Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I Got Paid To Lose Weight

One day last May I was cruising the internet and saw an ad about being paid to lose weight.  "Right!", I thought but I clicked anyway.  I ended at at the HealthyWage page and I read it pretty throughly.  They have a few different programs but the one that interested me was the challenge to wager on my weight loss.

At that point, I was at least 75 pounds overweight.  I'd tried lots of different programs and sometimes lost up to 25 pounds in the course of dieting.  But I always got discouraged and quit and eventually regained all the weight - and then some.

So I was frustrated and discouraged and pretty much willing to try anything - except maybe surgery.  The way the HealthWage challenge worked was that I input how much I weighed and how much I wanted to lose in what time frame.   I decided I wanted to lose 50 pounds in 6 months. They came back with a challenge: I would pay $50 a month for the 6 months and if I was successful, they would send me my $300 back PLUS another $588.55.  I don't know how they came up with those numbers but I was willing to give it a shot.  I was 90% sure it was a scam and that I'd never see my $300 but I was 10% hopeful I'd get the money and lose the weight.  And even if I didn't get the money, I decided I was willing to pay $300 for yet another diet program.

So I set out on my 6 month challenge. I had to submit a before picture and a video verification of my weight and was accepted to the program.  I decided I wasn't going to "diet" but rather make my new mantra, "Eat Less, Move More" though I was sad ELMM didn't resonate as a fun acronym. I ate whatever I wanted but I limited my calories to 1200 a day.  I wasn't obsessive about the calories but I looked things up and rounded up.  I did limit some things; rice, pasta, potatoes, bread and wine.  It wasn't easy but I do think the money was an excellent motivator.  Every time someone offered me goodies or whenever I thought about cracking open a bottle of wine, I thought about that money and I kept my willpower.

Coincidently, about that same time, our prevention program sent me a notification that because my BMI was too high, I was being sent a Fitbit Flex for free.  Who could say no to that?  That arrived in June and I started my 10K steps a day and have been pretty consistent with that.  As it turns out, I'm a bit more competitive than I ever knew and as soon as I saw my friends' step totals I ramped up my game to catch up with them.

And it worked.  I started losing weight right away and I kept it up for 5 months.  I lost 55 lbs and I'm still losing but just not as quickly, probably because of the holidays and vacations I've been taking.  I allow myself to enjoy the good stuff when I'm out with friends.

Once I met my goal, I made my claim with HealthyWage.  I submitted all the information they requested and got an email that said I was a winner and "the check was in the mail."  And it was!  It arrived last week and I deposited it.  The bank cleared it!

I'm on maintenance until the year end but then I might enter another challenge in January to take some more pounds off.

Here are my before and after photos that HealthyWage required:

I know not professional and all, but not edited either.  I'm wearing clothes that are 2 sizes smaller than before and I've donated a huge pile of things I can't wear any longer.  And I feel great. Thank you, HealthyWage.  

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Pear and Cranberry Compote

I found the Auntie Em's Cookbook at my local library and thought many of the recipes looked interesting.  I also like it because the author's restaurant, Auntie Em's Kitchen,  is located in my old college stomping grounds, Eagle Rock, California.

I kept the book out for a few weeks and copied a few recipes.  Before taking it back to the library today, I skimmed through it again while I had coffee.  I happen to have some luscious pears just ready to eat and decided I should make the Pear and Cranberry compote with a couple of them.  I only needed to pick up some cranberries from Trader Joe's which happens to be right across the street from my library.  When I got home, I realized I'd turned the book in without copying the recipe. So I did an internet search and found this recipe which seems to be identical to the Auntie Em's version as best I could remember.

I only wanted to use a couple of my pears which weighed just about 1 lb so I decided to use 1/3 of all the other ingredients.  I just guessed on the seasonings.  And I cut back on the sugar using less than 1/4 cup.   It is an easy, simple recipe as long as you have the time to cook the fruit down.  

It is delicious!  And, very, very sweet.  Maybe a little too sweet on its own but good with yogurt. And I'm sure it would be good on oatmeal or a biscuit or used in a cobbler.  My pears are particularly sweet and might not need the sugar at all.  Next time, I'll definitely taste before adding sugar.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Roasted Tomatoes and Spaghetti Squash

I had half of a spaghetti squash left over from my spaghetti squash casserole dinner the other night.  I decided to try and recreate a spaghetti squash dinner my daughter made me some time back that I've always remembered.  She just made it up at the time so I had to do the same.

I sprayed the squash with olive oil and seasoned it with some salt, pepper and Italian seasoning.  I roasted it at 400 degrees for 50 minutes.

When the squash was done, I let it cool while I roasted a pound of sugar plum tomatoes at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

I chopped up a half sweet onion and a half orange pepper and sautéed them in a pan that I had sprayed with some olive oil. I added a couple minced cloves of garlic, some red pepper flakes and then some sliced mushrooms.  I had a little bit of spinach leftover from breakfast so I tossed that in too.

I let it cook a few minutes until the veggies were soft and then tossed in the roasted tomatoes.

I shredded the spaghetti squash with a fork and then topped it with the cooked veggies.  The squash served as a great bowl.

There were enough veggies left over for at least one more half spaghetti squash and then some.

And it was delicious.

UPDATE: Adding some Parmesan only makes it better.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Spaghetti Squash and Tomato Casserole

Yet another Pinterest inspired dinner.  This is a definite keeper. My version has a few changes even though I'm sure the original is also delicious.

I used one half of a spaghetti squash, sprayed it with olive oil, added salt, pepper and some Italian seasoning and then roasted it cut side down for 50 minutes at 400 degrees.  After it cooled, I scraped out the squash and put it in a small casserole pan (7x7).  I chopped up 15 or so grape tomatoes (about 1 Cup) and stirred them in. I seasoned it with some dried basil, Onion Onion*, and Garlic Garlic*.  I topped it with about 2oz of pepper-jack cheese.  Then I baked it for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  It wasn't browned enough so I put it back in for 10 more minutes.

It was totally delicious and I'd make it exactly the same again.  For variety I might add mushrooms and maybe some tomato paste.

Spaghetti squash is tasty and I enjoy it by itself with some butter and salt.  Maybe a little Parmesan.  But it isn't pasta and it will never fool you into thinking it is pasta.  If I really need a pasta fix, I will cook up some spaghetti and add it to the spaghetti squash for that yummy carb taste.  The squash makes a great filler and tastes good with pasta.

*Tastefully Simple seasonings.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad

Another Pinterest find.  Orzo, feta, and cucumber drizzled with olive oil and tossed with parsley, mint, lemon zest, and lemon juice.  It was refreshing and tasty but it needed something.  Maybe just a dash of hot sauce.

I was only making enough to have lunch today and didn't want to have any left overs; just in case I didn't like it.  I used 1/4 C dry pasta which ends up being 1/2 C cooked.  That is 1/6 of what the recipe calls for but I couldn't bring myself to cut everything else by 6.  I used a generous 1/3 of a cucumber and a handful of feta crumbles.  My feta had Mediterranean spices on it.  I drizzled olive oil along with the zest and juice from 1/3 lemon.  Then I sprinkled it with chopped mint and parsley and tossed it all together.  Salt and pepper to taste. Next time I will either chop the mint more or leave it out entirely.  Here is the link to the original recipe so you can adjust as you like.  I think the recipe is pasta heavy and I enjoy the crunch of extra cucumber.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The One About Best Friends

A few months back,  I learned that my mom's best friend had died and I posted about their life long friendship.  Yesterday I heard from my dad that his best friend Dave Burnham recently died.

I only met my mom's friend Helen a few times so didn't know her well and I never met my dad's friend Dave.  My dad mentioned Dave fairly often and therefore I know they attended high school at Loomis together, sailed together and kept in touch with each other over the past 70 some years.  I know that my dad was delighted to get to visit with Dave when they went to a Loomis reunion a few years back.  I wish I had met Dave.  He sounds like a terrific guy.

I am happy each of my parents had a long term, close friend.  That person who has known you almost your entire life and who loves you through all the ups and downs.  Someone you stay in touch no matter how far apart you might live.  Someone who knew your parents and watched you grow and change over the years.  They saw you fall in (and out) of love.  They watch as you get jobs, change jobs and retire from having jobs.  That person you can call when you just need someone to listen to you.  The person who can call you any hour, day or night, and you'll listen too.  The person who will rejoice or commiserate with you.  Someone you consider family.

Friends are wonderful and I know people can be best friends without a lifelong relationship but I'm happy my parents got to experience that extra special friendship.  And I'm glad that both my brother and I are blessed to have our own best friends who have known us since our early teens.  Maybe we learned it from our parents.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Around the Calendar in Connecticut

Among the things at my Aunt Mary's were these slides that originally came from Great-Aunt Margaret, my grandfather's sister. The show of the seasons in Connecticut starts on New Year's and ends just after Christmas. There were two slide trays of pictures along with a written presentation which she gave to groups. I had to cut some of the slides and the show is still a bit long. Many of the pictures were taken in Colchester, at or near the Bunyan family home. Other locations in Connecticut are represented as well.

The woman snapping the photo of the lady slippers is Margaret. The boy in the tree cutting slide is my dad. The woman making doughnuts and biscuits is my great-grandmother. The man at the head of the Thanksgiving table is my grandfather. There are more family members at the Christmas table.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


I found a recipe the other day for Jalapeño and Cheddar Cauliflower Muffins (the name is a bit of a misnomer since there isn't much Jalapeño in the recipe).  Lots of cauliflower, a lot of cheese and a tiny bit of flour, along with eggs, chopped jalapeños and some spices.  They don't rise much but they do come out of the oven cheesy and delicious.  The recipe says to let them sit an hour after cooking to firm up, but I couldn't wait that long.  The next day I decided they aren't so tasty when they are cold so I cut some in half and toasted them back to cheesy goodness using my toaster oven.  

I riced the cauliflower in my food processor.  Just put florets in and pulse until fine. The recipe calls for butter but with all the cheese I didn't see a reason for even more fat so I left it out.  Instead of onion flakes and garlic salt, I used a big tablespoon of Onion, Onion and 1/2 tablespoon of Garlic, Garlic from Tastefully Simple.  The recipe also calls for 1/4 C coconut flour but I just used regular flour because I don't have coconut flour and don't have gluten issues.

A couple of days later, I made the same "batter" and then created some Cauliflower Cheddar Jalapeño bread sticks.  I added a little less cheese and little more jalapeño this time.  I spread it out on my small bar pan and cooked them for about 15 minutes before cutting them into bread sticks and separating them. I continued cooking another 20 minutes or so, until they were nice and brown.  I cut them before completing the cooking because I wanted more edge. They weren't pretty but they were also warm and cheesy.  They also didn't hold up as well when cold so leftovers need to be reheated.

I'll be making both these recipes again.  

Sunday, January 12, 2014

My Mom's Best Friend Died

My mom and Helen were best friends from the time they were 6.  They lived around the corner from each other in Niagara Fall, NY until my mother moved away in her 20s.  Mom moved around a bit, living in New York, then Germany and then New York again.  Finally in 1950, she moved to Los Angeles where she resided (still moving around a lot) until she came to live with me in 1983.  She lived in Nevada until her death in 1998.  Helen moved to Niagara Falls as a child and lived on Niagara Avenue until she died at 94 years old.  Mom married, had two kids, divorced and never remarried.  Helen never married and didn't have children. Mom loved to travel, Helen didn't drive and, as far as I know never traveled much.

They saw each other rarely after 1950 but they wrote lots of letters and they spoke on the phone as often as possible; phone calls were expensive in those days.  I can remember listening to Mom and Helen talking on the phone from the time when I was a young girl.  They laughed a lot and those phone calls always made Mom happy.  Mom got to NY a few times during the years before she stopped flying and I'd guess she actually got to visit with Helen about 4 or 5 times after moving to California.

Everything I know about Helen, I know from Mom's stories about their friendship.  No matter where Mom lived and no matter how life events changed them, Mom and Helen considered each other best friends.  I met Helen once, maybe twice.  I did talk to her a few times on the phone after Mom developed Alzheimer's and had to move to a care facility.  Mom forgot a lot about her own life in her last 3 years of life but she never forgot Helen.  One day, about 6 months before she died, I brought her to my house and I called Helen and then put Mom on the phone.  The two of them chatted for some time.  Later Helen told me she thought Mom sounded great, just like her old self with only a few memory lapses.  I just remember hearing Mom laugh like her old self for the first time in years.  I cherish that memory.

The last time I talked to Helen was the day Mom died in September, 1998.  She was so kind and told me how much she cared for my mom, how smart my mom was and what a good friend she was.  From then on, Helen sent me a Christmas card every year, usually with a kind comment telling me how she missed my mom and how proud mom would be of me and Debra.

A few days ago, I suddenly realized I didn't get a card from Helen this past Christmas. Of course she could have just decided not to send cards but a quick google search revealed to me that Helen died last May.  I will miss Helen's cards and I will be imagining those two best friends having a lovely reunion.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Eggs in Clouds

 I made this Eggs in Clouds recipe I found over on Pinterest.  They were easy to make.  Just separate the eggs, whip the whites until stiff and fold in some cheese, chives and bacon.  I didn't have chives so I used some green onion.  Make mounds on parchment paper and put a dip in the middle.  Cook them about 3 minutes and then add the yolks before cooking them another 3 minutes.

They were pretty tasty, though they weren't exactly what I expected.  With the whipped egg white I expected a little more meringue texture but in reality it was more like an egg white omelet with a runny yolk.  Which I enjoyed more than a regular fried egg over easy.  The yolk is the best part.  But I missed the crispy.  I suppose I should have taken a clue from the name of the recipe: clouds aren't so crispy.  So I think next time I'll add a piece of toast or maybe an English muffin to up the crunch factor.

 The recipe calls for separating the eggs and putting each yolk in its own bowl.  But that seemed kind of wasteful to me so I just kept the yolks in the half shell until I need them.  I also think I used a little too much onion this time.  And while I enjoyed the Parmesan cheese the recipe calls for, I think I might like cheddar better - or in addition.  I'm not sure how well cheddar will fold into the whites so if it doesn't work out, I'll probably put the cheese on the toast.