30 May 2012

what I love wednesday: food blogs

As I mentioned in my post about being a vegetarian, I do love to cook. I have a big collection of cookbooks and keep all of my back issues of Vegetarian Times. But I also love looking up recipes online and definitely have some favorite sites. Which brings us to today's edition of What I Love Wednesday:

Images from Microsoft Clipart, Designed by me

Happy Herbivore

As the title suggests, Happy Herbivore is very veg friendly. I was originally introduced to it when my  friend Meghan brought some of HH's black bean brownies to yoga class. I know that sounds weird, but they are super easy and super yummy. The black bean gives the brownies this really rich flavor, almost like dark chocolate. I also love that she talks about vegan dining experiences in other cities which is super helpful for anyone who travels and is just a wealth of information regarding a plant-based diet. (Plus she has the most adorable elephant logo)

Iowa Girl Eats

I think it was Sissy who first sent me a post for Iowa Girl Eats and while the majority of her posts are meat-based, I love her photographs, her personality, and she really has some super clever ideas. Such as Mushroom Cap Pizza Bites. I mean, that's just bloody brilliant. But, really, so many of her dishes would be super easy to adapt to make them veg-friendly. Like, I really want to try her Spicy Cashew Chicken Stir Fry and I can either just skip the chicken or use tofu and/or faux chik'n in its place.


Okay, now, I know that Pinterest isn't a food blog. However, it is a great way to discover new recipes and keep track of them without wasting paper by just printing the recipe out. One of the recipes I had pinned was this Creamy Zucchini and Spinach Rigatoni number from Kraft. Now, the recipe as written comes out to something like 9 Weight Watchers points a serving. That's a bit much for me, but by bulking up the veggies and making it 8 servings instead of 6 and reducing the amount of cheese, I got it down to 6 WW points a serving and it's still just as cheesy and delish. And that, ladies and gents, is how you lose 85 lbs without sacrificing food or flavor.


While I don't remember how I first discovered Skinnytaste, I do know that I have tried a bunch of her recipes and have loved each and every one. Also, she not only has a section for vegetarian and vegan recipes, everything comes with Weight Watchers points! Actually, Gina's blog is the perfect example of how adaptable WW really is. Meaning, as cliched as it sounds, that it's a "lifestyle change" and not just a diet. Um, hello, Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Bailey's Cream Cheese Frosting, anyone?

Yeah, That "Vegan" Shit

This blog is run by my oh-so-awesome vegan friend Lindy Loo. So yes, I might be biased. But, seriously, her recipes are fabulous. I mean, her Mock Tuna Salad really does taste like tuna salad. Or at least what I remember tuna salad tasting like. And while I actually hated tuna salad, I love the mock variety. And her Mexican Lasagna is still one of my favorite recipes (and one I haven't made in a really long time. Might need to change that). Plus, Lindy introduced me to Appetite for Reduction, one of my favorite cook books, which makes her even more awesome than she already is. (Which is pretty damn awesome.)

Do you have any favorite food blogs?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

28 May 2012

roar report

As it turns out, skipping yoga two weeks in a row is enough to undo some of the flexibility you had built up over the previous five months. I know this because I went back to yoga this past Saturday and had an amazing practice, but when I woke up Sunday morning my thighs were super sore. That morning's planned run was out and I had every intention of spending the day in the Muppets pj pants I bought at Old Navy the day before (true story). But as the morning wore on and I realized what a gorgeous day it was going to be, I decided staying in on the couch watching Dawson's Creek online was not an acceptable use of my Sunday.

So I went to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo instead.

Friends were busy working or had other plans, so after dressing comfy and lathering on the sunscreen I just went alone. One of the things I love about the Cleveland Zoo is that they allow you to bring in your own food. I packed some chips, clementines, and a granola bar. On the way over, I stopped at Subway and got a 6 inch veggie on flatbread to complete the meal. I also brought one of my (many) reusable water bottles, which was good because it was a hot day and I drank the full 24 oz twice.

The last time I went to the zoo was over a year ago, before the new Elephant Crossing had opened. And, luckily, despite it being a gorgeous day it wasn't too busy so I was able get up close to all of the exhibits.

The reason for the spontaneous visit was two-fold: on the one hand I, naturally, didn't want to waste the beautiful day. But I also wanted to scope out the route for the 5K I'll be running at the end of June. The zoo has some intimidating hills and I wanted a good sense of what I'll be running in advance. The hills are still a bit intimidating, but I think it will still be fun running through the park and around the animals. Participants also get free admission into the zoo after the 5K is over.

When I arrived it was hot and sunny. As the day wore on it turned cool and overcast, eventually raining for about 20 minutes. I was walking down the big hill when it started and camped out under an awning near the Australian Adventure section of the zoo.

By the time the rain let up I'd been there for almost three hours and was definitely feeling it. I left the Rainforest for last, which sounded good in theory except for the part where after walking around outside in the heat for three hours I was pretty worn out. I did walk through the first floor of the Rainforest, but I didn't really pay any attention and skipped the second floor and just headed to my car. Note to self for next time!

Since I go so infrequently, I always forget how amazing our zoo is. I think it's one of the city's most under-appreciated gems. As a child I always loved going to the zoo on a class field trip and even now, eating near the lions is still my favorite lunch spot when I'm visiting. One of these days I'll get around to buying a membership.

Happy Memorial Day!

I did keep my MapMyRun app on while I was there, set to "walk" of course, instead of "run." I paused it while eating lunch and waiting for the rain to let up, but when I was finished I had walked something like 4 1/2 miles over the few hours that I was at the zoo. Not too bad and it more than makes up for the run I missed. It also made me feel fully justified in spending the rest of my Sunday on the couch watching Dawson's Creek.

It also makes up for last week's small gain: I lost 2 1/2 lbs this week, bringing my total to 85.4! I'm just about at the weight that has always been the smallest I remember being and my 100 lb reward tattoo is a mere 15 pounds away!

Today was spent cleaning and packing since I'm going to be out of town next weekend for my cousin's ordination. I also spent some time hanging out with friends on a porch in Lakewood and I hope you all enjoyed the holiday and day off!

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

27 May 2012

the one that would make oprah proud

What, you ask, am I talking about? For years, Oprah has been an advocate for women getting fitted for bras, touting the statistic that 8 out of 10 women wear the wrong size. Up until Friday, I was one of those women. But not anymore, yayay!

(Oh yeah, I meant to post this yesterday but didn't have time so that's why I'm referencing Friday as "yesterday." Not to confuse y'all or anything.)

25 May 2012

an apple a day

After reading this post about (UK) National Vegetarian Week on Happy Herbivore, I realized that I have never really talked about the fact that I have been a vegetarian for over four years.

Truthfully it's not something I talk about that much anyway, on my blog or off. I mean, sure, if someone at my work happens to notice I don't eat meat then of course I'll talk about it, but I don't go out of my way to bring it up. Several of my friends are veg*ns (nice easy way of including both vegetarians and vegans) so that makes dinners out fairly easy since we know which restaurants in Cleveland are veg-friendly and we all like to cook, too, and have done potlucks in the past. My family is also super supportive, often making all meatless meals or buying me veg alternatives (like one of the fancy Quorn chik'ns for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner).

I would like to be able to say I went veg for ethical reasons but, really, it was for health. And when I say "health" what I mean is that four or five years ago I had no self control and was at the fast food drive thru three or four times a week, getting, like, 3000 calorie meals each time. Like, I'd go to Taco Bell and the meal that came with 2 chalupas and one taco wasn't enough, I'd order another four tacos on top of that. At McDonald's I'd get the 10 piece chicken nugget meal super sized with a double cheeseburger on the side.

And don't even get me started on KFC.

This is all rather mortifying to admit to. I mean, I was eating something close to a week's worth of calories in the span of  two days. That is just so not okay.

I was in need of a drastic intervention and in my mind the only way I could stop myself from eating multiple cheeseburgers at lunch was to remove the variable: meat.  I mean, if I don't eat chicken then I can't inhale chicken nuggets. So that's what I did. It really was that quick of a snap decision. One day I was eating meat the next day I wasn't.

At the time I was dating a vegetarian so that made the transition pretty easy since he was able to introduce me to new restaurants and new meals and at first I did drop some weight. But when left to my own devices I kind of floundered for a bit and began using carbs in place of meat. I was more of a "pasta"tarian than anything else and, let me tell you, it's fairly easy to be a vegetarian without ever eating vegetables. I wasn't adventurous in the kitchen and scared of trying new things when it came to cooking so I stuck with what I knew. And I knew pasta and bread and veggies only ever showed up as toppings on my cheese pizza.

There is a belief that vegetarians are naturally healthier and skinnier than their omnivore friends, but that only works if you actually eat correctly. Otherwise you'll be like me a year and a half ago: not eating meat and weighing in at 311 pounds.

Four years in as veg and 16 months on Weight Watchers and I clearly have it under control. Fruits and veggies are my best friends and I've rediscovered a love of cooking. I get excited trying new recipes and new foods. I also enjoy finding ways to adapt my old meat standbys in different ways. For instance, a few weeks ago I discovered that cooking black beans in taco seasoning is not only substantially cheaper than using Morningstar Meat Crumbles, they are actually tastier, too, and add a new layer of health to my taco salads. And just a few months ago I made homemade peanut butter and chocolate vegan ice cream in my ice cream maker. Just because I wanted to see if I could. Honestly, with enough creativity and experimentation anything can be made veg-friendly.

Don't let cost fool you, either: I do 90% of my grocery shopping at Aldi. Just a few weeks ago I discovered that, at least during the summer, they even sell Boca burgers!

I have friends who were vegetarian for years and then went back to eating meat. Me, I'm happier not. Part of it is because I don't trust myself, but, really, I just feel better on a meatless diet. Even back when I was eating way too many starches, there was this sense of buoyancy, versus feeling sluggish and weighed down from meat. (Of course, that might have had to do with the fact that my meat was all fast food, but in my head they work together.) The only time I've had any issues was, oh, maybe two years ago when I was just tired and fatigued all the time. But once I started taking a daily multi-vitamin I was fine and have been ever since.

Of course, recently it occurred to me that as a tattooed vegetarian who colors her hair with henna and practices yoga, I am way more crunchy granola than I ever would have anticipated. Then again, I did once have a yogi in Las Vegas say he could tell I was vegetarian based on my healthy skin complexion, so maybe there's something to be said for my choices.

Have you ever considered, or tried, a vegan/vegetarian diet?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

23 May 2012

what i love wednesdays: lender's healthy grain bagels

Disclaimer: I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective, and I received coupons for free Lender's Healthy Grain Bagels. The content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

For me, breakfast isn't just the most important meal of the day: it's the best meal of the day. Man oh man do I love breakfast and even during the week I still make a point of sitting down at my dining room table with a good hearty breakfast. I'm talking protein, dairy, fresh fruit, all of it (I offset it with a smaller lunch). But my favorite part of breakfast is usually the bagels. To say I am a fan of bagels is an understatement, so when the Clever Girls Collective offered coupons for free bagels from Lender's new Healthy Grain line I jumped at the opportunity.

The Healthy Grain bagels are offered in Multi-Grain and Oat. I went with the oat mostly because it's not a grain I normally eat, so this seemed like a good opportunity to try it. I have bagels with breakfast almost every day, but I usually only eat half of one at a time (less calories and makes the bag last twice as long!). I toast the bagel, spread a bit of Smart Balance Light on it and top it with a slice of muenster cheese. Pair it with some light yogurt, eggs, banana, and coffee and nom-away. Like I said: good hearty breakfast!

What I like about the Oat bagel is that there is this unexpected sweetness underneath. It's also light. What I mean is, I usually go for, say, a whole wheat bagel and it's a heavy, dense flavor, y'know? Plus there is that whole "healthy grain" bit which, granted, is a phrase thrown around quite a bit in the food industry but a single serving of one oat bagel has as much fiber as a bowl of oatmeal and comes with 8g of protein. A full bagel is only 5 Weight Watchers points (3 for a half, which is sometimes how the points work out), so it wouldn't be too crazy to eat a whole bagel and just use egg whites instead or skip the cheese. (Hmmm. Actually that sounds downright tasty.... bagel sammich with egg whites and a slice of tomato. Maybe a bit of avocado....)

Only downside is that they aren't widely available yet so I had to drive a bit out of the way to get them. But, like I said, I love me some bagels and I especially love me some free bagels so I banked on the bagels being worth the trip. Actually, I banked on them so much that I bought two bags (since I had a coupon, it was two for the price of one). But I figured if I liked them as much as I hoped I would, I wouldn't want to have to make a second trip to the store. Luckily the gamble paid off and I have a new favorite breakfast item!

What's your normal breakfast routine? Do you go for a big breakfast like me or something lighter in the mornings? 

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

21 May 2012


Saturday I skipped yoga.

As shocking as it sounds that I would skip my weekly yoga class, I did skip it the week prior, too. But that was because I had my craft show. And when I skip it again in two weeks it's going to be because I'm in Virginia for a family function.

But this past Saturday? Pure laziness.

I woke up all excited and ready to go, probably because I had missed it the week before. I made my pre-yoga breakfast and then had a bit of time to kill so I settled on the couch with my netbook to watch something on Netflix.

Around this time my stomach started to hurt. Nothing too terrible, I would have survived yoga with it aching a bit, but the more I thought about it and the longer I stayed on the couch, the more tempting it became to just stay on the couch and spend my morning watching "Storage Wars" (don't judge). I had a baby shower that afternoon in my hometown and the plan was to go to yoga and then drive straight to my parents' house and shower and get ready there. But with each bid on an abandoned storage locker in California, the less I liked that plan. I also realized it had been several weeks since I had myself a decent lazy weekend morning.

Yoga is at 10am on Saturday and I run fairly early on Fridays and Sundays. Early as in I'm on the pavement by 8am. I prefer running before breakfast and, well, also it's best to just get it out of the way. Don't get me wrong, I do love running but it's still exercise and it's still work. It's on the cusp of summer and even at 7:30 am it can be hot.

I do love running and I love working out and I love the endorphins and all that jazz. I love the changes in my body and health and attitude but I also really miss being able to wake up slowly and bide my time and decide what to do with my day.

But, more than that, I've learned to listen to my body. And if my body is telling me to skip the sun salutations and, instead, spend my morning in my own private reality tv filled corpse pose, well then that is what I am going to do.

So instead of participating in a ninety-minute physical and athletic yoga practice, I spent my morning on the couch. I took a relaxing shower and got ready and then headed to Stars Hollow for a baby shower.

If there is one person who knows me and has seen me through all my ups and downs (weight and otherwise), it's this woman right here. We've known each other since 7th grade, I was one of her bridesmaids, and we worked together at the House o' Books (aka, the Stars Hollow Public Library) for most of high-school. It was during our days as pages that we adopted the mutual nicknames of Booksluts, although I admit it feels weird using that decade-long moniker on a woman about to become a mother.

Speaking of ups and downs, I did go up .8 lbs this week. Weight loss isn't always linear, so maybe it was from skipping yoga or maybe it was from something two weeks ago that finally caught up. For awhile, I was always gaining exactly .8 about halfway through my cycle and this would be the time for that, so it could be a  multitude of things. I'm still at a total of 83 lbs gone, so I'm not gonna stress about it. All part of the journey.

Of course, had I known I was going to show a gain today even after running, like, 10 miles this week I totally would have gone for the Half Combo at Melt Bar & Grilled last night instead of the southwest salad and vegetarian chili I opted for.

Eh, c'est la vie. If nothing else, at least I know grilled cheesy goodness isn't going to be sneaking up on me in another two weeks.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

19 May 2012

the one with my new 'do

New weekend, new video blog post! As you can see in the freeze frame I have a new haircut! Thanks again to Anna at Primp Salon & Spa in Lakewood. It's always so hard to trust a new person with your hair, especially with such a drastic change but she did an amazing job and has a fabulous personality to boot (she wanted a picture with my donation, which cracked me up). I also rarely buy beauty products at the salon, but she sold me on the DevaCurl Frizz Free Foam. Along with that, I also talk about my newest fitness purchase: a SPIbelt! Enjoy!

16 May 2012

what i love wednesday: iphone apps

As I mentioned in this post, my iPhone Thursday is a pretty important part of my running regimen, but she serves many more purposes, too. From food to fitness, I thought today I'd share with you four of the apps that I use to help me with my weight loss!

First up is, naturally, the Weight Watchers app:

I remember the old days when you had to carry your little slide rule calculator and flimsy paper notebook to keep track of your points while on the go. Now it's all handy on my phone, but because it's all attached to the same account it syncs with the website, too, so I can go between computer and phone depending on my day and everything is up-to-date. It has the calculator, a few "cheat sheets" (like helping you make good choices while, say, ordering pasta or cocktails), a huge database of food including some restaurants, and recipes. It also, of course, keeps track of your weight loss which you can view as a table or graph.

Available from the App store. Free (but you do need to be a WW member to actually use it.) 

Next, we have the Couch-to-5K app put out by Active.com:

This is one of the very, very few apps I have on my phone that I paid for. I'm more of a Free or "lite" version user and I was a bit hesitant about downloading the app because of that but I'm so glad I did. This is the app that helped me go from the girl who hated running to the woman who, well, spontaneously runs 3 miles. The program is 9 weeks, 3 times a week, for roughly 30 minutes each time (less in the beginning, more near the end). What I like about the app is that I can just run without worrying about the clock or intervals. This is especially important in the beginning when the intervals are only a few minutes and it's distracting to keep having to check the time. Instead, the app tells you when to walk and when to run and keeps a log of each run. Plus it allows me to listen to my own playlist while running. For any non-runners looking to start, I highly recommend the Couch-to-5K program (and, of course, thanks to Sissy for first introducing it to me months ago).

Available from the App store. $1.99.

So I discovered I love running, but the Couch-to-5k app has a max program of 30 minutes. What if I want to run longer? What if I want to know how far I'm running and what my pace is? That's where the MapMyRun app comes in:

There are a lot of running apps out there but I went with this one because I'm familiar with the MapMyRun website. Like the Couch to 5k app, I can listen to my own playlist while running, but I decide on the time or distance and when to stop and start each run. There is an optional voice overlay that you can use that tells you either distance or time, so if I'm doing my two mile weekday morning run, I set the voice command at the 1 mile mark as that's when I know when to turn around and then when it comes back and tells me 2 miles, that's when I know to stop. Using GPS, it tracks your route as you run as well as pacing so I like being able to go back and see how I'm slowly getting faster (pun intended). I can also look up routes that other app users have logged, so if I'm ever out-of-town in an area I don't know I can see nearby runs that look good.

Available from the App store. Free.

Finally, an app that might seem a bit odd for this list. Twitter:

I know, at first glance Twitter doesn't seem like a natural choice for a list of apps related to weight-loss. But, on the contrary, sites like Healthy Living Blogs and FitFluential frequently post informative articles and blog posts and I like being able to follow magazines like Shape and Fitness. Plus, you can connect the MapMyRun app to Twitter and post your routes and times post-run. More than anything, though, it's a fantastic way to stay active in the fitness blogging community and, really, isn't that what social networking is all about?

Available from the App store. Free.

What are some of your favorite weight  loss and fitness apps or websites? 

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

14 May 2012

wizard of odd

This is going to be one of those rare posts where I talk about something other than weight loss because I want to give you all a more detailed recap of my craft show debut! Oddmall: Emporium of the Weird was probably the best choice I could have made for my first show. It was totally relaxed and no pressure and the vibe and people were just amazing. The guy who organized it, Andy Hopp, was just so fun. Super friendly and approachable and he would wander the show and check out what everyone else was selling and talk with everyone and I think he really set the fun and funky mood that carried throughout the day. So well done, Andy.

Vendors could get into the space the night before, so after dinner at my parents' house I headed on over to at least get my display stuff up. Next morning I was back there bright and early at 8am to set up my entire table.

The frames were found at the local thrift store and I just painted them. I then took them to a hardware store to have them fitted with pegboard and used pegboard hooks to hang the jewelry packages.

Yellow Brick Road Pendant, $10 in my Etsy shop

The little figurines are actually standing on planters I found at Jo-Ann Fabrics and I was floored when I found some almost identical in color to the frames. Oh, and the credit card sign by the jewelry? I used a Square device which I am so glad I had because of the handful of sales I made, the majority were paid with a credit card.

So, yes, I didn't sell a lot and what I did sell was sold to family. But, honestly? I had so much fun I don't care. Like I said, this was a totally low-pressure situation and I really went just to see how I felt about selling at craft shows. Obviously in the future it's going to depend on the craft show itself, but I loved this one and met some awesome artists. More than anything this was a learning experience and one I'm glad I took a leap on. I think I was afraid I'd spend the whole time hiding behind my table, but I got up and talked to people and explained my work and felt totally comfortable in that environment. It also makes me want to find other craft shows and, hey, at least this way stock is taken care of, I can just add more figurines if I want, and my display stuff is all packed and ready to go in its permanent rolling suitcase home.

Also, this is the Devil Penguin I was telling y'all about in yesterday's vlog:

Isn't he freaking adorable?! It's really no surprise that I got so many comments on him as the day went on. Looking at him, I can say that yes, I know what I'm doing with polymer clay and certainly have a distinct voice. It's just a matter of finding the right crowd to sell my stuff. Plus, while people looked at my pendants, they really responded to the figurines and ornaments so maybe for the next show I should put more of my energy into those. And, of course, since my figurines are various holiday-themed, they might do better at holiday shows so, again, Saturday was just a learning experience and it gave me a lot to think about for next time.

(I know I shouldn't play favorites, but he is so cute and it makes me want to do a whole line of Halloween-themed penguins (so far I just have the devil and a ghost). Can't you just imagine a vampire with cute lil teeth sticking down from his beak?) 

Of course, since I was away from home all weekend it meant a disruption to both my eating and exercise routine, the most obvious being that I had to skip yoga on Saturday. I did pack my shoes and workout clothes and did a three mile run Sunday morning around the area I grew up. My original plan was to try for four, but when I got to the turn-around-and-head-back point, I really wasn't feeling it, so instead of turning  back I cut up one of the main streets in town and ended up back at my parents' house that way. But, that's still three miles and right now my main focus is making sure I run three times a week, increasing distance isn't a real priority at this point but I'll get there eventually.

With food, we ordered take-out Friday night and I did my research beforehand, looking at the menu online and figuring out what would work. For Saturday at the show I actually packed a lunch. I was worried it was going to be a vending machine only situation, but the restaurant at the hotel/conference center was delivering orders to vendors at our booths. Of course, from what I could see it was mostly sports bar type meals like burgers and fries, so I did good with my plan to pack.

I did feel super awkward eating at my table even though that's what everyone else was doing. I mean, I'm sitting there at a table for eight hours all by myself (and that time surprisingly flew by), so it's not as though I had any other option. But I did try to be super subtle with my sammich and chips, not that anybody cared. Just another thing to chalk up to being part of the experience!

All of that being said, I did lose 2.6 lbs this week for a total of 83.8! I've been at this for so long and everything is second nature and so much of it is just about being healthy, I can't really quite process that number and what it means. I mean, that's only 16 away from 100. My average is about 5 lbs a month, so I could hit that goal by the end of summer!

And to think just a few years ago I was struggling to lose even 50 pounds.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

13 May 2012

the one in stars hollow

Obviously I'm not really in Stars Hollow because, um, hello if I was I would totally have filmed this at Luke's Diner. Plus, y'know, Stars Hollow is fictional.

Anyway, as I say in the video I hope all the moms I know have a fabulous Mother's Day and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

11 May 2012

short and sweet

Keeping this one pretty light today because I have a super busy weekend ahead of me, what with my first craft show tomorrow (and yes, I only ever did one DIY project. Proof of why I'm not a DIY blogger) and Mother's Day, so I'll be in my hometown of Stars Hollow until Sunday evening. But, have no fear: even with all of this going on, I'll still put up a new vlog post. And, of course, if you're in Northeast Ohio and looking for something to do this weekend, c'mon by Oddmall: Emporium of the Weird on Saturday. There are a ton of vendors signed up with unique and awesome items including several from the Cleveland Handmade Etsy team, so it should be a fun day. Oh and, hey, you can come and hang out with me.

In the meantime, this is from the 3.12 mile run I did this morning.

I decided to stay in my area instead of heading over to Edgewater Park and I found a lovely 2.25 mile loop around some of the bridges in my neighborhood (of which there are many). Of course, being short a mile I then had to run around a few parking lots, but c'est la vie.

Funny thing is, I found myself ... not really struggling but I had to keep pushing myself to do the 3 miles and it felt like it was affecting my pace. But that average up there, 14:10? That's my best time yet. Just the other day on Tuesday I did 2 miles and my average was 14:40. This is one reason why I love running with my iPhone: it shows me that I am slowly getting faster.

Pun intended, of course.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

09 May 2012

running on sunshine

A few weeks ago my awesome friend Lisa burned me a copy of The Hunger Games soundtrack. I was kind of lazy in uploading it and didn't get around to it until this past weekend and while listening to it I found two songs perfect for my "Beauty of Speed" running playlist (name taken from a Tori Amos song that, ironically, does not appear on the mix).

I can't run without my trusty iPhone Thursday. Not only is she home to the MapMyRun app that keeps track of my runs, but she has all my music on there and I really can't run without music (especially at 6:30am, like this morning). It keeps me motivated and pumped up and, in some ways, helps with pacing because when a really rockin' song kicks on I feel my feet kicking up even faster and harder to match the tempo.

Oh Microsoft, you always date yourself with your clip art choices.

Of course, being me, I have a rather, uh, eclectic mix going on. Y'know, I have some standards like Eye of the Tiger and Beat It but I also have some perhaps non-traditional choices, such as Sunday Bloody Sunday, The Cave, and, now thanks to my friend Lisa, One Engine, a song by one of my absolute favorite bands, The Decemberists.

Admittedly my playlist is a work in progress, as every few weeks I go through and clean it out. Taking some songs out that no longer push me like they used to and adding some new ones in. There's really no rhyme or reason to my selections, it really is very primal and intuitive. I primarily pick songs based on how they make me feel more than anything else.

The only downside to running with an iPhone is I'm super concerned about the weather. Cleveland is in that holding pattern where it can go from dark and stormy to bright and sunshiny within a matter of minutes. Right now I run with my iPhone in an ancient armband from the days of my ancient iPod which, actually, looks pretty similar to the one in the photo. It wasn't one of the small ones like that but it does have a black and white screen and, I'm pretty sure, still works. I've considered uploading my running mix to that iPod because at this point it hardly matters if it gets accidentally wet. But then I won't have the app to keep track of my run.

And it's not like I'm planning on running in a torrential downpour, but even sprinkles make me a wee bit nervous. It's not like I have an extra $300 lying around to replace the phone. I know there are water resistant arm bands, but it seems so risky to try one out and have it not work. Although, again, I guess I could use my old iPod as a tester. I've also looked into the waterproof SPIbelt which would be really awesome for no reason other than not having to clip my keys to my sports bra.

Who knew something as simple as running could be so complicated?

What are some of your favorite songs to listen to while you're working out? Any suggestions for running in rain and still having safe (ie: dry) access to my music?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

07 May 2012

breakfast of champions

Saturday mornings I have yoga class at 10 am. I usually try to go for a breakfast that will give me enough fuel to make it through a 90+ minute athletic Ashtanga Vinyasa practice without weighing me down and giving me a blah gross feeling halfway through the second set of Sun Salutations (as used to happen during the 6am Tuesday morning classes).

For awhile I was eating multi-grain Cheerios with light vanilla soy milk and sliced bananas on top (all Aldi brands because I am now obsessed with that place, so I guess they are really multi-grain "crispy oats") and sometimes with a hard boiled egg or bit of yogurt on the side. It was really a fabulous pre-yoga breakfast except for the part where I only ate it once a week and I'm not really a milk drinker, so there was no feasible way to drink all the soy milk before it expired. In fact, this didn't really hit home until last weekend when I took one bite of my breakfast and knew the milk from the still nearly full carton had spoiled. Go me.

It was time for a breakfast change, but I was at a loss. My normal during-the-week breakfast of eggs and bagel was going to be way too heavy for yoga and then I came across this post on Carrots n' Cake and thought She's a genius.

I love waffles. Love them. And I always want to buy them but never do because my version of a waffle is slathered in butter and dripping with syrup. Not exactly figure friendly. And somehow it had never occurred to me to figure out a way to make them work, which is really the key to a successful change in diet. If you don't want to deprive yourself of something, you just have to adapt it in a way that fits in to your lifestyle.

So that's what I did.

I did break out of my Aldi-only shopping habit for the waffles and went with the Nutri-grain Whole Wheat waffle from Eggo. Each waffle got 1 T. of creamy peanut butter, half a sliced banana, and 1 t. of honey. Two waffles are 4 Weight Watchers Points+ and I'm okay with the amount of points spent on this breakfast because, um, hi, about to earn a ton of activity points. But the amount of peanut butter can, obviously, be lowered and you can always skip the honey and/or yogurt. Or, y'know, just go with one of these waffles. Flexibility is key here, people.

Think of this as my version of Banana & Yogurt Day without actually, y'know, starving myself. In fact, quite the opposite. I mean, look at it: this might be the most perfect breakfast I have ever seen. Dairy? Check. Protein? Check. Fresh Fruit? Check. Whole Grain? Check (okay, so the whole grain is in waffle form, but it's still there). Serve it with some coffee and boom, good to go.

After that breakfast, I had an amazing Ashtanga practice. I've been struggling with Wheel over the past few months, some weeks I have it some I don't, but on Saturday I told myself I could do it and I effortlessly popped right up. And, look at that, I ate bananas and peanut butter for breakfast and still lost 3.4 lbs this week, for a total of 81.2! I'm in the 220s, people! I mean, it's 229.8, but still! I'm there and totally wearing my cute new little black dress to work today in honor of this milestone.

Think Elvis would approve?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

05 May 2012

the one where I tell you what not to do

Right. Well, as I realized a little too late last week, posting a vlog at 8am on Monday morning is probably the dumbest move ever. Because, hello, everyone is either getting ready for, on their way to, or already at work so the chance of them actually having an available 10 minutes to watch/hear is unlikely and most won't have the opportunity until they get home at which point they probably will have forgotten all about it. Not the brightest crayon in the box.

So! I'm going to keep doing the vlogs but I'm going to post them on the weekend. Like, y'know, today.

In today's vlog, you get to see me at my snarky best as I talk you through an example of a diet you shouldn't follow. Oh yeah, kids. It's gonna be a good one.

03 May 2012

start spreading the news

One of my favorite blogs to read is Skinny Emmie. Y'all are inspired by me? Well, she's one of my inspirations and I only wish I had started reading her blog when I was still living in Lexington as I feel she and I would get along famously in person.

Anyway, the other day she posted about her recent trip to New York City and how different it was from the last time she went. It was only in reading her new post that I started to reflect on my last trip to the Big Apple.

So back in, oh, 2005 or 2006, Sissy and I went to New York City together. The purpose for the trip was that two of my favorite authors, Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, were given a reading together along with John Irving. Oh yes, people. I got to hear J.K. Rowling read from the 6th Harry Potter book. In person. From maybe 15 rows back at Radio City Music Hall. I also saw Stephen King from the same spot. And it wasn't just the three writers as all three were introduced by celebrities as well, like Kathy Bates introducing Stephen King and claiming she was his biggest fan (and if you don't understand that reference, may I suggest you rent this little horror movie titled "Misery," keeping in mind that the hobbling scene is way worse in the book).

Of course, our tickets cost a fortune so Sissy and I decided to stay with a high-school friend of mine who was living in Brooklyn. I also had another high-school friend just moving to the neighborhood and a college friend was in Astoria, so we had quite a fabulous time seeing the 'other' New York, since all of our previous trips with our parents had us staying in the city.

Staying outside of Manhattan required walking. Lots of walking. Walking to the subway. Walking from the subway. Walking around the city. Lot and lots and lots of walking. And I was not a walker. I was a driver. I was a girl who relied on her car for transportation. I can only take a wild guess at what I weighed at that time, but I imagine it was only maybe 270. I say "only" because I wasn't yet above 300, but I was still terribly out of shape, huffing and puffing with every step.

It was also summer. I don't know if you've ever been to New York in summer time but oh. em. gee is it hot there. Not just when you're outside, but then you go into the subway stations and they are like furnaces and very few of the stations or subway cars were air conditioned nor, I don't think, was my friend's apartment.

In a word: I was miserable.

Which is sad because I love New York City. I love the energy and the sights. It's the home of Broadway and musicals and that sassy singleton Carrie Bradshaw and there is just so much life there. Fabulous shopping and restaurants and parks and people. It's still unlike any city I've ever been to before and as a kid I so wanted to one day grow up and be a famous writer living in the Manhattan.

At that time, it was about a year after I graduated with my BFA and I was back living at home because, hi, a degree in creative writing doesn't get you very far in the job market. I was looking into going back to school and I planned on getting my Master's in Publishing. Yes, ladies & gents, at one point in a previous life I dreamed of being an Editor. I had taken the GRE and applied to a handful of the handful of schools that offered the Masters: my top choice was Emerson in Boston although I had also applied to Pace in New York.

Emerson rejected me but I was accepted into Pace. They even offered me a $1000 scholarship to attend.

At that time I also had a long-distance boyfriend living in Kentucky and we had talked about moving to Boston if I was accepted into Emerson. Only I wasn't and so I decided to move to Kentucky instead of attending my second choice school. That plan didn't quite work out the way I had anticipated, as within six months of my moving I broke up with him. But c'est la vie.

Truth is, though, my decision to turn down Pace and my dreams of being an Editor had nothing to do with my boyfriend or moving to Kentucky. It wasn't about the school or the program or the city.

It was the walking.

As soon as I got home from that trip I knew there was no way I'd survive in New York. Not when I got physically exhausted just walking a single city block. I felt gross at the end of each day because I was drenched in sweat, my hair a wet mess. Red-faced with exertion, what little makeup I put on melted off within an hour. I was cranky and tired and not much fun to be around. I couldn't manage two days, how was I going to manage two years?

Of course, if I had moved to New York I would have survived. I mean, let's not be melodramatic here. And, naturally, like anything else, the more often you do something, like walking around the city, the easier it would get with time. But I wasn't thinking about that. I was only thinking about how much hard work it would be just to get around on a daily basis and I was lazy and full of excuses.

So I didn't move to New York. I moved to Kentucky instead. I did end up going to grad school, but it was for my Masters in Library and Information Science, which is a much better fit for me anyway. I still love Harry Potter and Stephen King, though Carrie Bradshaw has since married Mr. Big. Two of those three friends still reside in ol' New York, though the third is now in Colorado.

And me? Well, these days I'm not afraid of a little exercise or exertion when on vacation. In fact, I look forward to it and plan for it. In other words, I don't just walk these days. I run. How 'bout them apples, eh?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

01 May 2012

you keep using that word

It's a word I hear often these days. That I'm an inspiration. That I inspire people. And I get it, I do: I've lost almost 80 lbs and I've done a complete 180. Not just with my weight, but with my exercise and activity level and attitude. With my life.

It's a word that means the world to me, to hear it from other people. From family and friends. I get emails and Facebook message from people I haven't seen or spoken to in years. I get them from people I only know online, asking for advice or just to be a sounding board for their own weight loss struggles. These are people bigger than me, my size, or even smaller than me and something about what I'm doing has struck a chord with them.

At the same time, though, it's a word I have difficulty adopting or internalizing. My initial reaction is disbelief and I want to let them know I don't have all the answers and still struggle myself. I skip workouts (like this morning's run) and there are certain foods (I'm looking at you, Nutella) that I can't even have anywhere in my apartment because I don't trust myself around it. I want to point out that if I knew what I was doing, I never would have gotten up to 311 pounds.

I mean, that's the thing, right? That's the whole point to this. I used to weigh over three hundred pounds. I was lazy and inactive and had a terrible diet. I was in denial about my health and, let's face it, my self worth. But the key there is "used to be" -- because I'm not over 300 lbs anyway more, in fact I'm halfway through my journey, so while I might not have known what I was doing then I appear to know now. I might not have all of the answers, but I have some of them. More than I had a year ago and that, more than anything, is what counts. Because, c'mon, nobody has all of the answers.

When I started The Year of the Phoenix back in January, I only had a vague idea of its purpose. Its message. My message. What did I want to say? What did I have that was worth saying? Let's see. Well, I'm thirty, I'm single, I'm a librarian, I live in Cleveland, and, oh yeah, I'm losing weight. A lot of weight. In the beginning, that last bit seemed secondary. I guess I just thought there was no way anyone would only want to read about my weight loss journey. It just seemed like such a boring focus for a blog, even though I read other weight loss blogs and I love them. Love them enough that they inspire me.

I think the problem is that these changes, the food and running, all of it, are second-nature now. They've become such a fixture in my life that I'm not able to see how they are viewed from someone on the outside. When I think about it, I'm like "Okay, so I've lost over 75+ pounds but I still have 75 to go" without comprehending that means I'm on a journey to lose 150 pounds. That is, um, astounding and only now am I fully grasping how, well, inspiring that is to other people.

Not only am I grasping it, I'm embracing it. Fully and completely and with my whole heart. Because people don't find my posts about my family inspiring. They don't find my posts about living in Cleveland inspiring. They find me and my journey inspiring. So that's what I'm going to write about. I mean, I already do write about that, obviously, but if it doesn't relate to this journey, it's probably not going to make it to this blog. At least not as much as it has in the past. And I want to thank all of you who HAVE said this to me, because it really does completely overwhelm me in a very good way and it's part of the reason I'm shifting focus here. I've even given my blog a bit of a face-lift (and I seriously apologize to anyone who has visited over the past 24 hours, because it's been a hot mess over here). New attitude means new look, with the header being the biggest change. It's my way of saying This is Who I Am and This is What I Write About.

So hi. My name is Jill, I write a weight-loss and fitness blog, and holy hell it's already May.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus
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