Wednesday, February 14, 2018

When the work you put in is realized...

Happy Valentine's Day y'all! I hope whether you're single or not, that your day is filled with love! I was entertained to see my different moods about Valentine's Day each year in my time hop. I still think it's a holiday with issues but at this point, I enjoy a holiday that celebrates love. I have so much love for Ian, my friends and my family. Having a support system is something I don't take for granted. So, here's a hug for y'all. Let there be so much love in your life.

I'd like to hop back to Christmas Eve real quick before I move on. I was in Nashville with Ian as we were wrapping up our holiday visit with his family. We were set to drive to Chattanooga that morning after church. Of course, I woke up early and was going through my morning routine with my phone. I always start by checking my email. When you're a writer, rejection is just part of the gig. I have gotten countless rejections over the years. Over the summer, I submitted a draft of My Life Without Ranch (the book) to 50/50 press. The response I got was so heartfelt, but it was, in fact a rejection. After the rejection, I found myself inspired. I dove in to re-write the manuscript for a third time (at least). Once I finished, I sent it to 50/50 press again. I thought it was a long shot. I knew she appreciated my voice but truth be told, I was worried I would annoy her and I was so used to rejection I honestly didn't put much stock in it. Having said that, I knew this was the best draft I had turned out.

So, back to Christmas Eve. I'm going through my emails, mostly junk, and see her email address pop up. My immediate thought was, "Really?! Who sends a rejection on Christmas Eve?!" I didn't even open it right away. I went through and deleted all the Christmas Eve ad emails and then finally got back to the email from 50/50 press. The first word I read was "Congratulations." I threw the phone down in shock. I picked it back up and started reading the good news: my number one dream in life was coming true and I started sobbing. This book is so unbelievably personal. It has taken so much out of me. I've learned more about myself writing it than I have just living my every day life. The thought of people reading it is truly terrifying but because other people understand the struggle of body image and self-love, I'm getting my ISBN number, something I was starting to think was never going to happen.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that not more than a week prior to this news, I had a breakdown over a necklace breaking and cried to Ian telling him that I wanted to stop writing for awhile. It was a spiral stemming from the struggle I've had with weight for so long and the insecurity I had about getting that struggle on the page in an entertaining way. I had come to terms with the fact that maybe a book wasn't going to happen and I wanted to focus on something else. Writing is exhausting and draining and the rejection can be overwhelming. Receiving this email was the single most empowering, emotional and tremendous moment of my life. I know that's dramatic, but I AM a writer. I immediately woke Ian up to make him read the email at 7:30AM. I needed someone to verify that I was reading it correctly and then I proceeded to call my family, then Jordan and Cassandra. In the car, on the way to Chattanooga, every song made me cry like an idiot. I know it's corny but I LOVE sappy Tim McGraw songs. His song "Humble and Kind" came on and I flipping lost it. Ultimately, the song is a message to people to not be jerks when their dreams come true but dang if it doesn't choke me up. That day, hearing: "When the dreams you're dreaming' come to you, when the work you put in is realized, let yourself feel the pride, but always stay humble and kind." Y'all I lost it. I've skated by in some areas of my life but when I say I've worked hard on this book, I mean it. It's a wonderful feeling I can't quite put my finger on. I also cry when Paperback Writer plays now too, haha. I'm nuts. Anyway, the point is, thank you to everyone who has been so kind and supportive over the years. I can't wait for you to read the book this fall/winter. I can't wait to hold it in my hands.

There's not a smooth way to transition from that so I won't try. Ian and I went to New Orleans for a spur of the moment trip a couple weeks ago when his band found out they had a gig down there. We were only there two nights (one of which he played) but in the time we did have, we ate wonderful food, ran into friends, had tasty drinks and just enjoyed the city in general. I always love going to New Orleans…especially when it's not too crowded. I imagine it was crazy down there last night.

I've been back in cooking mode this semester now that I have a bit more time. One of the first recipes Ian and I made was a Philly Cheesesteak Sloppy Joe. We made two pans based on veggie preference. In each pan, we sautéed lean ground beef, garlic, salt, pepper, onions, about a tablespoon of ketchup and a little bit of beef broth. In Ian's pan, he had chopped bell peppers. In mine, I had chopped mushrooms. Once it was all cooked through, we had it on our bread of choice with a slice of ultra thin provolone cheese. It was DELICIOUS! The only fat came from the beef and since we used extra lean, it was not bad. It was nice to change up the typical lean burgers we usually have.

A couple weeks back, Fresh Market's Little Big Meal was taco night! We had chicken in the freezer so Ian had chicken tacos. I grabbed the shrimp and had shrimp tacos at home. Again, it was nice change and the seasoning Fresh Market provides had quite a kick! We eat Mexican food SO MUCH and love it just as much when we make it at home.

It's back to school time and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I get up early and work out and then I'm on campus from about 10:30-6:15. That means, I bring lunch. I've been eating carrots and hummus and string cheese and applesauce and sandwiches and all the staples but a couple weeks ago, I brought leftover grilled chicken for lunch and to jazz it up just a touch, I wrapped it in ham slices. The truth is I always feel like I'm starving on campus. I don't know why. Because of that, I bring a ton of low cal options that I can snack on all day. It's a mental thing I guess.

In terms of weight, I'm about the same as I was last month. That's one of the reasons I've been super grumpy about my body lately. I'm trying to listen to my own advice but it's hard. I'm definitely eating better and one week I lost 3 pounds. The next, out of nowhere, I put it all back on. My body makes zero sense sometimes. I'm down about half a pound which means I still have 8 I want to get off for my first goal of the year. I'm not exactly in a hurry but the stalemate annoys me. Anyway, I digress. When I'm back on my diet, I rely on those 100 calorie popcorn bags for late night snack cravings. They don't exactly have a ton of flavor, but one day Ian and I were in the popcorn section and discovered this popcorn butter spray. It claims it's zero calories. It's kind of like Pam but with a stronger butter taste. Y'all, I hope this spray doesn't cause cancer or really have like 1,000 calories because Ian and I are obsessed. We get so cracked up because we will be sitting there and one of us will hear this loud, long spraying noise as we coat our popcorn in this stuff. It definitely cranks up the boring, plain, healthy popcorn up a notch. I highly recommend it.

Finally, since it's Valentine's day, I have to give extra kudos to Ian. Even though I've started cooking a bit more, he's still the primary cook of the house right now. He DESPISES mushrooms. He has branched out a lot since we've been together in terms of food but he draws the line at mushrooms. I happen to love them. One night, I sent him a sautéed mushrooms recipe that used beef broth (and a couple spray from the olive oil sprayer I have talked about before) and garlic, salt and pepper and he made them for me as a side dish to pork chops. They were DELICIOUS! I was super impressed that the made some bomb mushrooms even though he hates them. Anyway, I'll stop bragging now.

Enjoy your Valentine's Day y'all!

Talk to you next month!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Special Addendum!



from 50/50 Press!

More details as they arrive! I'll fill you in on all I know when I update on Valentine's Day! Stay Tuned!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Welcome to 2018 Y'all!

Happy 2018 y'all! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and that you aren't currently freezing your butt off in this frigid weather. I'm just not cut out for cold weather. I do not enjoy it. I'm jumping right into to 2018 with goals, exciting news (TBA) and a path to better mental and physical health. I finally weighed this morning to take inventory/review the damage from the holidays. Since Thanksgiving, I've been indulging to say the least. We celebrated Christmas several times, then there was NYE, Ian's birthday (which happened to be the same day Alabama won yet another National Championship...ROLL TIDE) and a smattering of other caloric events. As of this morning, I need to lose 7.8 pounds to get back down to my pre-Thanksgiving weight. I expected this. I am not giving myself a strict timeline for this. I just want to have more of a routine and get back to a better, healthier schedule. Once I reach that goal, I will think about the next one. It's important to focus on small, individual goals. I am feeling good about things ahead.

I don't know if y'all are into resolutions but I made a list of several that included personal, career, health and other goals that I'm hoping will help me be a stronger, more determined human. This year I've taken the standard "lose weight" goal off the list and I'm focusing on more specific ways to get healthier that will surely lead to weight loss anyway. This year I'm ditching the dependence on numbers. For example, as silly as it sounds, one of my goals is to do a hand stand. Strength is something I'm aiming for both in muscle tone as well as mental strength. I've also banned edible bowls from my life in 2018 seeing as how I ate an unprecedented number of taco salads this year, destroying each and every fried tortilla bowl in its entirety. Other goals include paying off one of my credit cards that I've charged up again, being nicer to Ian, a multitude of teaching and writing goals, chewing my food better and easing up on the binge drinking. I haven't cut anything completely and I'm hoping that at the end of the  year I can say that I lived 2018 better than I did 2017 and that I continue that progression every year.

One of the habits I picked up over the holidays was an incessant need to bake. I made lots of holiday cookies and then in an effort to get rid of some of the chocolate in the house, I made cookies from scratch. They were SO good but a dangerous item to have in the house. Mostly, my biggest issues with cookie would be the fact that I am a bowl licker from way back. No speck of dough gets left behind.

Now that I'm back in school, I'm hoping for routine. As usual, I'm always looking for grab and go lunches. I found this meal kit at Target that included carrots, grapes, cheese, crackers, hummus and a trail mix that combined nuts, dried cranberries and chocolate. It was super tasty and filling and I wasn't convinced it was only 360 calories for the whole pack. On top of that, it was $5, which isn't terrible but I thought making my own at home was a better plan. So, I included ham, smoked gouda, a hard-boiled egg, protein crackers, and a combo of dry roasted peanuts and dark chocolate. I missed the hummus so if I make one in the future, I may add that, but otherwise, it was easy to make and packed with protein.

Now that Ian and I are back to our routine of cooking dinner every night, we went ahead and got a Hello Fresh box to mix things up. This particular one had meals that both of us could eat happily (though Ian wouldn't touch the cauliflower with a ten foot pole). The first meal was BBQ chicken, green beans and macaroni and cheese. We added teryiaki sauce to the green beans and cooked them into oblivion because that's the only way Ian will eat them, but other than that, it was tasty. I'm always on board when macaroni and cheese is involved and the sauce for the chicken was great. The next meal was a burger with a delicious bun and caramelized onions. The only catch was that it came with "fried" cauliflower which meant that it was tossed together with oil and panko and thrown in the oven. I enjoyed it fine, but the burger was hands down the bright spot in that meal. They are always so juicy and flavorful from Hello Fresh. The last meal we got was a chicken sausage and orzo dish that had spinach and tomatoes. It was also great. Ian isn't a huge fan of sausage (I know, right?) but even he had to admit the dish was delicious. I especially liked the bites that had chunks of mozzarella in them. Hello Fresh is a bit pricy but it's super convenient and always fantastic quality.

I wanted to tell you about a new product I got from QVC. It's called an EVO Oil Sprayer. You can put whatever oil you want in it but when you spray, it squirts out 1/4 of a teaspoon of oil. I love this because I know exactly how much I'm putting on whatever I'm making and it spreads the oil out well. This way I don't have to use too much oil. A little bit goes a long way with this and I highly recommend it as a product. That's all for now! Holla at y'all soon!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Jingaling Y'all

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, y'all! I'm finally done with the most intense semester of my life. And other than doing some planning for next semester, I'm home free until January 11th. Next semester won't be nearly as insane but that will mean I have less money. It's what I believe they call a double edged sword. Also, I'm working out super hard, especially now that I have more time, but in terms of diet, I'm hanging on by a thread. I'm hovering around 5 pounds up from Thanksgiving still (Thanksgiving was great btw) and it's only going to get worse as I travel to Nashville and Chattanooga and then spend Christmas at home. I'm trying not to go crazy but there's always something holiday/calorie-related challenge thrown in my face. This is how it is every year but the problem is, the older I get, the harder it is to lose the holiday weight. But, I feel optimistic.

The last couple weeks of school were rigorous and I was tired of frozen meals so Ian whipped me up some ground beef/taco seasoning. I split it up and every day that week I brought it along with a spinach tortilla wrap and some leftover Moe's salsa to go with it. It was great and easy...especially since Ian made the meat.

Also, I had some frozen lemonade leftover from my vegan for a day experiment and used it to make a more calorie friendly margarita for myself and Cassandra. They were DELICIOUS! I put the frozen lemonade in the blender, added tequila and a little bit of skinny margarita mix. It was pretty much a stroke of genius on my part.

I've experimented with Blue Apron before but then a friend sent me a free week of Hello Fresh. It's essentially the same as Blue Apron but for Ian, I think the options are slightly better for a picky eater on Hello Fresh. First, we had a yummy chicken pesto pasta. They sent enough chicken and extras to have a chicken salad sandwich the next day. The next meal was a giant, delicious, juicy cheesy burger. The last dish was a simple but tasty chicken and rice dish. Ian really likes cooking these because they make him feel fancy. Plus, all the groceries are right there for us. For me, it's a bit pricy so we won't get them all the time, but it's nice occasionally.

For a quick breakfast, I tried the frozen Special K Quiche that had quinoa, cheese and mushroom. I put it on top of toast and to be honest, for a frozen meal, it wasn't too shabby. It was filling and mostly enjoyable.

My mom cooks dinner every Sunday and so I got an urge to cook for my family and give my mom a break last Sunday. I wanted to bake a crap ton of Christmas cookies and four hours later on a Saturday night there were one million cookies in my house. On Sunday night, I wanted to get fancy so I make a standing prime rib roast, havarti and spinach mac & cheese and yorkshire pudding. I am always getting pictures of the process but sometimes I get excited and forget to take a picture of the completed meal. The prime rib was SOO good. I was scared to make it because it's an expensive piece of meat...but I played it low and slow...and it turned out fantastic. The rest of the meal was great too. Lots of food and fun and family right now.  I'm in the "bowl full of jelly" portion of the Santa story right now.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!

Roll Tide!

See you all in January!


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Vegan For A Day!

Hey y'all! It's been another busy month and tomorrow is Thanksgiving! I am immensely blessed and so thankful for everything that I have...even when I complain. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday with the people you love!

Since I last posted, I've celebrated Halloween and been to a conference in New York. For Halloween, Ian and I made a last minute change. He went as Princess Leia and I went as Hans Solo...not exactly my cutest look but we had fun.

A couple weeks ago, I had the privilege of heading to Long Island, New York for the inaugural Sag Harbor Creative Nonfiction Writers Conference. It was there that I met a group of people from all different walks of life, all expressing their past and present on the page in different ways. To be honest, the criticism and praise I received in workshop was both helpful, confusing, terrifying and wonderful. Long Island is a beautiful area and I hope to get back there one day. By far, the most rewarding experience was getting to know the other writers at the conference. Everyone was so warm and supportive. I am so glad that I went.

Ever since I watched the documentary What the Health about the meat industry, I wanted to see what a day in the life of a vegan would look like. To give myself a warmup, I had a vegetarian lunch this week. I used a can of fire roasted tomatoes, garlic, onion, Greek Yogurt cream cheese, a little olive oil and jarred pesto. I threw it all in the blender and heated the mixture on the stove for a creamy tomato soup. I served that with a grilled cheese sandwich. The next day I had it for breakfast with eggs on top. I had no problems with not having meat in this meal because it was delicious. I also had cheese, which is my deepest addiction. This was a small preview for yesterday, when I went completely without meat and cheese.

For breakfast, I had biscuits and jelly. For the jelly, you have to find one that doesn't have gelatin. It needs to have fruit pectin instead. The biscuits are made just like normal biscuits but instead of butter, you use butter flavored Crisco and instead of milk, you use almond milk. I discovered that my taste for jelly is limited to the fake stuff you get in tiny packets, but the breakfast was delicious. The biscuits were fluffy and delicious. I didn't feel like I was lacking anything.

At lunch, I whipped up some mixed vegetables. I will say that being vegan for a day required much more preparation than I'm used to. Luckily, it's fall break so I had time to make homemade biscuits for breakfast and sautéed vegetables for lunch. If this were a long term diet, I'd have to figure out some grab and go lunches or do some food prep. I used a vegan approved wrap (Mission brand, spinach flavor) and topped it with hummus, lettuce, olives, cucumbers and the sautéed vegetables which included mushrooms, zucchini and onions. On the side, I had some Fritos. Yes! They are vegan. The lunch was filling for sure and pretty tasty. Looking back, I would probably add additional flavor. I seasoned the vegetables with salt, pepper, garlic, chili powder and smoked paprika but the entire time I kept thinking I wish the wrap had barbecue sauce or some kind of marinade. This was also the first moment I started to crave cheese. I mean, the veggie wrap was good but a good sprinkle of feta or parmesan would have been clutch.

For a snack, I had a few Oreos. I was happy, surprised and a little freaked out to discover that Oreos were vegan.

Dinner was an Asian pasta dish. Finding vegan pasta took several minutes. Since I'm not a pro, I looked at a lot of different brands to make sure it didn't have eggs/didn't come from a place with eggs. I finally found a good brand of thin spaghetti noodles, so I guess I'd eventually find a few "go to" brands. For this dish, I used tofu. I've had tofu several times in my life, but I think I've only cooked with it once and that was years ago. I had Ian prep the tofu for me because I was at the gym. That was probably a mistake because the process grossed him out. Essentially, you have to drain all the water off the tofu. I bought extra firm. Ian added several paper towels to a plate, placed the tofu on top, added more paper towels and then topped with a cast iron skillet. Then, he left it for about an hour and it worked like a charm! We sautéed the tofu with onions, seasoning, sesame oil and soy sauce. We also boiled the pasta (obviously) and mixed together a sauce to toss it all with. The sauce had peanut butter, soy sauce, red chili sauce and sesame oil. My first taste of the sauce about blew my head off with spice. So, we added more peanut butter and soy sauce to try and simmer it down. It helped a bit with the spice, but ended up making the pasta a bit gummy because of the added peanut butter. We tossed it all together and then topped with green onion and chopped peanuts. So, Ian HATED the tofu. He tried so hard to eat it. If I cook it again, I'll toast it instead because it was still a bit soft, but I actually didn't mind it. The pasta itself was really yummy but still a bit too spicy for my taste. I love Asian flavors that include spicy and peanut but I added a bit too much chili sauce. When Ian finally gave up on his vegan pasta, he went in the kitchen and heated a frozen cheeseburger and some macaroni and cheese. When he started eating it, my mouth flooded with water. I wanted to rip his face off for eating that in front of me. It was actually eye opening to realize how addicted I am to meat and cheese...specifically cheese.

My last snack was dessert and it was frozen lemonade. That I will eat again, especially since I bought a whole box of them, but it was yummy! I had the strawberry flavor. It was low in calories and pretty tasty.

I think that I want to be more conscious about eating meat. I don't know that I'm ready to make any kind of drastic change, but my dependence on meat and cheese is not good. Cheese would be more difficult to give up than meat I think. I'm so obsessed with it. It's a problem. I will say that I ate too much on vegan day. I was making sure that I didn't feel deprived so I ate a few junk items I normally wouldn't like Fritos and Oreos. My weight is about the same so I know I'll gain this week because of Thanksgiving and I plan to detox next week. I hope y'all have a great break!