June 30, 2012

Foodie penpal: June

I wish I remembered where I saw it, but I was reading a blog about a month or so ago and came across the most brilliant idea: bloggers sign up and then send a package to another blogger. Lovely, no? The theme is "foodies" - so the boxes are full of homemade goodies, or local specialties, or some ingredients to make an included recipe. It combines two of my loves: exploring food and getting mail. So of course, I signed up.

I sent my package to Leslie, a woman with a great blog called Bake This Cake - she does all sorts of vintage cake recipes. I'm super into old recipes, if you recall, and wish I wasn't mid-move, I would've sent her some retro cookbooks! As I've been entirely addicted to homemade trail mix lately, I sent her some individually portioned out bags with nuts, lots of different dried fruits, and these interesting Almond Joy candies I found at the store - I usually do coconut and chocolate chips, but with the heat in California, I was worried about them melting, so I used these instead, as they're sort of like M&Ms - I hoped the candy coating would keep better!

For the package I received, many many thanks go to Tina from Moms Crazy Cooking who sent me a variety of goodies from Trader Joe's, as well as a reusable grocery bag (always handy!) and a really lovely note congratulating me on my weight loss.

To tell the truth, I just went to Trader Joe's for the first time in March - there were a few in Chicago, but none near my apartment (though one opened within a few weeks of my relocation!). The closest one to me in California? Over an hour away. If I had a car, it would be worth the drive, for sure. It's a really neat place.

So, thank you Tina for the amazing package! I can't wait to see what July brings - being in Chicago, I can get way more creative with my outgoing mail now!

What about you? Have you ever had a penpal? Would you be interested in a blogger package swap like these? What are some local specialties you would include in your package?

Also: somewhat on the subject of vintage/retro recipes, I have a guest post going live either today or yesterday (I'm writing this in advance due to the big move this weekend!) on Mimi's retro Weight Watchers blog. I made a recipe from a 1974 issue of Weight Watchers magazine - let's just say ... it involves fish, melon, pickles. Go check it out!

June 28, 2012


Besides a scheduled post for Saturday, I might be silent for a little while.

Today is the big day.

As soon as this post goes live, I'm shutting down my work laptop, handing it in, giving a final exam, then heading up to San Francisco for the night. My flight to Chicago - a one-way, at long last - leaves in the morning, about 25 hours from now.

I woke up this morning and ran four miles - my last run in California, at least as a resident. It was bittersweet. I have two usual routes that I run - I did the short one on Tuesday, the longer one this morning. And it was sad, I suppose, to realize this is the last time I'll run here. The last time I'll see these paths. Even if I return to California for a vacation, this is not likely a place I'll be stopping by. This is the end - an adieu, not an au revoir - and the idea of forever overwhelms me a bit.

I have been very anxious the past two weeks - getting rid of my belongings by either mailing them out to Chicago or selling them, getting everything in order for the big day. For today. The last piece of my Post-It note calendar came down, and I let out a very heavy sigh.

It doesn't feel like I imagined. At first I thought I would be thrilled to leave, then I wondered if I might feel a little sad. The overwhelming sensation this whole week has been not that I am moving, but rather, that I'm returning home after an extended, incredibly taxing vacation. But today, all I'm feeling is just a whole-body sense of peace. California is not where I belong forever, but for a short period of my life, it was where I was meant to be.

There's a brilliant quote by Zora Neale Hurston that my sister shared on her personal blog a few days ago:

There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.

I had a intensely transformative year from 2010 to 2011, one where I lost 150 pounds and changed an incredible number of things in my life. It left me with a feeling of success, but also, with a lot of questions. What happens next? What will the rest of my life in maintenance be like? Who is this smaller girl? What do I really want in life?

Today, at the end of my ten months on the West Coast, I find myself with a lot of ideas about how to respond to those issues and concerns - as well as with a series of all new things to consider.

I'm weighing in at 189 today, which is a loss of 18 pounds from January 1, but only 3 pounds since the last time I could call myself a Chicago resident. It's not ideal, it's not where I thought I'd be. But those have been, without question, the heaviest 3 pounds of my loss so far. And again, right now, I'm feeling nothing but peaceful.

June 25, 2012

Square one

Today has been a very strange day.

I woke up absolutely ravenous, not entirely surprising since I ran 9 miles on Saturday and attempted to take a short walk around my neighborhood yesterday and ended up walking about 15 miles, around the meadows and to the university and back. I've been doing really well with avoiding binges - six days strong! - and keeping my eating in check, trying to listen to my body for hunger cues instead of eating on a schedule or to meet a suggested limit. I've been hovering around 1350-1400 calories a day, which I think is good, and I haven't felt deprived or had the urge to overeat. But today, as soon as I woke up, I was super hungry. So I had two pieces of fruit with my Greek yogurt instead of one, plus a serving of almonds when I got to the office (I keep them there to avoid excessive at-home snacking).

After teaching this morning, I headed home to tidy up a bit before my pre-moving inspection (the apartment manager walks around and suggests how to clean better in order to get back more of your security deposit). I was gathering clothes to donate when I heard my phone go off - three text messages, one after another, rapidfire.

I know it's exceptionally late for this, but I just wanted to apologize ... I didn't mean for things to turn out the way they did and hurt you. I should have tried harder ... I am sorry for my actions.

I didn't recognize the number, and my heart started fluttering, both terrified and overwhelmed at who it could possibly be (or at least, who I hoped it was).

It wasn't him.

It was Bobby.

Still shocking, still entirely unexpected. And very, very strange. The conversation was brief and sort of awkward, not unlike our short time together. I told him I was moving back to Chicago, and he said maybe we can meet up sometime when you get back. A nice idea, I suppose, but I'm not entirely sure how interested I would be, even as friends. First, because we didn't have all that much in common, and I don't know how well we would have fared if we stayed together, long or short distance. And second, because I'm absolutely head-over-heels smitten with Matt - all I can focus on lately is how good it will feel to exhale deeply, step off the plane, and finally be in his arms again. Things started with Justin before they ended with Bobby, so to speak, and I think that speaks volumes about how attached to Bobby I really was. I feel really awful looking back on it, and I think that what I really wanted was some Chicago to cling to, something constant to ease the transition as I moved across the country for a new job in a new place. If I do see him again, it would only be to apologize. Neither of us was entirely innocent with how things got so messy and then ended, but I still feel guilty about the whole Justin situation.

It was, again, a very brief conversation, sort of surface-level. And it was only the beginning of my afternoon.

Halfway through the conversation, my phone rang. It was Benjamin, one of my new roommates in Chicago. A Parisian, his English is very good with a few flaws when it comes to idioms; that, paired with a lousy connection from his pay-as-you-go cell phone, meant it took me a few tries to understand what he was trying to say. What he meant was, I have to tell you something, are you sitting down?

There was a fire ... someone in the other apartments ... cigarette on a couch ... every apartment is damaged or destroyed ...

Benj and our third roommate, Kabir, were both safe - in fact, the inside of the apartment is entirely damage-free, with the exception of a few things that were being stored in my room that the firemen knocked over and broke when they came in through the fire escape. Benj said it just smells like smoke, but the rest of the place is a mess.

I'll have to assess the situation when I get back to the city this weekend, but after reports from Benj and Lorelei, the friend who lived in the room I was prepared to rent, I am not sure we'll be able to stay in the building while it gets repaired.

I panicked, my heart rate skyrocketed, but I didn't even think to binge, and that is something to be proud of. Try as I may to become more spontaneous, I'm still very addicted to the structure that comes with obsessive planning, and having things set me back at square one (especially, say, three days before I'm supposed to be moving across the country) is usually a recipe for disaster.

Eating incredible amounts of junk food doesn't make my apartment any more habitable, but the high from binge eating is a welcome distraction from the disaster at hand. If I'm high, I don't have to focus on anything but the pain in my stomach and jaw. With enough calories fast enough, I can fall asleep and not have to feel like I'm drowning in my sea of conscious worries: the perfect job that someone else got, the great apartment that burned down, the family issues that are worrying me sick.

I'm doing my best to stay focused, present, positive, and grateful. Waking up hungry is frustrating, but for now, I have enough money to take care of that hunger. Getting unexpected messages from former flames is heart-rending, but I also am lucky enough to say I've known these men and had these experiences that have made me who I am today. And hearing about the apartment is stressful, but there are a lot of places to live in Chicago. I'll find one. I'm going to worry about one day at a time. Things will work out for the best, they always, always do.