October 8, 2011

Growth

Yesterday I had to attend a mandatory orientation for new full-time university employees. The meeting opened with a history of our university system and the proposed future plans for our campus. The newest branch of the university, opened less than a decade ago, there's a lot of talk about growth. The educational budget in California was cut by hundreds of millions of dollars, half of which was cut specifically from our university system - the exception to which is our campus. Because it's so new and they want to make sure it develops into a successful research institution, they're pumping money into it. They're making cuts everywhere except here, which is a pretty interesting situation to be in.

One thing they mentioned is the idea that within a decade or so, this little school will be one of the biggest universities - if not the biggest - in the state. And California, for my foreign readers, is a huge state. There's so much space around for growth, especially surrounding the current campus.


We saw sketches and 3D models of the intended expansion, and it was mindblowing. It felt really wonderful to be sitting in that room, hearing about the future of something really big. Someday my kids and grandkids will be able to say that their mother/grandmother was there, helping with the success of developing the first American research university built in the 21st century.

Of course, expansion comes at a cost, and not only financially. The area we're in is largely agricultural, and one of the biggest concerns with development is how to minimize negative impact on the surrounding environment. Because all the university buildings are new within the past decade or so, they're all "green." We have a field of solar panels adjacent to the campus that provides over half our campus' energy. There's a 2020 goal of having zero carbon footprint. And with all the expansion, there are conservation methods being put into place for the habitats of the many endangered species found locally.

Like most things lately, the orientation had me thinking about my weight loss journey. About how to grow but still maintain a sense of balance with my environment. About how to change but still preserve my integrity. About how to stay positive and work through the current situations, no matter how stressful or tough they may seem, because there's a long-term goal I've set that I want to reach, and the benefits will most certainly be worth the wait.

I don't always make the best decisions with food, or with exercise, or with my relationships, but I make more good decisions than bad ones. I slip up sometimes, but less often than I used to. I'm moving in the right direction. I'm on track to meet my goals, and it feels so good to be my own growing and changing system.


Our university is doing a lot to take care of our community through job creation, environmental technology, and most importantly, education - and it's so great to be part of that.

And I'm doing a lot to take care of myself through proper nourishment, clean hydration, physical activity, and most importantly, mental/emotional guidance - and it's so great to be part of that, too. To be here, marveling with joy as I transform and become exactly what I envisioned. The day-to-day isn't always perfect, but that's okay. I just focus on my goals, and know that I will overcome whatever obstacles arise on the path it takes for me to get there.

October 5, 2011

Rough

With all the biking I have been doing, I have noticed a few changes in my body.

There are the leg muscles, which are looking and feeling incredible these days.


What's the leg equivalent of offering someone tickets to the gun show? Because I could flex these babies all day.

And there are the awkward tan lines:


The wrist is pale from my Garmin, and my fingertips are lighter than the rest of my hand because that's the part that curls under the handlebars and away from direct sunlight. Yikes.

And speaking of hands ... I've been noticing something else there.


Some rough spots.

There are callouses on my inside of my hand and my palms, as well as some rough spots on my thumbs from where I grip the handlebars. Part of that can be solved by not holding on so tight - but despite all the biking I do, I still am constantly in fear of getting hit by a car, so I'm hyperaware of my surroundings and always holding on for dear life. I've started keeping a bottle of lotion on my desk at work to stay moisturized, too. It's still quite rough, though, and I am not quite sure what else to do.

It isn't painful, just a little awkward. Veteran bikers, people with rough or dry skin ... any suggestions?

October 4, 2011

Workouts: September

Well, my low-activity August certainly met its match with September! Between biking and running, I stayed very active - admittedly less running than I would have liked, but I am already focusing on October as my coming-back-to-life via running month.

I biked a lot in September. Like, a ton. It's almost an embarrassing number when you realize I'm only down 3 pounds from where I was at the end of August. But, all things considered, I'm feeling okay with my overall weight loss progress:


All the biking wasn't a complete waste - it felt good to move, even if my eating was sub-par, and now that I am back to losing, I can feel some of the results of my 465.85 miles of biking - my legs are looking incredibly toned, even moreso than they were before with all the running. My thighs look and feel a-mazing. I'm thrilled.

Speaking of running ... I ran 10.08 miles in September - yikes. It's upsetting, especially considering I was on track to run more than that in one race earlier in the month. But I'm not feeling defeated. I really miss running distances, to be honest. I miss going a little slower than in a shorter race and really taking my time to hit the pavement. My last long run in Chicago was nine miles and was about an hour and forty-five minutes. There's an incredible mental clarity that comes from doing a physical activity for that long - you feel pushed to your limits, and then you push harder, and it's amazing. You did something you didn't think you could, and your reward is a second breakfast, a big glass of water or two, an ice bath, and a feeling like you can reach out and grab absolutely anything you dream of.

I miss that feeling.

It isn't gone forever, though. I'm on the lookout for December/January half marathons - it's California, they race year round. That gives me time to train, plus I won't have to worry about traveling rush since I'll be on winter break. Most of the halfs I've seen so far are on Sunday mornings, which makes things tricky since I teach on Monday mornings and the flights in and out of the small local airport only run a couple of times a day.

Everything is moving in the right direction again, and I couldn't be more pleased. My eating is better, the scale is moving in the right direction, I'm feeling balanced overall, and my stress is definitely down compared to the beginning of September. I'm glad that I have been able to figure out ways to stay active without a gym membership, though I do miss it sometimes, to tell the truth. I miss the elliptical sometimes, and just having a place to go and sweat out my stresses. I've been hitting the bike trails more lately, which is good, but there's something about workout machines that motivates a little differently. I might consider the gym once I get my driver's license, but until then, I don't want to overdo it - biking to work is tiring some days, but to have to bike home after a crazy workout too? I don't want to wear my body out just yet!

So, October goals: keep up the biking, try to find an organized race so I can try for my sub-30 5k, and complete my 345-in-2011 goal. I've ran 323.44 miles so far - that means I'm at 93.75% of my goal with 88 days left in the year. I need just over 21.5 miles in October to meet my goal - I can *so* do this!

What about you? How was your September? What are your goals for October? Any races or challenges on the schedule? How does the changing season change your workout routines?

October 3, 2011

Fire Up: Week Three

My positive picture for the week:

I went for a bike ride yesterday - to my office, but also to a lake nearby. I wanted to do some offline writing, and the lake seemed the perfect setting.


I love the water, and it's nice to have this little oasis here, especially since most of the place where I live now looks like this:


What have you done this week to help get to your goals?

(1) Lost 3 pounds, so I have 11 more to go to make this goal!
(2) Did much better with not eating after dinner. I *did* have a piece of the vegan cake I made, but since I had planned it and logged it, I am okay with that - it was an occasion, and the not-eating-after-dinner is more for late night binges that I don't track.
(3) I ran yesterday!


I did less than a mile because my pants were falling down (amazing how a few pounds can make your clothes fit better or worse!) but it felt good, and I'm confident about making October my month of running - it was October last year when I started C25k, it's October this year when I'm going to stoke the fire.
(4) I got paid on the 1st of the month, so I made my monthly budget. A few days in, and so far so good!
(5) I completed #24 - host a dinner party! Two down and one to go to make this goal! Back to tearing through the list, I love it.

What have you done to make yourself feel fabulous?

I've been eating raw as much as possible, and my body cannot thank me enough. My appetite seems to have adjusted itself, and the scale is moving in the right direction again. As far as non-raw eating, though, I'm really proud of the fact that I gave away every crumb of the leftover cake from my dinner party. It made me feel strong and fabulous - I was so happy to bake and enjoy the product responsibly, and I recognized that even at 125 calories for a small slice, I didn't want to have that kind of temptation in the house once everyone left. The leftovers were gladly taken home by my guests - Justin told me the next day that he ate three slices for breakfast. *sigh*

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What are your goals? Ambitions?

Married, for sure, with possibly a kid, or at least one on the way - in five years, I'll be going on 30, and I'd like to have my first before then. I also want some time as a couple without children, though, so we'll see. As far as work, the university where I work is fairly new and is growing like crazy, so I'd love to still be here in a few years, continuing to build up my program. I love the university and I love the job, it's just the town that is taking some getting used to.

Give us a tip or a fact. About anything, what is something great you've heard that everyone should know?

Jason Mraz is a musician who used to write an amazing blog. I'm not a devout fan of his music, but his writing was always exceptionally thought-provoking. One of my favorite posts of his mentioned the idea that
How you do anything is how you do everything.
And since then, I haven't been able to get the thought out of my mind.

What was your most recent dream that you can remember?

I used to have really vivid dreams when I was 345 pounds - likely because I would eat huge amounts of food right before falling asleep. (This blog is named after one of my dreams, actually.) I don't dream very much anymore, but the last one I remember was this summer, where my teeth liquified. It was a recurring nightmare when I was finishing grad school - it symbolizes feelings of instability, loss of control.

October 2, 2011

Bruschetta

When I first met Justin, he was with two of his co-workers down in the complex pool. They are all Ph.D. students interning at the university where I teach, and since we're all from different parts of the country and only know each other, we talked about getting together once a week for dinner and socializing.

The first week's dinner was at Adam's - he made quinoa with peanut sauce and veggies. He also made us all juice with his fancy new juice machine he bought after seeing that juice documentary that everyone's going nuts over these days. For dessert, Justin made a mixed berry cobbler.

The next week was at Justin's - he made Indian chickpea curry with roti and a cucumber yogurt salad. All our meals need to be meat-free since Minal is vegetarian, and as we ate the salad, we learned that the newly added fifth member of our group, Kristin (another woman who lives in the complex and works at the university), is a vegan (but socially vegetarian), so we're going to try to be as vegan-friendly as possible in the future. It's a fun and healthy challenge.

And so this past week, it was my turn. I made three kinds of ravioli - pumpkin/hazelnut/feta, beet/pear/feta, and spinach/mushroom/garlic:


Mostly the spinach/mushroom/garlic ones since they were vegan, and instead of using my own homemade pasta, I bought vegan wonton wrappers - they were not only vegan, but they saved time as I got ready for everything else. I also made a vegan chocolate cake with ginger and cinnamon (my own recipe, with the spices inspired by an Italian film I love called - wait for it - "Ginger and Cinnamon.").

Justin asked me earlier in the day if he could make salsa for an appetizer - he has a Slap Chop and has therefore been looking for any excuse to cut things into small pieces. It didn't go with my Italian theme, but it wasn't a bad idea. So, we had bruschetta.

Bruschetta is an Italian tomato and basil salad, served cold with pieces of toasted bread. It's a very simple appetizer, and could easily be eaten as a light lunch.

The good news is, it's incredibly delicious.

The bad news is, it got gobbled up before I could get a picture of the salad.

I did get pictures of the toasts before I prepped them and as they went into the oven, though!


Yum!
5 plum tomatoes
1 bunch fresh basil, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 French loaf, sliced into rounds
Combine two minced garlic cloves with about a quarter of the chopped basil and 3 tablespoons of olive oil; set aside. Chop tomatoes and combine with remaining basil. Add balsamic vinegar. In a small skillet, heat remaining olive oil and brown remaining minced garlic. Add to tomato mixture; gently stir to ensure consistent coating. Refrigerate for several hours to let flavors mix well.

Ten minutes before serving, lightly brush one side of the French bread rounds with olive oil/garlic/basil mixture (you will likely not use all of it) and bake them for 8-10 minutes in a preheated 400º F oven.


You should not pre-assemble the bruschetta so the toasts don't get soggy. (Unless that's what you're into. Then, by all means, top away!)

It's a very summer-y dish, but since the temperatures are still in the 80 and 90º range here, no one seemed to mind. Like I said, it disappeared before I could even get a picture! I'll definitely be making it again - though I'm not sure I have a choice in that, it was their request!

What about you? What are your favorite dinner party appetizers?