Trader Joe’s visit proves productive

Two posts in one day, can you believe it?  I had to give this it’s own post because it’s so exciting.  On the way back to the house from the shoe purchase, I stopped by Trader Joe’s.  Kevin and I love Trader Joe’s for a few specific things: agave, quinoa, snacky foods, and cheap tomatoes.   I get there about once a month, but after today I’ll probably go more often.

Trader Joe’s is a great place for Weight Watchers people, if you know what to look for.  Granted, there are some frozen dinners and things that are crazy high in fat or sugar.  But, I found some great things today that I’d like to share with you.  Pardon my iPhone photos!

In this you’ll see:

  • Carrot Ginger soup.  1 cup is 2 points
  • Brown rice cakes.  2 points each
  • Reduced guilt tortilla chips.  14 chips are 3 points
  • Fat free spice black bean dip.  2 tablespoons are 1 point
  • Whole wheat vegan pizza dough.  I didn’t calculate the points, but I had to have this.
  • Roasted seaweed snacks. 1/2 of the package is 1 point
  • White bean and basil hummus.  2 tablespoons are 2 points

I tried the seaweed for a snack while I was grading today.  I’ll eat pretty much anything.  For 99 cents, it was worth it.  Tasted like sushi, kind of fishy, and nicely salted.  It was weird but tasty.

But, wait, there’s more!

  • Reduced guilt fish sticks (shout out to hubbie!).  6 sticks are 6 points.
  • Morning Star vegan grillers. 1 patty is 2 points.  I can’t wait to try these.  They say they taste better than Boca burgers, which I love already.
  • Reduced guilt macaroni and cheese.  One container is 7 points.  I ate this for dinner and it was THE BOMB.  It wasn’t runny at all.  Very cheesy and rich.
  • Egg whites. One serving is one point.  I liked that these were cage free.
  • Chile lime chicken burgers.  One burger is 3 points.

And then, just because…

  • Coffee and Cocoa (for the hubster, the only coffee drinker in the house).  I hope he likes it.  I’m tired of watching him put hot cocoa packets into his coffee when he wants a mocha.
  • California’s Blue Fin Pinot Noir.  For $3.99, I couldn’t pass this up.  May take this up to DC this weekend and drink it Friday and Saturday night!
  • NEW Trader Joe’s margarita mixer.  Yes, I am just DYING to try this out.  Real sugar, no fake stuff in this.  One serving is 45 calories, so methinks I can make a pretty low-cal margarita with this.  Only 12 grams of sugar too.  WIN WIN WIN WIN

Since my foot is still tender, I opted for a non-impact exercise program this morning and did a 45 minute Bar Method session.  Again, grateful for my ballet barre.  Only one activity point earned on this but it felt great to stretch.  It’s basically a mix of yoga, pilates, and strength training.  Major muscle isolation and small movements.

Here’s what I ate today:

Breakfast: egg whites with 2% sharp cheddar cheese (3 points)

Lunch: Apple (no points), quinoa tabouli (7 points) and a peppermint chew (1 point).  Total of 8 points

Dinner: Trader Joe’s reduced guilt mac and cheese (7 points)

Snacks: Trader Joe’s seaweed snacks (1 point), carrots (no points), and a piece of string cheese (1 point)

I still have 9 more points to eat today.  I don’t think I’ll get through them all,unless Kevin wants some dessert when he gets home.

One more day until weigh-in!

Not again….

If you followed my blog last year, you are about to have a deja vu moment.  Almost one year ago to the day, I injured my foot trying to jog around the lake where I live.  It was literally out of commission for three months.  According to the podiatrist, I had to stop all impact cardio until August.   It was a mess and a major reason why the Bikini Quest got derailed.

Well, yesterday Kevin and I decided to walk around the lake.  An hour walk would do me good, I thought.  When I got home, my foot hurt.  Same spot, just not as severe pain.  I literally became a nut case.  Not again….whyyyyyyyyy????

Thankfully, I had the benefit of hindsight and realized that I needed to change the only thing that was the common denominator between both situations.  My shoes.  Yes, that’s the only thing that could be the same.  I vowed that I would remedy the situation the next day (today), since I was going to be off work anyway.

At any rate, yesterday was a good day.  We celebrated Kevin’s brother’s birthday and Kevin and I hung out doing a lot of nothing.  I knew I had to do some grading today, but I enjoyed my day of quasi-rest from schoolwork.

Yesterday’s walk earned me 3 points.

Breakfast: Trader Joe’s bran flakes and 1% milk (5 points)

Lunch: mexican restaurant for birthday celebrations.  Thankfully, it was during lunch, so I ordered the chicken lunch fajitas and ate them without the tortillas (3 points).  I snuck in some baked tortilla chips (3 points) and had salsa , sour cream (1 point) and refried beans (3 points).  Then, I had a VERY small piece of German chocolate cake (3 points).  My grand total for lunch and cake ended up being 13 points.

Dinner: thin crust Greek pizza (12 points) and home made cheese fries (4 points).  16 points total and a 1 point peppermint chew.

Although I went over my daily amount, I had extra points from exercising and my 49 weekly points.  I ended up going through the day with 35 points total.

I barely slept a wink last night, but I am pleased to say that I have a new pair of sneakers today.  Shout out to Running, Etc. in Virginia Beach hilltop!

I didn’t expect to be in the store for so long, however.  I think I tried on over a dozen pairs of sneakers.

Apparently, I have some serious foot issues which cause shoe shopping drama.  Here is the rundown of what these poor people had to deal when trying to fit me…

  1. Two ankle surgeries.  Right ankle was done differently from the left ankle, so I really should be wearing two different types of shoes on each foot.  Oops.
  2. The highest arches ever.
  3. Narrow feet but a wider footbed is necessary to avoid scrunching up my irritated tootsies.
  4. Non-pronating feet require a “neutral” shoe, but because my feet have a tendency to roll, I need a neutral shoe that thinks it’s a stabilizing shoe.  I needed a neutral shoe with a wide heel base.  Huh?

I tried on Brooks, Asics, Sucony, Nike, and New Balance.   I walked to and fro on a catwalk in the store.   Three people with tilted heads analyzed my gait, ankles, arches, and general well-being.   I hopped on a treadmill.  I was told that I needed shoes that felt like slippers.  I told them I just wanted shoes that would get me through a summer at Busch Gardens without cursing the Festhaus gods after a long day of walking.

I ended up liking two different brands: Nike and Asics.  The Nike shoes are air-cushioned and had a great wide foot base with a strong heel.  The Asics were gel-cushioned with a narrower base and a sleeker profile.  The Nike shoes were great, but they are WHITE.  If you know me, this was a major point of stress.  The minute any dirt gets on them, I would go bananas.  The Asics were grey and purple and more stain-friendly.

But, the wider foot base won in the end.  Kevin and I are going to DC this weekend and there’s no way I’m getting myself back in the podiatrist’s office on Monday.

So without further ado, I give you my shoes.  I need to find out if there is a product I can buy to spray these things. (sigh)

Meet My Owl: String is Art

If you aren’t scared of my owl obsession yet, this week’s Meet My Owl may send you over the edge!

I am fascinated by the arts and crafts movement from 1950s-1970s.   I love looking through old magazines and books to see what people would do to save money decorating and to celebrate the seasons.  String art has always caught my attention.  It’s also known as pin art because artists would wind string, thread, or wire around pins to make shapes emerge.  People got pretty crazy with their string art back then.  You could buy kits and make your own art to hang on the wall.

Way back when, someone got that idea.  Someone who loved owls…

This amazing owl art is hanging on the wall of my study at home.  He’s bigger than a standard sheet of paper, maybe 12×14?  The black background is some sort of fabric, which anchors the pins.  They kind of look like little nails.

Can you imagine what it must have been like to create this owl?  Really look at how much string is on that canvas.  It’s nuts!  He gives me inspiration when I feel overwhelmed because it really puts things into perspective.  Feeling down because I don’t feel like reading a chapter of a textbook?  Check out Mr. Owl and suck it up.  Someone really gave 110% to make that creature!

I got him off of Ebay.  Apparently, that’s where owl fanatics go for anything owly vintage.  I found him by accident, I think around the same time that I bought Mr. Owl Door Knocker.  Sadly, he hangs on the wall alone.  I need to find him some friends.

In other news, I’ve been a busy bee today.  I woke up this morning and decided to try a new activity for exercise.  I had bought a ballet barre many years ago but never put it together.  It has been sitting in the garage ever since.  Armed with determination and motivation from the first day of Bikini Quest, I climbed up a ladder and retrieved my barre from the rafters of the garage.  Thankfully, Mr. Hall wasn’t around to yell at me for doing that by myself! 🙂

My barre is metal and comes apart really easily.  I like it because it has two levels to hang onto.  Growing up, my mom placed me and my sister in ballet classes so I enjoy barre work.  It makes me sad that I didn’t get this barre out sooner.
Here’s what it looks like (excuse the cheesy promo pic):

It came with a workout DVD, which has three levels of barre work.  This particular DVD focuses on cardio, which means that the barre work is there but it’s definitely not a “stretching” DVD.  My heartrate was up there from the movement and I definitely broke a sweat.  It also had floor work and ab work, which was a beast.  Here’s the cover of the DVD.  I hate it when people put “hottest workout” on something.  Just because it’s based out of a California studio doesn’t mean it’s “Hollywood’s Hottest Workout”.  Okay, so I just looked on the website, and there are a crapton of celebrities who go to the guy’s classes.  Maybe it is “Hollywood’s Hottest”.  Hmph.

45 minutes of Cardio Barre work earned me another 2 activity points.  I could have earned more, but I was thought I was going to die several times, so I had to take breaks.  I’d love to do this DVD at least once a week.

Eating has been good today too, mostly because Kevin hasn’t been home.  I eat better when I’m alone.

Breakfast: quinoa tabouli (7 points)

Lunch: Healthy Choice Pumpkin Squash Ravioli (8 points) and applesauce (0 points)

Snack: Sargento String Cheese Stick (1 point)

That leaves me with 13 points to eat today, plus the 4 activity points that I haven’t eaten, plus the 49 weekly points I can eat before next Wednesday.

Kevin gets home tonight and we’ll do a date night with a late dinner.  Maybe I’ll blow my points then. 🙂

Day 1 of the full-on Bikini Quest

You’ll notice that I capitalized Bikini Quest, mostly because I feel like it deserves respect.  It’s like another full-time job to think all day long about what you put in your mouth and when and how you’ll exercise.    This is a lifestyle change and one that will certainly be challenging.

I’m keeping a positive attitude about the whole thing.  Sure, my yoga clothes didn’t fit the best today, but that’s okay.  I did 45 minutes of yoga via my TV’s free exercise video channel.   My eating today was pretty good too.

I have 29 points to eat throughout a day on Weight Watchers.  Then, I can eat at my leisure through 49 extra points throughout the week.   I also can “earn” activity points” through exercise, which I can also eat.  I’m trying to not eat my exercise points today.

Here’s what I ate today:

Breakfast: quinoa tabouli (7 points).  I LOVE my quinoa tabouli.  I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Yummy

Lunch: Sunrise Sunset smoothie at Tropical Smoothie Cafe with Mom (7 points, but not for sure) and a Jason’s Deli organic cracker I snuck in my purse (1 point)

Snack before yoga: string cheese stick (1 point) and another quinoa tabouli (7 points).  I told you, I can eat this stuff all day.  The serving size is a little more than a cup, so it’s not a lot.

Dinner: Progresso Light Chicken Vegetable Rotini soup (4 points).  Kevin is out of town, so I’m flying solo for dinner.

Points so far: 27/29.  I have two more left, which I may use to have another cheese stick and a piece of dark chocolate later.  On top of that, I have 2 more activity points I can eat.

Speaking of quinoa, you must try it.  I get mine from Trader Joe’s.  They have both red and plain varieties for the same price.  I think the red is a little more substantial than the white, but maybe it’s my imagination.  Anyway, quinoa is one of those superfoods that doesn’t get enough attention.  Let me tell you about quinoa…

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) originated in South America and was a favorite of the Incas.  They called it the “mother of all grains”.  It has been very popular in older civilizations because its easy to grow and very nutritious.  People make the mistake of thinking it’s a grain.  It’s actually more similar to leafy green vegetables, which makes no sense to me.  It looks just like a grain, but it’s got a crazy high level of protein and amino acids.  Not only is quinoa high in protein, but the protein it supplies is complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids. It also has a lot of the amino acid lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair.   I’ve thought about making it like a hot cereal in the morning, but I need to figure out how to eat it warm and not make such a big batch when I cook.

It’s 7:30 now and I’ve been home since 6pm.  Running around all day with my mom to various appointments left me pretty tired, but I have a lot of work to do tonight.  I have a list, of course, to keep me on track throughout the weekend!

These lists have been a constant in my life throughout my time as a graduate student and into my dissertation.  Now, they have a happy place as sidekick to a faculty member.  I just love checking off little boxes!

I even bought myself some star foil stickers to put on my calendar every time I exercise.  It’s the little things, right?

So what happened to the bikini???

If you followed my blog from last year, I had named it around the idea of getting both a book (the dissertation) and a bikini (a fit body) done at the same time.  Sadly, the book was the only thing that got checked off.

So, here I am again, looking at myself, wondering why I can’t get my act together.  It’s not like I am not motivated.  It’s not like I don’t have the resources I need to be successful.  I just can’t get my body to cooperate!

Now that I’m (ahem) getting older, I know that my body isn’t going to respond like it used to.  I have been told that I have “subclinical” thyroid problems, which never test high enough for treatment.  I’ve been to three different doctors in the past three years trying to get help.  I’ve also been told that I have insulin resistance issues, which causes my body to be hyper-sensitive to anything high glycemic.  I was also advised last year by my gyno to stop taking birth control pills because of my “advancing” age.   Stopping the pills caused me to gain about 20 pounds (all gained since July).  Clearly, these pills were helping my poly-cystic ovarian problem, which is now unmedicated.

Why am I giving you all of this info?  Is it too much?  TMI?  Sorry.

I just want to be honest.  Honest with you all, honest with myself, and honest about what I can do to make this right.

When I weighed myself this morning, I was ashamed to see that I weight 163.4 pounds.  What the hell happened in six months to make this happen???  Sure, it was winter and I wasn’t exercising as much at the end of the dissertation process.  But really, 20 pounds???

I have never in my adult life weighed this much.  When I moved to VA 14 years ago, I weighed no more than 115 pounds.  I know it’s normal to gain weight when you get older, but this is clearly out of control.   I’m also pretty short, 5’4″, so I know that I’m above the ideal weight range for my height.

To remedy this situation, I have decided on the following:

  1. Schedule ANOTHER doctor appointment.  This time, I think I’m actually going to switch gyno’s and go to a female physician.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my gyno, but I spent several hours in his office last year and I am not sure if he really appreciates the hormonal/thyroid/cystic/pill issue.  It may be a situation where I’ll get the same story from another doctor, but at least I can give it a try.  I have an appointment on April 1.
  2. Address my eating habits.  Now, if you know me, I actually eat pretty clean.  But, I have to take into account now the possible re-emergence of insulin resistence issues and change my food choices accordingly.  If there’s nothing to do for me with medication, then I need to change what I’m putting in my mouth and eat low glycemic foods more often.   I made the decision over the weekend to join Weight Watchers, since I know they have changed their program to be less “carb” focused.  I put my goal weight at 130 pounds so we’ll see how it goes.  I have 30 pounds to lose- which shocks and shames me that I’ve either allowed my body to get to this point or I’ve neglected my health somehow, which has resulted in this weight gain.  Either way, it has to stop!
  3. Getting back to exercising regularly.  I have made academics a priority in my life for such a long time.  I never put myself first and my classes kept me so busy that I never have been able to exercise for longer than a couple of months with any regular schedule.  Then, the foot injury last year really curtailed my efforts and I stopped my schedule.  My goal is to have some sort of “mindful movement” every day, whether that be a cardio DVD, lifting weights, or just walking around the lake. 

I’ve come to the conclusion that I have a problem.  It needs to be fixed.  I have to put myself first and make this a priority this year.  My problem partly stems from the fact that I’m so “all or nothing”.  If I slip up one day, I get frustrated with myself and completely derail.

Every Wednesday, I’ll update my weigh-in information to keep accountable.

So here I am, back on the bikini wagon.  I have to get it right this time!

Meet My Owl: stamp of approval

In this week’s Meet My Owl, I’d like to introduce you to my owl stamp.  Yes, my owl obsession even spills over into arts and crafts items!

When I’m grading in my classes, I tend to get a little carried away when students do a really good job.  Rather than using the smiley faces all over the paper,  I decided to “brand” my enthusiasm with an owl stamp.  Cheesy?  Yes.  Slightly disturbing to my students?  Probably.

Nonetheless, I love my owl stamp.  I’ve posted a pic below of a recent assignment feedback for one of my psycho-educational group submissions.  You’ll notice that I’m also trying out “Dr. H” instead of “Dr. Hall”.  Not sure if I like it yet. One thing is for sure though, I like the owl stamp!

Things I love right now

In honor of my love for all things organized, I dedicate this “things I love right now” to the office supply industry.

1) With the upcoming Student Success Center opening this fall, we are taking on some new initiatives in our division.  Of course, this means new ideas and collaborative opportunities.  What a better way to keep track of it all by developing a new filing system???  I love files.  Purple, straight, and nicely labeled.  I’m not done yet, but here’s a peek of my new filing system in progress. 

2)  Post-It notes!!!  If you have been to my office or worked with me on any project, you know my love for the Post-It brand.  I love the square notes, the little tiny notes, the removable tabs you can use with binders to divide sections, the big ones you can stick on the wall like an easel, the ones you put on papers to make an “arrow” at something, even the ones that come out like an accordian.  While I admit my Post-It addiction is severe, I haven’t got to the point where I’m decorating my office walls in them, like this picture below.  Yet.

3) Levenger’s Circa notebook system.  I don’t use these at work, but Levenger’s stuff is super cool and well worth the money.  I used these when I wrote my dissertation.  Most of it, in my opinion, is a little overpriced, but I love the functionality of their products.  Take a look at their website.  It’s an obsessive organizer’s dream.  (swoon)

4) Sharpie pens.  I LOVE THEM.  They are great for writing because they don’t smear and have a nice line.  I think they are acid free too. I don’t have any at work because I’m afraid they’ll disappear, but I have them at home and that’s all I use.

 So there you go.  My current top four office supply swoons.

Keeping it all organized

A lot of people ask me how I manage to keep my busy schedule so organized.   To be honest with you, I’m not really sure.  I’ve just been used to doing fifty different things at once- I don’t know any different!

Admittedly, it is difficult to be a student and work full time.  I don’t really feel like it’s much different being a faculty member and working full time either.  The only difference is that maybe in the future when I teach a class again, I won’t have the same amount of class prep that I’m doing now.  After 16 years of juggling student responsibilities with life responsibilities, I’ve come up with a pretty good method for keeping it “together”, which I will share with you now.

  1. Accepting the fact that I won’t have a large group of friends or a kickin’ social life.  This was pretty easy for me, but I have to admit that I do sometimes feel a little jealous of people who drop everything at a moment’s notice because a group of people are going out to a movie or dinner.
  2. Be willing to turn down fun time with the few friends I have (who understand my crazy life) when there’s stuff to do for class.  This is the hardest thing to do.  I’m pretty good at saying, sorry….again.
  3. Tell as many people as possible about my life.  If everyone knows what I need to do, then I’m more likely to do it.  This also helps when I have to say no to an invitation for fun.
  4. Put monthly calendars up on the wall above my desk.  I have the entire semester mapped out at home, so I can see at a glance what’s due and when.
  5. Make the work area pleasant.  I love my office/library room at home.  I have books all around me and a nice set up.  On the wall above my semester calendars, you’ll find a 17th century painting of “Queen Bess”, a family heirloom from my grandparents.
  6. Keep up with it.  I am a big fan of checklists.  I have them everywhere: at work, in the car, in my purse, on my desk at home.  Here’s what I usually use, which got me through graduate school.  I figure if it worked then, it should work for me now as a faculty member too!

As you can see, I have something I do EVERY day.  That’s the key to my success in doing it all and keeping sane.  I do something every day so I don’t have “marathon” evenings or stay up late.

What I put on my check-off lists are the non-negotiable things which cannot be moved around.  I work my way backwards, usually trying to do things two days before they need to be done.  I’m taking Spring Break off work, so that will be a good time to get ahead.

It helps to have a snazzy check off sheet too.  It’s all in the presentation, right?

Meet My Owl: the one that started it all…

In this week’s Meet My Owl segment, I’d like to introduce you to the owl that started it all.

Yes, in any collector’s stash, there’s that one item that started the madness.  My starter owl was actually a gift from a co-worker.  I didn’t start this madness.  I blame it on someone else.

This little guy was given to me by a colleague when I left Distance Learning to work in University College.  She knew I had just started a doctoral program and said that she thought an owl was an appropriate symbol of my new life journey.

Little did I know that this little paperweight would be the catalyst for an owl obsession…

He sits in my office at work and is a wonderful conversation-starter.  For some reason, when parents come to my office with their student, it’s one of the first things they comment on.   I moved it last year from my desk to a side table and it seems to be the ice breaker now.

And, in case of an emergency, I can use him to break my window.

Teaching 130 people in an online chat…WHAT?!

This semester, I am teaching two classes distance learning.  One is purely televised.  The other is my mammoth class of 130 students.  That one is for Psychoeducational Groups.

With a class like this one, the main objective of the class is to learn about groups.  So what’s the best way to do this?  Make a group!  Obviously, this is the class where students design their own group.

I got the bright idea that instead of lecturing every week for 3 hours at 7pm on a Thursday night, I’d go hybrid.  What that means is that the class lecture is every other week.  On the “off” weeks, I set up Blackboard for my students to work in groups via live chat.   That way, they don’t have to try to do this all via email- keeping in mind these students are from all over the state, as well as Arizona and Washington.

It’s the second “off ” week tonight and it’s been an interesting ride.  The technology issues that plagued the first “off” week are resolved.  Now, folks are getting comfortable with the process and excited about their projects.   It’s great to see them challenged, frustrated, happy, and proud.  All of the happy and stress makes me feel like I’m doing my job.  Challenging and supporting.  That’s me.

At 7pm, I popped online, armed with my water bottle and a full tummy.  Okay, so maybe I sneaked a couple of caramel corn pops before I started.

It’s now almost 9pm and I just finished bouncing between groups.  At ten minute intervals, I go from chat room to chat room.  Fifteen groups allow me to get through only two total times.  It’s crazy, exhausting, and really fun!

Here’s a shot of me “teaching” tonight…

Yeah, so I’m teaching in my flannel jammies.  Don’t judge.  🙂