Tags: May Day
A friend of mine bid on a doggy day care package while at a charity event with me in mind. She knows that Penny loves Camp Bow Wow and the minimum bid was a great deal. Then she won the package (yay!) but it was for a different location (boo!). But, BUT, she gave it to me anyway and said that I should pass it along if I couldn’t make use of it myself. She’s a super great gal, that one.
Tags: May Day
Remember Dawn, she of the ornament swap? Well, she is hosting another swap—along with Mary and Shannah, whom I don’t know—and of course I signed up. And by “swap” I mean “round robin” because the recipient of the package I send will not be the sender of the package I receive. This time we are trading May Day baskets…sort of:
The springtime packages can be purchased or created, vintage or handmade. They can be whatever you would like them to be…but they shouldn’t cost more than $10. Include a jar of honey from the farmers market. A handmade brooch. A fistful of dried flowers or a postcard depicting a warm-weather picnic. Lavender-scented soap. Whatever you wish.
I was tasked with sending goodies to Sharon Noël (photo above). I already have some things in mind for what I will send her. As a matter of fact, I’m considering getting a Flat Rate box from the post office and stuffing it with as much MAY BASKET as possible. It’s just too tempting. I’m a bit nervous about what to choose but I’m just going to go for it. Sharon’s DIY style is not like mine but she values authenticity and if I’m anything it’s real. Fret not, you will see what made its way to her soon enough.
I am expecting a package—envelope? box? bandanna tied to a carrier pigeon?—from Leslie Anne (no photo). She is a young, married, crocheting Michigander with a dog, a (newly acquired) kid, and some funky Etsy favorites. I can hardly wait to share with you what surprise(s) came via post.
I attempted spiced beer jelly once before, last fall, when I had foraged crab apples from the trees outside the library. I used the crab apples to make apple thyme jelly and substituted them for Granny Smiths in this recipe. I didn’t get it to set properly and ended up swapping the end product as glaze. People loved the flavor and the glaze was a hit but I wanted to make jelly. So, armed with mostly flat beer leftover from the previous week’s growler fill, I combined the technique from this recipe with the flavors of the first one to get what you see below. Seemed to work like a charm.
Spiced Beer Jelly
36 fl. oz. beer — I used Sun King’s Wee Mac.
2.625 oz. (7 Tbsp.) powdered pectin
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
zest of 1 orange
2–3 cinnamon sticks
¼ tsp. cardamom
5¼ c. sugar
1. Mix the beer, pectin, lemon juice, orange zest, cinnamon sticks, and cardamom together. Bring it all to a rolling boil. If your beer isn’t flat then it will froth up—just keep stirring.
2. Stir in all the sugar at once, return to a boil, and cook on high heat for two minutes.
3. Remove the cinnamon sticks and skim off the foam.
4. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars, leaving a ¼″ head space. Wipe rims and affix lids with bands. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.
5. Allow the jars to set in the canner for an additional 5 minutes off the heat before removing from the water bath.
Enjoy the jelly on hearty toast, on crusty bread with sharp cheese, as a glaze for baked chicken, straight from the jar on a spoon, or however you like. To be clear, it doesn’t taste like beer—that is, I like it and I don’t like the taste of beer. It’s sweet and reminds me of the flavors of autumn.
Someone I know on Twitter is having a a difficult time. He separated from his wife not long ago and, as you can imagine, was pretty down about it. His tweets weren’t overly expressive but, as folks often do, I filled in the blanks and projected my own experiences/feelings onto him. It was easy to empathize and sympathize. When he tweeted about filing divorce papers I could really sense the gloom. I wanted to perk him up. I asked for his mailing address.
He is someone who tweets about eating good food, and I’ve seen mention or two of his own home-cooked dinners, so I asked him if he liked preparing meals. He said he has enjoyed teaching himself new kitchen skills the last few years, and that his new challenge would be cooking for one. I found that both hopeful and a little sad. I remembered what worked for me when I was in that position: keep trying, keep failing, and keep feeding friends who are happy to have a hot (free) meal.
Tags: weight loss, Weight Watchers®
Remember this? Slight modification. Allow me to explain.
I stayed at that weight (within a couple of pounds) for several weeks. When I talked to my leader about being stuck at a plateau, she suggested I do some self-reflection. “Give some thought to making this your final goal weight,” she said. “If you want to lose more later, that’s fine, but you’re in the healthy BMI range now. And you’re maintaining.”
So I thought about it. I thought about how I’ve been going to the YMCA 4–6 times each week for a couple of months now, most of the time for group cardio classes; the employees greet me by name at this point. I thought about how I’ve been reaching my daily activity goal consistently, and have recently started a new challenge to work up to a higher daily goal. I thought about how I feel good—HEALTHY—and spend less mental energy thinking about losing weight than I do about exercise.
I realized that, while I accepted Weight Watchers as a lifestyle change a long time ago, my mindset had changed from weight loss to fitness improvement. No, I’m not at the pants size I imagined I would eventually be when I reached this weight at the beginning of this year, but that’s fine. (Maybe being a size 14 will temper the obnoxiousness I expected from myself with another 10-ish pounds gone.) And, you know what? It’s okay to reassess my journey and make a course adjustment.*
With my leader’s help last week I set my goal at 162 pounds. (I really wanted 161.9 lb. for a weight loss of 25%—because that’s the kind of numbers dork I am—but the scales measure in 0.2-lb. increments.) That got me a trinket for GOAL right away since I had reached that weight on January 8. All I needed was a sixth weigh-in at 160–164 pounds and I would get the LIFETIME trinket…and that happened today.
It was wonderful. Bill came to the meeting with me and I was so happy to be able to share the group’s celebration of my achievement with him. My leader gave me a hug and kiss. Several members congratulated me separately, and the 90-year-old woman who’s been a member for over 40 years invited me to move my seat to the Lifetimers Row.
I am so damn proud of myself.
* That’s a little pep talk for myself, mostly, but you’re welcome to find it useful too.
Tags: weight loss, Weight Watchers®
Not literally, that would be terrible! I lost a comparable amount of weight in flesh.
Let’s step back for a minute. If you know me and you haven’t seen me in several years then this might sound shocking. What I weigh now is what I weighed in, say, 2005. I’m a little heavier now than I was at my 10-year high school reunion in 2004*, but less than I was when I met Bill in 2006. In the intervening years, though, I slowly but surely got heavier and heavier. Not oh-my-God-she-needs-a-crane heavy, just plump. Plump in a way that was becoming bothersome.
* If that’s the last time you saw me then you’ll notice my lack of long hair before anything else.
I heard years ago that the weight you are at 25 is probably what you’ll weigh the rest of your life. IF ONLY. At 25 I had no idea how rocking my body was, and if I could’ve kept that weight forever then I would be set now. I stressed that I was 10 pounds too heavy. I was a size 10 and 145 pounds. Ah, the younger years.
Brief Background: In 2004 I got a divorce and a new best friend. In 2005 I (very suddenly) got an exchange student.** In 2006 my best friend moved away, the exchange student left, and I met Bill. In 2007 I experienced more drama than since my broken-family childhood as many people’s lives adjusted to accommodate the new Sacha–Bill pairing. In 2008 the drama continued (this time with lawyers!) and Bill moved in with me. In 2009 Bill lost his job, Bill got a new job, and we got married. In 2010 I took injections for MS and hated every second of it. For some period during all that I took antidepressants. For two periods during all that we tried couples’ counseling, two types. At one point I tried the South Beach diet and lost 30 pounds…and then gained it all back when I didn’t adopt it as a lifestyle. In 2011 I really struggled with an unhealthy work environment, more than ever before. At this point I was well over 200 pounds and barely squeezing into a size 18.
** Yes, a teenager from another country came to live with me. It was a bit surreal. My coworkers joked at the time that I should have a reality TV show because, hello, RANDOM TEENAGER AND SINGLE WOMAN, but it wasn’t that dramatic. I enjoyed it and learned a lot but, now that I have a teenager in the house that I love, I can see their point. Teenagers are from another planet no matter which country they’re from—it’s universal.
Turning Point: I saw an email circulating about a Weight Watchers® at Work group that said if enough people joined then everyone would have free access to eTools (which weren’t included with meetings at the time). Well, I love a coupon. And I needed something to light a fire under my ass. So I signed up. October 12, 2011, was my first Weight Watchers® meeting. I was terrified.
- I had never before set a long-term goal for myself like that, and didn’t consider myself goal-oriented. I sort of hated that about myself but assumed it was just how I was.
- I am cheap! Weight Watchers® was expensive to take on for someone who didn’t have experience sticking to health-type commitments—diets, exercise, those kinds of things. I was worried it would be a waste of money due to my own lack of discipline.
- I had to own my behavior in a way that acknowledged the consequences of my actions—in other words, overeating leads to weight gain. Admitting my own culpability in a real way was a tough pill to swallow.
My starting weight was 215.8 pounds. By February 1, 2012, I had lost 10% of my body weight, which is the first big mini-goal because it means significant health improvement. Slowly but steadily I continued losing. In the meantime I started exercising more (AKA at all). I hovered around 175 pounds for the summer of 2012. December 28, 2012, was the day I hit the 50-pound milestone. It was exhilarating.
I am not at my goal weight yet. My goal is to lose 30% of my starting weight. Well, technically, I would like to lose more than that, but I think 151 pounds will be a good balance between I-am-happy-here and I-can-maintain-this. When I get there I will tell you that I am 70% mass, 100% sass. I predict that you won’t be able to stand me, I’ll be so obnoxious.
UPDATE: Course adjusted.
Monday — Mailed nice-to-tweet-you cards to friends, some of whom I’ve never met in real life.
Tuesday — Popped in on friends with cookies procured at Trade School Indy’s cookie exchange. Pam is a former colleague and David (in the photo) is her husband. Dropped in on them on my way home from #craftyhappyhour and we chatted for an hour (even though they were in pajamas). They said no one comes by anymore and were so happy to have a visitor. Yay!
How was your week? Did you bestow any sussies?
This is the card I mailed—paper and ink with a message written by hand—to several people I have come to know via Twitter:
Listed below, in alphabetical order by last name, were the lucky recipients of this snail mail sussy series:
I came to know Robin after she responded to one of my tweets about the local public library. We started tweeting about book-related things at first but quickly progressed to food, fitness, politics, and a variety of things silly and serious. She lives on the same side of town as I do and we have tentative walking dates on the calendar starting in spring 2013. [Robin's reaction is here.]
I think I learned about Katy from this post on Angie’s blog. I started reading her blog and, later, chatting with her on Twitter. Last year I met her in person after she led a food demonstration at the Harrison Center for the Arts, and Suzanne and I made the hard sell for her attendance at the Swap. I’ve crossed paths with her several times in person since then but the bulk of our communication happens in 140-character-or-less doses. [Katy's reaction is here.]
Melissa is married to Dana, who is friends with Jennette, who is the author of a book I read and the cousin of my friend Max. I mean, I’m sure Melissa is friends with Jennette too, but that string of relationships is how I came to know her…well, in reverse. Confused yet? No matter. What’s relevant is that Melissa is interesting and real and a treasure to have stumbled upon. [Melissa's reaction is here and Dana's reaction is here.]
I think the first exposure I had to Melissa of Operation NICE was of her drawings of Philly…although I don’t remember how I found them (or if that’s even true). But I’ve been following her on Twitter since I first joined and over the years we have tweeted enough for her to trust meeting me in person: last year Melissa and her husband came to a party at my dad’s house in NJ!
Marianne was local when we started tweeting—we even worked for the same company—but she has since moved to North Carolina and we never managed to meet in person. We tweet regularly and I also keep up on her life through her blog, where she writes about all sorts of adventures. TOTAL COINCIDENCE: At the same time my card was travelling to Marianne she was sending me this—wow! [Marianne's reaction is here.]
My earliest memory of Bria is making her gnocchi recipe. I think I tweeted about it and she responded and the rest, as they say, is history. We share a love for snark and hit it off right away. It’s hard to believe that I haven’t actually met #littlespoon or #babyspoon in person, they seem so familiar to me. [Bria's reaction is here.]
I met Tamre for the first time at Angie’s Food52 Cookbook party. I knew her only as the head of the Indiana chapter of Girls Pint Out and, since I don’t drink beer, I didn’t bother following her. In the last few months, though, I became aware that she is so much more than that (and not even that, anymore), and our tweeting has really added to my Twitter experience. [Tamre's reaction is here.]
Jasmine is someone else I met before we developed a Twitter relationship. She forced her introvert ass to attend a Swap and I remember her saying that she had a great time as we packed up to go. I got a peak at her handle from her name tag and we started tweeting right off the bat. She is smart and funny and crotchety and she bakes a mean cake. I adore her. [Jasmine's reaction is here.]
Scott has become one of my dearest friends in Indy. We started tweeting a few years ago and have become real-life friends since. Our relationship is so much more than our tweets but that is still our main mode of correspondence. Everyone (who is on Twitter and follows both of us) can read the range of emotions that comprise our online conversations—from bitingly sarcastic to schmoopily adorable. It’s sickening.
I have no recollection of how I fell upon Angie‘s blog, or when I started following her, or how long we’ve been tweeting. I met her after I invited myself to her book club and showed up at her house for my first meeting. (I think I brought hummus.) I was so impressed when she took a photo a day for the entirety of 2010. Her daughter, Elena, and Anna went to the same rock-and-roll camp in 2011. She continues to be inspiring with The Risky Kids. She cracks me up. [Angie's reaction is here.]
What does one do when one has acquired too many exotic jams and jellies in an overenthusiastic swapping frenzy? I’m talking three berry jalapeño, basil blueberry, and the like, all in a household that uses jam really only for peanut butter sandwiches. Well, one idea recently employed was to re-swap a couple of them. The other idea was to make cookies.
Trade School Indianapolis hosted a cookie exchange as part of the Crafty Happy Hour yesterday. When I saw it offered I thought, Yes! and signed up. See, I have a dear friend who I’ve watched make thumbprint cookies with her mother in years past and, having eaten those cookies, I know it’s a winning recipe. I texted her for said recipe and got the following photos in return. Ah, modern technology used to share old—gotta love it.
I doubled the recipe on the cards, yielding 4½ dozen cookies. I think mine must’ve been bigger than the recipe directs. I used two jams made by my friend Suzanne—peach with almond extract and black pepper, and strawberry with aged balsamic vinegar and black pepper—to fill the cookies of this batch. They were delicious!
1 lb. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
4 egg yolks
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
½ c. jam or jelly of your choice, more or less
1. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
2. Beat in yolks and vanilla.
3. Add flour and salt. Mix well. Refrigerate an hour or more.
4. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
5. Place 1″ balls 2″ apart on an ungreased cookie sheet; I used one of those mini spring-loaded scoops and got 12 balls on a half sheet pan. Put the remaining dough back in the fridge. Make a depression in each ball; I used the back of a ½-tsp. measuring spoon and my friend always used the rounded end of a wooden spoon.
6. Bake for 12 minutes. Make the depression in each ball again.
7. Fill each depression with ~½ tsp. jam. (I started with ¼ tsp. but it wasn’t enough. Results may have been different if I had used thin jelly instead of thick homemade jam.) Return cookies to oven for an additional 12 minutes. They should be barely golden when done.
8. Cool cookies on rack, then eat or store. I have no idea how long they can be stored because, due to nearly nonexistent self-control, they disappear before they go stale. Supposedly the cookies can be frozen, too.