January 31, 2024

Wednesday Weigh-In: Week 140

This week was much better than the previous, as far as my eating goes. Jerry and I have been back to eating whole foods (only a few days in so far though) and I already feel ten times better. It's so interesting how much of a difference diet makes in the way we feel. We've all heard that a healthy diet and exercise is crucial to feeling your best, but it's one of those pieces of advice that are so generic and it's overwhelming to even think about.

One thing that I noticed over the last several months is that my running pace is very closely correlated to my weight/diet. My mile pace had gotten down into the low-9:00's for a little while in the fall, and then as I gained weight or just didn't eat very well, my pace got up to 12:00-ish. 

On the weekend, after eating so poorly for a couple of weeks, my 0.4 mile morning run felt like a 10K race--and that was at an 11:00/mi pace! This morning, after only two full days of being back to eating whole foods, my pace was 9:55/mi--and I felt a million times better during today's run than I did last week. Less effort and faster. I know I didn't gain that much fitness in two days, so it's got to be my diet.

Anyway, the week was kind of uneventful. My birthday was last Wednesday, but I don't like to celebrate my birthday, so we didn't go out to dinner or have cake or anything like that. Since I don't have a car during the day right now, I've been doing a lot of small projects around the house (things that just take a couple of hours at a time--like touching up paint, cleaning out and organizing cupboards, mending clothes, and even building a couple of night tables for my bedroom out of scrap 2x4's).

It was kind of fun working on a wood project in the garage again! I didn't do much woodworking over the summer because I felt burnt out with it. I did a ton of sewing over the fall and winter, but I think I'll make it a point to do some fun woodworking projects this summer.

Noah's girlfriend came over a couple of days ago because she wanted me to help her sew something for Noah for Valentine's Day. Valentine's Day is her favorite holiday--isn't that interesting?! That's the first time I've heard anyone say that their favorite holiday is Valentine's Day. This will be her first Valentine's Day in a relationship, and the gift she is making is SO CUTE. Noah doesn't know that she's making him something, but I think he's going to love it. (Once she gives it to him, I'll post a picture.)

Finally, to get to the point of this post... my weigh-in!

It wasn't as bad as I was expecting, thankfully. I'm up a pound from two weeks ago, but I know that it was higher last week (and over the weekend). I felt so puffy, but eating really well the last couple of days made a huge difference (I can always tell by the way my ring fits--sometimes I can barely get it off, but right now, it easily slides along my finger.)

For this coming week, the plan is to continue eating (mostly) whole foods. Also, just for this week, I'm going to add another block onto my morning run; I haven't increased the distance at all since I started in September (other than a few random runs where I felt good and wanted to run a little farther). It's only another 0.1 mile to add a block, but I don't want the thought of, "I have to run farther!" to make me stop my morning runs altogether. So, I'm just going to test it out this week by adding a single block and seeing how it goes.

I feel confident going into this week--let's hope it goes well!

January 30, 2024

Two Weeks of Whole Foods

I'm still struggling with things to write about. I've been wanting to put together a post of the dinners Jerry and I have been eating lately but I was hoping to wait until I have more photos. I'm starting to forget what some of these recipes even were, so I'll just go ahead and post them.

The main goal (for our two-week challenge) was to eat more vegetables, but it kind of turned into eating mainly whole foods. Both of us really loved doing this! It was interesting to see how much better we felt--physically and mentally--when eating foods our bodies like. And that was only two weeks!

I made most of the recipes from the How Not To Die and How Not To Diet cookbooks. I don't think there were any that we didn't like; both of those cookbooks have been awesome. Keep in mind that I am not-even-a-little-bit-good at food photography, so my pictures aren't exactly appealing, hahaha. There were actually a few that I'm not even going to post because it will make people never want to try things like black lentils and black bean soup!

Anyway, here are some of the ways we got more vegetables in...

Sweet Potato Waffles (I discovered that I use far less syrup if I put it in a little ramekin and dip the waffles as I eat rather than pouring it on top; I only used half of what is pictured)

I didn't mean to include this, but I definitely ate all of these Asian pears before they went bad! Haha. 

Sweet Potato Taco Bowl (brown rice, sweet potatoes, corn, black beans, seasoning)

Millet "Risotto" with mushrooms, spinach, and white beans (we didn't like this dish only because we didn't like the flavor of the millet itself; this would be good with a different grain)

I forget what this was called--I think it was some sort of stew--but it had barley, mushrooms, peppers, onions, carrots, and chickpeas.

Lentil & Quinoa Chili

I actually forget what this was, but it reminded me of a broccoli/cheese/rice casserole. It was good!

Sweet Potato Shawarma Bowl (quinoa with seasoned sweet potatoes and cauliflower; topped with lettuce, onions, cucumbers, and a homemade tahini dressing.

Stew with butternut squash, red beans, corn, tomatoes, peppers, and onions. There is quinoa under there, too ;)

This was kind of our "junk food" dinner--tofu in a sriracha marinade and baked, along with baby potatoes with "chili cheese" seasoning. 

Again, I forget what this was called. But it had sweet potatoes, cauliflower, peas, peppers, and raisins (it sounded odd to me with the raisins, which is why I picked it from the book). I don't remember what grain was under there, but it was probably brown rice. This was really good!

Well, that was the start of Jerry's and my year of being grown-ups and eating our veggies. I had really hoped that this challenge would help Jerry to like vegetables more, and he discovered that he does like sweet potatoes, mushrooms, and cauliflower (when prepared certain ways). He even admitted the cucumber in the shawarma bowls actually worked well. He has never liked cucumbers because he said that they overpower everything else and all you can taste is cucumber. I happen to love them. I think I'll make some hummus today and have cucumbers and hummus for a snack--that sounds delicious.

Now, I'm going to write up a meal plan for the week. I used to hate meal planning, but this vegetable challenge kind of made me excited to meal plan again. I'm going to try kale again this week--it's been YEARS since I tried it--and I'm hoping I'll like it better this time around. When cooking with greens, I usually go for spinach or collard greens. Yesterday, Jerry and I decided to do another two weeks of eating (mostly) whole foods. We both felt gross from eating poorly after eating really well for two weeks.

Anyway, if you have a favorite recipe that uses lots of vegetables, please share!

January 24, 2024

Wednesday Weigh-In: Week 139

I've been dreading writing this post all week! I had a really bad week as far as my eating goes. I had been doing SO good for the first couple of weeks of January, thanks to the challenge that Jerry and I did. Since my health goal for the year was to eat more vegetables, I suggested that Jerry do it, too. He's not a fan of vegetables, but I told him that maybe if he keeps trying them, he'll eventually like them. I think that our taste buds change based on what our current diet is, so maybe if he starts including veggies here and there, he'll start to really like them.

The problem is, I feel so bad making food that I "know" he won't like. I love mushrooms, but I almost never making anything with mushrooms because Jerry and the kids don't like them. Same with a lot of other fruits and veggies. So, he said that if I promise to make recipes that I think he won't like (recipes that include vegetables that I like but rarely make), then he'll eat them and *try* to like them.

I've been looking at Dr. Greger's Daily Dozen checklist to try to work in those items to my daily diet, and one of them is leafy greens. I never eat leafy greens; out of all the vegetables, they just aren't my favorite. They're on the list only slightly above celery, and that's pretty bad.

Rather than trying to get creative on a daily basis, I decided to just eat a small salad (he suggests at least two cups of leafy greens a day) before dinner. I don't make anything fancy--just mesclun mix and a homemade dressing (I got the recipe from the How Not To Die cookbook).

I was very surprised to discover that I really like eating the salad before dinner! Salad for a meal is a disappointment (an unpopular opinion, I know) but having it before dinner was kind of a game changer for me. I actually really like the taste of it, and the extra volume of food makes it easier to eat less food overall. I stay full a lot longer, too, so it makes it MUCH easier not to snack at night.

Anyway, aside from the salad, we've also been eating a lot of other vegetables. Unfortunately, over the last week, Jerry and I started snacking a lot (again). Less vegetables. Junkier food. It's not even just the food, but our attitudes--in general, we've been lazier, more carefree, and even flippant. Not at all like responsible adults! Hahaha.

So many things shifted at once--going from horrible luck over a period of a year and a half, to paying off the house and car, to Noah moving out, to Jerry's new work schedule, to Eli turning 18--and our attitudes certainly changed right along with it. There have been so many positive changes (like Jerry's work schedule and paying off the house) that it seems like we've both been able to take a deep breath and relax after being so on edge for a year and a half. We'd constantly been waiting for the next thing to go wrong. Obviously we can't stop bad things from happening, but we've been loving this break ;)

My weight, however, has not. I'm actually not going to post a weigh-in today. I hadn't been planning to skip it, but I forgot to actually weigh myself this morning. Since I was dreading it anyway, I'm just going to give myself a week to try to get myself back in control before weighing in. Jerry and I both mentioned that we feel like crap (physically) since we have been eating so poorly this week, after two weeks of eating healthier than ever. So we're back at it today--continuing our challenge of eating more vegetables. And acting like mature, responsible parents rather than carefree teenagers! Hahaha.

January 22, 2024

Dreary January

This is just going to be a quickie post...

Last week felt kind of like a continuation of our holiday staycation. We're still getting used to the huge change in routine/schedules; also, Eli's school was canceled every day last week due to the weather. After having such a mild winter so far, last week totally made up for it with temps below zero. When the wind chill is in the negatives, it's not unusual for school to be canceled.

I've still been going for my morning run every day, and I didn't let the cold stop me (as much as I wanted to). If I had looked at the weather app before I left the house, I might not have even gone--I didn't realize that the "feels like" temp was -19F until I checked it later. The run was only 0.4 miles, but a quarter of it was directly into the wind and I thought my face was going to be gone by the time I got home.

With Eli being home all week, Noah came over on his days off and Eli's girlfriend, Ava, was here quite a bit as well. All of that, along with Jerry's new work schedule, the house felt kind of full all week! It was nice. On Saturday, Jerry and I went to Dave and Renee's house to play Euchre; it had been way too long since we last played.

January is absolutely my least favorite month of the year. It's dreary all day, there is always water/salt/dirt/mud on the floor from the snow, my skin gets super dry, and I don't like keeping the windows closed all season. I know I haven't been writing much at all lately; it's like breaking my writing streak also broke all motivation to write. It's hard to get motivated to do anything in January, actually!

January 17, 2024

Wednesday Weigh-In: Week 138

It has been so funny trying to get used to Jerry's new work schedule.

First, it didn't go according to plan. Jerry started his first day shift a few days after Christmas, then he was off work for the holiday weekend. When he went back, his boss told his crew that they are going to be running some special project for two weeks--ON NIGHT SHIFT. So, he had to work nights for a couple of weeks. Yesterday, was his second take at his first day on day shift, haha.

I'm so used to Jerry sleeping during the day. Our bedroom is super dark (the black walls and room darkening blinds and drapes make it pitch black) that you can't even see your hand in front of your face. When I have to go in and out of there during the day while Jerry is sleeping, I am always very quiet and I use the faintest glow of my cell phone screen to see what I need, etc. Thankfully, Jerry sleeps like a rock and he doesn't have a problem with noise during the day; still, I like to be quiet.

Yesterday morning was no different. I did my usual tip-toeing around, and used the light from my cell phone screen to look inside my bedroom cabinet for something. It was then that it hit me--Jerry was at work! Hahahaha. That is one thing I am going to LOVE about having him on day shift. I can wash bedding and put away laundry during the day, vacuum, clang around dishes, etc. 

Anyway, about this week...

Jerry and I have been doing really well with our vegetables challenge! I couldn't have picked worse timing to do it, though. Since he had to go back to night shift for two weeks, we weren't able to eat dinner together (which made the challenge not as fun). However, we both really like it, so we're going to keep doing what we've been doing. I'll keep making recipes with lots of veggies and we'll keep trying them to see how we like them.

One thing I've gotten in the habit of doing (I added this to my ongoing "atomic habits" list--things that I want to continue to do until they truly are just a habit) is eating a small salad before dinner. It's one of the habits that Dr. Michael Greger suggests for several reasons, but I'm mostly curious to see if it helps me to feel fuller so that I don't snack at night.

As you know, I don't like salad. I don't *hate* it, but it's not something I eat. However, to get in leafy greens was going to be difficult for me. I figured the easiest way was in one fell swoop with a small salad before dinner. It's not even special--just mesclun mix topped with a homemade turmeric dressing (I think it's called caesar dressing in the How Not To Die Cookbook--but it doesn't taste like caesar, FYI). The more complicated a salad is, the less likely I am to eat it, which is why I like the mesclun mix and uber-healthy dressing.

I'm super surprised that I actually like having the salad before dinner! Dr. Greger specifies to eat it before dinner rather than during dinner, and I think by doing that, I eat more slowly (and less food) during dinner. It's not on purpose--I eat until I'm just as full as I was before I started having a salad before dinner--but it feels good knowing that no matter what I eat for dinner, at least I'm having my greens!

Even better, it has definitely helped me to not snack at night. It's kind of unrelated, but I've been going to bed super early (like 8 or 9:00) and then waking up super early (3 or 4:00). I think going to bed early helps me to not snack at night as well. I really like that sleep schedule because I love being awake so early in the day. It makes the day feel so much longer than when I stay up late at night.

So, how has all of this been helping with my weight loss? I was down a couple of pounds on the scale today:

I was at 144.4 last week, so seeing 142 today was good. I'm trying not to think about what it was a few months ago or even a few weeks ago. Right now, I'm just focusing on one pound at a time. But mostly, just trying to follow my new habits because they definitely seem to be working well!

January 16, 2024

How To Prepare Tofu (notes to Noah)

This is kind of an odd post because it's actually directed to Noah (and my "voice" in the post is written toward him) but I thought maybe someone who is new to tofu, or just interested in trying tofu, might find it helpful.

I remember very specifically a time that made me feel really damn GOOD about being a mother. I think that parents probably question themselves all the time about whether they're doing a good job and I think we're probably very hard on ourselves sometimes. I'm extremely critical of myself (something I'm always trying to work on). But there was one moment that I remember so well; it made me feel better as a mom than I've ever felt!

It was the night before my mom and I were going to take Noah and Eli to Belle Isle in Detroit to run a 5K. The kids were excited and I told them to pick out the clothes they wanted to run in the next morning. Eli, out of nowhere, said, "I want to make a shirt that says 'Runs for Cookies is my mom'." I have no idea where that came from, I swear.

It was too late for him to make a shirt, but my heart just melted. He was proud of *me*?! He was *that* proud that I was his mom?! I couldn't stop thinking about it, so I decided to get out of bed, pull out what crafting supplies I had, and make Eli a shirt. It turned out pretty good, all things considered! In any other circumstance, I'd have been really embarrassed about a shirt that is basically saying I'm a big deal; but I would have worn anything Eli'd asked me to that day. He loved the shirt and was proud to wear it. (And yes, I still have it.)

I recently had another moment where I thought with pleasant surprise, "Really? Me?!" as a mother. I'd asked Noah to write a Christmas wish list and most of the things on there were tools that he'll need for working on cars. Toward the bottom, though, he'd written that he wanted me to make him a cookbook of his favorite recipes that I've been making all these years. And then he specifically asked for instructions on making tofu.

I never knew that Noah thought anything special about the dinners I cook. I certainly never expected him to ask for a book of the recipes! One of the things I wish I'd done more of is teach the kids about cooking. I've had them help me cook lots of times, but I never really explained things the way I wish I would have--like what types of spices to use for different cuisines, for example.

So, I wanted to make this little cookbook for him. Not necessarily for Christmas, but because he wants to have the foods he loved when living here. (He knows he can always come home for food--actually, I just made him waffles this morning when he came by--but I like that he wanted to learn to cook for himself.)

I won't post the whole thing here, but since tofu can be intimidating if you're never made it, I figured this would be a good part to post. I'm obviously not an expert at making tofu--I've only been making it for a year and a half--but I do make it a LOT because I love it. I've experimented with lots of different ways of making tofu, but these are what I've found work best.

So, here is what I wrote for Noah (about tofu). I don't have actual recipes posted here; just the ways of preparing tofu. Maybe I'll put together a post of a few favorite recipes another day. (You can download the PDF for the tofu prep here--it's the exact same instructions as below.)

How To Prepare Tofu (in various ways)


I like to buy the extra-firm tofu, which you can find in the refrigerated “healthy” section of the store. First, either put it in the freezer (freezing it and then thawing it gives it a more “meat-like” texture) or just open the package. It will have a lot of liquid in it, so drain off the liquid and then put it in the tofu press that I bought you.

Press the tofu (like I showed you) for a couple of hours to get out most of the liquid. Then cut it in the shape you want (I like to do slices or cubes, or you could even tear it with your fingers into “nuggets”.)

You will almost always want to marinate your tofu before using it, but it’s not completely necessary. 


When marinating, always try to do it the night before you plan to cook it (or at least in the morning). You want it marinating long enough to absorb the flavors of the marinade.

In a large reusable ziploc bag, combine all of the marinade ingredients. Zip the bag shut and shake it well. Then add the tofu and gently turn the bag over a few times to let all of the tofu get some marinade. Put it in the fridge overnight (give it a turn every once in a while if you want).

After marinating, move on to cooking methods...


Make sure the marinade you make has oil in it (the oil makes the tofu more firm and crispy; if there is no oil, it’s hard to get a crispy texture on the outside). Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and then spread the marinated tofu across the paper. Bake at 350 F for between 30-50 minutes. That’s a huge time span, I know, but it largely depends on how the tofu is cut (size and shape). Check it after 30 minutes and it will likely still be soft. Then check it every 5-10 minutes until it’s firmed up how you want it. It will CONTINUE to firm up a little as it cools, so take it out before the texture gets too tough.


Prepare the tofu just like you did above, but before you put it in the oven, prepare the breading. Get out 3 bowls and in them, combine:

Bowl 1: Flour (about ¼ cup)

Bowl 2: Milk (I like soy milk; about ½ cup) + ½ tsp. vinegar (which will curdle the milk; don’t let that alarm you)

Bowl 3: Panko bread crumbs (about ¾ cup) + seasonings you like (remember that the marinade was probably salted, so make sure you keep that in mind when you add salt to the seasonings).

Dip each piece of tofu into the flour to lightly coat the sides. Then dip it into the milk. And then, roll it in the panko + seasoning mixture. (If you want it super crispy, do a second dip in the milk and a second roll in the panko.)  Spray with cooking spray (optional; it just makes the breading crispier).

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper. Spread the tofu around in a single layer, then bake at 375 F for about 30-50 minutes (it depends on the size of your pieces. Just lightly press a spoon or spatula on a piece of tofu to feel how firm it is, then take it out when the firmness is just slightly softer than you want (because it firms a little as it cools).


Prepare the tofu just like for the oven baked tofu, but don’t prepare a baking sheet. Instead, heat a good layer of oil on the bottom of a pan. Heat the pan over med-high heat, then place the tofu in a single layer and fry for a few minutes. Turn the tofu and cook the other side (or if there are cubes, just keep flipping them around, gently). Add more oil if it becomes dry. Cook until the tofu is crispy on all sides and the firmness is how you like it. You will probably have to turn the heat down once the outsides are crisp—don’t let it burn.


Depending on what you’re making, you don’t need to press this tofu very much. If you’re going to leave it as-is (meaning no prepping/seasoning beforehand) then just squeeze excess water over the sink. Then crumble the block of tofu into a bowl so that it’s broken up like ground meat. Then just add it to your dish. This method is good for things like spaghetti, chili, etc.

If you want it to be drier (but seasoned), you can mix together in a bowl:

2 Tbsp. tamari (the “good” soy sauce)
1 tsp. kitchen bouquet (optional, for color)
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoons smoked paprika (if you don’t have this, it’s okay to leave it out; it’s different than regular paprika)
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
1 block extra-firm tofu (14-16 oz) (gently pressed)

Crumble the tofu into the bowl with all the seasonings. Then bake at 350 F for about 20-30 minutes, until it resembles ground meat. This is a good method when you’re not using a sauce or when you want to use it for tacos or something.


You don’t even have to really prep it. Just press it, then cut into cubes and add it directly to the sauce you want. Then let it simmer (it will soak up the liquid, which will flavor it). This way will result in much softer tofu. I love it like this in curry sauce!


To use it in place of eggs for fried rice, press it well (to remove any tofu flavor) and put it in clean water to rehydrate (soak the water back up so it’s soft). Crumble it into pieces into the fried rice. You can season the tofu to look and even taste like eggs with a spice blend that I make—I will give you some if you want). You can also use soft tofu or silken tofu (the kind that is in a box in our pantry). I like the silken tofu for a tofu scramble (potatoes, green peppers, onions, and scrambled tofu). With ketchup! ;) That's the kind that I've made for you before.

Here is the way that I prep tofu when I know *you’re* going to be eating it (usually in an Asian sauce, like orange sauce, with rice). Thaw a block of tofu from the freezer (I leave it on the counter for several hours; it takes a few days to thaw when it’s in the fridge). Press the block very well to remove the liquid. Combine this marinade in a bag: ¼ cup olive oil, 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, 2 Tbsp. water, 1 Tbsp. of my vegan bouillon seasoning, and about ¼ tsp. black pepper. Cut the tofu into bite-size pieces and toss gently in the marinade. The marinade will be absorbed quickly, but let it sit for several hours if you can. Then spread it on a baking sheet with parchment paper, bake at 375 F for about 35-45 minutes (until it’s almost as firm as chicken). Then just eat it as-is or stir it into whatever sauce you like. (You really like the orange sauce that I gave you the recipe for! And serve with rice.)

January 12, 2024

Friday Night Photos #136

It has been SO long since I did an actual Friday Night Photos. I've sprinkled posts here and there with lots of pictures, but now I don't even know how far back in my camera roll to go, haha. I'm sure I've posted a few of these already, but I can't remember which ones.

We are currently getting dumped on with snow, so tonight is a nice night to get cozy and look through my pictures. Here goes...

This was one of the gifts I was most excited to give to the kids for Christmas. Jerry and I have always enjoyed Bill Burr, and we even went to see him in Detroit a few years ago. My kids really like him now--he's their favorite comedian--so when I saw he'll be in Detroit in March, I just had to get tickets for the four of us! They were so surprised and they can't wait to go. It's another mom way of sneaking in family time with the teenagers ;)

Just a picture of Duck climbing falling off the top of the Christmas tree. I have a million of these.

Phoebe adores Noah and when I saw this cat bed, I thought it would be cute to put in Noah's room for her. Well, since he moved out, we put it next to the heating register (her favorite spot) in the dining room. She spends most of her day there. She looks so tiny in that big bed!

We got a new dishwasher (finally) and Jerry installed it. I was standing at the island and when I glanced over, this is what I saw, hahaha. I couldn't help but take a picture ;)

Eli hasn't been letting Joey in his room as much as he used to, so Jerry and I felt bad for him. He was so excited when we let him up on our bed!

Jeanie and Shawn were in town for a couple of days after Christmas, and we took all the dogs (her three basset hounds and Joey) for a walk. I learned I could never be a dog walker--how do people handle more than one dog at a time?!

Ever since Noah moved out, he and Eli have been closer than ever. I love it!! They like to watch movies on Eli's bed. Tonight, Eli is going to Noah's apartment to hang out. I always hoped they'd be good friends when they grew up, despite the fact that they are polar opposites, and it's so nice to see them getting along so well. Noah actually told me yesterday, "Eli is my favorite person to hang out with." <3 

I know I posted about our NYE "party" with Luke and Riley, but I like this picture of them. We had so much fun! (And I'm still finding confetti in random places, haha.)

Duck has been driving me SO CRAZY with his constant need for attention. I feel guilty all the time because I can't spend all day entertaining him. I discovered something called Cat TV for 99 cents a month and it literally just plays videos for cats to watch. I love this picture of Duck! But unfortunately, he's not very into watching Cat TV. Chick, however, will watch for hours--he loves it.

I can't even tell you how excited I was to find these Asian pears! Jerry and I went to a different grocery store than our local Kroger because we were looking for one particular ingredient. As we walked through the produce section, I saw these Asian pears--and I flipped out. I said I don't care how much they are, I'm buying all of them, haha. They were listed as $2 each, so I didn't get all of them--but I did get 10.

Then, when we went to pay, they came up as 99 cents per pound! I was stunned. I went back and got about 10 more. (You have no idea how much I love Asian pears. Or maybe you do, considering I've been trying to grow them for over a decade!) We ended up getting 20 Asian pears for about $12!!!! They were really big and they looked so good. I let them ripen for a couple of days on the counter then put them in the fridge and I've been eating one every day. They are heavenly!

Noah's girlfriend makes jewelry and she had tiny little spoon and fork earrings that she wore to Thanksgiving dinner. My mom mentioned that she had a ring that was made out of a spoon that she'd gotten from her mom (Gobby, my grandmother). She said she never wears it and asked if I wanted it--of course I did! I thought it was cool to have something that belonged to my grandmother.

Later, she asked me to look inside the ring and see if it was engraved with a T. Yes, it was--which meant it was actually from my great-great-grandmother! Gobby's grandmother had these sterling silver spoons and Gobby had them made into rings for each of her daughters. She was born in 1868 and immigrated here in 1936. I'm not sure how old the ring is, but it's certainly up there in age! It happens to fit me *perfectly* and since I don't wear a wedding ring, I put it on my left ring finger.

This is a picture of the kittens while they were watching Cat TV (I called their names so they'd turn and look at me).

I wanted to make something special for Eli's 18th birthday dessert, and since I have been avoiding sweets, I made a (non-vegan) surprise for him: Sloppy Brownies! This is a horribly unhealthy but delicious dessert that we made up one time when the kids were younger and, to this day, they still talk about them. To make them, you simply layer: chocolate chip cookie dough (pressed all over the bottom of the pan--I just use a tube of refrigerated dough from the store); then a layer of Oreos; then a layer of bite-size Reese cups; and finally, top with brownie batter. Then bake until it's no longer jiggly in the middle. (I was told) they were ahhhh-mazing. (This small pan was for Noah to take home. I made the rest in a larger baking dish.)

Noah likes tofu, and when he was here one day, I put some in a marinade for him to take home. I'd given him instructions on how to cook it and I was so happy when his girlfriend sent me this picture--look how pretty it looks! They said that it turned out really good. (I made a "How to Prepare Tofu" guide for Noah--at his request--so I'll post that this weekend in case anyone else is interested.)

This is from Monday, when Jerry and I took the kids and their girlfriends to La Pita. Family time is getting more and more rare, so I was thrilled to spend time with them.

I had just taken this blanket out of the dryer and as soon as I laid it on the bed, I set Duck on there. He was instantly taken to the warmth of it and, naturally, laid in his sploot position. So cute!

I took this photo this morning when I was running. At first glance, it just looks like a blurry accidental picture. But do you see Joey??

Yesterday, I had to take Joey and Phoebe to the vet for their check-ups (and to see how Phoebe's kidney disease is progressing). Joey is perfectly healthy, and other than the kidney disease, Phoebe is just fine as well. She's even gained weight! Since she refuses the kidney diet food, the vet said she just really wants to make sure she's eating, whatever it may be that she likes. Her numbers aren't actually much worse than they were two years ago, so I'm going to just continue to do what I've been doing. Spoiled cat ;)

I wanted some stickers for my phone and my computer, and I got a cute pack of vegan ones on Amazon. I was so excited to see that there was one with the Friends logo! So I put that one on my phone.

I love this picture of Riley and me. Her smile is so heartwarming. 

This is the Impossible kafta that Jerry ordered at La Pita. "Impossible" is a brand of a vegan ground meat substitute and Jerry was so excited to see that he could get it at La Pita. They actually seasoned it really well to match the beef kafta; I was impressed! I may try a dish with it next time.

And that's all I've got. I'm going to get snuggly under some covers and watch a movie while the snow piles up outside. My run tomorrow morning is going to be awful, I already know it. I hope the roads are salted tonight!

January 11, 2024

Three Things Thursday: Veggies

I feel like the past couple of weeks I've been pretty zealous about getting vegetables into my diet. Remember when I first became vegan and *everything* seemed foreign to me? I had no clue what I was doing, but I had to learn fast. And once I started cooking with new ingredients, my eyes were opened to an enormous world of food prepared in ways I'd never tried.

Cooking became FUN again!

Eventually, I fell into a pretty good routine, although I still liked to cook new recipes. And now that my main goal is getting in more vegetables, I've gotten to that "Ohmygosh, I want to try *everything*!" phase. I bought the "How Not To Die" cookbook (as well as the "How Not To Diet" cookbook) and I've loved all of the recipes I've made so far. Soon, I'll do a whole post on what I've cooked.

I'm just so excited to have that fun attitude back. I actually really enjoy cooking; a couple of years ago, I never would have said that.

My focus now is making recipes with lots of veggies. So, I thought I'd write three things that have happened or habits I've made in respect to vegetables...

1. I eat a salad before every dinner.

This was taken from Dr. Gregor's list of 21 tweaks for weight loss (proven tidbits that have been show to elevate weight loss). One of them is to start each meal with a "negative calorie" food--he suggests a small salad or an apple--that is less than 100 calories. So, even though I'm not a huge salad person, I know I can handle two cups of greens. I just add some spring mix to a bowl and top with a little of a dressing that I made (again from his recipe).

The reason for this isn't just "to fill you up" so you eat less dinner. There are studies that show there are several benefits to doing this (it would take a lot to explain here, so I suggest reading the book How Not To Diet. There is even a difference in eating before the meal versus during the meal.

This has actually been really great! I enjoy the salad, which I never though I would--maybe because of its simplicity--and I feel like it completes the meal. This is a habit I think I'll continue beyond the two week challenge between Jerry and me.

2. I sit down at the table for my dinner meals.

This has always been SO hard for me, especially when I'm home alone. I want to sit in front of the tv. However, I realized that I was spending too much time trying to figure out what to watch rather than just eating. Also, having the salad *and* my meal seemed like too many dishes to eat at the coffee table. Instead, I sit down and eat my salad and then my meal. And most of the time, I'm too full to even finish the meal. (All the fiber and veggies are so filling!)

3. I have never found it so easy to NOT snack at night!

This is something I never expected to happen. I eat dinner pretty early--5:00 or so--and I always worry that I'm going to be ravenous by 7:00 or 8:00 and then I'll go digging for more food. However, because of the filling foods I've been preparing, snacks don't even really cross my mind. If I'm very hungry, I might have a single date or a couple of prunes.

Overall, I'm so glad that we're doing this experiment! It's MUCH cheaper than I thought it would be, even when I count the new spices that I got. A whole week's worth of produce was only $50.

My very favorite meal so far was a sweet potato shawarma bowl--sweet potatoes, cauliflower, shawarma seasonings, on top of quinoa, with toppings of onions, cucumber, and lettuce. Drizzled with an amazing tahini dressing. This BLEW MY MIND.

Not all mine! Just the bowl on the left. I then topped it with the good stuff :)

And last but not least, I have to mention the taste of all these recipes I've been cooking. Because what good is all that without it tasting good? I will say that probably 7 out of 9 or so recipes have been very good! There were only a couple that I didn't like (and one of them was very overcooked).

This has been such a refreshing experience. I feel happy and excited to be cooking again!

January 10, 2024

Wednesday Weigh-In: Week 137

This has been quite the week, as far as my eating habits go! I wrote about the challenge that Jerry and I made for each other, but in a nutshell: I have to make recipes for dinner that I really want, but that I don't think Jerry will like because of the vegetables; and for his part, Jerry has to eat them and see if his tastebuds adapt to eating veggies he doesn't think he likes.

It sounds odd, right? I "have" to cook things that I really want? (Honestly, though, this is actually very hard for me; I feel super guilty making meals with ingredients--typically vegetables--that I know Jerry won't like.)  Jerry had said that he's tired of eating like a child (avoiding vegetables). He's always eaten what I make, but I have always tried to make things that I know he likes. Soooo, this was good for both of us.

We went grocery shopping together to pick out a bunch of vegetables, and it was actually kind of funny. I got so excited to put things in the cart that I don't normally buy--mushrooms, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, purple cabbage, and more. I looked through my vegan cookbooks for recipes that use a lot of the vegetables that Jerry's not into.

HE was actually very excited about this challenge as well--it was his idea! I've tried to make a good variety of food all week. It's no surprise that *I* have been loving it ;)  However, I did not expect Jerry to like it as much as he does; he even surprised himself. He was hesitant to try sweet potatoes, but he really liked them.

One of his most hated foods is cucumber, so I said I wouldn't make anything with cucumber. But I made a sweet potato shawarma bowl and cucumber was one of the toppings. I told him he could just skip that topping, but he insisted that he wanted to try to like cucumber. AND HE DID. He didn't like it when trying a piece on its own, but when it was mixed with all of the mediterranean food, he said it went together very well. (I kept raving about the whole bowl because it was soooo delicious.)

Since I've been trying to work Dr. Gregor's Daily Dozen into my diet for the most part, I've been eating almost all whole foods. So that's kind of what this challenge has turned into--eating whole foods for two weeks. It's been a week so far, and Jerry has already lost six pounds!

As far as my weight, well... I was really excited to see that the scale was actually moving down. On Monday, I was down about three pounds. On Monday night, we went to La Pita for Eli's birthday dinner. I think the last time I'd gone out to eat was when Jerry and I went to Rockford, IL last March! And you know that I *love* La Pita.

Eating vegan at a Lebanese/mediterranean restaurant is super easy--so many options. However, since I want to eat whole foods and get my weight back down, I skipped the pita bread and garlic sauce. I didn't want to eat more than I would normally eat at home. So, I got herb roasted potatoes and a side of hummus. Their hummus is mind-blowing, so I knew I wanted that; I just needed something to dip in it, haha. They were really good! And I felt good about what I'd eaten. (I actually ate a small salad at home before we left so that I would get in my leafy greens.)

La Pita has jumped on board with extra plant-based options, including Impossible "meat" substitutions! Jerry was thrilled to see that. So, he got kafta made with the Impossible "meat" instead of beef. I tasted a bite of it and it was *really* good--I didn't expect that at all. Jerry loved it, to say the least.

On the way home, we had to stop and get some frozen blueberries (I eat them with breakfast every morning and we were out). While walking through the store, I saw a Lindt chocolate bar made with Oat Milk and I just couldn't resist--I wanted to try it so badly! Since I had been eating so well all day, I figured Jerry and I could share the chocolate. (It was AMAZING. If you're vegan or plant-based, and you don't like dark chocolate, give it a try.)

Anyway, the whole point is, my weight was back up the next morning--by three pounds! I know it's not because of excess calories, so it's likely water weight. I was just hoping it would have come off before my weigh-in. Unfortunately, it did not.

It's still down from last week's 144.4, but I had been excited when I was seeing so much progress! Anyway, I'm still doing good with everything--I've eaten about 95% whole foods this week and it makes a huge difference in how I feel. I really love eating so many vegetables, and I even get excited about cooking. Jerry likes trying all the new foods, so he wants to continue to do it. It's been a fun experiment! Jerry wants to start writing on Tuesdays again, so maybe he'll write about this next week.

The year is off to a pretty decent start so far--let's hope it continues! ;)

January 07, 2024

All Grown Up

Well, it happened. Both of my kids are now adults. *lots of tears*

Today is Eli's 18th birthday. Between Noah moving out and now Eli being a legal adult, my emotions have been working on overdrive. But to tell the truth, I couldn't be more proud of this kid and the adult he has become.

I almost feel like Eli came into this world as an adult. I've always referred to him as an "old soul"; he has an emotional maturity that even a lot of adults don't have in their lifetime. To say that he has compassion and empathy would be an understatement; he loves with his whole heart and he always puts others' feelings ahead of his own. What 18-year old does that?

I don't know if other parents feel this way, but I wish I could go back in time and do it all over again, with both of my kids. I would do things so much differently--have more patience, say "yes" more, and enjoy even the moments where I was frustrated or tired and felt like I needed a break. I can only hope that I did enough.

I know I've done this before on birthdays, but I really love looking through old photos to spark memories of when the kids were little. Eli was--and I would say this even if he wasn't my kid--quite possibly, the cutest kid EVER. He was the happiest and most easy-going baby! He loved taking naps, even as a toddler, and would tell me that he was "going to take a nap now" each day.

He loves animals and they have always been drawn to him. I think they feel the kindness in his heart and the compassion he has for them.

What I've always loved most about Eli is that he marches to the beat of his own drum. He had quirks from day one, and they became a fun part of his personality. He never conformed just to fit in with his peers; he was the trendsetter, even though that's not what he was going for.

Right now, he's not sure what he's going to do after graduation. He's been talking about looking for an apprenticeship in the trades, and I think that would be great for him. He also mentioned taking a gap year, working and saving up money while he decides what's next. Whatever he ends up doing, I know that he'll be great at it.

Here is a collection of some of my favorite pictures of him throughout the last 18 years...

January 7, 2006, 1:06 PM. 9 lbs. 10 oz. 

ALWAYS smiling

A crossbite that would later be corrected, but SO cute

One of his quirks was how much he loved accessories and odd clothing matches.

Just a regular Tuesday attire.

His third birthday

Again with the clothes and accessories!

The braces were to correct his crossbite. His molars didn't line up properly and he would choke on food frequently. He wore braces for three months to correct it. He used to call them his "bracelets".

Does that smile not melt your heart?

On a field trip to the apple orchard.

One of his beloved naps. 

I know how professional the cake looks but, believe it or not, my dad made it. ;)

Eli LOVED all things army. His favorite toys were "army guys"--the little green plastic men. He had dozens of them and played with them daily for years.

I'm not surprised to see that Eli was at the end of this rainbow <3

Phoebe was so young here!

For the life of me, I cannot remember him ever going through a football stage. It must have been very short-lived.

Eli has always been into his hair, and has many styles/colors through the years.

If I remember correctly, it was his birthday and we took him to Denny's. We said he could order anything at all, and this is what he chose! Hahah.

On our way home from vacation, we let each of the kids pick something out at at Walmart when we had to make a stop. Eli chose this tackle box--SO huge.

The kids both loved Spongebob Squarepants and watched it with my dad.

This is a super short video clip of Eli saying "Spongebob Squarepants"--just take all of the words in the thesaurus under the word "cute" and this sums them up...

He chose this outfit for Mark's funeral.

Chandler loving on Eli

He was SO happy to get a dog, and even happier that we'd picked a black dog. That's not the actual reason we chose Joey, but Eli had been hoping for a black dog.

Eli is absolutely Joey's favorite person on this earth.

Running cross country

He was very excited to get this haircut--he'd seen it on his favorite YouTuber.

Holding his only (at the time) cousin

Jerry urged him to use a wooden bat, and he showed Jerry just what would happen when he did ;)

Eli has always loved to cook, and he's got a natural talent for it. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he ends up being a chef one day!

Totally in his element. Fishing has been a hobby that he's loved since he was old enough to hold a pole.

He used to love pomegranates until he learned how much work they are to peel and remove the seeds!

He loved The Walking Dead, and on his wishlist was "Lucille" (the baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire). This one was plastic, of course!

His birthday breakfast. I wanted to make him waffles this morning, but he doesn't like to eat breakfast anymore. I miss making him a special birthday breakfast!

A natural squirrel whisperer. This was in Boston.

After getting his ears pierced.

We used green hairspray to match Lukes hair to Eli's faded green hair.

Even though he was a natural born catcher, Eli really loves to pitch. His (final) baseball season starts soon. Bittersweet!

His permanent farmer's tan. He looks like this all summer.

Eli can solve a Rubik's cube so fast that you might miss it if you sneeze or even blink. Finding a shirt with a SQUIRREL solving a Rubik's cube was meant to be.

This was a 13x13(?) cube. He solved it in four hours.

Eli and my sweet little dumpling pie when he was just a baby

He found this sign in the lake and now it hangs in his bedroom.

I will never forget this sweet little bird that came to my house--twice--and let us hold her.

Eli has always loved cookie cake

This was a bird at my parents' house. Like I said, animals are drawn to him.

Eli used to drink so much pop. I told him that if he could give it up for a whole year, I'd pay him $365--a dollar a day. I never believed he'd actually do it! This was Day 366, his first pop.

Duck loves it when Eli walks around the house holding him like this. He looks so proper!

Eli's first homecoming dance

When Eli was born, he was SOLID. He's always weighed much more than he looks because he has so much muscle mass. I always said that if he ever decided to lift weights, he'd be a monster--and it eventually became one of his favorite hobbies. He was lifting SO heavy for a while. Once he got a job, he stopped working out so much. I hope he'll get back into it--he's really good.

Last year's birthday at my mom's house. I guess she only had two candles? Haha.

Homecoming his junior year

Ava's prom junior year

He got his eyebrow pierced and I got another piercing in my nose last summer

His latest favorite pastime is golfing. He didn't want senior photos, but he asked if I would take some pictures of him on the golf course.

Buying his first car

Such a good looking kid adult!

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