30 November 2012

yippee ki yay

We still have a month (and one day) left in 2012, but I'm already starting to put my 2013 Race Calendar together!

Y'all know that a few months ago I found twenty seconds of insane courage and signed up for the Rock 'n Roll Cleveland Half Marathon, but that's not until next October. After spending the past six months racing in 5Ks, I know it's time to challenge myself to a 10K, but, still, challenge = scary. The most I've ever run is a little over 4 miles, so 6.2 seems daunting (and, yet, a half marathon length of 13.1 somehow doesn't. This, ladies & gents, is how it works inside my brain).

Initially I thought the St. Malachi Five Miler in March would be an excellent start to my racing season, being that it's pretty much right in between the distance of a 5K and a 10K and it's considered the sort of official start to the Cleveland racing season. But then my uncle in Texas emailed me. When my aunt was in town a few weeks ago she and I had talked about visiting them in Houston early next year and running a race with my uncle (well, my uncle and I running the same race. While I have no doubt he'd slow down his speed to run with me I'm not going to ask him to do that).

So, earlier this week he sent me a list of some of the 5Ks and 10Ks that are held in Houston in the spring. After looking through the list I settled on the Rodeo Run.


I went back and forth on which race I wanted to run, the 5K or 10K. My concern is that while it will be fairly mild in Houston, I'm going to be training in Cleveland, Ohio in the dead of winter. This will be my first winter running and I have no idea what to expect or how I'll handle it.

In the end I decided to go for the 10K. It would have been far too easy to fall back on excuses and say I won't be prepared, won't be able to do it, etc. Now, I have no excuses. Instead I have three months and plenty of time to push myself to run a slightly further distance than what I'm at now. And, besides, after running in Cleveland winters for a few months, six miles in Houston in late February should be a piece o' cake!

Anyone else planning next year's race schedule yet?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

28 November 2012

What I Love Wednesday: Christmas Blend

I am not ashamed to admit that I'm one of those java junkies that loves going to bed for no other reason than knowing that when I wake up I get coffee. Oh, yeah. I'm that weirdo. (I'm also one of those other weirdos who can drink a cup of regular coffee late at night -- I'm talking 10 pm, after I get home from work -- and have no trouble falling asleep an hour later. I have long suspected that late night coffee actually helps me sleep. Like I said: weirdo.)

Despite my current adoration for this culinary confection of caffeine, I am a fairly new coffee drinker. As in I only started drinking about six years ago, although I vaguely recall drinking coffee as a kid. Y'know, where it's like thismuch coffee and thismuch milk and sugar.

Truthfully, the only reason I started drinking coffee was because I was working in a coffee shop. A Barnes & Noble Cafe, to be precise, which, while not an actual Starbucks, serves 'bux products. I was quite familiar with the espresso drinks, being a longtime fan of them, but I figured I better familiarize myself with the regular coffee options as well.

As a rule we always served the House blend. Sampling a small cup only seemed to reconfirm my distaste and while I'd try the different varieties we occasionally offered, I became convinced that coffee and I were just incompatible.

But, then, see, the holidays rolled around and with it came Starbucks Christmas Blend.

Find Me On Instagram, @Jill_Grun

What was this madness? A coffee I actually enjoyed drinking? Inconceivable! Yet I could not stop drinking it. And thus, my love affair with coffee and my annual purchase of Christmas Blend began.

Of course, upon getting my Keurig last Christmas (only thing I asked for) I was in a bit of a fix. While I know they sell reusable cups that you can make ground, bagged coffee in, I've never bothered buying one since there are plenty of K-Cup varieties I will happily drink. So when Coffee Cake and Cardio posted a photo showing a box of Christmas Blend K-Cups, I was all over that shit, man. Christmas Blend with some Sugar Free Peppermint Mocha creamer has become my favorite morning ritual.

Then again, I did only buy one box. Maybe I need to go back for a second....

Any other coffee fiends out there? 

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

26 November 2012

medium rare

This past Friday I went shopping.

This statement, by itself, doesn't really mean much. It was Black Friday, after all (and today is Cyber Monday and the last day of the sale in my Etsy shop! Free worldwide shipping on jewelry, ornaments 10% off. Deals expire tonight). Honestly, I had no intentions of purchasing anything while we were out. I really just wanted to go to a particular store in our hometown as I wanted to check out sleeves for my new Nook (yes, yes, this librarian finally joined the e-Reader craze and, believe it or not, I can't remember why I held out so long). Anyway, after looking and deciding on one to let my mom know I'd like as a Christmas gift, Sissy wanted to head over to Ann Taylor Loft. 

I have never shopped at a Loft before, but as we walked in I was excited, thinking that maybe I'll be able to fit into their clothes finally. 

Perusing the racks, I asked Sissy how their clothes are cut. That is, are they large, small, true to size. In the end I grabbed a few L and XL just to get an idea and went for the dressing room. 

Here's where things get....interesting. 

One of my finds was a lace dress. I grabbed a Large. Only, when I put it on it didn't fit. It was too big. And I don't just mean, like, it had a bit of give. I was drowning in this dress. The next dress I put on, also an L, was also like wearing a tent. And don't even get me started on any of the XLs. 

A few weeks ago I went to Target and bought a new hoodie, sized Medium. I thought it was a fluke. Just the way Target (or, well, Merona) sized clothes.

No, ladies and gents, it is not a fluke, as I ended up buying the second dress (a gorgeous red sweater style) in a Medium. I also was thisclose to buying black leggings in a 14 (until Sissy pointed out I'd be able to find leggings just about anywhere and way cheaper. Old Navy ended up having theirs on sale for $5 and I had a $5 reward. Winner Winner Chicken Dinner).

In the past almost-two-years, I have gone from wearing XXL to wearing M. My pant size started at 28 and I'm now at 14. Shoes. Oh, shoes. I've gone from wearing 9s to wearing 7s. 

I don't know what to do with this information. It's overwhelming and a little bit absurd: if asked, two years ago, if I ever thought I'd get to this point (down 119.8 as of this morning) I would have said no. In fact, when people ask me now if I ever thought I'd get this far, I laugh and say "fuck no." And I'm not even done yet. (It's also overwhelming to be comfortable wearing things like leggings and sweater dresses. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, indeed.)

The thing is, when I look in the mirror, I don't see it.  I know what the scale says. I know what my clothes say. I have collar bones popping out and defined cheek bones and a dangerous curve to my figure, but I still can't quite see a woman who wears Mediums. When I get attention from men it leaves me stunned, for when I try to see myself through their eyes, all I see is the old me.

Kelly over at CurvyFitGirl said the fat girl is still in her head and I think that's my problem, too. It's a struggle, adjusting to this new body and accepting what I actually look like. Never having been this thin, it's not as though I have memories or pictures of what it was like before. This is all new territory and while on the one hand it's very exciting, it's also, to be perfectly frank, fucking terrifying. And I worry that complaining or being uncomfortable makes me seem ungrateful or whiny or like I'm fishing. When people point out that I'm now skinnier than them I never know what to say: I've never been skinnier than anyone before. 

Even now I'm struggling to describe what goes through my head these days. The physical aspect of losing weight I've got covered. Now I guess I just have to work on the mental aspect.

Anyone else know what this feels like? 

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

23 November 2012

the morning after

So how'd everyone do at surviving Thanksgiving? I did a pretty good job of following my own advice, actually. Tasted a little bit of everything -- including sweet potatoes and green bean casserole -- but didn't go with any extreme serving sizes so by the end of the meal I felt pretty satisfied. I had a simple but protein filled breakfast in the morning and since I was in charge of dessert (mini pumpkin cheesecakes from this month's Vegetarian Times) I knew it was something I could indulge in. I even managed to lighten the dessert up by using egg whites instead of whole eggs and it came out splendidly!

Wednesday night I met up with friends after work and didn't get home until close to 2 am and for some ridiculous reason I was wide awake by 7. Like, there was no hope of going back to sleep so I didn't bother. Truthfully I think it was my body's way of reminding me that I said I was going to go running before Thanksgiving dinner and my body didn't give a flying fig what time I went to bed, I was going to stick to this plan.

So, after doing my Sun Salutations and #plankaday I went out for a run.

Of course, I'm fairly convinced there has to be something wonky with the GPS on my phone 'cause when I got home and looked at my split times I saw this.


No. Seriously. What?!

I'm just blown away and while I have no doubt the times on the rest of my run were accurate, that first mile has me totally flabbergasted. Even looking at the map on the app and seeing the mile marker and thinking Okay, well, now that I think about it, it really didn't take me that long to get to that spot... Still, that's way crazy and I'm not entirely convinced. (I also only went for a 3.12 mile run, not 4. That's just how it shows up in the app.)

Remember when I said at the beginning that I did a pretty good job of following my own advice? That sounds silly, but here's the thing with holidays and food obstacles: sometimes we go in with a plan, we go in with the best of intentions and it all goes out the window at the first sight of that big ol' bowl of mashed taters.  It has happened to all of us, really. Nobody is perfect all of the time and those of us who share our journeys, we mess up sometimes, too.

As my friend Alan has said, we won't have a perfect record, all we need is a winning record. In other words, if your Thanksgiving didn't go as you had hoped, that's okay. Don't dwell on bad food choices or coulda, woulda, shouldas. What happened happened and there's no changing it, all you can do is move forward. Every day is another chance to get it right, so just refocus and try to make better food choices today. Don't do anything crazy, like starving yourself to balance out all that you ate yesterday, leave yesterday where it belongs and treat today like the fresh start that it is!

I have a lot to be thankful for: supportive family and friends, a job I enjoy, a life I love. My health, of course, is the big one. So many people take that one for granted, I think, not understanding how just being alive and functioning isn't quite the same as having your health. But I am also very thankful for all of you, dear readers. When I started writing about my weight loss journey I never imagined I'd have so many people who would continually want to read about it and having found the healthy living blogger community has been tremendous for me in having a place and space to share my story. So thank you, to all of you, for, well, just being you!

Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend! Reminder that I'm having a Black Friday sale in my Etsy shop: Now through Monday night, ornaments are 10% off and I'm offering FREE worldwide shipping on all jewelry!

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

21 November 2012

What I Love Wednesday: Peasant Bread

My Facebook Fans were given a sneak peek of this week's What I Love Wednesday post courtesy of this picture:

mmmmmm. carbs.

I made bread, people. I MADE BREAD.

The recipe is from Alexandra's Kitchen and she's not kidding when she says it's the easiest bread you will ever make. (Course, this was my first attempt at bread making so I don't really have anything to compare it to. But it was pretty damn easy, so I'm gonna go ahead and take her word for it.) As someone will virtually no bread making experience, I ended up with this delicious looking loaf so, yeah. Easy. Golden crust on the outside, thick yeasty bread on the inside.

Originally for two loafs, I cut the recipe in half, not needing that much bread and, as you can see, it worked out just fine. I got ten servings out of it and they are decent sized slices, at just about 90 calories and 2 Weight Watchers points a slice (I used MyFitnessPal for the information).

I made the loaf Saturday night to go with my spicy roasted butternut squash soup (hello, immersion blender!). Sunday morning I made some oh-so-yummy toast with the bread and Sunday night I made croutons to go in the soup. So many options from one little loaf of bread, I love it.

Truthfully, I don't really eat a lot of bread, but I can guarantee this is going to be made again and often.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving! Don't forget my tips for having a healthy and happy holiday! I'm also going to be having a sale in my Etsy shop that starts late tomorrow night, meaning you can score Black Friday deals from the comfort of your home. Have a wonderful holiday with your friends and family!

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

19 November 2012

free falling

Putting her hands on her knees, Jessica leans towards me and says, "So, you've been doing headstands since, what, March?"

Thinking about it for a second, I say that sounded about right.

She nods, the hint of a gleam in her eye. "Okay, for about eight months now. I think--"


I cut her off, violently shake of my head. Panic sets in, knowing exactly what she has in mind. "No," I repeat, near tears just thinking about it. "I can't. Seriously. I can't do it."

She crouches down a bit lower, a bit closer. "I'm not going to make you, but I want you to at least try. Will you do that for me?"

Lemme back up for a second. The latest issue of Yoga Journal has an article about setting intentions for the new year and letting go of the past, as it's the only real way to move forward. The same issue also talks about setting aside a physical space in your home as an alter of sorts. A place to meditate and celebrate. A "physical manifestation of your inner spiritual landscape." I am a collector of memories, of physical objects that have sentimental value, and I suppose I have alters set up all around my apartment I just never attached that word to them. But on Friday, after reading the magazine, I took time to mark a space in my bedroom and fill it with items that create a positive energy for me whenever I look at them. That same day, I sat in front of my alter and followed some of the intention setting suggestions outlined in the other article: specifically writing down names and events and emotions I wanted to shed.

Taking the little pieces of paper, I slowly folded them up individually, softly whispering I forgive you. I release you. I set you free from my heart. In doing so, I open myself up to the universe, inviting in love, light, and life.

And then I burned each and every one.

Less than 24 hours later I'm in my Ashtanga class and the practice thus far had been fierce and focused. I feel strong and courageous  As though the intention setting from the day before is already working.

But all of that vanished in a heartbeat when my instructor Jessica suggests I attempt a headstand away from the wall.

At 311 pounds, falling brings with it a certain sense of more than just fear of hurting oneself. There's the fear of breaking things. Like, not body parts, but, okay, so this one time many years ago my family was on vacation and I was taking a shower. My sister wasn't in the room, she must have gone with my dad somewhere, but as I was getting out of the raised tub I slipped and tumbled out onto the ground.

The first concern that popped into my head wasn't whether I'd hurt myself, but whether or not I'd cracked the tile floor as that was gonna be awkward and embarrassing to explain. (The floor and I were both fine.)

These days I weigh considerably less (191.6, as of this morning), but that fear of broken floors and broken chairs is so deeply ingrained, it's difficult to come to terms with the fact that it's no longer something I need to worry about.

Look at this way: Earlier in the morning we were doing Boat Pose. This is not exactly a fun or comfortable pose to do anyway, but this particular day I found it even more uncomfortable for no other reason than I've lost all my "padding: I could physically feel my tailbone pressing against the floor and it really fucking hurt. (My mat is probably a bit worn down, which doesn't help, but still.) Yet half an hour later and I forget that and mentally regress 120 some pounds and worry about putting a crack in the hardwood floor of The Studio Cleveland.

But Jessica's presence in my life has meant so much, so when she asks if I'll at at least try, for her, I can't exactly say no. And it's not as though she's asking me to do the headstand in the middle of the room, the wall -- and she -- will still be accessible.

With her standing by, I get on my hands and knees and bend my head down. Fingers entwined, they press against the crown of my head as I brace my forearms onto the mat. Down Dog Legs. On my tip toes I walk forward. I kick up one, then two legs, which are gently grasped by Jessica. Keeping a light grip, then just a touch, I sense her walking around me as I attempt to find my balance.

Her touch gets lighter and lighter until she lets go completely. I hold the pose for about a second before I lose my balance and land in Down Dog.

Looking up, I see her offering her hand for a high five. She tells me to try it again.

So we repeat our little dance, and I again am able to hold the headstand for about a second, maybe a bit longer this time, before I come to the ground.

This time she's beaming. "It's a whole near year!" she exclaims.

Yes it is, Jessica. Yes, it is.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

16 November 2012

where the magic happens

The saying goes Abs are made in the kitchen. Cliched, perhaps, but here's the hard truth, kids: Doesn't matter how many miles you run or how many Down Dogs you do or how many #plankadays you perform.

You can't out exercise a bad diet. 

If you think of weight loss strictly in terms of calories in vs. calories out, then I can see how it would be easy to believe that if you eat 200 calories of food and burn 300 calories through exercise, then you're clearly in the deficit and should lose weight. But, as many people can attest, weight loss is not quite that black and white. Calories only tell one part of the food story and poor nutrition comes with a whole host of other equations that will affect your ability to find your ideal weight.

Yes, that is chalkboard paint on my cabinets

Not gonna lie, I have a wicked apartment. And while I love every inch of it, my kitchen is probably my favorite room. It's also the room that gets the most love. Not just use, but love. Make the kitchen a space you want to be in and I promise you'll spend more time in there. It's quirky and colorful and it's possible I might have a slight obsession adoration for kitchen appliances. There's a mini food processor next to the toaster and my Keurig is just off to the left. Tucked away in one of the lower cabinets are my Crockpot, Fondue set, Waffle Iron, and Ice Cream Maker (last two were both yard sale finds, woot woot!)

My newest purchase, thanks to a birthday gift card from the parentals, is a 2-in-1 Calphalon Immersion Blender. I've been eyeing one of these bad boys for a looooong time: I love making soups, but I hate the kind of soups that require blending. I have a Ninja Blender (won at the work Christmas party two years ago), but it's so fucking annoying scooping out the soup and blending it in sections. Plus, then it's just another big ol' piece of equipment you have to clean. Hence, immersion blender. On top of that, Sissy bought me a Crate & Barrel gift card for my birfday and I will undoubtedly be buying some kitchen shiny. Yay new toys!

Of course, with a love of cooking gadgets comes a love of cooking.

Naturally, then, I have a collection of cookbooks and keep all of my back issues of Vegetarian Times. I also have favorite food blogs I go to for recipes, too, and keep a Pinterest board for some of the ones I find. The flowery binder up on the far left is my sorta kinda homemade cookbook, with print outs of recipes I found online or ones from magazines or whatever. It's all organized and color-coded and everything. Because I'm a big ol' nerd like that.

I plan meals out a week in advance, making something big like soup or casserole on Saturday or Sunday and portioning it out for the week ahead. This week it's going to be SkinnyTaste's Roasted Pumpkin Sage soup, only I'm using butternut squash and playing with it a bit: I see soup recipes more as guidelines than instructions. I'm also attempting homemade bread for the first time with this peasant bread recipe from Alexandra's Kitchen.

Meal planning is key to staying on track since there's nothing to think about when I get home from work each night. I just reach into the fridge and pull out one of the containers and put it in my lunch bag for the next day. Done and done.  I also usually like to pick recipes where I'll have 6-8 servings so I can have some of it the weekend I'm making it or the following weekend. And I always freeze soups whenever possible.

When cooking from scratch, I use the MyFitnessPal recipe builder to get the nutrition information, which I then plug into my Weight Watchers calculator to get the Points. Sure, it might seem like extra work, but for the past few months I've counted calories alongside my WW Points and it's had a tremendously positive effect on my food choices, especially on days I exercise. Before I'd find myself negotiating the pros & cons of using my extra weekly points, but, say, on a day like today where I ran 2 miles and burned close to 300 calories it helps put those few extra points in perspective.

All of this being said, despite my love of cooking and baking, I also lurve to eat out. And it is, indeed, possible to eat out -- even eat out a lot -- and still lose weight. Here's a breakdown of last week:

Monday: Chipotle Veggie Burrito Bol for dinner (with sour cream; skipped the cheese & guac)
Thursday: Grande Skinny Peppermint Latte from Starbucks
Friday: Birthday dinner with the parents at Tomato Grill. Had bread. And wine. And pizza. And cheesecake. (gasp!)
Saturday: Lunch was two slices of leftover pizza. Birthday drinks with friends that night. Enjoyed myself a Cosmopolitan.
Sunday: Dinner at Brown Bag Burgers. Veggie burger and cheesy fries.

Outcome: lost 2 lbs. What the what!

Yes, I exercised, but honestly it was a pretty low impact kind of week. Stuck with my Sun Salutations every morning, had my usual Ashtanga class on Saturday, and went for a three mile run on Friday, but that's about all I did (and, see, again, Friday was my run so I had no problem splurging on my birthday dinner with my parents that night).

Losing weight doesn't have to be a diet consisting of celery and water. I can't think of anything I've actually completely given up since starting, I just find a way to make it work and do most of the work in my kitchen.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

14 November 2012

how to survive thanksgiving

Anyone else a little freaked out by the fact that Turkey Day is next week? Or, in my case, Tofurkey Day! (My mom is always awesome and buys me a Quorn chik'n cutlet for Thanksgiving dinner. Christmas, too. One thing I am very thankful for is how supportive she, and my entire family, is of my vegetarianism.)

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the last few weeks of the year are, without a doubt, the most difficult to get through if you're trying to be healthy and watching what you eat. But, as with Halloween, as long as you go in with a game plan you can indeed eat your pumpkin pie and have it, too.

Eat First 
Know how they always say don't go grocery shopping on an empty stomach? Same rule applies with Thanksgiving. So whatever you do, don't go to Thanksgiving dinner hungry because you will inevitably eat way more than you intend to. So make sure you eat breakfast  the day of (plus a light lunch, depending on when the big meal is). For appetizers, veggies and dip or hummus are always safe, smart choices. Get one of those dry ranch packets and mix it in low-fat sour cream or fat free plain Greek yogurt (I'm a big fan of 0% Fage).

Get Your H2O On
Dehydration can feel like hunger, so when you think you want food sometimes what you really need is water. So be that weirdo with your favorite water bottle and make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Speaking of Drinking...
Don't drink your calories. This is actually a valid year-round weight loss suggestion, but as the holidays tend to be a time when people are more likely to break out the wine or Christmas Ale, it's important to remember those items have calories and they can add up quickly if you're just knocking drinks back and not paying attention. I'm not saying you can't have any alcohol at all, I mean, hi, I like wine with dinner. But, y'know, a glass of wine, not a whole bottle. It's really about making a choice of what's going to be worth the calories and what will leave you feeling satisfied at the end of the day.

Special note for those on Weight Watchers: You can't go by the nutritional information on the bottle of wine or beer or whatever it is that you're drinking. Sugar alcohol & regular alcohol ups the points, but it's not going to show up when you plug the numbers in. So when alcohol is involved, always go by the information in your e-tracker or booklet to find out how many points something is.

Think Small
The majority of the time -- I'm talking, like, 99.9% -- when I eat a meal at home, holiday or not, I'm eating it off of a salad plate. Y'know, that small plate in your dish collection that you probably use for dessert and appetizers. We tend to eat with our eyes first and nothing is more visually appealing than a plate full of food. Using a small plate, it takes much less food to fill it up, whereas you put that same amount of food on a standard sized dinner plate and it looks pretty empty and suddenly you think it's not going to be enough food and so you have to add another roll or scoop of mashed potatoes. Yes, it's a silly psychological trick but it's one that works.

Break Out Your Cookbooks
If you're the one cooking the full meal you have a lot more control over what is being served so you can opt for some more weight-loss friendly recipes. If you're going to someone's house for Thanksgiving then offer to bring something so there's at least one thing you know is okay. Maybe it's something simple like a plate of veggies and dip, or scour Pinterest for recipes. There are a ton of skinnified versions of classic favorite side dishes available. You saw what I did with carrots, so imagine mashed cauliflowers instead of potatoes. Me, I'm making Mini Pumpkin Pies from this month's Vegetarian Times. Baked in muffin tins, they are going to be the perfect single-serving dessert.

Eat Slow
Ever have a meal where you're eating and eating, feeling good, not quite satisfied yet, and then all of a sudden after one more bite you've crossed the threshold from feeling not-quite-satisfied to full-blown-uncomfortably-stuffed? That's a feeling you want to avoid whenever possible and the easiest way to do that is to slow down. There is some lapse in communications between brain and stomach which is how all it can take is one bite and you've suddenly gone way over. If you pause between bites and savor what you're eating instead of just mindlessly munching along, you'll be able to listen to your body when it tells you you've had enough. If you really wanna get hardcore, during this week's Fitfluential Twitter Chat, Kymberly at Fun and Fit suggested physically putting your fork down between bites and you aren't allowed to pick it back up until after you've swallowed.

Don't Deprive Yourself
Have the green bean casserole. And a roll. Even a slice of pumpkin pie. Just make sure you mindfully eat and enjoy the food. See, in the past I would skip something, like, say, sweet potatoes and then spend the rest of the evening wanting the sweet potatoes, but saying I shouldn't have them, only to eventually get them and practically inhale them. This was two fold because the guilt would set in almost immediately on top of having eaten them so fast I barely tasted them. What I should have done was just get a small serving and take time to enjoy the sweet potatoes. Like with everything else, it's all about moderation. And since it's unrealistic to expect to be able to measure out everything you eat at Thanksgiving dinner, learn how to estimate portion sizes.

Just remember: second helpings are not required and probably aren't necessary. And while, yes, I know that there are children starving in Africa, despite what your mother told you, you don't have to actually clean off your plate. So if you find yourself full, don't force yourself to finish.

Shift Goals
Weight loss is hard during the holidays. Believe me, I know, considering I gained six pounds last Christmas. I'm not saying it's impossible to lose weight this time of year, it's just made a bit more difficult with big family meals and parties and lots and lots of food. So instead of working on weight loss, change your focus just a wee bit and go for weight maintenance. Not gaining any weight during the holidays is an accomplishment in itself and will take some of the pressure off.

Have any of your own suggestions to share?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

12 November 2012

dear mom & dad

I am guessing that the dyed hair, tattooed, agnostic, vegetarian writing this post probably isn't the woman you expected me to turn into when you welcomed me into the world thirty-one years ago today (though I will point out I was way ahead of y'all on the liberal social issues. Thanks for at least partly joining me on the dark side). And perhaps expectations is the wrong word, but I suppose like most parents you had dreams and plans and ambitions for me. Not only was I your first daughter, but your first child and while I know I made quite the cute kid with my blonde hair and blue eyes, as I grew older and began to develop my own sense of self, I also grew defiant and became secretive and stubborn. A natural introvert, I spent years closing my door and shutting myself off and even now I'm not exactly one to just willingly volunteer information about what's going on in my life. (Well, at least not to you. The fact that I'll talk about it on a blog is another matter entirely.)

There were a few years here and there were things were...less than easy. Y'know, like when I pretty much stopped doing all homework fifth grade through twelfth grade. And when I wanted to major in creative writing of all things. Let's also not forget the time I moved to Kentucky for a guy. But through it all you both have always been there for me in ways that I would like to think I have never taken for granted. But I am also aware that there is no way on earth I could ever show you enough appreciation for all that you have done.

I also know there was a long period of time when you and Sissy and, really, probably the whole family, were all very concerned about my health. For years I turned a blind eye to the situation I had gotten myself into (and, let's face it, there's no one else to blame) and turned deaf ears to all of you when you would try and broach the topic. That's actually being too kind: I'd get downright defensive and angry and refuse to address the issue head on. Like that time I stormed away in tears in the food court of some airport because of some ridiculous comment I can't even remember now that I internalized as you criticizing how much food I was eating. In truth, I took it that way because I knew you were right but I didn't want to deal with that reality. I didn't know how to deal with that reality and I've always been far too independent to ever ask for help.

Luckily I know that while you stopped bringing it up at some point, you never stopped believing in my ability to turn it all around. Kind of like with that silly boy in Kentucky and knowing I'd eventually realize what you all already knew about him. As of today I have lost 116.8 lbs and I couldn't have done it without you two. Your support through this journey has been huge (pun intended). Even at 31, I admit that I always get excited when I know you guys are coming to one of my races and it still kills me that just a few weeks ago, Dad was attempting to do some of the yoga poses he's seen me do (attempting being the key word, as I stopped him before he risked injury.)

This is one of those situations mentioned above, where I'd have great difficulty telling this to you in person or over the phone or in an email or whatever and so I'm taking advantage of the fact that I know at least mom reads my blog and I'm putting it here instead. There's really so much more I'd like to say, but even with that degree in creative writing you wholeheartedly supported, knowing full well it was really just a fancy piece of paper with no job at the end, I'm currently struggling with how to exactly express my gratitude for having the two of you as my parents.

I guess all I can really say is Thank You.

In case you hadn't guessed, today is my 31st birfday! But just 'cause I'm the Birthday Girl doesn't mean I should have all the fun, so for today only I'm having a storewide sale in my Etsy shop and have discounted all items 31% off! Yup, everything in the shop is on sale, even the brand new items I just listed yesterday. Deal ends tonight at midnight (EST) so if there's something you've had your eye on, now is the time to grab it!

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus Jill

09 November 2012

here comes the sun (salutations)

A few weeks ago in class, my yoga instructor Jessica said If you can do the Sun Salutations, you can do anything. The Ashtanga practice opens with ten of them: Five of Surya Namaskara A followed by five of Surya Namaskara B.

Like many a yoga pose, they appear deceptively easy. However, when I first started practicing I struggled with finding the stamina to complete the series, especially once we hit B and had to contend with Chair Pose. Only ten minutes into a ninety minute class and I'd already be drenched in sweat.

Nearly a year later and not only do I have the energy to do the full ten salutations, but I can roll over my toes from Upward Facing Dog into Downward Facing Dog. More recently I found that I am able to jump back from Half Standing Forward Bend into Plank. While I'm still working on lowering down into Chaturanga, every time I do a Sun Salutation, be it in Ashtanga class or at home, I am able to see progress as my body gets stronger and my practice goes deeper.

Have faith in what your body is telling you and it will never disappoint.

Recently I've begun starting my mornings with my own mini home practice by utilizing the Sun Salutations to their intent, as way of bowing to the sun and thanking it for the light and life it brings to the world. Without the sun, there would be no life on earth and it deserves to be respected and honored for what it offers us (yes, yes, this is my inner crunchy granola coming out).

Each morning I wake up, I feed the cats, then I roll my yoga mat out onto my bedroom floor and get to work. In the beginning I used to do it in a mirror, as a way to check my form, but quickly stopped. The mirror proved too distracting, an excuse to focus on outside perceptions, and ultimately took away from the true purpose of the asanas.

Ten to fifteen minute addition to my morning routine, yet somehow it manages to completely transform not only my entire day but my entire attitude. It's as if by opening my heart each morning and embracing the sun, I'm able to channel the light it gives. I'm not really sure how else to explain it.

Look at it this way: Ten Sun Salutations (followed by my daily plank) was the only warm-up I did before Saturday's 5K and I totally killed it. I realize correlation is not causation, but still. There it is.

Of course, I sometimes jokingly make fun of my friend Lisa whenever she talks about doing her own morning stretches. Guess I'm gonna have to stop doing that now, huh?

Speaking of yoga, don't forget that tomorrow is Virtual CurveFest, hosted by Anna at Curvy Yoga! It's going to be a fun, fabulous, and FREE day of body lovin' yoga so hopefully you'll register and join the rest of us!

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

07 November 2012

What I Love Wednesday: Carrot Fries

Weeks and weeks ago I pinned a recipe for Carrot Fries. I admit that at the time I was a bit skeptical. Fries made from carrots? It's not that I don't like carrots, but I don't exactly love them either. It's more of a tolerance thing. As in, I tolerate them because I know they are good for me so I'll eat them every once in awhile.

So over the weekend I was making a sandwich for lunch and I wanted something on the side. Chips are always an option, but I wanted something a little more calorie and carb friendly, which is when I remembered I had a bag of carrots left in my fridge from a previous recipe and figured I'd at least give the carrot fries a whirl.

I don't know about you, but I like my fries crispy on the outside, soft in the inside. The key, which I learned thanks to this post from Feel Good About Dinner, is cornstarch.

Genius, I tell you. Genius.

I've used cornstarch before on the outside of tofu, in a naive attempt to mimic the texture of the tofu at Bac (never works. I don't know what that man does to his tofu but it's fucking phenomenal) and it's the same idea: crisp on the outside, tender on the inside. I also really liked the idea of making them seasoned fries with the addition of garlic salt and cayenne (I went more garlic than cayenne, but it's one of those things you can adapt however you want).

I basically followed Heather's recipe step-by-step, so I'm going to send you to her blog for the original and the instructions. That being said, I did make some tweaks in an attempt to make it a bit more calorie conscious and because I was only making one serving:

I used 3 largeish carrots, peeled and sliced into french fry looking shapes (as you can see, I like thicker fries. If you go for the shoestring variety, you'll probably want to reduce cooking time).

I used only 1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch (0 Points Plus) and 1 teaspoon of olive oil (1 Points Plus).

So, here's the beauty of these babies: they taste just like sweet potato fries. No joke. I had to keep reminding myself they were actually carrots. However, unlike sweet potatoes, carrots are 0 points. Which means that because I kept the cornstarch in the 0 point range, the only thing I had to really count was the single teaspoon of oil.

Yes, ladies & gents, that big ol' pile of carrot fries was 1 Point.

Of course, if you dip them in anything like me (light ranch dressing), that'll add some points on. But I love love love that I have found a french fry alternative that is tasty, easy (well, except for actually trying to cut the carrots. Let's just say it's a good thing my chef's knife is apparently dull, otherwise I'd potentially be missing the top knuckle of my index finger), and healthy. I mean, hello, carrots, people. CARROTS.

Do you have any favorite ways or recipes that use vegetables in a different and surprising way?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

05 November 2012

recap: next step run for shelter 5K

I spent all week watching the weather. I mean, this is Northeast Ohio. In autumn. The weather can change at the drop of a winter hat and, in fact, while at the beginning of the week it showed that it would be partly sunny (yay!), by the end of the week it showed rain and snow showers (boo!).

In the end it wasn't that bad: while I woke up to rain, by the time I actually got to Edgewater Park for the race, it had stopped. Chilly, yes, but as long as it was dry, I could not have cared less about the rest of the weather. Hello, I was going to be running. That'll warm you up right quick.

That being said, I did dress for the cold weather with the long-sleeved tech shirt I got at the Nature's Bin 5K and my TARDIS Knee High Socks (and, of course, my #sweatpink laces).

One of my cousins was also running in this race and as soon as he saw me he asked if those were the TARDIS socks. Looks like they are practically famous now. While I realize I may have looked slightly ridiculous, all that mattered to me was that I was warm. (And warm they are. I've worn these almost everyday this week, so as far as I'm concerned they've already paid for themselves and I'm slightly tempted to go back to ThinkGeek and order the Dalek knee high socks, too.)

And then we were off! Aside from the one hill at Edgewater, the course was flat and as this is one of my regular weekend running spots I felt good right from start. Also only took about half a mile before I was able to shake off feeling cold. The hill itself is weird because the incline isn't too bad, it's just loooooong. So you feel like you're running up and up and up. I knew I'd walk up that beast faster than I'd run up (I learned something from my experience at the zoo) so as soon as I hit the spot where the incline really started, I stopped running and started hiking. Once I hit the top I began running again.

Photo courtesy of my cousin

I went in not caring about time or pace. In fact, before starting the race, I turned off all of those notifications on my Runkeeper App. And because I had my headphones in and my Beauty of Speed playlist going, I was unable to hear the volunteers when they shouted out times as we passed at the two mile mark. So I had absolutely no idea how fast (or slow) I was going.

Which is why, when I rounded the corner at mile three and looked ahead at the clock, I did a double take. As "Eye of the Tiger" came on (I love how my playlist somehow just inherently knows what song to shuffle next), I picked up my pace and finished in 41:33.

That, ladies & gents, is a Personal Record!

Apparently the key to getting a PR is not caring about getting a PR. Which, in some ways, makes sense. Focus too much on pace and you'll inevitably psych yourself out. Good to know.

After the race, I was chatting with my cousins and their kids and my parents waiting for the awards to start. I knew I hadn't won in my age group, but I did get the "Extra Mile" award as the top fundraiser!

In the end I raised a total of $1065 which is phenomenal, considering my initial goal was only $300. So thanks again to everyone who donated! This was my first race medal and I kind of love that it was for fundraising. Just goes to show there is so much more to races than, y'know, running.

Once all the awards were handed out, my parents and I headed over to nearby Happy Dog for a post-race lunch. My mom has been wanting to go for awhile now, so it worked out well. And, let me tell ya, veggie Italian sausage and my favorite tater tots were just what I needed after such an awesome race. Even with the  tots and dipping sauces, etc., I still lost 1 1/2 pounds this week for a total of 114.8!

I really, really enjoyed this race. The course was great, location close to where I live, LMM staff and volunteers super friendly, and I know my cousin has run in it in past years. I even enjoyed running in the cold weather! I'll have to bundle up more as winter comes, but I admit I've been kind of concerned about how I'll feel about running in lower temperatures but if this was any indication, it's definitely something I'll keep up with.

The Run for Shelter 5K is a long-standing annual race and I'm already thinking I'll sign up again next year. So if you're also at the 2013 race and see a redhead in Doctor Who striped knee-high socks and pink shoelaces, chances are it will be me!

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

02 November 2012

three point one miles of thank you

Thanks to the generosity of so many people, I was able to raise over $1000 to benefit the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry Next Step Shelter, which is a local organization that assists at risk youth in getting housing, social services, food, etc. LMM is also one of the sponsors for tomorrow's 5K and y'all have no idea how much it means to me to be able to present them with such a large contribution (and not just 'cause there's a prize for the top fundraiser, haha). So thank you so, so, so much to all that donated. As you can see, you'll be getting a good ol' fashioned handwritten thank you card soon. (And if you want your own handwritten thank you card, there's still time to make a contribution!)

Tomorrow is not only my fifth 5K, it will also most likely be my last race of the year. Truthfully, it's so bizarre to say that, because it suggests that 1) I ran more than just this one and 2) I'll be running next year, too. I mean, it was only back in February that I stepped on that treadmill for the first time.

Remember way back in June when I was totally flipping out about my speed a few days before my first 5K? And then I was so thrilled at even running that I fully embraced last place? That's the attitude I'm going in with tomorrow. To just relax and have fun. Don't get me wrong. I mean, it's not like I'm going to be lazy about my pace or anything. But I also know that just by running in my 5th 5K I've already managed to accomplish so much and I am so proud of where I am and how far I've come that I'm not necessarily looking to PR.

That being said, I am indeed already looking ahead to 2013. There is, of course, the Cleveland Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon, but that's not until October and I won't start training until mid-July. Luckily, Northeast Ohio is full of racing opportunities. There is the annual St. Malachi 5 Mile Run in March and I want to challenge myself more by stepping up from 5Ks to 10Ks. After all that I've managed to do this year, I'm looking forward to seeing what next year brings!

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus
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