Weight-loss Plan before Vacation

Yesterday was my brother’s birthday. Yesterday we had pizza, breadsticks fried Chinese chicken wings, and honey bun cake. Yes, honey bun cake. I ate about two slices of cake, two slices of pizza, a breadstick, and, I am not over exaggerating here, at least ten chicken wings.

I think I might have gained five pounds.

Now I’m a week and a day out from my cruise to Alaska, and while a pudgy stomach will surely keep me warm for the cooler temperatures, especially when I’m climbing that glacier, I still want to look and feel my best for my trip. Believe it or not, I want some of the pictures I take to actually feature me (proof that I actually went because, you know, it still hasn’t sunk in yet—eh, poor choice in words…). I don’t want to have to edit myself out of all the pictures because I look like the whale on the whale-watching expedition.

So I’m going to attempt something drastic. No I’m not going to starve myself, skip meals, pop weight loss pills, or get plastic surgery. But I’m going to try a diet experiment.

You’ve heard of the keto diet, right? High fat, low carb, moderate protein, supposedly meant to transform your body into a fat-burning machine. A co-worker of mine is on this diet, and he’s really shredded the pounds—not that he needed it; he was already skinny.

Anything low carb I’ve always been skeptical, because who are you to tell me I can’t eat my spaghetti and bread and potatoes and oatmeal and bananas? While I do try to watch my carb intake because diabetes runs in my family, I also know that not all carbs are created equal. Fruits are carbs, vegetables are carbs, whole grains are carbs, and they’re good for you, much better than that stuff that comes in a box.

But then one week I ate creamy broccoli cheese soup for lunch for four days straight . . . and I lost 4 pounds. Maybe there’s something to this keto. . .

So here’s my plan for this week:

  • Drink more water to detox from the binge eating and sabotage of yesterday
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day
  • Increase natural “healthier” fat intakes— avocados, full fat Greek yogurt, fatty fish like salmon and tuna, eggs, nuts and seeds, fresh natural cheeses, whole organic cow’s milk, plant milk (I make my own hemp milk from raw hemp seeds), cooking with vegetable oils like olive, grapeseed, and coconut
  • Stop snacking and candy picking
  • Track meals to hold myself accountable
  • Lose between two and five pounds by next Monday (Tuesday I leave for Alaska!)

Today for breakfast I made a triple berry smoothie with raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries, half a banana, a quarter of an avocado, and half a cup of milk. Not much for low carb, but I’m not trying to be too strict on those. I feel with the increase of fat, it’ll keep me full longer and I’ll naturally eat less of everything else. But to intentionally eat 20 net carbs in a whole day sounds like death!

Mid-morning snack to hold me over to lunch was sixteen shelled unsalted peanuts. That’s a serving. Yes, I counted them out and put the bag away, because I tend to go overboard when snacking on peanuts.

Lunch is a homemade chicken club sandwich with whole wheat toast, lettuce and tomato, the another quarter of that same avocado, and sharp cheddar cheese (Did you know a serving size for the Sargento ultra thins is actually three slices? The 45 cals. is in the one slice, but it’s something to keep in mind the next time I make a sandwich and need more fat). Tonight, I’m making a creamy corn chowder for my lunch the rest of the week, and maybe a small romaine lettuce salad with an oily balsamic vinaigrette for the dressing.

For mid-afternoon snack, I’m having an apple—skin on because skin has fiber—with homemade natural peanut butter (just peanuts and coconut oil).

I haven’t decided on dinner yet. I was thinking spaghetti, but, carbs . . . so maybe I’ll dust off my spiralizer and make some zucchini noodles with meatballs. Yum!

I really hope this diet plan works out (and I pray I stick to it). It’s not totally keto, but hopefully it’s keto enough that I can get rid of this pudgy stomach. If nothing else I hope to lose some water weight with all this water I’m drinking (and with the number of times I’ve gone to the bathroom already).

I follow a dieter who posts a lot of keto videos on YouTube, and she said a sure sign you’ve gone into ketosis is that you feel a little fatigued in the beginning, and you may also get the occasional headache. Well currently, I’m experiencing both, so that gives me hope!

We’ll see what happens. I’ll let you know next week my results. Wish me luck!

Insecure Writers Support Group: Learning to Relax

I wanted to have this posted on Wednesday. Wednesday was yesterday. Yesterday was Insecure Writers Support Group Day. It only comes once a month. The first Wednesday of every month. You’d think I’d be able to make that. Especially since the optional question is posted weeks in advance. But here’s the thing: I’m just too busy.

That’s what I told a lady in church yesterday as to why it took me so long to answer her email: I’m doing too many things.

That was my excuse to my pastor when he asked why I haven’t submitted a new article to our monthly magazine: I didn’t have time, but September, definitely September! (Because the deadline for August was two Saturdays ago.) Now I kind of have write something for September because he’ll be looking for it, which makes me nervous…

And while I do plan to write one (I already have an idea circulating in my head), I have to figure out a way to make time, because the deadline for the September issue is July 29, and with a week-long cruise to Alaska coming up in 12 days (and counting…) that deadline will sneak up on me like a thief in the night. Then I’ll be saying, “October. For sure, October. I promise!”

And that brings me to the topic for today…

What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started writing?

It’s a lesson I’ve learned and am still learning: Don’t commit yourself to too much. I have a problem with starting five different projects at one time, and then wondering why I’m so frazzled. And I have to remember, overwhelming myself with too many tasks, too many self-imposed deadlines, led to my epic writer’s meltdown a year ago last month.

I mentioned this in a previous post. Back then, I was participating in the A to Z Challenge, I was a beta reader, I was a facilitator for a flash fiction writing challenge on my blog, I was trying to write a post every day on my blog and write new poems and short stories to submit to literary magazines, I was editing two different magazines, plus I had a mundane 9 to 5 job.

A year later, and I feel that meltdown creeping up again. So what am I doing now? I have three different blogs, this one, my fiction blog, and my Christian devotional blog. I post Monday-Friday on Lovely Curses, Sunday-Wednesday-Friday on Sunday Morning Word, and Monday-Wednesday-Friday here, for the most part. Wednesdays and Fridays are my busiest days. I’m still editing two different magazines, but one is starting to consume too much of my time. I’m more involved in church now; I’m there between three and four days out the week, either for Bible Study, ministry meetings, or classes. I’m still working my 9-5 job. And now I’ve ventured into Camp NaNoWriMo. If you’re curious, I’m at just over 6,200 words for my 30,000 word novella. Way ahead of schedule. 🙂

A few days ago, I nearly cried while looking at everything I’m trying to do, what I haven’t started on, what I have yet to complete, how quickly my self-imposed deadlines are approaching. It’s too much. It’s just too much. Something’s got to give. And I hate to admit that I have to let one or more of my baby projects go. But I want to sleep at night! I want to go to bed at a decent hour. I’m tired of having to tell people I didn’t finish something, or I got delayed. I admit I’m a bit of a procrastinator, but this is beyond procrastination now. I look at all the the unchecked items on my to-do list and just want to curl in my bed, under my covers and hide.

Yesterday, I read a post on the blog, Monday is Still Coming…  and it hit me. I’m busy. Too damn busy to be content with life. I can’t just sit down and do nothing. I can’t hold a conversation with friends and not talk about work. I can’t sip a cup of tea on my front porch on an early Sunday morning and just enjoy the breeze, the swish of the leaves in the trees, the calls of the birds, the scurrying of the squirrels. My mind will be racing with worries over all the things I haven’t done yet, that I need to get busy with.

When I start to feel stressed like this, I seek consolation in the word of God, and while there are so many scriptures about finding rest and peace in Christ, this is the one the Holy Spirit brought to me today:

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30; NKJV

Another verse tells us to cast all our cares upon Him, for he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). So I’m casting all my cares on him. What do I need to let go?

That’s when He showed me the project that has to go first. About three years ago, I started an online literary journal. At the time, it was something I was really passionate about. I worked on a literary-arts journal when I was in college, and after graduating, I didn’t want to entirely let it go. I just wanted to share and support the amazing talent of my fellow writers and artists, especially those who aren’t so lucky to get published often.

It started as an annual magazine, then quickly became a quarterly magazine. Now I’m publishing collections six times a year, but I feel like I’m reading, rejecting, accepting, and editing submissions non-stop. For just one person, it’s overwhelming. And I can’t ignore the fact that since this magazine has jumped off, I haven’t been able to pursue publication of my own work (or even write anything new) for over a year.

I hate to let it go. I truly do. I used to joke about how online magazines never last. People start them on a whim, and just as quickly, they’re gone. But I’m not going to pull a disappearing act. Eventually I will sit down and write a letter to send to contributors and subscribers. I’m terrified to do it, but I know I must. At this point in my life, it’s not a priority for me; even worse, it’s become a burden.

So what are my priorities moving forward?

Priority #1: Continue to strengthen my walk with Christ. Sunday Morning Word is a project I’ve been working on for longer than the magazine, and God has put it on my heart that Sunday Morning Word is what I’m supposed to do. So I will continue to dedicate myself to doing what HE has called me to do, not what I want to do, because what I want often leads to unnecessary stress.

Priority #2: Write. Write poetry. Write fiction. Finish that novel. Reserve flash-fiction and short-shorts for my blog. Dedicate no more than 20 mins a day to Lovely Curses blog posts and get back to writing that novel, to writing stories and poems to submit to magazines—like that new short story I’ve been saying for months now that I’m going to write. Sit down and write it already! Get in the habit of scheduling posts. Reshare old posts at least once a week to give myself a break. When participating in challenges, post when I have time, not when the prompt question is posted.

Priority #3: Self-love. Go shopping. Buy myself a new pair of heels. A new dress. Try new hairstyles. Enjoy my cruise to Alaska in 12 days (and counting…). Eat healthier, take walks in the park, go to the gym. Make tasty, colorful home-cooked meals. Stop complaining so damn much. Enjoy life. And then share precious moments I experience here and on social media. Promote positivity, because this world is too negative.

And that’s it. That’s all I want to do. July and August might still be a little busy, as I wrap up all open projects on the magazine (and eventually muster up the courage to send out that letter), but after that, I’m finished being a busy worker bee.

My only focus will be on God, myself, and learning to relax…

Things That Cause My Road Rage (Part 1)

The number of road rage deaths in America is gradually rising. Americans overall seem to be getting angrier. Maybe it has something to do with our president and his trash-slinging Twitter fingers. Or maybe with the increasing pressures to be more politically correct, so as not to offend a country full of cry babies, we’ve lost our outlets to release pent up emotions. Whatever the reason, people are getting riled up. And the two things that upset them the most: racially insensitive assholes and dumb-ass drivers.

But we’re not going to talk about race today, because everything’s not always about color, right? *rolls eyes*

I want to talk about the things that really grind my gears about driving around on these pothole-riddled roads in this great land of ‘Merica. It’s taken me a while to come up with this list. Every time I think I’m ready, another road rage incident falls into my lap. Never a dull moment on these highways and byways. So let’s call this post Part 1 of an on-going list. While I would never pull up on someone at a red light, with a Glock in the glove compartment, finger on the trigger, I have been guilty of hailing F-bombs out the window when someone cuts me off.

I’ve got to do better. But maybe writing will help me to manage my anger?

This post is simply for the purpose of humor, not to further provoke any of you angry people out there, or to give you any ideas. So for the love of God, chillax and have a laugh at the things that cause my road rage.

1.) Dimwits who take too long to merge

I used to hate merging on the highway. Often I would take the back roads to avoid the highway altogether. But since there’s no easy way to get to work other than the highway, I’ve learned how to get over my fear of merging. Lessons I learned: never stop, pick up your speed so that you match the speed of traffic, merge as soon as you see an opening, make the person let you in, don’t wait for them to let you in, else you’ll be sitting on the shoulder all day, watching cars fly by.

I learned how to merge on probably the worst acceleration lane in America. It’s right down the street from my house, so it’s the quickest to get on the highway, but it totally sucks! It’s unnervingly short, plus it’s on a hill—once you’re on the top you don’t have long before you reach the end. Meanwhile you’re trying to merge between two different highways that are converging into one. While you’re looking over your left shoulder for an opening, you need a third eye to your right to make sure the cars from the second highway aren’t trying to move into your lane like you’re not right freaking there! It’s extremely dangerous, and there’s always a wreck because people play bumper cars first and look later.

Yet, I managed to master the death trap, and if I can master that, you have no excuse for why it takes you five hours to merge.

I’m extremely impatient with non-mergers. While I do leave an opening (most drivers aren’t so generous), if you don’t seize the opportunity while you have it, I’m not going to let you in. If you think traffic is going to stop to let you on the highway, you’re going to be spending a lot of trips pinned to the side of the road.

But what I hate even more than people who take too long to merge, is getting stuck behind people who take too long to merge. It’s the most annoying thing ever. Seeing an opening, and trying to speed up to snatch said opening, then being forced to slam on the brakes and lose said opening because the car in front of you is literally STOPPED.

Why!!!

Then there are those drivers who merge at 30mph.

Ugh!! Why are you even on the highway?!?!

2.) Break tappers

Do not make a habit of brake tapping on the highway. Just don’t. I know they teach us to be defensive drivers, but there’s gotta be a law or something against people who are constantly hitting the brakes on the highway. We are traveling at too great a speed to have to worry about some crazy person stopping in the middle of the road to read a sign, or to realize, “oh hey, that’s my exit!” when they’re in the far left lane, or to send a text and kill us all.

But the likeliest reason for a driver’s brake tapping is because they are following too closely, to which I would say, get off the guy’s tail for goodness sake! Slow down. Pass them. Do something, but please stop slamming on the brakes when traffic isn’t even close to being congested and the guy behind you is going 70mph!

Then of course there are the brake checkers who are just total dicks. One day while on my way to work, a guy cut me off, slowed down, and when I moved into the next lane to pass him, he cut me off again, nearly taking off the side of my front bumper, and then slammed on the brakes. I swerved so fast into the left lane, I nearly scraped the railing. When I straightened out, I just floored it. He would not cut me off again. And do you know this fool had the audacity to honk his horn at me?

People.

I wonder if he was a cop…

3.) Slow drivers in the fast lane

Ok, Grandma, is there a reason why you’re in the left lane? Did you not read the sign that says slower traffic keep right? Can you even see it through those thick glasses?

I hate it when slow drivers don’t move over. I hate it when the two left lanes are literally at a standstill because because Miss Daisy in the old, beat-up Volkswagen is driving at the same speed as the overloaded dump truck in the middle lane. I hate switching into the left lane to try to bypass the slower traffic on my way to work only to come to a screeching halt right as my exit is coming up because the bumper-less Toyota Corolla in front of me is going 15 miles under the speed limit.

Then of course the driver I’m trying to pass suddenly decides to speed up…

4.) Drivers who speed like they don’t give a f*** about your life or theirs

I dislike speed demons just as much, if not more than I despise snail drivers.

A curse on all you tailgaters! And yes, I am aware that I’m talking about myself. But I’ve gotten better at following too close, especially since people are so quick to slam on the brakes the second they see a cop, or a wreck in the eastbound lanes when they are traveling westbound, or a blown off tire on the shoulder . . . or a freaking street sign.

But I’m talking about the people who speed for no freaking reason, pushing 90 in a 55 on Sunday afternoon in February. Where the hell are you going? There is no place on earth that you need to be so urgently that you have to risk your life and everyone else’s just to get there.

These are the people you see three miles back in your rear view mirror. You’re terrified they’re going to rear-end you, but you can’t move out the way because of traffic. Then once they get to you, they’re riding you so close you can see their facial expressions in the mirror. They’re clearly cursing you out for driving slower than they, but you’re in the right lane—they can easily pass you. But instead they spend the next ten miles stuck to you like a bumper sticker, until finally you get sick of having a trailer attached to your trunk, and so you move over, only for them to lay on their horn because you’re taking too long to switch lanes. You give them the classic Kermit the frog stare down as they speed by, secretly wishing for their deaths in a fiery inferno, and laugh when they get caught behind someone driving slower than you, and you can pass them again and flip the bird.

5.) Pedestrians who think they’re invincible

Crossing the road without looking first. When I was a kid, they taught us left, right, then left again. These days, people step out into on-coming traffic, not a crosswalk or illuminated walking man in sight, and look at you like, “Hit me, bitch.”

College students are notorious for this. When I was in school, I witnessed it countless times, but the most memorable moment happened on a Thursday afternoon when I was walking to the Student Union from class. My school is known as the backpack school (even now that we have a football team). Most students commute to school and the ones who live on campus often go home on the weekends.

Thursday afternoons were the busiest traffic-wise, no classes on Friday (unless you were a freshman who got stuck with the leftovers), everyone in a hurry to leave. To get to the Student Union, one had to cross one of the most heavily-traveled roads on campus.

Me and another guy were standing on the curb waiting for the light to change when suddenly the guy darted out into the street while the light was still green right as a car was coming, forcing the poor driver to slam on his brakes. Seeing the line of cars behind pissy driver, and the light not looking to turn yellow anytime soon, I followed, thinking I was safe in invincible pedestrian’s shadow. WRONG! Jack-ass driver decided to barrel it as soon as invincible pedestrian was safely on the other side. I had to jump back to keep from getting hit. To make things worse, the next TWO cars drove through, keeping me pinned in the middle of the street looking like a freaking idiot.

That was the day I realized just how much I truly hated people.

And I don’t want to make it about race, but…

I still have a grudge toward that boy who nearly lead me to my death.

Another invincible pedestrian incident happened this past Saturday. Every 4th of July, our neighbors who live on the end of the road hold a huge block party (and invite NO ONE in the neighborhood). And these people go all out—DJ spinning old school and new school tracks, bouncy house for the kids, fireworks when the sun goes down. The house is Section 8; how they can even afford all that pizzazz is beyond me. Priorities, I guess. Like jobless deadbeats and $300 Jordans.

But these people have more cars parked in their yard and on the street than the Baptist church next door. Unfortunately, their yard isn’t big enough to hold such a crowd, which easily numbers over one hundred. So they spill out into the street. This includes the grill and the line of people waiting to be served. Yes, they actually cook the hotdogs and hamburgers in the middle of the street.

This isn’t a problem, as long as they move out the way when a car is trying to come through. Of course, rarely do they. They just stand there and stare at you like you’re the one wrong for trying to drive down a road that’s clearly occupied. And heaven forbid another car is coming from the opposite direction. So not only am I trying to dodge jerks who won’t get out the damn street and their half-parked cars not even up on the curb, now I have to figure out how not to side-swipe another car trying to pass while simultaneously avoiding hitting someone’s stupid kid who just rolled over my hood.

Is it so hard to rent a picnic shelter at the damn park!

The funny thing is, despite me being the driver of the moving death vehicle, I’m the one who feels intimidated. Like, if one of them saw me give them the finger, they just might bust my windows, while the rest drag me out to beat me to a bloody pulp.

Mom and I have thought about calling the cops (yeah, we’re those neighbors), but we live close to the part of town where you’re not sure if those are fireworks going off . . . or gunshots. The guys in blue aren’t too eager to venture to our neck of the woods without swarming backup. So we’re forced to deal with our road blocks on our own. I guess the smart thing to do is take another route, but it’s the principle of the matter. I shouldn’t have to drive in circles to get out of my own neighborhood because somebody doesn’t know how to get out the way when a car is coming!

But who am I kidding? I’m just an introvert ranting on her blog that maybe gets a couple views. I wouldn’t do anything. They should consider themselves lucky, because there are a lot of angry people out there who are capable of a lot worse than typing…

Don’t get any ideas.

As I said before, this is only a few of my driving pet peeves. I’m sure I can come up with a whole new list of five before the day ends, but for the sake of brevity (this post is already over 2200 words long), I’ll cut this one short (?) until next time.

What are some things that cause your road rage? Can you go a day without cursing out another driver in your head? Are you one of the people I talked about in this post? Please don’t get offended. I really don’t have the patience to tend to your emotions.

Battling Giant Mutant Cockroaches

I work for a company that sells pesticides to farmers. No, not Monsanto, but a similar devil.

In my four years of working here (unfortunately not full-time, but if this new communications job that just opened doesn’t obnoxiously require 10+ years experience like the last one, maybe I can change that), I’ve come to realize that we apparently do not use our own products on our grounds. Or maybe we do, and the bugs have just mutated and become immune to the chemicals. Because some of the ugliest, ghastliest, fat-ass creepy-crawlies you’d ever want to see rise from the pits.

And last night, one of them followed me home.

Have you ever seen something out the corner of your eye and totally spazzed out? Maybe it was a remote, or a phone, or a hair ball, or a shifting shadow. Whatever it was, it appeared in just the right angle of your eyesight to trick you into thinking it was a bug you weren’t prepared to kill. So you scramble like there’s no tomorrow. Fight or flight kicks in and you shoot off, sent reeling into the air, dangling from the rotating ceiling fan only to realize it was a false alarm.

I didn’t heed that alarm, assuming it was just another deception of the eyes. When I finally peeled away from the computer and looked to the floor, I nearly choked on my tongue trying to scream.

Crawling over the fibers of my carpet was the biggest cockroach I have ever seen in my life.

I won’t gross you out with pictures, just know that it was huge. About the size of my index, middle, and ring fingers combined! The kind of bug you only see after a horrible rain storm, blown in from some far-off, rural third-world country where the people have learned to cohabitate with their monster vermin. Not me. I am 100% a product of the Western world (to my detriment). I do not do bugs. Bugs give me the heebie-jeebies; I freak even when a fly buzzes by my ear. And don’t get me started on spiders! I’m still anxious about the one that escaped my shoe a week ago, and he was a microbe compared to this roach!

And my brother was not home to kill it. Not that he would even bother if he were. My brother is like one of those drunk, potbellied stepfathers, who lie on the couch all day drinking beer from a can. You hesitate to approach them with a request because you never know what kind of mood they’re going to be in. Will they be gentle this time, or lay siege to you with F bombs before even opening their eyes? Knowing my brother, he probably would’ve told me to grow up, get a pair, and sent back to my room to fend for myself.

Sometimes I wonder who’s the older sibling.

So I got my mom outta bed to help me kill the despicable critter. When she saw how big it was, she turned to me and said, “You brought that home from work.” God, I hope so, and I hope it didn’t bring any friends, or heaven forbid, lay any eggs, because I think I would die right there if I woke up in the middle of the night to a blanket of cockroaches crawling from under my bed. Eeeek!

My mom picked up a can of bug spray to gas the sucker out, which only pissed it off, because then it came sprinting towards me, and by the grace of God I had enough sense to pick up my weighed down dirty clothes hamper and slam it right on top of the bugger before it made anymore sudden moves. Then, for good measure, I climbed inside the hamper and stomped around just to make sure it was dead. But you know, cockroaches are resilient; if cats have nine lives, they’ve got 29. And if they can survive nuclear bomb blasts, surely they can survive being crushed by a flimsy plastic wicker basket.

But killing it wasn’t the hard part. The hard part was getting rid of the body. I couldn’t force myself to lift the hamper, too afraid that it had survived and would dart out for a hiding place before either me or my mom could react, or that it had managed to escape before I could deal the blow and was somewhere in my room, unbeknownst to either me or my mom. (Then I’d have to move to Canada, because there was no way I was staying in that house!)

I cowered in the hallway just outside my bedroom door while my mom peeked under the basket to discover the roach was still kicking. She got the fly swatter to finish it off, only to do a fidgety dance around it because she didn’t want to have to touch it. After about 10 minutes of us standing around, squirming in our pajamas, she finally went to the kitchen and got a plastic cup out of the trash can. Using the swatter, she flicked the dying roach into the cup and quickly shoved the cup into a plastic grocery store bag. Then she rushed through house and out the back door and tossed the bag into the outside trashcan, whose contents will be collected today. Sayonara! Good riddance! I’m glad that nightmare is over.

The both of us were still a little squeamish to go to bed too soon, though.

Thankfully no more mutant cockroaches rose from the depths that night, at least not while I was still awake. (Oh, please let that be the end of it!) But now I’m afraid to go to work, afraid Creepy’s vengeful brother will crawl into my bag under my desk to terrorize me when I get home.

To have dominion over all the creepy-crawlies of the earth, I don’t always feel like it. Apparently my company sells a product called Demon. According to Mom, it’s to, “scare the shit outta those roaches.” I wonder if they would let me take a few samples, build up my arsenal for the next attack. Then again, if these chemicals really are mutating the bugs, I’ll just stop doing laundry and stick with my overstuffed dirty clothes hamper as my weapon, because Lord knows I don’t want to wake up to Vincent D’Onofrio’s giant alien bug (think Men in Black) standing over my bed. Eeeeek!

PROVDO Vault via Flickr

#WeekendCoffeeShare: Coughing Fits, Healthy Baking, and Superhero Movies

If we were having coffee, I would tell you no espresso for me today. I need tea with honey and lots and lots of lemon. In fact, I’d tell the barista to slice me up a whole lemon and serve it to me on a saucer. I’ll be sucking the juice from wedges between sips while we chat.

You see, I have a horrible cough. And I can barely speak without erupting. Lean in close because my voice is a bit hoarse, but I’m not contagious, or so I hope. You see, it’s only the cough; nothing else ails me. There’s sniffles in the morning, but that usually clears out by noon. But the cough . . . the cough gets worse as the day progresses, to the point that my throat is raspy, dry, irritated, inflamed, and I feel like a dying old woman exhaling dust.

Medicine doesn’t seem to work. I drank a whole bottle of Robitussin DM, THE cough syrup, in three days with no relief. In fact, I think medicine has made me sicker—how ironic. I’ve resorted to home remedies, sucking on lemons, drinking tea with honey, apple cider vinegar, cayenne pepper, and ginger mixes. The natural remedies have helped more than the drugstore varieties, which to this point have only made my pee smell funny . . . too much information? I know, we’re eating.

I’m a bit of an overreacter. Whenever something goes wrong, I think the worst case scenario. When I first started my period at age ten, I was so excited to be a woman, especially since the girls in my class with boobs teased me for being flat-chested. But when 28 days passed and the little red dribble didn’t return on schedule, I freaked, thought I was pregnant! There I was, ten years old, never even kissed a boy, and I thought I was pregnant.

So of course with this cough, my worrisome mind has suggested lung cancer (though I’ve never smoked a cigarette), pneumonia, tuberculosis (probably should be in quarantine if that’s the case), Ebola (though I haven’t experienced bleeding or vomiting yet), an irritant in my vocal chords (because my cousin had that a few weeks ago). Notice how I still haven’t mentioned the cold or flu, which is probably the most likely cause.

I see you’re getting squeamish. I know I should probably go to the doctor, but with healthcare jacked up, and a family cruise in July, I really don’t have the funds for a visit to a doctor who will probably only prescribe me pills that’ll knock me out cold.

I’ll stick with my natural medicines for now. Maybe take a day off work (although I can’t afford that either) to get some much needed rest. And if I don’t get better then, I promise I will go see a doctor.

One Bowl Hemp Banana Bread by HealthNut Nutrition

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I went to another bake sale at the bowling alley with my granddaddy, and managed not to cough on the sweets. This time, my mom and I decided to make some healthy varieties. Mom made sugar-free brownies and apple oat bars using Splenda sweetener, and I baked banana bread based on this recipe from HealthNut Nutrition. I made a few alterations. First, instead of using almond flour and spelt flour, I used half and half all-purpose and whole wheat. While I did have almond flour at home, you never know these days who’s allergic to nuts, so it’s best not to take the risk. I also substituted unsweetened applesauce for the honey (even though I still added about a tablespoon of honey after I screwed up on the baking soda measurement). Since we were making these treats with the intentions of selling them to our diabetic friends, I wanted to control the amount of sugar, and a fourth cup of honey (although a natural sugar) seemed like a lot. When I think about it, I adjusted this banana bread recipe so much, it’s really nothing like the original. But it tasted damn good, so I just might post the recipe if you ask (and remember to take a picture too!) 😉

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I finally got to see Wonder Woman! It was good, not great like some people have been saying, but the fight scenes were awesome, and I might have cried at the end, because, well, I can get emotional sometimes—shoot, I even cried during Toy Story 3! But I won’t spoil the ending for you. In comparison with the last two DC movies, Suicide Squad and Batman v. Superman, Wonder Woman is definitely a redeeming quality for the DCEU, but I’m still worried about Justice League. That trailer looked like it was all CGI, and so dark! I think they’re trying to put too much into one movie. I know they’re rivals, but DC should definitely take a page out of Marvel’s book. That formula seems to be working. Speaking of Marvel, there’s one Marvel movie I can’t wait to see . . . BLACK PANTHER! Oh-My-Gosh, have you seen the trailer?! All that melanin, all that black beauty and power and sophistication. YASSSS, HUNTY, YASSSSSSSSSS!

Oh, you haven’t seen the trailer yet? For shame! Here’s my phone. Check it out!

Can’t wait for 2018, can you? Yea, me neither.

If we were having coffee, you would noticed I haven’t coughed for several minutes. Maybe the excitement over superhero movies was all I needed, but I won’t jinx it. So I’d tell you it was nice chatting with you again. And no, you cannot watch the Black Panther teaser on repeat, I kind of need my phone. Thank you. I’d take my plate of lemon wedges and dump them in a to-go cup. Say toodaloo for now and scurry out to the door because I’m late for work!

Nobody Blogs on Fridays

Nobody blogs on Fridays. Seriously, I’m not exaggerating here. WordPress is virtually a ghost town on Fridays, and I struggle to find a good posting time.

Throughout the week, I could have hundreds of views . . . well, let me be more realistic . . . tens of views . . . well I can give myself a little credit  . . . twenties of views on my blog, but once Friday hits, I’m lucky if I make into the single digits. This is not even a joke, the weekend (Saturday, and Sunday, holy day of rest!) is more active than Fridays!

What is it about Fridays that make people not want to work? In my office, half the department is gone by 3:00 every Friday afternoon. The only people left are usually me, the other temps, and the employees who have the misfortune of being scheduled for a 4:30 meeting. I never understood why people used Friday as an excuse to slack off work. Yes, it’s almost the weekend, and people are eager to dive into the weekend shenanigans, but the workday for our office still ends at 5:15 PM, people, Monday through Friday.

But let’s get back to blogging, and why my Monday-Wednesday-Friday posting habit is currently in jeopardy. I recently joined the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a place to share, encourage, rant, rave, and connect with other insecure writers like me. The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day, and although last Wednesday I wrote about how I don’t always feel appreciated as a writer in my family, I still wanted to address the optional prompt for the June 7 IWSG blog hop.

Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

Last year, I had a writer’s meltdown. I’m not sure what happened—if had worn myself out, or if I was simply overwhelm with all the projects I was trying to keep up with. Let’s name a few of the things I was doing before my meltdown:

  • The 2016 April A to Z Challenge — The challenge was to write a new post every day (but Sunday) for each letter in the alphabet. I wrote a novella called 26 Husbands—26 Unusual Deaths, a story about a grandmother living in a retirement home who makes some striking revelations to her granddaughter about her past life.
  • Beta reader for a self-published author — Though I was thankful for the opportunity, I wished I hadn’t accepted the task. I didn’t research the author before I committed to being her beta reader, and the novel was nowhere close to publication ready. To be honest, it sounded like something my uncle would’ve written, if he was a writer of fiction. But I was beta reading on my own time; I wasn’t getting paid for it, so I couldn’t edit it the way I wanted too. Personally, I thought the author needed to go back to the drawing board. The story was all over the place; it desperately needed a plot, and the protagonist was flat in the most pitiful way. After much debating with myself, I finally emailed her my comments and my suggestion for her to find a quality editor. A week later, she published the novel as is on Amazon. *sigh*
  • Hosting a flash fiction writing challenge called Moral Mondays — The challenge was to write a 100-word fable based on the moral prompt provided. While this was fun, I just didn’t have the time or energy to facilitate consistently every week.
  • Being a writer — I write short fiction and poetry, and for the pieces I don’t publish on my blog, I submit to magazines. I’m also trying write my debut novel.
  • Being an editor — Yes, I am an editor of an online literary-arts magazine, and I also edit my church’s monthly publication.
  • Day job — On top of trying to supply my growing readership with entertaining content on my blog, establish my brand, and write to be published, I work a 9-5 job. Talk about exhausting!

Eventually, I fizzled out. I couldn’t keep it up anymore. I crashed and burned. I stopped writing altogether. I virtually disappeared. I became a ghost.

After about five months of writing nothing at all, I started this blog to ease myself back into the habit. Starting a new blog is hard work. I can share share share my posts on my other blog until I’m blue in the face (or fingers?), but the likelihood of dedicated followers of my other blog actually clicking the link and coming here was slim. I basically had to start over from scratch. Trying to build a following of people willing to read my insecure ramblings on being single, or being a writer, or just my life in general, which is really quite boring, on a daily basis, especially in a world full of online trollers, is hard.

And so I disappeared for another five months, posting sporadically, coming back for a while and then dropping off again, posting once a month if at all.

Now it’s June, and next Tuesday will mark a year since my first disappearance. Do I feel another disappearance brewing? Not if I can help it! But some days, especially on Fridays, when I fear no one is reading me, I do wonder if it is all worth it…

Have you ever quite on writing? Tell me why, and what brought you back!

Do you blog on Fridays? Prove me wrong about readerless Fridays. Drop a comment! I need a confidence boost that I’m really not talking to myself.

And if you are the type to actually click a link when prompted, check out my Gravatar profile, which has links to all the blogs I manage. The latest posts to my other blogs are also in the sidebar . . . if you never noticed. 😉

Single Lady’s Cookbook: Sunday Meal Prep

[Disclaimer: I am not, nor will I ever be a professional food blogger. I don’t cook with the intention of sharing, so rarely do I make note of measurements for my own inventions—unless baking. I don’t take photos; I don’t have a $500 professional camera, only my cracked android phone. I have no idea what a ring light is, nor do I want to because they probably cost more money that I am willing to spend, and as I said before, I am not a professional photographer, videographer, vlogger, etc. 

But sometimes I cook food, and sometimes it tastes fairly decent, and sometimes I want to tell people about it. So here’s me telling people about it: my Single Lady’s Cookbook.]

This past Sunday was all about meal prep! I’ve hit a plateau in my weight loss journey, hovering around the same number I reached on Thanksgiving of last year.  While it is possible that this is the weight I’m supposed to be at, it was only four years ago that I was another twenty pounds lighter, and that’s the eventual goal. For now, my short-term goal is to lose ten pounds in five weeks, just in time for my cruise to Alaska. And yes, I understand that an Alaska cruise isn’t really the best reward for finally obtaining the coveted bikini bod, since average temperatures for Alaska in mid-July range from mid to upper 50s, but I would prefer not to look like the Michelin man in a winter coat and gloves while on vacation, thank you very much.

So I’m kick starting my weight loss diet 2.0. The main reason why I’ve stalled at this number that once brought me great joy is because I’ve stalled on my eating habits. About a year ago today, I dedicated myself to an all natural, whole foods diet. I was almost vegan, but I still ate chicken and eggs and fish. I stopped buying dairy products, most of my groceries we from the fresh produce aisle, I started making my own plant-based milks for smoothies, I started making more foods from scratch to avoid the added sugars, added preservatives, added God knows what else, that often come in package foods. This also helped me to save money, because I stopped emptying the store shelves of package and frozen dinners, and I also stopped eating out. On top of all that, I went to the gym at least four to five times a week. Those pounds were flying off. Before I even realized, my clothes were hanging off me as if off a coat hanger. I couldn’t believe it! I don’t think I’ve ever lost weight that fast—except maybe when I was a broke college student. And I did it in a healthy, sustainable, balanced way.

In the past several months, I’ve gotten lazy, almost settling for the weight that I’m at. While I’ve thankfully managed not to gain any weight back, I do eventually want to lose those last twenty pounds. That was my original goal, and I won’t change it.

So what has helped me to successfully lose weight and keep it off? Meal prepping.

I work a Monday-Friday, 9:00-5:00 office job, and while we do have a cafeteria, I started packing my own lunch to save money. That’s when I realized how beneficial making meals ahead of time can be for weight loss. For one, it keeps you from mindless snacking, which has always been my problem. I typically pack breakfast (smoothie, peanut butter banana toast, oatmeal, etc.), a mid-morning snack (usually fruit or nuts), lunch (usually soup and salad), and a mid-afternoon snack (again, usually fruit or nuts).

So on Sunday, as part of my meal prep, I made a big pot of chicken noodle soup. That day, I was also reaping a harvest of fresh, fragrant herbs from my herb garden, so I also decided to make homemade spaghetti sauce with the fresh, Italian flavors of basil, thyme, parsley, and marjoram.

But first I had to make the base for my soup.

Homemade Vegetable Stock

Yes, you read that right. I make my own veggie stock. Seriously, once you realize how easy it is to make it at home, you’ll wonder why you ever bought the stuff at the stores.

You’re probably asking why I decided to make veggie stock for a chicken soup. Seems counterproductive right? Why not chicken stock? The short answer: veggie stock is just easier for me, plus if I have any left over, I can use it to season other non-meaty dishes like rice or my spaghetti sauce.

So how does one make homemade vegetable stock? It’s really quite simple. I start by roughly chopping up onions, peppers, carrots, celery, and a couple cloves of garlic (no need to mince them) and tossing them into a large soup pot. I also add one tomato because I like my stock a little sweet. I let these cook for about five minutes or until the delicious flavors start to smell. Then I add what ever vegetable scraps I’ve stored in my freezer. I make a lot of salads, so this is usually cucumber and tomato ends, carrot and onion peels, the leafy stems of celery, plus any other scraps or ends of vegetables I might have cooked that week. I mix everything together in the pot, let the frozen scraps thaw down a little, then add about ten cups of water. This may change depending on how much vegetables you use and how big your pot is. I try not to add too much water, because I want a stock with a robust flavor and deep color. I also don’t want to be left with too much because I only use between six and eight cups for my soups.

As far as seasoning the stock, I add a teaspoon of salt and a tea spoon of whole black peppercorns. Next I toss in my fresh herbs, a few leaves of basil, some parsley sprigs, and some thyme sprigs as well. No need to chop these up; I just throw ’em in whole. Occasionally, I’ll add a bay leaf, but this time I forgot and the soup turned out just fine. So it’s really your choosing what herbs you want to use. I used what I had, but the flavor combinations are endless!

Bring your stock to a boil then let it simmer (covered or uncovered—I typically leave it slightly uncovered) for about an hour and a half to two hours. When it’s done, strain out your vegetables, and you’re left with a flavor packed, richly colored vegetable stock you can use in soups, sauces, whatever you like! If you don’t use it right away, you can keep it in the refrigerator, and try to use it within the week, but there’s always the option of freezing it as well.

Unfortunately, I do not have a picture, because of the above disclaimer, so you only have my word for it, but I promise the next time I make stock, I’ll be sure to snap a picture with my beat up phone to share with you.

By the way, my stock never made it to the refrigerator. I used it all that day. Most of it to make my chicken noodle soup.

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

I did manage to take some pictures! 😉

Chicken noodle soup is probably the easiest soup to make. It’s so simple, yet mouth-watering and so satisfying! I started my soup by sauteing onions, carrots and celery in some olive oil. I didn’t do exact measurements, but if I could guess I would say I used about a quarter of an onion and then one whole carrot and one whole celery rib with about a tablespoon of oil.

While the vegetables were heating up, I cut two freakishly large chicken breasts into strips, seasoned them with salt and pepper, then chopped up some fresh thyme, parsley, and marjoram and tossed them into the chicken to coat it. I let it marinade for a while, then added it to the pot and poured six cups of my stock over it. I cooked it covered over medium heat for about an hour. When the chicken was done, I scooped it out and cut it into smaller pieces, added it back to the pot, along with about half a package of Barilla fettuccine pasta.

I will say that at first it’ll look like you don’t have enough pasta. DO NOT ADD MORE! Half a box might be a little much, but I like to know I’m eating noodles. Besides, who doesn’t live for slurping and flapping noodles in chicken noodle soup? Trust me, when the pasta cooks through, it’ll swell up and fill the pot. I learned this the hard way the first time I made homemade chicken noodle soup. I added about 3/4 of a 16oz bag of extra wide egg noodles and ended up with more noodles than I had soup. I learned my lesson, and I pass it on to you.

I surprised myself with how little I seasoned this soup, which is to say I didn’t season it. All the flavors came from the stock, plus what I put on the chicken, which other than the herbs really wasn’t much. No additional seasonings is always a plus, especially if you’re trying to watch your salt intake. This soup makes between 6 and 8 servings, depending on how large or small your bowl is. I try to get at least five servings out of every batch of soup I make for a five day work week. Although, if the soup for that week is particularly tasty, I may have a little helper at home eating it for me, and it may not last quite to five days. In any case, if I did my math right, you’re looking at between 300-400 mg of salt (of course, this may be slightly more or less depending on your serving size), which is well in range for the heart conscience dieter who wants to eat no more than 1500 mg of salt a day (the recommended amount of 2300 mg is rather high).

I would say that this soup is definitely great for someone trying to maintain a healthy diet, because you know exactly what’s in it. From the ingredients, to the stock base, to the flavors, and if you’re trying to watch your carbs, you can always cut down on the pasta.

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

The picture is a little deceiving; I bought those tomatoes after I made my sauce. 😀

Last but certainly not least, I made a batch of my homemade spaghetti sauce. I’ll try to make this quick since my word count is approaching 2,000, and part of me wonders if you’ve even stuck around this long without the abundance of pictures.

I started my sauce by sauteing about a quarter of an onion and a quarter of a green and red bell pepper in a tablespoon of olive oil. Once the vegetables start to become fragrant, I dumped a whole can of tomato paste into the pot (I think it’s either 6 or 8 oz.) along with a can of no salt added diced tomatoes (around 15 oz.). Sometimes I use fresh tomatoes if they look good in the store. If not, I just pick up a can; sometimes a can is easier.

I poured in the rest of my stock and stirred everything together. I use tomato paste because I like my sauces to be on the thicker side, but not too thick, which is why I thin it out with the liquid stock.  After that simmered a bit and had a nice, not too thick, not too runny, consistency, I added my fresh Italian herbs, basil, parsley, thyme, and marjoram. I also seasoned it with some dried oregano, paprika, crushed red pepper flakes for a little kick, and salt and pepper.

And that’s it! Homemade spaghetti sauce is done! I usually put my sauce in an old Prego jar or mason jar. This batch made about two and a half jar fulls. More than enough! My mom just used one jar last night to make a pan of baked spaghetti. I also use this sauce for chili recipes. Store this in an air-tight jar in the refrigerator, and it’ll last you several weeks.

And that was my Sunday meal prep, guys! I hope you’ll give these “recipes” a try and tell me how it turned out for you. Also, does meal prepping and homemade meals work for your weight loss? What do you do to stay on track? Let me know in the comments. By the way, do you like posts like this? I’ll try to post more single lady recipes that I’ve developed along my weight loss journey. Though, let me reiterate, I am not a food blogger, so the posts and especially the photos (when I remember to take them) won’t always look as pretty and polished. I’ll leave that to the pros, who obviously have more time on their hands!