How I Lost 50 Pounds in a Few Hours (But not the way you think.)

Got you with that title, didn’t I?  Well, the truth is that shedding baggage is almost as good as shedding the actual weight.  As I’ve stated before, I have this concept that I call Weight Loss Limbo.  Everyone knows what I’m talking about.  It’s that pair of pants that you know doesn’t quite fit, but you don’t want to admit it.  Or that dress you used to look awesome in, a few years ago.  It’s the fact that you don’t want to buy new clothes that actually fit, because that would mean you have to admit that you gained weight.  It’s a universal concept.

The photo you see here is my closet.  Every single one of those hangers used to have an item of clothing on it.  My closet was stuffed, full.  It seemed like I should have a million things to wear.  The truth is that what is left in that photo is all the clothes in my closet that actually fit.  Yes, that’s right.  I had a full closet, and most of it I couldn’t even wear.  There were some shirts and pants I had owned since high school. That’s over 10 years ago now for me.

One of the nice but weird things about gaining weight is that we have the unending optimism that we’ll lose it again.  Nowhere else have I seen such unwavering belief and hope.  Why else would we keep things for years that don’t fit? “Well, when I lose the weight, it might fit again,” we say.  Despite the fact that some of us have hit puberty since then.  I will never again have the body of a 16 year old, and it’s time I faced that.  I’m a woman.  I have hips, and breasts, and some very flabby parts.  So this weekend, I purged my closet of what didn’t fit.  I kept a few things (like the size 4 silk skirt that is just gorgeous), but most of it went into boxes to be donated.  The old items that had stains or tears went in the scrap pile or the garbage.  And afterward, my closet was magically emptied.  Full of potential for me to fill it with things that fit (like those new trouser jeans that need hemming.)

I’m telling you, friends, don’t be scared of a big purge like this.  I love most of my old clothes, but after all these years, I’ve not only outgrown them in size, but also in mentality.  Something that looked awesome to my 16 year old self would not be appropriate for my 26 year old self. I’d look like a woman trying to dress like a teenager.  That’s never attractive.  It is liberating to get rid of this stuff.  It hung over me, telling me how much of a failure I was for not losing the weight “omg rite nao!”  I’ll lose the weight eventually.  And when my clothes get too big, I can buy new ones, or get my favorites taken in.  But that’s the point.  I should be wearing my favorite clothes now, or finding new favorites I can wear now, instead of getting hung up on the old ones.  (See the puns I put in there?)

Have you ever had to purge most of your belongings?  How did it feel?  What were your reasons?  Also, what wonderful new goodies should I fill my now empty closet with?

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Recipe Du Jour: Comforting, Easy One-Pan Meatball Veggie Skillet

Meatball Veggie Skillet
Meatball Veggie Skillet

So, today’s recipe is a perfect recipe when you want something that is easy, doesn’t make a lot of mess and doesn’t require a lot of clean-up. This is a recipe passed down through my family, and it definitely speaks of all the traits we tend to like in American food. There’s meat, potatoes, and some veggies. And it tastes good too!

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
  • about 1/2 cup of milk (use your best judgment)
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 tsp salt
  • dash pepper
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp grated onion
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp shortening, oil, or some other fat  (The original calls for shortening, but I just used a good cooking oil.)
  • 2 cups thinly sliced raw potatoes
  • 4 carrots, cut into about 2-inch pieces and quartered
  • 1 small package frozen peas
  • 1/4 to 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup water (maybe more if needed)

Directions:

Soak the bread crumbs in milk.  Put meat in mixing bowl and add salt, pepper, nutmeg, grated onion, and bread crumbs.  Mix well and shape into meatballs (try for 12, but it’s ok if there’s more).  Roll balls in flour.  Heat oil and brown the meatballs on all sides.  Add veggies and water.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  If the pan seems crowded, remove the meatballs, put in the veggies and water, and then place meatballs on top.  Cover tightly.  Cook on low heat about 30-45 minutes.  Serve when potatoes and carrots are soft, but not falling apart.  Serves 4?

Tastiness Factor:

I grew up eating this at home, of course I think it’s tasty.  Specifically, the spices in the meatball keep them from being bland.  The nutmeg, especially, sounds like an odd spice to put in a meatball, but it works.  Most of the flavor in the dish comes from the meatballs, so everything else is less strong to balance it.  And it’s best when you can get some of the water from the bottom of the pan, because it acts as a broth.

Reheat Factor:

This reheats really well.  You can actually divide the portions, and then just pop it in the microwave with a little water.  Depending on how much moisture your meatballs soaked up while cooking, they may be soft and fall apart a little, but the flavor is still there.

Overall Impression:

This is one of my go-to busy night dishes.  Andrew makes the meatballs while I cut the veggies.  If you’re making it on your own, just cut the veggies first.  I will note that this is one of my grandmother’s recipes, and she tended to go heavy on the onion.  I’ve adjusted it above for what I use, but that may still be too much for some people.  I think this is a comforting dish, and with it being in one pan, it’s great on nights when I just want to be lazy and have comfort food.  For those who want to make it a little lighter, you could try other ground meats such as chicken or turkey.  I haven’t, but I wouldn’t expect it to be much different.  I recommend pairing with a salad to get even more veggies in.

Nutrition Facts (from here): 449 calories, 15.3g fat, 4.2g saturated fat, 35.2g carbohydrates, 6.4g fiber, 41.1g protein

All on My Own.

5378461630_e27cb2dff3_oHaving looked at my schedule, I discovered that except for Tuesdays, I seem to have my mornings off.  This is a drastic shift from what I’m used to.  Normally, I have some class or other obligation in the morning, some more later in the afternoon or evening, and pockets of free time in between.  Last semester, I used that free time to get a lot of my work done on campus, setting a sort of 9-to-5 schedule for myself.  This allowed my evenings free to do what I want (which ended up being taiko, juggling, and mostly crashing in front of the tv).

This semester, we canceled our cable.  Most of the shows we were watching were things we had already seen, and with Netflix, we didn’t really need or want to sit through commercials anymore.  (And I have other ways of getting the TV I want to watch, if I really want to.)  So hopefully, there will be less crashing in front of the tv, mindlessly watching the same old drivel.

What this really means, though, is that I finally have to force myself to be self-motivated.  I’ve been saying that I’m self-motivated for a while, but it’s not entirely true.  I am more motivated by deadlines and people thinking ill of me.

The plan of attack is this: force myself to get up every morning at 7am, and be working on something by 9am.  I cleared off my desk (as you can see above) and rearranged it.  Originally my desk featured only the computer, and it was cluttered with knick-knacks and school supplies I never used.  It wasn’t exactly a good working environment.  I find I work better when I have a space dedicated to working.  Last semester, it was my office.  This semester, it’s my desk.

One of the best advantages is that I can work on some of my mindless computer projects while also working on school work.  For example, I’ve been going through and resorting and retagging my music collection.  Since it’s a pile I accumulated over the years, it’s a mess.  This means finding missing tracks, downloading the ones that are broken and missing, checking the tags, finding album art, and most of all, listening to make sure I like them.  (I do that because I really don’t like keeping things in my library I don’t listen to.  Mainly because I tend to put the whole thing on shuffle when I’m bored.)  This doesn’t require a lot of attention.  I can also look things up if I need to, or quickly take a break to check email.  All things that are difficult at my desk in my office.

The only question I haven’t answered yet is how much work I want to take home.  I’m taking my general exams this semester, so obviously there will be studying for those.  I have my modular forms class that I should keep up with and recopy notes for.  I have my reading/research course that I’m doing with my advisor to help find a good dissertation topic.  These are all obvious things that I can spend a few hours each day doing at my desk.  But what about lesson plans?  Do I really want to lug home the spirals so I can do the lesson plans at home, or should I leave and do them in the few hours between obligations on Tuesdays?  I will always plan to bring my grading home.  I’ve planned it to be light and easy, something I can do while watching TV.

Do you have specific spaces that you designate for work?  What makes a good workspace or a bad workspace?  How much work do you take home with you, and how do you decide that?

First Day of Classes

5368242501_8bc26f587e_oSo today was the first day of classes.  This is the outfit I decided to wear.  I actually put together the idea of this last semester, but didn’t get a chance to take pictures.  It strikes me as very neo-Victorian, and I wish I had more clothes that could do that.  I always tend to go over the top professional for the first day of classes.  I tried to tone it down a little with jeans, but I’ve been informed that those hardly add any casual factor to it.  I don’t know why they wadded up funny, normally they’re very straight and trouser like.  I also apologize for the poor lighting.  This was taken during the whirlwind that was my rush home for lunch.

The reason that I tend to go very professional on the first day of classes is that I’m pretty young, as far as instructors go.  It also doesn’t help that I’m short, and even with the extra weight, I don’t exactly scream “authority figure”.  I want my students to think that I am professional, and that I am in control of the classroom.  Even if the latter is mostly an illusion.  Also, the first day of classes is the first impression the students will get of me.  You can’t do those twice.  So better to look like an uber-professional, totally over-dressed grad student, then a lazy one who doesn’t care.

The amazing thing to me about this outfit is that the white shirt is actually rather hideous on me.  I don’t like white as a color normally, and the cut is very strange.  But under the red jacket, nobody can see it.  I might see if the same thing would work with a cardigan too.  The jacket is actually something I found on accident from someone online.  It had added seams to the back to take it in.  It was an easy thing to let them out, and voila, perfectly fitted jacket for me.

This brings me to the issue of what I call “power clothes”.  Everybody has them.  That perfect set of heels that make you feel sexy no matter what, the idea of the lucky shirt, and more.  Normally, my two strongest power clothes are my corsets and my heels (very rarely worn together.)  This velvety jacket is a close third.  The fit is nice, and the fabric is fun.  Not too stodgy and not too trendy.

What are the clothes you like to wear on the first day of classes?  What kind of message do you think they send?  Do you have “power clothes” and if so, what are they?

New Year’s Resolutions

Photo by: Hélène Villeneuve

So I sort of dropped off the blogosphere for a while.  Not surprising with end of semester exams and some drama in my personal life.  But I’m back, and nothing’s gonna stop me from accomplishing my goals this year.  Hell, I got my Master’s degree last semester, despite everything.

So I humbly present my resolutions for 2011.  There are 6, so I can spend 2 months on each one.  I figure if I make them smaller and more manageable, maybe I’ll accomplish more of them.  So, here’s the list:

  1. Eat more healthy meals at home.
  2. Start an exercise program.
  3. Learn about real food, and making more things from scratch.
  4. Develop a regular time for craft projects.
  5. Better Halloween costume/party.
  6. Pick up piano practice again.

Also along the way, I’ll be doing things that I don’t want to wait to do, or things that should be part of my daily/weekly routines anyway.  The Getting Things Done system worked really well last semester, so that will be reinstated for this semester.  Zazen is a must, as always.  And I’m hoping to make time for a fun reading habit, at least a few nights a week.  A book a month might be nice.  I’m also hoping to get my finances more in order.  I’m not exactly irresponsible with my money, but I’m not as responsible as I could be, and with the prospect of Andrew leaving in the next year, I feel I need to get things in better order.

In other news, I have a new phone!  (New to me anyway.)  I have finally joined the smartphone generation.  And all while still on my cheap prepaid plan.  Merry Christmas to me.  Now let’s get 2011 started!