progress at last!

And we’re back after a week-long hiatus. (Sometimes what’s going on in real life is more important than documenting it, you know?) But since I last shared an update two weeks ago, a couple of exciting things have happened in regards to my Defining 30 quest, but the biggest one is:

I finished writing my second holiday novella!

I didn’t just finish writing it, but I’ve sent the story to my publisher, and we’re in the waiting game to see what happens next with it. This feels extra exciting, because after mulling over the idea for about seven months, I finally sat down and created character sketches and an outline during my staycation. Then I spent the next two weeks writing the 25,000 words.

I made some adjustments as I went–eliminating a couple of scenes that weren’t so necessary–but I basically stuck to the script I created.

This story actually takes place from two first-person points of view, which was kind of a fun challenge for me as a writer. I wanted to make sure each person’s voice sounded true to who they are, while also fitting into my voice as a writer. This is something I’ve been more aware of in the past couple of years–how every word your character says has to sound like something he or she would say. They can’t all speak and think exactly the same or they aren’t unique. Maybe that’s an obvious thing to most writers, but for me, it’s something I’ve been working on developing more as I develop new characters and stories.

But back to the POVs. Writing in Scrivener made this process easy to do and track (I wanted to make sure each person had the same or similar amount of screen time). I used the color-coding system, and it not only kept me organized, but looked kind of pretty.

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So now I get to go to our official list page and check one item off and add it to the done-zo list. That’s super exciting.

I mentioned that there were other exciting developments in my quest for 30th birthday perfection, so I’ll just list them and develop the answers more thoroughly in future posts.

  1. I have officially stuck to my healthy eating plan for more than a month as of yesterday. After trying lots of things to jump-start a reasonable weight-loss program during the first few months of the year, it feels good to stick to the plan, which in term means…
  2. I’m being more active, which also means…
  3. I’m starting to see results in the mirror and on the scale.
  4. My latest statements from the credit union (car loan) and loan agency (student loan) show that I really might be able to do the whole “get out of debt” thing.

These are all good things, and I hope to have lots more to share on this front soon. Good stuff.

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back to reality

One week always sounds like a lot of time until you get to the end of it. That’s kind of how my whole staycation felt. And while I knew that I would not be able to accomplish all of the wonderful things that I wanted during that week away from work, I am proud of my accomplishments.

Here are some of the highlights from my staycation, and how they are helping me achieve my goals now that we’re in the one-year stretch…

I turned down the offer of ice cream cake twice and ate only half a cupcake at a birthday party. This doesn’t probably sound huge to most people, but for me–a food addict–it is a big deal. I also managed my portions better and loaded up on foods like salads while eating smaller portions of the rest of the meals. This was a particularly good lesson when I went out for lunch, because I made a point of bringing home leftovers rather than overdoing it on the calories.

I am back to eating a mostly clean, well-planned menu that offers a good mixture of the nutrients I need to be healthy. I tried a couple of new recipes including a homemade veggie burger and tofu stir fry (made with quinoa instead of rice). As a result of this, and the previous bullet, I came out of my staycation having lost a few pounds. This bit of success has motivated me to keep going. Fingers crossed.

I also went for some walks and tried to be more active. I already noticed a difference when I went back to work yesterday and was able to climb the three flights of stairs to my office without getting winded.

I finished my Camp NaNoWriMo goal a week early. As reported last week, I realized my fifth novel–the one that I spent half of the month writing–needs more development, and so I started a Christmas novella. Though I wish I would have written more, I came out of the week with a full and thorough outline, well-developed characters, and more than 5,000 words. That’s one-fifth of the way to my target word count for the project, so I’ll take it.

I finished another round of edits for Book 3, which will be out in September, and developed a marketing plan and materials. There’s still some work to go on this project, but I’m feeling pretty good about it.

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I cleaned my apartment, reorganized my bookshelves, and sorted through my wardrobe. While I would have liked to do a deep clean and a big purge of materials, this is another one of those areas where I’ll say a little is better than nothing.

I also spent a lot of time with friends and family, which was wonderful. I joked to friends that I was looking forward to my time home as a chance to be a full-time cat mama, and I’ll admit, that was maybe my favorite part of staycation. It was nice to just be in the moment and have cat cuddles while I worked and plotted.

While going back to work is always tough after time away, I was pretty happy with my results from staycation and I hope the lingering effects continue to carryover throughout the coming weeks.

re-introducing healthy eating

I’m still having a tough time working toward any of my Defining 30 goals (it’s getting a little ridiculous, y’all), but I am trying to change that. One way is with my food. While I’m still hitting the pizza and desserts pretty hard, I’m also trying to make sure that I eat well through other parts of the day.

Here’s a recipe for a meal I made recently that is packed with protein and healthy, complex carbohydrates. When served with a side salad and a vegetable, it’s a great meal. I based it on a recipe I found on Pinterest, though I have made some modifications.

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Gluten-Free Enchilada Sunrise

Ingredients
1 can black beans
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 can diced green chilies
1 can enchilada sauce
1/2 cup cheese
5 eggs

Directions
Cook 1 cup of quinoa in 2 cups of water at a rolling boil for 15 minutes. Once cooked, add in remaining ingredients and spread in a baking dish. Top with eggs (sunny side up) and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Serves 5.

(Bonus tip: Topping it with tomatoes, green onions, and avocado would be another way to make this a yummy and healthy dish.

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pumping up

This probably falls under the category of things I shouldn’t blog about yet, because it’s still new, but I have nothing else this week. (What can I say? It was a busy week/weekend at the office!) I started working out again. It’s been a while (way too long) since I set foot on a treadmill, but I’ve done it. And you know what? It wasn’t terrible.

About a week ago, as I looked at my burgeoning waist and clicked on another Facebook post rather than write before work, I realized something needed to change. For one, I need to stop with all of the sweets, fried foods, and beers I’ve consumed, because of a mix of convenience and stress. For another, if I wake up and devote 30 minutes to exercise every day, I’m even more likely to sit down and write for an hour before work. Maybe it’s the discipline of the whole thing, but for whatever reason it works.

I’ll admit, despite my vanity and determination to accomplish my goals rather than turn 30 with an unchecked list, I’m also motivated by my little sister. She’s preparing to run in her first half marathon, and I admire her for it. I even envy her ability to set a goal and go for it, despite her apprehensions and concern that she might not be prepared enough. It makes me want to suck it up and spend half an hour walking and jogging (but mostly walking at this point) on the treadmill to get to my goal of a 10K–nothing compared to her half marathon.

Like I said, getting back to 30 minutes of cardio a day the past couple of days hasn’t been terrible. It’s actually been fun. Here’s where I get dorky (it was bound to happen, ey?). My favorite part of working out has been listening to the workout playlist I made for myself a year ago when I was super on it and motivated to lose weight. I’d forgotten several of the songs, and I had to give myself kudos for such a seemingly slapdash, yet motivating group of music. Each song spoke to a different part of me, which was perfect.

Now, if I can only keep this going and get back to eating well and avoiding too many food cheats, we’ll be in good shape.

#yum #healthyeating

Schedule

This one is a two-for-one deal in that it’s my attempt at meal planning and healthy eating. Now, before we get any farther, I have to admit that the meal plan pictured above is a bit of a fraud. I swear I tried to stick to the plan, but everything got chaotic mid-month. Before I knew it, I was swapping out quinoa enchiladas for dinner out with my family and huevos rancheros for fish and chips. So, no this isn’t a post about my awesome success at mastering meal plans, but it’s a start.

It was also a chance to try out some new healthy recipes, which I figured I’d share with you today. Let’s start with breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day. Not only is it good for your metabolism, but it’s freaking delicious.

pancakes

Blueberry Greek Yogurt Pancakes

Ingredients:
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 large egg
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup blueberries

Directions:
Whip the yogurt in a bowl until smooth and add one large egg. Mix in dry ingredients and blueberries (or other fresh fruit if you prefer). I also added a pinch of cinnamon, because cinnamon is delicious and is basically a freebie on the nutrition and calorie front. After this, go rogue. Make those pancakes however you like. You can make a couple of super large pancakes or go for about six smaller ones. The choice is yours. Embrace the freedom. Serve however you like.

The ones in the photograph above are a little dark, because I made them with whole wheat flour. They also aren’t super cute, because I basically suck at making food look super cute. But they were delicious, and that’s all that really matters.

Yields: 2 servings (250 calories)

Moving on to some lunch fare…

Slowcooker Lentil Chili

Ingredients: 
1 can black beans
1 1/3 cup lentils
2 cups vegetable broth
15 ounces diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 garlic cloves
1 diced bell pepper
1/2 cup diced raw onions

Directions:
Spray the inside of slowcooker and turn it on to high. Throw in diced garlic cloves, pepper and raw onions. After these cook a little, add in the vegetable broth and lentils. After about an hour add the rest of the ingredients, turn down to low and let it cook until you’re ready to eat. Or three hours. Whichever comes last.

Yields: 4 servings (200 calories)

And another lunchtime option…

black bean burger

Black Bean Burgers

Ingredients: 
2 cans black beans
1 can corn
1/4 cup wheat bread crumbs
1 large egg
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper

Directions:
Strain the black beans and corn and toss them (and the rest of the ingredients) into a blender. Make into patties and cook over medium heat in a pan on a stove.

Yields: 9 servings (180 calories)

Which can be served with…

Mango Avocado Salsa

Ingredients: 
1 cup mango chunks
1 avocado
2 teaspoons lime juice

Directions:
Dice everything up, toss it together and serve over the patties. Boom. Done.

Yields: 4 servings (100 calories)

Vegetarian Lasagna

Ingredients: 
1 jar tomato sauce
1 cup mozzarella
1 container low-fat ricotta cheese
1 container baby bella mushrooms
9 whole grain noodles
5 garlic cloves
1/2 cup onions

Directions:
Over medium heat, roast cloves, onions and mushrooms. Mix those in with the ricotta cheese. Meanwhile, boil the lasagna noodles on the stove. Place a layer of noodles on the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch pan. Spread half of ricotta mixture over the noodles. Pour one-third of the sauce. Add another layer of noodles. Spread the rest of the noodles. Pour half of the remaining sauce over that. Add the last layer of noodles and the last of the sauce. Pour the mozzarella cheese over the top.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place in the oven at 350 degrees to cook for 30 minutes. Uncover and cook another 15 minutes or until the cheese is golden. Remove from the oven. Let it cool another 15 minutes. And there you have it. Dinner.

Yields: 9 servings (225 calories)

Like I said, I wouldn’t call this month a grand success, but I’m on the right track. And April is just around the corner. I can give the meal plan a shot next month.

well that was awkward

I’m really great at making plans. I tend to fall a little short on the whole implementation part. That’s how I found myself starting March having regained the few pounds I’d lost in the first weeks of the new year. This after I spent two consecutive weeks bragging about how I’d solved all of my health problems by living on a diet of green smoothies and mason jar salads.

I should have expected this to happen. It’s what I do.

Even before my major weight gain in college, the numbers on the scale fluctuated for me. During high school, my weight would vary 30 pounds or so throughout a year. Is it any wonder this pattern followed me into adulthood?

Last spring I lost more than 50 pounds in four months. I basically maintained it throughout the summer then started adding those l-bs back on through fall and the holidays.

This isn’t a healthy pattern. While I’ve always recognized that I struggle with food and use it as an emotional aid, I’m really good at ignoring that nagging question of “Am I eating because I’m hungry or because I’m sad/bored/angry/worried/tense?” But in the past few weeks, while chowing down on takeout burritos, donuts and just about anything else I wanted, I looked at my relationship with diet, exercise and weight gain/loss. It isn’t sustainable either way. And while I’ll claim my motives are to lower my risk for diabetes and heart disease, that really isn’t why I go on these diets. I want to look good. That’s not good.

So let’s re-examine this goal of mine. Rather than obsess about reaching the weight or pants size I had for my skinniest weeks of high school, I need to focus more on making healthier choices all around. And I need to do it from the standpoint of developing a healthy lifestyle that can last a long time and doesn’t make me want to hate my life. I need to give myself a break once and a while, but know that having one donut (and it really should be just one every so often) doesn’t mean my day is blown, so it’s OK to double down on calories at lunch and dinner.

Most importantly, on whatever journey I take, I need to be happier and more comfortable in my body no matter the size.

My goal for March is to follow a meal plan I created for myself. It takes into consideration foods I love, cravings I have and what nutrients will best serve my body. I found healthier recipes or substitutes for some favorite dishes and chose new ones that sounded good. I’ve left room for some treats along the way, but moderation needs to be key. I tried for variety and made my schedule as un-repetitive and resource-efficient as possible to avoid boredom or waste. (Yeah, that happened with my daily mason jar plan, though both will play a part in this meal plan albeit much smaller.)

This month I also hope to skip out on booze. This has less to do with my weight and more to do with how much fun I was having with wine the past couple of months. My poor liver and brain need a break.

I also created an exercise schedule that isn’t as rigorous as the one I tried to maintain last year. Like the meal plan, it offers what I hope will be a nice balance of routine and variety.

It’s all about baby steps.

going green (with mason jars) – part 2

salad

Last week I talked about the green smoothies I made every morning before work in January (and I’ve continued it so far in February, because it worked so well and was satisfying), and this week I’ll share the mason jar salads I have made for the past month to help me maintain a fairly healthy diet. I wish I could say I didn’t slip up and eat crap after Jan. 1, but it’s hard to go cold turkey after gorging on candy, cake, pie, and other treats during the holiday season.

On Sunday I also prepped my salads by cooking the lentils and quinoa. To make the quinoa, I brought half a cup of quinoa and a cup of water to a boil and cooked it, covered over medium heat for about 20 minutes. While that was going I also boiled a cup of lentils, two cups of water, and 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar together. This cooks uncovered, and during the 30-minutes it simmered, I added an additional half cup of water as well as one or two tablespoons of local honey toward the end. The honey and cider give the lentils a nice, not-too-sweet flavor.

Once the quinoa and lentils were cooked and cooled, I made three salads for the week (I only have three quart-sized jars available right now) and stored the leftovers for the last jar in the fridge. (As part of my meal plan, I worked one “free” lunch day into the schedule so I could go meet a friend for lunch.)
The perk of making a salad in a mason jar is that you have an easy way to store and move your salad without having to worry about parts of it getting mushy. It’s also pretty. I had several comments from co-workers about how nice the jars looked.

For weeks one and three, my salad went like this:
1. Small layer of feta/gorgonzola
2. Layer of crushed almonds, dried cranberries, and edamame (unfrozen at this point)
3. Healthy layer of lentils (about 1/4 cup)
4. Layer of quinoa (about 1/4 cup)
5. Spinach or arugula mix to fill the rest of the jar
Tip: If you like dressing (I don’t when I have enough fancy business going on) you can put some dressing in before the cheese layer.

Week two didn’t require any cooking prep work on Sunday, just layering, which went as follows:
1. Thin layer of salsa
2. Thin layer of Greek yogurt
3. Layer of corn
4. Layer of canned black beans, partially strained
5. Spinach to fill the rest of the jar

I’ll admit, I fell off the wagon in week four and five. I rediscovered my love of Jimmy Johns, Pickelman’s and Chipotle, but never fear. I’m back at it this week. I’ve also decided to work more variety into my plan. Three days of salad. Two days of soup or something equally healthy. If I know I have something else coming up, I can make a salad work.