Weight Loss Wednesday: Losing the vacation weight gain

Phew! This has not only been a physically draining week, but a mentally draining one as well. Baseball season and cross country season are wrapping up, and it's been busy. I've also had what feels like a dozen appointments--physical therapy x3, psychotherapy, and a primary care doctor appointment.

In case you couldn't tell from my two posts about vacation, Jerry and I had an amazing time with Dan, Laurel, and Thomas! I loved getting to show Jerry the Pacific Northwest that I love so much, and he deserved the much-needed break from work.

We ate SO much good food--from noodle bowls with spicy peanut sauce (one of my must-haves in Portland), to "squeaky cheese" from Pike Market in Seattle. Weight gain was inevitable, but I was totally okay with that. Vacation food is worth it, if I'm choosy about what I splurge on.

Anyway, the day after I got home, I stepped on the scale to see 139.2--a 6.6 pound gain from the  132.6 that I weighed the day before we left for Portland! I thought I'd pick up three, maybe four pounds--but 6.6 was quite a bit! I knew I didn't eat enough to actually gain that much fat, so most of it had to be temporary water weight. Nevertheless, a little discouraging.

But, I've had a new attitude as far as my weight goes; and I knew if I just went back to what I was doing before (eating small portions of whatever foods I want--three meals and one treat per day), that I would get back down to my pre-vacation weight eventually.

I had no idea just how quickly that would happen! Today was my Wednesday Weigh-in:

So, I'm back at my goal weight today. I knew I hadn't eaten like a glutton on vacation--certainly a little more than normal, but I don't think it was excessive. The factors that I think contributed the most to the temporary gain:
  • Alcohol- I hardly ever have alcohol anymore, because sometimes it doesn't react well with my new meds. On the trip, though, I had a few drinks--maybe five total over the week? Alcohol always makes me feel puffy, probably from carrying some water weight.
  • Restaurant food- Again, restaurant food is a rarity for me anymore. Mostly because Jerry's and my budget plan doesn't allow a lot of wiggle room for food/grocery allowance each month. As we all know, restaurant food has a ton of sodium; thus, leading to temporary weight gain.
  • Exercise- I was much more active than normal (walking around the cities) and an increase in exercise usually causes me to put on a few pounds of water weight. 
  • Flying- There is something about flying that causes me to retain water as well. 
All things considered, it's not that surprising that I put on 6.6 pounds on my trip. But, I wanted to take them back off before they became permanent (or "real" weight gain).

My appetite was definitely higher than it was before I left for vacation. I had gotten used to eating filling restaurant meals while I was gone, and my body expected me to continue doing that when I was back home. So, I deliberately ate a little less (going back to the amount I was eating prior to vacation). I felt hungry sometimes, but I knew it would just take me a few days to adjust.

And it did. After four days or so, my appetite returned to normal. This is something that, until now, I never consciously noticed after a vacation. I think it's because I've been more aware of my body lately and the things that affect my appetite.

Something that I did on vacation that I think helped me not to gain even more weight is that I didn't continue to eat things if I tried them and didn't like them. For example, I wanted to try Blue Star doughnuts, something that several people had recommended. I got a lemon poppyseed buttermilk doughnut that sounded wonderful--but after a bite or two, I just wasn't into it. I liked the lemon icing, but the doughnut tasted dry to me. Definitely not my beloved Monica's doughnuts! So, instead of finishing it anyway, I threw away the rest.

I also stopped eating when I was comfortably full. On one of the days, I ordered a huge breakfast, knowing we weren't going to have lunch because we were going on a hike and eating an early dinner. The pancakes were SO SO good, and I chose to eat more of those than the sausage and hash browns that were on the side--that way, I could fill up on my favorite food first. I only had a couple of bites of pancake left, but I felt comfortably full, so I stopped eating. It felt silly to leave just a bite or two, but there was no reason to keep eating beyond that point.

I chose to eat the foods I wanted most. This is something I always do at home as well. If I don't eat the things I really want, I feel deprived and end up eating a lot more of the things I don't want, trying to get that satisfaction.

Finally, I didn't panic when I saw the weight gain. I didn't try to go overboard with losing the weight, because I knew it would come off if I just went back to my prior way of eating. And it did! Even though I had faith it would, I still felt kind of surprised that the weight came off so quickly.

Even though the number on the scale is becoming less and less important to me as I get older and more used to the idea that I might not actually gain back the 120+ pounds I've lost--a fear that started the day I hit my goal weight--it still nags at me in the back of my mind a bit. I think it always will. But I'm so grateful that I am learning the tools needed to keep the weight off (hopefully permanently this time!).

Just like with vacation, I know my weight is going to continue to fluctuate throughout my life. And if that means I can eat noodle bowls and ice cream and cajun tots and burgers while on vacation, then I'm good with that! It's interesting how much I've learned about my body, my mind, and my general well-being this year. I feel better than I have in as long as I can remember.

RECIPE: Pesto Cream Gnocchi

Sorry that I've been MIA all week. I worked on my blog almost non-stop for a couple of days trying to revise the layout a little, but it just wasn't working out. After doing all that work for nothing, I ended up taking a few days off of the computer completely. I'm going to try to get back to the norm this week.

Anyway, this recipe is one of the top five most delicious foods I've ever eaten. I cannot even describe how good it is! It's super rich, so a very small portion is filling--which is good, because it probably has a million grams of fat in it and at least a trillion calories. Totally worth every single gnocchi.

The original recipe can be found here. This is my slightly-modified version.

Remember, I'm not a photographer. Nor a food stylist.

Click here for the printer-friendly PDF

Pesto Cream Gnocchi


4-5 servings of unprepared gnocchi (frozen is my favorite, but dry gnocchi found with the pasta in the store is good, too. If you do homemade gnocchi, please come make some for me.)
2 Tbsp butter
4 cloves of garlic
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp pesto (I love the Rana brand pesto in the refrigerated section)
salt and pepper to taste


Cook gnocchi according to package directions, and then run under cold water to stop cooking and prevent sticking.

In a sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Sauté the garlic in the butter until the garlic is soft (be patient—don’t crank up the heat and burn it!). Add the cream and increase the heat to medium-high. Bring just to a boil, stirring constantly.

Reduce the heat to low, and add the parmesan cheese, pesto, salt, and pepper. Allow the sauce to simmer for a few more minutes. Once the sauce has thickened a little, add the gnocchi and stir gently until covered in sauce. Makes 4-5 servings.


*Don't try to make this low in fat. I mean, you can, but it just won't be the same. I ate this as I was losing weight by counting calories, and it never made me gain weight. Just enjoy the richness of it. If you want to make it healthier, just eat a smaller portion and have a salad with it.

*You may want to hold off on adding salt until the end. The Parmesan cheese adds a lot of salt. I happen to love salt, so I added some; but some may find it too salty if you season while cooking.

*I love the simplicity of this dish, and I honestly don't think it needs anything more! The garlic and basil in cream is heavenly enough.

(Now I'm going to go eat the leftovers for lunch...)

Introducing Jerry to the Pacific Northwest: Portland

After spending two days in Seattle with Laurel and Dan, Jerry and I drove down to Portland on Saturday morning. We were looking forward to taking our time getting there, and maybe making a stop or two along the way.

I was dying for Jerry to see some of the mossy trees that I love so much, so I decided to take him to Multnomah Falls, one of the stops that Thomas and I made when we went hiking earlier this year. It was SO pretty, and I thought it would be the perfect place to take Jerry. (Here is a picture of when I was there in May):

Multnomah Falls

For some reason, Google Maps kept rerouting me when I would search for directions, and I couldn't figure out why--and then after a Google search, I saw that it was all closed because of the fires that started recently when some kids set off fireworks. There were a couple of my favorite scenic places that were ruined because of those fires, and it makes me so mad.

So, we headed right to Portland. We parked the car and then spent most of the day exploring the Saturday Market. It was so fun! There were lots of vendors outside selling crafts, art, and food. There were so many things I wanted to buy, but I managed not to buy anything (still trying to stick with our budget--and my allowance was my only spending money while in Portland).

cat pillow
It was so hard not to buy one of these body pillows for Phoebe, hahaha!

When we'd seen everything, we went for a long walk along the river to the Portland Aerial Tram. I'd been on it before, so I thought it would be fun to take Jerry. The walk to get there was actually the best part! It was about two and a half miles, and we took our time. The weather was gorgeous!

The ride on the tram itself only lasts about four minutes each way. The tram rides on a cable about 500 feet above the ground, so it has a nice view. I think it's meant to use for transportation, but I just wanted to go on it to see the sights!

We walked back to the market and picked up our rental car, then drove to Alamo to return it. Thomas came and picked us up, since he was our host for the weekend. Every time I visit, it's been a tradition that we go out for noodle bowls at Shanghai Tunnel; so, Jerry got to taste the noodle bowls that I have raved about. They were delicious, as always. And I've never gotten a good photo of them, because it's so dark inside!

noodle bowl
The vegetables are SO good--my favorite part was the zucchini this time!

What Thomas had planned after dinner was a surprise (I love not knowing the itinerary!). We went to an arcade called Ground Kontrol, and it was awesome! I am not a video game person, but this arcade had all of the retro games I played as a kid--Pac-Man, Tetris, Paperboy, Asteroids, Super Mario Bros., etc. And the music played in the arcade was from the same time period!

Each game only cost a quarter to play, just like the good old days, and we had a blast. I wasn't nearly as good at the games as I used to be, but I had so much fun reminiscing. I only spent a few bucks, but played for a long time; and the arcade ended up being my favorite part of the weekend! We stopped for a drink at Ten Barrel Brewing before calling it a night.

In the morning, we started with a delicious breakfast at Stepping Stone Cafe. They are known for their "Mancakes" (ginormous pancakes). I was in the mood for hash browns and sausage so I opted for that instead, but Jerry got one mancake. The food was so good! The hash browns were unique in that they were sliced instead of shredded or diced.

The Portland Marathon happened to be this weekend, so we went to the finish line for a little while to check it out. Then we went on another mystery destination--Powell's Bookstore! Powell's is the largest used and new bookstore IN THE WORLD (literally). We even had to pick up a map of the store when we walked in. There were rooms and rooms and rooms filled with books. It was crazy!

I love memoirs, and I ended up spending way too much time in the memoir section. I wanted to check out the rest of the store, so I made my way around, walking from room to room in awe at the amount of books. I wish I'd taken pictures inside the store! But it didn't occur to me at the time.

Oregon trail

We hit up Blue Star for doughnuts (several people told me that Blue Star has much better doughnuts than Voodoo, because I wasn't too impressed with Voodoo). At Blue Star, I got a lemon poppyseed buttermilk doughnut, and it was just so-so. I loved the lemon glaze, but I thought the doughnut itself was on the dry side. So, I only had a few bites before throwing it out. I wanted to save my calories for Salt & Straw (ice cream) later!

After Blue Star, we went to Widmer Brewery for a tour. This was totally Jerry's and Thomas's thing, but I was happy to see Jerry so excited. He loved it.

From Widmer, we went to Salt & Straw (my reward for going to the brewery, haha!). I'd heard so much hype about Salt & Straw that I was very excited to go--ice cream is my very favorite food in the world.

Salt & Straw is known for their unusual flavors, but the very odd ones didn't appeal to me, so I got a scoop of Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons and a scoop of Almond Toffee with Fudge Ganache. I liked the Sea Salt one, because it really balanced the sweet ice cream. And I liked the Toffee one, but I didn't like the ganache in it--the ganache had no sweetness to it, so I just picked those pieces out and set them aside.

I thought Salt & Straw was very good, but not much different from any other ice cream I've had. I'm sure if I had tried the very unusual flavors, I would feel differently; but as someone who loves ice cream and eats it way too often, I thought it was good--just nothing super special. That didn't stop me from eating it all, though! ;)

We went to Killer Burger for dinner, so Jerry could try the famous peanut butter pickle bacon burger. I was still pretty full from the ice cream, so I ordered a "girlie size" burger and I didn't even finish that. Jerry was impressed with his burger, as I knew he would be! We headed back to Thomas's and watched a couple of episodes of Atypical--a show that has become a a new favorite.

In the morning, we went out for a big breakfast because we were going to be hiking for about four hours. I had requested that we go to the same cafe we went to when we started our first hike in May--the Biscuits Cafe. They have pancakes that taste like yellow cake, and they are SO good. It was going to be our breakfast and lunch, so I ordered a big meal! It was delicious.

pancake breakfast

After breakfast, we drove the hour and twenty minutes or so to Silver Falls. I didn't know anything about Silver Falls, but I'd just requested that Thomas take us somewhere that Jerry can experience my favorite trees. Almost immediately, we saw the first waterfall, and the scenery was amazing. We spent a long time taking pictures and enjoying the view.

Silver Falls Oregon

Silver Falls Oregon

Then we continued on the hike, which ended up being a little over 5 miles total (I swear it was more like 15, but Thomas insisted it was less than 6). We saw several more waterfalls, and tons of mossy trees. Such an amazing way to spend our last day of vacation!

After driving back to Thomas's, he went to watch Brandon's soccer game (Brandon is his "little brother" from the Big Brothers Big Sisters program); I took the time to write a blog post; and Jerry watched football. By 7:30, we were all starving! So we went to one final restaurant that I was dying for Jerry to try--McMenamins, home of the very best tater tots in the world. Remember when I ran the 10K PR, and all I could think about was the tots from McMenamins? Jerry has always wanted to try them, because I raved about them so much.

Jerry and I shared a burger, because we wanted to save our stomach space for tots. Maybe it was because of the hike and and because I was so hungry, but I think the tots were better than ever that night! I also had a blackberry cider that was delicious.

Our final stop was a dive bar called Pappy's, where I had my very first Long Island Iced Tea the last time I was in Portland. We played Keno, and Jerry had all three of us pick numbers for a 9-spot card. He actually won $40 on it! The 9-spot cards don't have great odds, but I guess luck was on our side (well, his side anyway!).

In the morning, Thomas dropped us off at a nearby MAX stop so that we could get to the airport without dealing with rush hour traffic. The flight home actually went by really quickly, because I was working on my 1-Second Everyday video of the trip the entire time. The video is five minutes long, which is a lot of seconds of video to go through! But it's fun to have all those memories in one (relatively) short video.

Here is a video of the whole trip (in five minutes). You can skip ahead to 1:45 if you want to just see the Portland part; I posted the Seattle part yesterday). 

The whole trip (Seattle and Portland) was everything I hoped it would be! Jerry had a great time and got to see all the things I love about the Pacific Northwest; and we're even talking about taking the kids there on vacation next year (or possibly the following year). I think the kids would really like it.

It sucks having a weigh-in the morning after a vacation. I fully expected to gain weight (as you can see, I wasn't concerned about calories!). I was hoping that my weight would be around 136 or less (a three pound gain). I nearly fell over when I saw the scale:
Hahaha! I was about 133 last week, so this is a six-pound vacation gain. Honestly, though, I think after a few days, it'll be more like a two-pound gain. I obviously didn't make the healthiest choices while I was gone, but I most certainly did not eat enough to gain six pounds. I always tend to retain water when I travel. Also, I was very active--much more than normal--and when I pick up my activity, I hold onto water as well. 
So, I'm not trying to make excuses for the gain, but I think next week's weight will be much more accurate. No matter what it is, it was worth it! I didn't eat like a glutton, but I ate all of my favorite Portland foods (as well as a few new ones). I got in a lot of activity, and I enjoyed every moment of my vacation with Jerry. It was a fantastic week! 


Introducing Jerry to the Pacific Northwest: Seattle

I know today is supposed to be Mental Health Monday, but since I'm in Portland right now, I thought I'd write a post about Jerry's and my trip to the Pacific Northwest--particularly Seattle and Portland.

As you probably know from my blog, I am in love with Portland. It is my very favorite city I've ever visited, and I have been visiting pretty frequently ever since my first time a few years ago. Thomas, my best friend, lives in Portland, so I love that I get to hang out with him; and Laurel, another friend who I met via my blog, lives in Seattle. Seattle and Portland are only a three hour drive apart, so I get to see Laurel and her husband, Dan, when I'm out this way, too!

I've been telling Jerry for a few years now just how much I love this area (Portland in particular) and I've been wanting him to see what I am so infatuated with. It sounds odd, but my favorite part about Portland (and surrounding areas) is the trees. They are amazing! They're super tall, and I love that they grow moss on them, making the entire tree an emerald green. Here is a photo from a hike we took today, to show what I'm talking about:

Anyway, we planned a trip to Portland with a side-trip to Seattle. My friend Caitlin was supposed to go, but she canceled at the last minute, so it was just Jerry and me (which was fine, obviously). First, we flew into Portland on Thursday morning.

See how comfortable I look? I was totally sober, I swear.
I'm getting more comfortable with flying.

Once we arrived, we went straight to a car rental lot to pick up a car to drive up to Seattle. The car rental was an odd experience (for us, at least). After signing the agreement, we were told to go to the lot where the full size cars were, and choose which car we wanted. The keys were in it, so we were to just get in the car we liked and drive to the exit. So much different than any other time I've rented a car! (They usually choose for us and give us the keys).

The drive went quickly, and we stopped at Snoqualmie Falls (where I went with Laurel on my last trip). It's such a pretty waterfall! At one point, I asked Jerry to take my picture in front of the falls. Later, I saw that he took me very literally. Hahaha! (The falls are behind me, so you'll just have to use your imagination.)

We finished the drive to Seattle, going directly to Laurel and Dan's house. Laurel actually had cupcakes from my favorite bakery waiting for us!! (She knows me so well).

Jerry and I were tired from a travel day, so we ordered pizza and just hung out at their house for the evening. I got to catch up with Laurel, while Jerry got to know them both (he had never met either of them).

On Friday, we had cupcakes for breakfast--mine was the cookie dough cupcake (the top right corner of the photo above--SO good). Then, we headed to the Space Needle. I think the Space Needle is a must for anyone who is visiting Seattle, because it's such an amazing view of the city!

Afterward, we went to Pike Place Market, which is an amazing indoor/outdoor market with all sorts of fun shops. I bought an apple as soon as we got there, because it looked delicious (and it was!). We spent the afternoon walking around the market, enjoying the little shops. I wanted to go to this cheese place called Beecher's.

Laurel, me, and Jerry at Pike Place

The last time I was there with Laurel, she bought what she calls "Squeaky Cheese" (which are actually cheese curds made on site). She calls it squeaky cheese because it makes a sort of squeaky noise on your teeth when you bite into it. I never eat cheese unless it is part of a dish, but when I tried one of the curds she had, I was sold. It was SO good. This time, I definitely wanted to buy some. Jerry ended up buying some aged white cheddar as well, and we picked at both while we walked around.

We took a break at Rachel's Ginger Beer, and then got cookies from Cow Chip Cookies. Jerry and I shared one, and it was literally the best chocolate chip cookie I've ever eaten in my life! I can't even describe how good it was.

That evening, we went to a brewery called Reuben's to meet up with my friend Allison and her husband. I don't drink beer, but I had a cider, and it was really good. It was super fun getting to catch up with Allison (we went to high school together).

Dan, Laurel, me, and Jerry

Allison and me
Jerry was thrilled with his flight of beer at Reuben's

We went back to Laurel and Dan's, where we each ate another cupcake (so many sweets, which is my favorite kind of vacation!). We chatted for a couple of hours before heading to bed. Jerry and I had to leave for Portland in the morning. The trip to Seattle went by so fast! But I loved that Jerry got to meet Laurel and Dan, and to see some of the Pacific Northwest.

I put together a short video of our Seattle trip. Next up: Portland!

Last minute meet-up!

Hey Seattle! This is totally last-minute, but if any of you would like to meet up while I’m in Seattle, I will be at Reuben’s in Ballard at 7:00. Feel free to come have a drink with Jerry and me! :)

Thrifty Thursday: The 3 Habits that Make the Biggest Impact on our Savings

I'm preparing this post ahead of time, because if all goes as planned, I should be in Seattle right now :)

For "Thrifty Thursday", I thought that I would just do a short list of some things we've done to save money over the last few months. We've made lots of changes, but I think these three things have had the largest impact on our savings. People obviously spend their money on different things, depending on what is important to them, so these may or may not be relevant. They have helped us save a TON, though.

I'm truly amazed at how much spending we did before, and we didn't even realize it. When we saw our pay stubs from last year, I was shocked--because we had nothing to show for it. We were still in debt, and we couldn't even tell you where the money went.

Now that I am writing everything down and keeping track of our money, I can clearly see where the money was going. We've developed some new habits, which will be helpful to KEEP us out of debt once we pay off our final credit card. So, here are a few minor things that add up big over time...

Giving each family member an "allowance" each month

This has probably been the biggest factor in saving money. We budget money for all of the necessities, but if there are things we want to buy for ourselves, we have to use our allowances. Shopping this way has made me very conscious of what I want versus what I need, and I've been much pickier about the things that I buy.

Even though I've always shopped at Salvation Army for clothes, for example, now I am very picky about what I buy there. Before our budget, I would just throw things in the cart and not worry about it, because they were cheap anyway. Now, since I'm using my allowance (that only goes so far), I ask myself very carefully if I'm going to wear it. I've put back several things that I really wanted but just didn't think I would wear much.

When I stopped drinking wine, I started drinking Perrier flavored water (one can a day) which is very expensive--$6 for a 10-pack of 8-oz cans. I justified buying it because I wasn't buying wine anymore. But after we started budgeting, because the water was something that was just for me, I would have to use my allowance for it if I still wanted to drink it. That just isn't worth it to me! Now, I just stick with plain old tap water, and I'm totally fine with that. Sometimes I'll add some True Lime to it (or I'll even have tonic water with True Lime when I want to feel like I'm drinking a cocktail, haha).

Our general rule of thumb is that if the item is for the family, then it would come out of our budget; but if it's for just one of us, we have to use our allowances. Jerry buys beer with his (craft beer is so expensive! Totally not worth it to me, but it's like gold to him). I save mine, mostly, but last month I bought some clothes and Jerry's birthday present.

When grocery shopping, I buy only what we will use that week

This is a tough one! When there is a good sale on something, I'm tempted to stock up. But I've realized that in the long run, we save more money by buying just what we need for the week. I don't buy in bulk anymore (actually, I got a refund on my Sam's Club membership!). Things may cost a few pennies more per pound, but our grocery bill is much cheaper--and I don't throw food away, because we use it all!

I wrote a whole post about grocery shopping on a budget; but in general, I write out a menu on Thursday (trying to base it on sales ads and coupons, but I don't obsess over that--my time is valuable, too). On Friday, I buy the groceries for the week, and then I do my best not to go to the store in between. The menu isn't carved in stone; rather, it's just a list of seven dinners that I choose from each day. Once in a while, we'll even do a cereal-for-dinner night when we're busy.

We don't eat out anymore

We used to go out to eat about once a week, maybe twice a week. I know there are people who go out every day, and I thought I was being thrifty by just going a handful of times per month (this is counting fast food as well as sit-down restaurants or take-out). However, for a family of four to go out to dinner at an average-priced restaurant costs about the same as filling up both Jerry's and my  cars with gas for the week ($50). When you look at it that way, dining out seems crazy.

The first couple of months on our budget, I didn't dine out for a single meal. After a few weeks, I didn't even think about it anymore. We finally went out to dinner for Jerry's and my anniversary in August, and it was really enjoyable. It felt special, because we just don't do that anymore. And we all appreciated the meal out. But paying the bill (about $65) was kind of shocking.

We did decide last month to budget $100 per month for "family stuff"--whether it's going out to eat, going bowling, to a movie, a baseball game, whatever it may be--we have $100 to spend. I think spending money this way is valuable. We are "buying memories" in a sense. Yes, we can do free things together, but it doesn't kill us to budget for something that costs money.

The list could go on, but these three habits are the biggest things that have been money savers for us. We've been treating this whole budget thing like a game, and even the kids enjoy it. They like having their own money to do what they want with, instead of asking for things (and of course, Jerry and I like that, too!). I actually haven't felt at all bitter about our money diet.

It's been a HUGE relief to not feel like we're living paycheck to paycheck. That alone is enough to make the budgeting and spending diet worth it!

RECIPE: Katie's Pecan Pie

My and my dad's favorite pie is pecan. One year, I made him one for his birthday, because I didn't have much money to buy him a gift. He was impressed with how good it was, and ever since then, it's been tradition for me to make him a pie on his birthday (as well as on Father's Day). This is the recipe I use, and it turns out fantastic every time--quite a surprise, considering I can't bake to save my soul! (See notes after recipe)

Here is a link to download the printer-friendly PDF version.

Katie's Pecan Pie

For Crust:
1-1/3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup oil
2 Tbsp cold water

For Pie:
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1-1/4 cup pecan pieces/halves

For Crust: In a pie plate, combine all ingredients with a spoon. When all the flour is moistened, gather all the dough into a ball and put it in the center of the pie plate. With your hands, press the dough across the bottom and up the sides of the plate, forming a shell. No need to grease the plate (the oil in the dough keeps it from sticking). And better yet, no rolling out the dough!

For Pie: Pre-heat oven to 375 F. In a large bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Add the other ingredients except for pecans and mix well. Fold in pecans, and pour filling into pie shell. Bake at 375 for 40-50 minutes, until set. Let it cool to room temperature before serving. Nutrition info: Don’t even worry about it!

*My favorite part about making this pie is the crust. It's SO easy! Just a few ingredients, and you mix it together IN THE PIE PLATE--so you don't have extra dirty dishes. Also, there is no rolling out the dough--you literally just push the dough down with your hands and shape it along the bottom and up the sides of the plate. It's foolproof!

*This obviously isn't a "healthy" recipe, but considering the change my blog has taken, I'm going to post my favorite recipes, healthy or not.

*Starting checking the pie after about 40 minutes to see if it's done. I just jiggle the plate a little and see how the center looks. You don't want to wait until it's completely firm, because the top will burn. It'll still be a little soft when it's done. And it always firms up as it cools.

I hope you enjoy it as much as my dad and I do!

Mental Health Monday: Freeing Myself of the Anxiety from Social Media

Once again, this post has been a long time coming. It's a topic I've been wanting to write about for over five years. I never actually thought I would bring myself to do it, because it makes me my most vulnerable; but, I finally feel like I'm in the right frame of mind to do so. (Hopefully I'm not just hypomanic, only to wind up regretting this later! haha). As I was about to post this last night, my internet went out! So here goes...

I started blogging in 2000. Back then, it wasn't really called "blogging"--it was referred to as an online journal. I basically wrote as if it was my diary (much like I do now). I had a small handful of readers, and even though we'd never met in person, I felt like they were friends. I was extremely honest and open, and I felt comfortable being that way.

When I switched to Blogger, I never expected to get so many new readers so quickly. I only made the switch because posting photos was easier on Blogger than it was on my previous platform (called Open Diary). When my blog readership grew very quickly, I was terrified. I had no idea why people were reading the random goings-on in my life, and I started to feel self-conscious. However, I had been blogging for 11 years at that point, so I just kept writing how I always had.

At that point, I never expected the hate that I would soon get.

I don't write a very controversial blog, so I couldn't understand why people would go out of their way to write comments or emails that were directly trying to hurt me. Having blogged for 11 years, I was so used to people being kind (or at least respectful); so when people started writing comments that were deliberately hurtful, I was taken aback.

The first time I saw a hate-thread on social media about me, I cried for three days. I wanted to quit blogging, crawl into bed, and not come out. I began to question what was wrong with me, and I wondered if what those people said was accurate. I began to wonder if my "real life" friends thought the same things about me. (The comments I refer to in this post come from several sources, not just my blog itself: blog comments, my blog's social media, and email.)

In general, those comments filled me with self-doubt and made me question who I am--what kind of person I am. I'd always considered myself to be very kind, sensitive, sympathetic/empathetic, and generous. When I started getting the hurtful comments, I began to wonder whether I was, in fact, a terrible mom and role model; a lazy housewife without a "real" job; a selfish friend/daughter/sister; an unhealthy yo-yo dieter; and all sorts of other things.

Just sitting around eating bonbons and watching daytime soaps
while my husband is at work, because that's what I do all day long.

My kids couldn't ask for a better role model! I taught them the
best way to pack in the most sugary toppings on frozen yogurt.

Way too selfish to show support for my family. I just enjoy
wearing matching shirts in public for no reason.

Drinking on the job

Overall, 99% of the feedback I get on my blog is positive and/or respectful; but it was that 1% that stuck in my mind. Each time I got a mean comment that was meant to hurt me, it was all I could focus on. I desperately wanted to be one of those people who could just brush off the negativity and move on.

I tried not to care. I lied to myself and tried to convince myself that I didn't care.

One day I noticed a ton of traffic coming from a particular site I'd never heard of, and I clicked over to it to see what the traffic was all about. It turned out to be a hate site directed toward bloggers, and there was a thread about me. I read it and cried--again, I was tempted to stop blogging.

From that day on, I dreaded signing into Blogger. Until Blogger changed their sign in screen recently, the home page would show my traffic (page views, search words, and traffic sources). I started covering the screen with my arm when I signed in, so that I couldn't see where my traffic was coming from. I knew if I saw that hate site, my stomach would feel like I'd swallowed lead, and I would feel the worst anxiety I'd ever felt.

I never read that site again (even when I saw that I was getting traffic from it), because I didn't think I'd be able to handle the hateful comments (and what good would it do, really?); but even seeing that I was getting traffic from it would eat me up inside, always making me wonder what they were writing about me.

Another thing I started to dread was 9:00 in the evenings--when my blog post would go live. Anonymous comments were enabled then, and I would be filled with anxiety while I waited for the first comment on my post. I had Gmail notifications on my phone, so whenever I would get an email, it would pop up on my phone (I receive an email for each comment that someone writes). Once 9:00 came around each day, I would have my phone in hand--heart racing, sweating, irritable, worrying about the comments.

Whenever I saw "Anonymous has left a comment...", my anxiety would skyrocket. The mean comments are always anonymous. Like I said, 99% of the feedback was positive, so I really shouldn't have been so anxious; but as you know, you can't exactly choose how you feel.

It got so bad that I had constant anxiety when thinking about my blog. Until then, I had loved writing every day. I always looked forward to writing in my blog, reading the comments, and meeting new people. It brought me joy. Once the anxiety got to the point where it was affecting my entire life, I knew I had to change something. But I didn't know what to change.

So, I stopped writing as frequently. And when I did write, I tried to keep it kind of boring. I stopped writing such personal things so that if people had something mean to say, at least it wouldn't be so much directed at me.

But I soon learned that it didn't matter what I wrote--there would always be somebody who would find something to say in order to make me feel bad. Still, I tried to keep my blog positive. One time, I posted a photo of me in a dress because I thought I looked nice (I don't dress up often) and someone called me a "smug c**t"--I actually burst out laughing at that comment, though! Even to this day, my friends will joke around about what a "smug c**t" I am, hahaha.

SO smug--just look at how that face says,
"I'm so much better than you"

In all seriousness, though, the comments changed me as a writer. I hated that it did, because I wasn't writing the things I wanted to write. From the time I learned to read, I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. And I was good at it! I used to win the creative authors award each year, and I wrote short stories in my free time.

By allowing those comments to get under my skin, I was holding back so much of what I had to say. I desperately wanted to just focus on the good and on being myself, but I hated feeling so vulnerable when I would post personal things. So, I chose to write about impersonal, kind of boring things that didn't make me feel so vulnerable. I even lost a lot of readers, and I felt relief about that.

When I was going through depressive episodes in particular, I had a very hard time writing anything at all. When you look at last year's depression, I wasn't blogging very often--I just didn't feel like I could deal with hateful people when I was feeling so down as it was.

Early last year, I disabled anonymous comments, and it helped tremendously. Now, if someone disagrees with me, they tend to do so in a respectful manner--and that's all I ask for. I certainly don't expect everyone to agree with everything I say, but there is a way of expressing disagreement without deliberately trying to be hurtful.

I was bummed to disable the anonymous comments, because I had several "regulars" who would use the anonymous form and then sign the comment. I even sent several of them emails to let them know why I was disabling the anonymous option, and they were very understanding. That's actually how I became friends with Martine, who I met up with when I went to San Diego this year :)

I also disabled my Gmail notifications, so that I actually have to go into the app to see if I have new email. That was also helpful, because I don't feel like I have to read comments as soon as I see the notification. Removing the anonymous comment option and disabling the Gmail notifications took away about 50% of my anxiety, which was a great start.

It wasn't until early this year, when I had a big breakthrough in therapy, was diagnosed with bipolar, and started the correct medication that I finally got to the point where I just don't care. When I've gotten mean comments or emails, I've actually been able to laugh about them, make fun of them, and sometimes I even respond to them. Usually with sarcasm.

This time, I am not just convincing myself I don't care. I truly don't give a shit what people think about me! And you know what? That is the greatest feeling. I love that I can be myself, write what I want to write, make myself vulnerable, and never second guess the person I am.

I AM kind, sensitive, sympathetic/empathetic, and generous. I am also a good listener. I treat people with respect. I try to be the best role model I can for my boys. I am honest. I care so much about my friends and family and would do just about anything for them. I am smart. I love to teach people things that I know well. I'm a good running coach. I eat junk food, and I'm not at all sorry about it. I'm thoughtful and enjoy doing things that will make others happy. I've always been a very creative person, too.

I mess up sometimes, but so does everybody. I forget things, like birthdays, once in a while--but I am sincere when I apologize for it. I might say something offensive or inappropriate now and then, but I never say things with the intention of actually hurting people with my words. Sometimes I'm too ambitious and don't follow through with things I've said I will do--I guess I'll just blame that one on bipolar disorder, haha. My diet is atrocious and I eat too many grapes--but if that's the worst thing about me, then I'm pretty proud.

Basically diabetes in a bowl

The reason I took so long to write this post is because I knew it would make me even more vulnerable--probably my most vulnerable. I thought that when the "haters" would read about how the comments caused me so much anxiety, they would be "winning" and getting what they were after. I didn't want to give them the satisfaction, so I chose not to say anything at all. And I was afraid of the feedback I would get, honestly!

By posting this today, I am declaring that I am ME, and I'm done trying to always portray a better version of me. I am fine just the way I am, and I am happy with who I am, even with my flaws. Maybe that makes me a smug c**t (haha! I couldn't resist), but I can rest easy and be thankful that I am not filled with so much hate that I try to hurt other people when they are making themselves vulnerable.

I am filled with admiration for people who are comfortable enough to be themselves, whether they "fit in" or not. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders since I finally stopped trying to change everything about me to please other people. The only thing I'm sorry for is that I wasted so much of my time and energy feeling anxious about what people were going to say about me.

When I started losing weight eight years ago, I never EVER imagined that I would actually reach my goal weight (let alone maintain it). And just like then, I never EVER imagined that I would one day feel comfortable with being my true, imperfect self. It's taken me 35 years to get to this point, but I can express with 100% certainty that it was worth it.

(And to those of you that have left kind and/or respectful comments on my blog--whether regularly or just once-- thank you! If not for those comments, I certainly would have quit blogging when I went through such a rough time. I can't even count the number of times that a particular comment has made my day or filled me with joy somehow. I read and appreciate every single one of them. xo)

(Oh, and since I'm sure someone will mention it... I am currently reading "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brene Brown. I am loving it! And I plan to write a review when I'm done with it.)

Family Friday: Finally!

So, I've decided that I either need to stick with the blog posting schedule... OR, just stop saying I'm going to, hahaha.

I actually did a lot of work on the blog the past few days--just no posts. I can't even tell you how excited I was this weekend when I did something I've been trying to do for three months. Something I've wanted to do for about five years...

...a drop-down navigation menu!

Yes, this made me VERY excited. But you need to see just how this came about...

I've always loved the idea of a drop-down navigation menu for my blog, but I had no clue where to start. I knew nothing about html, css, javascript, etc. I didn't even know what those things were! So, I didn't dwell on it and just tried to find other ways to make things easy to find on my blog.

In July, when I started working on giving my blog a makeover, I revisited the idea. I had taught myself just some of the simple bits of coding, and I wanted to try the drop-down menu again. I used a tutorial from XOMISSE, who has a ton of great tutorials that I've used (and which work well). The first part (and most time-consuming part) is typing out all of the html with links to each part of the menu. (After that, you just copy and paste some codes.)

I spent a LOT of time working on the links--from deciding what each tab on the menu should be, to each sub menu, and making sure I had pages to go along with all of the topics. Instead of typing it all out in my blog itself, I typed it into a notepad on my computer (I didn't want to make a big mistake on my blog). I also have a "test blog" to try out codes before attempting them on Runs for Cookies.

I successfully made a drop down menu for my recipes blog (which only had a few tabs, and wasn't nearly as complicated). I was so excited that it worked! But after typing out the whole html section for Runs for Cookies and adding the coding, it wasn't working. The menu looked like a huge jumbled mess of words in my header.

For the last three months, I've attempted to do it several times--even using different tutorials. It was the same result every time. On Friday, I assumed that maybe it was because I used a different template for Runs for Cookies than I had for the recipes blog. I decided to take the time to use a new template and switch everything over--it would be a pain in the ass, but maybe I'd then be able to use the drop-down menu.

So, once again, I redesigned the blog. I've loved learning the simple coding and experimenting with it, so it's actually really fun to work on (don't be surprised if you see lots more changes--I do have bipolar, after all... haha!).

And after I switched everything over to the "Simple" blog theme, I tried the drop-down code again. It was the SAME RESULT--a big jumbled mess. I was so frustrated I wanted to throw my computer against the wall; but I was determined to figure it out. I decided I was going to do it, no matter how long it took. Side by side, I looked at the coding for the recipes blog (the one that worked) and the one that I'd typed for Runs for Cookies (that didn't work). I literally looked at every. single. character. to see what the difference was.

And I found it. When I discovered what it was, I was simultaneously thrilled and pissed.

When typing out the draft in "Notes" on my Mac, the Notes app apparently differentiates between a single quote mark (') and an apostrophe(')--if they look the same, it's because they are! (In my eyes, anyway). I always typed the single quote mark/apostrophe (the button to the right of the colon/semicolon button on a keyboard).

When typing that in my blog or TextEdit, it works just fine. But when I typed them into Notes, Notes changed some of them to be at a slight angle, like an apostrophe, rather than straight up and down. Check this out:

Isn't it ridiculous?! It was the same with the double quotes above--the menu would only work if the quotes were straight up and down and not angled. Once I noticed that slight difference, I copied everything to a TextEdit program and tried again. It actually worked!

The whole problem that I spent months trying to figure out was simply the style of quotes/apostrophes. I was actually doing everything right the whole time, but because NotePad changed the style of those quotes, my code didn't work.

So, please humor me by checking out my new drop-down navigation menu ;) A lot of headaches were caused from that stupid thing! All was not in vain, though--I have learned so much more about coding, and it's starting to make more sense to me. It's actually pretty fun--like figuring out math problem through trial and error.

Anyway, here are some bullets to catch up on stuff:

  • My back pain has been so bad lately that I am completely miserable at times. (I have mild scoliosis and a couple of bone spurs in the center of my back.) I saw a pamphlet in my doctor's office for a new spine center that had opened, and I made an appointment there. The doctor prescribed physical therapy, particularly for my upper right side--the pain goes up to my shoulder and down my right arm, even causing my hand to get numb frequently.
  • I started physical therapy last week, and it's going well. I really like my physical therapist, and it's surprisingly relaxing to go there after I drop off my kids at school. The PT center is very quiet and homey. And my therapist does a lot of manual stuff to my shoulder (pressing in certain spots and moving my arm into different positions--it's almost like getting a massage at times! Haha).
  • Jerry and I are going to Portland/Seattle next weekend! I'm super excited. Caitlin is going to meet us there as well. After we arrive in Portland, we're going to rent a car and drive up to Seattle. There, we're going to stay with my friend Laurel for a couple of days. Then we'll drive down to Thomas's in Portland for a couple of days before heading home from Portland. Neither Jerry nor Caitlin has been to Portland or Seattle, so I'm ridiculously excited to show them the city (Portland) that I fell in love with a few years ago. Jerry hasn't met Laurel, and I just know he's going to love Laurel's husband. I don't think Caitlin and Thomas have seen each other since we all ran Ragnar together in 2014, so it'll be a (very mini) reunion for the three of us.
  • Last Sunday, Emily (the blog reader I randomly got together with for drinks last year and have since become good friends with) came over with her boyfriend, John. I hadn't met him yet, so I thought it'd be fun for them to come over and have dinner with Jerry and me. The plan was to make a bonfire in the backyard, but it was way too hot for that--it actually was in the 90's that day! Instead, we taught Emily how to play Euchre--which is no easy feat! Euchre is a tough game to learn. But we had fun, and hopefully we'll all get together again.

  • On Tuesday, the temp actually hit 98 degrees. SO ridiculous! We had cross country practice at 5:30, which consisted of speed work on the track. Does anything sound more miserable than speed work when it's nearly 100 degrees outside?  ;) I really wish we had access to hose water, so we could set up a sprinkler for the kids to run through at practice. Instead, Renee brought some HUGE chunks of ice (she froze water in large Tupperware containers). We divided the kids in to three teams, and they did a relay race where they had to carry the ice and pass it to each team member. The kids loved it!
  • When they were running their speed intervals, there were a few kids who were really lacking enthusiasm (but I honestly couldn't blame them). I told them that if they did an extra lap of speed work, they could dump a cup of water on my head. I really didn't think that would motivate them, but that pepped them right up! They spread the word to the other kids, who then asked if I would make the same deal for them. And when they were done, pretty much everyone got to dump water on my head. It was freezing cold water, and quite shocking when it hit me, but it was fun to see the kids get so excited.
  • On Friday, my old high school had their homecoming football game, preceded by a parade. Our cross country team was asked to be in the parade, so Renee and I walked with the kids, who threw candy along the route. My kids wanted to stay for the football game; none of us (the kids and me) had ever been to a football game before (at least that I can remember), so I thought it would be fun. I sat with Renee and Dave, and the boys met up with their friends and spent the evening not watching the game ;)  (I didn't really watch it either, though!)

Wednesday Weigh-in and Thrifty Thursday catch-up

I have no idea how I used to blog every single day and have it posted by 9:00. The days just go by so fast!

I'm only using this photo because I don't want the thumbnail
photo for this post to be my weigh-in on the scale! haha

I do like the new themed days that I've started, though. It helps me to think of ideas to write about, and to focus on topics other than weight loss for once ;)

But, speaking of weight, I did do my Wednesday Weigh-in yesterday, because I was planning on writing a post until the time got away from me.

I think that was about the same as last week. I can't remember! Since I've been staying between 131 and 134 for a few months, I don't really pay much attention to it unless it gets over that range (like when I was taking the anxiety med).

It's funny, though--the longer I stay within this range, the more anxious I get about it. At first, I really didn't care at all about my weight. I was thrilled to be back in the 140's, and I wasn't expecting to lose much more (if any). But considering my history, and how unstable my weight has always been, it's almost like I'm expecting a big change soon.

Typically, what happens is that I start getting depressed (after a long period of feeling great--i.e. hypomania). And subsequently (or perhaps even simultaneously), my weight starts to climb (or it just skyrockets, haha). I'm hoping that now that I am on the bipolar meds, this pattern will stop. But for right now, I am feeling anxious about it. Like I'm just waiting for the scale to go up.

Usually, I am depressed during the summer and then hit hypomanic in the fall, but this year has thrown me for a loop. So, we'll see what happens. I'm not sure how long it would take at maintenance weight for me to stop watching and waiting for the scale to climb. But I really don't want to worry about it! So I'm trying not to.

I missed last week's "Thrifty Thursday" post, and I don't have anything profound to write today. But I do have something exciting to share:

We paid off one of the credit cards this month! Now, we just have a balance on one more card, and after that, we will be credit debt-free. The balance on that one is $7500, so it'll take a little longer to pay off. Tomorrow, though, Jerry and I both get paid to close out October--so we'll put all of our extra money this month toward that card.

I still cannot believe how well this zero-sum budgeting is working for us! I have never felt so relieved about finances. I used to worry all the time about having enough money to pay the bills, but it was because we were spending it as we were earning it. With the zero-sum budgeting, we are earning money for the following month while spending last month's money on the bills for this month. (I wrote more specifically about it on this post.)

Next month, we probably won't be earning much extra, because we are going to be on vacation for six days. But this month was very good (Jerry chose to work a LOT of overtime), so it will even out. I really want him to chill in October--he needs to take a break. I think going to Portland next week is going to be exactly the break this guy deserves!

I can't really think of anything "thrifty" to mention regarding this past week. I spent more of my allowance than I would have liked (I saved it up for so long, and I had a lot!). I have enough saved for spending money in Portland, though. I am not going to put anything on the credit card while we're there!

I checked my grocery receipt after my big grocery shopping day (Friday), which is something I never used to do. I found a couple more errors on the receipt, so I was able to get a refund. It makes me wonder how many times there have been errors that I never even noticed! I had a coupon for a free bottle of conditioner, which was priced at $5.79. When I got home, I noticed that the cashier rang up two of them (I only had one), but the coupon obviously only took one of them off. So I would have missed out on the $5.79 if I hadn't checked the receipt.

We definitely went over budget on medical bills, though. I budget for our normal co-pays for doctor's appointments and medications, but with Jerry's emergency room visit, my starting physical therapy (I'll write about that tomorrow), the back clinic I started going to (again, tomorrow), and my UTI/antibiotic issue, we certainly were over our budget. But thankfully, we had the money to pay for these things--because we budget! In the past, we would have been hit with bills and just added to our debt.

One thing that we will have to add into our budget next month is Eli's braces. We went to a couple more consults, but all of them said the same thing and the price quote was very close. I hate that braces are so expensive! I can remember my mom telling me, when I had braces for five goddamn years, that one day I was going to thank her for spending so much money on my teeth. And of course I am grateful for it now! But it definitely hurts to be a parent and see the cost of straight teeth. (Eli's issues aren't simply cosmetic, though--I'm convinced it's necessary.) And I'm sure one day Eli will thank me for spending so much money on his teeth ;)

(Eli actually had braces when he was three years old. It wasn't to correct his smile or anything; it was because he had a cross bite that prevented his molars from coming together. He choked on his food often, to the point where I had to give him the Heimlich maneuver more times than I can count. So, he wore braces--or "bracelets", as he called them--for three months. They worked very well! No more choking.)

Anyway, I will write some more tomorrow. I think I'm taking the kids to the high school's homecoming football game--none of us have ever been to one. Eli and I are walking in the parade with the cross country team beforehand. We have another busy weekend ahead, too!