A Plan with No Goal in Sight

Back in January, specifically at the beginning, I set some goals regarding getting back on track with running. And maybe eating “right” too…

Me and fifty million other people right?

Well, now it’s February, almost the end too. By this time those beginning of the year goals have either stuck or they have not. If you’re still on the health/fitness/self-improvement band wagon two full months into the year I think it’s safe to say you’re on your way to resolution success.

While my activity here on the blog has been spotty at best, I’ve been decently consistent at running of late. After realizing how far off the fitness wagon I had fallen in late December, and subsequently incorporating getting back into the habit of running regularly into my New Year’s resolution, I’ve done just that: gotten back into the habit of running.

I’m not going to lie, it’s been a struggle at times. And even though I’m (mostly) running four times a week consistently I haven’t really lost any of the extra seven or eight pounds holiday season 2017 gifted me. (Maybe it’s time to crack down on my eating and drinking habits too. *sigh*) I do feel better while I’m running and in general though. That’s something I guess. Even if it’s something that doesn’t make my pants fit any better.

I’m a goal oriented person; I like concrete markers of success. Usually I’m thinking about what I want to accomplish over the year and set specific running goals. This year is different though; I’ve accomplished my biggest goal. I caught the big fish; I got into dental school. Now I’m waiting to fry the fish and I’ve got five months until life changes dramatically. My short term goal is to make the most of my free time until then.

After two not great half marathons in a row I’m hesitant to set any big race goals. On New year’s day I got a text from my sister asking if I wanted to do a half marathon in May. I felt pretty meh about it. Maybe later in the year I’ll find a half the sparks my interest but right now I’ve got nothing.

Despite not having specific race goals, I’ve got a plan. This is very unlike me.

So what changed? I got a book and a heart rate monitor, late Christmas presents that arrived mid January. The book, Jack Daniel’s Running Formula, I’ve skimmed before but upon looking a second read through I noticed his fitness based plans. Unlike most the laid out training plans in the book, these aren’t based on any time or distance goals. Instead they aim to increase general running fitness. Sound familiar?

It’s exactly what I needed right now. As for the heart rate monitor, I’m not entirely sure what to do with that other than wear it and look at my stats. Maybe I’ll try a heart rate based training plan sometime. Who knows. At least I’m running regularly again and I’m sure there will be some fun races this year…at least until August.

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Photography Field Trip to Detroit

I’m taking a photography class for fun. Just because. I’m embracing this new hobby. These are a few of the results.

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Quick Change and New Orleans Vacation

After some time, okay only seven months, I’m changing jobs again. I’m switching for a more normal schedule which means no more night shifts or twelve hour days. While I didn’t particularly enjoy the hospital schedule I was working it did allow for some days off and sometimes in a row. So, with my last chunk of random free time during the week I grabbed my friend with excess vacation time and took a quick trip. I used google maps to scroll around and find a cheaper flight to someplace warm. Michigan is deep in the snowy season and getting out sounded great. New Orleans, LA was the winner. The flight was probably cheaper because it was just before Mardi Gras. But that was perfect for us, as neither of us wanted the craziness or expense of Mardi Gras. New Orleans also offered 70 degree weather! And sunshine! Plus I’ve been dying to put my new camera to use and New Orleans seems like the perfect place.

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With Mardi Gras coming up soon there were beads everywhere!

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In a cemetery 

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I made my travel buddy get up for the sunrise. Unfortunately it was very cloudy but I got some fun photos anyway.

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New Orleans style coffee & donuts. Yes, I had them all three days I was there.

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Bourbon Street around 7:00pm. The night was just getting started

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The iconic shot of New Orleans

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A loom shop that had some special sales cats

It was a fun quick three day trip. Boy, did I get a bunch of photos too. Some turned out well and, some, not so much. There’s a bit of a learning curve with the new camera.

 

With the start of my new job and normal schedule I’ll be on vacation freeze for six months. That makes me really happy that I fit in a quick trip. With the advantage of a normal schedule I’ll actually get to spend some weekends with my significant other and have other adventures.

Eating Through the Winter Blahs

Like many, if not most people, I’ve made a loose resolution to “eat healthier” in the new year. Also like many I’ve resolved to be “better” with my finances, whatever that means.

One area where both these things can get out of control fast is groceries and food in general. With a relatively large household to feed (myself, four teenagers, an eight year old, and whatever friends wander in) it seems like I’m always making meals and constantly need groceries. It gets old fast. I tend to make a lot of the same meals again and again. And again. And again.

The redundant meal rut is especially depressing this time of year. Here in Michigan it’s cold and dark; the holidays are over and we’re just trudging through dingy slush day in and day out. Working third shift tends to accentuate the winter blahs.

In an effort to combat all that seasonal crappiness (don’t get me wrong I love winter but it definitely lends itself to some serious doldrums) I’ve taken (re-taken?) to meal planning and being better at using leftovers. Don’t get too excited, meal planning here literally just means making a list of meals I might make in the upcoming week or two and then trying to grocery shop accordingly. But so far it has helped. I spend more on groceries in one trip but then I don’t have to make those “quick” stops at the store which means fewer impulse buys. I’ve been tracking my spending this month so I should be able to tell if I’m actually spending less on food overall. Fingers crossed! Regardless, we’ve been eating better and more creative (for my less than adventurous bunch) dinners.

Here are some of the cheap, easy, & hopefully somewhat healthy meals we’ve been having…

Chicken stir-fry

This one has a few red & yellow peppers, sugar snap peas, matchstick carrots, those little baby corns that come in a cab, & some weird “Mexican potato” tuber. That last ingredient is what I get for taking a kid and my boyfriend grocery shopping with me.

Ham & potato soup

I know this picture is crap but the soup was the bomb dot com! (Yes I know no one says that anymore, that’s why it’s funny now.) This soup has a little dairy & cheese which gives it ax great cheese flavor without making it overly creamy & heavy. Here’s the recipe I used but I left out the peas. I think I just didn’t have any on hand.

Ham Risotto with Bulgar

This one was something totally different for us but I had leftover ham to use up and really didn’t want a boring egg based meal. I’ve only had risotto once & have never made it. When I searched for recipes I was discouraged to learn that you need a specific rice for risotto which, of course, I did not have. (Something about the starch level of the different eucre and how v that absorb moisture) Oddly enough I did have a bag of bulgar that had been sitting in my cupboard for a long time, possibly years.

A quick search uncovered this bulgar risotto recipe. And I had grabbed asparagus at the store just because it looked good. I think this meal was meant to be. Peas were left out again though because I still had not gotten any. I also used cheddar cheese instead of Parmesan… because that’s what I already had. Plus cheddar and ham is such a great flavor combination. It was not a bad move. This was delicious! It was reminiscent of a good creamy macaroni and cheese but with a healthier grain. I will definitely make this risotto again!

The classics…

It hasn’t been all new and different though. I definitely fall back on some hearty classics like the chicken drumsticks and oven roasted potatoes pictured below. Or meatloaf and baked (leftover) mashed potatoes.

Being more conscientious about what we’re eating has lead to some tasty, hearty winter dinners.

What I’ve been making: the holiday edition

After I finished those five viking hats a friend had requested (a paid gig. Woot woot!) I had just enough time to make a few Christmas presents, small ones.

First there’s the basic eat flap hat for a preschool aged girl:

I varied the pattern slightly by doing taller stitches (triple crochet I believe) in the back loop only on the east flaps. Honestly, I didn’t plan or record what exactly I did here, I just messed around a little until I liked the results.

I made another small hat out of the remainder of this skein of yarn but forgot to snap a pic. That one had no ear flaps, a couple bright turquoise stripes, and a cute picot stitch edging also in turquoise.

My next project, and one I was particularly excited about, is this crocodile stitch pixie hat:

It’s for the daughter of a good friend (who happens to be my Goddaughter); she (the mom not the one-year-old daughter) knits. And not just regular once in a while knitting but really cool, fancy stuff like entire sweaters. She’s been knitting since we were in high school almost twenty years ago (Yikes! How did that happen?!?!) so I wanted to make something very distinctly crochet for her daughter. Plus I’ve long admired that crocodile stitch and this was the perfect time to give it a try.

While I do love this little winter bonnet it’s something only a small child could pull off. It’s quite whimsical!

I used a medium weight (4) yarn for the pixie hat instead of the fine the pattern recommended; the hat is thick but not overly bulky. Because of that I followed instructions for a smaller size but used the measurements for the larger toddler size.

I also made a V-stitch scarf for my boyfriend’s family gift exchange. Each person brings a generic gift in the ten dollar price range and they do a thieves exchange where once you open a gift it can be stolen. In which case you’d then either steel someone else’s gift or choose another.

The scarf was my generic female gift and it was a big hit. Buuuut of course I forgot to take a picture of that too (I finished it later on Christmas Eve) but this is the yarn I used.

Last but not least is the “So Good you’ll borrow it” beanie I found on Elk Crochet’s blog.

I made it for my boyfriend’s stocking but there was so much yarn leftover and I liked his hat so much that I made a baggier version for myself the first week of the year. I have to say, I loved this yarn. It’s so light & soft and it showed the texture of the special stitches on this pattern quite nicely.

I feel like I’m forgetting about something but that’s probably everything I got done before the holidays. Currently I’m working on an obnoxiously bright scarf for one of my daughter’s friends.

It’s a fairly straightforward scarf pattern. The cool X-stitch that makes this pattern unique was getting lost in the busyness of the yarn so I stepped up the double stitch legs of the X & Made them triples instead. This definitely helped but they still don’t stand out much. I do like the fun, colorful yarn though (it’s Caron Simply Soft in Rainbow Bright).

I’m also planning on pulling out and hopefully finishing my daughter’s blanket this week… It’s been almost done for a couple months now so it’s probably about time. We’ll see how that goes though. If I do finish it that’ll deserve a major celebration post.

A year in review (and what a year it was!)

While my co-blogger thoroughly enjoys looking ahead into the fresh New year & making resolutions I like to sit back at the start of the new year and reflect on everything that happened during the year. So that’s what I’ve been doing… For the past week and a half.

But 2017 was quite a year!!! It deserves some reflection even if it’s coming a bit late.

Change and chaos have been two constants of my life the past five or six years. Between 2012 & 2016 I bought a house all on my own, went through a pretty rough & long divorce (and somehow survived), adapted to a custody arrangement that’s less than ideal (or really even functional), tried real hard to change said custody crap, went back to school, ran a handful of half marathons, applied to dental school and got rejected, & delved into the world of online dating.

And then 2017 came and kicked some ass.

I’ll stop burying the lede here and just tell you: I GOT ACCEPTED to DENTAL SCHOOL!

That was the most exciting change/accomplishment of the year but it’s far from the only one. 2017 was a year of big leaps forward; it was a year of transitional achievements.

In April I finished my bachelor’s degree and graduated from college. As a former teen Mom (way before it was glamorized by MTV) and someone who struggled through my twenties, this was a huge deal for me. I’m super proud of myself!

My oldest son graduated from high school. His junior and senior years were a mix of opportunity followed by frustration and, to be honest, disappointment. He did not go out in a blaze of glory but he did successfully go out. And while he struggles to find direction in life (or even get off my couch some days) I am proud of the kind, decent person he is despite some shit that life has thrown at him. I’m hopeful for his future; I know that once something lights a spark of interest he’ll take off.

Early in 2017 I waded back into the murky waters of online dating this time with in hopes of finding a potentially “regular person”…an actual sustainable relationship (whatever that might look like). In February I met & started dating this guy, my boyfriend. He’s great. It’s been fantastic. And almost a year. I’m super impressed with that. Part of me was not sure I had it in me to sustain a relationship after the mess of my marriage and divorce. I really questioned my ability to trust at the necessary level.

And, of course, there was the usual making and renovating and carrying on of wrangling my monkeys and managing my circus.

When I look back at my adult life there are years that, in retrospect, stand out as pivotal. Years of fundamental shifts; they changed life and created a new direction. (2012 & 2014 for example) 2017 is among those years and life will be drastically different because of it.

Did I mention that I’m going to dental school in 2018?!?!?!

New Camera = New Hobby

As I mentioned, I’m looking to pick up some new hobbies this year. I purchased a really fancy camera…well, fancy for me. In the great realm of cameras it is on the “beginners” side but I still find it pretty darn fancy. Later this month I’m taking a class at a local community college to learn how to use it. In the meantime I’ve been playing with it and thought I’d show off some results. You’ll have to excuse the multiple cat photos. They are the most willing available subjects.

Checking out the new things

My Dad's dog during Christmas. There's bacon cooking in the background. She's a happy puppy!

My Dad’s dog during Christmas. There’s bacon cooking in the background.

Out on Belle Isle Conservatory in Detroit

 

 

My sister’s dog. Also during Christmas. Also, quite happy. There were treats.

Also, at the Belle Isle Conservatory

A park behind my house. I was playing with different lens. 

I’m excited for the class to learn about all the functions of the camera. There are so many options that I don’t know how to use yet. I’d like to get outside some more but it’s been so cold around here that there’s just no way I’m torturing myself like that. Brrr.