Platinum Card AND Another Pummelo

February 19, 2011

I got a little something in the mail the other day – a Platinum card.  While I do have good credit, it’s not a new Visa or MasterCard – it’s from Casual Male XL:

I’ve been a long-time member of Casual Male’s Rewards program – basically, every time I spent a couple hundred bucks there, I’d get a gift certificate for $10 to use on my next visit.  As Casual Male XL was one of the two Big and Tall stores in my area, I was getting those gift certificates a couple times a year.  Now, it seems, they’ve targeted me for a bigger, better Rewards program.  Apparently my spending habits make me an ideal candidate for their Platinum Prestige Program – at no cost to me! There’s just one problem – I’m done with Casual Male XL.  I stopped shopping there about 6 months ago (read my open letter to them after shopping there for the last time), because after losing so much weight, I found I could shop pretty much anywhere I wanted, which, by the way, is an incredible feeling after not being able to shop at many places at all for so many years.

I still get, however, mailings from Casual Male XL, and I’m still technically a member of their Rewards program, and I still get their catalogs.  I get lots of Big & Tall catalogs, from a bunch of retailers.  One arrives, on average, about once a week.  For a while I was using them to create a little humor on the blog (read all the Big & Tall Catalog Model Drama installments by going to My Favorite Posts and scrolling down), but now, I’m just getting sick of them.  Here’s my current catalog collection (which I was holding on to in case I wanted to use them somehow for the blog):

Bye-bye catalogs!  You have a hot date with the recycle bin in your future.  I’ve also added to my to-do list calling each company and removing myself from their mailing list.  I’m done with big and tall!  Done!

Moving on…

Earlier today I ate my second ever pummelo.  Earlier this month, I documented, on this blog, how I went about eating the first one (which was a process, but completely delicious), and I got great feedback from some of you about how you love pummelos, and I also got a suggestion I wanted to try, from Reinaldo.

Reinaldo is a fitness blogger in Chile, who has lost a bunch of weight and writes about his process.  While Spanish is his native language, he blogs in English, which he taught himself – very impressive!  Check out his blog here.  He suggested eating a pummelo this way:

Easier way to eat them tip: just slice it! Like you would slice a tomato into little “wheels”. Then dig in into the fruit’s meat with your mouth, and discard the outer ring. Messier (because of the juice), but a lot more faster and fun.

I bought another pummelo last week and decided to give it a go.  Here’s the pummelo after I started cutting it into wheels:

But that picture doesn’t really give you any sense of scale, so here’s one wheel, with my hand in the picture, too:

That’s a big pummelo!  The first couple pieces I ate like Reinaldo suggested – digging into the flesh with my teeth, standing over my sink, letting the juices dribble down my chin.  So tasty!  But I wanted to enjoy the rest while watching TV (because I watch a lot of TV), so I took a few more slices, cut around the inside of the outer peel to separate the peel from the flesh, and cut out the little core, too:  I put them on a plate (don’t they look pretty?), and you can see the peels in the background:

In total, I’d say I spent 5 minutes chopping apart this pummelo, compared to, I don’t know, 15 minutes the first time around?  I love a good time saver, so thank you Reinaldo!  I’ll be enjoying many more pummelos this way, I’m certain of it!

Keep it up, David!

Friday Food Notes

February 18, 2011

I took my gift card and headed to Whole Foods today.  I had a relatively short shopping list – 5 items – but, of course, once I got in the store, I remembered a whole bunch of other things I wanted to buy, and ended up spending 75 bucks and filling three of my reusable bags.  Well, thanks to the gift card, I didn’t spend a penny, but still – things add up, quickly, at Whole Foods!

I’m starting to notice where the deals are at Whole Foods.  And a lot of them involve Whole Foods’ store brand, 365 Everyday Value.  Wanna play a little guessing game?

Guess how much for a 6-oz Nonfat Yogurt?

Answer: 69 cents!

How much for a 10-oz jar of Raspberry Fruit Spread?

Answer: $1.99!

Final Question:  How much for a 1-quart box of low-sodium chicken broth?

Answer: $1.99!

You have to admit you’d think those were good prices in other grocery stores, wouldn’t you?  I’m a pretty savvy shopper, and I sure think so.

I came across another good deal in the meat department.  I was looking to pick up some chicken, and found that if you bought in bulk, you can get a good price.  This package of chicken thighs weighs in at over 3.5 pounds, and cost only $6.93 – that’s $1.99 a pound!

And I love that it’s separated into three bags – one went into my fridge (I have plans to use it this weekend), and two went into my freezer for future use.

It’s hard to tell in the picture, but the label boasts that the chicken has been “air-chilled” – and that’s the first time I’ve ever heard that phrase before.  Have you?  I had to look up what it meant, and basically, it means that after the birds are killed, they’re sprayed with chlorinated water and housed in cold-air chambers to prevent bacteria from forming, as opposed to being dunked in vats of iced, chlorinated water, which supposedly leeches out some of the chicken’s flavor.  Huh – good to know, I guess!

I went to Whole Foods after my workout at the pool (more on that later), and I was craving some post-exercise protein, and I ended up coming home with a product I’ve never tried before – salmon jerky!

I love me some jerky (and have blogged about a great farmers’ market jerky purveyor).  It’s a great healthy snack: high in protein, and low in calories and fat – the only check in the cons list is that it’s high in sodium, so don’t eat tons.  I’ve had beef and turkey jerky tons of times before, and even elk jerky (which I bought at the airport in Stockholm), but never fish jerky, so this was an exciting day for me!  And, it was no surprise to me that I loved it.  This particular brand’s (WildCatch) pieces were a little thick, but the flavor was great, and it was very satisfying – it hit the spot!  It won’t be a regular item in my cupboard, as it’s pricey ($7.99 for 4 ounces), but I also saw at Whole Foods bags of Ahi Tuna jerky, so I may have to pick that up at some point.

Lastly, I’ve been staring at the delicata squash that’s been on my counter for the past few weeks (ever since I picked it up on a prior trip to Whole Foods), and earlier today I decided it was time to create a destiny for it.  Here it is, next to the pummelo I bought on that same trip:

I’m happy to announce that the squash’s time is soon up – I have a plan.  The squash will become part of my dinner on Saturday night, as well as part of dinner for my aunt, uncle, and cousins, who are all coming over.  Don’t you worry – I’ll document the squashes last hours, and share the recipe, afterwards.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

OH!  I wanna share my pool workout before I wrap this up.  It was a great day at the pool – after an hour, I was exhausted, and felt very productive.  Here’s what I did:

  • 800 yards warm-up (200 IM, 200 kick, 200 pull, 200 IM)
  • Ladder, all freestyle:  1oo, 200, 300, 400, 300, 200, 100 (the final 200 and 100 were all-out sprints) – total: 1600 yards
  • 200 yards cool-down
  • GRAND TOTAL:  2600 yards!


Keep it up, David!

Rethinking Running

February 17, 2011

Time to be honest:  I’m starting to dislike running.  I want to like running, because I’m getting better at it, and I can do it anywhere, at pretty much any time (especially being a resident of southern California), but lately the thought of running hasn’t been exciting me.

I’m relatively new to running, having started at the end of August of last year, when my friend Tavi showed me some running basics, and off we went on my first-ever run.  I made it farther than I thought I would – 2 miles – and in the next two weeks, I went running 5 more times.  While running around my neighborhood, I began noticing how many strip clubs are nearby – there are six, within walking distance of my place (don’t you wish you lived in my neighborhood!), and that led to the creation of my running goal – to run past all six, in a continuous loop, without stopping.  The route is 6.4 miles, which is slightly more than a 10k.

It was around that time that I began charting my runs, so I could track my progress and see my improvement.  I’ll share the chart later in the post.  It was nice to see that as I kept running, I was able to run for longer amounts of time, and get faster, too – once, I was able to jog for 60 minutes straight, and went 5.1 miles!

I didn’t run at all in December – because I spent a majority of it in Michigan, where it was too cold to hit the streets, and only twice in January, which also had a 10-day trip back to Michigan, and I’ve been struggling to get back into the swing of things since then.  So far, my two runs in February have been awful: the first one simply felt terrible, and I ended up giving in early and walking home, and I nearly died on the second one (perhaps a slight exaggeration).

Because my two most recent runs were so dreadful, I wasn’t looking forward to this week’s run.  “Just do it, and get it over with,” I told myself, “you’ll hate it, but once it’s done you can go a whole week without running again.”  But I knew that I wouldn’t have what I would consider a successful run with that attitude, so yesterday I sat down (literally, on my couch), and figured out how I could rethink this whole running thing.  I’m not ready to throw in the towel altogether – mainly because I can’t bear to admit that I’d be giving up on my strip-club-based goal – but I really needed to shift my thinking.  I can’t hate running, or I’ll never reach my goal.  So I came up with a two-pronged plan of action to help adjust my attitude.  Here it is:

1) Change of Scenery. I hate to admit it, but my neighborhood is kinda ugly.  It’s full of strip clubs, as you already know, but there’s also lots of auto parts stores, boring brown cookie-cutter apartment buildings, and not much open space.  Sometimes I run at night, and many streets are poorly lit, or not at all, and sidewalks start and stop randomly, often mid-block, or are buckled and pitched and therefore unsafe (leading to my near-death last week).  But I can run anywhere, really, so it’s time to get in my car and start driving, even just a few miles, to explore new neighborhoods on foot.  I drive 30 minutes to get to Richard Simmons’ classes in Beverly Hills, so surely I can drive 10 minutes to run someplace new.

2) Take the Pressure Off. I’ve realized that I’ve been putting an incredible amount of pressure on myself to complete successful runs.  The pressure is a result of two thought patterns:  1) “This is my workout for today, and I like to exercise for at least 45 minutes, so I have to run at least that much or this workout is gonna suck.”  and 2) “I’m never gonna reach my goal unless I continue to improve.  I haven’t run 5 miles since November – I should run 5 miles today, at least, or I won’t get any closer to my goal.”  The undue pressure, I think, is weighing me down.  But how to alleviate it?  For starters, I’ve decided a run no longer has to constitute my entire workout for the day.  It’s that simple.  I’ll go running, and if I feel great and pound the pavement for a long time, than fantastic.  If not, then I’ll stop, and I’ll refuse to feel bad or consider the run a failure, and move on.  I can easily augment a not-so-lengthy run with additional cardio.  It’s not the end of the world.  As for the second thought pattern, I’ve decided to just not focus so much on the goal.  I’m going to put it on the back burner for now.  Instead, I’ll just focus on each run on its own, and see how I do.  The strip clubs aren’t going anywhere (I presume), so I’ll get to them when I get to them.

Time to put the plan in action.  On my to-do list yesterday was getting the oil changed in my car, and I know an oil-change place right next to the Chandler Bikeway in Burbank.  The Chandler Bikeway is a 2-mile long bike path that the city built along a former railroad route that opened about 5 years ago.  It’s very nice – there are three lanes: two for bikers (one in each direction), and one for pedestrians, and it’s well landscaped and maintained:

I dropped my car off at the oil change place, was told it’d be ready in about 30 minutes, and hit the bikeway.  I didn’t tell myself I had to run a certain distance or amount of time, I just starting playing my favorite songs on my iPod, and I ran.  And you know what, I felt great!  I didn’t push myself extraordinarily, I just tried to keep up a good pace.  I ended up running most of the length of the bikeway and back – a total of 2.9 miles, in 33 minutes.  My route (I went from B to A and back):

Time to update the chart:

  • 9/21/10: Distance: 3.1 miles.  Time: 41 minutes.  MPH: 4.53
  • 9/27/10: Distance: 3.3 miles.  Time: 45 minutes.  MPH: 4.4
  • 10/5/10: Distance: 3.2 miles.  Time: 40 minutes.  MPH: 4.8
  • 10/12/10: Distance: 3.8 miles.  Forgot to note time and MPH
  • 10/16/10: Distance: 2.9 miles.  Forgot to note time and MPH
  • 11/1/10: Distance: 3.1 miles.  Time: 36 minutes.  MPH: 5.16
  • 11/6/10: Distance: 5.1 miles. Time: 60 minutes.  MPH: 5.1
  • 11/14/10: Distance: 3.9 miles. Time: 45 minutes.  MPH: 5.2
  • 11/28/10: Distance: 4.2 miles. Time: 46 minutes.  MPH: 5.47
  • 1/4/11: Distance: 3.0 miles. Time: 34 minutes.  MPH: 5.3
  • 1/24/11: Distance: 4.4 miles.  Time: 45 minutes.  MPH: 5.86
  • 2/1/11: Distance: 1.9 miles.  Time: 20 minutes.  MPH: 5.7
  • 2/9/11: Distance: 3.5 miles.  Time: 38 minutes.  MPH: 5.52
  • 2/16/11: Distance: 2.9 miles.  Time: 33 minutes.  MPH: 5.28

It was my slowest run since the beginning of November, but with my new no-pressure attitude, I’m not going to dwell on such things.  After I picked up my car, I swung by my gym, about a mile up the road, and rode 27 minutes on a bike to augment my daily workout.  In total, I spent 60 minutes working out.  What’s even more exciting than that is that for the first time in a while, I’m looking forward to my next run!

Keep it up, David!

Blog Additions, Chart Update, & Chart-Making 101

February 16, 2011

I thought I’d start today with some fun announcements regarding my blog.  Are you sitting down?

1) Contact. You’ll see I’ve added, along the top on the page, a “CONTACT” link.  Here’s where to find how to link up with me on Facebook and Twitter (which you should definitely do – they’re great ways to get updates when I publish new posts), as well as how to reach me by email.

2) New Produce. I always get a great reaction when I write about trying new types of produce, so I’ve added some more links to My Favorite Posts, also at the top of the page.  If you go there and scroll down, you’ll see a collection of all the posts that feature my explorations in the produce department and at the farmer’s market.

And this is the most exciting announcement of the three:

3) New Web Address! No, I haven’t moved my website.  You can still find me, like you did just now, at <>.  BUT, I’ve also registered the much simpler <>, and if you type that in, you’ll end up at my site, too!  Now, when you’re talking to friends about your favorite websites, you can tell them to go to <>. How much easier is that for you to remember?  Much easier!  It’ll be just as easy for your friends to remember too!  It’s win-win!

Okay – that’s all the announcements I have for now.  Moving on…

I weighed myself this morning.  I weigh the same, 241 pounds, as I have for the past 2 weeks.  Like I said after my last weigh-in, I’m not going to focus on that number not changing.  I’ve been eating well, and working out a lot, and I just have to accept that it’s gonna be tougher to lose weight now that I’ve already lost 161 pounds, and that the weight is gonna be coming off slower.  That’s just the way it is.  I can’t let it phase me, or get me down… I gotta Keep It Up, David.

Here’s my newly updated chart:

And here’s my chart in its entirety:

I’ve had a few questions about my weight loss chart in the past couple weeks, most recently from a Facebook fan named Nicole, who wrote:

How do I make my own weight loss chart?  I love yours and I think it will help me.

Well, Nicole, sharpen your pencil, because it’s time for Chart-Making 101!  A weight loss chart couldn’t be easier, and it’s been a huge motivator on a daily basis, encouraging me to continue working hard.  My chart is hanging in my walk-in closet, where I see it every day while I’m getting dressed… it’s hard to miss, actually, as it takes up almost an entire wall!  Here’s how to make your own:

Get some graph paper.  Graph paper has a grid already printed on it, and you can find it in office supply stores.  Typical graph paper has 4 squares per inch, but I’ve been doodling on graph paper since I was a kid, and I prefer graph paper with 8 or 10 squares per inch.  Graph paper like that is a little tougher to find, but you can find it online – here’s 8 squares per inch, for example.

UPDATE:  Jill on Facebook recommends this website, where you can download PDFs and print out your graph paper.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what kind of graph paper you use.  You could even make your own graph paper in a pinch with a pencil and a ruler and a steady hand.

Once you have your graph paper, you’ll set up your chart.  The Y Axis (up and down the page) will be your weight.  For this demonstration, I used 300 pounds as a starting point, which is at the top of the chart, and every horizontal line on the graph paper represents one pound, like so:

The X Axis (from left to right) represents the passing of time.  For this example, I have January 1st being the day the diet begins:

You’ll see that I picked a vertical line on the graph paper to represent January 1, followed the line up, and where that line hit 300, I made a circle.  There’s the starting weight.

Just as every horizontal line on the graph paper represents 1 pound, every vertical line will represent 1 day.  So, let’s say that after 1 week, our hypothetical person has lost 1 pound.   First of all – Woo-hoo! That’s fantastic!   So now let’s update the chart.  Start at Jan. 1, you’ll count over 7 vertical lines to the right, to represent the week that’s passed.  You’ll follow that new line up, and where it intersects with 299, the new weight, you’ll made a circle.  Then you can connect the two circles with a line.  Your chart has begun!  It should look like this:

Let’s say that a week after that, our person has lost two more pounds.  You’ll count over 7 more lines along the bottom, follow the new line up, and put a circle where it intersects with 297 pounds:

And you can keep going like this indefinitely!  If you scroll back up to the picture of my chart, you’ll see that when one page ends, I just tape up a new page and continue the chart – I’m on my 6th page!

Another helpful element you can add to your chart is your goal weight.  This will help you visualize, on your chart, how far off you are from your next goal.  I like to represent goals with a dashed line.  For this example, let’s say the first goal is to lose 25 pounds.  You can add a dashed line at 275 and extend it across the entire page:

And there you go!  There are the basics behind my weight loss chart.  Nicole, or anyone else, I’d love to see pictures if you start a weight loss chart of your own!

Keep it up, David!

My Incredible Shrinking Clothes – Dress Shirt Edition

February 15, 2011

Time for another installment of My Incredible Shrinking Clothes! To see the previous installments, go to My Favorite Posts at the top of the page.

I was inspired to write this post this past weekend, because I had to dress up all fancy.  I was volunteering at the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra‘s annual Concert Gala, which was held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown LA (a frequent Oscar venue from the ’70s-’90s).  It was a formal affair, and I wore the only formal outfit I have right now, which is made up of elements I’ve blogged about before: the jacket you readers helped me pick out, the pants that I bought at the same time, and the dress shirt that I picked up last month before my grandmother’s funeral. 

When I was getting dressed for the Gala, I pulled out the wrong dress shirt by mistake – my old dress shirt, that fit me at my heaviest.  It stopped me dead in my tracks.  Wow, what a big shirt!  I knew I had to write an Incredible Shrinking Clothes post, and well, now I am!

Here’s both dress shirts:  The white one is the one I wore at my heaviest, and the blue one is the one that I wore just the other night:

I lined up the seams along the side of the shirts to fully show the difference.  I don’t exactly remember when I bought the white shirt, although I know I bought it at Casual Male XL, because I recognize the label, Comfort Zone, as being one of their lines.  I know I bought two suits (both from a catalog) in the 2 years prior to beginning my weight loss journey – each one for a different wedding.  I have a hunch I bought the white shirt in June 2009, before going to the Jersey Shore for the wedding of my friends Lisa and Matt.  Here’s a picture of me from that trip – I’m pretty sure this is the same shirt:

That was a really fun wedding, and here’s a fun fact that’s indicative of the way I used to eat:  I was in New Jersey for probably 48 hours max, and I distinctly remember going to Dunkin’ Donuts three times in those two days – and that each time was at a different Dunkin’ Donuts location.

Anyhoo – if you’re not familiar with how men’s shirts are sized, there are two numbers.  The white shirt is a 22 37/38, which means that the neck is 22 inches around, and the 37/38 refers to the length of the arm.  The bigger the neck number, than the wider the shirt will be.

The blue shirt is a 16 36/37, which means…  DRUM ROLL PLEASE!…   I’ve lost 6 inches around my neck!

I’ll leave you with a photo my friend Lacey took of me at the Concert Gala, before all the festivities began.

Keep it up, David!

One More Valentine’s Heart, Salad, My Week of Workouts

February 14, 2011

1) One More Valentine’s Day Heart. Y’all seemed to enjoy the Valentine’s Day message delivered to you by all the produce in my fridge, but there’s one more photo to add to the collection.

I tweeted out a link this morning to my Valentine’s Day post, which reminds me: Are you following me on Twitter?  I’m @KeepItUpDavid (catchy, huh?) and I love my Twitter followers! Anyway, I got a tweet in response from my friend Leibya Rogers.  Leibya is a singer/songwriter, a vegan activist, a poet, a trained ice dancer, an amateur ice sculptress…  she’s one talented lady who really does it all.  She’s also the alter ego of my friend Mindy Raf, a very talented stand-up comic in New York, who created Leibya as “a loving parody of Ani Difranco and the female singer-songwriters of the 90’s.”  You can check out Leibya’s hilarious music video, and here’s her most popular YouTube video, although I should probably be a responsible blogger and add that neither is really… what’s that acronym? NSFW (not safe for work).

Leibya decided that all her Valentine’s Day tweets today would be haikus (she is a poet, after all), and she saw my blog, and sent me this haiku tweet:

Will you please take a

Picture of heart-shaped tofu

For your kick ass blog? 

I’m certainly not above taking requests, especially from musicians who can rock both the guitar and the autoharp (another NSFW link, BTW) but unfortunately, I’m currently out of tofu.  So I found the next best thing that would hopefuly appease a vegan rocker who makes jewelry out of eco-friendly, unused feminine products (true story), and took a picture:


I haven’t tried one of these yet, but picked them up at Whole Foods because I was intrigued that they’re both Meatless AND Soy-free.  The principal ingredient in Quorn products is mycoprotein, and I tweeted Leibya, asking what mycoprotein is.  The answer came back, naturally, as a haiku:

Mycoprotein’s a

Fungus that uses glucose

As its food to grow

I looked around online for some elaboration, and came upon Quorn’s mycoprotein website, which says “it’s a meat-free form of high quality protein. Mycoprotein is made by adding oxygen, nitrogen, glucose and minerals to a fungus called Fusarium venenatum… Products made with Mycoprotein have a meat-like texture because the harvested strands (hyphae) have a similar structure to animal muscle cells (ie they are filamentous with a high length/diameter ratio).”

Huh.  Sounds complicated.  Have you tried Quorn products?  What are your thoughts?

2) Salad. Since all my produce expressed their heart-shaped love for me, I thought today I’d express my love for my produce… by eating it.  Time for a big salad!

Salad ingredients:  Mixed baby greens, which I augmented with 1/2 of a head of radicchio (which isn’t that much, radicchio heads aren’t that big), sprouted mung beans, cucumber, zucchini, roma tomato, green pepper, a few tablespoons of lite Asiago Parmesan dressing, and one more very special ingredient:

Yep, they’re capers.  But they’re very special capers.

Way back in October, I blogged about the huge jar of capers I had – it’s literally a one-quart jar (read that blog here).  At the time, it was still half-full.  Here’s the photo from October:

That’s a bottle of wine behind it, for a size comparison – it’s a lot of capers!

Well, it was a lot of capers, because that spoonful pictured above is the last of the capers.  They’re gone.  I’ve gone through a 1/2 quart of capers in about 4 months (it took me maybe 3 years to get through the first 1/2), and while I love capers, I don’t plan on buying more any time soon!

3) My Week of Workouts. Haven’t done this in a week, so time for an update!  In reverse chronological order:

  • Monday, 2/14: Used the exercise bike in my building’s fitness center.  Didn’t push myself too hard.  According to the bike, I went 52 minutes, but according to the clock on my iPod, I went 60.  There must be a worm hole or disruption in the space/time continuum in that fitness center.
  • Sunday, 2/13: Rest Day!
  • Saturday, 2/12: Richard Simmons’ class at Slimmons.  It was Valentine’s Day themed, so all the songs he played had the word “love” in the title.
  • Friday, 2/11: Great day at the gym.   15 minutes of toning, 50 minutes on the Arc Trainer, and 10 minutes on the StairMaster, taking the steps two and a time for the entire 10 minutes.  Holy crap – I felt ready to collapse afterward, but burned 185 calories in those ten minutes alone!
  • Thursday, 2/10: My first Los Angeles swimming workout, which you can read about here.
  • Wednesday, 2/9: My near-fatal run, which you can read about here.
  • Tuesday, 2/8: Boot Camp class with Craig Ramsay.  Brutal.  I really hate burpees.
  • Monday, 2/7: 45 minutes on the elliptical at the gym.

Keep it up, David!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

February 14, 2011

Love your fruits and vegetables this Valentine’s Day…  because they love you!











The best part of creating these photos was snacking on all the carvings that weren’t quite right for the camera!

Keep it up, David!

We Have a WINNER! Is It You?

February 13, 2011

On the way home from Richard Simmons’ class today, I swung by the post office, and picked up a little something that was waiting there for me:

To the 34 of you that entered my first-ever Contest and Giveaway:  Yep!  It’s the Valentine’s Day care package from my mom! If you didn’t read my blog the other day, here’s the short version: my mom emailed me saying a care package was en route, and that its contents weren’t intended to sabotage my diet.  Based on that clue, I presumed the package would contain some unhealthy foods, and decided to make a contest out of it:  whichever reader comes the closest to guessing the contents wins the entire package, which I will ship to them.

The 34 people that entered are surely on the edge of their seat, dying to know what’s inside the package.  So no more delays… here’s what’s in the box!


But that’s not all!

PAPER TOWEL (used as additional padding).

But wait!  There’s more!

A HEART GARLAND DECORATION, that was used as a twist-tie.

What was the twist-tie keeping shut, you ask?  I’ll tell you…

…in tomorrow’s post!

Kidding!  How annoyed are you with me right now?  Sorry for channeling Ryan Seacrest and dragging this little results show along for so long… but it’s so much fun! I totally get why they do it that way.

OK, here we go.  There were two main items in the care package.   Here’s the first:

The twist-tie was keeping shut a baggie full of chocolate hearts!  There are two brands of chocolates:   7 Dove (which were all dark chocolates), and 7 Palmer chocolates.  I had to look up Palmer, because I’ve never heard of them before; it turns out all the manufacture is seasonal holiday chocolates.  There’s a variety of Palmer chocolates: Caramel, Double Crisp (which I imagine is like Krackel?), Peanut Butter, and Cookies & Creme.

Here’s the other item in the package:

HOME-MADE COOKIES! Two types: sugar and oatmeal, both heart-shaped, both drizzled with a little pink frosting.  There’s already a couple broken ones… hopefully too many more won’t broken by the time I send them across the country again!

Which gets me to the big question… WHO WON? I scoured the submissions, and, basically, none of you hit it out of the park.  But, by my count, 7 of you correctly guessed one of the two items, to varying degrees of specificity.  Some of you entered “home-made cookies” but specified them to be chocolate chip, so, um, those people got partial credit.  Melissa Walker entered “chocolate-covered hearts in the purple foil,” which had me go back and look at the chocolates again: Yep, the Palmer caramels are in a purple (and pink) foil.  But I wasn’t clear on what was chocolate-covered in Melissa’s submission, and plus, since the rest of Melissa’s entry was very specific in regards to brand names, it made me think that she had a very specific brand/product in mind, but didn’t include it.  So, sorry Melissa, but only partial credit.

Which leads me to the winner, who was the only one that predicted that the home-made cookies were gonna be heart-shaped.  (She also made me smile with one of the most unique suggestions in the contest, heart-shaped underwear, but that didn’t factor into my decision).  May I have the envelope, please?  The winner is… CHERI!

Congratulations!  Cheri, I’m just about to email you, asking for your mailing address, so look out for that.

And thanks to everyone who entered… better luck next time!  I got more entries than I was anticipating, which makes me think that I’ll have to do another contest and giveaway soon…  hmmm… better start thinking about that!

One final note:  My mom sent the package on her way out of town.  She’s currently taking a trip, and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have internet access (or very occasional access at best), and I don’t think she knows about any of this! She returns home Monday afternoon, and I suspect she’ll catch up on the blog before she goes to bed that night…  I wonder what she’ll think of all this!

Keep it up, David!

My New Kitchen Gadget

February 12, 2011

I got a big package in the mail.  I don’t mean to get the hopes up of everyone that entered my first ever contest and giveaway, which also hinges on the arrival of a package, but it’s not that package.  I definitely know, for a fact, that I’ll be getting that package tomorrow, because I’ll be picking it up myself, per the directions the USPS left me when they tried to deliver it today, only to find that I wasn’t home:

Which means that if you haven’t entered, you still have time!  Click here to read all about the contest and how you can enter (and win!).

Back to my big package (tee hee).  Here it is:

Any guesses to what’s inside?  It’s a SodaStream!

SodaStream makes soda and sparkling water!  My dear friend Jim, who lives in Michigan, watched me on Ellen, and noticed the abundance of sparkling water that’s in my fridge.  I love sparkling water and drink it every day (did you read my post where I answer a reader question about the health benefits of sparkling water?  If not, read it here), so Jim got me a present – one of his favorite kitchen items, a SodaStream.

It’s very cool.  There’s a small CO2 tank in the back of the SodaStream, and you fill up special 1-liter bottles with tap water, put them in the SodaStream, press the button a few times, and voila!  You have sparkling (carbonated) water.  You can easily turn it into soda by adding one of their many varieties of soda concentrates.  Jim also got me a soda sampler box, with 12 of their flavors:

There’s cola, lemon-lime, ginger ale, orange, their versions of Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper, plus diet versions of most, if not all, of those.  I don’t drink diet soda anymore, but I made an exception to try their diet cranberry/raspberry flavor.  It was pretty good, although too sweet… but I think that’s just because I’m no longer accustomed to the taste of soda.  I don’t plan on trying the other flavors, but will keep these around for when friends come by.

What I was more interested in was another product line SodaStream sells: MyWater.  Their MyWater product line allows you to add the tiniest bit of unsweetened fruit flavor to sparkling water.  I buy water like this all the time at the store – Perrier, Crystal Geyser, and Arrowhead, my favorite sparkling water brands, all sell their versions of it.  It ends up tasting like you just squeezed a lemon or lime wedge in your water.  So I consulted the SodaStream website and found out that the Sears a mile from my house sells SodaStream supplies, as does the Kohl’s that’s a little farther away, in the other direction.  Off to find MyWater!

First stop was Sears, which had a big SodaStream display, but no MyWater.  I didn’t see any SodaStream at Kohl’s, so I asked if they carried it.  The associate told me that it hadn’t been selling well (uh-oh), so all their SodaStream products were back in the stock room, and he checked, but they didn’t have any MyWater.  Plan C was Bed Bath & Beyond, which was not in my immediate neighborhood, but certainly not far away.  They had two SodaStream displays, including one just inside the front door.  They had the MyWater, too – success!

It’s a variety pack, with bottles of Lemon/Lime, Orange, and Berry.  I’ve since tried all three, and I can’t tell the difference between it and the stuff I buy at the store.  So good!  And I’m elated just thinking about how much lighter it’ll be carrying my groceries from my car across my building and up the stairs to my condo without 4-6 liter bottles weighing me down.

I’ve only had it a couple days, but I already love my SodaStream.  So thank you, Jim.  You’re the best!

Keep it up, David!

Friday Notes: Chart Update, A Bean Spread Recipe, Pool!

February 11, 2011

Over the past couple days I’ve written a little blog to-do list – topics and things I want to share with everyone… so why am I wasting time on an intro?  I’ll cut to the chase and see if I can’t cross a few of them off the list.

1) Chart Update. I weighed myself yesterday morning, and the number on the scale was the same as it was about a week ago: 241 pounds.  I’d like to think that I didn’t lose weight this week because my workouts have been a little more weight-training focused, and the added muscle mass is canceling out the fat loss, but really I have no idea why I didn’t lose weight, and you know what?  I don’t really care.  I’m aware that now that I’ve already lost 161 pounds, the weight is gonna come off more slowly, and if that means there’s weeks where it doesn’t come off at all, than so be it.  All I can do is continue to eat well, exercise, and stay positive about my successes.  So, I’m not gonna focus on the number not changing.  But I am gonna update my chart:

One month ago today my interview with Ellen DeGeneres aired, and on that day, I weighed two more pounds than I do today.  Losing only 2 pounds in the past month is definitely my least-successful month so far.  Stop, David.  Stop focusing on what you haven’t done.  Focus on what you have done.

OK, I feel better… thanks for that little pep talk, me!  Moving on…

2) White Bean Spread. The other night I finally got around to flipping through a new cookbook that my brother got me as a Christmas present.  It’s a compilation of healthy recipes from Good Housekeeping:

The cookbook really inspired me.  I love that each recipe includes the nutritional information, and I was pleasantly surprised on how Good Housekeeping was able to reign in the calories and fat on so many dishes that I really want to make, like their Black-Eyed Pea Salad, their Balsamic Chicken and Pears, and their Vegetarian Tortilla Pie.  Check out the cookbook for yourself here. I decided that the first thing from the book that I would make is their Tuscan White Bean Topping:

They include it as a bruschetta topping in their appetizer chapter, but I don’t really care about the toast part, so I made it to use as more of a spread or a dip.  And, of course, I modified it.  The first thing I did was leave out the olive oil and salt.  I didn’t think I would need it, or miss it, so that was an easy decision.  What I realized next was that I didn’t have to mash the other ingredients with a fork, as the instructions suggest, when I have a perfectly fantastic informercial product to do it for me.  So, I broke out the Magic Bullet.

I added to the Magic Bullet cup the can of white beans (drained and rinsed), the juice of an entire lemon (which is more than the recipe called for, but I wanted to compensate for the lack of oil, and plus, I love lemon), and some black pepper.  The recipe also calls for fresh parsley and sage, but I didn’t have parsley, so I threw in some fresh rosemary and thyme instead.  Here it all is before the Magic Bullet performed its wizardry:

And here it is after:

It was thick and chunky – a cross, texture-wise, between hummus and mashed potatoes, and very tasty.  The herbs added a lot of flavor, and little pops of green, and it was very lemony.

For my lunch, I used it in a wrap.  I started with an Ezekiel tortilla, which I recently bought for the first time:

There’s no flour in these tortillas – they’re made from a variety of sprouted grains, so they’re thicker and a tad tougher than regular tortillas.  It’s said that eating sprouted grains is a lot healthier for you than eating processed flour, so I was willing to give them a go, and they’re pretty good!  You’re not gonna think you’ve wandered south of the border when you bite into one, but you’ll enjoy it, all the same, for what it is.  I actually need to give a shout-out to Michelle, another blogger, because she was the one who taught me about sprouted grain products a few weeks back… she’s very funny and insightful, and you should definitely check out her blog.

Anyhoo… I took a tortilla, spread on a layer of my white bean concoction, then piled on some diced tomato, mushrooms, cucumber, and radish.  Some carrot and celery sticks on the side, and voila!  My lunch:

Here’s how good that bean spread was:  I put about 1/4 of it on the wrap.  I ended up making a second wrap, and used another 1/4.  A mid-afternoon snack was more carrot, celery, and bell pepper sticks, with 1/4 of it for dipping.  And the final 1/4 of it was part of my dinner.  Bye-bye bean spread!

3) Pool. As I mentioned yesterday, in my post about the run that nearly killed me, I’ve decided to keep swimming in my workout arsenal.  Here’s the quick version of my history with swimming:  I practically grew up in water, and swam competitively for about 10 years, until I quit in high school.  I didn’t swim a lap from high school until late last year (nearly 15 years later), when I started swimming at the gym when I was in Michigan for the holidays, during which I recalled all sorts of swimming memories and realized, Hey, I forgot how much I like this!

A few nights ago, I researched pools in my area, and learned there’s one at a nearby park:

I’ve been to this park a handful of times to cheer on friends who play in softball leagues, and my friend Emily literally lives across the street, so how did I now know there was a pool there?  Maybe because it’s tucked behind a pretty nondescript building (which houses the locker rooms and office and whatnot):

Here’s the pool itself:

It’s a great pool.  And it’s a HUGE pool.  It’s Olympic-sized in one direction (50 meters) and 25 yards in the other.  Today (and most days, I think) it was set up to swim the short way, and there were 18 lanes.  Fantastic!  The Bally’s pool in Michigan has 3, and 1 sucks because there’s a staircase at one end that prohibits you from making it all the way to the wall.  Oh, and I really want to go off that high dive.  Really badly. Note to self: Check diving well hours.

Despite the years and years of swimming I have under my belt from childhood, swimming laps in an outdoor pool is pretty rare for me.  Most pools in Michigan, including all the ones in schools, are indoors, so they can be used year-round.  In the summers, the club team I swam for growing up would rent time in an outdoor Olympic-sized pool and hold practices there, but the only available time we could use it was from 5:30am-7:30am.  Those early morning practices were brutal!  At that hour, the water was warmer than the air, and the heat would rise from the pool, creating a fog so thick that every once in a while, you couldn’t see one end of the pool from the other.  The only other outdoor pool I’ve swum laps in was when my sister and I swam for another club a good 45 minutes from home that had an outdoor pool just feet from Lake St. Clair.  That was a 25-yard pool, and the worst thing about those practices was the commute, although my sister managed to get us there in 25 minutes some mornings.  Speed demon!

Swimming outdoors this morning was a really nice new thing for me.  Don’t hate me, but I kinda loved that I could even do it at all!  There’s not many places where one can swim outside in February and have the air be right around 60 degrees at 9am.  Gotta love LA!  And this pool had flags, which made doing backstroke easier (if only I could do something about the sun), had operating digital interval clocks, and I had a lane to myself – perfect!  It was a productive workout, too, which was nice, since it’s been a few weeks since I was last in a pool in Michigan.  Here’s what I did:

  • 1000 yards warm-up (200 free, 200 IM, 200 kick, 200 pull, 200 IM)
  • 2 x 100 yards free (at 80% effort), followed by 1 x 50 yards all-out sprint.  I did that cycle 4 times, for a total of 1000 yards.  I tried messing around with finding intervals that worked for me, but struggled with that a little, and ended up averaging 6-8 seconds rests after each element.
  • 2 more 50 yards all-out sprints, just because I was feeling good.
  • 200 yards cool-down.
  • TOTAL: 2300 yards (92 lengths of the pool). It took 55 minutes.

Keep it up, David!

ONE MORE THING – Have you entered my first-ever CONTEST and GIVEAWAY yet?  If not, CLICK HERE!


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