October 31, 2017

RECIPE: Emergency Room Pasta

I know I promised not to post stories along with recipes, because nobody looks at recipe posts for the stories. So I will keep this very short--I just want to explain the name "Emergency Room Pasta". (Which will also explain why the pasta looks so overcooked in the photo, hahaha). But to skip directly to the recipe, just click here.

red pepper spinach pasta


In December 2015, I was cooking a modification of this recipe for "Roasted Red Pepper and Sausage Alfredo" when Jerry suddenly was hit with the worst headache he's ever had. (The story with all the details can be found here on my blog). I threw the pot of pasta (it was a one-pot dish, thankfully) into the fridge to possibly salvage later, and drove Jerry to the ER.

The next day, I decided to finish cooking the pasta dish so we could eat it for dinner. I had it cooking on the stove when Jerry was hit with more symptoms. I stopped everything and took him to the ER right away. I remembered that I had left the dinner on the stove, so I called my mom and asked her to put it in the fridge.

Third time's a charm: After the pasta dish was interrupted for TWO emergency room visits, I was finally able to finish cooking it. And it was delicious! Even though the situation wasn't exactly a fun experience, we do feel nostalgic about this dish. It will always be known as "Emergency Room Pasta" to us :)

(You can see my notes about the recipe at the bottom of this post)

Click here for a printer-friendly PDF of the recipe

Emergency Room Pasta

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. olive oil
5 links of Italian sausage (I prefer the hot over the sweet kind)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1-3/4 cups milk (I use whole milk)
1-3/4 cups chicken broth
1 jar (about 16 oz) roasted red peppers, drained
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
A couple of handfuls of fresh spinach
12 oz. pasta
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a blender or food processor, purée the milk, chicken broth, and red peppers until smooth. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Remove the casings from the sausage (I just squeeze the sausage out of each end). Add the sausage to the skillet and cook over medium heat until browned, adding the garlic about halfway through. 

Stir in the pepper/milk/broth purée, as well as the pasta. Bring to a boil, then cover the pot and reduce heat to simmer until pasta is done (check the package directions for the approximate time it needs to cook).

Stir in the spinach until it’s wilted; and then stir in the parmesan cheese until it’s melted. Serve hot. 

red pepper spinach pasta

My notes:

*You can use frozen spinach in this. I never have fresh spinach around, but I always have a block of frozen spinach in the freezer. I just microwave it until it's thawed, then I put it in a clean kitchen towel. I use the towel to squeeze the water out of the spinach (almost like you're wringing out the towel). I remove as much water as possible before adding the spinach to the pot. I usually use about half of the block.

*The original recipe called for goat cheese, but I am not a fan of it. I had planned to add cream cheese instead, but with the emergency room visits, I just forgot to add it. We thought it was delicious without the addition of the extra cheese, so we just make it without now.

*This (obviously) can be made ahead of time and reheated. Twice. Hahaha!


October 30, 2017

Mental Health Monday: The Difference Between Motivation and Determination

In January of 2012, I wrote a blog post about the difference between motivation and determination. At that point, I had kept off the weight I'd lost for well over a year, and people asked me all the time how I managed to stay motivated.

The truth is, I wasn't motivated--but even though I didn't feel motivated, I was determined. It may sound like the same thing, but I learned from experience that there is a big difference! Here is how the difference between motivation and determination helped me to lose 125 pounds...


I only felt the drive of motivation at the very beginning of my journey and for a few moments here and there, sprinkled throughout the years. For me, motivation only lasts for a short while, which is why everyone seems to have such a hard time maintaining it--as well as why they have such curiosity as to how I stayed "motivated". Most people who want to lose weight feel motivated in the beginning, but it fades quickly.

The difference, in my experience, is subtle--but very significant:


Even the definitions of each word are very similar:


The definition for motivation that sticks out the most to me is "the condition of being eager to act or work", because I think that's what most people tend to think of when they are referring to motivation to lose weight. What is it that keeps us excited, or keeps us going, when it comes to doing what we have to do to lose weight?

Motivation is that feeling of being fired up to do something (like reaching a weight loss goal). When I was obese, I used to feel motivated by reading weight loss success stories, watching shows like The Biggest Loser (while I ate a pint of ice cream, haha!), meeting other people who had lost a large amount of weight, and seeing before and after photos in magazines (like People magazine's Half Their Size issue).



(It's still so crazy to me that I would get so motivated by things like the above photo, and now the person in that photo IS me--I never ever would have guessed that when I started my journey, I would one day be one of those "success stories".)

Those things that I found motivational made me think, "I'm going to do this! I can't wait to be one of those success stories!" Then I would sit down and write out a plan for how I was going to do it, and put the plan into action: I would typically go grocery shopping for all the "right" foods; I would binge on all the junk food in our pantry, just to "get it out of the house"; I would write out a meal plan for the week; and I would find out everything I could about how those people stayed motivated while they lost weight.

And each time, I would last a day--maybe two--before I lost that excitement. My new, healthier food became boring; I was constantly hungry; I was tired of counting Points or calories or whatever it was at the moment; I was irritable from being hungry; and eventually, I would just say, "Fuck it! Give me some ice cream. I'll start over again tomorrow." Or Monday. Or on the first of next month.


Determination, on the other hand, is long term. It was determination that made this time different for me. Determination caused me to keep working on my weight loss when I wanted to quit. Determination pushed me to get out of bed and go for a run when I wanted to sleep in. Determination got me to the finish line of all three marathons I've run. I owe it to determination for each pound I've lost; each binge I restrained myself from.

The definition of determination that sticks out to me the most is, "The act of officially deciding something."

Deciding something. Determination means to make the decision and it's done. There is no question of whether or not we're going to do it, because we've already decided--we've determined that we're going to do it.

When I switched my thought process from "feeling motivated" to "being determined", it was actually a huge relief. I didn't have to make those choices anymore, because I'd already made them the moment that I determined that I was going to lose the weight. That I was going to run a marathon. That I was going to set a nearly impossible personal record in my 10K when I was extremely out of shape. That I was never going to quit working on weight maintenance.

When I determined that I was going to lose the weight, I didn't feel motivated at all. I was sick and tired of having high hopes of reaching my goal weight "some day", only to fail for the hundredth time. I was tired of starting diets every morning and quitting every afternoon. I was tired of the deprivation, the binge eating, and the restricting. I wanted to just forget about losing weight and move on with my life! But I was unhappy and unhealthy, which is why I kept up the hope that one of those days, I would stick with it.

You've all read the story umpteenth times about how I couldn't teach Noah to ride a bike because I was too obese for the physicality of it; and that moment ended up being one of the turning points for me to finally lose the weight.

That day, I could feel some sort of fire ignite inside of me, and it was unlike any motivation I'd had before. I didn't want to try losing weight again. I was sick of trying and failing! But when I couldn't teach my son to ride a bike because I was too obese, I knew I had to do it. If not for me, then for my kids.

Even if I failed again and again, I wanted my sons to know that I did everything in my power to be the best mom I could--which included being active and healthy. I wanted them to know that I was willing to do whatever it took to get down to a reasonable weight and stay healthy.

I never would have gone ice skating with the kids when I was 253 pounds!

I already knew how to lose weight. And I was never one to make excuses for my weight--I was always the first to admit that I was fat because I ate way too much and wasn't active--and this time was no different. I didn't make any excuses. I determined that the weight would come off when I did what I needed to do: I needed to eat less food.

When we feel that fire of determination, we're not making the decision to just get it done; we're making the decision to do whatever it takes to get it done. And that is the difference between motivation and determination, coming from my own personal experience.


Now, having said all of that, how do we get that fire of determination started? Here are some tips that helped me:

**I like to picture a scenario in my head of the goal I want to accomplish. Not just, "I want to lose weight." Even though my long-term goal was to be a happy and healthy mom, there were other reasons I wanted to lose weight--vanity being one of them. I would envision myself wearing clothes that I'd always wanted to wear if I was thin, cute lingerie, etc. I literally pictured myself wearing these clothes and imagined how it would feel to wear them.

There were a few other things that I envisioned, too. This next photo is a great example. The determination I felt in that photo is the most I've ever felt in my entire life. When that race got so hard I wanted to quit, you know what I thought about?


I thought about the comments that some of my haters had made in the months leading up to the race--saying that I would never PR my 10K because of my "atrocious" diet of sweets (and too many grapes, of course). Ha! My victory that day was also the sweetest I'd ever felt. And then I celebrated with beer and tater tots from McMenamins ;)

**When I found myself starting to come up with excuses not to do something (or to do something I didn't want to, like binge eat), I stopped those thoughts immediately and focused on something else--anything else at all. It's very easy to talk ourselves into quitting; but when we're determined to reach our goals, we have already decided that we won't make excuses. Being determined means sticking with our original choices/decisions, and not making excuses to change them.

**Another thing that helped me was to write a list of non-negotiables--things that we cannot talk ourselves out of or make excuses to do/not do (the prior link is to a post I wrote that will help with this). This can be something like going for a 30 minute walk three times a week. When we determine that this is non-negotiable, then there is NO question about whether we will do it. Excuses are invalid. We've made the decision and there is no going back. (Obviously, these non-negotiable items should not be too ambitious, like "I will never eat dessert again" or "I will go to the gym seven days a week, no matter what.")

**While working on long-term determination, like the kind needed to lose a large amount of weight, it helps to come up with little "practice" situations as well. "I am determined to make it through this day without binge eating." That way, it's not overwhelming to look at months, year, a lifetime, of determination; it's just for one day. And by practicing several little things like that, the determination for goals such as losing 100 pounds comes much more easily.

**Using motivation can help us with the determination. Since motivation is temporary, we can't rely on it to get us through an entire 100+ pound weight loss journey. But when we are tempted to binge on an entire chocolate cake, for example, we can use something that motivates us to keep us from doing that. That would be a good time to read some success stories online, or browse before and after pictures. Whatever gets us motivated for our long-term goals.


This post is way too long already, so I'll end with a couple of final thoughts. Motivation certainly has its place in a long weight loss journey, but it can't be relied upon to carry us through that duration. There were be a LOT of times where we feel unmotivated, which is when we usually quit. Determination is more difficult to start and to manage at first, but the determination is what will get us to our end goal. We have to make the decision--determine exactly what we are going to do--and then stick with it!

And that, Friends, is what I think of the difference between motivation and determination :)


October 29, 2017

Off-Season Training for Cross Country Kids (or grown-ups!)

Yesterday was our end of season party for cross country. I'm kind of sad that we are losing our sixth graders next year! The sixth grade kids have to move up to the middle school team next year. I've really grown attached to some of them, because we've been coaching them for three years (when Renee and I started the team).

I told the kids I would really like for them to continue training throughout the winter, spring, and summer (until the next season starts). Our season is only about eight weeks, so there is a long time in between seasons--long enough to get completely out of shape.

So, I wrote an off-season training plan for the kids if they want to continue to train until next year. I thought I'd post it here in case anyone else is interested in following it. In addition to being a plan for kids (we coach 3rd-6th graders), it would also work as a good plan for anyone who just wants to stay in running shape with minimal time during the winter months. It's even a good plan for beginner runners, once they are able to run for 20 or so minutes at a time.

cross country training plan

The plan is just three days a week, and has an easy run, a speed run, and a long run (the long run is minimal compared to what I typically post about--it maxes out at one hour--because our kids' race distances are only 1-1.25 miles).

Here is the link to the PDF of the full plan. 

Here is what the first few weeks looks like, just to give you an idea:


It was such a great year for our team! The kids were fantastic, and I always have a blast coaching with Renee. I'm looking forward to coaching again next year :)


October 26, 2017

Weight Loss Wednesday: What I Wish I Knew When I Started Losing Weight

As I have been maintaining my weight for the last several months (I never dreamed I'd be able to say those words!), I've been learning new things about myself that give me some insight into the mental aspects of losing such a large amount of weight.

I lost 125 pounds in 16 months (from August 19, 2009 until December 15, 2010). Even though I lost the weight at a healthy rate, dropping 125 pounds (nearly half of my body weight) was quite drastic. Sixteen months is not a lot of time to fully grasp what is happening, and I always felt like I was trying to catch up mentally.

May 2009 vs December 2010

But first, my current Wednesday Weigh-In (from yesterday):



Each week that goes by that I stay close to goal, I am surprised. I don't think I will ever NOT feel surprised by it. One thing that has changed about my mentality (for the better) is that I don't fret over the number being up or down when it's within reason. For example, if I weigh in at 132 one week, and then 134 the next, I don't think, "Oh, I gained! What did I do differently? How am I going to explain this?"

I wish I knew when I started losing weight that small gains don't necessarily mean that I did something "wrong" to cause the gain. Sometimes gains just happen for no reason. 

Until recently, I would feel like I had to explain why my weight was up two pounds in a week. Now, I don't think anything of it (except for my vacation weight gain--that was a six-pound gain, which is significant enough to mention). But as long as I'm not binge eating or consistently overeating, I don't worry about the actual number on the scale. I trust that it will stay within reason.

It has taken me a LONG time (a lifetime, actually) to get to this point. Even though I knew, logically, that weight fluctuates for all sorts of reasons, I always felt like I needed an explanation for it. I felt like gaining was a bad thing. I felt pressured to take it back off, no matter how small the gain. I think this came from years of dieting.

I wish I'd known how much damage that sort of pressure would do to my mentality.

Weight Watchers was especially damaging. At meetings, when I would weigh in and my weight was down, I was congratulated and told I did a good job. I was a "good dieter" that week.

However, when I weighed in and my weight was up, even just a couple of ounces, the receptionist would look at me with sympathy and ask if I had a bad week, or if I was struggling to stay on track, or even say, "Don't worry, you'll take it off this week!". This made me feel like any gain at all was a bad thing. "Don't worry"? So that means a small gain is a reason to worry?

Nobody noticed I was losing weight until I'd lost about 40 pounds. That's a lot of weight to lose! It was discouraging that it wasn't very noticeable, but I kept reminding myself that eventually, I would drop some clothing sizes. I looked forward to that, and I always had a pair of jeans handy in my closet--a size too small, so I could try them on frequently until they fit.

I wish I had known that it was going to take a very long time for the loss to be noticeable. 

I felt so disappointed when it wasn't noticeable, and I wished I'd been prepared for that. I needed to be patient.

When I had lost a decent amount of weight, I started getting so many compliments as I got smaller. It felt wonderful! My self-esteem was growing with each pound lost and each size I dropped.

I wish I knew ahead of time just how insecure I would start to feel regarding the compliments. 

I started to question what people thought of me before I lost the weight because I very rarely received compliments on how I looked. When everyone was suddenly telling me how great I looked, I started to wonder about how I would feel if I gained the weight back. It would make me feel very insecure about how I looked.

10 pound increments, starting at 253 in the top left and going clockwise

I know that people had good intentions, and I appreciated the compliments so much--it felt great that people noticed and recognized my hard work, and it kept me wanting to keep going. It just left a little nagging thought in my mind about being extra careful not to gain the weight back.

Once I got to a certain point in my weight loss--it was when I reached the 140's, actually--I had a bit of a breakdown. I felt completely panicked. Everyone had seen me drop over a hundred pounds, and they seemed to like me more (I know that is probably not true, but it's what was going through my head at the time). I started to think about what would happen if I gained the weight back (and statistically, there was a 95% chance I would).

I even started to wish that I'd never lost the weight in the first place. 

I feared my relationships with friends and family would change if I gained the weight back; I feared that I'd never be able to maintain my weight; I feared that gaining it back would destroy me mentally.

I wish that I had known how much fear I would feel as I dropped more and more weight. 

For a few weeks, this panic was deep in my gut and it gnawed at me. It was too late to turn back, is what I kept thinking. If I had only lost 10 pounds or so, I would not have felt this way; but once I got to the point where the weight loss was very noticeable, people would then know if I was having a tough time because the gain would be just as noticeable.

I also got very scared about the number going down lower than I ever expected. The 140's were unbelievable to me (I hadn't weighed that little since I was in the fifth grade--and that was extremely overweight for a fifth grader, so I never enjoyed being that weight).

When I hit the 130's, I was completely in shock. I wasn't feeling panicky, like I did when I hit 149, but I was feeling like it was truly unbelievable. And I started to get excited about it. I was thrilled that I was approaching the weight that most of my "thin" friends were.

I finally felt like I just fit in (physically) when I was with others. For the first time in my entire life, I wasn't "the fat friend" that stood out when in a group. I loved that I blended in. I wasn't craving attention at all--I just wanted to be like one of them.

When I started losing the weight, and was actually sticking with my plan, I felt thrilled that I was doing it. After I lost the first 10 pounds, I excitedly asked Jerry to take a comparison picture so I could see the difference for myself.

And just like that, I was devastated when I saw the photos side by side. You couldn't see one bit of difference! I was so disappointed, and I contemplated quitting trying to lose weight. I didn't feel like the sacrifices I was making were worth it.

I wish I had known that the way I looked wasn't the only change I had to look forward to.

I shouldn't have felt disappointment--I should have felt proud that for once in my life, I was doing something that was healthy for ME. And I was feeling better. There were several non-scale changes that I should have been proud of instead of fretting over the fact that the weight loss wasn't visible yet.

When I got under 200 pounds or so, I became very rigid about my eating plan. I was following Weight Watchers' Points system, and I was meticulous about counting my Points, weighing my food, etc. I was so determined to keep dropping the weight that I didn't want anything to stop me.

In retrospect, I wish I hadn't been so strict.

There were several parties or events that I feel like I missed out on because of it. For example, my wine club would get together once a month to try different wines and pair them with food. Unless I knew exactly how many points were in things, I avoided them. I wouldn't eat things like homemade cookies because I didn't know all of the ingredients and therefore, the number of Points it contained.

I wish I'd have known that estimating the number of Points was totally okay, and wouldn't affect my weight loss much (if at all). 

As I lost weight, I became closer with several friends who I started having more in common with (Renee, for example, because I'd started running halfway through my weight loss; we had conversations about running and races.)



I wish I had known how much my weight loss would affect my friendships.

On the other hand, I became more distant with other friends. Some people were clearly jealous, which made me sad. I wasn't trying to do anything other than improve myself. These "friends" would come up with lots of reasons I should stop what I was doing. When I got down to about 165 pounds, some of them would even tell me that I was "too skinny" and I should put some of the weight back on.

My sister and I were never very close before--she is eight years old than me, and she moved to Illinois when I was in my early 20's. She's my polar opposite--thin and curvy, blond hair, extroverted. When I was losing a lot of weight, she started calling me frequently to see how it was going. I had always looked up to her, and I was so excited that she was showing interest in my life. She was super supportive.



This is why, then, I became very insecure as I continued to lose weight. I worried that if I gained the weight back, my sister and I wouldn't be close anymore.

I wish I had known how much my weight loss would affect my close relationships.

As far as my marriage, Jerry was complimenting me more and more frequently. He had always complimented me often, even when I was at my heaviest; but as I got thinner, I could tell that he liked my new figure better. And I began to fear that I would never feel pretty to him again if I gained the weight back.

I wish I had known how much more there was to weight loss than smaller jeans.

As I've written above, there is a LOT that I wish I had known before I started losing the weight. The biggest is the constant fear of gaining it back. I wish I was able to shove that out of my mind, but that fear is so ingrained in my brain that it just may be there forever.

There were several positive things I learned along the way, though, too. Like I wrote above, I learned to make peace with the scale and the small gains that come frequently. I learned that enjoying life is worth far more than the number on the scale, and I won't miss out on things for fear of gaining weight. I learned that the number on the scale is only one small measure of success; there are so many other benefits to losing the weight.

It's been nearly seven years since I lost 125 pounds. As I've stated, I keep learning new things about weight loss and maintenance (and even weight gain). When I first started losing weight, I expected it to be a simple process (not *easy*, but simple)--drop the weight, and reap the benefits. There are so many emotions that go along with weight loss, and even though a lot of them were unexpected for me, I'm glad to have experienced them!



October 25, 2017

RECIPE: A Cookie-Lover's Favorite Cookie!

I have to say, I love the fact that I am not boxing myself into a "weight loss blog" category anymore. Because now I can share my favorite recipes that aren't health-conscious ;)

As you know, with a blog name like "Runs for Cookies", I am clearly a cookie lover. Interestingly (or maybe not), my favorite cookie is an oatmeal cookie (which isn't typically a favorite for most people). These are the cookies I housed one time and then felt guilty and went for a run. You can read about that in my post "Spewing Cookies", hahaha.

This photo is actually pretty... because a professional photographer took it, haha. She came to my house for a photoshoot for a magazine, and asked me to make some cookies for a prop. Of course, I made my favorite!

Anyway, enough commentary. As usual, notes are after the recipe.

oatmeal cookies

Click here for the printer-friendly PDF of this recipe


Katie's Favorite Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups of white flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 cups old-fashioned oats
(optional) 1 cup chocolate chips (I prefer not to use any extras like chocolate or nuts--see notes below)

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, combine oil, brown sugar and white sugar and mix until smooth. Beat in the eggs.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and add the mixture to the oil/sugar/egg mix. Stir until smooth. Add the oats (and chocolate chips if you’re using them) and stir until uniform.

Drop spoonfuls of the dough onto ungreased cookie sheets, and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the edges are just barely turning golden in color. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

As with every cookie recipe I've ever baked, you won't get 6 dozen cookies out of this. I'm lucky to get a single dozen after all the dough I eat. So, I honestly can't tell you how many cookies this makes.


Just in case you can't tell my photo apart from a professional photo, here's another batch I made. I made these for a soldier in Iraq at Christmastime, and I was told he likes M&M's, so I threw in some red and green ones.

oatmeal cookies


Recipe Notes:

*It may seem odd to use all oil and no butter, but trust me on this. These cookies have the BEST texture when you use oil. I've tried it with half butter and half oil, but I didn't like it nearly as much.

*You can make these using quick cooking oats, and they won't have as chewy of a texture. I happen to LOVE the chewy texture of oatmeal cookies, so I use old-fashioned oats.

*These taste best when they are just slightly under baked. I think pretty much all cookies do, right?

*I actually prefer these cookies without any chocolate or nuts. Crazy, right? This plain oatmeal cookie is the most delicious cookie on the planet, in my opinion.


October 23, 2017

Mental Health Monday: Recognizing My Hypomanic Symptoms

Shortly after Jerry and I got back from Portland, I noticed my mood was changing--just a little. I felt excited and more energetic. I figured the vacation did me some good!

More recently, however, I am showing symptoms of hypomania. Whenever this would happen before I was diagnosed, I just thought my depression was lessening and I was having some good days/weeks/months. Now, however, I feel like it is glaringly obvious that I am in a hypomanic state.


(Edit to add (important): I've been meaning to mention this ever since my diagnosis, and I keep forgetting about it! Whenever I write about my bipolar disorder, I tend to get several emails from people who, after reading, feel like they probably have it, too.

When I was studying psychology in college, we learned about "medical student syndrome", which could also be applied to learning about mental illnesses. Basically, when students are studying diseases of the body and/or mind, they can start to worry that they have every condition they are learning about. If you tend to Google your symptoms and wind up on WebMD, your symptoms could be one of hundreds of conditions/diseases! That's why it's best not to self-diagnose.

So, when I write about my bipolar disorder, and people read about my symptoms, it can cause a lot of questioning of whether they may have it, too. The truth is, so many of the symptoms of bipolar can be linked to LOTS of other conditions. There are many symptoms that I have or have had in the past that I don't write about here--either because it's embarrassing or just too personal.

Usually, those symptoms are the biggest indicators for bipolar, and the reasons for my diagnosis. Bipolar is much more than just "mood swings". I just want to make this clear because I don't want the severity of bipolar disorder to seem insignificant, or that bipolar disorder is common and "no big deal". It damaged many parts of my life from the time I was a child.

So, I encourage you not to self-diagnose anything, but especially mental illness. It took me 10 years and five mental health professionals to finally get me to accept my diagnosis--the doctors saw symptoms that I did not recognize or that I thought was normal, which is why I never accepted it. Okay, sorry for that long edit!)


It started with decreased need for sleep. At first, I kept trying to go to sleep at my regular time and just couldn't; it drove me crazy! I know I need sleep, but I feel totally energetic even without much sleep. I just don't get tired. Last night, I was up until almost 3:00 AM, and even then, I had to force myself to go to bed. I have to get up at 6:00 AM with the kids for school, so I knew I needed sleep. Even sleeping only three hours, I woke up before my alarm and was wide awake.

Next, I started losing my appetite a bit. Nothing drastic, but I wasn't as hungry as I used to be. Being on vacation had thrown off my routine anyway, so I just assumed that was the reason behind it. Besides, I was too busy being productive with things to want to stop and eat more than a quick bowl of cereal.

Then I started getting irritable. This is the worst part about being hypomanic--everything, especially noises, make me irritated. I recognize it when it's happening, and now I am much more aware of what's going on, so I do my best to control my reactions. It's very challenging! But now that I know it's temporary, it's a little easier to manage.

Still, though, I wish that noises weren't so bothersome. It's hard to concentrate when there is a lot going on.

Another symptom that snuck up on me is the impulsivity. On Friday, I decided I wanted to get a new piercing. And a few hours later, I went to a tattoo/piercing shop with my friend Andrea. Even in the parking lot, I wasn't sure what I was going to get pierced!

[I'm straying from the topic, but I'm sure some of you will be curious about what I chose. I actually ended up getting TWO ear piercings, both in my right ear--a rook piercing and a conch piercing. (The rook is the one on top, the conch is the one in the center of my ear.

rook piercing conch piercing

rook piercing
The rook wasn't terribly painful. It sucked, but I didn't gasp or anything.

conch piercing
This was the conch--on a scale of f-bombs, it was a three-er. Ouch!

I went to a place called Steel Addictions in Toledo, and the guys there were fantastic. The last piercing I got was my nose, and that was 10 years ago, so this felt new to me. I told one of the tattoo artists about the ladybug tattoo on my toe and how it made me completely turned off to tattoos in general (he asked me why I don't get a tattoo). I explained to him that I have gotten dozens of emails over the years from readers telling me that I should get my "mole" looked at, hahahaha.

I started covering it with a bandaid or wearing socks when posting my weigh ins, because I had to explain every time that it was a bad tattoo I got at 18 years old. The guys at the shop tried talking me into getting it redone, but I am just not a tattoo person at all.

Anyway, enough of that tangent. I am glad I got the piercings, because I really like them--and I'd been wanting one for a while now.]

Another example of my impulsivity: Yesterday, I jumped out of bed at 7:00, even though it was Sunday and I could have slept in. I was very springy. I got right to work on cleaning the bathrooms. As I was cleaning the bathrooms, I suddenly had the idea that I wanted to paint the living room, dining room, and kitchen. I got all excited about it, and was talking to Jerry a mile a minute about the improvements we could make on the house. I wanted to jump in the car and go right to Lowe's for the paint.

It was then that I realized what was going on. This wasn't normal behavior. I was showing signs of hypomania.

So, I told Jerry that I wasn't thinking clearly and that I needed him to make some decisions for me. If it was up to me, I would have gone right to Lowe's and start painting immediately. Jerry was much more rational, obviously, and said we can do it--but we need to wait a while first.

I have also spent a lot of money--nearly all of the allowance I had saved up over the summer--with impulse buys. Another classic symptom of hypomania. I have enough control not to use the credit card, and stick to our budget, but now I have very little allowance left for extra stuff that I want.

So, I need to talk to my psychiatrist about what to do. A couple of months ago, I started taking a higher dose of my medication (at my psychiatrist's instructions, of course), but I developed acne on my forehead, chest, and back. After talking to the psychiatrist, I went back down to the previous dose, and the acne went away. I may ask him if I can try again, and see if maybe the acne was a coincidence--although I'm pretty sure it's not.

I was trying to figure out what could have triggered the hypomania, and I wonder if it was the change in my routine when I went to Portland. In my everyday life, I thrive on routine; and while I love vacation, it throws me off. Since the symptoms started shortly after I got home, it's possible that the vacation was the trigger.

I just hope it doesn't last long. My hypomanic episodes (in retrospect) usually last anywhere from a month to five months. What I'm feeling now is definitely milder than I've felt in the past, though. And I was able to rationalize my thoughts by asking Jerry to make the decision about painting the living room, rather than just going ahead and doing it. The awareness of my thoughts and actions is actually really helpful in staying in control.

I keep reminding myself that having a mild episode doesn't mean that my medication isn't working; I just have to get used to a new normal, which will likely include mild episodes of hypomania as well as mild episodes of depression (God, I hope not, though). Only one third of patients on medication never experience mania or hypomania again.

Anyway, once I had the "Aha!" moment (realizing that these symptoms are actually hypomania), I felt like I'd conquered something important. This is the first time I've recognized this for what it is, and my whole diagnosis keeps making more sense. Now that I'm seeing the symptoms, and I know what to look for in the future, I feel like I'm already doing better than I ever have in the past.

Now we'll just have to see how this plays out! hahaha


October 20, 2017

Family Friday: Two Weeks of Catch-Up!

If you missed it, I posted a belated Thrifty Thursday post earlier today.

There has been so much going on lately that I can't even remember all the things I planned to write about. Things are winding down a bit, since fall baseball is now over and cross country will be over on Saturday. Here is a (hopefully short) recap of the last couple of weeks:

As you already know, Jerry and I went to Seattle and Portland for vacation, and we had a blast!

I've been doing physical therapy for six weeks, and my back/neck/shoulder are definitely getting better. The scoliosis and bone spurs in the middle of my back likely won't get better, which is where I have the most pain; but the tight and thickened muscles in my upper back and shoulders have felt much more relaxed. My physical therapist is fantastic, and I actually enjoy going.

This machine makes me feel like I weigh about 70 pounds

Our last cross country meet is tomorrow. This year of coaching has been my favorite so far--most of the kids we have are very enthusiastic about running, which makes them a pleasure to coach. I'm especially impressed with the girls! They never ever complain or try to get out of running (the boys come up with every excuse in the book, haha).

One of the parents got this pic of Renee and I watching the start of a race

Speaking cross country, Eli ran his fastest mile yesterday--8:12!! I couldn't believe it. I've said it at least a dozen times, but I am sure that the orthotics and physical therapy have a lot to do with his improvement. He's also been more motivated to beat his times this year, so he's been working harder. He's certainly much faster than his mom!



And speaking of that, I actually went for a run! After dropping the kids off at school earlier this week, the weather seemed so nice for a run. And the kids at cross country have been motivating me to think about running again. So, I got dressed in my running clothes and headed out.

I deliberately didn't look at my pace, but I guessed it was around 10:30. I felt surprisingly decent! It wasn't easy by any means, but I didn't hate it. My pace was actually 11:30, though--it's surprising how much fitness I've lost over eight months!

The run made me start to think of goals again. I feel like a beginner--not the way I was before, because I can run three miles without stopping right now--but my pace is very slow compared to last year, and I probably couldn't run much more than three miles.

A screen shot of a video--pretty much sums up how I felt about running, haha

When I stopped running in February, I felt like I had hit my goals and I didn't have anything to work toward. I had run three marathons, and had no desire to run farther than 26.2 miles. I busted my ass to run a 10K PR, and didn't want to work on getting even faster.

By hitting the goals that I desired, I really didn't feel the drive to run anymore. I'm not saying that I'm going to start running again now; but if I do decide to, I will have new goals: things like a sub-30 5K, a sub-60 10K, maybe even run a half-marathon again. All of these feel new to me, and challenging. I like a challenge! So, I'm going to think about it.

In other news, Jerry's and my budget is still going very well. This month, we probably won't be able to pay much extra onto the credit card, because we have extra expenses and we won't earn nearly as much as last month.

Eli's orthodontist appointment is next week, and it's $560 just to get started. Jerry's ER bill arrived yesterday, and that is $200 (but we'll get a few more bills for it soon, I'm sure). My physical therapy is $20 per session, and I go twice a week. We had to pay for the boys' baseball jerseys and tournament ($80), a rental car for Seattle/Portland ($115), Halloween, and probably a few other things I'm forgetting.

Thankfully, due to our zero-sum budget, we will be able to handle it without relying on credit cards to pay for it. It's been so exciting to see the progress we've been making on our debt! I'm hoping we'll have it paid off in the early spring. If we hadn't started the budget, it would have taken us years; but with the budget, it will have taken roughly 9-10 months when it's done.

Speaking of money, Jerry and I took the kids out for pizza after a cross country meet, and I used $10 of my allowance to play Keno while we waited for the pizza. I played a 7-spot for the first time (I usually play a 4-spot, which means you choose four numbers). The odds are slightly better with the 4-spot, but I decided to change it up.

I actually won $100 on the third draw! It was SO exciting. To play Keno, you pick numbers between 1 and 80 (the amount of numbers you pick, up to 10, is up to you--each with different odds). Then, there are 20 numbers pulled, and the amount you match determines how much money you win. It's a fun way to make a little gambling money go a long way, and to kill some time before your food arrives.

Anyway, I played my usual four numbers plus three random ones. As the numbers were popping up on the screen, I saw several of mine coming up--and I even lost count! I noticed that 33 still hadn't been pulled, so I was hoping to see that one. It didn't come up, so I knew I hadn't won the top prize--$2,000--but I counted the rest of my numbers, and I'd matched 6, for a $100 winning. I won another $5 on that card, so I actually profited $95--fun!



Tonight, I'm getting together with my friend Andrea. I'd like to get another ear piercing, so we're going to go somewhere to do that (I haven't decided exactly where on my ear yet, but I'm looking at photos now to decide). I've been wanting to do it for a long time.


Right now, I'm liking the "snug" one, but we'll see. By the time this post goes live, it will likely be done :)

Hope everyone has a great weekend!
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Thrifty Thursday: Halloween Costumes on the Cheap

I know today is Friday, but better late than never, right? Yesterday morning, I had physical therapy; then, I spent the rest of the morning at Salvation Army and Goodwill looking for Halloween costume items for the kids.

I know it's easy to buy a costume online or even overpay at the Halloween stores that pop up every year, but I've always loved handmade costumes or just piecing together costumes with different items. Nothing beats a handmade Halloween costume!

My mom used to sew my costume every year, and they always looked amazing. The quality of a handmade costume will make it last for decades, so it can be passed along to others as well.

Here is a dog costume that I wore when I was almost two years old. I think I even wore it again the following year--I loved this costume, and wore it for dress up sometimes. I vividly remember that when I went to my aunt's house for trick-or-treating, she "tricked" me by giving me a couple of milk bones! Haha.

handmade dog Halloween costume


This next costume was my favorite, by far. I loved Snow White! My mom made this, and my friend Sarah's mom made her the same costume (we liked to dress alike almost every year--nerds!). This one was eventually handed down to my younger cousins. You can't beat the quality of a handmade costume!

handmade Snow White Halloween costume


This next one (sorry for the bad photo) was Princess Peach from Super Mario Bros. Nathan, my younger brother, dressed as Mario, and his costume was also fantastic. I can't find a photo of it at the moment. My mom remembers this costume very well, because once she was done sewing it, I decided I wanted to dress as a nurse instead, just like Sarah. My poor mother.

Handmade Princess Peach Halloween costume


When my boys were little, I had so much fun making their costumes as well! My favorites were these ones... Noah was Batman and Eli was a dog.

handmade Batman Halloween costume

handmade dog Halloween costume

I learned that sewing with fur is an enormous mess, but the result was worth it.

Sewing costumes is actually not very thrifty--it's pretty expensive, in fact. Considering how much we played dress-up, it was worth it, though! You can always find fabric at thrift stores, though, so you could potentially make a costume for less than $10.

That's not to say you can't throw together costumes for super cheap, though...

One year, Sarah was going to dress as a hippie, so naturally, I wanted to do that, too. Our moms turned our jeans into bell-bottoms (unfortunately, you can't see them well in this photo), and we decorated them with peace signs and things like that. We had made some beaded keychains at summer camp, so we hung those from our belt loops, and added belts with some 60's-looking fabric.

handmade hippie Halloween costume

My kids went with me to Goodwill one year, and when they saw the costumes there, they really wanted them. Noah wanted a "ghoul" costume, and Eli wanted a zombie costume. Grand total that year was less than $10!

ghoul costume and zombie Halloween costume

Last year, Eli wanted to be a fisherman, and Noah a doctor. This was very simple! Eli already is a fisherman, so he had everything except for the hat. I bought that on Amazon for roughly $10(?).

I asked my friends on Facebook if anyone had a lab coat I could borrow for Noah, because I couldn't find one at the thrift stores. My friend Jessica had one, so we borrowed that. I bought the scrub bottoms for $2 at Salvation Army. We made a little name badge, and that was it! Simple.

handmade fisherman Halloween costume doctor costume

Some tips for cheap Halloween costumes:

*Keep in mind that people usually only wear costumes once--so getting a used one is very easy!

*Check thrift stores--not only for used costumes, but TONS of Halloween accessories like wigs, masks, hats, etc. I've seen lots of new items with tags still on them.

*Ask friends on Facebook (or wherever) if anyone has any costumes you could borrow. I can almost guarantee you will find a costume this way.

*Buy next year's costume in November--you can almost always get it 50-75% off. Kids almost always change their minds, but for adult costumes, buying in November can be a great way to save money.

*Think of costumes you can piece together with random items you may have or can buy for cheap. For example, Eli's fisherman costume--he wore camouflage coveralls (he was planning to wear his waders, but he couldn't walk very fast in them, which meant less candy--haha); a khaki vest with lots of pockets; a hat with a some fly hooks on it; and he carried a fishing net lined with fabric to collect his candy.

*Consider items that can be reused. For example, Eli wanted to be a baseball player one year--the jersey could be worn over and over again, making it worth the cost (we happened to have one already that we'd gotten at Salvation Army). He had baseball pants from playing summer ball, and he already had a Tigers hat.

baseball player Halloween costume

This year, Noah wants to be Indiana Jones. I have never seen Indiana Jones, so I had to look up what we needed in order to put together a costume. I found this handy guide online:


And yesterday, at Goodwill, I happened to find almost everything I needed! And pretty close to what is shown in the photo guide.

(The jacket I found is actually brown, it just looks much darker in the photo)

handmade Indiana Jones Halloween costume
The cats were clearly into it

The only things I would still like to get are a satchel and a whip. This costume wasn't exactly "cheap"--I believe everything totaled $40. Considering the boots and leather jacket, I felt it was a fair price. I had to buy the hat at a Halloween store, because the only one that I found at Goodwill was felt (not great quality) and $5--the one at the Halloween store was $12, and much better quality.

Even though it wasn't cheap, he can wear the items again (the boots were only $8, and they're nice!). Best of all, Noah was THRILLED with the costume when he came home from school and saw it laid out on his bed.

So there you have it--whether you make a costume, piece together a costume, borrow one, buy a costume at a thrift store, or buy one 11 months before Halloween--there are lots of options for thrifty Halloween costumes!


October 18, 2017

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.


October 17, 2017

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

Ingredients:

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


Directions:

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.



Notes:

*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...)


October 11, 2017

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!