. although I’ll admit, I haven’t been tracking so well this past week.  Whenever I work out really hard and track right and don’t have a loss, I start rebelling against the scale (and punishing myself) by not tracking the next week.  It’s stupid, but I do it and I need to stop.  But I have been doing a LOT of activity outside!

We finally finished softball season with a whopping ZERO wins and 100% satisfaction!  We played our best and had a blast doing it.  The great thing about our team was that everyone got to play regardless of skill level.  I played three positions throughout the season – outfield (only once because I suck at catching fly balls), first base and catcher.  I got a lot of outs at first base and even got a few while playing catcher!  I may have dreaded taking the time out of my weekend to play some days, but ultimately, I had fun at each game.  I even got a double and two RBI’s at the last game!  I’ll definitely play again next year.

Click here for this WWF Peanut Butter Cookies recipe from the “Point-Less Meals” blog!

The girlfriend and I did a Women’s Build with Habitat for Humanity last weekend.  We put up the WALLS!  Seriously!  When we got there at 8am, it was just the base of a house.  When we left at 2:30, all the outside walls were up along with most of the inside walls.  Every single volunteer was a woman too!  Only two guys were there and they were in charge of the build – one was the president of the local H4H association and the other was the actual construction guy who told us where to put everything and how to do it.  We totally rocked it.  There were probably about 12 of us all together at the most and gradually, people had to leave.

The weather was perfect; it felt amazing to do a completely different kind of work than I’d ever done before and even more amazing that I could actually DO IT without worrying about my back or not being “fit” enough for intense manual labor.  I tell ya, I have soooo much more respect for construction workers now!  Even with the lower temperatures and cool breeze, I basically sweated and worked out at a moderate level for about 5 1/2 hours.  And the feeling of accomplishment was so wonderful.  Getting to talk to the woman who it getting the house; working with her side-by-side, knowing that my efforts would be benefiting another family… it made it all worth it.  Every drop of sweat was worth it.  And so were the brownies and cookies I had later that day!  Lol.

Click here for this Chocolate Banana Cupcake recipe from The Novice Chef Blog!

I’ve also been going to the gym twice a week in the mornings.  I get there around 7:45am and do about 20-30 minutes of cardio and then 20-25 minutes of weight machines.  It’s been really enjoyable because the gym is relatively empty at that time, so I don’t have to wait for machines or showers and by the time I’m done and showered, I’m into the office before 9:30am, which is usually earlier than my normal arrival time!  When I workout at home, I’m more likely to take my time getting ready and do other things around the house and I don’t get in until 10 or 11.  Of course, that means I have to work much later, so getting in at an earlier time is really helping to keep me sane in the evenings.  And I get to spend more time with the furry babies and the girlfriend in the evenings, which is the biggest benefit of all!

So, yeah.  Lots of exercise, lots of good things, and hopefully I get over this plateau soon.  I’m so close to having lost 30 lbs that it’s frustrating not actually being there.  My journey is slower than most and at this pace it’ll probably take me around 3-4 years to reach my goal.  But I can be patient.  I can keep writing blogs and inspiring others.  Not everyone can be gung-ho about losing 100 lbs in a year or two.  I can’t do it.  I know that I enjoy eating food and taking time to relax.  Losing weight is NOT my life.  “Living healthy” is a lifestyle that I’ve had for almost a year now.  That in and of itself is quite an accomplishment.  Losing weight is just a hobby.  I do what I can and I have mini-goals, but I’m losing it slow so that it STAYS OFF.  And I’m quite alright with that!  Okay, here’s that recipe….

Click here for the Five Ingredient Cookie recipe that I posted a while back!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Pies
Servings: 3
PointsPlus Per Serving: 8 (5 PP without the pie crusts and just as good!)

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp Hershey’s chocolate syrup, 0 PP!
  • 4 tbsp creamy peanut butter (I used a reduced sodium organic one), 10 PP
  • 1 1/2 cups Cool Whip Free, 4 PP
  • 3 Keebler graham ready crust minis, 9 PP

Directions
1. Mix together PB, chocolate syrup and cool whip free until completely blended and creamy.

2. Divide mixture amongst mini graham crusts. Top with a swirl of chocolate syrup or a few chocolate chips (make sure to count those points if you use them). Chill in fridge until needed or eat right away!

Not only is this good in pie form, but it’s just as good without a crust. The first time I made it, I ate it right out of the bowl with a spoon! A friend of mine dipped pretzels and animal crackers in hers and loved it. Slice up some apple and dip that in it for a healthy, delicious snack! And if you want to lower the points value even more, use half the amount of peanut butter. It’ll still be great, just not as thick (but almost as rich and tasty!)

Cinnamon Peach Pecan Zucchini Muffins

Before I dive into any recipes, I have to say thank you.  Thank you to all of you who sent me such beautiful supportive comments after my last post.  After a hard week, it was so wonderful to read all the love on wordpress and facebook; to get private messages and texts from friends and family who wanted to let me know that they love and support me and my girlfriend.  My grandparents even sent us flowers!  It was so humbling.  So, thanks you all from the bottom of my heart.  It was exactly what I needed to jump start my tracking and exercising again!

A nice healthy glow from all the good eating and exercise.  And also from knowing how much I am loved and supported!

In fact, I earn 33 activity points this week from all the working out I did!  After my small weight loss of 3/10ths on Friday, I woke my ass up early and went to the gym before work on both Friday AND Monday, and I did 25 minutes of weights and some cardio each time.  It felt great and I don’t even mind the fact that my arms and legs are sore from it all.  I also did a MUCH better job tracking my food.  I’ve barely used any of my 33 AP or 49 Weekly Points.  And now I have a gym buddy (Sarah from the Reluctant Losers Page) and we’re going to the gym every Monday and Wednesday morning!  So, I will continue to get great exercise.  Lucky for us, one of the benefits of working for Wolfram is a SUPER discounted gym membership.  I basically pay 18 bucks a month for TWO “gold” memberships  (me and the girlfriend) at a local gym.  I have no excuses for not working out.  Period.

So, life is back on track, the weather is becoming manageable again, and cooking has been happening a lot lately!  On Saturday, I made a tasty gourmet sandwich for lunch using chicken, “zucchini linguine”, feta and tomatoes… that delicious recipe is definitely coming soon as I convinced the girlfriend to take a picture before we all dug in.  Last night I made a mexican pizza with homemade dough, refried beans, green enchilada sauce, chobani ‘gurt, corn, tomatoes, sliced up marinated beef, jalapeno, cheese and adobo spice.  It was gooooood!  Although, some guacamole or avocado would have cinched it.  Tonight, we’re finishing up our latest round of ravioli making using the ravioli recipe I posted last year (that was my girlfriend’s doing.  She loves those ravs!).  So good!  And tomorrow, I’m cooking up another batch of my Fried Rice with Prawns and Ham, although I think chicken will be replacing the ham since I no longer have any ham in the house.  That’s quite possibly our favorite leftovers meal, which is hard to come by since the girlfriend isn’t a huge fan of the leftovers.  But that’s the thing about fried rice, it always tastes better the second day!

Now… for the recipe that claimed the title of this blog!  I LOVE these muffins.  They absolutely are the best right out of the oven or warmed up in the microwave and slathered in a bit of light butter.  My girlfriend doesn’t like nuts in baked things and she really liked these ones!  I didn’t take a pictures because, really, they look almost exactly like the Lemon Walnut Zucchini ones that I posted a while back.  Just a little more “peachy” than “lemony” :)  So just trust me, they look tasty!

Cinnamon Peach Pecan Zucchini Muffins
Servings: 12
PointsPlus Per Serving: 3

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour, 11 PP
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 5 PP
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda

Wet Ingredients

  • 1 6-oz container of peach chobani, 4 PP
  • 1/2 cup sugar, 11 PP
  • 1 1/2 cups grated zucchini (and carrot if you want), drained
  • 1 egg, 2 PP
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract, 1 PP
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, 8 PP
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 315 degrees.

2. Grate zucchini and drain. I used my awesome food processor for quick grating and squeezed it all by hand to get out as much liquid as possible.

3. Put all the dry ingredients in one bowl and mix with a wooden spoon. Then put all the wet ingredients in another bowl and mix with the same wooden spoon. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until fully blended.

4. Spray your muffin pan with some Pam and scoop the batter evenly into the pan. Cook for 40-45 minutes. They should be perfectly done once the timer goes off, so take em out and enjoy! I highly recommend heating them up if they’ve cooled down before you got a chance to eat one, then slice apart and put a little bit of butter on each side. It just brings it all together!

Time for a Little Honesty

There’s been a lot of thoughts running through my head lately and as an internal processor, I don’t always jump to the conclusion that I should just TALK about them. I grew up in a family where we often chose to push the not-so-fun issues to the side until there was a more “appropriate” time to talk about them. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes that’s a bad thing. Well, I don’t know how “appropriate” this timing is, but it’s time for me to talk about it out loud.

Getting healthy is hard work. REALLY hard work. It’s even harder when you are holding in all sorts of emotion that can’t actually be worked out…. Okay, I’ll stop beating around the bush. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I have a wonderful girlfriend. It’s not a friendship term, it means I’m in a lesbian relationship. All you haters can just leave the page now. (kthanksbye)

Basically, I’m internalizing a lot of sadness right now because I’m seeing all these beautiful pictures of straight friends who have gotten married and everyone in their families is happy and excited. There’s no concerns of who to invite because they know that everyone supports them. They have their siblings in their wedding parties because they really are best friends. Every moment of their special day is filled with happiness and joy and hope.

I won’t get all that. Sure, I have a LOT of family that truly loves and supports my girlfriend and I. When we get married, it WILL be a happy day filled with joy and hope…. but my dad won’t be there. All three of my siblings won’t be there. Their religious beliefs tell them that my “lifestyle” isn’t “what God intended”. My sister, who used to be the best friend I’ve ever had, won’t be my Maid of Honor. My two brothers won’t be their goofy selves on the dance floor and tell me how happy they are for us. My dad will never walk me down the aisle with my mom if I’m meeting a woman at the end of it. I can’t imagine what it would be like for a parent to not be there because they died before I got married, but I already feel the pain of a parent not being there because they CHOOSE not to be there.

And I’m eating my pain right now. I need to not do that. That’s a LOT of emotion I’m numbing with food and we haven’t even started planning that special day yet! I told my girlfriend that I wanted to lose a significant amount of weight before we had our big party because I want to look at those pictures and feel joy instead of focusing on how fat I looked or felt that day. So, I need to keep on trucking and stop eating away this pain because I WANT to be married to her. And I wanna look good when that day finally comes!

So, time to get back on track. It’s been almost 9 months and I’ve lost almost 30 pounds. Not quite a pound a week, but I’ll take it. There are things I want more in life than brownies and chicken wings; I just have to remember that. And it takes a lot of hard work to get to where I want to be, so I need to give myself a little more credit. I see all these people around me losing weight twice as fast and sometimes it gets to me, but I have to keep reminding myself that my journey is different.

My journey is unique, just like everyone else. My life is unique. God has uniquely and lovingly created me and I need to treat myself that same way every day.

Back to work!

Backpacking Through the Windy City

Our train car into Chicago

There’s something special about big cities.  It’s not just the wide array of shops and restaurants along every block.  It’s not just the monumental skyscrapers, bridges and other architectural wonders.  It’s not just the melting pot of cultural backgrounds that pass by you with each step.  It’s all of those things… plus the fact that I’d rather WALK around the city than be stuck with a mean cabbie or driving through that horrendous traffic!  So, that’s exactly what we did.

Beauty in unexpected places.

The girlfriend and I drove up to her hometown to drop her car off to her dad since he bought it from her.  We decided to go down to sharing one car!  And since we didn’t have a car to drive back down, we decided to take the train and enjoy a day and a half in Chicago.  We didn’t want to drag luggage around the city with us, so we each packed a backpack and off we went!  It was so simple and enjoyable that we’ve decided it’s our new favorite way to travel.

Luckily, we brought umbrellas with us so even though it rained a lot of the time, we were prepared and we just kept walking!  On Saturday, we did at least eight miles and on Sunday we did around five or so.  We had lunch with one of my good friends from college, then started walking with just a map to guide us.  We happened to fall right into the path of the Memorial Day Parade and it was great!  The girlfriend took lots of cool pictures with my nifty phone and a little Vietnamese Lady in the parade even came over and gave me this beautiful fan.  It totally made my day.

Me and my beautiful Vietnamese Fan!

Then we found Michigan Avenue and walked all over since we still had a few hours to kill before hotel check-in.  We hung out around Buckingham Fountain and Lakeshore Drive and talked about life and the future and then we finally headed to the hotel.  Then we quickly showered and headed out for one more store and dinner at The Melting Pot.  LORDY LORD.  SOOOO GOOOOOOOOD!!!!  Needless to say, we didn’t count, but we DID choose the healthiest fondue for the main course and enjoyed every last bite.  It was the girlfriend’s idea and her treat and we had a LOT of fun.  It was almost 2 miles to get to the restaurant, so we had to walk almost 2 miles back.  We worked off at least SOME of that fondue!  And then we passed out the minute we got to the hotel.

Some of the Chicago Memorial Day Parade participants

The next morning we went SWIMMING (at 8am, no less)!  I haven’t been swimming in over a year.  We both discovered that our bathing suits are a little too big, so we’ll need to go shopping for new ones.  That’s a much more pleasant reason to go shopping for a new suit than I’ve had in the past 15 years!  It was nice, although it was the ONLY free amenity in the whole hotel.  FYI – if you ever visit Chicago, don’t stay at the Hilton Chicago on N. Michigan Ave.  It’s overpriced and they’ll make you pay $15 to use their workout equipment.  (Only the pool and walking track are free.  LAME.)  Once we got dressed and packed up, we headed out for some breakfast.

We stopped at Caffé Baci; it was superb!  The girlfriend got a belgian waffle with fruit and lite syrup and I got a yogurt/fruit parfait (amazing) and a bagel with cream cheese.  Then we headed out for a little more shopping and site seeing, but it started thunderstorming.  We ended up stopping at just a couple stores before we walked to Union Station.

RWWF in the Windy City!

Since we brought books and music and stuff, we figured hanging out there would be nice and relaxing.  Little did we know that some movie was filming in the huge foyer and it was a scene with a MARCHING BAND.  Apparently the directors and assistants suck at their job because they kept moving people (including us) from our seats on the wooden benches.  (Seriously, could they have TRIED looking through the camera lens to see what all would be in the shot before moving people further and further down?)  After they asked us to move for the FOURTH time, we said F*CK IT and walked over to a cafe table.  It was loud and annoying and I hope the movie TANKS!

The ballroom of the Hilton Chicago. Beautiful, but not worth the moolah!

The train ride home was half as long as the first, so we got back right on time to catch the bus.  Unfortunately, the bus stopped running at 7, so it’s last stop (where we got off) still left us with a mile walk back home.  But after 13 miles in Chicago, one more mile was no big deal :)  We walked back, I ordered some Thai food and we enjoyed relaxing for the rest of the evening.

It was such a wonderful weekend!  Walking gave us so much time to just talk and enjoy the sights and each others’ company instead of arguing about traffic and directions.  Our stress levels were super low.  It definitely convinced us that at some point in the future we’d like to spend at least a year living in a city.  I know I could certainly get used to being around so much great culture, shopping and food… as long as I have to walk there in order to enjoy it!  Now, I’m on a mission for the perfect traveling backpack.  The girlfriend and I are DEFINITELY doing this again.  We have our annual bus passes for our current town and a couple of other train trips have already been scheduled.  Life is good; a healthy/eco-friendlier life is even better :)

Living my Life like it’s Golden

Oh man! Life has been good lately, and it’s only gonna get better :)

New hairs. I love that I can pull off asymmetry!

I got my hairs cut by my good friend, Chandra, at her new salon, The Studio. So awesome! I can’t give them enough praise. It’s a beautiful open space with fantastic colors, lots of IKEA furniture, and “green” innovations. Even the shampoos and conditioners are organic! They have this hydrotherapy tub that I’m bound and determined to try some day, massage, pedicures, manicures, all the hair cutting and styling you need, and a studio where you can get beautiful photos taken. Prices are reasonable and totally worth it when you realize just how green they are. There’s even a recycling bin for you to deposit your empty bottles and cans!

Chandra did an incredible job (as you can plainly see!) and I’m definitely going back. In fact, I revised my list of rewards a little bit after my wonderful experience there. Instead of buying a treadmill when I lose 70 lbs, I’m getting the “Spa Starter” – manicure, pedicure, hydrotherapy treatment and a massage! SO EXCITED!!

This weekend is going to be busy.  The girlfriend and I are driving to her hometown because her dad is buying her car off her.  So, we’ll be officially down to ONE CAR.  Yay to lower carbon footprints!  And since we won’t have a car to drive home, we’re taking the train to Chicago, staying a night and then taking the train back home.  We’ll be doing a LOT of walking around the city, so we decided NO luggage, just one backpack each!  Can you tell how excited I am about this?  We’ll be staying on the Magnificent Mile in the Hilton.  Oooohhhh yeahhhhh.  Gonna spend some time at Navy Pier, gonna watch the Memorial Day parade that’s on Sunday, gonna go to the Melting Pot for dinner (I think).  It will be grand!  And since we’re going down to one car, we’re getting an annual bus pass for each of us this afternoon!  I have a feeling it’ll be the best 60 bucks I’ll spend this year.

More walking, less money spent on gasoline, lots of train trips, eating organic, simplifying our lives…. This summer is going to be the best one I’ve had in a VERY long time.  And I get to enjoy it with less weight on my bones!  Can’t beat that :)

Why, Could You Please Pass the Gas?

Photo Courtesy of: chriscantwel.tumblr.com

I need to talk to you about a serious topic, people.  And I need to talk about it now.

There’s one specific thing that undoubtedly catapults a relationship between two people to an entirely new level.  It forever changes the relationship, brings a new sense of honesty and openness, and often it means that long-term commitment (if handled correctly) is in the foreseeable future.  What is that thing, you ask?  Farts.

Now, I was tempted to put “gas” as the pivotal word, but no.  People burp in front of each other all the time; it’s no big deal.  Carbonated beverages have minimized the significance of burping, therefore destroying the poignancy of “gas” as a wholly important word (in this discussion).  Burps are small potatoes.  Farts, on the other hand, are equivalent to Thanksgiving dinner.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned during this journey, so far, it’s that farting comes with the territory.  My relationship with myself has reached a whole new level now that farts are a definite part of my daily life.  With the increased amounts of fiber I consume and the consistent weekly exercise, I find myself farting a LOT more.  And not just in the comfort of my own home.  I go for a nice walk before or after work and ten minutes after I’ve started… pfffffffft.  Attempting to run the day after a delicious leafy green, fiberlicious meal…. pffft.  pfffffft. pfft.  pft.

At first, I was quite mortified.  Who do you blame when you’re the only one coming out of the elevator?  What do you say to the old lady who unknowingly walked into your string of little bombs as you stroll around the park a few times?

As a woman who’s proud of her European mutt roots, farts and I have never been strangers.  In fact, gassing it up after a meal is considered to be a compliment in some countries.  “Pfffffffft… My compliments to the chef.” (At least that’s what Dad always told me!)  But still, I was worried about what people would think.  “GAWD, that fat girl just FARTED and it smells like BUUUUUUUTTTTT!”  I already have to deal with the fears that come from being the biggest girl in the workout class or the sweatiest, most red-faced girl on the elliptical, but do I really have to be the gassy girl on the track too?

Why, yes.  Yes I do.  I eat the right foods now and I exercise like I should have been doing all my life, just like all the other healthy people in the world.  And guess what?  They fart too. You hear them in the bathroom (like in Vegas.  What happens there stays there.)  We all think “gross!!” and raise our eyebrows a little as we sit in our individual stalls, but we never actually say anything to one another because we KNOW we’ve been in that same unfortunate position.  No one in their right mind is going to make fun of the person who ate some bad Chinese food and is paying for it in unholy and uncomfortable ways!  Karma is real, and you know you’ll pay for it if you do.

I’m finally starting to accept my farts for what they really are, and they are a bunch of things.

– tiny little pushes towards my ultimate goal
– bits of inspiration to get my ass moving away from the stank
– mini shouts of gratitude from my digestive tract for feeding it well
– reminders that I’m a normal, imperfect human like everyone else
– non-verbal communication from my body letting me know that my diet is on track (or off track depending on how much it burns my eyes.  TMI?)

But most importantly, my being able to accept my farts as a normal, albeit HILARIOUS, part of my new and improved lifestyle has definitely brought my relationship with my body to a whole new level.  I suspect I’m on the brink of a long-term commitment here, people!

Hello, my name is Angela and I fart.  A lot.  If you can’t handle that, then it’s your problem, not mine.  Pffffffffffffft!