Good Decisions, Feeling Good!

I have been working this summer to make more decisions that are good for me in any way I can. I’m working on better study and research habits. But today, I focused on myself.

I’ve been trying to be more conscious about my fluids intake today. I’m not consistently good about drinking enough for my body. It’s amazing what a difference a glass of water can make. So far I’m up to around 12oz of iced green tea that I cold brewed overnight, and I’m about halfway through my third 12 oz glass of water. For the day! I’ve been allowing myself to snack according to little ideas rather than get a glass of water and then see if I’m still hungry. Not a great habit for me. It’s really helping today. No snacks yet. I may have a small salad later, but maybe not.

Yesterday I decided to pull down a “cookbook” my cousins-in-law gave me years ago, How to Cook Without a Book. While it does contain recipes, they’re more variations on the theme of the chapter. The idea of the book is to gain skills and techniques so you can cook up meals without needing to reach for a recipe. Since I tend to cook without recipes, this works really well for me. Both last night and tonight, I used her pasta and veggie technique. So delicious and simple and light and refreshing.

But, before I get into details, I made a decision before that so I could make my delicious dinner. I needed to get a few groceries and realized that I’d be just heading around the corner to Kroger for everything. As I headed out the front door, I reached for my car key. And I paused. I wanted to take a walk or jog today. I feel like I’ve been too sedentary lately. I put my key back and decided to walk up and back. It was so worth it. It was nice to get up and move. It was relaxing. It was nice to get away from the TV for a bit. And it saved me gas and frustrations of driving when it’s not far at all. Unless I am getting something that needs to get home asap, I’m just going to walk up when I need it. There’s no point in driving. At least while the weather is nice.

Hopefully I’m getting started on some better habits for myself. Now to get back to the academic stuff!

Back to Aldi!

Since around 3rd or 4th grade, my Mom did all the grocery shopping for the family (of four) at Aldi. It’s part of why I love reusable bags and self-checkout lanes. She would actually get most of the groceries put in the crate and bags as they got rung up so we barely had to pack anything before heading out. But that was back when they rang everything up by hand. They’re too fast for that now.

The Aldi logo

Anyway. I had been trying to incorporate Aldi in our grocery routine, but things just kept not happening. They don’t have everything that we need – for one reason or another – so we would end up at other stores, and slowly Aldi would fall out of rotation. Or we would head out to go grocery shopping after they closed for the day and we couldn’t go.

Now, I’m working Aldi back into my grocery habit. Which is taking a little bit of work. We have a pretty nice Kroger across the way, which is really convenient. Well, convenient for time, not for my wallet. Also, now that my hubby is at work later and I’m actually home every day, I get to eat whatever I want for dinner four days a week! I get to have broccoli or green beans or almost any other green vegetable that you can cook! I can have chicken as much as I want! I can eat what I want when I’m hungry for it!

But I still have the same grocery budget and the same space in fridge, freezer, and pantry for my food. Just this week, I’ve made two trips to Aldi to pick up a few things to help me get through the week and I’ve spent less than $15 total. I’ve bought a whole chicken, a dozen eggs – in a paper carton, not Styrofoam!!!! – a carton of organic milk, a pack of three zucchini, pasta sauce, and a box of rotini. If I had gone anywhere else, I would have definitely spent over $15 for all of that. Even better, some of that will be carried over into next week, reducing my cost!

If you’re married to specific brands, you’re not going to be able to get everything at Aldi. But, it is a great place to get your staples taken care of, and possibly some other things, reducing your overall grocery cost. Also, Aldi has been working to have more and more organic and healthy options at their lower costs, making it even easier to stay on budget!

Hooked on a new tea

So, as you all know, I love my Adagio teas. But, while I was in NYC, I was introduced to Celestial Seasonings’ Red Zinger tea. I was hooked at the first cup. There was something about the combination of ingredients in this herbal tea that created such an intriguing taste. It’s bold, deep, rich, and I can’t get enough!

When I got back home, I started checking the shelves for it so I could make it at home. Despite being a signature tea of the brand, no one around me carried it. I was so frustrated. So when I was in Columbus on Friday, I decided to search on their site to see where it was sold there. Thankfully Whole Foods, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, and Raisin Rack all carry it. After I was done with my grocery shopping, I made a beeline for the nearest Whole Foods and got two boxes – it was on sale – allowing me to keep one box at home and take one to work.

Best decision ever! I haven’t wanted to have any of the raspberry tea I had been habitually drinking before the trip. It’s getting me to drink more fluids that have no sugar in them. And I’m pretty sure the ingredients are agreeing with my body because I’m feeling so good! I’m on my second cup at work today. It’s so easy to make and drink. I think I found another habit I can keep going and not give up on!

Loving my B.O.G.s!

Like I said earlier, I am working on changing habits of mine for the better. One thing I realized was how out of whack my eating habits were for my body. I’ve been more conscious about my portions, and I’ve been feeling so much better! I’ve been eating less but not feeling hungry. And if I am, I listen to it and try to figure out the best way to satisfy that hunger. I’m also not beating myself up over any time I overeat. It doesn’t help anything. Like, last week I picked up a box of chocolate-filled Pączki. I had never seen chocolate Pączki before! I had two of them that day. I really shouldn’t have, but I did. So what!

One other thing that I knew I needed to change was to get more greens in my diet again. At first, I just picked up a package of salad from the store. It worked, but, as usual, I was having to pick out the good pieces and throw out the ones that were going bad each time I wanted a salad. I am getting so tired of it. So I decided to make a change.

On Friday, I was down in Columbus to pick up my comics and I decided to do some grocery shopping. I took advantage of the wonderful variety of fresh greens available to me to build a salad mixture that doesn’t get stuffed into a plastic container. I bought green leaf lettuce, kale, and a container of baby arugula. I also picked up some avocados and fresh limes and lemons. Up until now, I had relied on the little plastic limes and lemons to squeeze that juice on my salads. But I decided to try fresh lemon and I was in love. It’s so much sweeter and is just so delicious. I’m not going back to those plastic limes and lemons anymore!

Once I got home, I got out my salad spinner, and put in about half the pack of arugula and saved the rest for next week. I chopped up the lettuce and added most of it in. Then I chopped up about half of the kale and finalized my mix. It is delicious! So much better than anything I could have bought. That is the basis of my B.O.G.s.

B.O.G. is my acronym for Bowl Of Greens. I’ll take two handfuls of my mix, squeeze 1/4 of a lemon over it, and drizzle some EVOO on top. That’s it. I used to think I needed more, especially cheese, on top, but I don’t!

Sometimes I do mix it up to make a meal out of it. I’ll take one handful of the mix, drizzle on a little EVOO, add a chopped up avocado – yes, an entire avocado – squeeze half a lime on top, and add a little pink salt. It’s delicious! That gives me a great balance and enough food to keep me full until dinner. And, it travels really well! I made one today, the first day back for the semester, and I am good. I haven’t had any cravings for a snack, but I know I’ll be ready for some dinner before class tonight. And, it’s bringing a whole new set of nutrients into my regular diet. I’ve only been enjoying my B.O.G.s for about a week, but I’m already feeling so much better. I think this is a habit I can keep going! I definitely won’t give up!

Don’t give up

I have always had trouble forming habits that help me out. I have created study schedules and rarely follow them. I buy healthy foods and end up eating highly processed flour and sugar. But I don’t give up. I do look at what didn’t work the last time and try something different – so it’s not insanity. But I don’t give up.

Last week I was in NYC for BroadwayCon. I was presenting my autoethnography about being a Hamilton fan. The con was Friday-Sunday. I stayed until Tuesday so I could do some exploration around NYC. That’s not the point of this post, though.

While I was there, I stayed with family. Family who welcomed me into their home, but didn’t fuss over me. They continued to live their lives around me and I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible. It was wonderful! They also have habits that I have been striving toward having for a while now.

For example: I did not see a single paper towel in their entire place. It was all cloth. It made me realize that it is really easy to live without paper towels. I’ve always been worried about staining towels and washcloths. I’ve been worried that using them will ruin them. I don’t know why. But spending almost a week without a roll of paper towels hanging around helped me to realize that it’s okay to use cloth towels, to let the washcloths get stained. That’s why they’re there! So, on my way home Thursday night, I decided to stop at Big Lots! and get some more. We have kitchen towels, but not many, and some of them aren’t great at actually getting things dry. I made sure the towels I picked up are 100% cotton so they’ll actually absorb things. I even picked up more washcloths to make sure we’d have plenty. I don’t think I’ve reached for a paper towel since then. Considering I was using them to dry my hands at every turn, this is a good thing. I’m not giving up.

Another habit I picked up while I was there was eating better. The way I am built, I know that I am never going to be considered “skinny.” And I’m fine with that. I just want to be happy with the person I see in the mirror. My hubby loves me no matter what I look like, which is wonderful. But I want to loose weight. I want to be slimmer and healthier in my own opinion. I know I have a family history of diabetes linked to weight. I want to avoid that. While I was in NYC, I was definitely walking more than usual, but I was also eating in ways that made me feel better. It’s not that I had banned myself from eating certain things. I had banana bread multiple times from Starbucks, along with various teas. I had Snickerdoodles and chocolate chip cookies at their place. It was more about portions than contents. I was eating enough to satisfy my hunger, not eating until I couldn’t eat anymore. Or eating so there wouldn’t be leftovers.

I noticed it during the trip, but it’s come into sharper relief when I got home. So many things are not meant for only two people to eat. And I’m not the greatest about eating leftovers. Also, when the two people prefer different portion sizes, it leads to leftovers. I’m still working on how to deal with that. But when it comes to my lunches, when I’m the only one eating, I’m working on it. I’m not giving up.

One of the most important things I learned while I was gone is that I have not been drinking enough, especially water. I’ve been drinking Gold Peak raspberry tea cut 1:1 with their unsweetened tea for a bit now. Usually, I have been drinking it to get that bit of sweet and keep me from drinking Pepsi. But, while I was gone, I didn’t have it with me. And I didn’t miss it. I was drinking water or Red Zinger or tea from Starbucks. It made me realize that I don’t need it. I don’t need that source of sugar – and it is sugar, not HFCS. It helped me remember to make use of the many, many teas I have at home for those times when I don’t want just a glass of water. I even took a travel mug in to the office so I would drink more tea there. I’m not giving up.

It looks like I’ve found my mantra for this year: “Don’t give up.” I’m not. Even the smallest changes build up to the big ones. Be patient. Something will work, even if it’s not the whole thing.

Knitting Geek: Mark’s Scarf

December 24th, 9pm Eastern Standard Time. From here on in I shoot without a script. See if anything comes of it, instead of my old shit.

I have been a fan of Rent since I was introduced to it in 1997, my freshman year of high school. I have been trying to make a Mark scarf for a few years now. Last year I started to try to make one for BroadwayCon, but when I ended up not going, I ditched it. Well, I finally got it done, in time for BroadwayCon! And here’s the pattern:

Mark’s Scarf

Supplies:
Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Sport: Midnight Heather (MH) – 3 skeins, White (W) – 2 skeins
US5 straight needles

Pattern:
CO 50 MH
Knit in stockinette stitch for 28 rows.
Switch to W and continue for 28 rows.
Continue until you reach a total of 17 stripes.
Knit half a stripe of W (14 rows).
BO W.

Notes: Obviously, adjust for size. You don’t want the scarf to hang too low or hit too high up. Feel free to omit the white half stripe. The pictures don’t always show a white half stripe, so go with what version you want. Also, I used a slip stitch at the end of the rows for a more even edge.

Block out your scarf by soaking it in a sink of warm water and a small amount of mild soap for 5 minutes. Rinse it in cold water gently until the water runs clear. Be as gentle as possible while it is in the sink. Lay it out on a towel (layering as necessary) and roll it up to gently squeeze the excess water out without stretching the scarf. Unroll the towel and transfer the scarf to another towel, laid out the way you want it to look, and place it on a flat surface to dry. I use my ironing board because it allows air to move on both sides.

A dark blue and white striped scarf laid out across pillows and a couch to show length.

Add the fringe once your scarf is completely dry. Cut 4 18-inch lengths of MH yarn and place the tassel between the second and third stitches of the second row. Skip two stitches and do the same. Continue until you reach the end. Note: If this feels too crowded, you can space it out more. But the fringe on the scarves tends to be thick.
Do the same thing on the other end.

Dark blue and white striped scarf with long dark blue fringe wound so it is in fourths laying on a blue background.

You’re done! Go have fun and make money to pay your rent!!

The same scarf as above, but with the long fringe in the foreground, hanging off the edge of the couch, kind of blending in with the blue of the couch.

Successful Sunday Shopping!

Every year for Christmas, one of my presents from my father-in-law includes money to go spend on myself. Fun stuff, no paying bills. It’s a tradition that my mother-in-law’s father started with her. He would do the same thing. My father-in-law has kept this up. Sometimes it’s cash, sometimes it’s an Amazon gift card. Sometimes it’s both. This year it was both.

Yesterday, I decided to take a quick trip to Columbus to make use of my cash. First was a stop at the jaw-dropping newly remodeled Jo-Ann’s up at Polaris. If you are in the Columbus area and you haven’t been, go! It is amazing! Anyway, I picked up 5 frames that I have really needed. I have had three 11×17 pieces, an 8.5×11, and a 6×9 that needed frames. So I finally got them! Well, actually I got a 8×10 floating frame for my 6×9 piece since it’s kind of an off size. I also got some fabric and spray paint for a costume. Now I just need to put in the work and it’ll be done!

The better things happened next when I went to a few local businesses. I know I was late, but Small Business Sunday works too! I stopped by my comic book store to pick up my pull and ended up with a trade paperback recommended by one of the wonderful staff members. We were talking about X-Men and how we are so tired of all these crossovers. She suggested a one-off story about the worst X-Man ever. I’m looking forward to reading it.

After that I was going to go down to Lucky’s Market when I decided to stop at a local consignment store, Rag-O-Rama to look for jeans. It’s a great store. I started looking through my size in the men’s pants section and found myself not one, but two pair of jeans for less than $40! This doubled my amount of jeans in my wardrobe. Then I decided to check the women’s section for some tan/khaki pants for the costume I mentioned earlier. I found a pair that stretch, so they fit to my legs, which is what I was looking for, but they’re not tight (they’re actually a little big)! I couldn’t believe that I found all of this for less than $60!

Finally, to finish off my day of “I can’t believe I found that!” I went on to Lucky’s, mostly because I ran out of body wash. I also picked up a bottle of Rose from an Ohio winery that is so delicious. That reminded me to look in the beer section. When we were up at my father-in-law’s this weekend, we made our usual stop up at the local Malley’s Chocolates to have some dessert and so my father-in-law could restock his ice cream at home. I noticed a six-pack of beer sitting on the candy counter. Turns out that a Cleveland beer company, Platform, was inspired by one of the candies and made a stout. We didn’t have time to get some before we headed home, but they also have a brewery in Columbus, so Lucky’s probably would have them. They do! And, after looking around carefully, I found it! It was the perfect end to my shopping trip. I got to spend so much on myself and then found something for the both of us. It was a great way to go into the Christmas holiday!

More Matcha!

For over a year now, I have had a tin of matcha from Adagio teas. I haven’t used it because I’m scared I’ll screw it up, and I know how not cheap a tin is. I recently ordered a pack of their Sticks, one tube can easily be dumped into a 12oz bottle and shaken up resulting in matcha.

That got me wondering. Is there something different about that tea from the tins? I finally remembered to Google it today. Guess what? There’s not! I found The Many Joys of Coldbrew Matcha which says I just need to do what the stick box says: put about 1 tsp into 16oz of water, shake, and enjoy! So I’m going to keep the sticks at work, and use my tin here at home. It’ll be nice to finally use the tin, as well as have nice cold matcha here at home as well as at school. I’m looking forward to having money to get some of Adagio’s different flavors and give them a go.

Settling in for the summer

Life has been quite complicated lately. The first week of May was finals week. The end of my first year as a Ph. D. student. I didn’t write the best papers for my classes, but they were good enough to get me Bs. It took me almost another week to get caught up on my grading. But, my students didn’t seem to hold it against me too much. I got some of the best feedback I’ve ever gotten. Even their problems and critiques were useful, not just “it sucked”. I am so happy and grateful to have had this class. They really helped me to become a better instructor.

The weekend after grades were due was Marcon. It was so nice to get to see my friends again, go to panels, and be on panels. I’m starting to realize that my attitude is keeping people from approaching me in costume. I don’t know how to change that. It’s who I am. But as much as I am an introvert, I do like getting compliments and recognized when in costume. I put a lot of work into the whole thing, from the clothing to the props to the make-up. But if it doesn’t seem like I want to be approached, no one will. I need to be more aware of it when I can. Lets face it, sometimes you have ten minutes to get all the way across the con –  which is a very long distance at DragonCon. Sometimes you can’t be stopped.

Anyway. After Marcon, summer semester began. Well, the first term of summer semester. We have two terms over summer, two six-week classes that contain all the information of a 15-week class. In order to get caught up with where I should be, I’m taking one class each term. My first class is online, and it’s a split undergrad/grad student class. That is the more interesting aspect of it, not being online. Grad students have different readings and different responsibilities. Thankfully, because of my two theory classes and International Popular Culture, it’s going over topics I’m already very familiar with. It’s from a slightly different angle, but similar enough that I’m not too stressed over it.

At the beginning of the month, my dad moved to New Hampshire. It’s a very good move for him. He didn’t need to take any furniture with him, so I got to take some things off his hands. We now have a dining room table, the old microwave hutch (which is at least 20 years old, probably more) that is now our bar, one of the end-tables that my parents have had since before I was born, and an almost 20-year-old wood futon frame. The futon is in my room, patiently awaiting the spring mattress to arrive so I can finally properly use it to stretch out on and study on.

But those weren’t the only things he couldn’t take with him. He couldn’t take Harry. We have had Harry almost his entire life. He’ll be 15 at the end of July. But between his age and the fact that he’s black, we knew that he wouldn’t last if my dad took him to the local humane society. He’d be high on the list to go if they needed more space. We’ve been taking care of him until Saturday. He hadn’t adapted well to being here, and we just can’t take care of him properly right now. So I drove him to Columbus to a no-kill shelter. They couldn’t take him. They had no space, but, more importantly, they couldn’t have taken him even if they did. He’s never been to the vet. Without vet records, they couldn’t take him. The lady there said that at his age, the best thing would be to have him put down. He’s perfectly healthy, as far as we can tell, for a cat his age. Why would I do that? So after a breakdown in the car, I decided to take him to Columbus Humane. But they require you to make an appointment to surrender a pet, and charge more than I can afford right now.

So I changed plans. I found Marion Area Humane Society and headed there. I felt bad because it wasn’t cool out yesterday, and he had been in the carrier for over an hour at that point. But he seemed to be okay. We got to MAHS and I started to break down again. He had been part of the family for almost 15 years. They had space for him. As they processed his information and mine, I talked with one of the volunteers. She said that they get people looking for older cats sometimes. More importantly, she told me that they are a no-kill shelter! He is going to be taken care of for the rest of his life. I am completely fine with MAHS being his home for that time. They are going to take care of him. Last night I had to fight the urge to check on him behind the futon – where he had made his home. I miss him, but he’s going to be fine!

Remember, always take your pets to the vet. You never know what will happen to you. They may have to go to a shelter, and vet records are required by some before they will take your pet in.

Well, that went longer than I thought it would. I’ll just leave this here and get back to working on the paper and presentation I need to have ready for CPAC and my summer watchlist.

Veritable Vitamin Variety

I am continuing my efforts to improve my diet, and thus my health. Honestly, listening to RuPaul:What’s the Tee? w/ Michelle Visage has been a source of inspiration. Both Ru and Michelle enjoy talking about eating healthier. Michelle has been openly sharing her battle with autoimmune problems. I have no idea if I have any autoimmune problems, but eating better isn’t bad for anyone.

So, I’m coming to that point in my “no sugar cycle” where I really try to step up my game with eating less processed food and less fast food. Granted, this past weekend wasn’t great for that. But I was away at a conference, stressed, and PMSing. Not a great combination mentally. As I’m driving home from campus today, the podcast reaches the episode where they were talking with Suzanne Somers (Episode 68 – yes, I am way behind). They talk quite a bit about healthy lifestyles, including diet, as I’m eating my Southwestern (Grilled) Chicken sandwich, fries, and drinking my large green tea from Wendy’s. While it wasn’t the most unhealthy thing on the menu – by a long shot – it’s not great. For my waistline or my wallet.

As I’m driving, I decide that I need to stop and get some fresh food before going home. I needed to stop and get one thing anyway, so why not pick up some veggies. When I walked in, I made a beeline for the lettuce. Then I picked up some green onions. They also had some good looking pears. Which reminded me I wanted strawberries. But on the way to the strawberries, I found the grape tomatoes and avocados. Before I knew it, my basket was full and heavy with fresh fruits and veggies. A veritable variety of vivacious vitamins in their original packaging. I think that was a sign that I wanted fresh.

Now I just need to keep inspired and eat it all up before it turns into a pile of mush in the fridge. I’ve got a good start. I’ve eaten about half of the strawberries already. Hopefully the momentum will keep going this time and I’ll be able to continue making permanent changes to my diet for the better!