Tuesday, September 19, 2017

RECIPE: (Mom's) Beef Stew

This is my mom's recipe for beef stew. While typically, beef stew has potatoes and a heartier gravy, we've always eaten this over egg noodles (without potatoes), and a thinner, tomato-based sauce. I actually prefer this much more! It has a nice texture with the noodles, and the sauce has more flavor than gravy does.

Click here for the printer-friendly PDF version.

beef stew

Mom's Beef Stew

2 tsp. oil
12-16 oz. round steak, cubed (I buy round steak because it's cheap; but use what you like)
1 onion, chopped
2 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet (this is a liquid seasoning, found with things like Worcestershire sauce)
1 cup of beef broth
1 (15 oz) can of crushed tomatoes
3 carrots, sliced
1 cup frozen peas
Egg noodles for serving

Heat the oil in a skillet, and add the beef and onion together. Cook until the beef is just browned. Add the Kitchen Bouquet, beef broth, and tomatoes. Cover and simmer on low heat for about an hour. Add the carrots, and continue cooking for about 45 minutes (until carrots are soft and beef is tender). Add the peas and heat through (about 5 minutes more). Serve over egg noodles.


When I've been in a hurry, I've cooked this in 30 minutes--but the beef won't be as tender as it would if you cook it low and slow.

You can also adjust the amount of carrots and peas in it, too. I happen to love peas, so sometimes I add 2 cups.

The sauce is meant to be thinner than typical beef stew recipes. It's really flavorful, though, and the noodles are delicious when they take on the flavor of the sauce.

Jerry, the kids, and I all love this recipe! Great comfort food :)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Mental Health Monday: How My Bipolar Diagnosis Affected My Marriage

This is something that I've been debating writing about, mainly because I feel ashamed. None of this really came to light until after I was diagnosed with bipolar, on the correct meds, and feeling 100% better than I did just two months prior. When Jerry and I had a heart-to-heart about this, I felt terrible. Ashamed.

I want to start by saying that I really hit the jackpot when I met Jerry.

bipolar meme

He is nothing short of a saint for going through all that he has with me, and still loving me more than ever. I am so grateful that I had him through all these years of the ups and downs with my emotions. I can't even count the number of times that I told him to leave me, because he deserved someone so much better than me. Without him, I certainly would not have gotten better; in that way, I'm glad he stayed. But I wouldn't have blamed him one bit if he couldn't take it anymore.

Just so we're clear--I'm cutting his hair,
not stabbing him in the head with a knife

One big symptom of bipolar is overreacting to very small things. I can remember times where I flew off the handle from something as minute as Jerry buying the wrong brand of whatever at the grocery store. I knew at the time that I was being irrational, but I couldn't help myself. He always stayed so patient with me, and this was before I was ever diagnosed!

bipolar meme

One of the first people I told about the diagnosis was my friend Adam, who has no problem being blunt and to the point. He told me that it makes sense, because for a long time in my 20's, I was "buggin'" (his way of saying that I was just being nagging and irrational in my relationship with Jerry). He said I got mad about stupid things. I knew this was true; and thankfully, it wasn't nearly as bad for these last several years.

bipolar meme

Jerry and I have been married for 14 years and together for 18 years, so he has certainly spent a lot of time dealing with my hypomanic and depressive episodes (each have their own drawbacks). It wasn't until after my diagnosis of bipolar this year that we finally realized it wasn't simply a bad personality trait, but that it was a mental illness--and that it could actually be helped.

The relief we each felt from that realization was almost palpable. We actually had hope that I wasn't going to be dealing with these ups and downs to the extreme for my entire life. Most of all, I felt so much better that it wasn't entirely my fault.

Over the next couple of months, I noticed that as I was getting better and better, Jerry just didn't seem himself. He almost seemed upset sometimes (in a sad way, not in an angry way). I couldn't imagine why my being better would make him react that way. So, we had a candid talk, and it made so much sense. But still, I felt shame in a way that hurts me to even think about right now.

Jerry said that for years, he was always very worried about me--not just at home, but he worried all day long at work. After work, he made sure to rush right home to see if I needed help with anything or if there was anything he could do to make my life easier. I didn't know this, but he turned down invitations to go out for drinks with the guys after work, do something fun on the weekends, etc.

When I learned these things, I felt so bad that he felt he needed to take care of me in that way. I'm not sure what would have happened if things had been different, but I sure wish that I had known and I like to think that I would have encouraged him to go out with friends. He missed out on a lot of fun opportunities because he wanted to take care of me.

After my diagnosis, and taking the correct medication, I became MUCH more easy-going. I didn't snap at stupid things; I was able to stay calm when I normally would have been irritated; I became very independent by doing ALL of the things that needed to be done around the house; and in general, I was just a much easier person to live with. I felt like a great wife!

So why wouldn't Jerry be thrilled? When we talked about it, he said that he wasn't sure what to do with himself now. He felt like I just didn't need him anymore, so he was a little lost. Meanwhile, I felt like I was unburdening him and being the wife that I always wanted to be.

I talked to my therapist about this, and she suggested that we each find separate hobbies and do things on our own. And then, when we do spend time together, we make it special. Not just a sit-on-the-couch-and-watch-TV togetherness, but that we actually play a game, go on a date, go for a bike ride around town, etc.

It was so funny when I came home and told Jerry about my session, and what my therapist suggested. We hesitantly asked each other what our thoughts were about it, and again--we both felt a huge sense of relief. We had each wanted to do our own separate things lots of times, but we felt guilty. Jerry works a lot, and when he's home, I've always felt that I should spend all of my time with him. And he feels like he should spend all of his free time with the kids and me.

Once this was out in the open, we talked about how sometimes he wants to do yard work or something, but feels bad; and I said that sometimes I have things I need to get done, but I feel bad. And we loved my therapist's idea of doing our own separate things much of the time, and then when we do spend time together, it will be because we really want to and it will be quality time. We'll have things to talk about and we won't be worried about what else we have to get done.

Previously, when Jerry would have 2-3 days off in a row, the house would look terrible by the time he went back to work--because I neglected all housework to spend time with him (even though we weren't doing anything special). Now, I do the housework I need to get done, even on his days off; I write blog posts when I plan to, whether he's home or not; and I make plans with friends without worrying about taking time away from him.

Likewise, Jerry can relax when he gets home from work, or make plans with friends, or work on something in the yard or garage. We still see each other, but we aren't sitting around twiddling our thumbs and thinking about what we could do or what we could talk about.

Since all of this has happened, we are both feeling so much better! Jerry no longer worries about me all the time, and I feel like I'm very stable and independent. Jerry doesn't feel like I don't need him anymore, and I am happy that I'm not a burden anymore (he says I never was a burden, but I know that I clearly was). I never meant to be so difficult, and he knows that.

I think I'll always feel a nagging guilt about Jerry having spent so many years worrying about me and putting up with my bipolar cycles (including 10 months of depression last year!). But this whole experience has made us much closer as a couple, and I think we are happier now than we ever have been. Even with my being on the "crazy" spectrum, I am much happier now than before my diagnosis.

I asked Jerry if he would be interested in writing a guest post or doing a Q&A about what it's like to be married to someone with mental illness (depression, bipolar, anxiety...) and/or tips for helping a spouse who is going through it. He said sure, so if any of you have questions for him, feel free to comment or you can send them in an email: Katie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Family Friday: Fun Surprises

Between school being back in session, cross country, baseball, and Jerry working every single day, we have been super busy the last few weeks! Coaching cross country has been a lot of fun this season--Renee and I have a great group of kids.

The girls on the team are especially motivated, and I love seeing them excited about running. When they run their distance laps (not speed work) the girls stay together in a pack and chat the whole time, which is exactly what I want them to do! Most of the boys still try to race each other, then get worn out and walk, and then try to climb trees or things like that.

The past couple of seasons, I was fairly passive as a coach; this year, I am not putting up with excuses. "This is cross country--not a walking club!" has been my motto, haha. The boys tend to get to a spot on the course (the path is 0.37 miles around) where Renee and I can't see them for a short distance because a hill is blocking our view, and they stop to walk or play around. Yesterday, I stood on top of the hill while they did their laps to make sure they were doing what they were supposed to (running).

Cross country and baseball practices are on the same nights--cross country is 5:30-6:30 and baseball is 6:00-8:00, so there is an overlap. Noah isn't doing cross country, so he can just walk to the baseball diamond from the track when we practice at the track; otherwise, when we practice at the park, I have to drive him (and Eli) there after cross country is over.

Our cross country meets are on Saturdays (and a couple are during the week) and the baseball games are on Sundays. It was quite the shock going from no plans in August to a full schedule! But it feels nice to stay busy.

In other news, I was offered a very cool opportunity from WebMD. I had a phone call this morning with a woman who is the content manager of a new series of blog posts called "My Experience". They are posts written by ordinary people who have experienced something unique or life changing in some way, and they share the experience from a first person view--not the usual WebMD fashion of research and facts from doctors, but real life people who have had these experiences.

Anyway, I spoke with the content manager this morning, because she asked if I would be interested in writing for the My Experience blog. After looking through the posts, I was very excited about the idea! I love reading real-life experiences from people; there was even one post about a man who was diagnosed with bipolar and it came as total shock to him. I could certainly relate to that.

She gave me some suggestions for topics, and I loved that they weren't the usual, "How I lost the weight" or other things that I am asked so frequently. It will be fun to write about something fresh! They are looking for more personal, emotional sorts of posts rather than "tips" or "how-to's". So, I'll be working on that and when it is up on their blog, I will share the link.

Jerry's birthday was yesterday, and I got him a VERY cool birthday present! I had been looking for one for months, and I tried one final time on Wednesday--and I found it. It should arrive next week, so I will tell you what it is then. He doesn't typically read my blog; but just in case, I don't want to ruin the surprise.

Meanwhile, I gave him something that he's been wanting for a while--new Rubbermaid storage containers! Hahaha. I'm not even kidding. Apparently, a guy that he works with has some storage containers that he brings his lunch in to work, and Jerry thinks they're awesome. They are pretty expensive, though, and since they aren't really a necessity right now (we have lots of containers), I didn't want to spend the money. But, considering it was his birthday, I forked over some of my allowance money to buy him three of the containers. So funny! (And so worth it, considering how excited he was.)

Look at that face--so happy!

Excitedly explaining to me why they are so great.

If you're curious, these are the ones he wanted: Rubbermaid Brilliance storage containers. (Now I wish I had checked Amazon first! They're cheaper. I don't know why I didn't think to do that.) I saw them on sale at Kroger (you had to buy each piece separately), so I picked up three of the 3.2-cup containers for (I think) $8 a piece.

He was pretty excited when he opened them, though--he said that they work really good because they don't leak at all. He likes to just throw his lunch into his bag and not have to be super careful to keep it from leaking.

"Even my soup won't leak!" he says. Hahaha

Giving him the containers reminds me of the story of the cereal storage containers he wanted for about 12 years. I could have SWORN I wrote about that on my blog, but I just searched and searched, and I guess I didn't...

Last year, for our 13-year wedding anniversary, I bought Jerry 13 gifts for 13 years. Three of them were Rubbermaid cereal storage containers, which ended up being his favorite gift. He said he always wanted those when he was a kid, but his mom never bought them. And then it became a joke between us for about a decade--whenever he'd see them somewhere, he would mention that we are deprived of  them, and I would always talk about how they're useless, because cereal can be stored in the box it comes in.

Anyway, this went on for most of our marriage, and then I finally surprised him by giving him the storage containers as one of our anniversary gifts. I felt bad I didn't do it 11 years before! It doesn't take much to make him happy (clearly) ;)

I'm excited for his real birthday gift to arrive next week--it's the best one yet!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Thrifty Thursday: Salvation Army finds

I've been saving up my weekly "allowance" for a few months now, and I have hardly spent any of it. Each time I got dressed, I was wishing I had some more t-shirts, so I decided to spend some of my allowance at Salvation Army on "new" clothes. I really wanted some graphic/novelty tees, but they are getting hard to find! I also wanted some jeans. I had a full punchcard for 35% off my total order, so I was feeling shop-happy.

Anyway, I found some good stuff! Not many novelty tees (actually, I think only one), but I got some other comfy tees and a few nice pairs of jeans. I got two pairs of 7 for all mankind brand jeans (marked at $179 on their website!)--I paid $6.99 for one and $8.99 for the other.

I wish I had written down how much I paid for everything, but I cut the tags and threw everything in the washer when I got home, so I don't remember. I bought some other stuff (not for me) along with it, so the total bill was more than the clothes. I think I spent somewhere around $75 for everything I got. The prices at Salvation Army have gone up a LOT in the last couple of years! But still much, much cheaper than buying things brand new.

One thing that I got was for Eli, and I am still so surprised that I found it. When I was a kid, I had a pillow that looked like a Dalmatian. I loved it, and my mom ended up putting it in the attic in case I had kids one day. She took it down for Eli when he was just a toddler, and it's probably his favorite possession (other than his fishing lures). He loves it! As you can imagine, it's gotten a lot of wear over the last 30 years!

I was super shocked, then, when I saw a brand new one on top of a pile of stuffed animals. I just HAD to buy it! It was $5.

On the left is Eli's current one; on the right is the new one.
He doesn't want to replace his, but I couldn't help myself. I've not seen another of those in 30 years!

As for my clothes... (sorry these are bad mirror selfies, but I didn't have anyone here to take pics). These jeans weren't new, but I love this shirt I bought! It was regularly $2.99, and marked half off. Then, I got 35% more off!

I love shirts with open shoulders, because my shoulders are my favorite part of my body (so odd, I know). I'm self-conscious of my upper arms, but I love these shirts with open shoulders because I can show my shoulders without showing my upper arms. Anyway, now that I see the picture, I'm not sure I'm crazy about the shirt. Haha! The jeans are Maurices, and I like how they fit!

Silver brand jeans! I was so excited to find these in my size and the particular cut that I like (Tuesday). Silver jeans are my favorite, because I don't have much of a butt or a waist to hold up my pants, and the Tuesday-fit Silver jeans actually fit me well. These were my most expensive purchase--they were regularly $28(!) but I got 35% off of that. And I think this top is really cute. Again, $2.99, then half off, and then 35% off.

These are black stretchy skinny jeans, and I was totally unsure if I could pull them off (like, wear them in public; not literally pull them off of my legs, although that was a little troublesome too! haha). And the shirt is the only novelty tee I bought--it says Happy Camper and has a very cute camper with a smile on the front.

These are a SUPER comfy pair of 7 for all mankind brand jeans. They have a mid-rise, which I love. These actually still had the new tags still on them! I got them for $6.99. On the store's website, they are $179. I love this long-sleeved knit tee, too, but once I got it home I noticed a couple of small tears in it. So, I spent some time sewing them up. It was worth it, because I really like the shirt and it's very soft and comfy.

These are the other pair of 7 for all mankind jeans I bought. The waist is lower, but I couldn't help but buy them at $8.99. (I don't know why they were marked higher than the other pair that was brand new!). The tee is nothing special, just something I picked up and liked.

This striped tee is my favorite out of all of them! I think the color looks good on me. And it was brand new with the tags still on it. It was marked at $2.99, and I got 35% off. The jeans are American Eagle--I really was hoping to find a lighter colored pair of jeans (all the ones I have are dark), so I was happy to find these. They are super comfy, too.

This is hard to see well, but it's a very nice (and heavy) sweater. The second picture shows the design better. This was $9.99, but it was 25% off and I got 35% off of that, so it was a pretty good deal. I am always freezing in the winter, and I like to have a sweater to wrap up in at home, so this one is perfect for that.

I saved the best for last... I can't even tell you how excited I was to find this!!

A retro Surf Style jacket, just like all the cool kids wore back in the early 90's! I think my sister had this same color, actually, and I used to borrow it all the time. My older brother had a green one. I wore this to cross country practice today, and it was perfect for the weather.

So, I'm pretty happy to have some new stuff in my wardrobe (and I pulled several things out today to make room for the new stuff). I love thrift shopping!

In other news, I got another response from Kroger about "the incident". Someone from the Michigan customer service team in Novi contacted me, and wrote a very kind, apologetic email. She said it was handled wrongly and that she wanted to make it up to me by inviting my family to a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new store that is opening on Tuesday; she also wanted to send me a gift card in the mail!

I thought that was super generous--I never wrote about it to get anything out of it; I was really just venting about the service manager. But I think it's nice that Kroger is doing something about it. I really wish I could go to the grand opening event, but I have our first cross country meet that day. I think it would have been fun to tour the new store!

I'm really happy that Kroger followed up on this. And I'm curious to see how the service manager reacts if I should ever have to encounter her again!

Now, I need to write my meal plan and grocery list for the week. G'night!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Weight Loss Wednesday: Changing the Habits That Keep Us From Losing Weight

weight loss habits

In 2011, I wrote a post called "Waiting Until the New Year" about only making changes that we're willing to live with forever. In fact, that is my number one tip that I share when people ask me for advice about losing weight: Don't make any changes that you're not willing to do for the rest of your life.

When I get emails from people asking for help getting started, that post is probably the most frequent post that I recommend for them to read. However, since it was written in 2011, it's a little outdated. Here, I will write an updated version with a downloadable PDF worksheet to help get started.

(Before I start, I just want to say that I'm going to make a lot of generalized statements in this post--I know there are always exceptions, and everybody has different issues. But, for the most part, people who have weight to lose have a lot in common.)

In general, most people dread starting a diet or exercise program. There's a reason that people wait until Monday, or after the birthday party next week, or the wedding next month, or until January 1st to make some lifestyle changes: The changes are usually difficult and miserable, because they are completely different than the habits we have already formed.

Most of us who have weight to lose are in this situation because of habits we've developed from years of overeating and/or under exercising. If we weren't overeating and our diets were healthy and well-balanced, we likely wouldn't have excess weight! So, it is obvious that we need to change these habits in order to change our weight. Right? Likewise, if we don't make any changes, our weight will not change, either.

To make changes that we don't dread, we have to come up with things that are as painless as possible--things that aren't exactly what we would like (such as being able eat as much as we want whenever we want), but that we are willing to compromise on.

If we write our own rules, we can come up with habits that aren't completely miserable--and therefore, we won't dread doing them. And we won't have to wait until Monday or January 1st to get started! We can start right now--even if we're going out for a celebration dinner tonight, or someone brought doughnuts to the office this morning, or we're having a potluck this weekend--and there won't be anything to dread.

The only reason we should dread changing our habits is if the changes are too difficult and/or miserable to do.

So, what's the solution? We write our own rules and come up with our own compromises that we can live with. Maybe they won't be ideal, and they'll certainly not be perfect, but they will be better than what we are doing now. And by making better habits, even small ones, the changes should reflect in our weight.

There is a big difference in saying, "Yes, I can do that" versus "Yes, I am willing to do that". There are tons changes that we "can" make if we really put our minds to it; but are we willing to stick with those changes forever? If it's not something we are willing to change for the rest of our lives, then the chance of us being successful in changing that habit (even for the short term) is slim. When deciding what changes to make, we should ask ourselves (and be completely honest) about whether it's something we are willing to change.

I suggest writing out a list of habits that are keeping you from losing the excess weight. We usually know what those habits are. Then, come up with a change for each habit that is do-able and that you are willing to take on. Something you don't dread. Something you could start right now.

And then I would work on changing just the top habit that you feel is hindering your weight loss goals the most. Don't worry about the others yet, and just focus on the one that has the biggest impact on your weight. There is a good chance that changing that habit alone will result in weight loss; but if not, then it may be time to work on another. This will make it as painless as possible.

I made a PDF worksheet that makes it easy to just fill in the chart and brainstorm some ideas that work for you and your lifestyle. Since everybody is different, it only makes sense that we do what works for us as individuals. The changes I made aren't going to be what's best for everybody; by writing our own lists, we can make our own changes.

We don't have to be perfect and we certainly don't have to change all of our habits to be "perfect" in order to reach our goals. As long as we change something, anything for the better, we are better off than we were before!

Here is an example of the worksheets that I filled in. I just wrote in some sample habits to give you an idea of what I'm talking about. (You can click the photos to enlarge)

And here is the link to the PDF worksheet download: 
Changing the Habits That Keep Us From Losing Weight

For my Wednesday Weigh-in:

I think this is up another pound or so from last week. I honestly haven't changed my eating habits--if anything, they've been better this week--so I'm not sure what the deal is. However, I am wondering if it's a new medication that my psychiatrist added for my anxiety. Last night, I got curious and looked it up; and sure enough, lots of people gain weight on this medication. Some people have gained 40-50 pounds! I'm curious if it is, in fact, the medication, so I'm going to stop taking it for a few weeks and see if that helps. If not, then it may be another cause.

For now, though, I'm just going to keep doing what I've been doing!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

RECIPE: Garlic Pasta with Bread Crumbs

I don't usually write recipes posts for Runs for Cookies, and I hope not to disappoint you in that I am not a chef, a food stylist, nor a photographer. Basically, I am a stay-at-home mom that cooks cheap meals for my family--some balanced and healthy, but others not at all. Some of my recipes use ingredients like (gasp!) cream of mushroom soup, or (the horror!) ranch dressing mix. I grew up with this kind of food, and what can I say? I like it!

I am happy enough to get food on the table that my family will eat. So, as a forewarning, you will not see lovely photos of elegant dishes that are just chock full of nutrition. I make no apologies. But, I share these in case your family is like mine, and you just want some new ideas.

I have a recipe book called Cheap. Fast. Good., and it's full of recipes that pretty much are cheap, fast, and good. There are few of the recipes that have become go-to's for my family. The book is no longer in print, but you can pick it up for cheap on Amazon if you really want it.

This recipe for Garlic Pasta with Bread Crumbs comes from that book. It's actually called Pasta with Bread Crumbs, and I just threw the "Garlic" in there to make it sound slightly more appealing. The recipe actually didn't sound that great to me, which is why it took me 12 years to try it (since I bought the book).

Instead of any commentary before the recipes that I post on this blog, I will save it for after the recipe itself. That way, if you're just looking for the recipe and you really don't give a shit what I think of it, you can just skip all that. You're welcome.

(I hate when I am looking for recipes on blogs and you have to scroll through a thousand pictures and stories to get to the recipe. I understand the idea--but sometimes I just want to take a quick glance at the recipe and see if I even have the ingredients on hand, you know what I mean?) I even made a printer-friendly PDF recipe for convenience.

Garlic Pasta recipe

Garlic Pasta with Bread Crumbs (with my modifications)

8 oz. Penne (or other short pasta)
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
6-8 small cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cup bread crumbs (you can make them with stale bread in the food processor, but I just used store-bought ones)
1/2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. salt (I think it needed more salt, so you may want to use 1/2 tsp)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese


Cook the pasta according to package directions (don't forget to salt the water).

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat; and then add 2 tsp. of the olive oil and the garlic. Cook, stirring constantly so that the garlic doesn't burn, for about one minute. (Take a second to put your nose over the pan and smell it--it's like heaven.) Add the bread crumbs and the Italian seasoning, and stir until the bread crumbs are coated. It may see like too many bread crumbs, but keep stirring. It'll work out.

Drain the pasta when it's done cooking, and put it back in the pot. Add the remaining 1 tsp of olive oil (if you forgot to reserve it, no worries--just add another teaspoon--a little extra healthy fat never hurt anyone). Toss the pasta to coat with the oil, and then stir in the Parmesan cheese. Toss to combine well.

Finally, when the bread crumbs are nice and toasty (they should be by now), add them to the pot with the pasta, and stir well to coat the pasta. Serve with a hot side of marinara for dipping.

My commentary:

This was really good--the family all agreed it tasted like garlic bread or like the breadsticks you get with pizza. I thought it was a little dry, because there is no sauce. I think it would be delicious with a thick, chunky marinara sauce on the side for dipping. (If you were to pour it on top, the bread crumbs would probably get mushy.) I found it to be much more filling than your typical pasta, and I actually didn't even finish my serving.

Overall thoughts: Good recipe, but not one of my favorites. I would make it again, but serve it with marinara sauce for sure. It's VERY cheap, and I always have these ingredients on hand, so it's a convenient and tasty recipe to make in a pinch. I would probably give this a 3/5 overall.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Stolen (and terribly photoshopped) photos

Thanks for the suggestions about the Kroger incident. I did end up writing the corporate office, because the more I thought about it, the angrier I was at the manager for lying to me. I wish I'd had called her out on it in the moment, but I was so stunned that I just didn't.

I do want to say that the employees at that store are very friendly (with the exception of the service managers). Some employees really go above and beyond, and I've never had a problem with them. This incident, however, was totally uncalled for.

I got a response from the headquarters today, and it was almost as laughable as the incident itself:

Not only was it a generic canned response, they actually advertised their Simple Truth product line in what was supposed to be an apology letter!

I'm pretty bummed. I have always been a big fan of Kroger--they have the lowest prices around where I live, and the next-closest grocery store is 20 minutes away. I'm not going to quit shopping there just because of that one employee, but I am curious if anything will even come of all of this. Like I said, the other employees have always been kind.

I had another issue arise this morning when I got an email from a reader who told me that my photos were being used on a website that was advertising some sort of weight loss program. The site was in a language I couldn't read, but sure enough, there were several of my photos. Funnily enough, they actually stole one of my "after" photos (after I'd lost 100 pounds) and photoshopped it to make me BIGGER. They tried to turn it into a "before" photo! BAHAHA 😂

And they didn't even do a good job with it. I know nothing about Photoshop, but even I could have done a better job. I posted a side by side and shared it on Facebook, hoping to get a response from the company.

What the heck, right?! Even the ground on the sides of my hips looks weird. Within minutes, I actually got a Facebook message from the company. Here is what they had to say:
"Dear Katie, I sincerely apologize for this. 

It was an advertorial that was done for an outside client and the client provided us with the whole article and photos. We double checked and the agreement said that the photos were the clients. We now clearly see that is not true and will take off all the posts that include the photos and will contact the client directly and inform them of the situation and will take necessary steps and actions towards the client to prevent this from happening again.

I informed both the advertorial and sales team of the situation and will personaly start pulling these stories down. Best, Daniel"
I don't know if I'm just gullible, but I believe that he is sincere about what happened on their end. Shortly after, he wrote me a private message from his personal page to apologize and explain further. I was happy with what he had to say, and he made sure that the article was removed, and anywhere that my picture appeared had been removed.

I was very surprised with how quickly that was taken care of. Usually I have to jump through a lot of hoops when people steal my photos, but I am relentless when it comes to following through on things like this. Now, if only Kroger could be so kind, hahaha!

I almost forgot to mention... I went for a run on Thursday 😱

At Tuesday's cross country practice, Renee and I thought a relay race would be a fun game for the kids (we were practicing at the outdoor track). We set up teams of four kids each (to do 100 meters before passing the baton). However, we were two kids short--so, Renee and I were defaulted into the race. I groaned, because I hadn't run in SO long and I didn't want to let my team down!

In the chaos of getting everyone to their starting positions, somehow I wound up being the ANCHOR (the last person in the relay). Talk about pressure! I was in the fourth lane, which is a longer distance run, and my team was coming in last by the time I got the baton. I started running my hardest to the center lane, and was neck-in-neck with Lucas, one of our faster runners. He glanced over his shoulder as I was going to pass him, and then he started running harder.

I managed to stay on his heels (the whole 100 meters, lol). I was totally spent, though. And then Renee said, "Let's do one more!" I didn't do nearly as well the second time. I did get to start the race, though, so at least I wasn't the anchor on that one.

I left practice feeling like I wanted to be able to challenge the kids. I wanted them to worry when they see me racing against them! ;) Anyway, it really did inspire me to want to go for a run. I decided that on Thursday's practice, if the weather was good (meaning that it wasn't too hot), I would run with the kids.

Holy hell, I was SO sore on Friday!! Hahaha, I only ran 200 meters, and my legs felt like I'd run a marathon. It's amazing how much fitness I've lost.

And on Thursday, it was raining--just barely. And it was cold. Which is perfect for running! On Thursdays, the kids run loops in a park, to get in as much distance as possible. A lot of the kids complain that their legs hurt, or they have a cramp, or a stomachache, or a headache, and a thousand other reasons to get out of running. Renee and I are good at being able to tell what's legit, and 90% of what they complain about are things that are no problem to run through.

I decided to run the opposite direction of the kids so that I would be able to see them more often and yell at encourage them to keep going. Most of the kids don't listen to me when I tell them to run slow and easy (because they're competitive and want to show off by running fast), and they get worn out on the first lap. Then they take walk breaks waaay more often than they are running. The kids that listen to me have no problem running the entire 30 minutes without taking walk breaks.

Anyway, I was being a stickler at this practice, and every time I'd turn a corner, I'd see kids walking. Immediately, they would start running again when they saw me, haha. I had to stop to talk with the kids numerous times, to correct running form or slow their pace, or things like that. So, my run wasn't consistent, but that wasn't the reason I was running. It just felt good to be doing intentional exercise! I only did 2.25 miles (I probably could've gotten in three if I hadn't stopped so much).

While this doesn't mean I'm going to start running regularly again, I liked it enough that maybe I'll run again this Thursday at practice. Now that we are getting some fall weather, I actually won't be surprised if I feel like going for a run once in a while.

Finally... (just one last thing)...

I've been thinking a lot about how to go about the different direction of my blog (as I mentioned in my post about The Pursuit of Happiness). I've been wanting to write more regularly in order to develop a good routine for the school year, and one of the things that I have always wanted to do is have a particular topic for each day that I write.

And since these things always seem to use alliteration, I was thinking days like, "Mental Health Monday" (my issues or general issues surrounding depression, bipolar, anxiety, etc); "Tasty Tuesday" (post a new recipe that I tried that week); Weight Loss Wednesday (my Wednesday Weigh-in, but also any other weight loss stuff I want to write about); Thrifty Thursday (budgeting stuff, thrift store finds, etc); Family Friday (any personal things I want to mention about we've been up to lately). I'm a little stuck for Saturday and Sunday (at least for the alliteration!). So maybe I'll make those days a grab bag, if I feel like writing then.

I think it'll be easier on me if I know what topic I'm going to be writing about, and it will help to be more consistent in case certain people only want to read about certain topics. So, you may see that soon. I did just make a new recipe for dinner today, so maybe I'll post that tomorrow for Tasty Tuesday! ;)

Friday, September 8, 2017

An odd customer service experience at Kroger

This title is not at all creative, but as speechless as I am about this story, that was best I could do! haha

Being Friday, I did my weekly grocery shopping this morning. Last night, I stayed up pretty late working on a menu for the week and writing my shopping list. One of the dinners I plan on making this week is Barbecue Chicken Pizza, so I listed Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce on my list. (This has a point, and I will get to it, I promise!)

Mmmm... super easy Barbecue Chicken Pizza
(Oh! And after some of you suggested using a toaster oven while we wait to buy a new oven, I was intrigued by the idea--I never really thought of using a toaster oven in place of a real oven. We have a toaster oven, but it's a very small cheap one that we probably should have replaced a few years ago. So, after reading a million reviews on Amazon, I bought a new toaster oven and it's supposed to arrive tomorrow. It was definitely an extra expense for the month, but it's much cheaper than a new oven, and it should get us by for a long time. I'm excited to make pizza in it tomorrow!)

Anyway, I dropped off the kids at school and then stopped at Kroger to buy my groceries. When I got to the section where the barbecue sauce is, I noticed that the original Sweet Baby Ray's sauce was on sale for 10/$10--so only $1 each, instead of the regular $2.49. Awesome! I didn't know it was on sale, but when I saw that, I decided to get two of them. (Since Noah has been grilling a lot lately, I figured he could make chicken or something next week.)

So, I finished my grocery shopping and went through the checkout. When I got home, I looked over my receipt--something I never used to do! But since I've been doing the budgeting and really working on saving money, I have checked over my receipts lately just to make sure I paid the prices I had planned on.

I noticed that the barbecue sauce rang up at $2.49 instead of the $1 that the sign had said. I used to be a cashier at Kroger, and I know that most of the time when a customer says that an item rang up at the wrong price, they actually just picked up the wrong item and assumed it was the one listed on the sign. For that reason, I always double check the UPC number on the shelf tag or ad sign with the item to make sure I'm getting the right thing.

I was sure that I had picked up the correct bottle and that I didn't read the sign wrong. In the evening, I had to go back by Kroger when I took Noah to go skating with his friends, so I brought the barbecue sauce and my receipt to Kroger to hopefully get a refund of the difference. Noah and I went inside, and before I went to the customer service desk, I wanted to check the sign to make sure I wasn't wrong.

We walked to the shelf and sure enough, there was a tag that read 10/$10. I didn't want the manager to have to walk all the way back there to check it out, so I took a picture of it with my phone to show her. We walked up to the service desk and I explained what happened.

(I really love the Kroger that I shop at, and the employees are all super friendly--except for the managers. I try to avoid having to interact with them because they act like you are the biggest nuisance for just being in the store. I feel like I have to apologize for shopping there, hahaha. And I've only had an issue with a food item or incorrect price probably three times in all the years I've been shopping there, so it's not like I'm a customer that complains all the time.)

Today, the manager clearly didn't believe that I was telling the truth about the sign. I showed her the picture on my phone, and she said she was going to have to go check it out for herself. I waited patiently at the counter while she walked back there. When she came back, she said there wasn't a sign or tag anywhere saying that it was 10/$10.

I was kind of stunned--it had literally only been about two minutes since I took the photo! Noah was with me, and he saw everything, too. I showed the manager the photo again, and she still didn't believe me--she told me that I was going to have to go back there and show the sign to her. At this point, I just wanted to prove I wasn't a liar, so I walked back there to show her the tag--and it was gone.

I couldn't believe it! I'm SURE that she took the tag off of the shelf when she went to look for herself the first time. There is no way that one of the stock persons noticed it and removed it in the two minutes it took for me to walk to the front of the store! The time stamp on my photo even proved that it was there just minutes before. But she didn't want to look at that, and when I insisted that the tag was on the shelf just a couple of minutes ago, she just shrugged and said, "Well, there is no tag there, so I don't know what happened; they were on sale last week, but not now."

I just stared, kind of stunned that she would even think that I was dumb enough to believe that the tag mysteriously disappeared or that one of the stock persons removed it. She then said, "Well, if you really think you saw a sign, then I'll just give it to you for that price; but I know they aren't on sale, so if there was a sign, it was a mistake."

I know this is a long and petty story (it's just a bottle of barbecue sauce, after all) but I'm still just kind of speechless about the whole thing. Why didn't she just say, "Oh, that sign must have been left up there from last week; that's our mistake. But, since we didn't take the sign down, we'll just give it to you for that price" ? When I was a cashier, that's exactly how I would have handled it.

Noah and I laughed about it when we left the store, wondering how in the heck that just happened. If nothing else, it made for a funny story to tell Jerry later. Anyone else have an odd customer service experience like this? It was definitely a first for me!

Have a great weekend, everyone :)

(ETA: I did contact Kroger's corporate office, and I got a response from them. The response is posted here: Stolen (and terribly photoshopped) photos)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Tidbits and Wednesday Weigh-in

Three posts in a row... I'm on a roll! ;)  (If you missed them, I wrote about my Ten Months of Depression, followed by The Pursuit of Happiness--a couple of pretty personal posts that describe the changes in my life since I was diagnosed with bipolar as well as the future of Runs for Cookies.)

I'm just going to mention some random things going on lately--not a ton to write about. 

I forgot to mention on the post about grocery shopping on a budget that we have another challenge to overcome right now... we don't have an oven! About six months ago, we started having issues with our oven temperature. I would preheat the oven, then put the food in, and when the timer went off, the food was barely cooked. So, I'd have to re-bake things several times, and it drove me crazy! I tried fixing the temperature sensor, but that wasn't the problem. 

Then, a couple of months ago, I was preheating the oven while cooking on the stove--and suddenly, the oven made a big BOOM! noise and the pot on the stove literally bounced into the air (a couple of inches), the door to the oven opened, and all the dust bunnies that were collecting underneath the oven flew out. I was kind of stunned. 

I obviously turned off the oven (we have a gas stove), and I haven't messed with it since. It's 14 years old, and we need a new one. But, we are going to hold off as long as we can, because we are determined to make our budget work. Also, it's kind of fun to come up with meals that don't require the oven. The budget itself has made it fun to face little challenges like this that pop up. 

I keep forgetting about not having an oven, though--for my mom's birthday, I planned to make a cake, and then at the last minute, I realized I'd have to make a no-bake dessert instead. I made this peanut butter pie, and it was really good--rich, too, so a very small slice was satisfying.

I mostly miss making casseroles, which are my go-to. I love one-dish meals! Casseroles, skillet meals, anything that uses just one or two pots/bowls. Actually, that's a big money-saving tip--casseroles and skillets that mix all the ingredients together make a very small amount of meat go a long way. (I can buy one chicken breast and stretch it for the whole family--some chicken breasts can be 3/4 of a pound!)

We don't eat the typical main-dish-with-side-dishes kinds of dinners; rather, we eat things like this Ground Turkey and Cabbage with Spicy Peanut Sauce, Spicy Taco Gnocchi, and Pasta e Fagioli (that's what I made tonight, actually). I never use more than one pound of meat when I cook dinner, and we usually get 4-6 servings out of each meal. (Jerry takes leftovers to work). It's convenient to have all of the ingredients from the meal mixed into one dish. 

Pasta e Fagioli for dinner tonight--this is so good!

Anyway, I do miss having an oven, but I also enjoy working around this challenge. We'll see if we can go a few more months! ;)

My Wednesday Weigh-in today:

Ugh. I cannot even describe how bloated I've felt all week. Taking that Bactrim made me SO sick, and I barely ate anything for four days because I was so nauseous. But my weight jumped up to 136 at the peak of being sick, and my belly was really distended. It's slowly going back down now, but I swear that antibiotic messed up my stomach really bad. My belly still bulges out much more than normal, and I feel enormous. I think my weight is up a pound or maybe a pound and a half from last week, but I don't know if any of it is a "real" gain. Next week's weigh in should be more accurate.

We went to the air show on Monday. I wasn't sure if we'd have good weather (it was supposed to thunderstorm) but Jerry was off work and our next door neighbor gave us tickets, so we really wanted to go. I hadn't been there since I was a kid, but I remembered really liking the Blue Angels. When we got there and set up our chairs, I realized I forgot my sunglasses at home.

I was super bummed, because it was hard to look into the sky without glasses, even though it was fairly overcast. There was a booth there selling sunglasses, and I really didn't want to spend money to buy a pair, but I finally just caved and bought their cheapest ones. Did I mention they were also the ugliest? Hahaha! But they worked SO good--they made everything brighter, but without any sort of glare, so it didn't hurt my eyes to look at the sky. 

After trying mine on and realizing how awesome they were, Jerry wanted a pair, too. But he came back with something different...

Goggles! Ski goggles actually used to be trendy for a minute back when we were in high school, hahaha. I think he was wearing a pair on his head the first time I met him! These ones weren't exactly the same sort of goggles, but nevertheless, he got them for old times' sake. And they were 2/$20, so he got another pair for Eli (who also forgot sunglasses). 

The four of us were quite the fashionable sight:

The show was okay... we loved seeing the Blue Angels, but the other parts were few and far between, so there was a lot of waiting. But it was a nice day with the family, so we all had a good time.

The kids started school yesterday! Noah is in 8th grade and Eli is in 6th grade. I can hardly believe it. 

When I started blogging, Noah was in first grade and Eli was in preschool. This was the first post I wrote about them starting back to school (starting 2nd grade and kindergarten). And here is the picture!

I cannot believe how much they've grown and how much time has gone by since I started my blog!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Pursuit of Happiness

(...continued from my previous post, Ten Months of Depression)

In my last post, I wrote about a major depressive episode that I had in 2016-2017. It wasn't until I was able to get in to see a psychiatrist, come to terms with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and start the correct medication that I started to get better. And since then, my life has done a 180 as far as my mood and outlook on life.

In a recent interview with Heather for the Half Size Me podcast (my most recent interview isn't released yet), I discussed the changes that have happened since my diagnosis--including several aspects of my life, such as my diet, exercise, daily routine, focus, and major goals. This affects my blog in many ways, so I thought it would be relevant to share here. One of the questions Heather asked me was where do I see Runs for Cookies going in the future, and it's something I've been thinking a lot about lately.

So, here is the story...

Right around the time of my bipolar diagnosis, I also made a pretty big breakthrough in therapy. I'd been seeing my therapist for nearly a year, and I really loved her (still do). She gives fantastic advice in such a gentle way, and it's very easy and comfortable to tell her anything at all. One thing that I really wanted to work on was to figure out where my binge eating stemmed from. I'd been binge eating since I was a kid, and I had no idea why.

A lot of times, you read about people with weight problems (or binge eating) that started as a result of childhood abuse or neglect. In those cases, there is a very clear connection of the abuse to the resulting binge eating/weight gain. For myself, however, that wasn't the case. I was fortunate to have had a great childhood--living with both of my parents in a stable home, no abuse or neglect in any way, and just a fairly "normal" way of life. I felt loved and cared for.

So, it was driving me crazy for years as to why I started binge eating. I finally decided that it was just because I enjoyed food and that sometimes I would binge when lonely or depressed in order to make myself feel better. Through therapy, I discovered that it was actually deeper than that, and when I learned what it was, I finally felt the weight lifted off of my shoulders and it was wonderful.

It's a rather long explanation, and quite personal, so it's kind of difficult to share. However, I think it's important to explain because it's the reason for the huge change in my life recently. The gist is that I've never really felt like I fit in with my family--in a family of six made up of extroverted, social, active, outdoorsy people, I was the polar opposite.

I was introverted, very shy, enjoyed reading more than socializing, preferred the indoors to camping, nature, and beaches. Where my family enjoys being in the sun, I prefer cool and overcast. They like camping; I like hotels. They like beaches; I prefer cities. They love parties and get-togethers; I prefer to spend time with a few close friends or family members.

I mean, look at those nerds... I was clearly the cutest sibling! ;)

Because I was the only one in my family like this, I grew up thinking that the things I enjoy are "wrong" somehow, and I felt bad about it--and bad about myself. My family never did or said anything to make me feel this way--they never even knew anything was wrong!--but I could see how different I was, and I didn't want to be.

So, I spent my life trying to be someone that I'm not in order to fit in. As a shy introvert, I try to avoid conflict as much as possible; so, I would go along with things that I didn't always enjoy or agree with rather than voicing my opinion. I kept my thoughts and opinions to myself.

Trying to be someone I'm not took a huge toll on me. I wasn't doing the things I enjoyed; and when I did, I felt like I was doing something "wrong" in some way. I didn't like being the oddball in my family, and I was worried they wouldn't like me if I was my true self. As you can imagine, this led to quite a bit of anxiety. I was always worried about disappointing people or doing/saying the "wrong" thing. (I now know that I wasn't wrong; I just had different thoughts/feelings than my family.)

I discovered early on that eating was a way to escape the relentless anxiety that I felt. My biggest fear was being a disappointment to other people, and the food made me feel better in a way that wouldn't hurt anyone else. My family never criticized or made me feel bad about my weight or eating habits, so it felt like a "safe" way of doing something that made me happy (at least in the short term).

(I do have to stop here for a moment and say that my family is amazing. I don't think I ever realized just how amazing they are until I was an adult. When I broke my jaw, especially, they all stepped up and did everything they could to take care of me, Jerry, and the kids. Whenever we've needed help with anything at all, I've been able to turn to them. I feel so lucky to have been born into this family, even if I am the oddball!)

I love this picture! I just wish Becky and Luke were in it. 

So, all of that backstory leads me to the present and future...

Since learning that about myself, and having my therapist explain that my thoughts/feelings aren't "wrong" in any way, I've felt an enormous sense of freedom to be myself around everybody--including my family--without being apologetic. After my bipolar diagnosis, I wrote a letter to my family explaining exactly what bipolar is and how it describes a lot of my behavior while growing up (as well as in my adult life).

By having the therapy breakthrough and diagnosis happen at the same time, the changes in my life happened pretty easily. With the correct medication and the newfound freedom to be myself, I felt like a whole new person. I started thinking about what would make ME happy, and what I wanted out of my life. I wanted to stop trying to please others by being someone that didn't feel like me, and start living for myself.

Thus began my pursuit of happiness...

The first thing I did was stop making myself run. I was dreading it all the time and I didn't get joy out of it anymore. Even though I was a little worried about how my blog readers would react (considering my blog is "Runs" for Cookies), I chose to do what would make me happier. I still don't know if I am done with running for good, or if it will just be a long-term break, and I don't feel like I have to answer that right now. It feels nice not to put pressure on myself!

Instead of running, I've been staying active in my day to day activities. I discovered that I love cleaning (thanks to being on the correct medication, I now have the desire and the energy to do so). I have been picking projects around the house that need to be done--closets that need organizing, or clothes that need to be donated, etc--and I've been working on them one by one.

Previously, I would have been in a hypomanic state and started a thousand projects at once, and then never finished any of them. This time, I'm working on one thing at a time, staying focused, and finishing what I start.

Cleaning keeps me active (I know it doesn't seem like "active" is the right word, but when doing heavy cleaning, I sweat and use muscles that I feel like I've never used before, so it's pretty active in my sense of the word).

I've also gotten enjoyment out of going for walks with friends (and/or Joey); playing with the kids (yard games, water balloon fights, fishing with Eli, etc); coaching cross country; meeting and catching up with friends; spending more time with my family (which is especially nice, now that I feel comfortable being myself); and several other things.

In addition to activity, I've changed my diet to make me happier as well. I don't use food to change my emotions--I don't eat to ease my anxiety, or relieve my loneliness when Jerry works nights, or even to celebrate things. Yes, I will eat at celebrations, but I don't see eating as celebratory itself, like I used to. I don't binge eat anymore. I'm not sure exactly what made me stop, but I think it's because my mood is so stable that I'm not looking for ways to self-medicate (something I did with food).

I've all-but stopped drinking alcohol. I am not anti-drinking, nor do I judge people who do drink. I've just discovered that it doesn't mix well with my new medication (even a drink or two causes very short-lived hypomania, followed by a few days of depression). I have to really weigh whether the consequences are worth it, and most of the time, I choose not to drink. It was tough at first, especially in social situations, but it feels easy now and the desire is completely gone. I never expected that!

Because my mood has stabilized, and I am able to focus on each task I start, I started a budget for my family to work on paying off our credit card debt. Even this has affected my eating habits! We have a very modest food budget each month, so it wouldn't be fair for me to spend a chunk of money on binge food for myself, or even to overeat the foods we have. I have been very reasonable with portion sizes due to our budget.

The budget has helped my anxiety in a huge way as well. We are finally ahead in our finances by doing the zero-sum budget, and we don't have to worry about having enough money to pay our bills each month. We've put a large dent in our credit card debt, and should be debt free in about seven months. Without the mood stabilizing medication, I never could have focused on (or maintained) this budget for any length of time.

These things that I mentioned have all contributed to my being happier: not forcing myself to run when I don't want to; having a clean, organized house; not self-medicating with food; spending time with and being active with my family; socializing with friends; being ahead on our finances; and most of all, being able to be myself without feeling apologetic for who I am.

I've started voicing my opinions, and I love it. It's a relief not to feel worried or guilty for expressing who I am. The people who cared about me and loved me still do--I don't know what I was so worried about all these years! I have discovered (by accident, and through therapy) that the road to happiness starts with being able to be myself and feeling good about who I am.

As far as the future of Runs for Cookies...

I'm going to keep my blog name. I considered changing it, but there is a lot that goes into changing something like that, especially when it's been so public. Having been in the From Fat to Finish Line documentary, and in several media outlets, I've become known as "Runs for Cookies", and it would be hard to change that. And who knows, maybe one day I'll run for cookies again; but right now, I am enjoying cookies without running, and it feels great ;) (Only instead of 10 cookies, I feel happy with just 1).

Weight loss and maintenance is still a huge part of my life, so I will continue to post about it. I don't expect to be struggle-free in maintenance (as you know, it's never been easy for me!), and I expect to continue the ups and downs (hopefully less frequently). I have found blogging about it to be helpful in getting and/or staying on track. However, weight loss won't be the main focus of my blog.

Going forward, I would like to write more about the discoveries I make in this "pursuit of happiness". I've enjoyed writing about budgeting/paying off debt, so I will continue to do that. Maybe I'll post about recipes that we've been trying (not "health food" recipes, but just food we enjoy). Activities that I try for the first time or do regularly. Projects I'm working on. Being an auntie to the happiest baby ever. Even just things I see on a day to day basis that bring me joy.

I almost feel like I am saying goodbye in some ways--at least to the old me. I'm excited about these changes, and I'm finally on a path that makes me feel happy about who I am currently--not who I hope to be someday. So, if you decide not to continue reading, I totally understand that! I thank you for following along. And if my current pursuit interests you, I welcome you to continue reading. And perhaps share your own path to happiness! :) xo


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