Saturday, December 26, 2015

Not Reindeer, But We'll Take Them Anyway!

We have had a lot of deer in the last few months visiting our feeders at Old House.  Sometimes they are alone, and sometimes there is a group.  We've seen as many as 5 females together, and as many as 2 males together.  The males and females never show up together.  Here are some clips from Dec. 26 - the girls were here about midnight, and the buck came at 7 am.  I'm not positive, but I think this is the smaller of the 2 bucks we've seen.  I think the other one has 6-7 pts.  

Thanks for visiting - come back again soon!


Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas to Us!

Because it was sunny and in the 50s here on this Christmas Eve, we decided to take a late afternoon walk at our favorite park - Inniswood.  We got a fabulous present when we got to see the first owl that either of us have ever seen in the wild.

There was a man with a very large camera on a tripod focused on something.  As we approached and looked where the camera was pointed, we saw what we thought was a huge owl.  The photographer told us that this one in fact is not that big - his female companion is even bigger.  Turns out they like to follow the creek in that quadrant of the park, and this photographer has been following them for years.  He calls this one Grumpy.

We called this one Beautiful!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night... and happy birdwatching!


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Another Divergence into the Music World

Have you heard of this group?  If you haven't, then you need to get them on your radar.  They are FANTABULOUS!  On Friday night, I attended my 2nd live concert with them.  My first rondezvous with them was about a year ago.  (I can't figure out why I didn't blog about it then!)  Once I saw them, I knew that I HAD to have tickets if they ever came back to Columbus.  The minute I found out they were going to be here again this year, I was on TicketMaster ordering!  

Friday, December 18, 2015 - Palace Theatre - seat T2.  WHOOO HOOO!!!

Ok, let me calm myself here and give some history of the group.  The group was founded in 1996 at Indiana University in Bloomington.  They were popular/famous just locally until about 2006 when a video of one of their most popular songs went viral online.  That led to a contract with Atlantic Records, and then the TV appearances and national tour began, followed by an international tour and even more appearances.  Now, the quantity of their music online is HUGE.  If you search them on YouTube (they have their own channel), you will find just about every version of every song they've ever done.  There are also videos available on their website. They make videos that are separate from their concerts, but they also encourage audience members to record their concerts and post them online, so that is the source of many videos.  

So, here's the thing.  The group sings a cappella - no instruments or sound effects or anything other than what comes out of their mouths into microphones.  10 guys (the individuals have varied somewhat over the years) - made up of 4 tenors, 3 baritones, 2 basses and a vocal percussionist. 

Enough talking from me.  Let's listen to some GREAT Music!  

Here is the 1998 version of The 12 Day of Christmas which is really what started this ball rolling:

Next is the video version of a song I heard for the first time on Friday.  It is a great example of one of the many songs that they have created or arranged for their own performance, and it is also another great example of their use of humor:

Here is one of my faves from last year's concert  (the concert version) - the Broadway Medley:

So far, everything I've shared here has been humorous, but they also do just "straight" amazing singing without the humor.  Here is a song from Friday night that I recorded on my phone - Take Me To Church:

  This is one of my favorites of theirs - All About That Bass

I'm going to leave you with one last upload from my phone.  This intro is done by Seggie Isho - he's my FAVE!  ;)  - you will recognize the song....

Ok - I'm not leaving yet - I've got more photos to share - Here is this year's tour photo:

OK - Now I'm done!  Hope you enjoyed this fun romp with me. 
Go see them!  I promise you won't be disappointed!  

Bye for now!


Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Odyssey Continues - Plateaus

Today is Saturday, December 19, 2015.  As of this morning, I was at -25 lbs.  I first saw this weight on Tuesday, Nov. 17.  About 2 weeks later, I was down to -27 (Nov. 28).  The last time I saw -27 was Dec. 4.  Since then, I've been bouncing around between -26 and -24.

I have hit a plateau.  Weight Loss Plateaus are very common.  Everyone who is trying to lose a lot of weight hits them.  It is usually because the metabolism of your body changes as it gets used to the new pattern of reduced calorie eating.  Also, as body mass changes, the amount of calories needed to sustain that body mass changes.

At the Dec. 9 Weight Watchers meeting, we had a sub leader.  Her name is Liz.  She has lost 103 pounds.  She did it in a little over 3 years when she was in her 30s.  She has maintained this weight loss for 27 years.  I talked with her about the dreaded plateau.  She said she went through 3 of them, and the longest was 5 months.  I talked with her as well as my regular leader Janet about ways to break the plateau.  They both recommended changing things up by eating different things, and moving in different ways.

Tonight, out of curiosity, I did some online research into the subject, and I found 2 very good articles.  One is by professional fitness expert Jillian Michaels. It's called, "Break Through Any Weight Loss Plateau" .  She recommends being sure you are eating fewer calories than are being burned and changing up the work out routine.  Beyond that, it could be a hormone imbalance.

The next article I read was by fitness trainer Marc Perry who has his own program online called Built Lean.  His article is called, "Weight Loss Plateau: Tips on How to Break It."  Most of the points he makes are similar to Jillians, he just goes into more detail.  He also mentions something called Calorie Cycling.  This is a concept that I've heard about before, which makes sense to me.  This is the idea that you have a high calorie day periodically in order to keep the body from getting too used to the low calorie routine.  Example: 1 high day, followed by 3 low days - repeat that pattern.  Individuals have to find what works for them.  This is something I've seriously thought about trying.  At one time, I thought about eating whatever I wanted on weekends, and then being very careful and good the other 5 days.  I kind of did that at times, but I wasn't tracking everything I ate, so I'm sure I wasn't very accurate or consistent.

As far as I can tell, Weight Watchers' official recommendation is to stay-the-course and eventually the plateau will break itself.  One thing I thought about was just going off WW for the holidays, and then starting back up in January, to see if that makes a difference.  I certainly don't want to gain though, and that is what scares me about going off of the point tracking.   Of course, I can still track points, but just keep each day to a higher point count unless I see the scale going up.

I have a doc appt next week so I'm going to ask her about it and see what she recommends.  As an interesting side note to all of this, for about a month (mid-Nov to mid-Dec) I was having a strange sensation in my upper left abdomen.  It was a muscle tightness that came and went.  At first I thought it was stress/tension, but it kept happening after I felt the stress I was under should have been lifted.  There was no pattern to it as far as time of day or connection to eating. Each time it happens, it only lasts a minute or 2 at most.   I talked with a friend who has lost about 60 lbs, and he said he had pains when he was losing.  I mentioned this to my doc and she said that gall-stones can result from rapid weight loss (since I lost the first 16 lbs in 5 weeks), and she is having me get an abdominal ultra-sound.  Of couse, as soon as she recommended this, the muscle tightness pretty much stopped happening.  She also did an EKG to rule out heart-related issues.  So far, that looks good, but she's also having me get a stress test, just in case.

I knew when I started this that the road would not be straight, and the weight-loss would not be consistent.  My optimistic objective of -10/month is obviously not very realistic.  WW recommends 1-2 lbs/ week.  I would be happy with losing 8 lbs a month or even 4 right now!  Actually, right now I'll be happy to make it through the holidays without gaining!

Stay tuned.  I'll let you know what the doc says next week.  If any of you have plateau-breaking suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Thanks for sticking with me!


Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Odyssey Continues - Milestones

The December 2 WW meeting was interesting.  I took off just about everything I could take off before getting on the scales - including jewelry and glasses, and I weighed EXACTLY the same as I had 2 weeks before, so....  with only WW Leader Janet and one other lady in the room, I whipped off my shirt.  That was enough to get me down by .2 lbs which got me to my official -25 mark in my meeting book.  As of that day, I was -25 at p.m. meeting and -27 at morning home weigh-in.  As of today, I am up a pound in the morning, so -26.

Clearly I am stuck.  I've been in this 2 pound range for weeks now.  I think I need to start moving more.  I am still trying to eat all my daily points.  I think I am going to start walking the building at school.  I will wear my pedometer and see how many steps I can log.  If I can get to 10,000/day, that
"should" help.  We'll see.  Maybe that will help me break this stall.

Stay tuned....


Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Odyssey Continues - Brief Update

Just a quick note to say I was able to log 1 more pound of loss today on the website, so officially I am at -27 now.  There was no WW meeting the day before Thanksgiving, so a lot rests on the Dec. 2 meeting now.  My last meeting weigh-in on 11/18 was -24.2.

As far as I can tell, the status of the website and the app remain the same.  I can log my food, but I have to put each thing in individually as my meals and recipes are still messed up. I can easily do it on my desktop at home, but I'm going to miss the app at school.

That's all - Bye for now.


Friday, November 27, 2015

The Odyssey Continues - Adaptations and Frustrations

Hello and Happy Thanksgiving!

As anyone who has ever tried to lose weight will tell you, the winter holidays present challenges to the dieter that are not present for the rest of the year.  Our culture has rich traditions of big food at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it is hard to escape those traditions if you have to interact in society for family, work or social reasons.

For me, things are a little easier in that regard because Hubs and I now live a fairly simple lifestyle at holidays.  Since neither of us have family in the area, we usually have quiet holidays which we plan ourselves.  We don't have to cook for others, and we don't have to eat with others and be influenced by their needs and desires for holiday fare.

This year, we had several conversations about what we could have for Thanksgiving that would be special.  Both of us like pumpkin pie, and Hubs makes a WICKED-GOOD pie with my grandmother's crust recipe.  After putting his recipe into my Weight Watchers Recipe Builder, we found that 1/8 pie slice would be 11 pts.  That's very high.  That's 1/3 of my daily allotment of points.  Then we discussed other options.  I did some online research about lower calorie options, and we decided that it is the crust that is the problem.  The canned pie filling itself is relatively low.  Grandma's pie dough recipe calls for 2/3 cup of vegetable shortening.  She used to use Crisco.  Remember the Crisco of the '60s?  O-M-G !  Both of my grandmothers and my mother used Crisco A LOT!  I think my mother fried something in Crisco probably 2-3 times a week.  If you've seen the movie The Help, you will remember Minnie's instructions to Celia about frying chicken in Crisco.  In fact, it does make fried-chicken-to-die-for, but it was also highly unhealthy!  Crisco has since been reformulated, but any vegetable shortening is still very high in WW points.  Even though Hubs now uses Canola oil, it's still high.   (Side-note:  I blame 2 staples of the '60s for at least some of my excess bulk - Crisco and High Fructose Corn Syrup, which also used to be in just about everything I ate.  Additionally, my mother put sugar on strawberries!  We NEVER ate them in their natural state, and every vegetable we ever ate had to be cooked in butter - green beans, carrots, peas, everything!)  Anyway, I digress....

Back to the pumpkin pie dilemma.  What to do?  Hubs suggested maybe we should not have pie at all, but I was determined to have it because I know that if I start denying myself the things I like, then the whole attitude thing is going to kick in and hurt my chances for success.  WE MUST HAVE PIE!

Next I looked into alternative pie crusts.  I settled on 2 options:  Keebler reduced fat graham cracker crust, and shortbread crust.  I brought home one of each.  For each of them, a 1/8 pie slice would be 3 pts for the crust.  With the filling being 4 pts, that brings the total for 1/8 slice down to 7 pts.  That is more manageable than 11 pts.  So, that's what we went with.  I chose shortbread for this time, and we can do the graham cracker for the next hazard-laden holiday in December.

So much for the "adaptations" portion of this entry.  Now let's get to the "frustrations".

Technology.  Oh how we love it....... when it works.  Oh how dependent we've become on it!   If you will remember it was the WW App for my smart phone that really got me started on this Odyssey.  It was also the straw that led me to get my iPhone 6.  Well, let me tell you about frustrations.....  WW decided that Thanksgiving week was the best time to launch its "new & improved" website.  It also decided that the day before Thankgiving was the day to "update" its App.  Seriously.  Thankgiving week.  When all of us who have become totally dependent on the WW technology for our very survivial and success in weight-loss are facing some of the biggest food challenges of the year!  Of course, there are MAJOR bugs in both the website and the App because we all know that "new & improved" websites NEVER work right when they are launched.  (Remember the Obama-Care website-launch debacle?)

WW has a "give feedback" button at the top of the new website.  I can't even count how many feedback messages I gave in the first few days of using the new website.  I'm guessing I was not alone because even though the feedback button is still there, when you try to send a message on it, an error message pops up.  I'm guessing they got so much feedback they had to disable the button.  Also, when I tried to go to the Tech Help Chat thingy, they gave a link to a page that basically says they know there are problems and they are working to correct them,  and they apologized for the inconvenience.  The good news is they get it.  The bad news is I have NO confidence in their ability to fix the problems.  All of the meals I set up are wrong, and my recipes are also incomplete.  I have no idea if I can trust the other "favorites" that I set up in my account.  It also randomly reduced me from 30 pts a day to 29 even though it was in the middle of a week with no recorded changes in my weight.  Trust.  Trust is essential.  I am heart-broken that I can't trust WW any more.  I have hope that they will make things right, but when?  Soon?  I have been doing this long enough, that I know the pts for most of my common foods, and I can look things up in a book, but ...........  I have no idea how long I will be able to tolerate doing this without the convenience of the App.  How long before my attitude says "F--- it" and I give up?  My motivation HAS to carry me over this hump!

As far as progress goes, I have been stuck at -26 lbs for 12 days.  I'm not gaining, but right now it doesn't look like I'm going to make -30 by Nov. 30.  4 days of 7pt pie slices, not withstanding, I am determined to hang on.  (Lucky for me, dark meat turkey is only 1 pt per oz.!)

Ok folks!  That's it for the Thanksgiving edition of Amy's Odyssey.  Stay tuned for tech updates and that other holiday......

Thanks for stopping by!


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Odyssey Continues - Food Details

Good Morning,

Let me start by sharing my morning weigh-in of -26 lbs.  Yesterday it was -24.  I've bypassed -25 somehow.  I can live with that!

Weigh-ins are interesting.  I now weigh myself every morning - naked - after going to the bathroom - and before showering.  That gives me the lowest possible weight for the day.  I've also learned that my digital scale can vary.  I have weighed myself, gone out to the bedroom for a minute and come back, weighed myself again and gotten a different number.  Sometimes the 2nd time is higher and sometimes it's lower.  If I don't like the first number I see, I try again in a minute or two and go with the best reading.  Almost always, I weigh anywhere from 2-4 lbs more later in the day (late afternoon or evening) - even after going to the bathroom and being naked.  That's why the 4:30 -5:00 weigh-in at the WW meeting is frustrating, although I do think the scale there is lower than my home scale anyway.

Before I weighed myself daily, I never realized how much weight fluctuates normally.  Up-Down-Up-Down.  Daily.  Hourly.  It usually defies logic.

Today, I want to focus on the specifics of what I'm actually eating, because that defies logic, too.  For most of my life, I've heard "Move More + Eat Less = Lose Weight."  Well, I'm here to tell you, I am living proof that that's not always true.  For a number of years, I took Water Aerobics classes off and on.  I would go 1-2 times a week for 10-12 weeks at a time.  In doing that I NEVER lost a pound.  Not 1.  Last spring, I worked out at the Rec Center with a personal trainer - lifting weights, using the gym machines, "walking or jogging" on a Nu-step machine.  Never lost a pound.  Not 1.  How is it possible that I was moving more than in my usual fairly sedentary life, and didn't lose a pound?  I still don't get it, but it was sooooo discouraging because I would be doing things that I was told were good for me, and it wasn't showing on the scale.  Of course, I realize that doesn't mean it wasn't still good for me, but if the goal is to lose weight....  You get my point.  For me, the "move more" thing has never equated with losing weight.

That leaves "eat less".  Now, I used to think that eating "healthy" food was all that was necessary.  It turns out that the definition of "healthy" varies from one source to another. If the idea of "healthy" is living on salads with light dressing and fruit, then one probably isn't going to lose weight.  At least I'm not.   According to WW, healthy food is basically any food "within moderation".  As I've talked about before, I am losing more weight faster by eating all the points that WW has assigned to me for a day.  I started at 33 points.  I went down to 32 after 10 pounds, 31 after 15 pounds, and now I am at 30.

Let's talk about a typical day's worth of Amy's points.  Breakfast usually consists of a bowl of Cherrios.  A "bowl" for me is 1/2 cup with 1/2 cup of 2% milk.  If I have fruit in the house, I include that - a banana or strawberries in the bowl, or a separate cup of melon or pineapple.  In my WW Tracker, I have a Meal set up which includes these items, so I can easily add my "cereal w/fruit" each morning from my Favorites list.  That combo is 3 points.  Sometimes I add 1 piece of toast with margarine and jelly - that is 4 pts.  I usually only add the toast on weekends because many times on weekends, I have breakfast late and don't eat much lunch.  (Hubby only eats 2 meals a day - ever.  So if I am trying to coordinate with him, that affects my choices.)

Lunch on a school day often consists of a sandwich - 1 slice of bread, usually Pepperidge Farm Swirl Rye/Pumpernickle, a little mayo, 3 oz of deli turkey.  All of that is 4 pts.  A low moisture, part skim cheese stick is 2 pts.  Chobani Fruit on the Bottom Yogurt is 4 pts.  If I add a WW chocolate candy treat, that is 2 pts.  Lunch:  12 pts.

Subtotal breakfast 3 +lunch 12 = 15 pts (half my day's allotment)

Dinner:  Salmon - 5oz = 6 pts, 1/4 cup coucous= 1 pt, green beans = 0, 2 Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits = 9, WW ice cream bar = 3.  Total for dinner = 19.  I could have just had 1 biscuit, but I love them and so I ate 2 and now I don't feel deprived.

Day total = 34 - which takes 4 pts from my extra 49 weekly points.

What I'm learning is the importance of portion control and choices.  Before I was on WW, I used to eat Kashi Cinnamon Harvest cereal.  A serving is defined at 28 biscuits.  Add 2/3 c of 2% milk to that, and you have a breakfast of 7 points.  That's a lot of points to invest in breakfast, and it's not really that much more satisfying than the 1/2 c of Cherrios.

Well, that's it for today.  Thanks for joining me on this life-changing Odyssey!

Come back again soon and don't forget to feed the fish.  Their food is 1 pt per click! They get 30!


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Odyssey Continues - I've Got Stickers!!!

Today was WW Meeting day, and I met my goal!  I broke -20 and got my 4th 5lb sticker!

It is really amazing how much these little victories motivate me!  It turns out Leader Janet was right.  I have eaten all my daily points for the last week, and it worked - or something worked.  Officially according to my Wednesday Meeting Book, I've lost 21.2.  According to my Saturday morning weigh-in for the website, I'm at -23.  I have been either -21, -22, or -23 every morning since Nov. 1.  I think I am well on my way to -30 by Dec. 1 !!  

It is interesting how much of a difference the time of day makes!  Today's weigh-in was at 5:15.  Believe me, I took off everything I could take off in public before I got on that scale, even my earrings!  

Ok  - that's it for today.  I just wanted to share my stickers!  Yay Me!


Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Odyssey Continues - It's a Learning Process

Hello Friends,

In my last entry I talked about how excited I was going to be to get my 4th -5lb star.  Well, I am still waiting!  OMG!  I had Janet (my WW Leader) weigh me twice on Wednesday, and I was still .2 away from -20.  "Are you kidding me,"  I declared!!!  I told her I'd been working extra hard since Saturday's weigh in to be SURE I was at or beyond -20.  I said I hadn't even been eating my daily points.  She said, "WHAT?"  She then told me that I HAVE to eat my daily points if I want to keep losing steadily.  How can that be, I asked. She said, "trust me on this.  If you want to keep losing you HAVE to eat your daily points!"  She told me I don't have to eat my extra 49 weekly pts.


The more I think about it, the more it makes sense.  The point total is calculated for my size to insure a steady 2lb/wk loss.  If I eat less than that, I can be sending my body into a starvation mindset where it holds on to fat because it thinks it's in danger of starvation.  It's not even that I was eating all that much less in total quantity, but I was consciously eating more 0 point foods - fruits and veggies. For example,  Instead of something worth more points, I had a big salad with only 4 pts of dressing, a dish of fruit at lunch instead of a 4 pt yogurt container, or slices of zuchini as an after school snack instead of a 2 pt cheese stick.

Ok, so I promised Janet that I would TRY to eat my daily points.  I've been doing so since Wed's meeting, and guess what?  Today I saw my first glimpse of -23 !!!! I swear it's magic!

Today I bought a food scale.  That will help keep me from having to estimate on things like deli turkey.   And so the learning process continues....

Stay tuned and thanks for reading!


Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Odyssey Continues - A New Experience

My loyal readers will probably remember my comments about wanting/needing to buy new clothes.  Today was the day!  As I was driving home, I realized that today is the first day in my life when I walked into a clothing store, asked for smaller sizes than I'd been wearing, tried them on, and BOUGHT THEM!  What an amazing feeling!  I'm so used to dreading the shopping experience, and I'm so used to being disappointed in the results, that today's success was a whole new experience for me!

My retired "fat jeans" are size 26wp.  I also have a pair of jeans that I've been wearing that are 24.  Today, I explained to the clerk that I wanted to try size 22.  She found 3 pairs for me to try on.  Every single one of them fit!  SERIOUSLY!  No Baggie Butts!  Then I took them out to the register and said, "I'd also like these same styles in size 20."  The other clerk was very confused, but my clerk understood.  I had to explain to the other clerk that I wanted a total of 6 pairs of jeans.  I brought home 3 pairs of jeans that I can wear now, and I have 3 pairs that I can wear when the 22s are too big!  

I also bought 2 tops in 1x.  I've been in 2x tops for DECADES!  It was so much fun to try on smaller sizes and have them FIT!!! YAY!  Talk about motivation!  WOW!

As far as progress goes...  I dropped the first 16 very quickly and easily.  The next 4 pounds have been teasing me for 2 weeks!  My first glimpse of -20 was Oct. 18.  Since then I've seen that number only very sparingly.  Today, I actually had my first glimpse of -21.  WOW was I excited!  :)  I am determined that when I go to the WW meeting on Wed, I will be able to get my 4th  -5 Star!  The month of November is going to be -20 to -30.  Just you watch and see!

Thanks for hanging in here with me!  I'll see you next time, and don't forget to feed the fish!


Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Odyssey Continues - It's All About the Food!

Let’s talk about FOOD, shall we?  After all, that’s what this whole Weight-Watchers-Diet thing is all about, right?  

For those of you who are not familiar with how Weight Watchers works, let me give you some basics.  There are 2 ways to join:  Online for about $20/month, or At Weekly Meetings for significantly more $.  (The group I am in is through my school.  It was $156 for one session of about 4 months, and we are getting a $50 rebate from our insurance company if we attend almost all of the weekly sessions.)  It was news to me that it was possible to join online and not attend meetings. I learned that at my first meeting.  

For your membership fee you are getting support in several different ways:  access to the online food tracker (more about that later), access to recipes and information about healthy eating.  Online there is a “helpline” where you can chat with someone at WW and ask questions.  The website also has a blog section where members can share their experiences.  It was partly because of reading someone else’s blog that I decided to start blogging here about my experience as well.  At meetings, you are getting the support of the WW Leader who has a mini-lesson plan for each meeting.  (Our last meeting was all about protein and its important role in healthy eating.)  You also get the support and comradery of the other members.  My group is mostly made up of people who have been members previously, so they have good experiences to share.  I am one of the few newbies in the group.  I am trying to pick their brains every chance I get.  My group leader has lost more than 70 pounds herself, and her history of having been over-weight since about 3rd grade matches mine, so we’ve been able to connect on that.  Other members of the group used to be thin and gained after having babies or as they’ve approached middle age.  It was interesting to me to hear that different experience.  

Before I joined, I used to think this was going to be about deprivation.  It’s not.  I want to make that very clear.  I can eat ANYTHING I want to eat.  It’s largely about portion control and about understanding what foods are healthy.  For someone who is addicted to food, as I am, it’s important to get the concept of “eating to live” rather than “living to eat”.  My group leader likes to say, “No one ever got fat from eating too many fruits and vegetables!”  I love that line!  When was the last time you pigged-out on a bag of apples?  Does this mean I can never eat cookies or cake? Of course not!  I just have to be aware of how much I’m eating and strike a balance between those sweet treats and the foods I really need to live on.  

To me, the food tracker is the most essential piece of the Weight Watchers puzzle.  Consistent and correct use of the food tracker is what is leading my successful weight loss. The food tracker is based on each food being given a point value.  It’s now called Points Plus because it isn’t just about calories anymore.  They take into consideration the content of food: fat, carbs, fiber and protein, before assigning it a point value.   Weight Watchers has invested a lot of time building a bank of information behind its food tracker that makes it an incredibly versatile and useful tool.  There are many many brand name items included.  For example, if Hubs and I decide we want to have dinner at Panera Bread, I can search the tracker by the Brand Name items and know exactly how much each thing is worth.  Most national chain restaurants are listed in the tracker bank.  Also, there is a Tracker App for smart phones which includes a bar-code scanner.  I can be at the grocery trying to decide between two items, and I can scan the bar-codes and compare the points for each item. (This is great for things like salad dressing.)  If I try to scan something that is a local brand and isn’t in the tracker by name, it allows me to input the item by telling it what fat, carbs, fiber and protein content is on the label.  

Another great feature of the Food Tracker is the Recipe Builder feature.  I have built a collection of recipes that Hubs and I use regularly by putting in all the ingredients and listing how many servings we get out of that recipe - then it gives me a point value per serving. I can tag things as “favorites” making them easy to find as I put in my daily meals.  

On the website, when I set up my account, I was asked some basic facts - gender, age, weight - and then I was asked to set a weight loss goal.  It then gave me a Points Plus Number.  That is the number of points I should have per day in order to reach my goal.  Additionally, there is a second number for the week.  If I go over my daily allotment, it pulls points from my weekly amount.  This is very handy if you go to a party or have a special day when you kind of blow through your daily allotment.  WW encourages tracker users to use all their points - both daily and weekly - to maintain a steady weight-loss of about 2 pounds a week.  One reason I am averaging 3 pounds a week is because I never use all my weekly points.  I almost always use my daily points, and sometimes I go over by a point or two.  When I started, I got 33 points a day.  After I lost 10 pounds, it went down to 32 points a day and now it is down to 31 points.  My weekly allotment is 49, and that hasn’t changed.

The website also keeps track of all your daily info and then it shows fancy graphs and charts so you can analyze your progress.  If you want to slow or speed up your progress you can adjust your own point totals.  This really could not be any easier.  I’ve done the whole calorie-counting, weighing-food thing, and I can’t do that.  THIS I can do.  Easily.  

Another important point to remember here is that ALL fresh fruit and veggies are FREE - no points!  NONE!  The banana I put on my cereal is free.  The grapes and cherry tomatoes that I snack on are free.  The apple I eat at lunch is free.  AND Weight Watchers sells some great snack foods that have the point values right on the box.  They have fabulous ice cream bars that are as good as any other brand of ice cream - 3 points.  Did you know that Progresso Soup now puts the WW points ON the can?  A cup of soup is 2 points - the whole can is 4.  AMAZING!  

So, there you have it.  The basics of how this whole program works.  I never go to bed feeling hungry or deprived.  I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.  I can’t even imagine ever NOT doing this until I get to my goal weight.  By then, my lifestyle change will be so ingrained in me that I really don’t think it will be hard to maintain.  As a total food addict with a life-long sense of entitlement, I can tell you this works!  The “high” I get from seeing my success is better than any high I’ve ever felt from eating any one of the many foods I love.  It feels good to finally feel proud of myself instead of going to bed every night thinking about how “bad” I was for over-eating, AGAIN.  

Ok - that’s the speech for today.  Go have yourself a nice juicy pear and think about how good it feels to eat something healthy!  


Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Odyssey Continues - Let The Changes Begin

First, let me give an update on progress.  As of Wednesday’s official weigh-in at the meeting, I had lost 18.2 pounds.  As of today’s weigh-in for the website, it was 19.  Last Sunday, I had a brief glimpse of 20 pounds, but that number has been elusive this week.  My goal for this week is to hit 20 pounds for the Wednesday Meeting weigh-in.  Then I will get my 4th 5-pound star for my little book!  

I felt very good after the last meeting because some of the other ladies there said my progress is an inspiration to them.  One of them asked me how I am losing so steadily, and I said I am tracking every morsel of food.  She said, “Oh, I can’t do that.”  WHAT?  Why are you in Weight Watchers if you aren’t going to track your food?  Isn’t that a huge part of what this is all about?  That conversation left me very confused.  

One of the big questions I had when I started my weight loss odyssey was when I would first start to notice real changes as a result of my progress.  At last week’s meeting, I asked some of the veteran members when they had to start buying new clothes.  One of the members, who has lost 75 pounds since January, said that it took her awhile to buy new clothes because a lot of what she had been wearing was baggy anyway.  I think this is a very common thing for women.  When we are wearing the larger sizes, we typically buy clothes that are stretchy with elastic waists because we are trying to hide our bulk and also to be comfortable.  Tight clothes just aren’t comfortable.  I think a general rule is that one size typically represents about 10 pounds in the lower sizes and about 20 pounds in the higher sizes.  I think it is safe to say that someone who wears a size 20 is about 200 pounds, 24 is about 240 pounds, etc…  That isn’t exact, and it may vary depending on height and proportions of the person or make and style of clothing, but it is an estimate that seems to make sense based on what I’ve worn over the years.  

During the last week, I realized that I am ready for some new “good” jeans.  The jeans I’ve been wearing since the spring are size 26 petite (short), and they are now so big that I keep having to hitch them up as I walk.  I could wear a belt, but I don’t have any belts because I hate them.  I really don’t know how men can stand to wear belts all the time!  If they are tight enough when you are standing to hold your pants up, they are too tight when you sit down.  That’s never worked for me!  My plan is to go to the store tomorrow and buy a new pair of jeans that fit now, and another pair in a size smaller to have when I get to the next size change.  I am going to save these large jeans for my “Look how big my fat-jeans were” photograph!  I hope to get to do one of those pictures where I stand with both of my legs in one leg of the fat jeans and hold the waist way out to show how much space there is.  

Other than my jeans being too big, I really haven’t noticed much difference yet.  I think my feet look a little thinner.  Hubby says he thinks my butt is smaller, but I don’t know if I trust him to be totally honest.  We walked up to the park today and I think I felt like I had more stamina than I used to have.  I didn’t get as tired and wasn’t desperate to sit down when I got home as I was the last time we walked to the park.  Also, I noticed my hips and knees didn’t hurt as much as they have in the past.  

That’s about it for my current status.  Thanks for reading and come back again soon!


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Odyssey Continues - with Attitude!

Have you ever thought of yourself as having “an attitude”?  You know, one of those attitudes that puts a nasty, sarcastic tone in your voice?  I like to think I don’t get “attitude” with others, although Hubs tells me I do.  The attitude that I’m more concerned about right now is the attitude that I have with myself.  I think it is one of the reasons I’ve been over-weight since I was about 8.  

Let me give you some background.  I apologize now if this entry ends up being TMI.  My birth weight was only 5 lbs,3 oz., and there was a note on my birth chart where the doc said to watch me closely because I was very small.  (I think my birth-mother was a smoker which may account for low birth-weight.)  Once I started eating however, I always had a very healthy appetite.  With the exception of my newborn photos, I appear very chubby in every baby picture ever taken of me.  

I matured physically very quickly, and by the time I was in school, I was the tallest in my class.  I can remember that in grades 2-3-4-5 and even 6, we had class photos taken and we were lined up by height.  I was always the tallest in my class.  By the time I was 11, I was taller and heavier than my mother.  I was over 5’ tall in 6th grade.  After that, I stopped getting taller and everyone else kept going.  I am 5’ 2” now.  Even after I was no longer the tallest, I was always the heaviest.  When I was in high school, there was only 1 person I knew who was heavier than I was.  I’m not sure when I topped 200#, but I think it was early in college.  I can remember going to a doctor and being put on a diet of 2000 calories a day.  I did that for a summer and lost 17 pounds which took me down to 200. Once I went back to college, there was no way I was going to weigh my food and count calories, so I gave that up. 

Here’s where the attitude thing comes in.  One thing I remember very clearly about myself in my early years was that I always felt a strong sense of entitlement when it came to food.  It was one of those “I can eat what I want to and you can’t stop me.” sort of things.  I know I always felt like I was constantly being told by others what to do, and this was one thing that I wasn’t going to let anyone else control - damn it!  If I want to eat an entire sleeve of girl scout cookies in one sitting, I can because I deserve them!  Eventually, when my mother started trying to tell me not to eat so much, I started sneaking food.  That will teach her!  

So, it was about control and about entitlement.  As I entered my adult years, I used food to reward myself for accomplishments.  I deserved a treat because I did well at something.  Maybe I got an A in a grad class paper or maybe I was complimented at school for something I did well.  I know this makes no logical sense, but I used food to make myself feel better when I felt bad about the way I looked.  I would complain about being fat, and not being able to wear clothes I wanted to wear, and then I would drown my sorrows in crap food - chips, cookies, Mountain Dew.  I can’t even tell you how much Mountain Dew I drank in college!  

When I look back on it, I realize I was a food addict.  Being a food addict is worse than other addictions because you can’t just stop eating cold-turkey like you can stop drinking or smoking or doing drugs.  You still have to eat, and you have to be around food all the time because it is everywhere in our culture.  Then if you don’t limit your intake of the food that surrounds you, you are made to feel like a failure because you don’t have any will-power.  So, then you eat because you feel like a failure!  

The other attitude thing I had going on was the one where I said even though I am over-weight, I’m still “healthy” because I can move the way I want and need to move.  I played tennis, I played golf.  I was agile and could get down on the floor and back up again with no problems.  Really until I turned 40, I didn’t  have any specific physical ailments that I could blame on being over-weight.  I didn’t feel inhibited by my weight = therefore, I was healthy, so it was ok.

Once I hit my 40s the physical problems started.  There was the sleep-apnea, then the need for thyroid meds, and then came the cholesterol and blood pressure medicine.  Next came the type 2 Diabetes, and then of course, the knee replacement surgery.  Most recently, I’ve been diagnosed with degenerative spondylolisthesis - a condition of the mis-alignment of the lower vertebra of the spine.  Even though it is common and not necessarily weight related, it is certainly exacerbated by carrying excessive weight.  

And so with this Odyssey comes the need for a new attitude.  I remember once I was watching a show on TV where someone was being profiled who had lost a lot of weight. One thing she said really made an impression on me.  She said she realized she was digging her own grave with a fork.  For some reason that stuck with me.  I realized this summer when my back issue started that I have to stop living to eat and start eating to live.  I need to stop poisoning my own body.  It is self-harm just as much as taking drugs or cutting or any other form of physical self-abuse.  So I have to stop thinking about how much food I deserve and start thinking about how much I deserve to be healthy.  I deserve more than abusing myself with food just because I can.  I’ve proven that I can control my over-eating, now I have to prove that I can also control my correct eating.

At last week’s Weight Watchers meeting, one of the other ladies in the group said that she feels she has very little control over much of her life, but she knows that what she eats is the one thing she CAN control.  That’s true.  We can control what we put in our mouths, and no one else can do it for us.  

I know that for me, this tracking of food on the WW App is working.  I know that I really CAN control my eating and do it in healthy ways.  Sometimes the old entitlement attitude starts to creep in, but I’ve managed to keep it at bay.  I just keep telling myself “I deserve to be as healthy as I can be!”  

Thanks for letting me share my Odyssey with you.  I guarantee I have more to say on the topic, so stay tuned!


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Crowing About Music


I need to take a few minutes to crow about the wonders of living in Westerville where I get to attend phenomenal music events!  Today I attended a performance of the Westerville Symphony Orchestra with guest Gavin George performing.

Allow me to introduce you to Gavin:
Hear him at the piano by clicking here.

This video was done when he was 11.  He is now 12.  This was one of 3 pieces he played tonight for encores as the audience begged him to continue!

Here he is at age 7 with a fun variation.

Gavin is from Newark, Ohio and has now played all over the world!  At tonight's event, Gavin played Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 1 in F sharp minor, op. 1.  I honestly don't know how it is physically possible for anyone to move their fingers as fast as Gavin did. WOW he was amazing!!!

If I could figure out how to upload the videos from my phone to this page, I would do that for you.  Come back later and see if I figured it out!

In the meantime, search youtube and let Gavin amaze you!

Happy Viewing!


The Odyssey Begins

An odyssey is defined as a long, difficult journey filled with adventures.  A person who is on an odyssey is usually greatly changed by the experience.  My odyssey began on September 2, 2015. That's the day I attended my first Weight Watchers meeting.  

Regular readers here will remember that I recently stepped up my tech game and invested in an iPhone. That decision was the result of several events, but the last straw fell at my first WW meeting when I learned about the WW Food Tracker App. I knew that if this weight loss program was going to work for me I was going to have to have this convenience. When I left the first meeting on that Wednesday afternoon, I went straight to my local AT&T store and ordered my phone. I picked it up on Saturday the fifth, and the WW App was the very first thing I downloaded.

I have hesitated for 5 weeks to blog about this newest adventure in my life for several reasons.  One - I hear the voice of Hubs who is fond of saying "Don't tell people what you are going to do; tell them what you've done."  Two - I have begun so many, many weight loss programs in my life which have had minimal, if any, success, so I really didn't want to crow about how wonderful this is only to have to say "never mind" later.  Three - there was also some appeal in the idea of surprising people with the results when they see me looking different.  However, I have finally decided that I want to share this with anyone who will take the time to read about my odyssey because I am a teacher. Much as was the case with documenting my knee surgery, I want to document this process for myself, and I also want people to be able to learn from my experience.

Let me start with today's progress, and then I will do some back-tracking in future entries.  Saturday is my weigh-in day for the website. As of yesterday I have lost 16 pounds in 5 weeks.  If we do the math, we see that is more than 3 pounds per week.  Believe it or not, that is more than WW recommends. They advise 2 lbs per week.  I know that I will hit a plateau at some point, so I'm not worried about losing too fast.  

I also "officially" weigh in at my Wednesday meetings, and that gets recorded in my book.  These two weigh-ins don't always match, but they are usually close enough.

And so Amy’s Odyssey of Lifestyle Change has begun.  I know enough about this whole weight-loss thing to know that there are going to be speed bumps on this road, and some of them will be totally unexpected.  I also know this journey is a marathon and not a sprint (gosh do those statements combined with “the odyssey” constitute a triple-mixed metaphor?)  What I can tell you for sure is that so far I’ve not felt hungry or deprived, and right now I don’t forsee any reason that I would want to bail out of this system.  I can honestly see myself living with WW for the rest of my life.  Stay tuned for more of my philosophical thoughts about all of this in the days ahead.

Thanks for reading.  Please come back again soon!


P.S. Don’t forget to feed the fish.  They don't need to lose weight!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Little Paris Bookshop - Book Review

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George is enchanting, engaging and a "book reading experience".  Have you ever read a book that you were enjoying so much you didn't want it to end?  For me, this is on the short list of those books.  These are the books I long for, and when I rarely find one, I try to savor it.  

The main character here is Jean Perdu, and he is a literary apothecary.  He maintains a bookstore on a barge that is floating on the Seine in Paris from which he dispenses books like medicine for the ailments of his customers.  As Monsieur Perdu travels through the pages of this book, he is keeping a little notebook of titles to add to his list of prescriptions, and this list is included at the end of the book.  

Early in the story we learn that M. Perdu is 50, and for the past 21 years he has been dealing with the loss of the love of his life.  He had been involved with Manon, a married woman who lived in the south of France with her husband.  She would travel to Paris periodically, and Jean was her lover there.  For 5 years they had maintained an intense love affair.  This came to an abrupt end when she left him a letter in a sealed envelope.  He was so hurt and angry, and so sure he knew what was in the letter, that he put it in the drawer of a table and refused to read it.  

21 years later, he was asked to give the table to a new neighbor in his apartment building.  He did so - with the letter in the drawer.  The neighbor read the letter and told him he HAD to read it.  Doing so totally upended his world. I'm not going to spoil your reading pleasure by telling you what was in the letter, but I will tell you that its contents drives him through the rest of the book.  He is so unsettled that he feels he must go on a quest to Manon's home in southern France, so with just a change of clothing he casts his book barge into the river and proceeds to sail south.  The rest of the book is about the people and places he encounters on his journey.  

One thing I loved about this story was that it wasn't predictable.  I know what I wanted to happen, but the ending took me by surprise.  The writing style of this author is engaging and enchanting.  The descriptions of the places he visits throughout France did much to feed my Francophile tendencies.   I only wish a detailed map had been supplied with the book so I could have traced his course.  (Thank goodness for Google Maps!) Another addition at the end of the book is a collections of French recipes for food that is mentioned in the story.  Lavender ice cream?  Yes - it really exists!  

This book is so popular that it has its own  Facebook page !

Ok - that's it for this review.  I'm going to close this now and open up Google Maps so I can explore France....  Thanks for visiting, and come back again soon!


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Enjoy the Gladiolus

I enjoy just about every flower there is, but there are some that stand out as favorites.  Roses are high on the list.  Zinnias are up there too (especially State Fair variety).  Sunflowers, Hollyhocks, Hyacinths, Dahlias -  well the list is fairly long.  Today I'm going to focus on one of my faves that isn't seen a whole lot these days - the Gladiolus.

These lovely tall stocks are in the iris family and grow from bulbs.  They usually start sprouting in June, and they pour all their energy into long green leaves for a couple of months. Then finally, in late August, they put forth their 1 stalk of flower blossoms.  The blooms don't last long, but they are glorious for the week or two they are here.  This year I documented the blooming progress of my 1 lone Glad.  There are actually about 12 flowers on a stalk, but they come out in succession from bottom to top.


Ok - I'll admit it.  The last photo here is from 2015 because I missed photographing the last couple of days of this year's bloom, but it counts because it's the same plant!  

Last year I planted several bulbs and about 3 or 4 came up.  This year, I just had the one left-over from last year's planting.  I was thrilled that any came up at all!  

I'm going to work on finding a good source of strong bulbs so I can plant more for next year.  It's a long wait to get to the grand finale, but I think it's worth it!

Thanks for visiting!  Come back again soon!


Friday, September 11, 2015

Quickie Techie Update


I did it!  I went "smart"!  I got myself an iPhone 6.   I didn't stop there though!  I also got myself an Apple Air 2.  I was already edging slowly toward this decision before I went to the Weight Watchers meeting.  That was the last straw.  E-tools.  Yep.  If Weight Watchers is going to work for me, I HAVE to have e-tools.  I'm not looking up points in a book and keeping track on paper.  I know me, and I know I just won't do it for more than about 3 days.  Their e-tools app has a bar-code scanner to use at the grocery.  That was it - that pushed me over the edge.  I stopped at my AT&T store on the way home from the WW meeting.  Seriously!  I did!  That was last Wednesday.  On Saturday, I got my devices.  I then spent all weekend figuring them out - but that's another entry for another day.

No dinosaurs here!  (T-Rex still has trouble typing with 2 thumbs tho!)

Have you downloaded any apps lately?  Go for it!
Then come back and see me!


Saturday, August 29, 2015

There's A Dinosaur In The Room

Yesterday, I had a great experience.  I hosted Book Club for my English Department at school.  This is a new adventure for our group, and as I proposed it, we won’t all read the same book.  Instead we will each share what we’ve been reading.  6 colleagues attended yesterday, and we had a great time.  We ate, we drank, we gossiped and complained, but we actually talked about books – quite a lot! 

At some point, while we were talking, I realized everyone in the room – except me – was looking at their “smart” cell phone.  1 person actually ordered a book that was being discussed.  Another “liked” an author on Facebook.  Still another added titles to her Want-to-Read list on Goodreads.  Another looked up poems by a poet that was being discussed.  All the while I sat with my “dumb” phone in my pocket.  At some point it vibrated, but I didn’t look at it.  (Later, I saw that I’d gotten a text message from the only other colleague I know who doesn’t have a smart phone.) 

Silly me.  I had brought out a stack of notecards and pens and suggested that we each do a notecard for our book so that people who come to future meetings could look through what we discussed and ask questions if they were curious about something….  The notecards never left their stack on the counter.  Someone jokingly suggested we could set up a Google Doc to share – a direct reference to all the “Google Doc’ing” that is going on at school.  I flipped this person off. 

My school district and my building principal have been pushing technology upgrades for years.  I held on to a paper gradebook for a couple of years after we moved to online grade systems - and I kept records in both simultaneously.  My reasoning was that if the online system went down, I still had an accurate record of grades.  I don’t remember any of the various systems ever going down to the point where I had to rely on my trusty old-fashioned paper gradebook.  After a couple of years of duplicate record keeping, I gave up the paper gradebook.  I’ve never regretted it, nor have I been tempted to pick one up again. More and more, we are asked to bring our electronic devices to meetings so we can access documents that are being discussed – all this to cut down on paper hand-outs.  A noble cause to be sure.  We are saving paper, but I have to wonder what we are losing…

I remember vividly a teacher who was retiring about the time I left my previous school.  This was in the late ‘90s when technology was gearing up in schools.  We were just starting to be asked to use online gradebooks, and we were having all sorts of professional development meetings about technology, and she was resisting mightily.  I believe that was one of the things that pushed her to decide to retire when she did.  She was finding it increasingly difficult to navigate the demands of technology.  Now, I am the one who goes to building level meetings and complains about the push toward technology being excessive. 

Hubs tells me I’ve done amazingly well with all the tech stuff.  I guess I have.  I have my students share Google Docs with me rather than handing in “paper” assignments, and they use technology for other assignments in school.  PowerPoint has become my best friend - gone are the ol' overhead projector transparencies.  My financial world has also gone largely paperless.  Gone are the days when I sit at my desk and pay my bills with old-fashioned checks put into an envelope that gets a stamp on it.  But… I still don’t have a smart phone. 

Today, after crying over a retired friend’s blog entry about the sadness of not having a first day of school this year, I decided that I am never going to retire, and I started doing research into buying a smart phone.  One friend has an iPhone 6 that she loves.  Another has an iPhone 5c that she loves.  I’m looking at a Galaxy Note 5 because it has a stylus – see I just HAVE to have a pen in my hand even to write on my electronic device!  I have decided that if I want to keep up with my ever-changing professional world, then I need to drink the electronic Kool-Aid.  If any of you have recommendations for the best device for me, please let me know! 

…but just so you know… I’m STILL not getting on FACEBOOK, so don’t even GO there!
:) Amy

P. S.  I'd love to share the book titles that were discussed yesterday, but I didn't write them down, and now I don't remember them!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Sometimes Nature is Too Cool for Words

Is it a Hummingbird?  Is it a bee?  Is it something else?

Yes, it's something else! Even though we call it a birdbee, it's a Snowberry Clearwing Moth.

Enjoy this video from Inniswood Metro Park:

Thanks for visiting!  Come back again soon!


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Orphan Train - Book Review

Orphan Train - a novel - by Christina Baker Kline,  2 Thumbs way up for this one - and I would add more thumbs if I had them!

This book is historical fiction based on real orphan trains and the people who rode them.  Between 1854 and 1929, trains transported children who were orphaned or abandoned and homeless from East Coast cities to towns in the Midwest for adoption.  More than 200,000 children took these train rides.  They would start in one town, and any children who were not chosen by families there would get back on the train and go to the next town.  Everyone's ultimate hope was that all the children would be chosen at a train stop and would not have to go back to an orphanage in the East.

Before I read this book, I had never heard of Orphan Trains.  Now I know there is a whole network of information about them and the lives of these children.  Likewise, the author Christina Kline explained in the end notes of the book that she had not known about Orphan Trains either, but once she started learning about them, she was driven to write this book.

The book weaves two stories together.  One is the story of a young immigrant girl from Ireland who is put on a train bound ultimately for Minnesota after having lost many of her family members in a fire in their tenament building in New York City in the 1920s.   Story two is about a modern teenager living in Maine who has been shuffled between homes in the Foster Care system.  The two stories are brought together when Molly, the girl from Maine, goes to the home of 91-year-old Vivian to do community service.  We learn that Vivian was the Irish girl on the train.

The book is very well-written, and I found it fascinating.  Also in the end notes, the author mentions many of the references she used for research.  Now I'm anxious to do some research myself.  Just in putting together this blog entry, I did a Google Image search for "orphan train" and found many many photos that are intriguing!  Here is an example of one of many photos of wanted posters that were used as the trains went west.

I know that I need to find a way to use this book at school.  Get one for yourself and let me know what YOU think!

Thanks for reading! See you again soon!