September 4, 2010

Francy pants

I speak French fluently.oscar wilde's grave, cimitière de père-lachaise, paris, FR I started learning it in 1998, I went to college and grad school to study it, and now I teach it at a university (my absolute dream job). Besides teaching, language is my passion. I'm oddly in love with grammar rules, with tenses and moods, with verb conjugations and parts of speech. And on top of it all, spoken French sounds so beautiful!

The chapters in my students' textbooks are themed - some are holidays and traditions, some are weather, some are the human body. Without question, though, every student loves the food chapter. I think it might be because some students like sports and others like fine arts, but everyone eats. It's the one chapter that every student is guaranteed to have background knowledge on.

Food vocabulary is really interesting in French. For example, the verb meaning "to feed" changes depending on the direct object (the person or thing recieving the action of the verb):
La femme donne à manger au chien.

La femme nourrit ses enfants.
In the first sentence ("The woman feeds the dog"), the direct object is le chien, the dog. The verb here is donner à manger - literally, "to give to eat." In the second sentence, however, the direct object changes, and therefore so does the verb. The second sentence means "The woman feeds her children," and the verb, nourrir, has the same origin as our English verb "to nourish."

It's a lovely thought, isn't it? I've been keeping this in mind lately when I grocery shop or while I prepare meals. Am I simply giving myself something to eat? Or am I truly nourishing myself?

September 3, 2010

Roses and thorns

What a week. The dust is starting to settle at work: classes are getting better and students are getting used to being back to school. welcome to paris!I teach three sections of two different classes, and one of my sections is giving me a real headache. They complain that they don't understand the material, but none of them e-mails me, nor do they come to my office hours. The biggest problem is that I suspect that the majority of them are not doing their homework. They're in for a treat, though - pop quizzes every day until participation improves! Their first exam is Wednesday, and I think that will also be a good wake-up call for them. I can only say so many times that this is college, I can't hold their hands and tell them what to do!

As far as my weekly weigh-in ... I'm down another six pounds this week, making it a total of 23 pounds I have lost so far. I should be thrilled, but to be honest, I'm not. I'm actually kind of scared. I'm mildly concerned that I've been losing weight pretty quickly, but that's almost always the case when I first get started with eating better and keeping active, and I'm sure it will slow down to a safe rate of loss soon. My biggest concern right now is maintaining loss. I'm really great at getting super motivated, doing well, and then giving up when the going gets tough.

I think this week was especially rough since it's "that time of the month" a real escargot! paris, june 2009(sorry) and so a few times I ate things I probably shouldn't have. I guess in retrospect they weren't the worst choices - it couldn't have been completely terrible since I still had a big loss - but I still felt really guilty.

[Now, as I sit here, I'm thinking ... and having a pepper jack string cheese wasn't really that bad. One ounce of cheese is a reasonable snack. In the past, I could have eaten an entire block of cheese! It seems I'm still clinging to my old dieting mindset of "forbidden foods." I need to keep in mind that I am not on a diet. I am changing my lifestyle. And my lifestyle should include my favorite food! Just in a more reasonable portion.]

I guess I still have a long way to go with reevaluating how I eat...

September 2, 2010

Making progress

I love the feeling of accomplishment I get when I finish a task I have set for myself, so I am a huge fan of to-do lists. I like physically checking off things that are done - it's an oddly exciting experience.

Last year on my birthday, I sat down and wrote a list of five things I wanted to get accomplished in the next three hundred sixty-five days. Now, with less than three months to go, I thought I would share my list and what progress I have made so far. Some things I have succeeded at, others I will be racing to finish before the end of November.

some art I made back in college

Things to do before turning 24

"When we know better, we ought to do better." (Maya Angelou)
Weigh myself on my 23rd birthday. From there, I have 365 days to lose some of it - and keep it off this time. Even if it’s only a fraction of the weight I need to lose, I want to lose something - and maintain the loss. Continue to reevaluate eating habits and exercise patterns; set reasonable goals.

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." (Mark Twain)
Read the following books/plays I somehow missed during high school/college: (1) William Shakespeare, "Hamlet" (2) Harper Lee, "To Kill a Mockingbird" (3) Oscar Wilde, "The Picture of Dorian Grey" (4) Emily Bronte, "Wuthering Heights" (5) Leo Tolstoy, "Anna Karenina” (6) Anne Frank, "The Diary of Anne Frank" (7) John Steinbeck, "The Grapes of Wrath" (8) Homer, "The Odyssey" (9) Jack Kerouac, "On The Road" (10) Kurt Vonnegut, "Slaughterhouse Five"

"A field that has rested gives a bountiful crop." (Ovid)
Stress adequately. The MA exams, grad school applications … it will all work out eventually. There’s no need to get sick over any of it. Asking for perfection in this is impossible, as I am a worrier and perfectionist by nature. There will be nail-biting and difficulty falling asleep. I want to keep the “bigger picture” in the front of my mind – if I don’t pass the exams the first time, or if I don’t get into my #1 choice grad school (or any schools at all, for that matter), is it fatal? No. Life will carry on. Everything that happens does so for a reason – and I am destined to do great things. Have faith in the plan God has made for me.

[[ I have omitted number four. It's pretty personal, and I'd rather save that part for an entry all it's own someday. For now, just know it is unhealthy for both heart and head. ]]

"There is a sort of gratification in doing good which makes us rejoice in ourselves." (Montaigne)
Do wonderful things for other people as often as possible. Hold doors. Smile at children. Thank bus drivers. Leave change in tip jars. Help people whenever I can.

some art I made back in college

My progress? So far, so good. The year's not over yet! #2 and #4 are areas I have not done basically anything for yet, and that's upsetting, especially for #2, which should be fun! I love reading, and since I've been in grad school I really haven't had the time to read for fun. So I have two and 3/4 months to read ten books. It'll be tough, but it will happen!

For #1, I started a few times but have only seen real success as of lately. The task doesn't say specifically to try once, twice, or three times, though - so as long as I'm lower than where I was last year, I've succeeded. I've also done well with #3 - MA exams are already almost six months removed from now! So weird to think how much of my life was consumed by them nearly a year ago. I didn't panic over not getting into PhD schools - in fact, I never even applied to any. I made a mature decision and am taking a year off to get physically and mentally healthy, and I have absolutely no regrets.

I'm very proud that #5 has also been a success so far. I say thank you to every person who helps me, whether it's a bus driver or a co-worker. I hold doors for those behind me or people I see coming with their hands full. I leave change whenever I can - lately it's the three cents from paying with a quarter for my morning cup of ice, but it's something! And I'm kind to every person I come across, because it's what I would like in return. It's been the easiest goal, and also one of the most rewarding.

September 1, 2010

Wii Fit (Or, Celebrating Meeting My First Goal!)

(Side note: it is not easy to take pictures of your TV!)

I have decided on a dozen short-term goals in between my starting weight and long-term goal weight - I am hoping it helps me keep on task. In the past, I've always felt so overwhelmed by the "bigger picture" of how much weight I have to lose, that I lost sight of my progress and successes. even my Mii has a potbellyNow, I'm taking it 25 pounds or less at a time. And as of last Friday, I met my first weight loss goal.

My first mini goal was to lose enough weight to finally use the Wii Fit that my parents got me for Christmas. My sister had used it when we first got it, but when I tried, it told me I weighed too much. I was heartbroken, and we folded up the balance board and never opened it again.

Until now!

On Saturday, after my walk at the park, I unpacked the balance board, put the game in the console, and got on again. I was worried that my weight may have fluctuated back up for whatever reason, but as I got on to register my Mii, it not only worked, but showed my weight as even lower than at my weigh in! Hooray!did I lose more weight already?

I did a hula hoop activity quite a few times - super fun! And I liked the step activity where you step on and off and to the side of the balance board. I'm still very weak at the weight training activities - but that will improve, I'm sure.

I know the Wii Fit is not the cure all for my exercise problems - I'm still going to keep walking, and I'm going to go to the gym once I get my first paycheck. But this is a good thing to have for rainy days, or when I have excess energy and I want to get it out somehow. Mainly, though, I'd like to use it for yoga in the morning before work. I think it would help me with my balance and it would be a great start to my day. Yoga is something I've always been really interested in but I didn't think I could do most of it because my body's range of motion was so limited. But I've been doing some of the things on the Wii, and there are a lot of poses that I can do even now!

August 31, 2010

The labyrinth

lagoonThe city motto for Chicago is urbs in hortis ("city in a garden") and the motto for the Chicago Park District is hortus in urbe ("garden in a city").

On Saturday, I went to one of my absolute favorite places in Chicago: Garfield Park Conservatory. It's not very far - three stops on one El train, then three on another - and there are amazing things to see there, no matter what time of year it is. I try and go fairly often to see how things look in different seasons, and also to just relax and enjoy such a beautiful place. I went there, for example, the day after I finished all my annotated bibliographies for my Masters exams - after catching up on sleep, of course!

lily pondThere are several different rooms inside the conservatory with different themes - a rainforest, a desert, and more. There are rooms dedicated to specific kinds of plants, like aroids and fruit-bearing plants. There's one room with a great big koi pond, complete with beautiful fish and Chihuly blown-glass lily pads. There's even a room for little kids with stuff they can touch and climb on! The best, though, are the outdoor gardens. There is a big lawn for picnics, a walking path, a pond with lily pads and a small fountain, and even beehives!flower - and a bee!conservatory honeyBeekeeping is legal in the city of Chicago, so they have several hives and they sell their own honey in their gift shop! The park and conservatory are free admission, so whenever I go, I pick up a jar of their honey to help support them. It's a great cause, and I think the honey even tastes better because I've seen where it comes from!

I think my favorite thing at the Conservatory, though, is the Labyrinth.

the labyrinth
I just discovered it for the first time in April with my sister, and it was ... miraculous. It was life-changing, and I know that probably sounds silly, but it's true. I had the most amazing experience while walking it.

The instructions for walking the labyrinth are posted nearby:
Pause to clear and quiet your mind. Steady your breathing.

Step into the labyrinth. Shed thoughts and emotions. Quiet and empty your mind.

Begin walking, taking plenty of time.

When you reach the labyrinth center, pause and relax.

Return by the same path, ending where you started. The return moves you into union with the divine, with insight or with healing forces.
I handed Katie my purse, then headed in. I tried to clear my mind as best I could, but there were so many worries running around in there. My Masters exams were coming up - was I prepared enough? What if I failed? Or - what if I passed? What's going to happen next in my life? Will I find a job? Will I have to leave Chicago? And as I walked, I wondered if I was doing it right. It seemed to be taking me a long time to reach the center, and there were so many loops and curves.

When I finally got to the end of the labyrinth, I "figured it out," so to speak. Unlike a maze, there are no false turns or dead ends in a labyrinth. There is one true, correct path, and you are on it. Don't worry about the journey, just trust that you will end up exactly where you need to be.

As I retraced my path out of the labyrinth, I felt incredibly hopeful about life. And Saturday, as I walked through the gardens, I remembered that pure, enlightening moment and how it applies to my new lifestyle. All these times when I thought I had failed - those weren't false turns. They were necessary moments on my path - the one, true path - towards where I need to be. I learned from them, and I carry on towards my goal. And I feel so hopeful again.

August 30, 2010

Snack attack

I'm working on eating better and eating less by trying to develop new ideas about food and how to nourish my body. Part of my new eating philosophy is trying to eat not on a schedule, but when I feel hungry. The main purpose for this is to curb mindless eating, eating when I am bored instead of when my body actually needs to be fed.

Getting back to work definitely helps, since I'm pretty busy these days. I've set a personal goal for myself to be on-campus from 9-5 every weekday. I don't teach on Mondays, so I have eight hours that day to get work done. blueberry pie yogurt? yes please.The other four days I have three hours of teaching and five hours for grading, lesson planning, and administrative miscellany (of which there is quite a bit, especially in the first few weeks!).

I get to my office building a little before 9 and go to the café on the ground floor for my daily special: a big cup of ice. Twenty-two cents, and the ice lasts through the first two refills of water. I sit at my desk, check my e-mail, and have a cup of yogurt. I'm totally in love with Yoplait Thick and Creamy light yogurts. I love fruit but I'm kind of picky about fruit-in-yogurt. It's a consistency thing. Peaches and apples good, blueberries and strawberries bad, etc. But I love blueberries and strawberries! So the Thick and Creamy yogurts are great. My favorites are blueberry pie, cherry cobbler, and cinnamon roll. Their regular (non-thick) light yogurts are good too - I like apricot mango, apple turnover, and banana cream pie.

I teach one class in the morning, then come back to my office for an hour before teaching two more classes in the afternoon. I use this hour for lunch - usually a small container of leftovers or a Weight Watchers frozen meal, and more water. cocoa almondsI don't have a microwave at home, but we have one at work, so I take advantage of only having to wait three or so minutes for my lunch - in the oven, it's like half an hour for some of them!

After my afternoon classes, I have two hours to work on whatever I need to get done before the next day. I keep sipping at some water, but I usually feel hungry around 3:30 or 4, so I make sure I have some smart snacks on hand. My recent favorite are these cocoa roasted almonds from Emerald. They satisfy so many needs - crunchy, sweet, chocolatey - and best of all, they're pretty filling for a 100 calorie pack! They kind of taste like chocolate Teddy Grahams, which is pretty amazing, I think. It's just what I need to get me through the afternoon!

August 29, 2010

Drop dead gorgeous

It's the second week of Drop Dead Gorgeous by December, and I'm loving it so far. I've met so many new bloggers and found so much inspiration in their journeys. I'm also loving how positive I feel about my journey - I'm only a few weeks in, but I've already come so far and done so much good for my body and my life!

My positive sign for the week:

week two!

(Taken yesterday at Garfield Park Conservatory, one of my absolute favorite places in all of Chicago!)

Challenge start weight: 332
Current weight: 328

(Another reason to smile!)

Progress on my DDGbG goals: So far, so good! This week's new recipe was fueled by Sarah having an abundance of zucchini at her place. I Google searched "zucchini recipes -bread" to try to only get savory recipes, and I came across a great one from Diabetes Daily: zucchini-crust pizza.

zucchini crust pizza with tomatoes and olives

It's essentially a frittata that you put pizza toppings on, and it was great. We used an 8" pan instead of a 10" so the bottom was a little thicker than the picture on the website, but it was still super delicious. We didn't use pizza sauce, just sliced fresh plum tomatoes, sliced black olives, minced garlic, and about a cup of mozzarella cheese. Amazing!

Olive oil and flour for the pan
2 cups (packed) grated zucchini
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup grated mozzarella
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 400º F. Drizzle a little olive oil in a 10" pie pan and coat lightly with flour. Combine the zucchini, eggs, flour, mozzarella, parmesan, basil, and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a bowl and mix well. Spread into the pie pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. About halfway through the baking, brush with the remaining olive oil. Remove from oven. When it has cooled for about 10 minutes, use a spatula to loosen the crust from the pan so it won't break later. Top with your favorite pizza items and bake at 400º F until heated through.

It makes four servings, but I think we cut it up into six - so I had some for dinner and then brought another piece to work the next day for lunch. It was easy, delicious, and inexpensive - definitely a recipe I'll hold on to!

ONE thing that you are proud of for the week: Surviving my first week of full-time work! I've taught before, but there are all new challenges this year as a lecturer compared to when I was a TA in grad school. I've set a personal goal to stay on campus from 9 to 5 every day, and to not bring any work home. I made it through a week of this, and I really love the feeling of coming home and not worrying about work!

ONE thing that you can improve upon for the following week: Walking more. Now that I'm back to work, it's so easy to come home and think "Dinner. Relax. Bed." Walking doesn't take much time and I always feel so great during/after it. Plus, I need to enjoy the nice weather here in Chicago while it lasts!