Maine or bust!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Lazy Day...

This morning, the kids and I went clothes shopping. I'm constantly amazed at how much less stuff costs in the US as compared to Canada. It makes no sense! Our dollar is stronger than theirs, and yet things are still cheaper down here. Anyway, both kids are outfitted for school, all the way down to new shoes (got some CUTE little mary-janes for Skye!)

Here's how Zachary's apple cake turned out last night. It had an odd shortcakey texture, but it was delicious! If I make it again, I'll definitely chop up some apples to add to the batter instead of just on the bottom:

After clothes shopping, we came home and I started making some spaghetti sauce. It seems like I spend most of my time cooking when I'm here, but I certainly have an appreciative audience! It's fun to cook for people who appreciate it :) No cake tonight (that was two nights in a row!), but we'll definitely enjoy the spaghetti sauce. I've adapted it from my parents' recipe and it's delicious! I make it just about every time I visit here because Rob really likes it, and it's an easy freeze-and-reheat dish for him to make when I'm not here. There will be several containers of this stuff in the freezer tomorrow.

I'm not sharing this recipe :) It's more of a "toss in what I have handy" sort of thing anyway. I've had men propose to me because of this spaghetti sauce (sadly, they were all already married!). Maybe if I ever get around to writing a cookbook, this will be one of my showpieces.

Yesterday made it one year since Rob and I started "officially" dating :) He came home with this:

I've never really dated a "buys me flowers" kind of guy before, and I must say, it has its merits :) But then, he's been romantic and attentive since day one, so I definitely have no complaints on that front. Tomorrow, I think I might take the kids to Lake Andrea so I can get some green and blue pics in here, since today's all seem to be on the red scale! And now, Rob's home early so I think I'm going to log off. Cheers, y'all!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Comedy of Errors

Well, today is our one-year anniversary, so neither of us really wanted to get up this morning when the alarm went off. However, Rob had to get to work, and I had to... um... get back to sleep, so up we got. Got him off to work and went back to bed until 10am (hey, I'm sick!). My daughter came down with a cold the day before we headed down, and it appears she shared. Blech. It's a good thing Rob tends to be invulnerable to cold bugs.

Last night, I made seafood pasta and a banana cake with lemon glaze, but I haven't been in much of a photographing mood lately, so there are no pictures. Tonight, however, we have friends coming for dinner. We're barbecuing, which seemed like it would be a really dumb idea earlier in the day when we had a torrential downpour complete with thunder, lightning, and town-wide flooding. I was supposed to bring the kids clothes shopping this morning, but we couldn't get to the store. Why? Well, it seems that when they built this town, they forgot to include storm sewers, and every single street was flooded. People's yards were COMPLETELY under water. It was pretty scary driving the few blocks we managed and then turning back. We decided to do our shopping another day and retreated for the safety of the house. Sump pump has been working overtime, but it's been fighting the good fight all day :)

So for tonight's barbecue, obviously most of the "cooking" will be done by the boys outside. Here's my contribution:

This is pasta salad with sauteed summer veggies. I basically took a box of rainbow rotini and cooked it. Then I sauteed a bunch of green onions, three stalks of celery, a small tub of grape tomatoes, a small bag of sugar snap peas and a tablespoon of minced garlic in some olive oil. Let it cool and added it to the pasta, and then tossed in a dressing made from 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1/2 tsp garlic salt, 1/4 tsp onion powder, 1/4 tsp basil, 1/4 tsp oregano and 1/2 tsp black pepper. Threw it in the fridge until dinner.

Now comes the "errors" part... cooked the pasta, brought it over to the sink to dump the water out.... and since I hadn't washed last night's dishes, the water all splashed right back out of the sink, onto my abdomen and upper thigh, and ran down to splash on my left foot. Ow. So now I have some minor burns all over my abdomen and left thigh, and some pretty major burns on my foot and toe. No blistering, thank goodness, but it's quite tender and difficult to walk on. No shoes for a day or two. You can't really tell without a frame of reference, but these two toes are swollen to about twice their usual size (and they're kind of purple, which is weird). Cold compresses and a lot of ibuprofen!

So after that little mishap (which had me screaming and tearing all my clothes off in front of the windows that look out onto the street), Zack and I prepared tonight's dessert, which will be rather spectacular, I think. It's called Super Apple Cake from the Canadian Living website - it's an upside down cake with a VERY thick batter. We had a blast making it! If it's dry, I might make a cinnamon glaze for it. It's still in the oven for now :)

Fortunately, the rain stopped around noon, so hopefully the town-wide flooding will have receded by the time Rob gets home from work. Looking forward to a fun evening with friends :)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday weigh-in: 281

Okay, so I didn't do too well this week, but I'm down 1 1/2 lbs from last week. I'll take it. In this heat (it was 100F in my apartment last night - my SHOULDERS were slick with sweat!), I can't bear to cook, and most of the time I can't bear to eat either.... so when I do end up somewhere cool, I generally shove whatever's at hand in my mouth and hope I can digest most of it before it gets hot again. Also, no exercise (it's freaking HOT), so all-in-all, not my best week ever. I can do better, and I will :)

I know I promised official measurements when I started all this last week, but I'm crap at taking them, and since I'll be seeing Rob TOMORROW (:D) I figured I'd let him do it!

Speaking of the heat in my apartment last night, I was tempted to post a picture of my kids - they ended up sleeping in blanket nests on the kitchen floor - kitchen is the only air-conditioned room in the house - with the a/c running full blast on them :) I thought better of it though... all I need is for Children's Aid to assume that I make my kids sleep on the floor!

So tonight, we're going to go check on Jeff's cats, head home and hopefully be asleep by 5-6pm. The plan is that we'll get up at 3am and head off for Chicago. The car is already packed, there's just the food left. The kids are supposed to bring their pillows so they can go back to sleep once we hit the road. Since we have a good 6 1/2 to 7 hours before we hit the border, I figure my helper (Zack likes to sit in the front seat now that he's legally allowed to) will be awake by then. I have to remember to pack my knitting - I have a few UFOs that need finishing up, and I'll be taking the opportunity to do that next week while Rob's at work. So expect some Chicago pictures!

I'm actually pretty amazed at how coherent this post is, considering that I had maybe 3 hours' sleep last night, and my body's been trying to convince my brain to shut down since I hit the a/c at work an hour early this morning :) (too hot, we showed up at the babysitter's at 6:30am just to get out of the apartment). Here's hoping the Blue Water Bridge isn't too busy mid-morning on a Saturday!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

This Little Light of Mine

So yesterday was kind of my day to show appreciation to those around me who make my life a little bit brighter. I chose two co-workers who are particularly pleasant, upbeat people that I look forward to seeing every day (I actually look forward to interacting with my co-workers - this job is a keeper!). I went to the magazine store down the street and bought two pop-up cards. I wrote a simple message on each one: "You make me look forward to coming here every day. You're a fantastic person to work with!"

One of them had been having an attack of nerves as she prepared for an interview she didn't think she was ready for. When she got back from lunch and read the card I'd left on her keyboard, she says she suddenly wasn't nervous and aced the interview. (I didn't know about the interview beforehand, and thankfully it's for a position in our own group, so she won't be moving away!).

The other was so touched, she ran into my cubicle and hugged me, said I had made her month, and hugged me repeatedly for the next 20 minutes or so, trying not to cry (which, of course, made me cry).

I'm not trying to make myself seem like some fantastic human being for doing this. I'm trying to spread the joy. It's SO EASY to make someone's day with such a small gesture. Buy someone a coffee. Send a funny e-card to someone you don't see often. Mail a card to a friend who lives in another city. Invite a cousin over for dinner :) Small, simple acts can really change a person's perspective, and make them feel loved and valued. Let your light shine!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Maybe I'm Amazed....

Yesterday was not good, but I'm still here, and I'm feeling much better, emotionally if not physically (working on it). I started thinking today that I'm letting all the negatives in my life get me down -- not enough money, house is still disorganized, I feel like I'm rushing all the time, and Mirena is knocking my hormones completely out of whack (she's getting removed as soon as Rob is declared sterile). So what do I have that's worth going through all this for?

I have two fantastic treasures that are worth far more than anyone could ever imagine. I warn you now, there will be a lot of photos in this post :) Allow me to introduce you.

This is my son, Zachary:

And this is my daughter, Skye:

I have two wonderful, crazy, beautiful, intelligent, caring, fantastic children. I am constantly in awe of their potential and frightened that I'm not doing a good job. They are so funny and SOOO perceptive. I worry -- all the time -- that I'm failing at letting them know how much they mean to me, how much I love them, how important they really are. They are so similar, and yet they are such different people! They love each other, they hate each other, they hurt each other, and they comfort each other. They are my world, and yet I so often forget to just enjoy them.

Zachary was a bit of a surprise. I'd been dating his dad all of five months when I got pregnant. I wasn't in a good place in my life. I had just dropped out of college and I was working a crap job at a convenience store. I had a decent apartment that I was hardly ever at, and had a cat which ultimately became my ex's cat. I didn't feel well for a couple of days, and one day Jeff turned to me and said, "Maybe you're pregnant." um... YIKES. 23 years old, going on 15, and here I was, PREGNANT. I didn't want to be pregnant, but at the same time, I knew that I could never give a baby up. I could certainly never have an abortion (not against anyone else having one, I just couldn't do it myself). Well, Jeff stuck by me, we moved in together when I was 7 months along, and then one cold February day, there he was!

Zachary is a constant surprise. He is so intelligent it scares me. His artistic abilities are phenomenal. He has such empathy and sensitivity and yet he can also be hard and cynical. He is shy, but he warms so much to sincere praise. Trouble is, he's so cynical, that he has difficulty accepting sincerity. He loves babies and small children, loves teaching them and guiding them. He is strong and fearless but still likes to hug his mom once in a while. He so desperately wants to fit in and make people happy. At the slightest hint of criticism or rebuke, he puts on a tough defensive shell with sharp barbs in the hopes that you won't see you've hurt him. His response is to lash out and retreat. And I evoke that in him far too often. I am so proud of him and so hopeful for him to discover that anticipation and expectation are some of the better things life has to offer. He is love and knowledge.

(that little one isn't mine, that's my nephew Cael).

Skye was an even bigger surprise. Jeff and I had decided after Zachary that we would only have one child. I kind of waffled on that (and still do! Don't tell Rob!), but we were careful not to get pregnant again. And then, one day, there was this beautiful little four-month-old girl needing a home, a family to care for her. And there she was:

She's been in our hearts ever since. Jeff readily accepted her, which surprised me -- It's taken me years to realize, but this was one thing he did solely to make me happy. His entire family accepted her immediately as one of their own, and I've always been so thankful for that. My in-laws were fantastic people, but that's a story for another post :)

Skye is outgoing and kind. She is creative and maternal and loving. She is easily hurt and just as quick to cry as she is to laugh. She sees joy in simple things, and hopes so much that she is cruelly disappointed when things don't go as planned. She is beautiful and funny and strange. She will secretly sneak off to scrub a spot off a wall or a cupboard, and then will dump an entire bottle of mustard down the bathroom sink. She will beg to help with grownup tasks and then cut holes in her bedsheets with a purloined pair of scissors. She is a fascinating person who definitely dances to her own music. She is willful, yet unsure of herself. I fear we have failed her in emphasizing Zachary's intelligence so much that she doesn't feel she can measure up. She is joy and light.

THIS is what matters to me. This is why I continue to struggle against poverty, against idleness, against everything holding me down so that I can succeed. They deserve it. And I need them. And I need them to know that they are everything to me. I love you both so much!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I feel like the anti-Elvis...

Anybody ever heard this song?

I feel like the evil opposite of Elvis. I feel like there's no Elvis in me right now.

I'm tired, I'm depressed (and damned if I know why, I think I got yelled at and demeaned by coworkers in a dream last night!), I'm in despair and I feel like absolute crap. My stomach has been giving me trouble for the last three or four days -- not during the day, only at night when I go to bed, or in the middle of the night when I wake up nauseated and crampy.

I accomplished precisely NOTHING last night. No cleaning, no laundry, NOTHING. Rob guilted me into getting on the treadmill, and I was actually quite angry with him at the time, even though academically, I know he's right. It got to the point where everything that came out of his mouth was irritating me (through no fault of his own), so I pretty much just stayed quiet through most of the conversation.

Today, it's the opposite. I feel like I'm about to burst into tears, and I have no idea why I feel this way :( This is not normal for me, and I don't like it. I feel frustrated by things I normally wouldn't give a second thought to, I feel powerless and I feel unwanted. There's no reason for this.

To add to the fun, I ate an entire box of flaky pastries (you know, those little square things made from puffy pastry with a bit of fruit and cream filling in the middle?). I had two for breakfast, had another two mid-morning, and then had the last two after my lunch of pizza pops (did I mention I hate pizza pops?). I have two boiled eggs in my purse that I couldn't face eating this morning, and I had to throw out the avocado that was meant to be my lunch because it had gone fuzzy (INSIDE?!?!?). So joy, I've totally blown the diet for today. Dinner is going to be whatever meat I can pull out of the freezer and asparagus salad, or I'll just pick up pre-made salads at the grocery store when I go feed Jeff's cats.

I'm tired of feeling so shitty. I need a nap. A good proper nap in my bed with NO laundry on it (that's the other thing... since I started this whole laundry binge on Saturday, I've only had half a bed!).

Check please.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Oh the humanity!

Bleh. Monday morning, and I didn't take the stairs first thing this morning - but I did take them (both down AND up) at lunch time! I am now gasping like a fish out of water, and my heart is racing (oh, and I'm sweating like a PIG), but I did it. So that's 1 of 3 :)

I forgot to boil the eggs last night (got home late and pretty much went straight to bed), but I will do it tonight.

It is hot.... actually, it isn't hot. It's HUMID. I think we're at something like 85% humidity. A lady once apologized to Rob while he was visiting Texas or Arizona because the humidity was at 8%. 8%!!!! I don't think it goes down that low even mid-winter here! (granted, then it all freezes and falls to the ground anyway). I don't do well in humidity. Add to that the fact that I wore my hair down today, and I feel like I'm drowning in my own sweat. Desperately seeking scrunchie?

I did not manage to tackle all the laundry this weekend, but I'm nearly finished. I think I have two loads of shirts left, and one load for my bras. EVERYTHING ELSE is done! I filled an entire garbage bag with Skye's clothes for goodwill. For some reason, she still had some size five and six stuff... I'm pretty good about tossing her stuff regularly, but I guess she had this stuff hidden. I also brought some slightly-too-long pants of hers over to my mom's to have them hemmed.... I know how to hem stuff, my mom taught me how years ago. Have I done it once since she showed me? No... of course not! *blush*

Today's goal? Survive the heat! Oh, and to put a hair elastic in my purse so that I'll always have one with me if I need it!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Paging Peter Piper...

I had some time to kill between loads of laundry, so this is what I decided to do. I made some pickled jalapenos several years ago as small Christmas gifts, and my cousin LOVED them. So much so, that he's been begging me to make him some more ever since! So today, I figured I'd get my butt moving and pickle me some hot peppers. I wanted to spice things up a bit though (pardon the pun) so I also got some Jamaican finger peppers (which is what they were called at the store, but apparently that's not a valid variety name) and some small lumpy peppers which were only identified as "hot" (gee, that's helpful).

I had JUST sealed the jars when I took these pics, and you can already see the jalapenos starting to change color. I think my cousin is going to be a very happy man in a few weeks!


Pickled Jalapeno Peppers

3 cups water
3 cups white vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp black peppercorns per pint jar
1/2 tsp mustard seed per pint jar
4-5 whole cloves per pint jar
8-10 medium jalapenos per pint jar, sliced

Start by slicing the jalapenos about 1/4 inch thick. If you want milder pickles, remove the seeds, but I like to leave them in (more heat that way). Prepare your jars by running them through the dishwasher. In a large saucepan, bring the water, vinegar, salt and sugar to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Boil some water to soften your lids, then place the lids in the hot water. Place the spices in each jar and pack in the jalapeno slices until about 1/2 inch from top. Ladle in the vinegar mixture until 1/4 inch from top. Seal jars finger tight (that means you screw the ring on over the cap JUST until it stops turning easily - don't force it). Let sit for 1-2 weeks until peppers are fully cured. Then open and enjoy! My cousin likes them on hotdogs. Keep refrigerated after opening.

©2011 Lynne Toll at

3 cups water and 3 cups vinegar makes enough brine for 5 pint jars and 1 half-pint jar (I always make one small jar as a "I don't feel like letting these cure" jar to open right away). You can also use any other type of pepper to do this, but I'd wear latex or silicone gloves if you don't plan on leaving them whole!

The Man-Eating Laundry Pile...

Scary stuff.... Check out what I have to do today:

This, specifically, is all the dirty laundry in our house. I took it all into the livingroom and separated it out into piles. (I have to pack for the kids to go to my parents' house on Sunday night, and I also have to start packing for our trip to Chicago next week!) Clockwise from left, that's all the shirts, next pile (behind them) is pants, then to the right are towels, and a small pile of socks. The undies are already in the wash! I have a sock tree in my bedroom that holds all the unmatched socks. Yes, a sock tree. Check it:

I got tired of never being able to match my socks, so I pinned them all to this drying rack. Soon though, I will be getting rid of all the extraneous socks and we'll each just have about 10 pairs each. I'm so tired of seeing socks every morning when I get up! (that, and I have no access to that window because of the sock tree).

So today, I have to do a LOT of laundry. But what really scares me? Fully 3/4 of the clothes in this house belong to Skye, my 9-year-old. She's not only a clothes horse, she's also really lucky! Jeff and I buy her perhaps 5-6 articles of clothes per year (not counting undies, because I refuse to take hand-me-down undies or socks). But my parents have neighbors whose daughters are 12 and 14. And their mom is a shopoholic, and she buys EXPENSIVE CLOTHES. We're talking Lululemon, Gap, Old Navy, etc. Most of my daughter's clothes are now designer duds, and it's all because this lady shops too much :) Lord love her, I get probably 6-9 garbage bags of clothes from her every year. We've had to start culling the clothes we bring home though, as her daughters are permitted to wear slightly more risqué stuff than I'll allow mine to wear (only natural, they're older).

Skye also receives a good amount of clothing from Jo-Jo, her biological grandmother. We've always allowed her birthmom's family to have limited access - once in a while, she'll go over for a Saturday, and twice a year, she gets an overnight stay, once for a camping trip to Bon Echo park, and once for a trip to Kingston for Christmas. Jo-Jo always takes Skye shopping whenever she takes her out, so between this and the Paris Hilton hand-me-downs, kid's got a lot of clothes!

I think I shall fill a bag or two for goodwill today! Wish me luck!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Weigh-In... 282.5

We've been doing The Biggest Loser at work (lord knows why I signed up... at 284, I'm easily the heaviest person in the building, and BL works by percentages, so no matter how much I lose, I'm still out of luck).

Our initial weigh-in what, seven weeks ago? was at 291 lbs. The lady organizing it made us have breakfast before she'd agree to weigh us, so we'd have the highest possible initial weigh-in. Feels like cheating to me, but okay. So 291 it was. I got down to 280 at one point, and then after Rob came for a long weekend, I gained 5 lbs. back. I can't blame Rob... it's not his fault I threw the diet out the window and stopped exercising.

This morning's weigh-in was 283.8 at work (my scale at home doesn't do tenths of pounds, it just does .0 and .5). Weigh-in at home was 282.5. Ugh. I'm going with the home scale, since that's the one I have easiest access to.

I want to see that number 7 on the scale so bad, I can taste it. However, that wasn't enough to encourage me to take the stairs at work today *sigh* I work on the 4th floor, so we're talking 3 flights of stairs. I can do two without too much difficulty, but that third one just kills me. I get out of the stairwell gasping for air with my heart pounding.

I need to start getting a bit more organized where breakfast is concerned. The last three days, I've been having leftover seafood lasagna for breakfast. That's not what I'd call diet-friendly (especially South Beach, which is low-carb). Half the time, I have no idea what I'm having for breakfast and either grab something (unhealthy) on the way to work, or I just grab whatever's in the fridge. I need to get some boiled eggs made up, and maybe grab some lunch meat to have a protein-heavy breakfast to start the day a bit more easily.

Goals for next week: Use the stairs at work 3 mornings out of 5, and boil a dozen eggs for quick and easy breakfast preparation.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Personal Accountability

I've been feeling kind of down about myself the last couple of months, because I've been fluctuating up and down with the same five pounds I've been trying to lose for a while. At one point, I said to myself, "Self," I said, "I've lost 30 lbs. since last summer. I am not a failure. I just need some motivation to get moving again!"

I have. Last July, I weighed 310 lbs. I currently weigh 284. (I weighed 280 on Monday, so I'm sticking to my 30 lbs. story.) I *should* be proud of myself. However, I keep seeing the number 160 in my head, and I'm not satisfied. I haven't been able to get down past 280. That's my current immediate goal. I need to see that magic number 7 on the scale. I think once I get to see that, my motivation to work harder will return.

So I figured I would start a blog. I will be entirely honest on this blog, admitting when I binge or cheat, admitting when I'm too lazy to get off the couch to move, and admitting when my spirits are at their lowest. Sometimes, I just feel like a fat, ugly cow. Last night, I felt that way. This morning, when I noticed that my arms have actually gotten fatter in the LAST FEW DAYS, I felt that way. Right now, I just feel angry and motivated. It's time to get serious.

This blog isn't just about my never-ending quest to lose weight. It's also going to be about my hobbies (I knit, I read a lot, I watch a lot of movies, I'm learning to crochet, I bake, I make jams/candles/soap, I cook - a lot, and I'm a mediocre amateur photographer LOL.), my kids (I have two - Zachary, who's 12 1/2 and Skye, who will be 10 in a week or so), and life in general.

I don't expect anyone to ever read this blog really, but it will serve as a tool for me to keep myself on track, to get my shit together, and to chronicle what I'm up to so if I wonder in a few months, I'll be able to go back and look! (because, really, who else is going to be interested?)

I'll post a current pic and weigh-in this evening when I get home (ugh), as well as measurements. Rob will be doing proper measurements when I visit next week, but in the meantime, I'm doing them as best I can.