A living room update.

A month or so ago, my parents bought a rug at an estate sale.  Mom felt that it would work with the motif of our open kitchen/living area (neutral with maroon accents) so she and Dad stopped by with it on Sunday afternoon.

Since we’re not exactly interior design-heavy around these parts, It thought I would do a before and after.

So.  The before.

Before

Totally fine, but not exactly packed with visual interest.  Of course, a major part of this project was removing all of the furniture from the living room and sweeping like crazy.  Dust bunny fossilization was 100% NOT one of our aims of the project.

And of course, the after.

After

It’s much cozier, right?  I think the fact that we’ve made it five years in this home without a rug probably speaks to the fact that I do not have strong opinions about them.  With that in mind, New Rug is so soft and fluffy and 100% nicer than walking on wood floors.

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70 Pounds

I’ll preface this by saying, apparently I have a lot to say lately as I seem to be on quite a streak.  We seem to all agree that my life insurance medical exam was just a little bit bizarre.  And let’s be serious.  It was.

But, besides life insurance rates, there was another good thing to come out of that visit.  Because that forced-march onto the scale showed me that I have officially lost 70 pounds from my highest weight.

Five years ago, when I started my weight loss journey and started to learn what it looked like to be healthy, this is the goal weight I targeted.  I had no idea what that would actually look like, what it would mean, or if it would even be reachable!

About 10 pounds (and two years) ago, I decided that I was at a weight I was happy with.  And by that, I mean that it was a healthy weight for my body size and I was at peace with the person in the mirror.  I was comfortably maintaining my weight, eating well, working out and being able to do all three of those things without worrying about disturbing the balance!

That doesn’t mean that the last 10 pounds came off by accident, because there are no accidents with weight loss.  It’s not that I have been trying to lose weight, but my life (not shockingly) has continued to change.

What has changed?  I haven’t run or trained for a marathon in the last 19 months.  Even though marathon training is easily one of the best things I have ever done in my life, when I marathon train, I gain weight and I gain muscle.  I would do it again in a heartbeat, but that’s just the reality.  I have (tragically) stopped drinking beer because it hasn’t been sitting well.  I’ll still go for it from time to time but it simply isn’t appealing.  I’ve continued to get better about balancing my frosting and sprinkles with my normal meals.  I finally have actual, honest-to-God hunger cues.  Crazy, right?

I remember when I was in the middle of the real, hard, work of losing weight and I would read all of these articles and stories about the person I would become.  How I would feel, what I would be able to do without worrying about all of the weight coming back, what I would actually want to do.  And here I am, living it.

This is normal.

Trekking to MSY

I meant to post about this earlier, but October has pretty much been a month of taking each thing as it comes.

ANYWAY.

Now that we have gotten all of the heavy lifting out of the way, I’m headed to New Orleans on Tuesday!  Marcus and I are going for a mini-vacation through Friday.  While I had thought that our traveling would be done for the year after the Derby, when the opportunity presented itself, we leapt!  Marcus participated in the Katrina cleanup through Nechama and has wanted to go back ever since so this was all a great opportunity.

Here’s my obligatory packing photo.

Packing

I did not even attempt to begin packing until this afternoon and I’d say that I’m about halfway done with the process.  Since it is 100% fall here, I was so excited to bring my hot pink shorts and my sandals back onto the scene!  That’s about as far as my fashion inspiration has taken me.  It’s hard to believe that we’ll be enjoying summer temperatures again in just a few short days.

If we’re going to be totally honest, I didn’t even plan out our activities until late last week.  We have a few things on the schedule but we’ve left the afternoons open so that we can walk, people watch, drink and listen to music!  Clearly this is the opposite of basically every other trip we’ve ever taken together, but I think we need the chance to recharge in a big way.

Food-wise, we have reservations at Cochon for dinner on Wednesday night, which I’m pretty darned excited about.  The rest (Cafe du Monde, the French Market, Cajun Mike’s Pub and Grub) will just fall into place.

Have you been to New Orleans?  What are your favorite things to see/do?

Volunteering.

For the past few years, Marcus and I have participated in Interfaith Outreach’s Holiday Gift Program.  Yes, I am aware that it isn’t even Halloween yet and here I am telling everyone about what they can do to help people over the holidays.  But bear with me!

Part of the reason I am blogging about this today is because if you live in our area and do not yet know about or support this great organization, I want to give you the opportunity to think about that!  The other reason I want to talk about volunteering and philanthropy today is because I don’t think we talk about that enough on the internet.  What do we talk about on the internet?  KaleAvocado toastPolka dot sweaters.  Expensive planners.  Fancy workout gear that we wear exclusively to run errands.

Those are all perfectly fine things, but they do not form the basis of my life or truly declare who I am as a person.  And if I’m not posting about this work because I don’t want to be self-aggrandizing (which I don’t!  honest!), that’s valid, but again it looks like my whole life is centered solely around other stuff and other things.  Spoiler alert: It’s not.

The community that we live in is considered affluent and yet, Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners (IOCP) is serving 1,700+ families in our area annually in the areas of housing, child care, transportation, and employment.  They also have a massive food shelf that distributes 600,000+ pounds of food each year.

In 2012, I spent my Friday afternoons receiving and sorting donations at their food shelf.  Looking for bad dents, checking expiration dates and getting that new inventory onto the shelves and into the coolers.  I have spent the last month volunteering with their employment group, working on the job board.  Each week, I search for local job opportunities that may fit client needs based on education and experience levels and I place them in a display so that everyone who sits in the lobby has a chance to take a look at them if they have that need.

So back to the holiday program.  Yesterday, we registered for the 2014 program and were matched with our family of three.  In IOCP’s own words:

Each year, IOCP’s Holiday Gift Program matches over 500 families with sponsors who provide gifts or financial support for gifts. Sponsors providing gifts will receive gift suggestions to facilitate shopping, based on a $50-per-person guideline. Participating families range in size from one individual to larger families.

If you’re in our community, I hope that you will consider sponsoring a family (or an individual) as well because it will make a world of difference to them this December.  And for those members of the group who live out-of-town/out-of-state, I hope that you have the opportunity to consider what may be available to you in your area!

Friday Food Round-Up!

This week, I’m giving myself a gold star because we actually managed to follow our meal plan.  We made all of the dinners, we made all of the right dinners.  Domestic victory, indeed.

Sunday – Crock Pot Buffalo Cauliflower Chili

Sunday

I saw this recipe on The Chardonnay Kitchen and was intrigued by the buffalo flavor and the cauliflower instead of meat.  I will be honest, it did not taste at all like buffalo chicken to me.  I had a hunk of bleu cheese in the fridge, waiting to be pressed into action, but I decided it would be best used for another day.  What I would describe the flavor as is: sweet and spicy.  That being said, the texture was good (who can know how cauliflower will do after nine hours in the crock pot?).  The actual act of crock potting was hardcore soorthing after a weekend that left me completely sapped of energy.  With all of this in mind, I think that if I were to use cauliflower instead of meat again, I would probably use a traditional chili base and work from there.

Wednesday – Shrimp Rolls, Corn with Butter and Cotija Cheese, and Dilly Cucumber Salad from Dinner: The Playbook

Wednesday

Mom and Dad were in England for the last 10 or so days and the only chance I got to cook dinner at their house was this one.  AKA, the day that they came home.

Y’all know that when I go over there, I make an effort to cook things that I cannot cook here.  Shrimp rolls sounded tasty and since we’re used to shelling out $15/lobster roll in the Twin Cities, it sounded like an economical opportunity as well.  The recipe was on point and they were just to die for.  I’d make them again in a heartbeat.

Since we all know that I use fancy cheese approximately never, I substituted the cotija with parmesan.  A more accurate substitute would be feta, but again this was in our fridge.

Thursday – Pan Roasted Chicken with Harissa Chickpeas, Rice and Roasted Broccoli

Thursday

Okay.  The blog informs me that we haven’t eaten this since April.  Which is sort of shocking to me because it is so good and we were eating it regularly there for a while.  But I suppose summer is not the time for cast iron skillet-style cooking.

Don’t worry, nothing has changed.  This is still just The Best Meal.

A Post You Need To Read (subtitled: My Trip To The Dermatologist)

You guys, it has been A Week.

I went to the dermatologist on Monday.  One of my summer projects was to get my body mapped, because I have a lot of moles.  I’ve always had them, but as an adult, that’s the sort of thing you’re supposed to keep an eye on, you know?  Like flossing.  Which I am now proficient at.  Anyway, dermatologists are in high-demand so when I set the appointment, they scheduled it for six weeks out.  I guess it’s good that I didn’t have a strong sense of urgency.

The actual appointment was fairly uneventful.  I confessed to three summers of lifeguarding, a lifetime total of 20 trips to the tanning bed (which seems high because I would never consider smoking 20 cigarettes), and terrible adult sunscreen habits.  I would say that mine falls squarely in the center of the American experience.

Because you have to be naked for the exam I spent most of the time getting tangled in the modesty gown and sheet while the doctor used a tiny handheld microscope-arrangement and looked at every single one of my moles.  At the end of  our appointment, I asked her if I could look at one using it because…science.  She picked a mole on my arm and let me spy upon it.  Fascinating.

All of my moles were normal.

Except for one in the center of my back that spends most of its time covered by a shirt or a sports bra.

Mole

And with the delivery of that news, the doctor asked me if I wanted to remove it and send it to pathology that day or if I wanted to wait.  I was clearly not expecting this information because my response was Right Now, Please.  Because I certainly wasn’t going to choose the Do Nothing option (can you imagine the time I would have dedicated to dreaming up worst-case scenarios?).  Or the more time-consumptive Schedule Another Time To Come In-option.

The entire procedure took five minutes under local anesthetic.  The doctor asked me if I was feeling okay.  I told her that this was all pretty par for the course for a Monday.

And then I went home and texted my parents (who were in London at the time) and started asking my prayer warriors to pray.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, about two years ago I decided that if Sarah Palin gets to have prayer warriors, I do too.  So I have those now.

I also spent some time this week thinking about Job 2:10.  Shall we receive the good at the hand of God and not receive the bad?”  Some people really despise the book of Job, but I think it’s quite beautiful, actually.

I got my biopsy results back today.  My mole is not cancerous (praise God) but it is a dysplastic nevi, which is to say that it’s abnormal.  It increases my odds of getting melanoma in the future.  It means I actually have to try at using sunscreen and that I will need to get my body checked annually.

In the middle of all of my WebMD and American Academy of Dermatology research (AKA self-terrorizing), I learned that Melanoma is the number one cancer among women ages 27-29.  I also learned that when you catch it early and they fully remove the cancerous mole(s) that might be the end of your treatment.  Your life goes on and that’s it.  But.  BUT.  That means you actually have to find and remove the mole.

All of this is to say, if you are an adult with moles, you need to go get them checked at a dermatologist.  Period.  We all need to wear sunscreen.  Period.  I had absolutely no idea when I walked into the doctor’s office on Monday that this is what my week would look like.

On Getting Life Insurance.

From the department of things that are really adult, I’m in the process of getting additional life insurance.

As a part of the process, I had to participate in a medical exam.  So this afternoon, Home Medical Professional Kyle paid a visit to our house.

We kicked off  our time together with Kyle producing a battered scale from his magic satchel of tricks (seriously he brought an old-school physician bag) and taking my weight.  I told him not to tell me what my weight is because, well, I don’t really need to know.  My relationship with the scale isn’t a healthy one and the past two years without it have been great.

Kyle: Are you sure you don’t want to know your weight?

Me: Positive.

Kyle: But it is a really good weight.

Me: I just don’t think it will be useful information.

Kyle: I think you will be surprised!  You weigh less than you think!

Me: I think I know how much I weigh.

Kyle: I can tell you what you weigh.

Finally, I consented because I realized that whether or not I wanted to know, Kyle was going to tell me my weight.  To his credit, Kyle was not wrong.  I weighed three pounds less than I thought I did.  With clothes on!  Considering I have spent my last three weeks feasting my way through the Jewish holidays, this was quite the surprise.

We also ran through a questionnaire which was completely boring.  But from there we shifted into the (thrilling) blood pressure portion of the visit.  After two readings, Kyle praised me for a period of time that I would describe as being uncomfortable in length.

Kyle: You have the best pressure.

Me: Oh?

Kyle: Yes.  It is the best.  I have seen so many.

Me: Well, that’s great to hear.

Kyle: Such good pressure!

This naturally evolved into Kyle taking my pulse.

Kyle: Your pulse is so good!

Me: Great.

Kyle: And very steady too!

For our grand finale, Kyle lectured me on the health benefits of racquet ball, a sport which he plays regularly. I can say with 100% certainty that this will not be a sport that I play ever.

While I highly doubt that I will ever be able to muster the amount of enthusiasm that Kyle was able to display for my state of health, who knew that I had so much to be proud of on a Wednesday?